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HOW TO BE A *RESPONSIBLE* BREEDER

By Lyn Johnson DVM
Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine

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I am a veterinarian, specializing in companion animal behavior problems. I am also an owner/exhibitor/breeder of purebred dogs. My occupation and avocation combine to make me very aware of ethical and nonethical breeding and sales practices of purebred dogs.

Daily, I attempt to help owners cope with puppies who result from irresponsible breeding, lack of genetic screening for inherited diseases, lack of education about their chosen breed, impulse purchases, poor early socialization and development, and lack of follow-up education from breeders. In short, people who have purchased puppies whose breeders were more interested in the bottom line of making money on puppy sales rather than the overall health and welfare of both the puppies and their future homes.

Unsuspecting people purchase these innocent puppies. The difference is that problem puppies resulting from irresponsible breeding practices often wind up DEAD, after much mental and physical suffering!

Raising puppies who grow into mentally and physically healthy dogs is a tremendous undertaking, not one to be taken lightly. It should not be done for supplemental or primary income...when done correctly, it is very difficult to make money raising puppies. People who make money are cutting corners, which is extremely irresponsible. Many people aren't even aware what constitutes responsible breeding, others just don't care.

Responsible breeding starts with selection of the parents. Having AKC papers and a pedigree stating the parents are purebred is NOT enough. The parents must meet the criteria of conforming to the breed standard and be superior specimens of the breed.

The prospective parents should be screened for a variety of inherited health defects, including heart defects, eye defects, hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, bleeding disorders, to name a few. The breeder should be fully familiar with possible problems existing in the pedigree and bloodlines, such as epilepsy, excessive fear or shyness, aggression, etc. Parents should be paired because they compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses, not just because theybelong to the same breed and mating those two dogs is convenient.

The mother should receive routine veterinary care, both before, during and after pregnancy. The dogs should be fed high quality dog food, not justthe cheapest brand available at the local supermarket or feed store. They should receive routine heartworm prevention, intestinal parasite control, external parasite control, with a veterinarian's advice, not do-it-yourself medicine when problems occur, which may result in sick animals and overdosing of medications. Vaccinations should be administered under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, not just purchased from a feed store or wholesale catalog, where mishandling could result in vaccine failures.

The dam should be carefully monitored and kept in a clean, quiet environment for the birth of her puppies. Someone should be present during delivery to ensure there are no complications or to immediately seek veterinary help should problems arise. She shouldnot be left to give birth outdoors or in a kennel in the middle of the night without supervision.

Puppies should be raised in clean environments, with careful exposure to people and home environments, not in cages or pens in crowded kennels or outdoors. After all, they are destined to be family pets, not farm animals or livestock. They should be socialized with their mother, littermates, and other dogs until they are at least 7-8 weeks of age, not sold as soon as they are on solid food at 5-6 weeks. The breeder should be prepared to keep puppies until the best homes are found, even if that means hanging on to them past the "cute puppy" stages.

The puppies should be socialized to people and different environments before going into new homes, not isolated with food and water provided and little handling. Before going into their new homes, puppies should be started on housebreaking, leash walking, crate training, etc, not left in cages, runs, or pens until they are sold, forced to live in their own excrement.

Potential homes should be carefully screened to insure that each puppy is placed in the best home for it's individual personality, not simply sold to someone who is willing to hand over the cash as soon as they see the puppy. Mismatched homes, where there was no screening by the breeder, and impulse purchases, where new owners didn't take time to make this vital decision, are the two most common causes for behavior problems and euthanasia in pet dogs.

A responsible breeder should be available to answer questions and give advice to new owners who call with concerns or questions. They should not wash their hands of their responsibility as soon as the money is deposited in the bank account. A responsible breeder should guarantee the health of their puppies. The breeder should be willing to take that puppy back should problems occur in the new home, FOR THE LIFE OF THAT PUPPY! After all, they are responsible for bringing that life into the world...this is not an inanimate object or appliance that can be disposed of at the local dump when it doesn't work correctly. This is a living being, capable of great affection, capable of learning incredible skills, able to feel excruciating pain and anguish.

I sincerely hope you are or will meet the above standards for responsible breeding. I hope, for the sake of future puppies and puppy owners, you are not following the standards of commercial kennels and backyard breeders, whose main interest in the dogs is making money. If you are not raising puppies responsibly, I hope this article will change your mind. There are many other avenues for making money that don't have such a negative impact on innocent lives than raising and selling dogs.

Lyn Johnson DVM
Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine
College Station, TX

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I want to thank Dr. Lyn for allowing me to reprint her article here. She posted it to one of my dog lists, and I asked her permission to use it on her pages.

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