WHAT IS A ‘BREEDER’?
I apologize for the impassioned tone of the following piece, but it
was in response to an e-mail from a person who objected to my comment that
fortunately there aren’t a great many Pulik bred in back yards. It was
apparent that this individual had no concept of what I think of when I
refer to a ‘Breeder’. Most breed clubs have a code of ethics, but as a
veterinarian I deal with all sorts of "breeders": with back yard
breeders, who may not actually be puppy mills, with individuals whom I
consider to be ‘Breeders’, and with a very few people who verge on being
a better class of puppy mill than those we see on TV exposes. I wrote the
following in the heat of the moment.
How do you define a ‘Breeder’? I will use the extremes to compare here:
a ‘Breeder’ is a person for whom it is more important to perform a specific
breeding of one special ‘right’ dog to a specific bitch, rather than a
person who will breed any male of the same breed to their bitch in order
to produce puppies. A Breeder doesn’t breed at a specific time of year
for better puppy sales. A Breeder breeds for him or her self, because they
are breeding to an ideal and not the "market". A Breeder may
hold onto the puppies for longer than 8 weeks so that they are certain
they have made the right ‘pick’ of which puppy to keep or to sell as a
show dog, and by definition as a breeding animal.
A Breeder goes through absolutely hellacious torment every time a puppy
is shipped by air. A Breeder makes you justify just why you think you deserve
a puppy. On the other hand, a non-breeder, in the case of the worst puppy
mills, breeds any dog which looks like it may belong a certain breed to
whatever specimen of the same breed they can pick up. A non- breeder doesn’t
choose the ‘best’ male for a given female. A non-breeder ‘lets nature take
its course’ rather than doing everything within their power to ensure that
the mother and the father, and eventually the puppies, are healthy, so
that the breeding will be successful, so that it won’t seriously affect
the health of the mother, and so that the puppies will be robust and healthy.
A Breeder will perform all necessary tests to ensure that the mother and
father of a litter are genetically healthy, and free of inheritable diseases
to the best of their ability to check.
A Breeder will only register puppies with the correct pedigree. A puppy
mill will use any set of ‘papers’ they can get their hands on, and which
may not actually be the true pedigrees of the sire and dam. A Breeder will
stay awake and with the litter for as many 24-hour days as are necessary
to insure that no puppy is lost to ‘fading puppy syndrome’, or is squashed
or misplaced by the new mother. A non-breeder will ‘let nature take its
course’ - again.
A Breeder will handle every puppy several times every day, and help
supplement the puppies feeding if necessary to save excessive drain on
the dam. A Breeder will chart daily weights on the puppies, and identify
each puppy in some way, so that they can keep track of each puppy’s rate
of gain, so a puppy which is falling behind the others can be supplemented.
A Breeder will give the expectant mother Breyers Ice Cream, or pickles
and peanut butter, if they are requested, and will sleep with her on their
pillow, to reassure her she is special. A Breeder will stay home from work
for as many days as necessary, in order to whelp the litter, help the bitch,
and get the puppies off to a good start. A Breeder will supply the mother
with a whelping box which keeps the mother and the puppies comfortable,
and gives them a feeling of protection and safety. If the bitch chooses,
however, she is allowed to begin the whelping process on the Breeder’s
own bed, and to move to the whelping box once anxiety cools and the bitch
is ready to keep at her job in another location. A puppy mill simply ‘harvests’
the puppies from wire bottomed cages like rabbit hutches when they appear
to be about the age of consent for the airlines.
A Breeder will skillfully interview all applicants for adoption, and
will provide the new puppy owners with a healthy, well adjusted, well vaccinated
and wormed puppy. I know I could go on about this for a couple more pages,
but the impression I want to give, is that breeding a litter and whelping
and raising and placing puppies entails tremendous sustained effort, education,
money and a good knowledge of applied genetics. It is anything but a casual
undertaking. A breeding undertaken without this kind of effort may produce
healthy, sound puppies, or it may not. One has no way of predicting, since
the deck wasn’t ‘loaded’’ as good Breeders try to arrange it.
After selling the puppy, a good Breeder will follow up with all needed
assistance to the new owner. A Breeder will be prepared to take a puppy
or adult dog back into their own home if needed - for whatever reason.
This means that a good Breeder must be able to provide for an extra dog
or two at a moments notice, and inconvenience isn’t an admissible excuse.
A good Breeder considers him or herself the "parent" of a puppy
from birth to grave. The responsibility for bringing new puppies into the
world includes making certain, to the extent possible, that these puppies
will go on to have happy lives, and never become homeless. All contracts
for puppy sales must include that any transfer should occur through the
breeder, or be approved by the breeder.
The bumper sticker proclaims that "A Puppy is for Life", and
that’s true, for both the buyer and the breeder. While ‘back yard breeders’
may not be guilty of the sins of puppy mills, neither are they, by definition,
cognizant of the procedures and efforts necessary to earn the title ‘Breeder’.