Part One – Hobby Or Enthusiast Breeders
In life some things are good, bad, or down right ugly. Unfortunately, the same is true for the world of dog breeding. Like many words in the English language the term breeder can, and often is, misused and frequently thought of negatively. There are some individuals who breed for the love of a particular type of dog, there are some who are only out to make money mass producing and selling dogs of unknown quality and/or health, and others who fall somewhere in between. Sadly, anyone can call themselves a “breeder” by putting two dogs together and creating puppies. This does not a true breeder make. Since “What is Breeder?” is a very broad topic, we will be breaking it down in to a multi-part series over future issues of Retriever Life. Part 1 begins by looking at Hobby or Enthusiast Breeders. Later articles will cover Designer Dog Breeders, Backyard Breeders, Commercial Breeders and Puppy Mills. Before we get started, we want to make it clear that we think all dogs are wonderful. We are not judging any individual or their beloved canine companion, regardless of where the dog may have originated. We do believe this is a very important topic and hope readers will find the series interesting and educational.
What Is A Hobby Or Enthusiast Breeder?
These are breed fanciers or enthusiasts, and are commonly referred to as responsible or ethical breeders. In our opinion, these are the only “true” breeders since they only have the best interest in mind for the dogs they produce and for the breed. They also do the following:
For The Love Of The Breed
- Specialize in one breed but may be involved in more than one. They do not mix the breeds or produce designer dogs.
- Do not breed for profit or monetary gain.
- Breed to enhance, preserve and protect the breed and their breeding program.
- Always look to produce a better dog than the generation before.
- Ensure their breeding dogs are fine representatives of the breed in structure/health, temperament & working ability.
- Works with a breed and/or kennel club to promote and protect the breed.
- Are generally active in a variety of performance arenas and obtain titles on their breeding and non breeding dogs.
For Health And Care
- Love and care for all their dogs as companions, not commodities.
- Only breed dogs of appropriate age and produce a limited number of litters per year.
- Do not over-breed. Especially, their brood bitches which are not bred every heat cycle, and no more than once per year.
- Only breed dogs that have passed the required/available clearances for the breed in an attempt to eliminate hereditary defects.
- Raise their puppies in a clean environment with plenty of stimulation and human contact.
- Run a small, clean kennel, with a limited number of dogs
For Responsibility to Puppies, Dogs and Owners
- Never sell puppies via the local newspaper or to pet shops/stores.
- Take responsibility for all dogs they bring in to the world for the life of each dog.
- Screens potential homes thoroughly and cares that each and every puppy is placed in the best possible family situation.
- Helps and supports all their puppy buyers, and receives regular updates on the health and well-being of all the dogs they’ve bred.
- Have a contract that protects the breeder, the puppy and the buyer.
- Offers a guarantee and return policy with each puppy.
These breeders often have waiting lists for their puppies. They have many repeat puppy buyers and get a lot of referrals due to their reputation and the quality of their dogs. They thoroughly screen all potential homes. They turn people away due to a lack of available puppies or if a particular home is not deemed suitable. They are choosy as the welfare of their puppies is paramount.
They also generally keep one or two puppies from each litter. If they don’t have room or time to retain a puppy from a given litter, they often co-own a puppy with another Hobby/Enthusiast Breeder or a puppy buyer they are mentoring. Their hope is that puppies from each generation will mature in to better and better representatives of the breed. This is not to say there is anything particularly wrong with the prior generation, but the goal of a good breeding program is to strive for improvement in the breed.
If for some reason a puppy that was kept from a litter isn’t maturing as the breeder had hoped, they’re placed in loving homes. These youngsters often cost more than the purchase price of an eight week old puppy, since they are house/crate trained, and typically have some level of obedience training and are socialized.
If a puppy initially placed with a family does not work out in a particular home, these breeders will take the dog back, at any age, with no questions asked. They never knowingly allow any dogs they have bred to be surrendered to a shelter or breed rescue. In the event this happens, and if they are notified, they will take the dog in to their home, rehabilitate it if necessary, and place it in an approved home.
When their own breeding dogs are retired they are either retained as companions, placed as pets with friends or family, or in thoroughly screened homes. They have made a valuable contribution to the breed/breeding program and enjoy their remaining years continuing to be well cared for and loved.
Why Puppies Are Priceless
We are often surprised when people complain about the cost of a well bred puppy. After all, if someone can’t afford the purchase price of a puppy, they can’t afford the dog. It will cost much more than the initial purchase price of a well bred puppy over its lifespan. Yes, there are a few breeders who will take advantage, but most breeders knowingly don’t make any money off their litters. They are breed enthusiasts because a particular breed of dog is their passion.
There are also a lot of upfront costs to be considered before a breeding may even be possible. Such as:
- The initial purchase price of well bred puppies obtained from other responsible breeders in the hope they will develop in to their foundation dog or dogs.
- The cost of a number of breed specific health clearances required before the dogs can/should even be considered for breeding.
- Proper vet care and feeding to ensure the dog is healthy and sound.
- The expense of setting up a clean, safe yard/kennel for their dogs.
- The investment in training, socialization, tools and equipment.
- The cost of performance titles which are often obtained with the help of paid trainers or handlers, and include entry fees.
Not to mention, the cost and time associated with whelping and raising the litter, screening potential families, creating sound contracts, following up on puppies throughout their lives, and supporting puppy buyers.
Not Everyone Can Be a Hobby/Enthusiast Breeder
We’ve only scratched the surface of what it takes to be a true Hobby/Enthusiast Breeder. We hope we were able to articulate the level of hard work, dedication and commitment involved. It’s not easy, and can bring as much heartache as joy. It takes a particular type of person to be a good dog breeder. These individuals breed for the right reasons and it shows in the quality of the dogs they produce.