Encouraging Future Breeders

What will happen in another few years when the previous generations of dog breeders will become fewer and fewer? Whom will the newcomers ask when they have questions?

By Stephanie Hunt-Crowley | Posted: May 19, 2014 12 p.m. PST

Encouraging Dog Breeders
Newcomers to the dog world need mentors to be successful as breeders. Mentors are there when new breeders have questions, or need help or guidance.

So many things have changed in the dog world in the past few years that it is hard to know where to start. We have all seen the obvious: the legislative issues, the media portrayal of dog breeds and their breeders, and the shrinking number of newcomers to the world of dog shows. Between local zoning regulations with numerical dog limit laws and anti-breeder legislation, it has become more difficult for people to own more than a few dogs, and even harder to breed them. That is the obvious — but there is a hidden side that we do not always see.

Newcomers to the dog world today have great intentions and a lot of obstacles — but we all started with a clean slate and little to no knowledge! We had to learn, but we could learn from those who came before us. There were breeders who had been in their chosen breed for enough years to have gained good old-fashioned "boots on the ground” experience, or perhaps there was a local "dog lady” who had enough knowledge for three. When I bred my first litter, I hadn’t a clue! I was a teenager — and my mother knew less than I did. The saving grace was that a local dog lady took me under her wing and talked me through the whelping over the telephone, step by step, telling me what to expect, when, and what to do at each stage of the process. How many dog ladies like this do we have these days? Not many, and what happens when they are all gone? Don’t think dog ladies are going extinct? The way things are going, that is not as unlikely as it sounds.

What will happen in another few years when the previous generations of breeders become fewer and fewer? Whom will the newcomers ask when they have questions? I have been watching the trend on the Internet where the questions are coming from newcomers who obviously have nobody closeby who can answer or give them advice, and that includes the breeders of their dogs. Many of those who came before have not gained enough experience to be able to help the next generation. We have all seen the 20-year veteran who brags, "I have been breeding Wafflehounds for 23 years, and I have only bred three litters!” as if this should gain them a medal, but how could they help their puppy buyers with even the simplest of questions? These could run the gamut from teething to training, and as to reproductive issues, it would be the blind leading the blind. Sometimes people become the teachers based on time in the breed, and then their followers simply reiterate what they were told, and if asked why they believe this or that, their answer is simply, "That is what I was taught!”

People now turn to the Internet. If they are lucky, they find an Internet forum where there is someone who can answer their questions, but sometimes the answers they get are wrong. It may turn into a war of words because someone has such an entrenched opinion based on what they were "taught” that they will not listen to anything that might contradict it, and the poor newcomer is left in a state of confusion. The questions I have been seeing have been so basic: New breeders have asked at what age should puppies be weaned, what the appropriate vaccine schedules are, what food the puppies should get and when, etc. And I have seen these questions so often that it is positively scary. Why did they have no live human being to ask and have to resort to a faceless computer screen and hope for help from a stranger?

So what can we do about it? Education is the obvious answer, but book learning and Internet searching can only go so far. We need more people — real, live people — with experience who can pass their knowledge on to the next generation. We need to do more to encourage people who have the interest and the tenacity to do it right, and this can be at any age. They could be young people or middle-aged empty-nesters who would like to do something they will enjoy for the next 20 years. It also means rethinking some of the "politically correct” concepts, such as that having more than one breed is a really, really bad sign. Those empty-nesters might have a very good reason for having two breeds, like one spouse has dual-purpose Sporting dogs and the other has Terriers, and between the two they will gain shared experience that they can pay forward. That lady who had three litters last year will probably be able to tell you what to do in an emergency a lot quicker than the one who bred three litters over the past 20 years!

Do we want the dog world as we know it to survive, to get better — or disappear? There is no point in worrying about rules and regulations if there are no people left to continue with what has been created and achieved over the past 100 years. We need to value those of the past and the knowledge they have imparted — and maybe even seek out some who have retired, like the "dog lady” who talked me through whelping my first litter. We need to make sure that people who come into the dog world now and in the future have the opportunity to learn and gain experience so that they in turn may teach those who come along after them.


From the May 2014 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine, or call 1-888-738-2665 to purchase a single copy.


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Dona   East Wakefield, New Hampshire

12/25/2015 3:54:09 PM

Frustrated in Boston I know a very wonderful breeder in Ipswich that has several years in the field she is incredibly knowledgeable and very happy to help any one with anything they need, she enjoys working with new breeders and she is one of the responsible breeders.

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Frustrated   Boston, Massachusetts

7/15/2015 6:07:31 AM

I am one of those newbies who would love to learn more, but most of my questions are blown off or answered as if I'm a toddler. I would never think of breeding at this point, because it's hard enough just getting to know my breed (one that is new to me this time around). Long-time breeders seem more interested in impressing everyone with the number of years they've been in the breed than they are in bringing in new people. It seems to be such an "exclusive club" mentality that at this point I'll probably just go to rescue next time around, because there are certainly plenty of dogs in my breed that are in that situation. I can't help but wonder that if all of the "responsible breeders" could come down off their high horse long enough to actually be of help in the breed at large, there might be fewer dogs in rescue. But of course, it's easier to just blame it on the backyard breeders. Sigh.

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Sandy   Marietta, Georgia

6/8/2014 5:11:33 AM

Excellent article, Stephanie! This is one of the problems facing the fancy, and there are solutions out there. I've put together an educational program for dog clubs to offer, and AKC will provide funding for clubs to give programs like it. It's at least one way to try to grow the fancy in difficult times. http://voiceworkondemand.com/blog/grow-your-dog-cl- ub-events-responsible-dog-owners/

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Myrna   Denver, Colorado

6/5/2014 9:57:16 AM

Perhaps if dog prices were more affortdable to start a small breeding program

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