A young friend of mine is going to be interviewed on a radio talk show about what makes a good breeder. This is important information and everybody who listens to the program will take away the opinions of my friend and the host. She will be viewed as an expert on this topic and being a confident person she will speak with authority. There is no definitive answer to the question: What makes a good breeder? The answer depends on who is providing the response. My friend is a first-time breeder. And though she had more than enough interest in the puppies from this litter, she struggled to choose buyers who matched her expectations. This was a learning process for her and I’m sure shattered some myths about what it means to be a breeder. The stud dog she selected for her bitch was owned by someone with over twenty years in our breed. This accomplished breeder was able to offer mentoring and answer some questions about the nuts and bolts of raising puppies. This first-timer temperament tested her litter and the puppies were raised in her home, around her children and other dogs. But, when the host asks her the question, “How would you describe a good breeder to somebody looking for a puppy?” What can she tell her audience that will be helpful, easy to understand and general enough to guide a potential buyer to the right breeder.
As show breeders we place emphasis on producing puppies that can be competitive in a variety of venues. This takes committment and knowledge about the breed. We live in a world where nearly everybody we know in dogs thinks as we do. The type of buyer we look for understands the value of purebred dogs and has respect for those who breed them. The majority of people who will listen to this radio show will most likely already be pet owners. And most likely their dogs will not have come from the breeders we consider ourselves to be. As my friend makes her points about choosing a breeder, these people will be running down the checklist in their heads. Making these owners feel guilty for buying their pet from a store in the mall or out of an ad in the paper or online will not educated them. It will put them on the defensive and make caring breeders seem elitist. This is exactly what commercial breeders and the Animal Rightist promote.
There are many reasons people begin breeding dogs. Usually the ugly realities of puppies are enough to dissuade most people who lack true committment to a given breed from going further. The mess created by a bitch whelping the puppies on your couch during a party, the demands of eight crying puppies, sick puppies, expensive vet bills and the panic that sets in when nobody wants a pet, even for free, take their toll. Those who continue to breed puppies develop a method that makes sense to them but doesn’t always make them a good breeder. Good breeders of pet dogs or competition dogs usually have many things in common. Length of time in their breed, depth of knowledge about the breed, goals in breeding, health and genetic testing of breeding animals, references, guarantees, livable contracts, clean and safe environment for the dam and her puppies and careful screening of buyers.These are the quantifiable basics it takes to be a good breeder. Breeders who do these things respect their dogs and their buyers and are not limited to selling show dogs or even purebreds.
Many members of the pet buying public believe purebreds are over-priced, in-bred and unhealthy. These puppy buyers are susceptible to flashy websites with cute puppy pictures and heart warming stories about how the puppies are loved by the breeder and raised in her home. Often the pictures are of adorable children hugging even cuter pups. Who could resist? Who cares about health and temperament testing when you can see in the fuzzy face of a puppy that he is loving and just looks so healthy. Can breeders producing puppies strictly for the pet trade be considered good breeders? If a breeder doesn’t enter their dogs in conformation shows, field trials, obedience or agility trials why does she breed dogs? I believe what separates good breeders from the rest is motivation. Breeding dogs with the primary goal to supplement the household income is never good. In this business model, dogs are viewed as raw material and are managed in the most efficient and fast way to maximize profits, These kinds of breeders collect several bitches and one or two stud dogs and set about breeding themselves to themselves as long as buyers can be found. The breeding animals are easily replaced so there is no need to keep individuals who cannot meet production quotas. There are no senior dogs in these breeders’ homes as they are worthless. Good breeders cherish their senior dogs and proudly introduce them to puppy buyers as a way to show what they may expect from the cute puppy chewing on their shoe laces. Good buyers also know when to let go of a dog. A wise breeder won’t crowd her home with dogs just because she bred them. She will find good homes where dogs that don’t fit into her breeding program can be happy and bring joy to a new family.
A good breeder is motivated to improve the breed she loves. To leave it better than they found it. A good breeder is a spokesperson for her breed. Driven to let potential buyers know the good, the bad and what the responsibilities of ownership are. You don’t have to breed purebreds to do any of these things. Good breeders have vision and can see the possibilities in taking some risks. Breeders of Black Russian Terriers certainly weren’t breeding purebreds when the breed was in its infancy. In only fifty years, the state owner Red Star Kennel successfully created a new breed specifically to be used in prisons as a guard dog. Developers of this giant, working dog, started with a mix of several established breeds and through the application of many of the principles of what makes a good breeder set type in the new breed. Since the AKC recognized the Black Russian Terrier in 2004, ongoing efforts by committed, hobby breeders, have further improved breed type and more significantly, hip issues within a relatively short time. Good breeders are patient. Patient enough to see dreams come true or let old dreams die and be replaced by new ones. Good breeders understand they cannot work in a vacuum. They are socially well-networked. They are liked, like others, and respect competent professionals in their field. A good breeder makes the effort to know other good breeders, especially of their own breed. Continuing the learning process, striving to fine tune the knowledge and understanding of their breed are important to this kind of breeder. Finally, a good breeder actively seeks out and submits to peer critique, even if it is not necessarily formalized as in the show ring.
When the new breeder educates the public on the radio about what makes a good breeder, she will undoubtedly reflect on her own experiences. Her words will be carefully chosen to encourage and support those looking for a new family pet as well as those contemplating their first litter. Because this young woman was careful enough to listen to her mentors, exhibit her foundation bitch in conformation shows and attend specialties where she could put her own ideas into perspective, she is well on her way to becoming a good breeder.