Responsible Breeders

Written and Modified by Dave Pepe

Buying a new puppy or dog is a large commitment.  You are taking on a responsibility for the next 10 – 15 years.  Once you have decided which breed is appropriate for you the next step is finding a responsible breeder.  But what exactly is a responsible breeder?  First of all let us rule out pet stores, puppy mills, and backyard breeders.  The chief reason these people breed dogs is to make a profit.  They want to keep their costs down and their profits high.  However breeding dogs is an expensive endeavor.  Done properly there is no profit to be made.  But what exactly distinguishes a responsible breeder from those who are out to make a profit.  There are many factors.

First and foremost responsible breeders are not breeding to make a profit, but for the betterment of the breed.  They strive to continually improve the quality of the dogs they are breeding.  They are breeding to the standard for the breed.  The standard is a written description of the breed that portrays the ideal specimen for the breed.  Breeders who show their dogs are generally striving for the ideal in their breed.  With Deutscher Wachtelhunds we are striving for hunting/gundogs.  Your first step is to find a breeder who hunts their dogs.  Wachtelhunds are exclusively bred by hunters for hunters.  But this is not the only criteria of a responsible breeder.

A responsible breeder breeds only healthy dogs.  All breeds have particular health and genetic concerns that plaque them.  All dogs who are bred should have all the health testing done that is particular for their breed, plus a genetic history work up of their ancestors.  Health concerns such as epilepsy, PRA, luxating patellas and thyroid disorder, elbow and hip dysplasia are all concerns and can raise their ugly heads generally in the first several years or longer.

Responsible breeders always give health guarantees with their puppies.  This can range from a simple 3 day health guarantee to a lifetime guarantee for certain genetic defects.  They should provide a written guarantee along with a health record.  They will always take back any puppy or dog purchased from them.  And be able to provide a lifetime home for that dog if the dog is not place able for whatever reason.

They adhere to the code of ethics set forth by the parent club for their breed.  Generally all code of ethics address how often a female can be bred.  Most breeds follow the rule that a female should not be bred two heats in a row and must be rested one heat cycle before they are bred again.

They sell their pet quality dogs on a spay neuter agreements.  A responsible breeder does not want their pet quality dogs being bred.  Since betterment of the breed is first and foremost a pet quality dog should never be bred.  This should not be an issue for the Deutscher Wachtelhund since none should be sold for pets.

They raise their puppies in their home, underfoot.  The puppies receive lots of socialization and are not stuck in someone’s kennel or basement with little or no interaction with humans.  Puppies should not leave the breeder until they are a minimum of 8 -12 weeks of age, preferably 10-12.  They need to stay with their litter mates and their mother to learn proper socialization skills.  In addition most breeds go through a fear period during this time in their life.  Puppies who go to their new homes at 5-6 weeks are doomed to having many behavior problems later in life.

Responsible breeders screen their prospective buyers making sure the potential new owner is suitable.  Ideally references are asked for.  They also stay in contact with the puppy’s new owner.  They are there if needed for advise and encouragement.  They want to stay involved in their puppies’ lives.  A responsible breeder will be sure to inform any prospective new owners on the pros and cons of their particular breeds.  If a breeder only tells you all the good things about their breed then find another breeder.  He is trying to make a sale not making sure his puppies end up in suitable homes.

Breeding dogs take a lot of time, money and effort.  Ethical breeders should feel responsible for the welfare of all dogs they produce for their lifetime regardless if they live with them or another family.  Buying a dog or puppy from such a breeders should bring you years of happiness, not heartaches.  Buying only from a responsible breeder will give you the best assurance this will be the case.  Support responsible breeding by buying only from ethical breeders.

DEFINITIONS

The following was written by Sierra Milton.  Copyright  2001. All rights reserved.  I have slightly modified it, Dave Pepe.

If there were a caste system within the dog world, the breeders would be at the top, followed in descending order by puppy-raisers, design-a-doggers, backyard breeders, and puppy mills.  The danger to the public is that any one can call themselves a ‘breeder’ without having done more than put two dogs together with resultant puppies.  Education is the key.  Hopefully, more and more people will stop and think about where and who they are getting a puppy from and, more importantly, why.

BREEDER:  Technically, any person who mates two dogs and causes the production of offspring is a breeder.   In the respected world of dog ownership, a breeder is someone who breeds only when they breed for the betterment of the breed and intend to keep one of the offspring.  The betterment of the breed considers the entire standard and not just any one characteristic of the standard.   The primary difference between puppy raisers and breeders is“awareness of responsibility; responsibility to the breed, to their goals, to the dogs they have bred and to the dogs they hope to breed.  They also have a never-ending responsibility to the people who have bought her dogs, to the people who are about to buy her dogs and to the public image–not only of the dogs they have been producing but of the breed itself.” A breeder is a creator; they work toward a goal of perfection in their mind’s eye.  They do not allow themselves to be deterred by others’ views or by what is currently popular; they don’t breed to fill a market of what will sell.  A breeder takes the time to mentor, to share their philosophy and help those who ask over the rough spots.  They instill within those who have purchased their puppies a sense of belonging, a pride in ownership.  Breeders are there to answer questions, to encourage training, to teach critical assessment before breeding.  They take responsibility for the dogs that they produces for the life of the dog, always willing to take them back if necessary.  Breeders are not motivated by money or supplying a market.  They do the necessary genetic background testing and assure the dogs they breed are free of genetic problems.   Breeders are those who have paid their dues, studied, learned, been mentored and now are also mentoring.  A breeder will have earned and continue to earn the right to be respected.  Even some of the ‘big-name’ breeders are not what should be considered as breeders and actually are puppy-raisers who no longer put the same amount of effort into thinking about the future of the breed.

PUPPY RAISER: Refers to any person who breeds without attempting to understand the genetics behind the two dogs being bred, think about what they desire the puppies from the combination to be like, have a clear cut plan (or at the very least some plan) for the future of the breed, hasn’t considered all the possibilities concerning whelping, hasn’t done the medical checks and and only done the minimal health checks for hips, eyes and whatever else is recommended for their breed, and proven their stock in some way — whether in the show, field, obedience, etc. realms.  Puppy-raisers simply put two dogs of the same breed together and hope for the best.

DESIGN-A-DOG: Designer dogs can be designed as the latest fad, bred to full fill a certain, encapsulated niche, without a plan for long-term development of a breed type.   Breeding for any one trait is irresponsible breeding.  This is just as true in the case of pure-breed breeders as it is in those who cross-breed.  Any breeder that is “only breeding to satisfy a need” is failing their responsibility as a breeder which should be to breed only when they feel that it is to the betterment of the breed, and in the case of cross-breeds, it would be difficult to argue that they were breeding to anyestablished standard and instead is breeding for a reason that is less than what most of us consider to be reasonable.

BACKYARD BREEDER: May also be referred to as a “whim breeder”, this person is one who breeds without any forethought to why they should be breeding.  These people often have reasons such as “wanting the children to see the miracle of life” or “everyone just loves Fifi (or Fido) and wants a puppy just like her/him” or even more frightening wants to “make a bit of money and recoup some of my cost in buying Fifi”.  Backyard breeders, even when they have only one dog and produce only one litter, are the equivalent and just as damaging to the breed as puppy mills.  The difference is only the scale of the operation.  For the most part backyard breeders will have done no medical checks and believe that ‘nature takes its course.’

PUPPY MILL: A business that mass-produces dogs for a profit with little or no regard for the health and well-being of the puppies and dogs.   It is a facility where puppies are sold to brokers, pet stores or individuals without regard for the puppy.  They usually have several to many breeding animals in many different breeds and often, but not always, substandard health, living and socialization conditions.  Some well-known and “respected” breeders have fallen into the commercial breeding trap (see definition for Commercial Breeder) by losing sight of the primary reason for breeding, which should be breeding only for the betterment of the breed.  Production of puppies only because there is a market or one needs a bit extra money is still commercial breeding and differs from puppy milling in that commercial breeders sell only to individual buyers.  Some breeders who have slipped to this level have well-known affixes or kennel names.

COMMERCIAL BREEDER:  A person who maintains large numbers of breeding females and/or stud dogs who breed two or more litters a year from bitches or who provide stud services for more than several bitches per year.  These breeders may or may not perform genetic testing or histories of ancestors and other criteria as shown in the definition for “Breeders”.  Some well-known and “respected” breeders have fallen into the commercial breeding trap by losing sight of the primary reason for breeding – breeding only for the betterment of the breed.  Production of puppies only because there is a market or one needs a bit of extra money is still commercial breeding.  Commercial breeding differs from puppy mills notably in that commercial breeders sell only to individuals and never to brokers or pet stores.

UNETHICAL BREEDING: Any person who breeds dogs with profit as the main motivation and without consideration for the health and well-being of the puppies is guilty of ethical crimes.


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