“I only breed for myself” is a phrase I’ve heard frequently over the years. It does sound rather noble: I’m not in it for the money, I’m not filling shelters with surplus dogs, and most importantly, I’m not a backyard breeder/puppy miller. While I agree with the thought to a certain point, I’d like to expand the perspective on this concept.
We, as responsible breeders, have many duties when planning and breeding a litter. Health testing needs to be done on the prospective parents. Dogs should have titles confirming that they adhere to the breed standard and/or are able to perform the duties for which they have been bred. Potential pairings must be evaluated to find the match that will produce a litter that maintains and hopefully improves the quality of the breed. Puppies must be whelped and raised in clean, warm surroundings and provided with the best physical care and the socialization they need. Emotional and mental stimulation is needed so they fulfill their genetic potential. These are all very important things to consider before proceeding.
However, I’d like to propose that another reason be considered for breeding a healthy, well-bred litter: People are desperately looking for puppies. This shortage occurs even more so in breeds, like my breed, Dalmatians, that are almost becoming rare breeds. I field many contacts a month from people looking for well-bred puppies. And, unfortunately, I frequently have to tell them they’ll have to wait or travel—or, most likely, both—in order to find that special new family member. I find myself spinning this into a “treasure hunt” concept to help downplay their disappointment. I’m sure this is true in many other breeds as well.
Good breeders are almost guilted into not breeding desired litters thanks to the animal-rights folk and their agendas (proven to be not necessarily tied to the well-being of the animals as touted). While there are still problems with overcrowded shelters and stray animals, particularly in the rural South, many other shelters are being forced to “import” animals from abroad to meet the demand. Statistics show that it is irresponsible and/or ill-informed owners—not the responsible breeders who place puppies very carefully and remain in touch with the new homes—who are the root cause of homeless pets.
I truly believe one of the noblest reasons to breed a litter is to meet the ongoing demand the public has for our beautiful, well-bred, carefully raised puppies. Yes, there are a lot of folks out there with whom I wouldn’t place a Chia pet. However, there are also so many lovely people—real dog people—who quite simply cannot find a well-bred dog of their breed of choice.
Shouldn’t we do what we can to help these people find their dream dog?
I’m not suggesting you breed a litter, if that is not something you care to do, in order to simply fill a market niche. What I am suggesting is for those who love whelping, raising, and placing puppies (and possibly making many new friends) to not let public pressure or even peer pressure keep you from doing what you love to do. People are clamoring for our puppies. If you can commit to doing it right, I would suggest you do so and not allow yourself to be portrayed as an “evil breeder.” Let our care and commitment highlight our differences while proving those naysayers wrong.
And for those of us with a breed found in scarce numbers, may I also suggest that one of our responsibilities to our breed is to work to ensure that it doesn’t go from rare to extinct.
Meet AKC Breeder of Merit Sharon Lyons and a litter of Dalmatian puppies: