If you breed even one litter you are, by definition a breeder. The question is what kind of breeder are you? Whatever your motives for wanting a litter of puppies I'll bet that you really want to be a "responsible breeder", someone who has the love of dogs at heart. This page is intended to help you think about what it takes to become that caring and responsible breeder. It isn't as obvious as you might think. When I first started hearing about truly ethical and responsible breeders I was amazed and very pleased. Since I don't breed this is my contribution to increasing the percentage of breeders that are caring, ethical and responsible.
Considering getting a dog? There are lots of different sources for dogs. It doesn't much matter whether you are looking for a pet, or looking for a performance or show dog. The standards for a good breeder are pretty much the same. When you get a dog you can choose to (1) get one from a shelter or rescue to avoid supporting a breeder you believe is unethical, or (2) carefully select an ethical breeder.
The animal shelters are overrun with dogs produced by irresponsible breeders. I encourage most people to take a chance on dogs from shelters or from rescue. Many, if not most, can make wonderful companions. You can get a wonderful dog at your local shelter
If you are looking for a dog and want one from an ethical breeder the first step is to decide what qualities make a breeder "ethical". Ultimately this is something only you can decide, but it helps to know what the possibilities are. And let me make this very clear: Just because someone has a reputation for winning lots of shows, and having beautiful winning dogs does not make them a responsible breeder. A responsible breeder is judged by their care and concern for their dogs and dogs in general as demonstrated by their breeding decisions. So first explore the qualities of a responsible breeder. Then you might want to review the checklist for the responsible breeder .
Wondering what makes a "responsible breeder"? Well I have my own opinion, but perhaps you will get a better idea if you look at some samples from the codes of ethics of various breed clubs. I think some are terrific, I think some are worthless, and there are a few that are so pitiful I would not include them at all. A Code of Ethics is a slippery concept. Try reading "Breeders' Ethics, Myths and Legends" for some cautions. I also include links to sites that specifically discuss responsible breeding, or how to identify a responsible breeder . Below I will provide a description of the most important points of what I think makes a responsible breeder.
And if you, like me, are willing to take the increased risk of problems of the untested dog, and the carelessly bred dog, check out the
Mixed Breed Dog (since most don't come from responsible breeders I take them up on another page). Both my dogs are mixed breeds of undetermined heritage. One came from the street, one from the pound. With all those dogs losing their lives in
shelters across the USA no one should breed a dog unless the breeder is willing to make every effort to avoid adding to that sad population. Loving a dog, and loving a breed, is reflected in what you do to benefit and protect the dog and the breed.
A small piece of my own standards:
Care about each dog you bring into this world. Treat it as part of your extended family when you place it in a new home.
Take positive steps to make sure the dogs you create will never land in a shelter or in rescue. Take the time to become familiar with shelter dogs. Volunteer and you will be able to help some dogs and have clear vision about what kinds of dogs end up in the shelter. Do what you can to make sure your dogs don't end up dead before their time.
Make sure that you have homes for the puppies before the sire and dam ever meet. Require deposits to encourage commitment.
Interview interested parties to ensure they are a suitable match for the dogs you will be placing. Verify the information you were given.
Be honest about the qualities of the dogs you are placing. Explain the good points, and the not so good.
Never promote your puppies in a way to encourage reluctant buyers. If they need a special price or some incentive to buy they aren't the right home for your puppies. The home for your puppies is the home that will sacrifice to have one. It isn't money you are looking for but honest dedication.
It must be very clear that the person taking home your puppy chooses to do so. No surprise gifts no matter how earnest the belief that the giftee wants the dog. The right match is a personal matter and the person who will be closest to the dog deserves to be involved.
Promise to take in, or help place, dogs or puppies you have caused to be created, no matter how old they are.
Remain available to serve as a resource, advise and support for typical problems encountered in raising, training and caring for your dogs.
Take positive steps to ensure that the dogs you produce are a source of joy, not sorrow.
Know the typical genetic diseases for your breed. Test for them, and do not breed a dog that may pass on serious genetic disease.
Do not let your love for your dog make you blind to your obligation to others. Your dog may be healthy, but may still pass on serious genetic disease. Do what you can to avoid causing heartache.
Do not breed your dog if you have no information on the health and fitness of both the parents of your dog, and its prospective mate. You need more than a single generation to make a good decision.
Research the pedigree for your dog (and any prospective mate). Find out the health and temperament of your dog's siblings, half siblings, cousins, aunt, uncles, parents and grandparents. The more information you have the better quality decision you can make.
Get an education in basic genetics to help you understand why two dogs that are perfectly healthy can produce puppies that will suffer serious genetic disease.
Make sure that the dogs you produce are capable of a full and happy life, sound in mind, body and temperament. Recognize that good physical health is not enough; the dogs should be raised to be great companions too.
Even if you love your dog very much, and can forgive its faults of temperament, do not breed overly timid or aggressive dogs. Most lead overly restricted lives, and many are killed long before their time, far better they never exist in the first place.
Understand that your love of your dog can make you blind to its faults.
An outside eye will help both you and your puppy buyers know that your opinions are more than just wishful thinking.
There are plenty of good "just pets" in the shelters, if that is the best you can produce you aren't making the world of dogs any better.
Obtain an objective evaluation of the health and fitness of your dog by testing it in a manner appropriate to the breed, in some activity, e.g. obedience, agility, hunting, tracking, search and rescue, stockdog work, conformation, flyball . . . The goal is to increase the probability that the dogs you bring into this world will make a good companion. You do this by demonstrating skills taking intelligence, problem solving ability, dedication or persistence, bidability or desire to please, stability of temperament among other things, and showing soundness and physical fitness.
Ensure that the necessary time is invested to produce puppies that will make good companions.
If you own the sire ensure that the puppies you are responsible for creating will get the necessary time and attention.
In most cases a responsible person will need to be home full time from one week before the dam is due to whelp until the last puppy is in its new home.
Provide the best opportunity for building self-confidence and individual identity. Give each puppy individual attention away from its littermates on a daily basis. Failure to provide proper socialization may not produce "bad pets" but it will limit realizing the full potential of each dog, and yes sometimes does deprive the puppy of learning the skills necessary to be a good companion.
A person who cares about producing the very best out of their puppies will limit their breeding. In most breeds that means no more than one litter at a time because one litter is about all the time one human has for proper socialization.
If you don't want to have the same responsibility for the progeny of your dogs then insist the dogs you produce be spayed or neutered. Remember, you are the one in control. You can require agreement by contract. If someone insists on irresponsible breeding you don't have to be a part of it. Use your power of contract to educate, and to enforce your role as a responsible breeder.
Contribute to the future well being of dogs. Support and participate in programs designed to collect and maintain standardized information on the health of dogs. Centralized data collection will provide a tool to better enable thoughtful breeders to spot and avoid problems.
Don't breed a very young dog. Mere physical ability to bear puppies is not enough. The dog needs to be completely physically and mentally mature. In most breeds that means at least two years old.
Learn the risks before breeding. Decide whether your goals are worth risking the life or health of your dog.
Never sell without a written contract. Make sure the contract is clear to both of you. Make sure the contract is fair to both of you. Think about it from both sides - the seller and the buyer, and always keep in mind the best interests of the dogs. Here is a sample of a guarantee from a contract.
Make sure the buyer has an opportunity to review the contract without feeling pressure. Send it to them in advance, or otherwise insist that they review it before they commit to taking a puppy home. Ask them to write down any questions or concerns so you can go over them together. That protects both of you. You want the person to understand both their rights and their obligations.
Don't expect the buyer to read the contract on their own even if you do give it to them in advance. Go over the most important provisions with them, and have them initial that location in the contract. Try your best to make the buyer feel comfortable about asking questions.
Make sure you know the laws and rules that may affect you. Check to see whether a Puppy Lemon Law , local regulations and ordinances or the rules of your breed registry will affect you.
I'm sure you wouldn't be thinking about breeding your dog if you didn't believe your dog was just great. But just beause the dog is perfect for you doesn't mean ..... well read this article on Kennel Blindness and you will see.
Can you be a caring breeder and make money? Maybe, but here is one breeders dose of reality.
If you have a healthy bitch you shouldn't have any problems, right? Wrong. Giving birth is one of the most hazardous of "natural" activities. Our dogs are far enough removed from natural selection that birth is even more risky. But what could possibly go wrong? Read this and find out.
An experienced breeder shares with you all the potential costs of breeding.
I was aggravated when I saw someone posting some wolfdog nonesense in a discussion forum so I went looking for information. I was pleased at what this site had to say. I can't say I "agree" with breeding wolfdogs, but if a breeder actually does what this site says to do I can accept that a responsible wolf dog breeder can exist. It also nicely refuted the nonesense I was reading - and being from a wolfdog fancier might carry a little weight with people who are spreading incorrect information.
Does a responsible breeder make a difference? What kind of breeder do you want to encourage with your money?
OK, so you know that too many times "purebreds" are crippled, and too many dogs are dying in shelters, but you really want a purebred. Here is how you can get that purebred dog, and still be doing your small part of not adding to the problem. The questions are specific to the German Shepherd so may need to be adjusted depending upon the breed. If you don't know why you are asking a question then gather your courage and ask in the newsgroup rec.pets.dog.breeds why that question is important. Or e-mail the author or myself. Doing it in the newsgroup is better just because you will be helping more people than just yourself.
So here you are thinking "Geez, I don't need a show dog. All I'm looking for is a nice pet.". This is a short article I hope will help you toward that goal.
How do you feel about a breeder prefers meeting consumer demand for a puppy over focus on the best interests of the dog? Here is one opinion.
Here is your chance to "listen in" on a discussion about exactly what responsible breeding means in producing wonderful pets.
When you are researching a breed, trying to learn what a breeder should test for, this is exactly the kind of information you want to find.
Nothing wrong with mixed breed dogs - unless they are being hawked by breeders who are less than honest or knowledgeable about what they are selling. Before you purchase that cockapoo, or Yorkie-Pom, ask yourself - am I comfortable encouraging the practices of this breeder? Does the breeder know enough, and care enough, to do the best for dogs?
Another thoughtful and complete article from Dog Owner's Guide.
There are a lot of mistaken beliefs in how to find a healthy good dog from a breeder. Can you tell which common beliefs are true and which are myths?
A discussion about the typical reasons people choose to breed, followed by a question and answer format. Even "pet puppies" deserve to be healthy, loved, and wanted.
Although some of the information is breed specific much of it is applicable to all dogs. Some of the articles on the site include:
How to Read Classified Ads
Understanding Pack Behavior
Breeding for Proper size
Breeding for Temperament
A pamphlet written with the help of a lot of people on the Berner-L mailing list, it targets the first time buyer and attempts to educate them on the importance of finding a reputable breeder. Although some of the information is specific the the Bernese Mountain Dog, most of it is useful for all breeds.
From the Twin Cities Miniature Schnauzer Club. Very nicely written article. It includes information often glossed over about the health risks to the bitch. Really gives a good explanation of responsible breeding decision making.
How you write your ad, and where you advertise, will be the first thing people learn about you, as a breeder. Have you presented yourself well? Or have you given the appearance of being a careless breeder?
If you buy an AKC dog are you assured your dog will be healthy? Will it be a good representative of the breed? Not necessarily. Explore what the AKC can, and cannot, do to help you in selecting a healthy dog.
Of course you love your dog; Now do you know enough to be a caring breeder?
An article written in 1969 by Peggy Adamson from a speech given before the Annual Symposium of the "National Dog Owners and Handlers Association" in Feb. 1969; and published in their newsletter. A lot has changed since then, but a there is some wonderful thinking here.
A chart comparing backyard breeder and responsible breeder qualities point by point. Guest article by Victoria Rose
Understanding how to identify a responsible breeder isn't much help if you can't find one in the first place. Here are some ways of locating responsible breeders.
Take a look at some of these links and consider what you can do to help reduce the number of dogs dying in shelters.
A resource for academic level information on pet populations in the USA and factors relating to shelter reliquishment. If you want numbers this is the place to start.
Are one of your puppies going to be there to be chosen or rejected?
Come on. If your only knowledge of what goes on in animal shelters is what you have read you have no business breeding. Get out there, help out a few dogs. Find out what shelter dogs are really like then decide.
A short list of some of the web sites that list shelter, humane societies and rescue dog organizations. There are more of them, but I can't keep up. Anyway I don't want to duplicate the work of others. It's more efficient for me to point you to the better collections rather than collect my own
These aren't really related, but I thought they were interesting.
My criteria for pet shops is exactly the same as for breeders. Including (but not limited to) (1) Ensure that the dogs come from health checked parents with a healthy genetic background (2) Work hard to ensure the person taking the puppy home is both willing and able to meet the needs of the dog (as both a puppy and an adult) - understands the needs of the breed as well as dogs in general (3) agrees to take back a dog at any time in its life if the person who bought the pup cannot or will not continue to provide for its needs. These three things are not the only criteria, there are many more including proper socialization, good general health etc. But those three things are just as important to the welfare of dogs as the usual items covered by puppy lemon laws . This story, while fictionalized, may help explain just why a pet shop can never be the place where the caring and knowledgeable person buys a puppy.
A very nice collection of various laws intended to protect puppy buyers. Too bad they don't provide a reference to the code or statute number, but at least if you know the law exists you can look for it.
It's a sorry thing to think of a sweet puppy as a "lemon" but it still reflects the sour disappointment when that rolly polly ball of fluff turns out to be sick, crippled or with serious behavior problems.
The original guarantee listed some of the most common reasons people get rid of a dog. It made it quite clear that none of the reasons are grounds for returning the "animal" to the store. The owner of the web site was quite proud of their pet store and its policies. I hope that whether you are breeder or buyer you can do better by dogs.
First get the customer emotionally committed to the purchase, then make sure you use all the buzz words the customer wants to hear, but also make sure the customer never has the opportunity to really think it over.
Look, its simple, if the motivation of the seller is profit then that is where the attention will lie. Hobby breeders breed because they have goals of producing better dogs. Sure, they charge money. The purebred dog hobby is expensive. But if the primary motive is love of dogs and doing what is best for dogs then the costs take a back seat to those goals. If the primary goal is making money then doing what is best for dogs takes a back seat to the goal of profit.
If the seller of a puppy proudly brags about how their breeders are licensed and inspected by the federal government (USDA) you know you are dealing with a commercial breeder. The best interests of dogs will always take a back seat if the motive for puppy raising is profit. Note, I did not say profit making is bad. The point is what is the primary goal of the breeder. If a decision needs to be made between one goal and another which one wins? In the end the issue is really not whether the breeder is a commercial breeder or a hobby breeder or a casual breeder, it is whether their practices protect the lives of the dogs. If the breeder you choose satisfies your standards, then buy from them.
A breeder who actually cares about the dogs that he or she breeds will take back a puppy for any reason including (maybe even especially) " changed my mind ". Forget the buzz words - ignore claims of using " responsible breeders" etc. Instead focus on what they actually do . Do they test the breeding stock to avoid genetic disease? If they say "yes" make them prove it. You want certificate numbers, and you want to see the certificates and you want the name of the organization that issues the certificates so you can make sure the certificate is issued by an independent party, not someone controlled by the seller.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture regulates commercial animal breeders. Being USDA licensed is not a sign that the animals are cared for in a way appropriate for pets. Care requirements are minimal. Care of the animals is that appropriate for livestock. The site contains lots of useful information about their regulations and standards. When last reviewed the list of USDA licensed breeders and dealers was available.
The official OFA site the site includes a database allowing you to research the OFA status of a dog.
The official Canine Eye Registration Foundation site includes a database allowing you to research the CERF status of a dog.
An organization of dog owners promoting responsible dog ownership, education, and balanced fair legislation.
An ambitious project to provide information about various inherited problems in dogs. The goal is to provide information on how to avoid these problems. Although the information is far from complete what is there seems more realistic than some canine disorders lists.
Diagnostic lab service and information for genetic diseases in purebred dogs
Diagnostic lab service and information for genetic diseases in purebred dogs, parentage testing, DNA profiling, and coat color prediction.
The following resources are about human genetics and I've selected them specifically to point out why genetic testing is necessary. An important part of any medical training is genetic counseling to give prospective parents some idea of what can be done to predict the risk of genetic problems in their children, and what steps might be taken to reduce the risks. Genetic testing is an important part of decision making, whether you are talking about people or dogs.
A "talking glossary" designed to better explain genetic research.
And on genetics and dog breeding
An introduction to the strengths and weakness of inbreeding. You may find the presentation to be technical, but that's not a bad thing for the skilled and thoughtful reader.
This is the beginning of the series of articles on genetics and dog breeding. The information on this site has not been oversimplified. It is designed for the serious reader.
This article on NetPets by Gary Mason is an excellent starting place for the breeder to get an understanding of why breeding pets requires a basic understanding of genetics and a specific understanding of genetic disease in your breed. Remember, people wanting "just a pet" are just as deserving of a healthy dog as someone looking for that top competition dog. This article is reprinted in a number of places.
A collection of links to a variety of articles on the web covering genetics and dog breeding (and some book resources).
" Successful Dog Breeding" by Walkowicz and Wilcox
A good source of specific information.
Good information on exploring the decisions to be made, which bitch, which dog and why, but not a how-to book as such.
Specific and technical information important for any breeder.
Especially good for the novice. Good (if explicit) pictures of dogs mating and suggestions on how to handle different breeding problems.
Basic canine genetics, helpful in making thoughtful breeding decisions.
An excellent book for anyone concerned about the influence of breeding decisions on the long term health and welfare of dogs.
If you don't know what brucellosis is then you are risking the life of your dog by breeding it. This is just a quick introduction to the disease.
The official home page for the Veterinary Medical Database / Canine Eye Registration Foundation. You can use this site to learn more about genetics testing or to research the CERF status of a dog.
The Official web site. It includes information on their programs and policies. Also of interest to those researching breeders is the Database query page.
OFA isn't just about hips. Check out the information on hips, elbows, thyroid, Congenital Heart Disease, and Patellar Luxation.
PennHip is a test for hip laxity. Some of wonderful folks are doing both OFA and PennHip which is going to be very useful in comparing and evaluating the two different methods of hip tests.
An excellent easy to understand article about this problem.
The Holter monitor is one method of detecting heart disease. It is a problem common in a number of breeds. This article describes the process.
Just because you think your dog has normal hearing doesn't mean its hearing is normal. The BAER test can find out if a dog has unilateral deafness so a breeder can make a better breeding decision. The BAER test also allows a breeder to test puppies, even very young puppies. That can save the puppy buyer an unpleasant surprise. For more complete information on deafness in dogs and cats see: http://www.lsu.edu/deafness/deaf.htm
From the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, a discussion of the BAER test and how to reduce deafness in dogs.
Information based on the work of George A. Padgett, V.M.D.on the causes and effects of canine genetic disease. Look for the book by the same title published by this author. It is excellent.
Diagnostic lab service and information for genetic diseases in purebred dogs
Just one example of how new genetic tests can discover that a healthy dog carries a significant genetic disease. Carrier (healthy) + carrier (healthy) = high risk of affected (sick). For this disease sick usually means death.
It is critical for breeders to understand that something that appears superficial, like coat color, can have important health consequences. As astonishing as it may seem deafness and blindness are both related to color inheritance.
An excellent chart explaining what health issues should be screened for, how the screening is down, and when it should be done.
A list of genetic problems by breed. I don't know how accurate this list of genetic problems is but it seems a lot more realistic than some I have seen
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Copyright © 1997-2004, Diane Blackman Created: June 6, 1997 Updated September 7, 2011
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