Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Qualities of a REALLY good breeder of a show dog

When I got my first show Dachshund in the early 90's I went to some dog shows, met some dogs and breeders and found someone that I thought would be a good fit for me.  I got on the list for a male smooth standard.  Truth be told, I really wanted a longhair, but I couldn't afford one at the time.  I was young, single and self employed and I just didn't have the money for one.  At the time the internet was young, I sure didn't have a computer and so there was no long distance communicating and searching as easily as there is today.  I got my smooth and he was a fantastic dog.  I finished him easily and he was with me for nearly 14 years.  Still though, I wanted a male longhair.

Long story short, over the years I have had a few longhair girls.  I bred one litter of longhairs andgot three females and still have Ribbon, one of the puppies from that litter who is now almost 10 years old.  Still, I have always still wanted a male longhair.

In 2010, I started checking out the Aviance Dachshunds website.  I still wanted a male longhair, but the time wasn't right.  John Contoupe of Aviance Dachshunds told me at that time that when I was ready, he would send me a good puppy.  I was drawn to him because not only are his dogs beautiful, but I could see that he was extremely committed to their well being.  He views them and treats them as family members and his puppies are well socialized and exposed to a lot of different situations, environments and things before they leave his home.

I attended the 2014 Dachshund National and after yet another year of drooling over the gorgeous male longhairs, I decided it was time for me to think about a male longhair.  I wasn't really ready at that moment, but was ready to think about it.  At the time, John had a litter of four that were just about 3 1/2 months old.  He offered me one of those puppies, IF there was a nice show male available.  In short time I accepted the offer and began the torturous wait.  John let me know that it would be a while before he would know if there was an acceptable puppy for me and which one.  My mind said that time would be 4 months old.

A good breeder wants good homes for their puppies, not just good show homes.  My breeder knew that I didn't just want a show dog, but that I wanted a companion, training partner, a buddy.  

As the puppies grew older, John continued to watch them and I continued to squirm, desperate to bring my puppy home still within the critical socialization period.  But, that didn't happen because still John didn't know which puppies he would keep, who would be show quality and who would go where.  When the puppies were about 5 months old, I contacted John, frustrated and whining that I didn't want my puppy to be 6 months old when he came here.  John laid it on the line and let me know that he didn't feel it was right to place a puppy as a show prospect without really knowing what we had here.  This breeding was an outcross and he wanted to make sure.  He asked me, "You want a nice show dog right?  You really want to show this dog and you want something good, right?"  He was right, I did and he was going to make sure I got that before sending me a puppy.

A good breeder is honest about being able to determine the quality of a puppy and when.  Not only that, but they don't want inferior dogs to be exhibited in the ring, so they allow puppies that are not show quality to go into homes where they will not have to be shown, but where they will be companions and family members. Many breeders will sell inferior puppies as show puppies just to sell a puppy.  

So, I waited.  When the puppies were about 5 1/2 months old, John contacted me and told me that I would be getting Opie.  The male puppies were very similar, but Opie was the one I always wanted and so I was thrilled.  Unlike many other breeders I have worked with, John required that I sign a puppy contract.  Everything was very clear and spelled out to make sure we were in agreement.

A good breeder has a contract and all agreements spelled out in writing so that there is no question later on down the road.  Part of the contract is that if anything ever happened where I couldn't keep Opie, he is to be returned to John.  It is assumed that a good breeder will take their dogs back, but I was impressed that it was in writing.

Opie has been here a few months now and I am thrilled with him.  He has been two three shows and went reserve once and has a four point major out of the 6-9 puppy class.  I have been taking my time training and preparing Opie for the ring.  While John's two puppies each have three majors, there is no pressure on me to rush Opie.  He is happy that we are enjoying the process and taking our time.

This is, to me, one of the greatest signs of a great breeder, that he is most concerned with Opie's well being and comfort level, not obsessed with me rushing him to the ring.  He supports me taking my time with Opie, enjoying the process and journey with this dog and building a strong working relationship with him.  Because I work with so many show dog clients, I run into issues a lot where a dog is not ready and the owner sees this, but the breeder insists that the dog needs to get into the ring right away.  I have even seen owners pushed by other breeders and owners to get their unready dogs into the ring, just to build points for other people.  

Recently, while out on a neighborhood walk, Opie was attacked by a large dog, he escaped his harness and ran home in a panic.  While I am not seeing anything to indicate that Opie will have long term affects from the attack, I know that it is very possible that this may happen and that he may now have anxiety or issues around dogs, leash walks, our neighborhood, etc.  John not only supported, but actually suggested taking my time with Opie, not pressuring him and allowing him to feel comfortable.  As a behavior consultant who deals with dogs who have had single events impact their lives, I can say that this is great advice.  Many breeders would have said, "he will be fine, just get him out there", but John was concerned with Opie's well being and cares more about him feeling safe and comfortable than being pushed in any way.

I have a lot of clients who obtained their dogs from really great breeders or who are reputable and responsible breeders themselves and for those breeders, I am so grateful.  However, so many of my clients have breeders who are not supportive of their decisions and are more concerned with the dog getting into the ring than they are with the puppy being prepared and ready for the ring.  I have clients who have been blamed for their dog's temperament not turning out when in fact, the dog is just not sound.  I have had clients whose breeders insisted that the dog be shown far before the dogs are ready.  I have had clients whose breeders think that they know far more about behavior than they do and sometimes recommend outdated, inaccurate and sometimes downright dangerous behavior modification methods.

If you are looking to get a puppy, please make sure that you do your homework and find a breeder whose views are in alignment with yours.  If this dog is going to be your companion and family member first, you need to make sure that you are aware of everything that you are agreeing to and that you are comfortable with that.  If that isn't the case, keep looking.  I work with so many clients that have fantastic relationships with wonderful breeders who support the fact that the dog is a beloved pet as much as a show dog and that truly want what is best for the dog.  This is the type of breeder that I hope everyone is looking for and hoping to connect with.