What is a breeder?

Or perhaps I should say, What is your interpretation of a breeder. It seems to me that different people have very different idea’s on what a breeder is. To some people being a ‘breeder’ is a terrible thing!

In my mind a breeder is someone who is committed and passionate about their chosen breed/breeds. A person who cares deeply about the health and welfare of the mum and her puppies and is fussy where the puppies go making sure that puppies are only homed to suitable families that have fully considered all the implications of dog ownership and have permanent loving homes to offer. If the breed, as in my case, is the ‘ show type’ Cocker Spaniel ( & Miniature L/H Dachshund) I would expect a breeder to ‘show’ their dogs not just breed from them. If they were breeders of ‘working type’ Cocker Spaniels I would expect them to work their dogs not just breed from them. I would expect them to be a member of our parent club ‘The Cocker Spaniel Club’ ( The Miniature Dachshund Club)and probably other regional clubs too. They would abide by the code of ethics of that club which are set in place for the welfare of the breed. They would register all their puppies with the Kennel Club, offer a lifetime of support and advice and agree to take the dog back into their care if there should come a time when the new owners are unable to look after it any more. They would take advantage of available health testing to ensure future generations are free from inherited disease such as PRA and FN. These tests are fairly expensive but a small price to pay to prevent puppies dying of kidney disease or going prematurely blind. They would breed only from healthy dogs with good temperaments whose parents and grandparents and great grandparents have been healthy dogs with good temperaments. It is the responsible thing to do…..and I guess that’s it. That is perhaps the definition of a responsible breeder..
So, what other kinds of breeder is there?

The ’one off breeder‘. This breeder falls into two categories I would say. Firstly someone who has a pet bitch that they love dearly and think that it would be nice to have a litter of puppies from. Sometimes this is not possible as the original breeder may have endorsed the pedigree so that this pet cannot be bred from, but assuming that there are no endorsements…It is how they go from here which decides whether or not they are a responsible, and whether or not they have the best interests of both mum and the breed at heart. If they just troll through the adverts of dogs at stud, pick one with the main criteria that it looks nice , it lives locally and isn’t too expensive to use but has sired puppies before so must be ok . Or if they just pick a dog that they have seen in the local park that seems nice and friendly but the owner of this dog knows nothing about his ancestry - well clearly that must be considered irresponsible breeding. No health checks, no idea about compatibility etc. If however they go back to the breeder ( hopefully the ‘responsible breeder’ ) that they brought their puppy from and ask for advice on pedigrees etc., or if this isn’t possible they source a recognised and respected kennel for advice. They have their pet eye tested and find a compatible male who is clear of PRA and FN, well then , with the backing of a knowledgeable and responsible breeder, they are heading in the right direction towards responsible breeding themselves . It may cost them a little more, but what price a puppy’s health? This ‘one off breeder’ will undoubtedly plan to keep one of the pups and probably has a list of friends and family who will wait anxiously for the litter to arrive so that they too can have a puppy from the litter and the stud dog owner will help to find suitable homes for any leftovers!** However, it is not possible to reproduce exactly the mum, the much loved family pet as obviously any puppies born will, at least in part, also show type and character of their dad. It can also be difficult to find suitable homes for the extra's even with the help of the stud dog owner, and often it is a heart wrenching time for families to wave goodbye to the pups they have devoted so much time to. If everything goes well, it can be a wonderful and rewarding experience, but if not it can be stressful and difficult. If it is a puppy you want for yourself consider purchasing another from a reputable breeder who perhaps has similar lines to your bitch at home - choosing to breed is never an easy decision or one to be taken lightly**

The second category is those who think that they could make a bit of extra money from their ‘pet’ by having puppies. This isn’t actually a ‘one off breeder’ at all although they are likely to say they are. This type of ’opportunist breeder’ is driven by the idea of making money. The dogs best interest is probably way down their list of priorities , as are the health checks. Strangely, it is often these people who are so disparaging of the term ‘ breeder’ saying things like “ Oh no, I’m not a breeder, I would never be a breeder, I’m just having a litter from my pet” as though to be a breeder is a terrible thing. Is this actually what they think or is it just a smoke screen to hide behind when questioned about their motives? I actually think, that this kind of ‘breeder’ is as bad as the dreadful ‘puppy farmer’ both abuse their dogs for money and both try to con the pet buying public into believing that they are genuine dog lovers. I once responded to an advert on the internet showing a picture of a black/tan bitch and advertising her litter due to a blue roan dog. The 'breeder' told me that the mum was a tri colour ( Black/white/tan). When I explained to her that the dog in the picture was clearly a black/tan with a white flash on her chest, she clearly didn't understand why that wasn't a tri. A tri colour is a parti colur - black/tan is a solid colour. Not only did this 'breeder' not know, or perhaps care, about the differences but neither had the 'breeder' she purchased her girl from, and that is why she was registered as the wrong colour in the first place! Surely potential purchasers should expect their chosen breeder to have at least a basic knowledge of the breed !

The commercial breeder. This breeder is just that Commercial. It is their business, their livelihood. They earn their money from breeding dogs and selling puppies. It is not a hobby it is a job. These ‘breeders’ have premises that are licensed by their local authority. They have lots of ‘breeding ‘bitches and have a constant supply of puppies. Without doubt there are some ‘commercial breeders’ that are better than others, doing health tests etc and rearing puppies with love and dedication, but for the most part they do not have a passion for one or two particular breeds. They have many popular breeds usually such as Cockers, Cavaliers, Westies, Goldies, Labradors, Yorkies, Beagles and the latest ’in dog’ the one in the newly released film or in the popular television ad not to mention the latest *designer dogs* ( X breeds) such as Labradoodles (Labrador X Poodle) CockerPoos (Cocker X Poodle) Puggles (Beagle x Pug) you get the idea! The best of the commercial breeders is one thing, the worst is something altogether different and these form the base for the term 'puppy farmers' awful people producing thousands of puppies in dirty cramped conditions purely for profit without any morals or scruples at all.

*Designer Dogs * - These are sold for the same sort of price, or indeed an even higher price than a pedigree dog. They cannot be KC registered and by and large neither parent has any health screening at all. How times have changed. It used to be that X breeds (mongrels) were conceived by accident and either given away or ‘donated’ to the local rescue kennels for homing, now, it seems, if you can think of a fancy enough name….you can sell it to the highest bidder whilst making unsubstantiated claims about them. I know that there are lots of lovely X breed dogs giving great pleasure to their families but for people to claim that anything crossed with a poodle will not shed hair is just not true.

This picture wes sent to me after doing the rounds on fb. It shows a Cockerpoo being shaved at the groomers. As you can see the coat has matted so badly at the skin that this little dog is having to be shawn like a sheep to detangle it. Some 'Cockerpoo's shed vast amounts of curly hair whilst others shed straight silky hair. Of course some don't shed at all , but left without regular grooming the combination of thick curly and silky straight hair can easily get into this mess and the trouble is when you are purchasing your puppy you have no idea which type of coat he will inherit.....and neither does the breeder! To say that X breed puppies are healthier than pedigrees is not true either. There are no guarantees that the result of a Labrador and Poodle mating ( or indeed any other X breed mating) will inherit the best genes from each breed. They can, and often do, inherit the health problems from both sides…so in fact double the health issues.

So, if you are looking for a puppy first find a reputable and responsible ‘breeder.’ If you decide that you really want a ‘designer’ X breed please ask the ‘breeder’ to show you the KC papers of both mum and dad. This will show whether these dogs have endorsements on their pedigrees. If they have, please don’t purchase a puppy from them. This means that they have purchased their dogs as pets only and they have agreed never to breed from them. The endorsements may have been put into place for very good health reasons. If there are no endorsements on their pedigree Then check that they have had the health checks relevant to their breed done. At least this way you will know that the ‘breeder’ cares about the future health of the puppies that they bring into the world. It could save your puppy a lot of pain later on and save you an awful lot of heartache.

So, when looking for a breeder please look for someone who is passionate about their breed/s and think about their reasons for having a litter of puppies. Never, ever buy a puppy that looks ill or is in a dirty environment because you feel sorry for it....this may help one puppy but it will encourage the breeder to breed more if they think they can sell them easily and will very likely result in a hefty vet bill for you and another poor bitch being overbred by someone who insists that they would hate to be thought of as a breeder!

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