Find a Good Breeder

Mary Mazzeri

What does a good Dog Breeder look like?

A Good breeder is one who has sat at the feet of and was mentored by a good breeder somewhere in their past and perhaps continuing into the present. Perhaps they are now to the point where they are mentoring others in their beloved breed of choice. They know their breed because they continuously study and analyze it. They have visited top kennels run by other responsible fanciers –those who are the guardians of the breed. These are the people who know the official breed standard inside and out. They know their dogs inside and out and know their genetics inside and out.

The good breeders have been in the breed for a LONG time before they even consider breeding a litter, but they have assisted whelping litters with their mentors, they have studied gait and movement on many, many dogs in the breed. They have studied structure and proportions "hands on."

They hopefully have evaluated how closely the ‘form’ of their dogs follow the function that their breed was bred for. They have integrated a useable brain into the dogs and good temperament (temperament being different for every breed--but certainly not neurotic, insanely aggressive or out-of-control hyperactive.) They have done everything that they can to test for the medical problems in their breeding stock that tend to plague their breed (e.g. testing for Progressive retinal atrophy, liver shunt, dysplasias, etc.) They select the best of the best pheno/genotype mates that are compatible with their stock, that will strengthen the best of what they have. (This includes dogs who have gone through the same rigors of testing and evaluating that they have put their own bitch through.) They have brought their dogs to the specialties where larger numbers of representatives of the breed may be seen, evaluated and compared.

Then finally, they breed a healthy, in good condition, well nourished dam to a stud with the same excellence and advantages. This breeding generally takes place only after they have a waiting list for those potentially excellent and exceptional puppies. They are prepared to keep them until the right homes are found. They are willing to 'take them back' later in the dogs’ lives for any reason--to keep them out of shelters.

After their bitch is bred, they wait, they pray, they whelp, they watch, they lose sleep, they weigh, they keep everything clean, take them for their first vet visit to be checked over along with the dam. They acclimate pups to handling, they keep records, they note physical and emotional development, they carefully expose the pups as they start to explore their world--to new sights, sounds, smells, people, etc. They evaluate temperament as the pups start to interact, they appraise movement, they consider structure -form/functionality/instincts etc.

They allow social development within the litter and with the dam to initiate bite inhibition. They interview potential owners and try to fit personalities that will work well together. They mentor their puppy owners and remain available as a resource and usually as friends for the life of the dog.

I bred 5 litters in 32 years, not exactly a puppy mill, but then Irish  Wolfhounds are a LOT of work, eat tremendous amounts of food; process an incredible amount of –well, you know…; and grow at an alarming  rate. Of the 45 or so pups I bred over sixteen years, 3 came back to me later in their lives. (One return was attributed to 'allergies', one to a divorce, and one at 2 yrs. pronounced with kidney failure. I took  that dog back and had a second veterinary opinion, who disagreed with the first diagnosis. The dog was returned to the recommended diet and rehomed where he thrived until it was 9 yrs old--not too bad for a male Wolfhound. The litters had an exceptional track record. Nineteen of those pups completed AKC and CKC championships, a dozen achieved a basic obedience title and some who achieved intermediate and advanced obedience titles, tracking titles, the first Agility Irish Wolfhound (USDAA), and I think, six or seven Field Championships. (Lure coursing).

To summarize: Don’t be put off by a breeder who asks you a million questions to ‘qualify’ you. They really care long term about your relationship with their dogs. They are passionate, committed guardians of their breed. They try to breed to the standard where form follows function. They know their stock inside and out (literally).They are committed to qualifying and ultimately educating owners. They are generally not in breeding 'to make money,'  yet a well bred dog may cost considerably. There is nothing wrong with breaking even.