Dog Breeders Discuss Contracts and Co-ownerships

Hear from top show dog breeders about their principles and experiences


Erica and Rachel VenierErica & Rachel Venier
Orchard Hill Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Leesport, Pa.   
1. I began breeding Shetland Sheepdogs on a very limited scale in the early 1970s under the kennel name Wits’ End. Rachel and her sisters were very young and I wasn’t able to breed many litters. Still, I had a number of champions, as well as Specialty and Group winners. Although I could only show on a limited basis, I honed my eye and constantly continued my education by attending seminars and lectures, specialties and nationals.

About 15 years ago I became enchanted with Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. My experience with a Herding breed enabled me to choose an extremely sound and typey Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as my foundation bitch. Everything we have today is descended from that one bitch.

We average five litters a year. Over the last 15 years Rachel and I have produced National Specialty, Specialty and all-breed Best in Show winners. Among our most successful dogs in the show ring are the Best in Show winners Ch. Pinecrest Rock The Boat, ROM, and Ch. Orchard Hill Shirmont Back Talk.

As breeders, our most gratifying achievement has been producing the Group- and Specialty-winning tricolor bitch Ch. Orchard Hill Never Grow Up, ROM. ‘Wendy’ has more Best in Specialty Shows than any Cavalier King Charles Spaniel bitch. But her achievements in the whelping box set her apart. To date, she has produced eight champions, the 2011 National Specialty winner (Orchard Hill Charismatic), several Regional Specialty winners and an all-breed Best in Show winner (Back Talk).

2. All puppies are sold with a simple contract that describes the puppy either as a healthy pet with restricted papers or, on occasion, as a show prospect. Regardless of the status of the puppy, however, we insist that any unwanted puppy or adult be returned to us. Our door is always open.

Rachel and I are very precise in choosing among our babies. We generally prefer to place otherwise lovely puppies as pets rather than offer them as show prospects. When we think a puppy has true show potential we usually offer that puppy to someone we know and trust. A contract is drawn up, but our faith in the co-owner is our strongest bond. For the most part this trust has been rewarded by all parties benefiting from the co-ownership. We have avoided many of the most common pitfalls by simply placing our most promising puppies with well-respected peers.

3. We have co-owned both dogs and bitches. Because we generally know our co-owners well before sharing a dog with them, most of our co-ownerships have been very successful.

4. We occasionally place a promising bitch puppy in a home where she will be shown first and bred only after she finishes. This has only infrequently been a problem. On occasion I have had to pay our friend and handler, Ernesto Lara, to condition and finish a dog for someone who has been unable or unwilling to fulfill that part of the contract. At that point, a valuable lesson has been learned and we are more cautious in the future. 

Read attorney Lisa Curry’s article on the benefits and pitfalls of co-ownership.

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