The Ethics of Breeding Dogs

Lucious aka Happy Sanchez
Lucious aka Happy Sanchez

“What makes a good breeder?” I ask myself.  After looking for a puppy recently myself, and, of course, since I got my three other dogs from different people,  I decided it was important to give that question some consideration.   There is a wide array of advice out there regarding selecting a breeder.  Especially from breeders of purebred show dogs.  One has to do some research, use some judgment, and go from the heart.  As a dog breeder, these are the things I consider when purchasing a dog from someone else, and the things I strive for myself.  I think a caveat would be that in part, it depends upon what you are looking for.

Many breeders are adamant that no one else should breed dogs.  They say breeding dogs is best left to the expert breeders.  There is a lot of “hate” on forums online towards people who are not “show breeders.”  There are a lot of claims that “show breeders” have the best in mind for their breed, and that they are vested in maintaining and improving their beloved breed of choice.

In my opinion, a lot of good dogs, and other animals for that matter, have been ruined by the show ring.  When certain traits geared towards appearance are solidified in a breed, there are often other considerations thrown out the window, which, unfortunately, include genetic diseases and disfigurements.  German Shepherd Dogs, for example, in America, have been bred to have a serious slope towards the back-side.  Not only is this unattractive and unnatural, it lends itself towards hip dysplasia.   If one looks at photographs of German Shepherds a few human-generations ago, one sees a completely different dog:  straight backs, and healthier, more natural appearances.

Old Fashioned German Shepherd Dog
Old Fashioned German Shepherd Dog
modern GSD
Modern GSD

Dogs were originally bred into different breeds in order to work as partners with humans for specific types of work, and for performing certain tasks.  It is this reason, and my love of the types of dogs that I have, that I decided to be a breeder.  I am more interested in the health of the animal then I am a specific appearance.  I am also more interested in preserving the original beauty of the breeds and character of the dogs.  Intelligence, emotional.stability, peak health and fitness, and the best chance of reaching their genetic potential is my goal for breeding.   I would recommend when considering a breeder that you ask them what their goal is.  And then find a breeder that matches your goal.  If your goal is to show dogs, then you would want to find a qualified show kennel.  If you want a working dog, then it may be best to find a breeder that works their dogs.

Now many people these days are against breeding dogs altogether.  They say there are enough unwanted pets out there in shelters and rescues and that to breed dogs of any sort is unethical.  This is my view of this issue, and I am not afraid to talk about it, or to take a position:  I used to be on the Board of Directors for a local Humane Association affiliated with a local animal shelter.  Many animal shelters do very good work in many regards, and I support most of their efforts to help animals.  There are a few things that I do not agree with that are common practices but I will not go into that here.  I have also adopted cats, dogs and pigeons from that same animal shelter.  Wonderful animals all.  I see nothing wrong with going to a shelter or a rescue to adopt a pet.  It is a great thing to do.

There are some reasons that many people have for not doing that, however.  Many people like and want purebred dogs, or specialty cross-bred dogs.  Many people want to raise their dog from a puppy for a multitude of reasons as well.  There are certain periods in a dogs development that are crucial for imprintation on the dogs psyche, behaviors, and emotional state.  If a person wants a dog for a specific work purpose, very often it is important to select a puppy with the correct temperament for the job and to get the puppy at the right age in order to begin to imprint him or her.

This is not to say that a dog from a shelter cannot be trained to do certain jobs, but often shelter dogs are best suited for companion animals.  Many service dogs have come as young adults from shelters and done amazing things, and many shelter dogs make great therapy dogs, etc.

I do not think it is wrong to want to get a dog from a breeder and have complete knowledge of the parents of that dog, the environment from which it came, and to know the diet history of both the parents and the puppies, since diet and development go hand and hand, and the puppy’s brain development at an early age is completely affected by the diet of the mother while he or she was in utero, while nursing, and during and after weaning.  I do not think it is wrong to like and want a purebred dog.  Every dog that every person has owned and loved was bred–either intentionally, or unintentionally.  I feel it is every dog owners responsibility to care for their dog and consider what is best for that dog and for that owner.  The world would be a very different place if everyone in it practiced personal responsibility and took responsibility for their actions and for their decisions.  But I do not think that I, or you, or any other responsible person should be punished and dictated to due to the failings of others.

People are free to pursue their preferences, and free to disagree with me.

Another topic to consider when deciding where to go for a puppy is price.  One problem I have with show-type kennels is the exorbitant price they charge for a puppy.  I personally feel that this is unethical and ridicules.  I have read how “expensive” it is to breed dogs, and that unless you charge $1,000 or more for a puppy you won’t even begin to break even, and in fact always loose money.  Bullshit.

Now if I figure the cost of what I feed my dogs for a year in the price of the puppies, then maybe I would have to charge a lot more then I do.  But, I think that is stupid because I don’t have my dogs as property with which to run a business.   I love my dogs and they are a part of my family, and I would have them and feed them the same way regardless of if I bred and sold puppies.  The same holds true for veterinarian costs.  The only extra expense I have when breeding and raising puppies is increased food consumption, and perhaps veterinarian expenses if something goes wrong.

People may try to justify high prices due to “superior pedigree.”  A pedigree is only as good as the traits from which the lineage is selected for.  And that is in the eye of the beholder.   Are some champion dogs amazing?  Sure.  Are some non-pedigreed dogs amazing?  You bet.   In my opinion registering animals is merely an attempt to exert control over the market.  This is a capitalistic practice.  The methodology here is in having a group of people get together to agree to charge more for their animals because there is a paper that they possess that says “my animal is better then the one without this paper.”  I say this because there is no way that, say, and AKC registration means you are getting a sound, healthy dog with good confirmation.  Why?  No one ever inspects dogs that are registered to make sure that is the case.  Any puppy mill can sell AKC dogs.  All they have to do is purchase an AKC registrable dog, and get it registered, and then register the litter.  Great.

Do I charge money for puppies?  Yes.  Do I think there is anything wrong with that?  No.  But I do think that there is a price that is fair to charge, and I stay within that, and that boils down to what I would pay for my puppies, and what I have paid for dogs in the past.  There is an investment in time, care, love, attention, work, and food in breeding puppies.  But, how does one put a price on that?  You can’t.  Living things are not commodities and are, essentially priceless.

Therefore, I charge what I think is fair, and what allows most people who have enough resources to care for a dog properly be able to afford to buy one from me.  In return, I offer a puppy that I have done the best job I can to get it off to a great start:  the best diet I can provide the mother and the puppies, love, attention, temperament assessment, and training if a puppy does not sell before seven weeks of age.  If my prices are too high for you, then I would recommend trying a breed-rescue for purebred dogs or an animal shelter—generally their costs are lower then most breeders.  Or, many people give dogs away for free who can no longer keep them.

I have covered vaccination in worming in another article, but I will reiterate that I do not do these things typically before I sell a puppy.  I prefer natural worming, and would and will worm a puppy if it needs to be wormed, but I will not use chemical wormers unless not using it would be more harmful.  I do not vaccinate because I feel it is up to the new owner to decide if they trust and want to use vaccines.  I do not like them, and feel they are often more harmful then helpful.  I have vaccinated my adult dogs with minimal protocol, but am considering not vaccinating my next dog.  For more information on this please see Caring For Dogs the Ophidian Way.

Now, there are many wonderful people out there who breed and raise and sell dogs.  They love their dogs, they want other people to share in what they love.  The best advice I can give you is to talk to a prospective breeder and see what they are all about, and if you like them, and most importantly, if you like their dogs.    I am adding a new female German Shepherd Dog to our pack,  (her name is Maia, and I am so excited), and wow, did I talk to some real jerks out there when looking for her.  I wrote an email to a woman who was advertising GSD puppies.  I tried to ask her some questions.  I was lucky to get one or maybe two words out of her.  She obviously did not want to answer any questions what-so-ever.  Finally I just told her that is she could not be bothered to talk to me, I would go elsewhere.  Her answer:  “Suit yourself.”   Well, I did.

There was another person selling some puppies, and I liked the looks of his dogs, though I felt the price was higher than I could afford and that I wanted to spend.  I asked him if the price was negotiable.  (Which I would encourage—it can’t hurt, and no hard feelings if the breeder says “no.”  I’ve been asked, and I don’t have a problem with being asked.)  I offered him half of what he was asking and first pick of my next litter of GSD’s, or of the first litter with his puppy.  He said “great!” and even offered to deliver the dog.  Wow.  Nice!

Well, then things all of a sudden got more complicated and he apparently had expectations above and beyond our agreement, that I didn’t agree to, and….we’ll just leave it at that.  Point being that it is a good idea to chat with a breeder and have a consensus on what is involved in getting a puppy and what expectations are on both sides.

I think my final thought for this rather lengthy article is this:  I don’t expect to be the right dog-breeder for everyone.  If you like what I stand for and you like my dogs, then maybe one of my puppies is for you.  If you do not like what I stand for, then I am sure there is another breeder who will better suit you.  I am happy to answer any questions about my dogs, and to give any advice I can, including saying things like, “ I don’t think one of my dogs is what you are looking for,” or even recommending a different type of dog, or breeder if I know of one.  My goal is to place my puppies in the right loving and permanent home.  I don’t want to sell a puppy to the wrong home, and was in fact very happy with a couple from my last litter who put a deposit on a puppy and then changed their mind before they came and got her.  Much better to decide that before you get her home!

I am happy to talk to you if you want to consider one of our dogs.   I will be honest with you, and if I don’t know the answer to a question I will tell you so.  It is my goal to be a “good breeder,” who cares about my dogs, and their new families.

Boodle and Jasmine after Jasmine rolled in
Boodle and Jasmine after Jasmine rolled in “the stink.”
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