Announcing a really special litter


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Once upon a time, we had a litter between two of our favorite dogs, Porter and Eva. And in that litter was a beautiful little girl puppy (above) with very angry eyebrows.

That little girl puppy went into a performance home, and started to do really well in agility and everything else she tried. She did so well, in fact, that we asked if she might be willing to have some babies before she started to work hard on her titles. She seemed OK with that, as did her owners, and when she had her health testing it looked absolutely perfect.

We looked long and hard for the right boy for Lilly, who is small and quick and silly. We wanted to make sure that the dog was moderate in size, with a pedigree that worked well with hers, and we wanted a beautiful temperament. We finally found Gryffin, Merrythought Gingher White Lightning, and we were over the moon.

Gryffin arrived (well, his genetic material did) in April in a white styrofoam box, and Lilly soon found herself in an embarrassing situation.

Lilly came to us in New Hampshire about a week before she was due. And, in short order, she presented us with four puppies, each more surprising than the last.


As you can see, they’ve got something to say about what kind of interesting colors Cardigans can come in.


The four of them: One tri girl,  one “funny” merle boy, one pretty weird merle girl, and one stunningly crazy merle boy.


Their colors are so unusual, in fact, that their DNA is going off to a lab to have their merle gene sequenced. The color geneticist that we are working with told me that their merle gene may be mutated, so instead of having silver between their black patches they have pure white. They also have big patches of a kind of badger-colored gray/brown, which is another feature of the mutation they may have.


Lilly is named after Lillian Gish, the silent film star. Since Gryffin is “White Lightning,” we decided to go with a speakeasy theme, and they are all named after important jazz artists.

This (and the picture above) are of CAB CALLOWAY. He’s a merle (harlequin/tweed/mutated) boy.


This is the normal tri girl, BESSIE SMITH.


Bessie again, with Percy the cat. Percy adores puppies and wants to rub against them and purringly stare at them all day long.



Bessie one more time.


Here is the big merle (harl/tweed/mutated) girl, ETTA JAMES. Her black patches have big swirls of badger color in them that get brighter by the day.



DSC_6443Etta’s beautiful head.


Last but by no means least came a boy who – when he was handed to me – made me gasp out loud. He is marked like a show-marked harlequin dane, and he’s the biggest reason we think we definitely have a mutated merle gene and not just “too much white” mismarking in this litter. His name is LOUIS ARMSTRONG, and he even has a registered name already, WHITE RAVEN HEEBIE JEEBIES.


Louis’ other side.


Louis still waiting for his eyes to open (in the two days since I took these, they have opened and it looks like his white side is going to be blue and the spotty eye will be blue or cracked).

When we announced this litter on Facebook, it caused quite a bit of (must be spoken in a fake poncy English accent) CONTROVERSY. I am thankful that most people were as excited to see them as we are, but there are more than a few of our fellow breeders who think that we should be anything BUT happy to have puppies arrive who are of an unusual shade. Instead of saying “Sadly, we had an entire litter of mismarks,” we said “Incredibly happily, we have an entire litter of something very interesting and we’re going to get their DNA studied and it’s going to be AWESOME.” This did not go over well.

Now that their eyes are open and we’re pretty sure they’re here to stay, I will be posting a LOT of these guys, and also keeping you updated on their testing (they will not only have the DNA done, they’ll have BAER and CERF testing). I honestly do think they are going to have a mutated merle gene; I’ve studied color genetics in dogs for twenty years now and they look exactly like the harlequin collies that already have the mutation established. However, it turns out that they don’t have interesting DNA and they’re in fact “just” mismarks, we will say “Incredibly happily, we have an entire litter of gorgeous mismarks and it’s going to be AWESOME.”

– Joanna (and Sarah, and Lilly’s wonderful owners, and Gryffin’s amazing owner)

PS: No, there are none available! Not right now, at least. After evaluations we’ll start the placement process. But the waiting list is like a mile long :)

cropping, docking, and dewclaws, oh my, Responsible Breeding, Responsible Ownership

Cropping and docking are going away. Which side of history will your breed be on?

Some years ago a fellow came to my office and insisted that he needed to dock the tail of his dog. I asked, “How will your dog be better when it doesn’t have a tail?” He replied, “Well, that’s the standard of gundog owners associations around the world.” I said, “Who cares?”

(Alan Ashton, veterinarian, New South Wales, Hansard, April 06, 2004)

I have a sixteen-year-old daughter who is just about to breed her first litter. She is entering the dog fancy at the very end of two hundred years of show-breeding-based cosmetic surgery in the United States.

By the time she is the age I am now, most of the states in the US will have passed cropping and docking bans. The few states that remain without laws on the books will have no vets who perform the procedures, effectively ending the practice of cropping. A few breeders will still dock at home, but most pet owners will consider the sight of a cropped or docked dog to be unusual, and many will consider it repulsive.

When Honour goes to dog shows with me in 2015, surrounding her are hundreds of cropped and docked dogs. In 2040, assuming she is still in the fancy, there will be few or none.

I can feel you gearing up for an argument about your breed, its history, what’s allowable and what freedom means.

Shut your mouths.

We are beyond arguing about whether cropping or docking are ethical for breeders to do. The argument has already been settled. The veterinary leadership took the position that cosmetic cropping and docking was wrong in the 1970s.1 Since then, its position has only strengthened.2 The rejection of cropping/docking is not confined to the veterinary profession, either – it has moved into the philosophical,3 legal,4 and public perception.5

The veterinary community had a general feeling in the 70s, but science had progressed enough by the 1990s to make researchers certain that dogs did feel pain from both procedures. Again, if you’re taking a breath to say that baby puppies don’t feel pain when they’re docked, you are completely and totally wrong. 6 It’s also false that it’s less painful to dock during puppyhood than amputate in adulthood.7 And if you insist on either one of these things, you are not only perpetuating a falsehood,8 you just make us look even more stupid.9

By 2008, not only was it certain that the procedures caused pain, it was certain that they did not provide anything close to a compensatory benefit. Undocked dogs have very few tail injuries. 10 Cropping does not prevent ear infections.11 The implementation of cropping/docking on “working breeds” is so inconsistent as to be laughable.12 The jig is up; nobody believes you when you say it’s for a working purpose.13

So in 2009, the AVMA released a new policy, one that did not just advise against cropping and docking but condemned it. This policy change was not initiated by any communication with the animal rights lobby;14 it was the result of a genuine groundswell of opinion among the veterinary community.

The show-breeding community is the only group that still wants dogs to be docked or cropped, and we’ve effectively moved (in veterinary perception) from an institution that is somewhat quaint and set in its ways to a source of active cruelty. 15

When I bought my first Great Dane, there were vets in almost every state who would do a decent show crop. An extensive network of home croppers was general knowledge in the community. Fifteen years later, breeders are traveling across half the country to find one of the few vets who will still do a show crop.

This is not a coincidence.

The vets who support breeders’ desire to crop are older; a huge number of them have retired in the last couple of decades. In the next twenty years, virtually all of the remaining show-cropping vets will retire or die. They will not be replaced. And home cropping is now so universally condemned in vet schools that the story of a show cropper who wants assistance to crop at home is used as a test case in veterinary ethics textbooks.16

No matter how much you may try to deny it, the facts are inescapable. No matter how you feel about docking and cropping, they are no longer going to be an option very soon.

So what are you going to do now – as breeders, as parent clubs, as ambassadors of your breed?

Here’s what is NOT going to work:

1) The “Then I’ll take my ball and go home” solution: If we’re not allowed to dock or crop, threaten to stop breeding.

All this would do is confirm to the entire world that the right to be able to cut off pieces of your dogs is more important to you than the dogs themselves. It would be a very public admission of an extremely unattractive attitude, and would turn the public against show breeders with great efficiency.

2) The “Throw lobbying money at it” solution: Insist that this is just “AR nonsense” and that if you give enough money to the NAIA or push the AKC hard enough this will all go away. 

First, the move toward banning docking and cropping is not “Animal rights nonsense.” Not only is it not the result of animal rights lobbying, it is not nonsense. What IS nonsense is saying that cropping and docking don’t hurt dogs. Throwing money at perpetuating nonsense is doomed to failure over the long term, and it should be.

Second, by trying to push this as a legislative agenda, you are positioning show breeders AGAINST the world’s veterinarians and AGAINST the world’s legal ethicists. Is that really a place we want to put ourselves? Or are we dooming ourselves to look abusive and blind when history looks back and considers this question?

Here’s what you SHOULD be doing:

1) Rewrite your standards now, not when you’re forced to. 

Parent clubs have a VERY limited window of time in which to represent a standard change as their own idea and not something rammed down their throats.

2) Publicize your club’s decision.

You have the opportunity to gain a huge amount of goodwill among the decision-makers of the veterinary community, the legislature, and pet owners if you are perceived as being ahead of the curve on this topic. This well of goodwill is getting shallower by the year. Do it now and do it very loudly.

3) Stop making excuses, pull your head out of the sand, wake up and smell the coffee, or whatever cliché makes you change your rhetoric.

There is no rational justification for cosmetic docking and cropping and there never has been. The only situation that made it so easy to perpetuate was a lack of absolute certainty about the causing of pain both immediate and long-term. That era is over.

4) Spend the goodwill and the publicity you gained in step 2 to educate vets and the public on something that’s both defensible AND pro-dog.

“We’re glad to get our breed in the news for this wonderful reason. We want to invite everyone to come out to the shows and see how dedicated our breeders are to the welfare of their breeds.”

“We hope this decision encourages more people to get involved in our wonderful breed; if you’re interested in becoming a responsible breeder, visit our website.”

“We hope this decision affirms our dedication to providing the very best care for all dogs. If you’d like to learn more about evidence-based breeding, including what veterinary interventions we support and which ones we don’t, check out our homepage.”

The bottom line: Now is the time to act. Being truthful, humane, and proactive will, in the public’s eyes, earn us the right to continue to have a voice in the national dialog about dogs. If we reject any of those three principles, we’re proclaiming ourselves to be unreliable, and we will be treated as such when it comes to vital dog arguments in the decades to come.

Notes on the footnotes: None of the sources are from animal rights publications or from the research arm of any animal-rights-oriented institution. They are from mainstream peer-reviewed journals and AVMA publications. The AVMA is not an animal-rights-friendly organization; it actively supports ownership rather than guardianship language, disbudding and dehorning, the use of animals in research, and so on. 

My statements on state cropping/docking bans are based on the rapidly accelerating pace of docking/cropping lawmaking and proposed bans. Test-case laws are being proposed virtually every year, and (as with most sea changes in public perceptions) are likely to succeed in one or more of the New England states, California, or Oregon within the next few years. Vermont already has a sort-of ban, as of 2006 (Vermont didn’t have any vets who would crop, so the ban did not have any teeth, but it was enacted). Once a true ban is enacted, a half-dozen other states will follow quickly, and then the court of public opinion will create a sweep. 

I am leaving the comments open but cautiously. Please do not comment that puppies do not feel pain or are not affected by docking/cropping; I’ve already posted the studies that establish that they do. Any statement of fact in a comment must be backed up by a cite, and the strength of the cites must be high.

  1.  https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/090315c.aspx
  2.  https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/AnimalWelfare/Documents/tail_docking_history.pdf
  3. http://lch.sagepub.com/content/6/1/37.short
  4. “Two recent cases have opened the door to successful animal cruelty prosecutions for ear cropping and tail docking. First, in Hammer v. American Kennel Club, a dog owner brought a discrimination suit against the AKC alleging that a docked tail standard effectively excluded his dog from participating in competitions, as the owner believed tail docking to be a form of animal cruelty. Although the court dismissed the action on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted, and this case had no effect on the previous decision in Rogers , the court did specifically state that the anti-cruelty law could be construed to prohibit tail docking for cosmetic purposes as unjustifiable mutilation. Additionally, in a pointed dissent, N.Y. Supreme Court (Appellate Division) Justice Ellerin states, “Assuming arguendo that the protection of hunting dogs against tail injuries justifies docking the tails of hunting dogs, it is not a justification for docking the tails of non-hunting dogs . . . for the purposes of AKC competitions.” https://www.animallaw.info/article/cropping-and-docking-discussion-controversy-and-role-law-preventing-unnecessary-cosmetic
  5. From a very lay-oriented article in WSJ: “Some dogs growl before biting and some don’t; the canine body speaks louder than the voice. That is why dogs whose tails are docked or ears cropped lose some of their linguistic fluency.” http://www.wsj.com/articles/what-is-your-dog-telling-you-1431098919
  6. Noonan G, Rand J, Blackshaw J, et al. Behavioural observations of puppies undergoing tail docking. Appl Anim Behav Sci 1996;4: 335-342. Also Fitzgerald M. (1994). – The neurobiology of fetal and neonatal pain. In A textbook of pain (P.D. Wall & R. Melzack, eds), 3rd Ed. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, 153-163
  7. “It has also been suggested that accidental tail trauma to the adult dog causes more suffering than amputation early in life. However, puppies are rarely provided analgesia when their tails are docked and the short-and long-term effects of painful procedures in neonates of many species are well documented.” LaPrarie JL, Murphy AZ. Long Term Impact of Neonatal Injury in Male and Female Rats: Sex Differences, Mechanisms and Clinical Implications. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology 2010;31:193-202.
  8. “A survey conducted in Australia in 1996 found that 76% of veterinarians surveyed believed that tail docking causes significant to severe pain, with none believing that no pain is experienced. In contrast, 82% of dog breeders believed that docked puppies experience no, or only mild pain.” Bennett and Perini, “Tail docking in dogs: a review of the issues,” Australian Veterinary Journal, April 2003, vol. 81, no. 4, p. 209.
  9. “Indeed, whereas most veterinarians state that tail docking causes significant or severe pain and should not be continued (despite its potential as a source of income), most breeders believe that docking is not painful or causes little pain, and want it to continue. It is reasonable to assume that veterinarians, being in closer contact with animals that are suffering through being ill or wounded, are better informed on tail damage than breeders. Moreover, veterinarians are trained to recognise typical pain behaviour, and this recognition significantly increases the ability to distinguish between painful and less painful treatments, for instance in rats (44). Such divided opinions raise questions about the vested interests of the breeders, the breed societies which set the breed standards and the information which they distribute to their members and elsewhere.” http://www.health.fgov.be/internet2Prd/groups/public/@public/@dg4/@animalsplants/documents/ie2divers/19097820_fr.pdf
  10. “These justifications for docking working dogs’ tails lack substantial scientific support. In the largest study to date on tail injuries in dogs the incidence was 0.23% and it was calculated that approximately 500 dogs need to be docked to prevent one tail injury.”   Diesel G, Pfeiffer D, Crispin S, et al. Risk factors for tail injuries in dogs in Great Britain. Vet Rec 2010;166:812-817.
  11. “Otitis externa incidence, however, is most closely associated with particular breeds within each group (whether ears are hanging or erect), and is especially prevalent in Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, and German Shepherd Dogs. … (But) no group deems a high incidence of otitis externa a valid reason for advocating routine cropping of the ears of Cocker Spaniels or Poodles. … Breeds such as Cocker Spaniels seem to be predisposed to otitis externa due to a greater density of apocrine glands and a predisposition to proliferative ceruminous gland hyperplasia (i.e., proliferation of cells) and ectasia (i.e., dilation or distension). This clustering of risk factors suggests the risk of otitis externa in pedigreed dogs must be considered on a breed-by-breed basis, and that grouping study samples by ear shape (e.g., pendulous or erect) may not be justified” https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Frequently-asked-questions-about-ear-cropping-and-canine-otitis-externa.aspx
  12. “Differences between breeds that are docked and those that are not are often minor.  For example among the very similar Pointer, German Longhaired Pointer and German Shorthaired Pointer, only the German Shorthaired Pointer is traditionally docked.” https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Frequently-asked-questions-about-canine-tail-docking.aspx
  13. “Based on current knowledge and ethical considerations, authors of many previous articles, as well as official veterinary associations, have concluded that tail docking cannot be considered as a prophylactic measure to prevent damage caused by practices such as hunting. From an ethical point of view, these articles and opinions examine which item carries most weight: the suffering of the whole newborn population of traditionally docked breeds or the pain felt by the few individuals possibly requiring an amputation in adulthood.” http://www.health.fgov.be/internet2Prd/groups/public/@public/@dg4/@animalsplants/documents/ie2divers/19097820_fr.pdf
  14. “How it came about: The AVMA position on Ear Cropping and Tail Docking of Dogs, most recently approved in 1999, was up for evaluation by the Animal Welfare Committee as part regular reviews of all AVMA policies by their oversight councils and committees. “The reason this came up is because of the review requirement. We were not approached by the HSUS; we were not approached by PETA; nor did anyone else call to ask us to change the policy,” Dr. Golab said. https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/090315c.aspx
  15. “I think we can all agree that snipping off puppies ears and tails serves no purpose other than to satisfy some archaic notion of how a dog should look by an out-of-touch institution.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2764515/
  16. “A local schnauzer breeder with whom you have worked for the last five years wants to buy a bottle of Innovar-vet…” http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-EHEP002754.html
raising your puppy, Responsible Ownership

How much should puppies be exercised?

Those of you who are Facebook friends know that puppy exercise has been a bee buzzing around my bonnet for a while now.

Recently, there has been a flurry of “shares” for a few puppy exercise recommendations. All of them suggest restricting puppy exercise rather dramatically. Advice is given to calculate a certain number of minutes per day based on how old the puppy is (five minutes per month, for example) or to restrict walks to a few hundred feet or play dates to fifteen or twenty minutes at a time. The strong implication is that you will hurt (injure, even destroy the joints of) your puppy if you do not follow this advice.

My Facebook discussions showed that when I expressed horror and disbelief gentle doubt about these recommendations, the immediate assumption was that I was criticizing the person or people who put them together. Since that’s the last thing I want – I don’t personally know any of them, and they are probably amazing humans – I am not going to go piece by piece through the recommendations and explain or rebut. I’m just going to offer a chart of my own, based on the way we raise our puppies and on the advice we give to our puppy buyers. Clicking on the image will download the graphic as a PDF, which you are welcome to distribute at will.

If I can have you take anything away from my personal feelings on exercise, please let it be this: Puppies do best when they exercise all day long. They really are, biologically, wolves. That means that aside from breeds whose face shapes necessitate more caution – obviously, you know your breed best – once they are past the infant stage they should be hard, fast little rubber bands, who can easily move from a day-long play date to a run by the ocean or a child-paced hike up a mountain. If they cannot make those transitions, they need MORE exercise, not less. A well-exercised puppy is a protected puppy. Soft, underexercised babies who are asked to be weekend warriors (when they are used to barely moving during the week) are the ones who are injured. The only “bad” exercise is forced exercise. Never force, never jump, and never roadwork a puppy. Aside from those rules, the more the better.


Puppy exercise poster

Responsible Breeding

On structure


If you can draw a straight line from the ears to the front feet, it doesn’t matter how good a layback you have or how nice a return of upper arm. The dog’s front is seriously faulty, and it’s both a functional fault and a breed type fault. We can’t create length or reach by pushing the front up under the neck. A line drawn up from the middle of the front leg should go through the body and into the air. The more it goes into the neck, the more forward and therefore faulty the set of the front is.


buying a puppy, Responsible Ownership

The “signs of a backyard breeder” that are completely and utterly wrong


Our potential puppy buyers pass the pages around. New breeders, enthusiastic about their membership with the “good guys,” share them too. They are printed and re-printed and gathered by online dog magazines, shelters, even breed clubs.

And they are fatally, horribly wrong.

Let’s take a look at the ten worst “signs of a backyard breeder.”

1. Beware if the breeder doesn’t show their dogs in conformation shows.


Good breeders know the value of peer review, and they seek out ways to prove their dogs and to “take their temperature” as breeders. However, saying that the only definition of good breeding is breeding for the conformation ring ignores a vast and extremely valuable network of performance and working breeders.

Good conformation is important to ALL dogs. No matter what they do. But it’s nothing but hubris to say that the conformation ring is the only place good breeders evaluate their dogs. Remember that the original point of the conformation ring was to judge working dogs against each other. The working came first.

If your breed is one with a working history, the ability to do its historic job should ALWAYS be the boundaries that shape your breeding efforts. If the conformation ring is the best and most demanding place to test whether you’ve done a good job as a breeder, then you should go there. If it’s not – if the best and most demanding test for how well you’re doing as a breeder is the sheep pen or the field trial or the performance ring – then that’s where you should be. And nobody should ever even hint that you’re someone to beware of.

2. Beware if the breeder doesn’t allow you to see the parents. A responsible breeder should be more than willing to allow you to meet the parents of your future puppy.


For the vast majority of good breedings, both parents will not be on site. You may be able to meet mom, but dad is quite unlikely. As a matter of fact, it’s a bigger red flag if all the dads are on site (meaning the person breeds only to her own dogs and never seeks out a good match elsewhere).

It’s also a huge generalization to say that I should be “more than willing” to have you meet the mom dog. That depends entirely on how old the puppies are, how she’s feeling about strangers touching them, and whether she’s in shape to be seen (you know what I mean – there is going to be a time when mom is a naked rat with skin and backbone showing, and maybe I’m not ready to have you, oh sweet puppy buyer, Instagram her all over the world). Mom dogs are individuals, just like humans. It’s not a bad sign, or a signal that she’s not a good dog or that her puppies won’t be good dogs, if she doesn’t like seeing complete strangers mauling her kids.

3. Beware if the breeder doesn’t allow you to visit. It is vital to see where the puppies are being raised.


I used to believe this too – until I began reading the news. I also realized that in every other area of our lives, we take sensible and normal precautions about who comes in the house. But for puppy buyers, it was “Can you type my e-mail address? Then sure, come on over.” I was giving an incredible amount of access to my home, my dogs and puppies, my young daughters, and myself without ever having met the people who were walking in.

So now, if you ask to come over, the answer is no. Instead, we do group visits at set times. My husband and I make sure that multiple adults we know and trust are there for the visits, so we can welcome you – but welcome you wisely. If you cannot come for one of the group visits, I will meet a potential buyer anywhere convenient for them, and we usually turn it into a group get-together with all the buyers and friends from that area. It’s a great system. And it makes me feel much more secure about what’s coming in my front door.

4. Beware if the breeder breeds several types of dogs. The purpose of a responsible breeder is to better the breed. How are they able to do that if they are focusing on different breeds?


New breeders usually have only one breed in the house. However, one of the truly pleasurable rewards of maturing in your breed is realizing that you have the time and energy and structure to indulge in a breed that you’ve always loved.

(For some reason, this seems to be Frenchies, like, ALL THE TIME. You Frenchie breeders are creating the “big bowl of ice cream for breakfast” of the dog breeder world, I swear.)

Some breeders who have always had big go small. Others have fun with a coated breed when they had wash and wear coats, or vice versa. Sometimes they’ve got kids or grandkids who want a different breed. There’s no “right” reason to get into a second breed, except that you love them and you want to. And the breeders who have a second breed (or a third breed) usually do just as fantastic a job with them as they’re doing with their first breed.

5. Beware if the breeder doesn’t issue a spay/neuter contract. Very few people are qualified to breed. A responsible breeder will issue a limited registration contract and require that you fix your dog by a certain age.


And also elitist. Before we even get into the spay/neuter, any statement like “very few people are qualified to breed” will lead to a polite invitation from me to go soak your head. Breeding well takes commitment and sacrifice and money and incredibly hard work, but it does NOT take some kind of educational or income level and it is not granted along with a silver spoon. Anyone willing to put in the effort deserves to try.

Now – the real issue: NO, good breeders do not always insist on a spay/neuter contract and do NOT require that you neuter or spay at a certain age. The health-consequences pendulum has completely swung on this, and any breeder still insisting on an early spay/neuter needs to get educated fast. It is BAD for your bitch to be spayed young, and it’s arguably BAD for your male dog to be neutered ever in his life.

A good breeder will generally insist that you not BREED a non-breed-worthy dog, but they should not be insisting on a spay/neuter contract.

6. Beware if the breeder often has puppies available. Most responsible breeders will create a wait list of people who are interested in their puppies and will only breed when they have enough people to adopt the majority of the litter.


This is one of the incredibly pervasive lies that get passed around, even to the point that many good breeders nod when they hear it. It’s also a really fast way to completely torpedo a breeding program.

As a breeder, you are breeding for YOURSELF. You are not breeding for the demand of buyers, to impress your peers, to do a favor to the stud dog owner, or anything else. You are putting seven or eight or ten puppies on the earth because YOU believe that YOUR breeding program will be brought forward by this breeding. You are responsible to the dogs and to yourself. Nobody else.

“Only breed when you have enough people” makes it sound like it’s a tap you can just turn on and off – oh, there’s my fourth reservation! DING! Quick, go out there and impregnate Molly!

Dogs do not work that way. The windows your bitch gives you to breed her are going to be few and short. The stud dogs ideal for her are going to be far away and difficult to get. If you can do a breeding that moves your program forward, for heaven’s sake, DO IT. Do it and be thrilled that you had the opportunity.

7. Beware if the breeder isn’t active in breed specific clubs. Membership to any of these clubs shows the breeder is willing to continue learning to help the improve the breed.


This is pretty personal for me, because I am not a member of our national club. I am not a member because I and the entire body of dog-related science believe that the club’s Code of Ethics is bad for the breed. So science and I got together and agreed that we weren’t going to breed that way, which means no membership for me.

For other people, there are any number of other reasons that they are not members of a club. What’s really going on – the root of the matter – is that the IDEA of an AKC parent club is great. The way it is supposed to function and the goals it’s supposed to have are incredibly valuable to good breeders.

If your club has managed to maintain a reality that is close to the idea, then that is awesome and you should be a member. If your club makes you scream at the computer all the time and you can’t go to the annual general meetings because you know you’ll start screaming at real people, then maybe it’s not such a great requirement.

8. Good breeders line up qualified buyers in advance of birth of a litter and rarely ever advertise.

FALSE. Oh my goodness, so dang false. (Links to an old article of mine that is likely to have some broken links and old data, but the point is still valid.) Again, SO SUPER DUPER FALSE.

9. Beware if the breeder offers to ship their dogs to new owners without meeting them first—a responsible breeder meets the new parents before she sends her pups home with them.


Before I get going, my puppy owners are not “parents.” They bought a puppy from me; they are owners.

Now, on to shipping: Shipping is one of the greatest forces for good in the dog world that you can possibly imagine. Before shipping was easy and safe, the regions of the country were islands. There were “West Coast” and “East Coast” styles of the same breed. If you were a breeder, you either bred your girls to the same few boys in your area or you put your bitch on a train and hoped she would be OK when she got off in a week.

Shipping is also an enormous boon for puppy buyers – yes, even pet buyers – because they can seek out many more breeders who are a good match for their needs and their households. As a result, many breeders ship out half or even more of each litter, and they do it to families that they’ve never met in person.

The question is NOT whether a breeder has met a buyer. The question is whether the breeder has done enough homework to determine if this is going to be a good home – whether it is ten minutes away or a ten-hour plane ride away. Shipping has nothing to do with an owner being a good match or a poor one.

10. Beware if the breeder does not reject high-risk buyers: (renters, young people, those with poor track records, low income, other pets, dogs kept outdoors)


The “poor track record” and “dogs kept outside” (for most breeds) are OK. The other stuff – this attitude is why people say “they tried to get a puppy from a good breeder and couldn’t, so they felt like they had to go to a bad one.” This INEXCUSABLE attitude.

Every breeder knows her breed best. Some breeds have very specific requirements from buyers, and tend to not do well in average homes. Rigorous screening is the responsibility of every breeder. But NO BREED requires a list of arrogant garbage like the above. And if you find yourself screening buyers based on qualifications that have nothing to do with your breed’s needs and are just excuses for being a d-bag, STOP. Young broke renters who have scraped together the money for a good puppy and are committed to feeding and vetting it well should be welcomed with open arms.

BONUS: Bad breeders breed their bitches on every season.


That’s how much I hate this one.

It’s completely false. In fact, you may just be a better breeder if you breed every season.

Hey, Joanna, did you steal these? Are you a blatant list stealer?

Yessir, sure did. I am quoting them verbatim so you can see that these are REAL lists.

Sources (not coincidentally, these are the entire first page of a search for “signs of a backyard breeder”):







http://itsdogornothing.com/10-signs-of-a-backyard-breeder/ (this is the hall of fame one where most of my top ten came from)