Breeding dogs is hard work. You spend hours looking at prospective studs, then weeks or months waiting for your bitch to come in season. Once the litter is safely whelped, sleepless nights are exchanged for insanely busy days. I never tire of watching my puppies grow and develop and it's impossible to ignore the pride I feel when they reach maturity. I don't sell a puppy to everyone who e-mails, calls or visits. The perfect buyers might come along when I have nothing to offer, and those who think they're candidates often find out my breed is entirely inappropriate for them. These are some of the questions I've been asked – and the answers you'll hear if you go to a responsible breeder.
I have a full-time job and busy lifestyle. How much time will a puppy need?
All dogs need loving care and attention; puppies even more so! From the time you bring the new addition home, he'll need consistent monitoring. Housebreaking, exercise, obedience training, socializing... the list is long and time-consuming. It isn't right to leave a young animal unattended for hours at a time, day in and out. Puppies need regular handling and contact with others, both canine and human; they can get into all sorts of trouble if left to their own devices. You must be ready to commit at least 10 years of your life to another completely dependent being.
If you're determined to make it work, there are some options. Does your job enable you to take a dog to work? Can you work from home, or rearrange shifts to accommodate a dog? Failing that, check your Yellow Pages for dog walkers or doggy daycares.
Aren't mixed-breed dogs healthier than purebreds?
Every breed has a genetic skeleton in the closet. The problems don't disappear when breeds are mixed. Breed-specific health issues run the gamut from seasonal allergies to life-shortening disorders, so it pays to familiarize yourself with those conditions. Talk to as many owners as you can, and veterinarians, too. Learn what the relevant test names mean, and ask breeders to provide proof of their completion. Breeders who have been successful in eliminating or reducing problematic conditions are proud to share their efforts! Chances are, you'll be surprised at just how healthy purebred dogs can be.
If I don't get the pick of the litter, will it still be a good dog?
I've spoken to prospective owners who won't settle for anything less than the "pick of the litter," but aren't exactly sure what they're asking for and are offended when they're turned down. The goal of many breeders is to produce a special dog that will bring home top awards in their chosen discipline. It can take years – sometimes decades – to realize that goal, and most breeders want to keep that puppy for themselves. Being offered a "pet-quality" puppy isn't a put-down to you or the dog. While a blue-eyed Samoyed or oversized Sheltie can't have a career as a show dog, show-ring disqualifications won't stand in the way of him being a winner with your family.
Why do purebred dogs cost so much?
One of the best things about buying a purebred dog is knowing the puppy you brought home will grow up to look like the dog you fell in love with on the street, in the magazines, or at the shows. In general, the price of a purebred puppy can run anywhere from $500 to $2,500. It seems like a lot – and it is – but you're getting a bargain.
The costs of producing a well-planned litter are substantial. Start with health tests on both parents, add stud fees, transport costs for the stud dog or shipping costs for the dam; pre- and postnatal care, registrations for the litter and individual dogs – it adds up quickly. Factor in an unexpected C-section, repeat breeding or vet-performed implants, and a breeder's bank account is rarely in the black. The satisfaction we get isn't from the money, but from seeing sturdy, sound representatives of the breeds we love, in loving, responsible homes. Think of all those expensive precautions as a form of insurance, and remember the effort your breeder went through the next time you see a "No questions asked" newspaper ad!
Why are papers for my dog so important?
Registration papers are like a birth certificate; they tell you who your dog is, who his parents are, and where he comes from. Whether it's issued by the CKC, AKC or from abroad, a certified pedigree tells you everything you might want to know. One assurance will come from knowing your dog is purebred. Many countries also indicate health clearances and titles acquired by your dog's forebears. However, be aware of companies that claim to register crossbreds, "hybrids" or designer dogs, and remember that in Canada, it is against the law to charge more for a dog with papers than for one without.
I don't want just ‘any' breed. Would a rare breed fit my lifestyle?
As anyone who owns one will tell you, there's something uniquely special about rare breeds. But while it's exciting to think you could be the only one on your block to own something different, it pays to take a hard look at the breed's work ethic and current usage. Many of these dogs are rare because their fanciers want to keep them that way. In most cases this comes from a desire to protect the breed's heritage and not have them toned down to fit the whims of urban society. However, "rare" doesn't always mean "incompatible." If you're bowled over by a Beagle, try checking the sturdy Drever. Covet a Corgi? A Swedish Vallhund might be for you.
I talked to a breeder and he told me I have to go on a waiting list. Does this usually happen?"
Chances are, the best breeders have waiting lists; how long those stretch depends on many factors. If you decide on a less-common variety with small litters, you'll have to decide whether you're willing to wait. Rather than seeing this as a setback, think of it as an opportunity to get to know your breeder and better familiarize yourself with the breed. Check out some dog shows, visit obedience classes, and be prepared to experience a whole new world!
Why is the breeder asking me so many questions?
If you think you're getting the third degree from breeders, you're probably right. For every question you have, it's likely we'll have two. We're not trying to be difficult, we're just being sure our breed is the right one for your needs and lifestyle. A poor decision now makes everyone unhappy later, and it's usually the dog that suffers most. So when you're advised to fence your yard to keep your dog contained, or sexually alter your pet to keep them healthy, remember that this is done out of concern for everyone's well-being. If we don't help you now, what can you expect two, five or 10 years down the road?
What happens if I can't keep the dog?
In a perfect world all dogs would live long, happy lives and pass away peacefully in their owner's home; the reality isn't that simple. Divorce, death, job transfers, changes in housing – the reasons people give up dogs are many, and often heartbreaking. Should you find yourself in a no-option position regarding your dog, a solid relationship with your breeder will really pay off. For many, the thought of one of their ‘children' abandoned, sold, given away or in a shelter, is their worst nightmare. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for advice or assistance. A great breeder doesn't turn his or her back on you when you walk out their door. Their responsibility to the animals they bring into this world lasts a lifetime, and they'll be your first line of defence if you need help.
Talking the talk
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC); www.ckc.ca
Our national registry. The CKC is a member-driven club that operates under the auspices of Agriculture Canada and the Purebred Animal Pedigree Act. It officially recognizes 203 breeds that may compete in any variety of disciplines, and encourages members to become involved at any number of levels. Note: The Canadian Kennel Club should not be confused with the Continental Kennel Club, which uses the same acronym.