I fully appreciate the desire to breed purebred dogs. As a child I dreamed about raising dogs for a living. I thought why else would anyone spend several hundred dollars for an animal and not breed it to make their money back? Growing up on a working farm sure instills this "earn your keep" belief system into a child's head! After all , no farmer keeps livestock around that is not earning it's keep- either by working, producing a product or producing offspring.
However, something I had not known as a child was that dog breeders are looked at very differently than farmers. I found that dog breeders are actually divided into 2 basic categories:
1) High Risk- Backyard ,high volume or casual breeders. If breeders produce alot of puppies from parents who are housed and treated like livestock- they are also in this category and are known as puppy mills. This category is not highly thought of and humane societies, trainers and veterinarians are always warning people about avoiding this type of breeder
2) Reputable, ethical, good breeders
Now at this point I decided that I for sure did not want to be the first type of breeder, because being a person of pretty low self esteem I certainly did not want ANYONE saying anything bad about me or my dogs!
So I began my search for information about just what was involved in being a "good" breeder and just what that meant dollar wise. And let me tell you that the more I researched, the more I found that being a "good" breeder was going to smash every childhood image I had ever had!
First off being a "good" breeder means that your dogs get individual attention daily and are not just kept out in the kennel area like cattle in a barnyard. This "rule" seriously limits the number of dogs a "good" breeder can possibly own.
Next, I learned that in order to sell your dogs for a decent price you have to show or work your dogs in some activity on an official level and do well. Showing and competing is frustrating and expensive - even when you know what you are doing, let alone when you are a beginner! To do well you must have a good dog and practice-LOTS!
Buyers-now a days- are also more educated and are less willing to buy puppies whose parents do not have proper health clearences (hips X rayed, heart checked and certified at the very least). And some of these health clearances cannot be done until the dog is over 2 years old! All this pre-breeding certification and the waiting until the dog was over 2 years old was a new twist to me. Farmers rarely concern themselves with any health testing beyond "looks and acts fine" and is "all grown up now". Additionally and amazingly enough I also discovered that impressive, title filled pedigrees (documented family trees) matter a lot to most people, even if they can't decipher them! Gosh! people buying cattle, rabbits, pigs, chickens or everyday horses rarely ever ask about registration papers let alone pedigrees!
And even more unusual to me (compared to farm life) was the premise that to be a "good" breeder you are expected to "screen" buyers! If you sell pups to anybody who has the money you instantly fall into that dreaded high risk breeder category! You are fully expected to "screen" out the bad homes and only sell to the "good" homes. AND to further demonstrate your moral standings as a "good" breeder, you must have a written contract that makes health guarantees, assures that you will take back any dog that can no longer be kept by his owner and require buyers to take good care of the dog including spay or neuter of pups sold to pet homes. This is a whole lot of work that farmers never, ever have to do!
SO , OK- I'm educated now. Time to go shopping for a dog. A nice breeding quality puppy averages between $800 and $2500 Pretty steep but do-able. Alright so now buy a male and female and get started right? Wrong! I found that very rarely do "good" breeders breed their females to their own stud dogs.Usually the females are bred to other people's males that have competitive titles, fancy pedigrees and LOTS of health clearances. And no, the neighbors male just won't do. TOTALLY un farmlike!
Alright the female is now 2 years old, has her health clearences, has done well competively at something official so now it is stud dog shopping time. Stud fees average between $800 and $2500, wow! Then the male's owner wants the female to be tested for brucellosis (a sexually transmitted disease) and a negative worm check- more money.
But, ok all that money is now spent and the female will have a normal pregnancy and deliver the pups herself like a pig right? Well maybe, and maybe not. The pregnant female needs to be fed a really good diet and given proper exercise. Then she may deliver just fine. But maybe not. She might need a C section (which is expensive). Some females even die delivering pups! Some have no milk and some hate their puppies! WOW! I never thought about all that.
Then all the pups are born just fine and now we are all set to get ready to rake in the dollars, right? Nope, sorry. Firstly- some breeds require that their tails and/or dewclaws be removed by a veterinarian and that costs money.And unlike livestock buyers, puppy buyers expect an outgoing, healthy, well socialized puppy that has been in your home and not just out in the barn or kennel. This means that the puppies will need a lot of attention and exposure to people and noises. AND puppies are susceptible to more illness and require more vaccinations, etc than farm animals to stay healthy. Then there are the veterinarian issued health certificates required by many states to sell the 8 week old puppies (and no you cannot sell them before that age because they do not develop properly mentally if taken away from mom and family too young). PLUS all that puppy food (which makes mountains of poop that must be cleaned up several times a day) that is more expensive than grain especially since cheap, low quality dog food makes unhealthy pups!
Then there is advertising. Another BIG expense. You can't just throw an ad in the Market Bulletin. To be sure that all the pups are gone to their new "good" homes by 12 weeks of age, you have to start advertising before the puppies are even born! AND you have to be prepared for the fact that you MAY have to keep 1 or more pups longer if not enough "good" homes come along.
The biggest shock to my farm raised brain was the fact that rarely if ever does a "good" breeder make a profit! And often they actually lose money! You're probably wondering- like I was- why on earth would anyone go to all this time, heartbreak and expense if they aren't going to make money at it???
After breeding dogs since 1991 and after talking to MANY breeders both good and not so good, I have discovered that most "good" breeders breed for several reasons NONE of which include making money!:
1) They love the breed and enjoy competing or working with them and breed to produce another working or show dog and friend that is similar or better than it's parents
2) To continue a family line that has been painstakingly developed
3) To provide "good" homes with high quality, healthy pets and competition dogs
This journey from "dog raising for profit" mentality/childhood dream to"good" breeder reality took me 12 years and a lot of research. I am hoping that this article helps you- the reader- to educate yourself in a much shorter time span. Yes, being a "good" breeder is tough, heartbreaking, lots of work and not for everyone. And being a high risk/casual breeder does seem pretty easy, but in reality being a high risk breeder only hurts the breed you love and produces many puppies that later end up in humane societies unwanted and dead. Do you REALLY want "that" riding on your soul??
PLEASE, if you MUST breed then be a "good" responsible breeder- it is worth every hardship in the long run!
Georges Mills, NH 03751
click the howling puppy to email us!
Send questions and comments to: Diane Richardson