What Makes A "Good Breeder?"

by ASTC Member

As Good Breeders, we all talk the talk. We say we will take back what we sell or, as we sometimes soft pedal it, “place in homes.” We write it into the Sales Contract that we painstakingly construct; we will take back any animal we sell or place at any point in its life for any reason whatsoever. We maintain first right of refusal on the animal. We are one of the few groups in the world that offers this kind of guarantee. Used car dealers say five feet or five minutes, whichever comes first. Horse breeders may take an animal back if it holds value from a breeding standpoint, but that probably does not hold true for a gelding or pleasure horse. These stipulations are designed to protect the dogs we sell, as well as ourselves and the buyers. We have even gone so far as to dictate the city in which any court proceedings will be held. Furthermore, the animal we are selling is carefully described; its abilities and prospects, as well as any health or physical defects it may have. We screen our prospective owners and spend hours going over what the animal will require during its lifetime. We take our time while discussing training and even send home books and videos, as well as recommending puppy classes and the best trainers. All of this comes after we have genetically screened both the sire and dam, finished their championships, and decided they are worthy additions to our breeding program. We try to place all retired show dogs when they are finished in the ring and have had a litter or two. They are typically placed by the age of four, before they are too old to adjust to a new home and situation. We have found this to work out extremely well. Though they are raised as show dogs in a home-kennel environment, the transition to being a pet is remarkably quick. All dogs deserve a family of their own; a place on the couch where they can be lavished with hugs and treats all day long. Most Good Breeders do the same thing: place the eligible ones to help keep their numbers down and give those dogs a chance to have a real life. We all promise to take them back, no matter what. Anything to keep them out of the shelters, pounds, or, heaven forbid, the breed rescues we support. The last thing we tell our buyers as they leave with their new dog is that our help and knowledge is available to them for the life of the dog. It’s an advantage to owning a dog bred by a Good Breeder.

One of our girls came home today. She left as an adult champion, dam of two litters, Register of Merit producer. Of her four champion offspring, she produced triple that number in champion grandchildren. She left us to go to a carefully screened home where she would be loved and cherished all of her life. She was placed for the costs of her spay surgery and a teeth cleaning. She left us a vibrant, healthy, self-assured little girl with a world of possibilities ahead of her. She came home today as a ten year old, slightly chubby bitch. She returned with an injured cruciate ligament, a history of bladder stones requiring surgery, and a special diet. She came home in need of a dental (even though she had one a year ago) and with some skin issues, but she had been freshly groomed and was obviously loved. After six years of ownership she was given up because the owners had a child and are expecting another shortly. Even though she was raised with two boys, during the six years she was away from us she wasn’t around many kids. Then the family had their first child. She was fine with the baby until he started to toddle around, chase her, and pull her hair. She backed away until she was cornered; then she snapped. She never made a mark, but it was enough to frighten the owners. It never dawned on them that teaching their toddler to respect animals, rather than giving up their two older pets, was a better idea in the long run. They felt overwhelmed and cornered, just as she did.

When they came to bring her home this morning, I truly believed the toddler could not be that unmanageable and maybe the dog was getting cranky in her middle years. Boy, was I wrong. The child was a terror. He shot out of the car with total disregard for the instructions and warnings shouted after him by his mother and grandmother. He tromped through my flowers, up the stairs, and into the foyer. He took one look at our large Standard Poodle, and thought about hitting him. Grandma caught his hand and reminded him to be nice to the doggy. Then he spied the cat. She is a very confident cat. She greets everyone, dog and human alike, sitting by the front door like a queen. She doesn’t know how to back down because it has never been necessary. She sat there, pleased to meet new people as always, and the little stinker drew back his leg to kick her. I grabbed his leg in midair and whispered a few choice words in his ear. He quickly turned to Grandma and motioned to go outside. Amazing how much toddlers understand even before they are verbal. The owner then explained her medical issues, the diets, surgeries, illnesses. The recent fall out of the car that injured her hind leg. The fact that when she feels neglected, she still potties in the house. The owner wanted assurance that we would be able to find her a new home; this ten year old bitch with bladder issues, possible cruciate rupture, bad teeth and skin, who had house training ideas of her own.

Yep, I have people lining up for a girl just like her. I couldn’t lie. I would try to place her, but there are not a lot of people anxious to own a money pit dog; one that will cost increasing amounts of money to maintain every year as she gets older. The owner cried as she left her with her special diet and favorite stuffed animal. I half expected her to stop and say it was all a mistake. That you can’t possibly give up someone you love after that long. But I also knew that if she did, I would convince her it was best to leave the dog. Because we are Good Breeders and try to keep each dog’s best interest in mind. Yes, she came home today and we have another mouth to feed, maybe for another five years. More medical bills, more grooming and cuddling. But, as Good Breeders, we got the best end of the deal. We got her. The former owner had to take that wretched child home with her and keep him for another 16 years or so. Be a Good Breeder and talk the talk but, more importantly, back it up. Talking is easy, but actually walking the walk and honoring the responsibility that is undertaken when breeding dogs is another matter entirely. Do not shirk that responsibility. Take back the dogs that you produced, even when it is inconvenient for you, even when the reasons for surrender are dumb, even if it means opening your home to them for life. The willingness to take an animal back is what sets us apart from all of the other “breeders”. Give PETA less ammunition to use against everyone involved in the show world. Be a Good Breeder.

CREDIT: Reprinted from Sight and Sound magazine with permission of the author