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The 3 R's of breeder relations: Research, Reputation, and Respect


© 2005 Sue Jeffries

No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from Sue Jeffries.

Kerry Blue

Breeders are the lifeblood of the sport, and a good relationship with a knowledgeable breeder will give a newcomer a great advantage in the dog show game.

Breeders are the lifeblood of our sport. Some are reputable, some are not. They range from very successful breeders who seem to have the "magic touch," to those who flounder along for years in mediocrity.

Most responsible breeders who also show their dogs fall somewhere in the middle, with their fair share of successes and a few heartbreaks. They breed strictly to produce high-grade puppies to keep and show, to sell to others who may be interested in showing, and help supply the demand for people who simply want a good pet. A puppy is only as good as its breeder, and the entire process should be a labor of love.

There is no profit in breeding good dogs. By the time a breeder invests in high-quality breeding stock, pays all the expenses of testing for inherited disorders and communicable diseases, stud fee, travel and boarding, possible purchase and shipment of sperm and insemination, veterinary care for the brood bitch, possible whelping problems, and rearing of the puppies including shots, worming, and more than a few sleepless nights, there is little left over from puppy sales. And sometimes the breeding is a complete financial disaster!

Breeders all play a vital part in perpetuating the future of each breed, and somewhere along the way, as you look for that great puppy or sound foundation stock, you'll be dealing with them.

Your approach and finesse will certainly have a bearing on how you're perceived, while you evaluate your potential relationship with the breeder and whether his or her bloodlines are right for you. How you handle each situation can impact both your immediate and future success, as you, too, may one day become a breeder! Here are a few tips:

Research. Go to as many shows as you possibly can. Buy a catalog, sit down at ringside, and study the dogs as they come into the ring. Both parents of each dog entered are listed in the catalog, as well as the name of the breeder. Look for soundness as each dog moves, for overall balance, correct structure, and perhaps most importantly, observe its temperament.

If you aren't sure what is correct for your breed, ask for help from a. trusted, knowledgeable, and neutral friend or mentor. Always compare the dogs you're watching to the breed standard.

As we advance further into the electronic age, a wealth of information is readily available via the Internet. Use it to research pedigrees and compare how various bloodlines combine. But don't be misled by claims on some websites! There is no substitute for viewing dogs up close and personal, and the best place to do that is ringside, or in the grooming area at a show.

Mark your catalog, not only for the wins and placements selected by the judge, but by your own observations and conclusions as well. You'll begin to see a pattern of traits in certain bloodlines, and from various breeders. Be careful not to put too much emphasis on individual stud dogs. Remember that each dog has a mother, too. In fact, it's often wise to follow the progeny of a dam and her family in determining the bloodlines that interest you.

A Tactful Approach. Once you've decided on a breeder or two to contact, try to make the initial connection in person. Again, there is no substitute for meeting the breeder oneon-one. Be honest, but leave room for human error. Be positive, but don't gush. Be serious, but comfortable enough to laugh at yourself. Be committed to your goals, but remember dogs are living creatures that sometimes require compromise.

Instead of asking the breeder all sorts of questions, - tell him what you're interested in, and ask if a dog might be available to suit your needs. Respect the answer, whatever it may be at that time.

Gender is important, but try not to make color a priority, as long as the color is acceptable for the breed. Instead of asking the price, hedge your question by asking the price range and conditions. -

Be respectful, and tell the breeder what drew you to his or her dogs:Most breeders love to discuss their particular bloodlines and the strengths of their dogs, and sometimes they will even
reveal some weaknesses in their lines. Try to develop a good rapport so you can both be honest and upfront from the very beginning. A mutual respect also includes confidentiality, and the breeder must know that you can be trusted.

Learn What's Expected. A respected breeder puts the welfare of his dogs above all else, so don't be surprised if the breeder wants to know your entire life history before placing a puppy in your care. In fact, beware of the breeder who doesn't inquire about your intentions, living, and housing arrangements. If grooming is a factor, the breeder should offer advice and hands-on tips for keeping your dog in condition.

Some breeders use contracts; others do not. It's strictly u to the breeder. If a contract is involved, be sure you understand all of the particulars, and that it's a fair contract to all parties.

Guarantees. Keep in mind three things about guarantees: First, they are not always enforceable; second, a living animal is extremely hard to return; and third, you may not want a replacement from the same breeder.

Be careful about a contract that guarantees "show quality." No breeder can ascertain that a young puppy will finish its championship, and you may not want to be saddled with the unknown expenses of hiring a professional handler if this is a stipulation.

If hip or elbow dysplasia are an issue in your breed, be sure X-rays have been submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, and that the rating is "excellent" or "good." In some cases, dogs that are rated "fair" are also used for breeding. In any event, a breeder who simply tells you the parents are "OFA'd" isn't supplying all the information. Ask about the rating. It could be poor!

So tread lightly when dealing with breeders, but be smart. Do your homework and search out a breeder who is conscientious. His or her success may not be in the number of champions produced, but it certainly should show in a -spotless reputation.

Sue Jeffries has more than 36 years of dog show experience as an exhibitor breeder, mentor and trainer.

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