Today on WOOFipedia, we posted a Q&A with Sheltie breeder Renee Wiseman about her decision to recently sell singer Miley Cyrus one of her puppies. Now, we get more in-depth with Wiseman, exploring her history in the breed and what puppy buyers should look for in a responsible breeder.
How long have you been breeding, and what sparked your interest?
I’ve had Shelties for over 22 years. I got my first Sheltie, Fox, when I was a young girl. I always wanted to take him to dog shows, but my father would not hear of it, so other than the occasional local B match, that never happened until I was an adult. A decade later, while cleaning out an old filing cabinet, I found Fox's old AKC paperwork, which led me to the kennel where his father was bred. I looked at their website and saw a dog that looked just like my Fox. I called them right away and told them I was interested in showing. Those wonderful people, Harold and Judy Biggs of Bellevue Kennels in Louisiana, took a chance on me and sent me a show prospect that looked just like my lost Fox and was from the same line. A month after he came home with me, I had him in the show ring and we took Reserve Winners Dog at my very first show. This is my proudest win, and likely always will be. That win picture hangs on my wall in my living room to this day. Since then I have been showing every chance I get. Despite all these years of experience with the dogs though, breeding is a very serious matter and not to be taken lightly. I have only just arrived at the level where I feel comfortable breeding, and this was my first litter. Certainly not my last, however!
Tell us a little about your breed, the Shetland Sheepdog. What kind of lifestyle and owner is best suited for a Sheltie?
Shelties are one of the most intelligent and sensitive breeds. They have minds that crave stimulation, and you can just see the intelligence in their eyes. Their long coats, which are often intimidating to those not familiar with them, usually only need brushing once a week. For noncompetitive dogs, a bath every 3-6 months is usually fine. The coat itself secretes oil that repels water and dirt, so Shelties are a very clean breed. They were bred to work day in and day out, so that coat serves a purpose! They also only shed twice a year, and the long strands are far easier to get out of furniture and carpet than much shorter hairs on short-coated breeds. Shelties are also an extremely adaptable breed. They focus more on their owner than their environment. Shelties will follow you from room to room, whether your home is a one-room apartment or an enormous mansion. They also do best with a family that can take time with them, more so than most other breeds. A Sheltie will be unhappy remaining alone most of the day, but they love having children to 'herd' or other canine companions.
What do you look for in candidates interested in your puppies? What is the selection process like for a breeder?
I primarily look for people who understand that a dog of any breed is a lifelong commitment, and we are talking 15+ years here! I am all for responsible pet ownership. Often, people blame breeders for an imagined pet overpopulation problem, when in fact we have an owner responsibility problem filling the shelters. It is not breeders creating too many dogs, but owners that are dumping dogs at the shelter because they are too old or the owner did not bother to train them. Because of that, I look for potential owners who assure me they are going to take my puppies to socialization classes, puppy kindergarten, and obedience. I also consider the financial ability to afford a dog. People often underestimate just how much even a small dog may cost, especially if there are unexpected veterinary expenses from the puppy swallowing that sock. Have they looked into insurance? What sort of food do they plan to feed? Vaccination schedules? People who try to negotiate the asking price or say my dogs cost too much often do not understand that the initial cost is just the tip of the iceberg once the dog is in your house. Often when people first contact me, I keep my mouth shut, listen, and let them talk. That lets me get to know them better than anything else would. I have a questionnaire about things that are important to me that I send them. Do you train your dogs, what type of training, etc.? That is followed up by a phone call with more questions, asking them to elaborate if something concerns me. Then, if I decide that I like them and they would make a good home, I tell them! When puppies are born, I work with them to determine which of these puppies is best for their lifestyle. Sometimes the answer is obvious, sometimes it takes more time.
For potential puppy buyers, what are the most important things to look for when seeking a responsible breeder?
First of all, health tests! You want to look for OFA or CHIC test results. Not just that the dogs have been tested, but what were the results? It is your responsibility as a puppy buyer to look for those things, and most reputable breeders will show you the health tests if you ask. No one else is going to do your research for you! Do not take the breeder’s word for it, go to the OFA website and look for yourself. When you go to a reputable breeder and they quote you a high price for a puppy, that is the price for the thousands of dollars of health testing they have put into their dogs, which in turn is going to provide you with a healthier puppy. The quality breeders are the ones that have done health testing and temperament testing. They have had these dogs for years. They know the lines, they know the personalities, and they can tell you how the dog is going to mature. Even if you do not want one of their dogs for whatever reason, they are normally willing to help you find the perfect dog for your family because they love dogs. It’s what they do. You want this type of experienced, knowledgeable person in your corner as your dog matures and you have questions. The good breeders will always be there for you, through this dog and your next. Those that do care will stand behind the puppies they sell until they leave this world.