Do you really want to be a breeder?
The temptation is understandable. In fact, I’ve thought long and hard on the reasons so many consider breeding. Here’s my short-list, with no order of preference or statistical occurrence.
1. Dogs are truly man’s best friends. They’re capable of giving of themselves until there is
nothing left, something only a true friend will do for another. Why not create more of a good
2. My dog was so expensive! I’d really like to make my money back.
3. I’d love for my kids to witness the miracle of birth.
4. I love my dog so much, I want to make sure there are more just like him/her!
5. I want to make money.
All of these reasons make perfect sense. Each one has crossed my mind at various times in my life. I’ve scoffed at those who told me about the hard work, the commitment, both financial and emotional, that goes into creating a truly beautiful animal. I didn’t think I’d mind the work, and I can give my all if I believe a project is worthwhile. I thought most of those people were condescending and all too conscious of silly things. Who cares if a dog’s “topline” is “correct?” What difference does it make if the toes point in the right direction, if his “angles” are correct? All that’s needed is a “nice” dog that I like, never mind what some “standard” says the dog should be. I know what I want.
What I didn’t take into consideration is the hard work of those who have gone before. None of the breeds we so admire would exist of not for the conscientious, diligent work of those who saw some potential in the crossing of certain dogs and strove to make their dream a reality. The results are in those dogs we see today-both the specialist and the generalist breeds. What we love about our chosen breeds would never be if not for careful selection. For these reasons, it is important to take a step back and examine your needs, wants, and level of commitment before deciding to become a breeder.
Who wants to contribute to destroying the hard work of our predecessors in a few generations? It can happen. Ignoring the traits that make a breed distinctive will result in the loss of that breed as it was intended. If you don’t believe that, take a look at some of the breeds that have existed for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Consider the evolution of the bulldog. No disrespect meant to bulldog fanciers, but they too know that the bulldog of today bears little resemblance to the animal capable of “bating” the bulls of old. Such radical changes are also apparent in some dogs of the sporting group, the terrier group, the working group…in fact, many of our breeds have deviated radically from the original form that first attracted fanciers. Sometimes the changes are beneficial to breeds that now have new purposes. Sometimes they are not.
Which brings me to questions of health. Good breeders have the highest ideals concerning the health of puppies they produce. That means an understanding of conformation, correct temperament for that breed, and hereditary conditions. This is the reason for and the most conscientious use of health testing. Breeders that care strive to eliminate or at least radically decrease the occurrence of serious health and temperament issues in their lines. Those who ignore this responsibility are the reason for increasing problems that threaten the health and even the existence of entire breeds.
You may be thinking, “I’m not scared.”
Good! So let’s tackle each of the reasons mentioned earlier one by one.
Dogs are truly man’s best friends. They’re capable of giving of themselves until there is nothing left, something only a true friend will do for another. Why not create more of a good thing?
My mother often said, “Too much of anything isn’t good.” When we have excess, we cease to see value. The proof is in the dog pound. Many of the dogs in shelters are purebreds, and those that are not are mixes of two or more breeds. This indicates neglect on the part of both breeders and owners, though not necessarily in that order.
Breeders should strive to place puppies with conscientious owners and provide informational support for the life of the dog. Owners should give thought to the future and remember that dogs are not disposable. I understand that this combination can still result in a situation where a dog must be rehomed, but the numbers of dogs in shelters tell me there are too many dogs produced accidentally and an awful lot homed without regard for the suitability of the match. Even if this were not the case, so many dogs in need of homes indicate excess. Do you really want to add to this problem?
I am not against breeding. Without conscientious breeding efforts, some beautiful and useful breeds will die out. But breeders should examine their feelings and intentions. Is the breed so common that there are already huge numbers in need of homes? If there are, is your stock of such great quality that their genetic contribution is worth the addition of still more of this breed? Any breeder should keep shelter dogs in mind and be sure they produce no more than they can provide good homes for.
My dog was so expensive! I’d really like to make my money back.
Do you truly believe you can produce quality dogs without expense? Health testing is important even in dogs born of healthy parents. Negative test results for the parents do not preclude the possibility of some conditions showing up in your dog. The well-known joint problem hip displaysia is just one of these. Weeding out affected dogs is one way of limiting the condition within a breed.
Let’s consider complications. Medical intervention can cost thousands of dollars, especially if your bitch delivers in the middle of the night. If the bitch and/or pups become ill, you could easily empty your wallet and bank account. And don’t forget, you need to provide ongoing support to new owners. Are you willing to take back a puppy or dog that isn’t working out in a certain home?
So you see that breeding a dog to make your money back can have an opposite effect. Better to enjoy your dog and let the years of companionship and fun be your compensation.
I’d love for my kids to witness the miracle of birth.
It is a remarkable event. So go buy a video and watch with your kids. Its much less expensive, time-consuming, and potentially dangerous to the dam.
I love my dog so much; I want to make sure there are more just like him/her!
Your breeder has already thought of this, in a way. He or she strives for excellent, well-loved examples of the breed and, obviously, they’ve done a good job for you to be so happy with the result. So let them continue to carry that torch. If your dog was sold to you as a pet, there is some reason they don’t believe it is the right specimen to contribute to the gene pool. Perhaps they have already thought of the potential result of breeding your dog and decided some other would be a better choice. Respect that choice. They’ve probably done years of research that resulted in the dog you love. Can you say you’ve done as much?
If your dog is a mixed breed, the resulting puppies will be “scatter-bred,” or such a mix of genes that each will likely be very different from the parents. There is no way of telling if even one will have the attributes you so admire in your dog. Breeding for certain attributes takes research and care. It won’t happen over the course of one or even ten breedings.
I want to make money.
When people tell me this, I never know whether to laugh or cry. Ethical breeders hardly ever make a dime. In fact, they’re often in the red. Health testing, the trial and error of finding and purchasing breeding stock, and misfortune all take their toll. Sometimes breeders break even. Rarely, they profit. But only rarely.
Those breeders that do profit regularly and sometimes hugely are likely cutting corners. Little or no health testing, use of inferior stock, back-to-back breedings without regard for the health of the bitch, and sales to anyone and everyone wanting a puppy, regardless of the suitability of the match, can generate income. But at who’s expense? The dogs, the new owners, and communities reap the whirlwind when uncaring, reckless breeders produce and sell dogs without regard for their well-being.
If you’ve gone through the list and find that none of these answers phase you or that you are willing to take on the responsibility of breeding responsibly, ask yourself these questions.
Am I financially willing and able to breed?
Am I willing to be responsible for every dog I produce in terms of long-term support or even taking a dog back into my home should it become homeless?
Am I willing to research bloodlines, health test my dogs, and make hard and even heartbreaking decisions?
Can I rehome a dog that turns out to be unsuitable for breeding? Can I spay and neuter my stock and start from the beginning if things go radically wrong?
If you answered yes to all these questions, you’ve just gotten started. Research your breed. Find a mentor. Find several, if you can. And if, after all this preliminary work, you still want to breed, I wish you luck and all the rewards resulting from hard work and commitment.