Experience Required to be a Good Breeder...

by
Jane Johnson

 

In our society, breeding dogs is not a right. It is a privilege that far too many people take for granted. We are guardians of our dogs, and we must ensure when we breed that we do the best by the dogs, and the best for the new puppy owners.
If you think you know enough to be a good breeder, please click here to go to our questionnaire. If you can correctly answer 90% of the questions, then you have a good foundation from which to move forward and breed responsibly.
If you can't answer these questions, or feel you do need more experience, this page will provide an outline of the experiences you need prior to breeding your first litter of puppies.


Learning


- you need to be open to learning. If you already think you know everything, then you are wasting your time reading this page.
Most people, however, are smart enough to know that learning is a never ending process.


Mentoring


You need to find a mentor. A mentor is a person who has several years experience in the breed you want to specialize in. It is preferable that you have 2-3 mentors in your breed. Additionally, it is also good if you can get a mentor in another breed who can provide you with complementary information.
This is basically known as "serving your apprenticeship". You need to soak up every bit of knowledge the mentors provide you with, and critically evaluate the knowledge they provide. Sometimes the information won't be correct, and so you need to ensure you are open to hearing contradictory information. In fact you should speak to people who may not necessarily tell you what you want to hear.
I recommend you spend at least 2 years under the wing of a good mentor, and during this period you assist with preparing dogs for the ring, handling dogs, and assist in the whelping of 3 litters of pups, and preferably have experience helping a bitch with whelping problems.
Ensure you learn how to bottle feed pups, tube feed pups, check for mastitis, keep pups warm, appropriate placement of dam and pups, etc. In fact, check this site for the page on questions for the many points you need to learn.
You should also help the breeder raise the pups. It is important you follow the pups over the first few months of their lives. Start learning how to judge the quality of dogs. Ensure you have a copy of the breed standard, and get the breeder to help you learn to develop your eye for a good dog. This takes time and practice.
Like a leader, a good breeder is made, not born.


Watch dogs grow


Once you start to develop an eye for dogs that you like and dislike as adults, get pictures of them. Write down what you like and dislike about each of them. It is critical you can find something good in every dog you find, as it is easy to find faults. Any ditz can find a fault in a dog. You need to be able to find the good points as well. This is critical for your development.
Now, once you have distinguished between the dogs you like and those you don't like, get pictures of them as youngsters if you possibly can.
From these, you can learn what the pups looked like at an early age. This will help you learn to develop your eye to pick a dog that is going to be good, and one that is not.
As you learn, be prepared to change your mind if you find improved information. For example: you may think a particular boxer head is awful because one of your mentors was clueless as to the correct look for the boxer head. Along comes a guru in the breed that spends the time teaching you better, and in turn your opinions are modified. Be prepared to learn - and watch out for the politics - never ever back stab a dog person to another dog person. They will always find out.


Learn Pedigrees


As you learn more about your breed of dog, it is important you start understanding the pedigrees. ie: who were the sire and dam. Also look for litter mates. See if you can learn how to pick family traits and similarities.
As you get more experienced you should be able to look at a dog and say, "hmmm... that looks like it might have come from such and such a dog, and was bred by what's her name."
Learning the lines and types in your breed will then help you to select the dog you ultimately use as your first stud dog.


Education


Many of the canine control bodies will offer short courses on learning to be a breeder. Attend these whenever possible.
Also attend any breed lectures available.
Sometimes different bodies will run lecture nights on a range of different subjects. These can be good to attend - but beware the ones run by companies whose agenda is to sell you dog food and/or vaccinations. While being effective salespeople, what they offer is not necessarily at all good for your dog. You will learn over time who are the snake oil sellers!


Books


Be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars buying some good books on the following subjects:


anatomy, first aid, genetics, feeding dogs, breeding, showing, whelping, and specialist books on your breed.


As a rule of thumb, try and build your library over 4 years to collect in excess of 15 books. These are a wise investment. Many of the on-line book retailers offer competitive prices, but make sure you shop around.
Additionally, I recommend people subscribe to magazines featuring general dog show themes, and their own breed specialty magazines.
Clubs and Associations
I recommend you join your country's canine association. Every country has one, and in order to have registered pups, you will need to be a member and abide by their rules and ethics.


Additionally, where possible, join a breed specialist club, and a general dog club. If you have the chance, join a club that runs dog shows as these provide wonderful learning opportunities.
Email lists At a minimum, you should join at least 5 email lists. There are several different providers of free email list services, such as Yahoogroups and Smartgroups. Visit those sites and search for lists of your breed, and other associated topics.
If you need guidance, I'd suggest joining the dogmentor list, the list on feeding breeding dogs, and the list on general feeding of dogs.
Apart from learning about a range of subjects, with the appropriate learning style, you can also learn a great deal about tact, diplomacy, and may even have the chance to run a list.


Helping others

 

 - there is an old saying, "to teach is to learn twice". When you are starting to gain confidence in your knowledge and skills, it is an important part of your own learning process to teach others.
Not only that, but teaching others means they can learn from your mistakes, and be better at breeding, doing the best by our canine companions.