I breed dogs. I enjoy breeding dogs. I even think I am pretty good at breeding dogs. I would go so far to say that my animal husbandry skills are exceptional.
How did I get to that place? It was not by chance that’s for sure. I grew up with my parents breeding English Bulldogs. My dad was passionate about the breed, my entire life and until his death he loved his dogs. I learned some things from my dad, pedigree research, breed type, love of a breed – but animal husbandry, common sense dog breeding – because there is a lot of common sense needed, and what is means to be a better than good breeder came from my mentors. I have had several but one is a standout.
My first well bred Corgi came from a breeder that has bred dogs now for fifty years. A retired nurse, she has bred BIS dogs and at one time had bred the most titled Corgi in the country! She is kind, blunt, honest and you may not always like her answers but she gives you her truth if you ask for it.
She taught me it might be better to simply pay the stud fee. Reason being the stud dog owner is looking out for their best interest and they want the best puppy for their line and that 9 times out of 10, that little stunner that you and your family fell in love with will be the puppy the stud dog owner will fall in love with too! It is not about emotions it is about common sense and doing the best by your lines. Needless to say I prefer to pay my stud fee. If the stud dog owner wants a puppy they can buy one but I will not have my first pick puppy going to anyone but me.
She has walked me through many labors, including ones that went south. She has coached me through hand raising puppies and what to do for fading puppies and how though it is hard to accept maybe it is a blessing to have lost them when they are little and not when they are older and it hurts worse. She has helped me to nurse sick dogs and what meds I needed and where I could get them and what I could do myself.
I was talking with her yesterday and she remembered how I had a puppy with an infected eye, and they weren’t open yet. It was a weekend and I wasn’t sure what it was and what should be done. She opened the eyelid ever so gently and put warm compresses on the puppy’s eye, pus poured out. She said she had never seen me so pale, my lips were almost white and she said she was doing her best to remain calm and matter of fact because she was scared to death I would pass out on the floor in front of her! I remembered that day well. Scared the sh*t out of me. I have had that happen since then and I knew what to do and I was able to deal with it with a degree of confidence.
She also taught me when not to wait, what I shouldn’t try to do on my own. When to head to the vet and make sure I have a vet that I trust and more that loved what they did. I have gone through many vets to get to the one I have today and I will say with some confidence my vet is a diamond, a total jewel, she is priceless! My mentor taught me well.
I had never thought about all that I have learned, in fact I took it for granted until I have been talking to a friend that doesn’t seem to have the same skill set. It was never taught to her. Her mentors did not know themselves is all I can figure.
Breeding dogs is not for the faint heart. Whelping a litter is without a doubt one of the scariest experiences of my life. Every litter’s labor worries me. Getting those littles on the ground is just the beginning. Sometimes you have to watch around the clock that the pups are thriving, feed them if not, watch them fade as you valiantly continue to work with them. Get the pups where they are steady and strong next it is worming, vaccines, keeping the area as clean and cootie free as you can – which for me is I don’t go to dog shows, I don’t go to the vet, unless I must and hopefully after the pups have been vaccinated at least twice. During this time you are working with the puppies, exposing to all that you can so they leave you sound of mind and body. It is a continuous process.
Should you decide to breed, think hard. It is a huge commitment. When you look for your foundation stock look for a breeder to mentor you. Be willing to wait for the perfect dog and the perfect breeder for you. I have waited for over two years for a dog from a certain breeder, over a year from another. The wait is always worth it. It is as important who that person is as what your dog looks like. Let them know you want to learn, ask them would they mind you calling, emailing, and otherwise sitting at their feet in order to learn what they have learned. Find someone you respect, that other breeders respect, that is ethical and that loves their dogs. Someone that smiles and their eyes shine when they talk about their dogs. It’s not about the money, it’s about heart. It is about the love of a breed. Share your passion and they will see it shining out of you too. Look for mentors in breeders of other breeds. People that you admire that you see at the dog show or read about. Don’t limit yourself to just your breed. Be open. Be honest.Be willing to do whatever it takes to learn more.
I am blessed. I continue to be mentored by my breeders and friends that are breeders. As long as I breed I will be learning. When I stop learning or God forbid I think I know it all, is the day I need to stop breeding.