AKC eNewsletter


Summer 2011
Mentorship
Joanne Reed, of Windrift Keesonden, discusses the breeder's responsibility to the breed.

When I was asked to write and article on one of my passions regarding breeding, I struggled! I wanted to write a great article that would hold your interest.

The youngest person Joanne has mentored, her granddaughter, Ashley, shown here winning BOS from the Puppy Class over Specials

There have been so many great and fabulous articles regarding breeding dogs, picking out studs, outcross breeding, inbreed breeding, to mention a few, that there are very few subjects left to cover. And to say that I can write a better article about any one of these subjects is preposterous.

So, in the back of my mind, I was thinking about what is a good or great breeder responsible for? It’s a very important question that hasn’t been covered. Honesty is the most important quality; the breeding and selling of puppies, breeding healthy stock, information about which traits your stud dog or brood bitch might pass on. Mentoring is the next most important responsibility.

Mentoring should begin from the moment a breeder sells a puppy to a new owner of the breed. It starts with the placing of the right puppy to the right buyer. We need to share the expert care that we know a puppy needs to excel in any venture, whether it’s obedience, rally, agility, or the conformation ring.

When selling a puppy, I send the new owner home with a puppy pack. I include the usual paperwork along with articles on nutrition and grooming, a microchip brochure, and new this year, a one-year membership in our local breed club. If possible, a member of our club who resides near the new owners becomes a backup mentor to help as well as me.

Through the years of breeding and raising dogs, we all know what food is best for our particular breed. We want to see our puppies thrive. Why let the new owner fumble through the extensive choices available, just to fail in giving their puppy the proper food to eat. Some new owners think that the most expensive food on the market is the best for their dog. As a breeder, I know that this isn’t true. We need to share our knowledge of what works best for our breed. I send food samples and coupons home with the buyers to facilitate an easy transition to the pup’s new home.

Grooming is very important in Keeshonden, so if I have a buyer who is new to the breed, I give them grooming lessons. I show them how to properly brush and care for the pup and the proper equipment to purchase. To help assure they buy the products we discuss, I give them a dog catalogue and circle the equipment that I know makes caring for the coat easier. In the catalogues, I also highlight the crates, equipment, and shampoos that will be useful in raising the puppy.

Party Time!
One of my favorite things to do when I am ready to send a new litter home is have a puppy party. Who doesn’t love a party? All of the members of our local breed club are encouraged to attend. We like to make it a potluck, which gives the party an informal feel and encourages people to mingle. All the new owners and their friends and families are invited as well. We welcome them, sharing stories and events to help make the new people feel involved with us and the breed.

During this puppy party, I use this time as a learning experience for everyone present. This is a good opportunity to share your breed standard. This helps them understand how and why I evaluate the puppies, why we try to breed the perfect dog, and the purpose of conformation showing. I take each and every puppy and put them on a grooming table. I show the good points and bad points of each puppy, as per the standard. I show them how to check front- and rear-end angulations, and how to examine teeth. I explain how these traits relate to our standard so they understand the wording. This is not only for the new purchaser, but it refreshes the other owners and makes them think about what I am critiquing. Everyone seems to enjoy this part, old-timers and newbies alike.

Every puppy receives its last worming, shots, and microchip injection, if needed before leaving for its new home. I feel it is important to include on a separate paper a shot and worming schedule for the new owner to follow so that they can easily transfer this information to their local veterinarian. Too much spoken and not enough written can lead to unnecessary confusion later.

After the party is over, I feel that I send the new owner(s) and puppy off to the best start I can. I believe there is no such thing as too much education! After all, I work so hard to breed the best puppies I can that to not follow through would be a travesty. I make sure that they know they can call me at any time or e-mail me with the smallest questions.

Welcome to the Club
Breed clubs are extremely important to help promote the breed and keep people interested and connected. They are important to the continuation of the world of showing and competing with our chosen breeds. They are also vital to continuing to breed better dogs and educating both ourselves and the general public. Therefore, mentoring of new club members should be developed within each of our clubs. 

The California Sierra Keeshond Club, the local club I’m involved with, is dedicated to mentoring new members. We have recently implemented some changes. Once a member breeder sells a dog the new purchaser is automatically given an associate membership to our club. This helps the new person feel connected to the breed and gives them additional support from club members. The breeder remains the primary resource person but assigns a backup club member as a mentor, preferable in the new buyer’s neighborhood. There are many benefits to the buyer including being automatically put on the membership list. Our list enables them to get all meeting notices, dog show notices and any functions that the club might have. This is done whether or not the person is interested in showing.

Mentors are available for hands-on help with nail trimming, grooming, bathing, and any other questions they might think of. (Of course they will defer sleeping-through-the-night questions to the primary breeder!) Our club feels this helps give new buyers a line of support they wouldn’t otherwise have. It is nice to have another readily available person in case the breeder is out of town showing, on vacation, or otherwise occupied. After one year, the puppy membership expires. At that time they can choose to apply for regular membership, which allows them to vote and be an important part of the club. We hope to grow as a club while supporting and educating our new puppy owners.

So far, over the last six years we have grown from approximately seven members to over 30. With the introduction of mentorship, we hope to grow even more, giving back to the breed we love!

Joanne Reed has been successfully breeding dogs for over 40 years. She has bred over 200 champions, including 22 BIS Keeshonden. She was the 2010 Non-Sporting Group American Kennel Club Breeder of the Year.


Ronald N. Rella, Director, Breeder Services
Email: AKCbreeder@akc.org
Customer Service | Phone: 919-233-9767 | Email: info@akc.org

© The American Kennel Club 2011