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Editor’s note: In light of the recent discussions on the SB-L about the difficulties the novice encounters in trying to purchase his or her first show prospect, we decided to reprint this article - originally published in 1984.

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by Jason & Virginia Zurflieh
Scarborough Boxers

Believe it or not, the first step to take is to pre-qualify yourself. Show prospects of any merit are generally only sold to serious show homes. To determine the amount of time, effort, and money you are willing to expend to qualify as a show home, can you answer "yes" to the following questions?

Are you willing to regularly take your puppy to training classes or leave him with a trainer/handler from time to time?
Can you part with your puppy for a week or so (or accompany him) to be shown at specialties or in the Futurity?
When your puppy is mature - "ready for Open" - can you leave him with a handler for several weeks at a time over a period of four to eight months (or more, if necessary)?
Can you afford it? The cost of showing a competitive male Boxer to his championship in the U.S. can run as high as $2500-3500; more for a bitch because of the stiffer competition in bitches. We agree that showing would be much more fun and less expensive if everyone handled his own dogs in the US as they do in the UK, or if Boxers were not a "handlers’ breed." But unfortunately, professional handlers are a fact of life that the novice exhibitor will have to accept, at least in the beginning.
Are you knowledgeable enough to choose the right handler? If you’re not, the breeder from whom you purchased your puppy may be your best bet for advice; the two of you are the only people who really care whether your dog finishes or not.
Can you live with the fact that your puppy has not "turned out"? If you are a real show person, you will be disappointed but you will resign your Boxer to being a beloved pet, either in your home or someone else’s, and you’ll keep on looking. Of course, if your first purchase was a well-bred bitch that falls just short of championship caliber, you could start planning to breed your own show prospect at this time. At any rate, all is not lost. If you have made an earnest effort with your first dog, you will find that your breeder and others will be a lot more willing to sell you a better puppy, sometimes at a lower price.
Finally, are you serious enough to spend the money up front for an older show prospect? If you buy an older Boxer - 8-18 mos. - that has won some points or several large puppy classes, you will pay two to three times as much, but will have greatly increased your chances of acquiring a finishable dog. Many beautiful puppies from beautiful parents do NOT end up as beautiful - or even showable - adults; and even the most reputable, experienced breeder with the best will in the world toward you cannot predict with 100% accuracy the future of a 3 mos.-old puppy. Unfortunately, even if you’re willing and able to pay the price, these are harder to find. Usually people who sell an older show prospect are breeders with several that they’ve been sorting out, and the one you’re offered may not be the best. Of course, some breeders will ask (and a few will get :-) a great deal more than others, based on their kennel’s reputation and track record. You can deal with that issue by taking the second step, which is to pre-qualify your breeder.

To determine if you are dealing with someone who is going to help you after the sale, you need to find out the following:

Has the breeder bred and owned Boxers that have finished? How many litters did he breed to produce those champions? An exception to look for here is the novice who co-owns his bitch with a successful breeder. Frequently, a nice, but not finishable bitch (often plain) is placed with non-show homes or beginners who agree to breeding terms. The offspring of that bitch could have just as much potential as the more experienced breeder’s own puppies. It might be wise to have a third party, not connected to the breeder, supply an independent evaluation of the puppy or young adult you are considering. The handler you plan to use for your new puppy would be a good person to make such an evaluation.
Is the breeder willing to offer you guidance and spend time and effort showing you the ropes after you’ve made your purchase? One of your best bets here is to buy a puppy from or through a breeder who is also a professional handler or a successful amateur. This type of breeder will almost certainly insist on the right to exhibit your puppy and may give you a break on fees.
Is the breeder interested in why you want the puppy - if it’s the right age and sex for you, how you plan to care for and train it, and how willing you’re going to be to work with the breeder when it’s time to start showing your dog in earnest? In other words, does the breeder exhibit at least as much interest in what kind of home and show career you are going to provide for his puppy as in whether your check is good?
To illustrate how times have changed (for the good), we did NOT include the following point in the 1984 version of this article:
Does the breeder have verifications of health checks for all his breeding stock? At the very least, his dogs should be certified clear of hip dysplasia (HD) sub-aortic stenosis (SAS), and have normal thyroid function. Will he guarantee your puppy against those hereditary defects?
Last but not least, is the breeder asking for any harsh or unreasonable terms, such as a high price and puppies back from two or three litters for a show bitch? In our opinion, it is unreasonable to ask the purchaser of a potential foundation bitch to give up her best progeny from several litters, more than likely leaving the novice with nothing in return for his investment of time, money, and emotion. It is reasonable for the seller to ask for one puppy from her first litter; and in the case of male show prospects, that you allow the seller free use of the dog at stud to bitches owned by the seller.

The breeder of your first show prospect also has the right to expect that you’ve been exposed to enough "show biz" to have a good idea of what’s going on, and he most certainly has the right to expect you to live up to your promise to show to its championship the dog he has sold you.

Above all, remember that for most of us, breeding and showing Boxers is an enjoyable - albeit expensive - hobby. As with any large expenditure, do your homework before, not after, you part with your money and sign a contract; and as with any hobby, if you find yourself no longer enjoying it, reassess your commitment to the conformation ring. There are plenty of other exciting competitive activities you can enjoy with your Boxers.


Bobtail Update
Aortic Stenosis
Handout on Boxer Heart Murmur
The UK Boxer
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Musings & Idle Thoughts
How to Purchase a Show Prospect
Karla & Harpo

Editor: Virginia Zurflieh
Webmaster: Pat Mullen

Contact Virginia
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