Anyone who wants to be a dog breeder and who
wishes to be regarded as a RESPONSIBLE breeder should consider
a number of questions:
1. The first, and most important is: Am I prepared to
accept responsibility for all the dogs that I breed for the rest
of their lives if necessary?
That implies being willing and able to take back any dog if:
2. Am I financially able to be a responsible breeder,
even in the case of unforeseen circumstances arising?
- a new home and/or owner turn out to be unsuitable for whatever
reason or if the owner proves to be unable to cope with the
- at some stage an owner is unable to keep the dog any longer
due to death, illness, divorce or any other cause;
- some congenital or genetic condition manifests with which
the owner is unable or unwilling to cope.
Most responsible breeders seldom make much, if any, money from
breeding. Providing proper accommodation and high quality food
for the bitch (both when in whelp and while nursing) and the pups
is essential but definitely not cheap. Puppies should not leave
home until at least eight weeks old and pups of this age normally
have very healthy appetites, eating substantial (and expensive)
meals four times a day. Deworming, inoculations, microchips, registration,
etc all cost money. In addition all sorts of emergencies or mishaps
may occur: miscarriage, caesarean section, still-born or malformed
pups, illness of the dam or puppies, death of the dam, mastitis
or other feeding problems. These are just a few.
3. Do I have the time?
Careful around the clock supervision is necessary. This might
mean curtailment of recreational activities for two months or
longer and weekends away are simply not possible. Cleaning up
after a litter of puppies is also quite time consuming. Most important
of all is the need to spend ample time handling and interacting
with the pups, especially after three weeks of age, to ensure
that they receive the early socialisation required to develop
into balanced, steady and easy-to-live-with dogs.
4. Do I have suitable facilities?
The bitch should NOT be left to whelp on a piece of cardboard
or an old sack in the corner of the garage or the outside loo!
The whelping room/area must be hygienic and easy to clean, draft
free, quiet and have a heat source such as under-floor heating,
a panel heater or an infrared lamp. A suitable whelping box must
be provided and the room should ideally have direct access to
an outside run.
5. Am I sure that all the pups can be placed in suitable
Preferably one should not breed without having a confirmed waiting
list of at least 4 –6 prospective owners. The breeder must
be prepared to keep, feed and socialise any pups not sold by eight
weeks of age. All breed clubs have experience of frantic members
who thought of making a few bucks over Christmas, only to find
that there are no prospective buyers at that time…
If the answer to all the above is an unequivocal “yes”,
the prospective breeder needs to consider the suitability of the
dogs intended for breeding. Just because a dog/bitch is purebred,
pedigreed and registered does not automatically mean that it is
suitable for being bred from. The following aspects must be considered:
Both the intended sire and dam of a litter must be examined by
a veterinarian for abnormalities and tested for any genetic conditions
which occur in the breed, such as heart or eye defects, hip and
elbow dysplasia, deafness and so on. Unfortunately the fact that
an individual does not actually itself display a certain condition
may not mean that it is not a carrier. If at all possible, the
ancestors on both sides should therefore also have been screened,
especially when dealing with conditions such as hip dysplasia,
which is not simply caused by a single gene.
No dog/bitch that does not have absolutely sound temperament should
be used for breeding. Any signs of viciousness, inappropriate
aggression, fearfulness or undue nervousness should disqualify
a dog or bitch, no matter how beautiful it may be. In addition
both dogs and bitches should preferably possess the temperament
traits that are typical for its breed, such as hunting ability,
protective instincts, herding ability and so on. For dogs and
bitches of especially the guard and defence and the herding breeds
(e g German Shepherds, Boxers, Dobermanns, Rottweilers, Bouviers)
it is useful to have them assessed at a Breed Survey, Breed Assessment
or an Aptitude Test. Even better is a working qualification in
an appropriate discipline: field trials, working trials, tracking,
obedience, agility, etc.
All owners tend to think that their animals are beautiful and
excellent specimens of their breed. It is however a good idea
to enter the dog in a Breed Assessment (where this is offered
by breed clubs), a specialist breed show or at least to ask someone
who is really knowledgeable to give an opinion on the conformational
soundness and breed type of the dog or bitch.
A breeder should try and obtain as much information as possible
on the ancestors listed in the pedigrees of his breeding prospects
before deciding whether a particular dog and bitch are likely
to be a good match in terms of not only their own phenotypical
(visible) and mental attributes, but also those of their ancestors.
A pedigree also indicates whether the combination would constitute
outcrossing, linebreeding or inbreeding and the breeder must then
decide what the implications could be. The main reason for breeding
only with registered, pedigreed dogs is that it makes the results
somewhat more predictable than when dogs of uncertain or unknown
lineage are used.
Carefully selecting new owners for puppies and making sure that
they will be going to a safe, suitable, knowledgeable and stimulating
environment is responsible. To sell a puppy to
anyone who is prepared to pay the asking price without checking
his/her bona fides, simply because the puppy is six weeks old
and not yet placed, is totally irresponsible.
Even worse is the practice of handing over all unsold pups to
a pet shop or “dog dealer” and taking no further interest
in their fate. Making sure that puppies and their new owners are
well-matched in terms of temperament, age and energy levels is
responsible. Selling a strong, dominant, boisterous
and wilful puppy to an elderly or frail person is irresponsible.
Puppies should be sold with a carefully worded contract, spelling
out and safeguarding the rights and responsibilities of both the
seller and the buyer. Once the pups have gone to their new homes
there should be regular contact between the breeder and new owners
and good “after sales service” to solve any problems
which may arise before they become insurmountable obstacles, resulting
in an unwanted problem dog being passed from one home to the next,
to a rescue service or animal shelter and perhaps finally to being