Keep looking until the answer is yes.

Several years ago I got a little frustrated when looking for my next puppy because I just couldn’t find a litter I felt comfortable with. So, I decided to buy a female and produce my own puppies. I don’t necessarily think that approach is appropriate for everyone…but it worked for me :)

Even after breeding three litters of my own, I don’t consider myself a “breeder”. I no longer have an intact female and I do not foresee myself breeding a litter in the near future. But, now that I’m no longer going to breed my own pups, it means someday I will be dealing with breeders again. So, what makes a good breeder?

I’m not sure I know the answer to that. I tried to be a good breeder by doing what I thought I would want to see a breeder do if I was a puppy buyer. The first litter I bred I did not know what to expect and I was not able to give my puppy buyers much background information. It seemed like a lot was left to chance. I started with a sire and dam that were sound in temperament and structure, did the appropriateĀ testing etc beforehand to help assure their health. But, I consider myself lucky that the puppies from the first litter turned out as nice as they did. Although I am listed as the breeder, I’m not sure I can take credit for those pups other than I made sure the sire and dam had good genes (thank you Margaret Lambkin).

However, by the time the third litter was bred, I was pretty comfortable that I knew what to expect in the puppies. I was more familiar with the line, and had two litters on the ground, plus I also owned a pup sired by my male out of a different but very closely related bitch. So this time when I spoke with prospective new owners (many of them repeat buyers), I revealed every problem that had occurred in any of the previous litters and/or close relatives. I literally wrote it all down and disclosed everything as fully as I could. I wanted the puppy buyers to be fully aware of what they were getting. The first two litters were really nice as far as temperament, structure, drive, jumping talent, etc. So the puppy buyers had an idea of the good qualities the pups could be expected to have. I wanted them to know all of the potential negative aspects as well. I felt they should be able to choose whether they felt these puppies would be worth the risks that I spelled out. Obviously I felt they were, otherwise I would not have repeated the breeding. I kept one of the pups from Litter 2 and subsequently kept two pups from Litter 3. Clearly I thought pups from this breeding were worth the risks. But, I wanted each puppy buyer to be fully informed about the pros and cons of these puppies. I did not want them to ever feel like I had withheld information should a problem arise down the road.

I would be devastated if one of “my” puppies developed a serious health issue, particularly one that might potentially be inherited. No breeder wants to see that happen, but unfortunately sometimes it does, despite the best of intentions. If I were a puppy buyer, I would want to know that my breeder took appropriate precautions to prevent the problem and had informed me of the potential risk(s) if there was any. So, as a breeder that’s what I did.

I’ve been lucky, so far all of the puppies from three litters have all been pretty healthy. No, they are not all perfect (close to it :) , but I can sleep at night because I know that the issues they have had could not be foreseen. They were not the result of me not being diligent about testing. I’ve tried to keep an open and honest line of communication with the puppy buyers and I inform them of any new development that I think may be important for them to know for the sake of their own pup’s well-being.

Students are always asking me for advice about looking for a puppy for agility. I’m no expert, but I try to advise them the best that I can. I personally believe if the genetics are there; that is, the sire and dam have the qualities desired, then the pups will be born with the potential and the rest is up to the puppy owner. Of course I advise that they search for a litter whose parents have had all of the appropriate health clearances for the breed and that sort of stuff. Since I think its important that the breeder believes in full disclosure, I also discuss that angle with them. But most importantly, I think they should look for a sire and dam that have the qualities they want in the puppy. This means, ideally, that the sire and dam can be evaluated doing agility (or at least other closely related individuals). One doesn’t need to be an expert on structure, or jumping, or temperament to simply watch the sire and dam, puppies from previous litters, siblings etc perform. Do the relatives perform in the manner that is desired? If the answer is no, then obviously the answer is to keep looking until the answer is yes.

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