Category Archives: Diary of a Dog Breeder

Dog Breeding – Conformity vs Individuality?

Be the same, but different!

Jeremy Vine does a series of pieces entitled ‘What makes us human?‘ on Radio 2 and this is a picture that sums up a viewpoint I have realised over the past few days in relation to this question.  It is similar to a picture I saw on social media with a man in camouflage trousers and a neon top with the caption “do ye wanna be seen o’ no?” (Scottish) Lol.  Here I am, with my camouflage jacket and my bright purple hair.

What’s the point I am making?  We want to be the same as everyone else. We are desperate to conform, to fit in, to be seen as ‘normal’, to go unnoticed.  AND we are desperate to be different, to stand out, to be memorable.  In order to achieve these two opposing and confrontational goals, we will buy the latest fashion, follow the trends, look carefully at what others are doing and copy it.  There are many entertaining social experiments about people going along with a crowd, performing in increasingly bizarre ways, just to do the same as everyone else.

Equally, there is a constant battle to be just a little bit different, to be memorable and not the same as everyone else.  We give children ridiculous names, or spell their names in ridiculous ways.  We get tattoos, with our own versions of patterns or pictures making us look a bit different from other people (while following the fashion for body art).  We dye our hair.

How does this relate to dogs?

I watched the Catherine Tate programme Saving the British Bulldog the other night (watch it, if you haven’t already, it’s really good).  Catherine presents a really clear, balanced picture of what has happened to the bulldog breed and why this has taken place.  In my view, this represents  this same dichotomy between conforming and being different.

The Kennel Club have a breed standard for the British Bulldog. It says right at the outset:

“A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for functionAbsolute soundness is essential.

“Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.

There it is, in black and white.  So what’s going on?  Breeders are breeding for health and to produce the best examples of the breed, conforming to the ‘standard’ set.  BUT people don’t want all dogs to look the same.  They want them to look different. People want a dog, but they want it to look like a baby.

As the programme demonstrates, this make the dog unhealthy, because it becomes deformed.  This is NOT the fault of the Kennel Club, nor the breeders, but the buying public, who are trying to find a particular ‘look’, no matter what that costs.

Health comes first

Surely we would not deliberately buy something that was unhealthy, would we?  We wouldn’t choose to have an unhealthy child, would we?  So why would we choose to have a dog with inherent health problems?

crufts best in show 2018

If we only cared about dog health, we would all have dogs that are shaped like dogs.  A bit like this year’s Crufts Best in Show, Tease the Whippet, (Collooney Tartan Tease). The Kennel Club says that the Whippet was originally bred for rabbit coursing, with gambling on racing in the North of England.  It goes on to say:

“Although Whippet racing continues on a very minor scale, the breed is now hugely popular in the show ring where its elegant lines and smooth daisycutting action has won many admirers. As a family companion, the Whippet is gentle and affectionate and enjoys the comforts of domestic life.”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  But we don’t all want Whippets, do we?  We want something different.

The same, but different

This is all just an excuse to talk about my puppy, Ounce.  I LOVE that she is different – pretty unique in fact.  She is a lilac and white Border Collie, which is a colour that is found in only around 1% of the breed.  In addition, she has blue eyes, which is even rarer.  Blue eyes are definitely not part of the breed standard.

At the same time, Ounce conforms to the ‘show type’ of Border Collie, because she is from those lines.  So she is more ‘stocky’ than a farm-bred, working sheepdog type Border Collie.  She has the pedigree Border Collie broad, short back and head, and she has a thicker, longer coat than a working sheepdog.  She has very even markings, with a white blaze, full mane, white socks and white tail tip.  Ounce is also a ‘typical collie’ in her temperament and behaviour. Lovely.

The evolutionary compulsion

In my opinion, there is a biological reason why we want to conform and be different.  We need to ‘fit in’ so that we can be desirable to others, but we also need a diverse gene pool and we need to attract a mate.  To meet these needs, we are prepared to do almost anything and ‘variety is the spice of life’.

Going back to the health issues, we are, unfortunately, prepared to do many things in order to be ‘attractive’ to others.  People have always been happy to mutilate themselves and each other in the name of beauty, eg stilettos, makeup, piercings, FGM.  This is well documented, so I do not need to detail it here.

This compulsion is transferred to our dogs.  We want the same as everyone else, but we want ours to be better.  More beautiful, more unusual, more extreme, more fierce and so on.

My mother has passed down a family expression to me, which my sons now say.  It was said by my great-grandmother; “It’s a good job we’re not all the same, or we’d all want to marry the same man.  And it wouldn’t be you Charlie.”  Poor Charlie!  My conclusion is that we strive to be different, while fighting to be part of the human race.  It’s what makes us human, but also what makes us part of the evolutionary process.  Purple hair, purple puppy, something different.

Hopefully, we can recognise the need to promote the healthy ‘normal’ while celebrating the beautiful variety of life.  Pedigree dogs should be healthy, but this is only true as long as responsible breeders can produce enough dogs to meet public demand. Once we clamour for more and more ‘designer dogs’, unscrupulous people will see a chance to make big bucks by compromising standards, as Catherine Tait’s programme demonstrated.  Please bear in mind what a dog should look like when considering what to get for your best friend?

Remember..

If you are buying a dog, start by looking at the What Dog? page, then contact me?  Or if you want to breed, read this Dog Breeding Blog and then please CONTACT ME to discuss this, as I may be able to mentor you?

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

WHY PUPPIES ARE NOT TOILET PAPER

SOLD OUT! Puppies cannot be made to order

You may or may not have noticed, but the world and his wife have got a new puppy! How lovely for everyone. People have been forced to spend time at home reviewing their lives and have realised that their life will be better with a dog. Correct. It will be. If you have changed your working pattern and will now be spending time working from home, you will be able to play with your new dog – that’s great.

puppies for sale
Life is better with a dog

Of course there will be plenty of people who have been at home and thought it was the ideal time to get a puppy so they could ‘get it sorted’ before going back to work, when it will be left all day, every day. Those people will find their bored, frustrated puppy (it will still be a puppy) will wreck their house and bark all day, annoying their (now working from home) neighbours. Those puppies will then go into rescue centres – more on that later.

Where are all the puppies coming from?

When we first went into Lockdown, everyone decided they MUST have toilet paper. It sold out pretty quickly. But then the manufacturers realised that it was essential for everyone to have a year’s supply immediately, so production of toilet paper went into overdrive. These companies were able to stop making other products and produce more toilet paper. Great, everyone has a clean bum now.

puppies for sale

With puppies, this has also happened. I am sure that LOTS of people who were considering having puppies some time over the next year, have decided to crack on. This might well be because their own plans have changed. That is what has happened to me.

I would normally have two years between each of the three litters I would try to have from my girls. However, Busy was supposed to be spending this year competing in agility shows. We were going to drive across Europe with the dogs in July. All this has been cancelled. So I looked at Busy and thought ‘Well I may as well have another litter from her now.’ She’s 6 years old, young and fit. Her last litter are over a year old. It will just about be summer – a nice time to have puppies.

puppies for sale

What happens next?

That’s all fine so far. More puppies, to meet more demand. Everyone is happy. I have had hundreds (literally) of enquiries for puppies, over the past couple of months. I could have sold many, many puppies. So I have a waiting list of carefully scrutinised, suitable owners. I am sure all responsible breeders, especially those who are Kennel Club Assured Breeders, will have gone through the same process. I have plenty of people on the reserve list. I even have a few possible homes for a litter I might have next year (from Ounce, NOT from Busy!)

puppies for sale

The trouble is, I am still getting enquiries. Usually, when I get an enquiry, I tell people to go the other KC Assured Breeders. Or to look on Champdogs, a reputable website with health tested, pedigree dogs. So what happens now? Where will the future puppies come from?

The breeding cycle

It only takes 9 weeks to make puppies. Wow, that’s not very long, I hear you say. Then it’s standard practice to have the puppies for 8 weeks before they go to their new homes. The Kennel Club recommend that as a minimum.

So then you start again, right? Wrong. Dogs are only able to have a litter when they come into season. This is usually every 6 months, but can be less often. The trouble is, they should NOT have a litter of puppies every 6 months. I’ve talked about all the issues with having puppies already on my recent post 5 reasons not to breed from your dog.

If more puppies are being produced, the chances are therefore high that these are being bred by people who don’t care about the health and wellbeing of their dogs. They just care about the money.

Puppies are not a commercial commodity

Please care about where your puppy comes from? If you get it from a rescue centre, why was it there? It may have been bred without much thought, or care. Usually that won’t matter too much, but there may be health issues that have not been accounted for.

It will probably have been dumped because the pet owners couldn’t be bothered with their new toy any more. They probably won’t have taken the time to train their puppy. It might not even be house trained! It almost certainly won’t come when it is called, or know how to interact appropriately with other dogs, or cope with strange situations.

puppies for sale

Most of these issues can be fixed, given time and patience. Some things can be harder to work through and it may be years before you have the dog you imagined. That can be painful and frustrating, for both you and your dog.

Illegal importing

I know from information given to me by the Kennel Club, that dogs are imported illegally into the UK all the time – it is a huge problem and one that is likely to get FAR WORSE in the coming months. Hopefully, with travel from Europe being more restricted, there might be better controls, but I think it unlikely.

People bring pregnant dogs into the UK, smuggled in tiny spaces in the backs of cars. They then register the puppies here, sell them off for a fortune and then go home to breed again from that bitch at her next season. NB: Registration on the Kennel Club Activity Register does not mean that the dog is a pedigree!

Extortionate prices

Sadly, when it comes to dogs, you don’t ‘get what you pay for’. Responsible breeders will charge a reasonable amount to cover their costs, including health testing of course. Unscrupulous people, breeding for financial gain, will charge whatever people are prepared to pay. So if it is costing thousands, it’s not been well-bred.

In conclusion

Now really is not the time to start looking for a puppy! You will get one from a rescue soon enough, if you are prepared for some extra work. But healthy, carefully bred puppies are sold out. Sorry.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service. Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

5 Reasons not to breed from your dog

Why dog breeding is not a casual hobby, or a business

“Responsible owners research their breed before choosing a dog that will best fit their lifestyle.”

“Responsible breeders know that purpose-bred dogs are predictable which helps owners make the right choice for their family.”

These are strange times we are living in, indeed. We are all spending our days differently, whether we are furloughed, redundant or just working from home, online and via Zoom. So it is not surprising that we are reflecting on our lives and how we are living. I am not at all surprised that people are realising that NOW is the perfect time to get a dog.

border collie puppies
getting the right dog for you

Everyone should have a dog (or 5!) They simply make life better. Always present whether you need them or not, keeping you company. They demand attention, through affection and play, which is the best way to soothe your soul. Dogs will amuse you every day, through their antics and interactions. And of course walking with a dog is the absolutely best start to your day. Whatever the weather, having a dog by your side is brilliant.

Don’t get a dog NOW?

Sadly, dogs are not toilet roll (it’s a pandemic joke!) We simply CANNOT rush out and buy a dog. We CANNOT demand more dogs are made – it just doesn’t work like that.

Yes, some breeders may be able to bring their plans for the next one or even two litters forward. If you have a number of breeding bitches, you may decide to have the next litter from one of these this year, rather than next year. BUT BEWARE! The more puppies the public demand, the more likely buyers are to get one from an unscrupulous person, who will take your money and lie to you. Heartache will be yours, as your dog becomes ill and dies, or just doesn’t turn out how you thought.

Here are some reasons why it is a BAD idea to ‘just have a litter from your pet dog’.

1. It’s not healthy

dog breeding
before puppies

Having puppies really sucks the health right out of dogs. It is NOT something than can be done on a whim. The Kennel Club require that dogs are only allowed to have litters between the 2 and 8 years of age and they will only accept 4 litters for registration. They do NOT allow more than one litter per year.

Bitches generally have two ‘seasons’ per year, which is the fertile period during which they can be mated. Their first season is at around one year old, so they could potentially then have two litters per year, for 8-10 years. Imagine that? What would that do to a dog? Would you want that for your dog? Think about what that would do to them?

dog breeding
after puppies

I take the utmost care of my dogs. They have top quality food, plenty of exercise, stimulation and training. But it still really takes its toll on them. I only have three litters, if they are able to cope with it. Not four, that’s too many.

2. It’s time-consuming

Having a litter of puppies takes time. A lot of time. I reckon I spend around 5 hours a day, or 35 hours a week, for 8 weeks, on each litter of puppies. Not to mention a great deal of time preparing for the litter before it arrives. Then supporting the new owners once the pups have gone.

border collie puppies
up to no good

This time includes:

  • being there for the labour and birth (usually through the night)
  • getting up several times during the night to check on the puppies, so they are not crushed and are feeding successfully – for a couple of weeks
  • cuddling the puppies (a couple of hours a day should cover it)
  • talking to the new owners and preparing pupdates for them
  • having visitors to the house to show off the puppies (around 150 per litter for me)
  • cleaning up after the puppies (about an hour a day doing this)
  • providing a stimulating and enriching environment
  • taking pictures (obv!)
  • feeding the mum, then the puppies endlessly
  • putting them outside
  • bringing them inside
  • taking them for their microchips and health tests
  • preparing their puppy packs

Sounds terrible doesn’t it? Of course it is brilliant having puppies, but I cannot stress enough what hard work it is! It is exhausting at times.

3. Finding homes

When I started out, over 10 years ago, I was told that finding the homes is the hardest part of the breeding process. I thought ‘well it can’t be that hard, everyone will want one of my pups’. Wrong! It’s a nightmare.

border collie puppies
the perfect home

Yes, everyone thinks your puppies are SO cute. But that doesn’t mean they want one. Or that they are the right home for them. You will be let down by people, who seem really keen, then drop out for no reason. Then there are people who come and look at your gorgeous pups and then say ‘Well I wanted one a bit more…’ God, that’s so annoying!

4. Vetting homes

People lie. All the time, so it’s really hard to believe them when they say they know all about your breed of dog, or that it’s exactly what they’ve been looking for.

I’ve produced over 50 puppies now, over the past decade. I’ve had two go to new homes. One came back to me at 13 months and was successfully rehomed within days. One was re-homed to friends of the owner, as he went travelling. None of my puppies have gone into a rescue.

border collies
best boy in the right home

I know that for certain, because I keep in touch with my owners and they with me. I vet my homes rigorously and then support them as required. It’s hard work!

5. It’s expensive

You won’t get rich having a litter of puppies from your pet dog. If you want to do things even half well, they need health testing first, which is expensive and time-consuming.

border collie puppies
special toys are needed

Then you need special food, bedding, runs, toys, and other equipment. It all adds up! I always spend money on bits to add to the puppy pack, partly because I am Assured Breeder, but also because I want my owners to have everything they need for a great experience with their new puppy. A photo book is a lovely keepsake.

puppy pack
the puppy pack

It’s not just the financial cost though. Having puppies takes its emotional toll on you. Things can go wrong, people can mess you around, or cause you worry. It’s really hard and there have been many occasions when I think this litter will be my last.

So why do it?

I carry on because for me, it is a passion. Producing amazing dogs that enrich people’s lives and bring joy every day; it’s a brilliant thing to have in your life. Under the right circumstances.

border collie breeder
best job ever?

But when I’m receiving 5 enquiries PER DAY for puppies I cannot produce, I get frightened that people will be conned into buying puppies that have been carelessly, thoughtlessly brought into the world, only to be just as carelessly dumped when things don’t turn out to be the cute, fluffy dream you imagined. Please take care?

Remember..

If you want to see more videos and photos, please go to the Dentbros Dogs Facebook page.

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

5 Myths about Border Collies

Border Collies are one of the most popular breeds of dog in the UK. Yet they are often misunderstood and can have a bad reputation. People think that Border Collies are nervous, obsessive and snappy – that’s not a myth, they can be like that! But there is more to the breed than this. Hopefully, the ‘farm collie’ that you had as a child is NOT the same as the responsibly bred Border Collie you buy from an KC Assured Breeder.

Let’s look in more detail at a few of the biggest myths around the breed:

1. Border Collies are black and white

A ‘typical’ Border Collie?

Let’s start with the physical attributes – do we think all Border Collies look like Bonnie (above)? According to the Kennel Club’s breed standard, there are quite a few variables. For example, “the nose should be black, except in brown or chocolate colour when it may be brown. In blues the nose should be slate colour.” And the eyes should be “brown in colour, except in merles, where one or both or part of one or both may be blue.” It goes on to describe variability in size, in the set of the ears, in the length of coat and so on.

As for colours, what a choice we have! I have written about this in more detail elsewhere, but Border Collies come in all sorts of colours!

2. Easy to train

I have to talk about this one next. Everyone knows that Border Collies are extremely intelligent, right? So that must mean they are easy to train, right? Wrong. Well, actually it is true, but they don’t train themselves! Oh no wait, that’s not true either, they DO train themselves, and that’s why you have to watch them carefully. They will also train YOU!

ball games
THROW THE BALL!

Pictured here we can see Aura, making me throw the ball for her. She does love her ball! Aura will demand that I throw it, again and again – she’s relentless! However, it is Sunny who has always been able to persuade anyone and everyone to throw a ball for her.

Border Collies want to learn, to do, to keep busy. Many people struggle to get them to stop and settle and if they are poorly managed they can become neurotic and obsessive. They need owners who can keep them focused and doing what is required. And no more.

3. Need lots of exercise

border collie myths
Constantly on the go

Border Collies are designed to work. They should ‘normally’ be out on the hills, with the shepherd, moving the sheep from one place to another. This might take a long time and involve being on the go for hours on end. But they don’t do this all day every day. I often think the breed is one of the closest to wild dogs (if you get a Heinz 57 dog it will often look a bit like a collie). This means they are built for stamina and speed, stealth and strength.

However, the shepherd also needs them to be able to cope with doing nothing much, for long periods as well. Fortunately for us, because not many people these days require a dog to be on the go all day long.

So yes, Border Collies, can exercise all day. Do they need to? No. I always tell my puppy owners “You can exercise your Border Collie for 3 hours a day or more. All you will get is a fit dog! The more you do with them, the more they will need you to do. You will NOT succeed in tiring them out.” Be warned!

4. Good with children

A well-bred, well raised Border Collie should be a super family pet. But they are certainly not the ‘obvious’ breed when it comes to spending time with children. Their tendency to herd can make them nippy. Our collies used to try desperately to round us up if we were out on a walk, or running around a field. They would nip at our heels as we went to leave the house.

Border Collie puppies
Good with children?

My second Border Collie, Buzz, loved being part of our family. But he tended to guard and was a bit ‘sharp’ if things got a bit too exciting. I feel that Border Collies can easily become anxious if children are noisy, or lively. They do not like being chased, or grabbed. Other breeds, particularly Labradors, are far more tolerant, although all dogs should be managed sensibly around children.

5. Make great pets

border collie myths
They certainly know how to pose!

Yes they do. If they are well-bred, well-trained and well cared for, they make absolutely fantastic pets. Find a responsible breeder, go to training classes, practise and praise. Then enjoy!

If you want to know more about Border Collies, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to know more about me or my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

WSD vs BC: Which is better?

WSD – What is it and why do you want one?

Working Sheepdog (WSD) is generally the name given to a non-pedigree Border Collie.  They can also be called just ‘sheepdogs’ or just ‘collies’.  Basically, if it looks a bit like a Border Collie (BC) but isn’t registered with the Kennel Club, it’s called a WSD.  With me so far?

Farm collies are usually WSDs, because they are not designed to be pets, but working dogs.  WSDs who work sheep are registered with the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS).  This prestigious organisation registers and monitors Working Sheepdogs in the UK and Ireland.

wsdRegistration of WSD

If you have a litter of puppies with WSD parents who are ISDS registered, no problem!  You can register these on the ISDS register and they will be assigned a registration number – usually 6 digits.

Once registered as an ISDS WSD, you can register your dog as a KC Border Collie.  That’s because in order to be a ISDS registered WSD you must meet stringent breeding and health requirements.  They must have known heritage, in other words their parents must both be ISDS registered.  And they must have had all the relevant eye testing.  (Still with me?)

If your WSD is not from ISDS lines, but you would like it to be ISDS registered, you can do so, by meeting the society’s requirements.  They can transfer based on competition success.  Alternatively,  they can be put through a ‘working test’ as follows:

The dog must pass a test of skill in Outrun, Lift, Fetch and Driving and general farm duties on a packet of sheep at a test location nominated by the Society or Associate Club and assessed by two Examiners.

In other words, in order to become ISDS registered, a WSD must actually be a ‘working sheepdog’.

wsdRegistration of a BC

In order to register as Border Collie with the Kennel Club, you must have parents who are pedigree Border Collies.  Or you can have an ISDS registered WSD parent or parents, as above.

If you want to have a dog with an unregistered parent or parents (ie neither pedigree nor ISDS) put onto the Border Collie pedigree register, you have to apply for a breed transfer.  This is a long and arduous exercise, that involves:

  • an application process, with accompanying documentation
  • preliminary approval
  • two breed judges examining the dog to confirm that it meet the breed standard
  • a DNA profile to confirm the breed
  • all relevant health testing required for the breed – eye testing and hip scores as a minimum
  • judgement passed by the KC panel.

Once this has been done, a pedigree certificate will be issued, with a pedigree registration number.  The dog’s pedigree name will have three asterisks after its name – Dentbros Busy the Imp***.  Their progeny will have two asterisks – Dentbros Lilac Wine**.  And so on, until Ounce’s grandchildren will be FULL PEDIGREE BORDER COLLIES!

Busy’s sire was an unregistered but nevertheless pedigree Border Collie.  Her great grandmother had not been registered and has some WSD in her pedigree, but after that her family were all from BC stock.  This process recognised and registered her heritage.

Still following all this?

wsdWhat is the point?

You may well ask.  Does it matter AT ALL if they are ISDS registered WSDs or KC registered BCs, or both? Or not?  It’s a complicated question, but the answer is quite simple.

What do you want your dog to do?

This is at the heart of almost all the posts I write on this site.  What is the point of having a pedigree dog?  Why do I need to think about a particular breed?  I have been doing the breed blog to encourage you, my readers, to think properly about what makes dogs different from each other.  As this article about breeds found in shelters says:

“A large proportion of the dogs that end up in rehoming centres are there because their original owners simply found themselves unable to manage the dog that they took on, or had not done enough research about the specific needs and issues surrounding their breed of choice.”

The list of breeds given in the article is as follows:

Mixed breeds are obviously the most commonly re-homed dogs, because there are more mongrels than any pedigree dogs.  And because Designer Dogs are an unknown quantity!

Talking about the BC, the article says:

“One half hour walk once a day is unlikely to keep a Border Collie happy and healthy, and many first-time Collie owners find that they have grossly underestimated the needs of their new pet.”

Qualities of a WSD

In my opinion, a puppy from WSD stock will be more likely to be:

  • nervous
  • snappy
  • obsessive
  • herding

A puppy from pedigree Border Collie stock is more likely to be:

  • cuddly
  • adaptable
  • relaxed
  • sociable

So again I ask you, what do you want from your dog?  The moral of this rather convoluted post is:

“Don’t buy a WSD if you want a family pet”

wsdAsk for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Want to buy a dog? How do you do that?

Want a dog?  It’s about to get much harder to get one

I am pleased that Lucy’s Law is coming into effect from 1 October this year.  Anything which helps to protect the welfare of animals is a good thing.  If it helps to prevent people from importing and breeding dogs and cats en masse, as if they were mere commodities has got to be a good thing.  But how on earth are you supposed to find a dog when you want one?  And how is it going to affect a hobby breeder like myself?

want dogWhat is a ‘hobby breeder’?

I breed from my pet Border Collies because I love my dogs and I want to share that love.  Other reasons include:

  • Loving watching the puppies grow and develop, not just from birth but into adulthood as well
  • Cuddling puppies!
  • Doing it well – as a previous business owner and entrepreneur, I love to think I can produce dogs that are the absolute best they can be.  I love being professional about it, creating a positive experience for the new owners right from the start
  • Producing healthy, happy dogs, that are a real asset to the families they go to.

Because I strive to do it well, I am a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, and proud to be one.  It was hard work to ensure I did everything necessary to pass the assessment and I feel that it is an accolade worth having.

Breeding in this way makes me a responsible breeder, but it also means that I do it as a hobby, not a business.  You cannot make a profit of any significance producing puppies this way.  That is not what I want and it is not what it is about.

want dogThe cost of producing puppies

To do it well, there are many costs, both large and small, in dog breeding.  These include:

  • Health testing – these range from £300-£400  for the hip x-rays to £50 for an annual eye test.  That is for the adult dogs – the puppies must also be health tested
  • Good food – well bred dogs require good quality food and this is certainly more expensive than a supermarket own brand
  • Toys and equipment – well bred dogs live in comfortable surroundings with plenty of stimulation
  • Training – all my adult dogs attend weekly training classes and I think most breeders do the same.  This is part of ensuring that dogs are well behaved and are happy and healthy
  • Time spent with the puppies.  I rarely leave the house when I have a new litter.  I sleep with them for the first week or so.  I have many visitors to the litter, to ensure that they are used to a variety of people and experiences. (It’s a difficult thing to do if you have an actual job!)

People complaining about Lucy’s Law say things like:

“It’s impossible to get a dog from a rescue centre.  They won’t give you one if you have young children.  You can get a child if you have a dog, but not a dog if you have a child.  How mad is that?”

If you have young children you are busy and your home is hectic.  Can you supervise your children at all times with your puppy?  What if they tease it and it bites them?  I know it’s unfair, but we want the best for the dog, don’t we?  We must learn to be critical.  Look at my advice on Dogs and Children and think carefully before getting a dog with young children.

want dogWant a dog now?

I have already talked about the buying process you need to follow when buying a puppy.  That post is about having patience and doing research.  It explains that you need to present yourself to the breeder and convince them that you are the right home for a puppy.  This is more true than ever now that we will have new legislation.

But how do you judge the place you get a dog from?  What do you look for when you want a dog?  Again, I have already talked about the definition of a Puppy Farmer and I have covered some Questions to ask a breeder.  

Problems with the new law

Problem no 1: Hobby breeders like myself may require a licence in order to sell their puppies. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against having a licence, BUT at the moment Local Authorities are not staffed or skilled in the issue of these licences, particularly in being able to discriminate between hobby and professional breeders (ie puppy farmers).  They are more likely to issue a licence to the latter, as it can appear that they are more ‘business-like’ in their approach.  By the time the LA come to visit my puppies, they will have gone off to their new homes.  I am an Assured Breederwhich is much better.

NB: Do not expect small scale breeders to produce a licence.

Problem no 2: How on earth are we hobby breeders supposed to meet the demand for dogs in this country?

Everyone wants a dog, but a breeder like me only produces around 6 puppies per year.  I am able to choose the very best homes for my puppies, so what is everyone else supposed to do?

want dogTop tips if you want a dog

  • Research the best dog for you
  • Wait.  For the right dog, or the right time, or the right home
  • Find an actual, purposeful breeder who takes the trouble to produce the best dogs
  • Look for a story with the dogs

A top breeder will be able to tell you their dog’s life story.  She will be able to show you pictures and certificates of both parents of the puppies.  You will see pictures from the day the pups are born and then every stage of their development, until they go to you.  A breeder like this will expect you to visit more than once.  They will help you choose the right puppy for you.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Childhood Dogs: great memories of past dogs

Childhood dogs – teaching us how to look after dogs

I regularly receive enquiries from people looking for Border Collie puppies; I am an Assured Breeder for Border Collie  after all.  Many people come to me because they are thinking of getting their first family dog or their first dog as an adult, having had dogs in childhood.

childhoodWhen I ask people if they have had dogs before, as part of my vetting process, people often say “yes, we had such and such dogs when I was growing up”.  Sometimes people even tell me they have previously owned dogs and it isn’t until I meet them and they talk about these dogs that I discover that the dogs actually belonged to their parents.

What’s the difference?

If your parents own a dog, then it’s yours too, right?  Well maybe.  If you grew up with a dog or dogs, can you answer the following questions:

  • how was your family dog chosen?
  • who chose its name?
  • where did your dog sleep?
  • who was responsible for feeding your dog?
  • who trained your dog?
  • did you walk it regularly?
  • who cleared up your dog’s poo/sick?
  • did you care for it when it was ill?
  • what health issues did your dog have?
  • how long did it live?

Taking responsibility

Living in the same house as a dog is not the same as owning one.  I’m sure plenty of people were able to answer some of these questions, but ultimately, it’s about making decisions.  Starting with what kind of dog to get.  Most children have a dream of owning a dog, but hopefully their parents are the ones making the choice, doing the research and buying the dog.

seaside childhoodVery often parents wait until their children are in their early teens before getting a dog.  This means that by the time the dog is old enough to need care and (often medical) attention, the children have left home.  They therefore miss most of the ‘owning an old dog’ stage.

Adulting – learning from childhood

Just because the dog wasn’t yours doesn’t mean you didn’t learn anything from the dog you owned in childhoood.  Hopefully you experienced the joy of dog ownership. You probably cuddled the dog when you were sad.  It is likely that you ran around with it in the garden from time to time.  I would definitely hope that your parents dragged you out on walks with your dog occasionally, although probably not every day.  You might remember some of the challenges – chewed shoes, accidents, fighting.

Look back on these experiences in childhood with a dog and understand what you learnt and what are the limitations?  Be realistic about the fact that it won’t feel like that to you, as an adult?  Read about 10 common mistakes made by new dog owners?

childhoodOne of my puppies went to a lovely young family where the husband had grown up with collies.  Sadly, the puppy developed epilepsy and they had an extremely challenging eight months before she was put to sleep.  Not what they signed up for.  Be prepared for the fact that it’s not all cuddles and carefree walks in the sunshine.  It is mostly that though.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

And if you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos and lots more information.

What is a Puppy Farmer?

How can we improve dog breeding standards and stop the puppy farmer?

Talking about how to stop a puppy farmer is difficult.  People demand dogs; in particular they want ‘designer breeds’ or particular breeds (currently French Bulldogs).  This means that unscrupulous people capitalise on this demand – why wouldn’t they?  And people feel that ALL breeders are only in it for the money and don’t care about the welfare of their dogs.

puppy farmerHow often will people say to me “you should only get dogs from rescues – there are too many dogs!” I have talked about whether you should go to a rescue or breeder but today I am re-visiting definition of a puppy farmer.

Puppy Farmer – Definition

“A puppy bred by a commercially driven breeder with low welfare standards”.

What does that mean exactly?  Quite simply, it means that the breeder cares more about making money than how healthy and happy their dogs are.  They do not care about their customers either; they are simply the mugs stupid enough to buy whatever is being sold, at any price.

If you are ‘doing it for money’ then it becomes a business.  But if you are doing it well and responsibly, then surely you should be rewarded for your efforts?  NB: Never get a dog for nothing: it costs money to produce a healthy and happy puppy (see health testing – why bother?), so it is therefore right that such dogs should be paid for.  Equally, don’t pay £1000 for a crossbreed – why is it worth that?

Kennel Club work

The Kennel Club issued a document last year : ‘Collaboration is the Key – the Way Forward for Breeding Regulations’.  The Kennel is working towards:

“A new system so that more breeders are inspected, good breeders are more identifiable to puppy buyers and puppy farmers and bad breeders are driven out of business”

As a member of the Assured Breeder Scheme I am kept informed about the Kennel Club’s campaign for their scheme to be fully incorporated into the local authority licensing regime.

Better inspection regulations

The government is committed to introducing new regulations on dog breeding, which will reduce the litter licensing threshold at which breeders will require a licence, from five litters per year to three.

Defra has given a commitment to incorporate the concept of earned recognition into the new licensing system. This will include consideration of affiliation to a body accredited by UKAS (i.e. the Assured Breeder Scheme), in a risk-based assessment process which would ensure a reduced burden on lAssured Breeders, who are seen as low risk.

“The Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme makes it easy for people to find responsible breeders, whose standards have already been assessed.”

The KC want to ensure that the new system works in practice in order that more breeders are inspected, good breeders are more identifiable to puppy buyers and puppy farmers and bad breeders are driven out of business. This means using this opportunity to grow the scheme by incentivising the best breeders to join and improving the standards of health and welfare in dog breeding.

puppy farmer

What does a puppy farmer do differently?

Here’s a description of where someone got a puppy:

“She went through the puppy pack with all the breed details from mum and dad with us, but didn’t give it to us to take away. This was a ‘breeder’ rather than ‘breeding from pets’.  She breeds 4/5 different ‘types’ and has a big set up. Was all very professional, clean, spacious etc but not ‘pets’. She clearly make lots of money from it! “

Here are the alarm bells for me:

  • Didn’t give away details of parents – were they actually the parents of that pup? Had they been health tested appropriately for their breed?
  • A breeder, but not ‘breeding from pets’.  Sorry? Aren’t you buying a pet?  Why would you want something not bred as a pet?  That’s the very definition of doing it as a business.
  • She breeds 4/5 different types and has a big set up.  Not pedigree dogs, defined by their characteristics and lineage, just random mongrels.  A big set up – 20 dogs? 50? Not much time for them then.
  • She clearly makes lots of money from it!  No other income? Relying on this income to live on means the litter must be profitable.  So not spending money on health testing, toys and good quality food.

puppy farmerQuestions for the breeder

  •  How many dogs do you have?  Can I see them?  Where do they live?  Good breeders might have a number of dogs, but they will be part of the family.  They might spend some time each day in crates or runs, but should be in the house for most of the time.
  •  How many litters do you have per year?  What is the age of the dog when it has its first liter?  And the last?  A litter of puppies is extremely time consuming (or should be!) So the more litters you have, the harder it is to spend time cuddling the pups.

Dogs should have no more than 4 litters each, between the ages of two and eight.

  •  Who is the sire?  Why was he chosen? How closely related is he to the mother of the litter?  What is the in-breeding coefficient? Stud dogs should be from good lines, fully health tested and with a good temperament.  They should be similar in breeding to the bitch without being too closely related.
  • What health tests have the parents had?  Can I have copies of these test certificates?  If the correct tests have been done for the breed, copies of these tests should be given to you as part of your puppy pack.

If the puppies are pedigree dogs, all this information is available on the Kennel Club website.  You can look up dogs and breeders and see who has had what, how they are related and what health tests they have had.  As soon as you move away from pedigree dogs, this information is not compulsory, therefore breeders don’t need to bother following the KC rules.puppy farmer

A final thought

“Dogs owned by people who spent more than an hour researching where to buy them from are likely to live twice as long as those who spent under 20 minutes choosing a puppy, with mean mortality ages of 8.8 and 4.3 respectively.” (Taken from the KC report ‘Collaboration is the Key – the Way Forward for Breeding Regulations’).  As a result of buying from puppy farms, people claim to have suffered emotional and financial hardship, the KC report.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

And if you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos and lots more information.

Top tips on the best way to contact a breeder

Making contact: how to get in touch with a dog breeder

We generally think we know how to apply for a job, don’t we?  We reflect on our skills and aspirations and craft these into a CV.  We then put together a carefully worded application form, which is relevant to the job for which we are applying.  I was talking about this process with my son this week and we were agreeing that it is a challenging and time-consuming process.

contactI have worked in HR for many years and have seen many variations in the quality of applications.  You can tell straight away whether someone is committed to the job, or if they have just sent out a generic ‘give us a job, any job’ application.

First contact

You may have already read some of my posts about the challenges of being a Responsible Breeder.  What I haven’t really talked about so much is the challenge of finding suitable homes for the puppies.

Of course a Puppy Farmer doesn’t really care who has his puppies – he’s just breeding dogs to make money.  They are a commodity, nothing more.

But if you care about the dog you are bringing into your home, wouldn’t you want to find the right one for you?  Wouldn’t you want to ‘apply’ for a dog from someone who equally cares about who you are?

contactHow would you feel if you received a message like this?

“Hi, I saw that you breed border collies, I wondered if you had a litter? Thanks”

What would you say?  I honestly try to reply to every enquiry I receive, but really, what can I say to this person, whoever they are?  No.  Why should I say anything else?  Even if I did have a litter, why would I bother to reply to this message?

Sell yourself

When you contact a breeder, you need to let them know who you are.  At the very least, you might tell them your name!  But actually, if you really want a puppy, you need to sell yourself to the breeders.  By contrast with the message I received, I also had a phone call from someone.  He was keen to tell me all about himself, his family and his previous dog.  I told him that I wasn’t going to have a litter for a while, but he was keen to wait for the right dog, from the right breeder.  He had already done some research and asked some great questions.  (He’s got through to the next round :))

What should you say?

Here my list of a few points that you might say to a breeder, just by way of introduction:

  • Your name, where you live, your circumstances – do you work full time?  Who lives with you?  Do you have children?
  • Your current and previous dog ownership
  • What you are looking for in a dog?
  • When you want to have a dog – this year or next, not too specific
  • What you would like to do with your dog

contactWhat should you NOT say?

Equally, there are a few ‘no-nos’ when you make contact with a breeder:

  • I want a puppy now, or on a specific date (it’s not an exact science!)
  • Specifying colour or markings – I want a black one
  • Asking for unusual characteristics – I want one with blue eyes
  • Saying you have a 2 year-old child (too young, really)
  • Wanting a puppy before your old dog dies.  Old dogs don’t take well to puppies.

Breeders talk to each other

Breeding dogs responsibly is quite a specialist ‘job’.  There are not that many Assured Breeders around and we know each other!  This is partly because we need to find non-related dogs to breed with and partly because we give each other support and advice.

This means that we help each other out when we have litters, sending along good homes once we have found homes for our pups.  We also tell each other if someone seems unsuitable!  So be warned, even if you think you are making a casual enquiry, you might be jeopardising your chances with a number of breeders.

contactA final thought

“Dogs owned by people who spent more than an hour researching where to buy them from are likely to live twice as long as those who spent under 20 minutes choosing a puppy, with mean mortality ages of 8.8 and 4.3 respectively.” (Taken from the KC report ‘Collaboration is the Key – the Way Forward for Breeding Regulations’).  As a result of buying from puppy farms, people claim to have suffered emotional and financial hardship, the KC report.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.

If you are a breeder, you can talk to me about how I vet my puppy owners, together with advice on the information I provide to my puppy homes. CONTACT ME for more information?

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

And if you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos and lots more information.

Would you recommend your dog?

What makes your dog right for you and would you recommend it to someone else?

I’ve been mulling over what makes people choose a particular breed of dog and how to recommend the right kind of dog to the right people.  Last week I was chatting to two people; one had a Husky and the other had two King Charles spaniels.  We were remarking on how different our breeds were and laughing about their distinctive characteristics.  So this has started me thinking that I should interview owners of different breeds about what they like, or don’t like about their own dog(s).

recommend I have already written about having a Practice Dog to stay and in there I listed the ‘challenges’ you face in having a Border Collie; their obsessions, their nervousness and their endless energy to name but three.  But they are also amazing, exciting and incredibly loving dogs to own – I certainly recommend them, to the right person.  Because I am a breeder of Border Collies I also have a page about what makes them so special – Border Collie Breed Information.

Border Collies are special

Here is an example of why I love collies.  When having an agility lesson last week, our trainer was demonstrating a game to us, using two toys, where different commands and movement indicated which toy the dog should go to.  It took my girls two minutes to get the hang of the game and understand what was required.  Try doing that with your dog and see how long it takes?

You can look up breed information on the Kennel Club website of course.  The Pets4homes website has pages on many breeds, including crossbreeds.   But are these sources telling you what it is actually like to live with a dog like this?

recommendNew Dog Breeds Blog

That is why I am launching my new Dog Breeds blog, with personal accounts from my friends about life with their dogs.  This will give you great advice and recommendations on the different breeds.

ACTION REQUIRED!

Please CONTACT ME if you have a breed of dog that is not a Border Collie?  I would like to talk to you about what it is like to own that breed.

I have also done a survey to ask people about other breeds of dog.  This makes interesting reading – if you want to know more, please go the survey results?

Thanks for your help!

recommendAsk for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.

If you are a breeder, you can talk to me about how I vet my puppy owners, together with advice on the information I provide to my puppy homes. CONTACT ME for more information?

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.