Breeding and showing dogs is a roller-coaster ride, with exhilarating highs and great disappointments in equal measure. You must make difficult decisions, and when they impact friends, saying “no” can be especially hard. If you own a stud dog, one of those difficult decisions will be turning down a bitch owner who wishes to breed to your male.
Owners of bitches and stud dogs must learn not to take the discussion personally. Over the years, I’ve had many delightful people at my dining room table whose dogs I wouldn’t necessarily want to own or breed to. By the same token, there are breeders with whom I don’t socialize, but if they happened to own a stud dog I felt would complement my bitch, I wouldn’t hesitate to approach them. Many people find it impossible to say “no” to a fellow competitor. I can think of a few co-owners who weren’t able to politely refuse a stud dog inquiry, so it fell to me, the breeder/co-owner, to lower the boom and be the bearer of bad news. Done. Decision made, and everyone should be able to move on. After all, would it offend you, as a vegetarian, not to attend your neighbor’s barbecue, or have your boss refuse you one week’s vacation during a busy time at work? Disappointment is part of life, and certainly part of our sport.
A responsible stud dog owner concerned about her breed, as well as the reputation of her dog, has many factors to consider. Compatible pedigrees are a must, and it is sometimes the case that the stud dog owner has more experience in the breed than the bitch’s owner. In such scenarios, a kind stud dog owner points out which dogs it wouldn’t be wise to double up on. If there are matters of structure and type that make the bitch and dog wrong for one another, in your opinion, then you should explain those concerns, kindly but firmly. A bitch owner may not accept your explanation with grace, but as in the show ring, she came to you for an opinion, and you rendered it.
Even with a bitch of acceptable quality, for me there are additional, relevant points to ponder. If the bitch’s owner is new to the sport, a bit of an unknown, will she have the contacts to sell the puppies? This question is especially important if big litters are common in your breed and/or there is not much of a pet market. Even with your help, it may be a struggle to sell the litter. Also, a half-dozen puppies of a fast-growing breed can make desperate people do irresponsible things . . . such as selling dogs quickly without proper vetting of new homes.
Does the bitch’s owner have the financial wherewithal to breed her and raise the litter for two-to-three months or longer . . . until suitable homes are found? Does she have the facilities? Even small-breed puppies outgrow the kitchen and need proper socializing. A cesarean section may be needed, out of the blue, and costs thousands. Quality healthcare and food for the dam and puppies are not cheap, nor is advertising to find good homes. If an owner quibbles about the stud fee and mentions that bills will get paid once the puppies are sold, these are huge red flags for any attentive stud dog owner.
Owners of popular stud dogs face added pressure to accept any and all bitches. Bitch owners assume the offspring of a popular sire will be easier to sell. Professional handlers may steer bitch owners toward a stud dog that is the flavor of the month, whether he complements the bitch or not. Some stud dog owners figure that if they refuse a breeding, a determined bitch owner will only go to another stud dog with an owner who is less choosy and will happily accept her check. My response is: So what? Is your goal to improve your breed or to finance your dog showing through stud fees? When a breeding results in a mediocre litter, many people conveniently forget that puppies have two parents. Blame is typically heaped on the sire, while the bitch is spared. If you think it’s hard to decline a breeding, it’s a whole lot worse to hear trash talk about your male for months or even years.
There is good reason that many breeders choose not to keep a stud dog. For the price of a stud fee, you have your pick of virtually any male in the world, living or deceased. Offering your dog at stud has never been a shortcut to riches. In today’s climate, with fewer breeders and a shrinking pet market, it is even more challenging. Along with knowledge of pedigrees, genetics, and canine structure, stud dog owners need to possess people skills and a backbone.
Allan Reznik has been an Afghan Hound fancier since the early 1970s and also owns and exhibits Tibetan Spaniels. He is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster, who has served as editor-in-chief of several national dog publications. He appears regularly on radio and TV discussing all aspects of responsible animal ownership. Allan is an AKC permit judge of Afghan Hounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Tibetan Spaniels.