Responsible Breeding

We’re breeders – why are we anti-breeding?

Good breeders never breed back to back.

I’ve been in the breed fifteen years and have bred only three litters.

Did you see that Harriet had FIVE litters this year? I guess she’s our new puppy mill, huh?

Ladies, check out Gloria’s new litter – and you know she’s still got those four-month-olds from the last one!

I’m glad to see puppy registrations decline; we should all be breeding less.

Spend more than five minutes in a dog forum on Facebook, or hang out ringside with any breeders, and you’ll see that these are close to direct quotes. The only thing two breeders can agree on is that a third breeder is doing something wrong, and the easiest target is when the third breeder has broken the sacred barrier and is (gasp!) breeding IN VOLUME.

We are making a TRAGIC mistake. We have forgotten that the word CAREFULLY and the word SELDOM are not the same word.

We know we’re supposed to be careful in how we breed. But somehow that has become twisted into “The better a breeder you are, the less you breed.” I’ve seen people actually brag, trying to one-up each other on how few breedings they’ve done, with the clear implication that breeding almost never means you are more responsible than someone who breeds regularly.

Here’s the truth: Breeding dogs requires on-the-job training. No matter how much you research, learn, ask, and listen, it won’t make sense until you’re looking at a litter of puppies and watching them grow. And you cannot understand keeping traits through generations unless you have generations to keep traits through.

Here’s another truth: We’re badly, badly hurting for well-bred purebreds in this country and around the world. Awful purebreds are everywhere, but most people go their entire lives without meeting a well-bred dog. They literally have no idea that a dog can look “like that.” Beautifully built, groomed, and trained dogs gather crowds bigger than the ones around the elephant cage. Vets can go years between seeing dogs that should be bred (which is why many of them hate us so much). That’s OUR FAULT. We breed our self-righteous trickle of dogs, which go right into the yards of other show breeders, and then we scream when our rights are taken away. Well, lady, how are they supposed to be on our side when they’ve never seen a dog except from a breeder that should be shut down?

Here’s one more truth: Most of your breeding efforts are going to fail – that’s the nature of breeding living things. So you may have to do it over and over and over, discarding entire pedigrees after you’ve watched them produce, beginning new ones, purchasing new dogs, neutering others. Things START to make sense after (I think) about your fifth litter if you’re very very smart and after your tenth if you’re a normal breeder. In the breeding programs I’ve watched, that’s when things start to move forward instead of just flailing around, because that’s when the breeder starts to understand how traits build a dog.

But you’re still not done, not in any sense of the word. The breeders you can think of in your breed that are truly dominant, the ones that have such strength that you can see the influence of their decisions years down the line, are likely on their thirtieth or fortieth or fiftieth litter. Ask one of those breeders someday what they got from their third litter, and see them laugh in rueful memory at how bad it was. That’s the same third litter that’s being produced by someone in the breed fifteen or twenty years and bragging about how rarely they breed. Early litters are terrible! But they’re something we all have to get through and do the best we can with, and look back on and laugh a little about. They’re not someplace we park our butts and sit for a decade.

Look. You cannot be a good breeder without breeding. You can’t be a great breeder without breeding a LOT. And we all know that we desperately need more good breeders, and we even more desperately need great breeders. So we should be encouraging each other to breed. We should not snark that somebody’s had more than the sacred “one or two litters a year,” or that someone bred a bitch more than twice. We should congratulate them on moving past the baby-breeder stage and into the maturing-breeder stage. We should celebrate the bitches who can healthily produce many litters without turning a hair. We should encourage our dedicated owners and co-owners, once they have finished a dog or two, to begin breeding themselves instead of waiting for the next show puppy from us.

When we do encourage breeding, let’s also be honest. The chance of you getting a litter of all champions is only slightly higher than being hit by lightning while being consumed by a crocodile. On Mars. You’re lucky, and this is not an exaggeration, if you get even a single dog to move forward with from your first breeding. You’re fortunate in ANY breeding, from your first to your hundredth, to get a single puppy that is truly better than both parents. Baby breeders need to know that. They should not be lining up show homes and expecting to put half the puppies in them. I had to learn this lesson, and it was no fun, but I am a lot happier now looking for the one puppy to move on with – and being thrilled when there is a second one – than I was when I was trying to come up with three show puppies in a litter of six. New breeders need to be told that. You will be happier and better as a breeder if you find ONE puppy in a litter than if you are trying to find three or four. If you have three or four legitimate show homes, then breed three or four litters (which means, yes, BREEDING MORE) instead of trying to tell yourself that your fourth pick is just as high-quality as your first.

Now go forth, and be a breeder who breeds.

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  • Reply Hanne November 27, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    This is possible the best article I have read in ages. SPOT ON!!!!

    • Reply bev November 28, 2013 at 1:58 am

      THANKYOU for writing this, a GREAT article, and so very very true.
      WELL wrote.

    • Reply donna December 8, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      I agree , but please get your facts straight, a dog goes into heat approx. every 6 months, so to have 4 litters a year is impossible. . Please be factual thanks donna

      • Reply Joanna Kimball December 8, 2013 at 6:22 pm

        Hi, Donna – most breeders have more than one bitch who is breedable, so they can definitely have four or five litters a year.

      • Reply Vida January 14, 2014 at 1:32 pm

        Sorry to burst you bubble Donna but….. You should get your facts straight not all botches go into heat every 6 months some can go as little as every 3 months and some only just once a yr. When it comes to heat cycles bitches are very much like humans it can never be predicted at first how often she will fall into heat, but once she does if you monitor her you will be able to know when her heat cycle will be because it will be consistent just food for thought not every bitch is the same

      • Reply Sharon Marquis April 21, 2014 at 2:25 am

        I am sure when she says that breeders need to produce 3-4 litters a year, she is talking about breeding more than one bitch! Do the math, that’s the only thing that makes sense!

      • Reply Marie Lundbom April 27, 2014 at 11:30 pm

        I didn’t see anything about 4 litters out of 1 bitch a year. I agree with what she said except I thought I saw many litters out of one. Maybe we read the same thing differently. The best breeders I knew were years ago and did have a lot of litters over the years and they had learned and were still learning more than most of us ever will know. One was Leon and Shan Shiver of SHANDOWN POINTERS AND BOXERS. I was truly blessed to have known them. I had no way to breed as they did, but I was priviledged to learn so much from them. Another is Gigi Law, CHARGI CHINESE CRESTEDS, who I have learned a lot from over the years. Too many people have no idea who they are because for one reason they run to who is winning or the popular fad and never learn for themselves. Very good article IMHO

  • Reply Almondale Whippets November 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    As I have just posted on someone’s FB share of this article, I have a very different view on this. I think if every Breeder worked actively for their own Breed Rescue, they would never be able to agree. Encourage your pet owners to breed?? Sorry, no matter how carefully chosen, many of them don’t give the care or dedication one would wish to the dog, let alone taking responsibility for litters of precious little ones. These are sentient beings, not some article we are aiming to manufacture to perfection by mass production – we keep one, what about the rest? I think you are trying to make yourself feel better about your choices (this is not personal as I know nothing about you or your breeding). In my breed, I see many very “small breeders” around the world, who don’t breed profusely at all, producing real quality specimens.
    If your pet owners show/work their dogs, become involved in the breed and show commitment, yes, let them breed. And yes, I know we all started with that first dog from a Breeder…..but, hopefully most of us have shown committment and don’t produce masses of pups. I do understand the concept and agree re the learning through breeding, but unfortunately, this is not only about us and our selfish aims. Sad that this article will travel the internet and give many just the excuse they are looking for to breed more litters. Having to consider about what other’s might think of your decisions to produce multiple litters is a good thing, and only one tiny little mechanism curbing (in some instances) the neglect of many dogs out there

    • Reply Joanna Kimball November 27, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      Hi –

      First, thank you for commenting. It’s good to have someone feel passionately about this.

      Second, I do work for rescue. I pull mixed-breed dogs from shelters and work to get purebreds in breed rescue. I keep my foster failures. My experience with rescue is one of the reasons I know that we MUST offer pet owners the option of beautifully bred purebreds if they do not fit with a rescue. It should be so obvious that buying a badly bred purebred is a terrible idea and you’re getting crap when you do it that people laugh at the thought of ever going with a badly bred dog. Without more visibility, and yes that means NUMBERS, of well-bred purebreds that will not happen.

      When we keep one, the others go to fantastic pet homes. Where they are far more visible and potent ambassadors for their breed than a typical show dog could ever be.

      I certainly never encourage my pet owners to breed, and don’t advocate doing so in this article. I DO encourage show owners to breed when they are ready, rather than buying something from me.

      I rather desperately hope that the article DOES encourage people to breed more litters. Remember that the registration numbers for many purebreds reflects that 90% of them are horribly bred and should be eliminated from the gene pool, and as good breeders we’d never ever consider using one. The effective size of most breeds, once you take those bad examples out, is in the several hundred to a couple thousand mark ACROSS THE ENTIRE GLOBE. That means that every single one of our breeds is a critically endangered species and on the verge of collapse if it is not bred and nurtured and grown.

      If I and every other good breeder stopped breeding, pet owners would not stop buying dogs. They’d just be unable to buy good ones. So the numbers of badly bred dogs would go up and the number of well-bred dogs would go down. It would not solve any issues of neglect; it would only increase them (because bad breeders do not sit down for an hour with prospective buyers and walk them through every aspect of care, then make them sign a contract that mandates return of a neglected dog). What WOULD stop neglect is if a contract was considered absolutely mandatory and you’d be looked at like a skanky knock-off breeder if you didn’t produce one. That’s not going to happen until there are more good breeders out there showing owners what good purchasing is like.

      • Reply Almondale Whippets November 28, 2013 at 1:24 am

        Hi Joanna, thanks for posting my response. Yes I do feel passionately about this, as I am passionate about dogs, and the quality of life they experience under our “dominion”. Sadly, I think for the majority, this is so much less than they deserve and are worthy of.
        I would be very interested in a reference validating your statement that the registration numbers for many purebreds reflects that 90% of them are horribly bred and should be eliminated from the gene pool, etc.
        I definitely don’t advocate that everyone should go out and get a rescue and agree with you that if good breeders do not breed, the bad ones still will BUT you are so wrong when you insinuate that just because you don’t breed often, you will produce badly bred dogs – I say again, some of the finest dogs are bred by small scale breeders in many parts of the world through careful choices and doing their homework! That said, I also agree with you that if you breed multiple litters on a regular basis, you will learn a lot more about breeding, but this result is not worth the price!! (well to some of us anyway). They don’t all end up in fantastic pet homes, even though we may be convinced at the time (or choose to believe it because it makes us feel better). People are often not as committed as they initially seem and buy dogs for various reasons. You can do all the interviewing and home visits you wish (by the way, an hour is never going to be sufficient anyhow), you are still going to get dogs, good specimens or otherwise, being given up “as we are emigrating”, “my wife feels it is causing the new baby allergy”, “it is destroying our furniture”, “biting our other dog” …. and I could go on. Of course, you wouldn’t know this if you are breeding large numbers of dogs as it becomes impossible to keep touch with buyers and their circumstances and you (meaning the breeder) will not even know where they all end up – contract or no contract. People like those of us who involve ourselves with rescue in our breed, do know!! Well bred or poorly bred – the experiences and “emotions” of the animal are the same.
        Which brings me to the next part of your reply which actually shocked me – You write, “What WOULD stop neglect is if a contract was considered absolutely mandatory” – I tell you with certainty and experience that a contract does not prevent dogs being neglected or discarded. I would never sell a pup without a detailed contract BUT am by no means fooled into thinking that 5 years down the line people will necessarily abide by it (mostly the laws of ownership override the content anyway and the average breeder does not have the financial backing to take it to court level).
        If a breeder is breeding multiple litters annually, after only a few short years, should owners abide by such contract, and return unwanted dogs to the breeder, it will become impossible to practically take them all back. Well unless of course the breeder keeps many runs full of dogs who no longer form part of a functional family/home situation. This is where large scale breeding must end up as one can only manage to love, work, enjoy, play ball, have in the home, on the couch, take out, so many dogs in a day! Oh yes, I forget – raising a litter (or two or five) of well balanced, confident, socialised, “prepared for the world” puppies also needs to fit in there somewhere – Phew! I take my hat off to anyone who can “go forth and breed”, do it all properly, whilst still putting the best interest of the dog before the “best in show” interest!

        • Reply Joanna Kimball November 28, 2013 at 7:10 am

          Amanda –

          It’s relatively easy to estimate the number of dogs being bred carefully versus the dogs being bred purely to sell as carelessly bred purebreds in the US; the AKC does it for you with the point schedule.

          Let’s do Labs: 95% of all Lab shows in the major divisions (there are 12 of them) are at least two Labs. 20% of the shows have 25-40 Labs. 2% have 70+. So an average, which is a 2-point, entry (as determined by the AKC, not by me) is 12-20 individual class dogs. Fifty percent of shows will be bigger but 50% smaller, so that’s a decent number.

          You figure that in a division a 5-point entry means just about everybody who has a class dog and can make it there will be there. But, still, let’s be generous and double that number. So in a given division, doubling the five-point entry number means there are 150 AKC class dogs.

          150 class dogs x 12 divisions is 1800 AKC class dogs in a given year.

          Let’s assume that every class dog is shown only for a single year, and every class dog is a single dog being shown from a litter of ten, nine of whom went as well-bred pets (which is not the case, of course, but let’s pump that number WAY up so you can see what I mean). So an absolute maximum of 18,000 show-bred Lab puppies are being produced in the US in a given year.

          Add a VERY generous 5,000 for well-bred field-bred Labs (I would say this number is actually close to one thousand, but we’ll go way overboard).

          So now we have a grand total of 23,000 well-bred Labs being born in a given year, as an ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM.

          Every year, the AKC registers about 200,000 Labradors, and its own stats say that half of the puppies whose owners are given registration applications do not send them in. So 400,000 AKC Labradors born, but a maximum of 23,000 carefully bred ones.

          This extremely large disparity between well-bred and badly bred purebreds is apparent in any of the popular breeds (top ten or top twenty in terms of numbers registered). The “wastage” goes down as the breed becomes rarer. But, of course, so do the number of class dogs. In Cardigans we have only a few hundred class dogs across the entire US, which means a few thousand puppies born.

          Or, look at it this way: Every year about ten million households in the US are looking for a dog. Even if EVERY SINGLE AKC, UKC, ADBA, FCI, and CanadianKC PUREBRED was beautifully bred, all of them together would be enough to meet the demand of ONE TENTH of the households that are looking for a dog. In fact, well-bred purebreds could meet the empty homes of less than 5% of households looking for dogs. The other 95% don’t sit around waiting – a few million rescue (thank God), but most get dogs from bad breeders, backyard breeders, puppy mills, etc.

          Most pet homes are good homes. I think it’s hubris to think anything else. Most pet owners do their best, love their dogs, and try to treat them well. However, to ensure that our puppies don’t slip through the cracks, here’s what we do:

          – We have a one-hour contract discussion. That’s on top of the many, MANY hours we’ve spent with each owner before the puppy leaves. This is JUST the contract.
          – We have a liquidated damages clause that states a damages number (in the several thousand dollars) that we have pre-agreed on does not constitute unreasonable damages for any situation that breaks the care contract. That means we have a huge amount of power in court.
          – We have an ironclad return clause and we can go (and, on one occasion, have gone) to court to get a dog back.
          – We immediately take dogs back when the owners cannot keep them. This is part of the contract education process; we tell them multiple times that returning a puppy is a no-harm-no-foul situation and we will never criticize or make them feel guilty for doing so. We always want a dog back. However, any breeder who is getting so many dogs back that they’re full after a “few years” is doing a truly hideous job of screening and educating and supporting owners and needs to step back and evaluate what the heck they are doing wrong. Dogs that are returned are evaluated, trained, rehabbed, and rehomed. We have never kenneled a dog and never turned a dog away.
          – As you may know, I work in a breeding partnership with two other Cardi breeders; between the three of us we have between fifteen and twenty dogs. We partnered specifically so that we could work together and spread the showing, whelping, and training load. Every single one of our dogs is in a normal family situation and we do not kennel. Every puppy has a human’s open (not sleeping) eyes on it 24 hours a day for the first week; we switch off day and night shifts. Every puppy is exhaustively socialized and exposed to a minimum of 50 people before he or she goes home. We follow the Ian Dunbar protocol for socializing. Every puppy gets to try ducks and most of them get to try sheep before 8 weeks old.
          – We keep a database of homes and dogs, and we ask for six-month updates on every puppy. We ask them to friend us on Facebook and we are active in checking up on them. Yes, ALL of them. Most of our buyers talk to us on a weekly basis, some on a daily basis.

          What I do is not unusual or even extremely difficult. It’s what good responsible breeders do. And doing it MORE instead of LESS is a good thing for a breed and a good thing for prospective owners and a good thing for the dogs.

          • Rachel August 21, 2015 at 5:33 pm

            ….I think what Joanna is implying is that we need more BREEDERS, not necessarily that we need the breeders that currently exist to mass-produce puppies to meet demand or to have more litters than they can possibly be responsible for.

            We have enough of that already and the results are tragic.

            How many litters a breeder can have is a very personal and circumstantial thing; there is no generic number that fits all, and that number can change over the course of a breeder’s career and life. Whatever that number is for that individual is what she should be striving for, instead of a number that is as little as possible for the survival of the breeding program.

            That is the point of this article.

            Breeders that currently exist who only have a litter once in a blue moon simply because they feel like they are a puppy mill if they breed more often, should perhaps have them more often than that WHEN they CAN. Of course they should not have more litters than they can possibly be responsible for. But those that CAN have more (and of course be responsible for them is implied here) SHOULD, and the point is THEY ARE NOT.

            So it is NOT “sad that this article will travel the internet and give many just the excuse they are looking for to breed more litters” because the breeders that Joanna is talking about are the ones that should breed more often. Not the ones that should not. Those ones don’t need an excuse, they are going to breed anyways so long as there is money in it. Currently, those are the breeders who meet the majority of the demand, thus represent dogs.

            THAT is what is sad.

            Good for Joanna to say exactly what most of us are thinking but are too afraid to say because of all the heat due to the controversy of it all!

    • Reply bev November 28, 2013 at 2:01 am

      If you are breeding more than a couple litters a year,
      and you are Breeding Quality,
      you should be able to ask 25% more $ for your puppies, or even 50% more than some breeders.

      If you are breeding well, and have a wait list for pet puppies, then Breed a litter, for yourself, to improve the breed, and carefully place the others in quality pet homes.

      I agree, there are VERY few Good breeders, and My vet tells me this. This is sad.

      But the Good breeders are needed, and in order to get good, you must Breed, test breed, see what you get, remove dogs from your breeding program, and gather experience.

    • Reply Brian Wood November 28, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      Just as all anti-breeders, you twist the author’s words. I HATE THAT! She wrote that we should encourage the dedicated owners of our dogs to breed after they have finished several championships. She said nothing about encouraging pet owners to breed. Successful show breeders CAN juggle Breed Rescue and breeding enough to actually get somewhere in a breeding program.

    • Reply Sharon Marquis - Carry On Whippets April 21, 2014 at 2:29 am

      Well put and I totally agree.

  • Reply Amanda November 27, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    if you also chatted and worked with some of these people as a trainer.. You would also find out that there is also a lot of good homes who tried like hell to go to a good breeder.. But one could not find them.. Two was told oh sorry nothing now.. air given a little of the “pet” home must be happy with waiting and then find out oh sorry.. Same homes who tried reduce but had no luck.. Tried calling waiting one was in a list for six months.. But when the litter was born.. Was told at eight weeks sorry there is nothing for you.. So not talking about buy it now people.. So screw it.. and walked into the petstore.. Or even puppy find or breeders direct.. Done.. And these are great dedicated homes now doing multiple classes with their dogs.. Great owners.. But they found the whole process very disappointing.. So do I when I hear this..

    • Reply Joanna Kimball November 28, 2013 at 5:19 am

      Amanda, you’re exactly right that it’s not fair to turn away pet owners without letting them know that there may not be a puppy for them. The key is HONESTY. I try to be extremely up front with owners about how many people are on the list and what the likelihood is that they will get a puppy. Breeders who lead pet owners on and then yank the puppy away are not respecting pet owners, who are they key to the success of every breed.

    • Reply Brian Wood November 28, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      And if more good breeders were encouraged rather than told not to breed so much, the prospective buyer would not have to stand in line so long. You are reinforcing the author’s argument.

    • Reply Lauren December 23, 2013 at 7:34 pm

      This is a very good point, and one that I think Joanna addressed. If only good breeders would actually BREED, then people might be able to get pups from them.

      I am one of the homes you are talking about, over the past 16 years, I have looked, off and on, for a purebred puppy, and wanted to do it right. I spent at least 7 of those years all told on waiting lists – and only one at a time, because you don’t want to be “that” buyer that is on 6 waiting lists – and never bought a pup. Four times a breeder didn’t have the right puppy for me (which is fine and understandable), once I was REAMED by a breeder who swore my perfect fit was a black male, when before time to hand the check over was fine with that I really wanted a girl, and I’d be happy with a boy in any color but black. When I said I’d be happy to wait for the next litter, she told me I was too superficial to own a dog at all and hung up (which is not fine). Another show breeder (not corgies) who kept several dogs and bred 2-3 litters a year and was recommended by everyone in his breed put me on a waiting list and then called to say he had a litter and a pup he thought would be perfect – but that was 5 years ago and I am still waiting for pictures and names of the parents. I guess I was supposed to be happy knowing they were from his breeding program and reading the names on the pedigree after I bought the puppy. I could go on, but you get the drift.

      It was endlessly frustrating and made more so by the fact that most breeders don’t breed. If it was a small litter, or the breeder wanted all girls to go sell as show prospects – that’s it, done, I am back to square one or I can wait and see if they breed another litter in 3 years.

      In the meantime, I have had several wonderful, happy rescue dogs.
      But when time came that I wanted a dog who’s parents I could meet, who’s owners actually WANTED these puppies and cared for them and a dog that I had some inkling of what it would look like when it grew up – I called newspaper ads till I found the dreaded “backyard breeder” who had some healthy pups.
      Wrong, yes, but I didn’t pay more than for a well-vetted rescue pup and I’m getting older – I don’t have another 16 years to throw at it.

      So while I agree with Amanda on many points – Joanna is right. GOOD breeders need to be the ones breeding.

  • Reply Gwenn November 27, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    I think this is a well written article. I think the keys words are well-bred purebreds and baby breeders. Nice to see this perspective put into words.

  • Reply Rod Russell November 27, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    It is one thing to go forth and breed. it is another to know when to make the first move. In our breed, the cavalier King Charles spaniel, we have to deal with an hereditary heart problem, mitral valve disease (MVD). And one of the basic breeding protocols is to WAIT until the breeding stock is at least 2.5 years old and have been examined at that age and found not to have an MVD murmur. But sadly, I’ve found that many “dominant” breeders of CKCSs do not wait. For example, we have one (very active in the two national CKCS breed clubs) who advertises in the CKCSC,USA a stud dog barely a year old. So, call me snarky if you must; I could care less.

    • Reply Brian Wood November 28, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      You can always find bad examples. Painting everyone with the same broad brush only reinforces your personal biases.

  • Reply Margaret T November 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Re ” It should be so obvious that buying a badly bred purebred is a terrible idea and you’re getting crap when you do it that people laugh at the thought of ever going with a badly bred dog. Without more visibility, and yes that means NUMBERS, of well-bred purebreds that will not happen.”

    I have a beautiful, well-bred dog, co-owned by her breeder, who will be bred. And her breeder and I both do breed rescue. When I take my girl to a rescue event, people see the difference, and for those who don’t know me, I make sure they know that she is not a rescue. One commented, “OMG, she even feels different from our rescues.” The difference is striking, and I think it’s a good thing for people to see.

  • Reply Mary Bylone November 28, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    This is a fantastic article and I have enjoyed all of the comments as well. I would love to breed and I am working with my breeder in a mentoring role, asking her zillions of questions, reading as much as I can get my hands on learning from others successes and mistakes. I have dogs all my life, always from BYB, never knowing anything. They were great pets I admit. But now that I have educated myself, I realize their health was a crap shoot as these breeders did not display any of the qualities I have come to understand as important,even basic. No contracts, no contact, not much of anything. Good breeders invest their heart and soul into ensuring thebest outcome for every puppy and I see this in my mentor. Her pet home puppies are still carefully placed and followed up. And she is realistic to identify one or maybe two promising puppies from a litter. But what I have really come to be in awe of is the amount of time and study she puts into the research of the line, and what improvements need to be made as she looks at the offspring of previous breedings and determines traits o be enhanced or bred out. You cannot do this with three litters in a bitch’s lifespan. I am certainly no expert from the side of actual breeding experience, but from my immersion into the science and my detail in observation, I agreee with Joanna completely. Thank you for a wonderful article and for theprofessional manne in which opposiung views ar being presented. Finally, a greqt debate without name calling. We certqinly need a lot more of this in our dog world!

  • Reply Ronna November 28, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    I can see how this does apply to breeders who show. I will never justify breeders who breed back to back and produce 150+ puppies per year @ 1200.00 to 1700.00 per year as a way to make their living. This disgusts me. They do not show nor do they know how to show. Even if in the last 7 years they have produced 2or 3 champions shown in Athletic venues. Testing part of her dogs but not all of her dogs. Breeding before they finish maturing at 18-22 months. Multitudes of dogs with giardia and other health issues. Yes…this type totally disgusts me. They are exploiting the breed. Responsible breeders are not breeding 12+ dogs per year to live a better lifestyle.

  • Reply tania December 2, 2013 at 8:00 am

    This is an excellent review.

    There are more conflicting interests with the amount/volume of bully-breeders for money and profit rather than showing a form of dedication to present the ethical owners are sold dogs of value/to qualify and learn to bond/form relationships with ‘A’ Dog. The difference is you have to breed lines that are of such suitable matches/combinations that it takes a process of 4 years to morally collect this review. IF we get entangled in other breeders goals, in volume we deflect the ethical process required. ALL BREEDS formed in natural working-traits. And one of the most important words there was that what traits would we identify if we have not raised the said “Sire or Dam” which the owners SHALL NOT KNOW and why training is promoted. The Pet-Sold puppies should NOT BE BREEDING for a very obvious reason. But genetics is a very strange ‘thing’ sometimes you have throw-backs and sometimes you get the vision of what you put combinations together for. THE ETHICAL REPRESENT their dogs through their life-time to qualify and there is a process before breeding a line YOU CANNOT RUSH AND BUY ~ then you would claim you own all the worlds greatest dogs but those puppies have not proven themselves in combination for future program to breed. So be specific about why you acquire a puppy so the breeder can guide the owner and any obstacles they encountered will suggest avenues of pleasurable outcome. For instance a line that is not of the highest value cannot be bullied out by the said “BUYER” for that motivation alone. Also each breed have a “standard” that must be studied, so if your expressing the dog’s fault and the “owner” gets offended it is purely through lack of knowledge, on the other hand you cannot keep promoting breeding, and more breeding and constant breeding, without any establishment to base this breeding from. That is purely because the TRAINERS are actually essentially more ideal to breed then pet-owners as they can filter their potential reasons to sell a puppy to a specifically family or suggest another breed more ideal for their goals.

    By allowing pet-s to be bred and no guidance from breeders comes from the commercially exploiting for money and that is why your most experience begins from the pet-shop as there’s no expectations and you can learn. DOES THAT MEAN A BREEDING DOG? no, that is why acquiring an ethically bred/rottweiler comes with a complete litter that should be reported to the established club for various reasons both in failures and successes to give the public the right idea of the difficulties the Breeder will encounter and where they should focus on purely training and should breeding become an option do so AFTER qualifications. Unfortunately if you don’t get the quality of the bloodline via the represented club and the misrepresent as don’t know the traits they are breeding for you have a right to tarnish prior selections based on healthy merits due to this very reason again. EVERY BREEDER will require healthy relationships with other breeders, to achieve for their breed so temperament attitudes in themselves like EGO is not the goal either so research the standard well, and identify these traits with owners over a gradual process and implement value requirements and listings of suitable trainers one had a positive experience with. WE LIVE BUT ONCE and so does our companion… All Obstacles MUST be challenged and there is no REQUIREMENT to have puppy-farms or mills, operating if the Owners are as much apart of the process as the Breeder and makes their choices based on credibility by maturity of their acquired companion made under a representative club via FACTS (NOT THREATS)

    This I’ve endured due to some threatened for their money-business in the pet-trade very unsuitable and out of character when the dogs do NOT acquire the direct representative of the direct specimens, to be noted every combination has risk factors the owners should be making and from their own work, guided by the trainer be the reason to acquire said puppy via this affiliation and to work very hard and to bring to light concerns they have so experienced trainers can charge them a fee’, to correct and the owners be as much apart of that learning if they going to breed, to understand its not about selling the puppy (you can acquire a puppy same way at a pet-shop) its their expert guidance on training that gives them the ethical requirements met to do the combination/work with owners and collectively acquire the documents essential to eventually get to a decision of breeding.

  • Reply Angela December 8, 2013 at 10:17 am

    I would love to breed more. My vet is encouraging me to breed more. It’s not going to happen. I breed Australian Shepherds and that’s not a breed suitable for the average pet owner. It’s virtually impossible to find owners in this area who are involved with dog sports or willing to drive 100 miles to the nearest club to train. My first responsibility is to the puppies I produce.

    • Reply KellyK January 17, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      First off, you deserve a lot of respect for putting your puppies first. Good for you. Second, and please forgive me if this is an obvious question, what about buyers outside of your area? Even if you’re not interested in shipping dogs, there might be dog sport people further afield who would be willing to drive a bit to get a good puppy. Or, for that matter, people in your area who want to get into agility but aren’t doing it now because there’s no club in their area–but who would happily work the heck out of an agility puppy in the backyard and drive that 100 miles every once in a while.

      • Reply Angela January 18, 2014 at 4:19 am

        I’ve sold more puppies out of state than in, usually to a competitor who has seem my dogs or one of my breeding at a trial. A few went to online aquaintances in the breed. There are great pet homes in the area and I have no issues with those. One of the problems with local area (200 mile radius) is that people will simply not pay the going price of a well bred puppy so I have the choice between a great home for half the value of the puppy, full price plus shipping to a stranger online or growing the pup out while waiting for the right home.

        I could easily sell puppies at my lower price 300 miles east but then I risk alienating the very breeders who own some of the sires I’ve used in the past and hoping to buy from in the future. Not something I’m willing to so.

        In a few weeks I’ll have the first of several joint replacement surgeries that should enable me to compete again. Then I can travel and people can see first hand again what a well bred and well trained dog can do. That more than anything seems to create interest in potential homes.

        • Reply KellyK January 21, 2014 at 6:15 pm

          Good luck! I hope your surgery goes well!

  • Reply Louise December 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    I really enjoyed reading the article and the responses. It is also nice to read all with no insults and nasty comments seen in many other dog sites. It’s unfortunate that some breeders do not have the insight to see themselves as described in certain posts. For example does the word EGO come to mind or bragging that all the pups in the litter are show/breeding quality. I find breeders who judge others without even knowing or even talking to them disgusting. Usually anti breeders brainwashed by the animal rights extremists or other malicious breeders never had the experience of breeding but just sit behind a computer like a back seat driver. These bullys (for a lack of a better word) compromise not only the breeder in question but the breed. Unfortunately we see more and more of these types of people in the show activities of kennel clubs. However I respect responsible, ethical breeders who spend their life protecting the breed they love and mentoring not only the new breeders but some of the more seasoned breeders who have lost their way. I spent over 38 years in breeding, training/ showing, rescuing and I loved my terriers. My priority has always been my dogs, owners and educating not only the people but maintained on going learning experiences. There are great breeders out there who deserve respect for maintaining the standard.

  • Reply Corinne Beckner December 18, 2013 at 12:10 am

    I love this article. May I copy it on my website?
    Giving full recognition to you as the author of course.

  • Reply Dana December 31, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    The author’s modeling of the number of registered Labs that there “should be” is just fascinating. I’ve never seen it presented like that, and it’s a VERY powerful argument. I wish more people could make (and understand) evidence-based arguments like that! I would also add that the number of litters for that “one show puppy” is very different breed to breed; some of the toys have tiny litters, even singleton pups which require a lot of special care whether they turn out to be show quality or not.

  • Reply Colin Lozano January 2, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Request to Reprint Your Article in Molosser World Magazine

    Hi Joanna Kimball,
    I loved reading your article on “We’re breeders – why are we anti-breeding?” on your blog at
    I am about to publish a new magazine called “Molosser World”
    exclusively on the Apple Newsstand and I think the readers of the magazine
    would love to read this article too.
    I was wondering if I could reprint that article in the magazine. If you would
    like me to promote something for you, maybe a book or a specific web page you
    want me to point people to I would be more than happy to do it. Because it is
    an interactive magazine, once people have read the article they can be
    directed straight to a web page of your choice.
    I hope to hear back from you soon
    Kind Regards,
    Colin Lozano
    Editor, Molosser World Magazine

  • Reply Rita Grenyer January 4, 2014 at 5:01 am

    Wonderful article!!
    One that so many people should read and Breed Clubs should print.

  • Reply Jerry McCoy January 5, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I have worked with rescue for many years. We get dogs from all kinds of situations. Rarely do we see dogs that originally sold for $1000.00 or more. People are more willing to train and spend time with a dog that was an investment. It sounds terrible but it is true. Dogs that sold for $3,000.00 and more are unheard of. They are left to family members and friends in wills. (My uncle left me his)
    If they chew they are redirected. If they potty in the house – they are walked. If you pick up a pet for a couple of hundred dollars – it is eaiser to cut your losses. This may sound cruel but people seem to be cruel. Not everyone – You will find the person that found the dirty matted dog on the side of the road and treats it wonderully.
    All that being said – A Good Breeder is very important to all dog lovers. If we have to save and do our homework BEFORE we run out and get a pet Today!!! – That dog has a better chance of making it forever. People need puppies that are properly bred. They should be the norm – not the pet shop puppies.
    My Frisbee was 21 when he went to the Rainbow Bridge. For about 3 years prior to that – he was incontenent, blind, and slept alot. He did tricks and wagged that tail until the day he died. I currently have a 14 yr old Giant Schnauzer. I’ll let you guess what his issues are.
    I wonder if any of us have someone that would love us that much and not send us off to a nursing home to die. Those of us that love our dogs – love our dogs – as Breeders we we can pick and choose who they go to. I always do my best and do turn down people. Good fits make it work forever.

  • Reply Amanda2 January 8, 2014 at 5:50 am

    I agree with the article, however disagree with some of the comments. Some pretty much stating that only show breeders should be breeding when in reality they are just the same as pet breeders with the exception of a few letters before their dogs name. They send dogs “unsuitable” for the show ring to pet homes and just because there are letters before the name does not make them any more special to the families as a pet home only dog. Breeders need to do more research on breeding than just listening to what others say, example… breeding back to back. There has been no findings in the research done stating that it is bad to the health of the Dam to breed back to back. This is a perception that humans have bestowed because we would not want to be pregnant back to back. Dogs in the wild would in most cases conceive every cycle and be fine. I do not advocate for back to back breeding but in some cases it happens or can be medically advised. (Regulate cycles, etc.) Each breeder believes differently and unless they are harming their dogs in their programs then who are we to judge!!!

    • Reply Joanna Kimball January 8, 2014 at 6:09 am

      Amanda – I don’t think only show breeders should be breeding. But I do think that only breeders who prove that their dogs are much better than average at something should. And something does not equal “being a pet.” I think that in many ways the pet puppies I place are even more special than the show dogs. Certainly MANY of my favorite puppies in their litters have gone into pet homes, and every time I see them I fall in love with them again. But that doesn’t mean they should be bred.

      • Reply Amanda2 January 8, 2014 at 6:18 am

        I was referring to others comments and do think that most pet only dogs should not be breed hence the reason they are going to pet homes. My problem is with breeders who think only those who show should breed. I have run into many show breeders who look down on pet only breeders who breed to the same standard as they. What most people don’t realize is that a lot of people just want a good quality purebred pet!! 🙂

        • Reply Katie January 10, 2014 at 5:25 am

          The purpose of a dog show is to evaluate breeding stock. In order to know if your interpretation of the standard is being reflected in your breeding program, and to evaluate your stock for future breedings, you show. Those “letters before the name” means the dog has been found by several people to be of quality breeding stock (by fitting the standard).

          A “good quality purebred pet” comes from good breeding stock. AKA- the offspring of a dog and a bitch with letters before their name. This offspring may or may not be a show dog itself. After all, most show dogs are pets, too.

          • Joanna Kimball January 10, 2014 at 5:31 am

            I agree, though I’d say letters before OR after the name (meaning this is a dog who does something at a very high level, whether it be conformation or field/work) are what you look for.

  • Reply Lenna S. Hanna-O'Neill January 9, 2014 at 4:47 am

    Huzzah!!! Standing ovation!!!

  • Reply Carol Stuart January 10, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Loved the article, but you made me feel like crying. I was a breeder, a good breeder, for over 50 years I’ve bred wonderful dogs. Some finished as conformation champions, some earned performance titles, some were loved by the owners or me for their entire lives. I learned from the school of hard knocks breeders education system. And I was successful. But not now. Now I am afraid. I am afraid of being targeted by animal rights activists. I am afraid of having my beloved dogs confiscated or stolen by self righteous extremists who wish me dead. I worry especially about my old dogs, the “special needs” dogs who grace my home. What would happen to them if I couldn’t be there to fix their 6 small nourishing meals a day? What happens if I am surrounded by radical “I Hate Dog Breeders” people? I have watched this incident with the Flat Creek Border Collie breeders and my blood ran cold. Please see the link: I can’t risk becoming a target. I can’t count on my rights being protected by the Constitution of the United States.
    I hang my head in shame and admit I am finished. There is no fight left in me. I was a dog breeder because I loved my dogs. I wanted to share part of my love for the dogs with others who in many cases became extended family. I brought many people into the world of show dogs and performance events. I loved holding a wet squirming puppy in my hands and marveling at the miracle of life and birth. I watched the babies grow and develop little personalities and to match that personality with the perfect family. I watched the light of joy when the family held their wonderful new puppy for the first time. I loved guiding the family to help their little puppy grow into a wonderful adult companion. I cried with the family when the time had come to say goodbye to their beloved friend. I loved being a dog breeder. I am grateful I had this opportunity to be a good breeder. I am so very sad to say goodbye because I am afraid.

  • Reply M in Tx January 11, 2014 at 12:07 am

    I agree w/ the idea that good breeders should breed more. It took me 5 years to get my Poodle and it was a happy coincidence when it happened.

    I don’t think you can paint all breeds the same though. Some breeds have very small litters, some breeds/lines have huge litters. Some breeds are easier to find good/commited homes for. I would think little of a Maltese breeder having 5 litters a year. They average 2 live puppies per litter. That’s 10 tiny puppies
    to house, feed, socialize and clean up
    after a year. Many breed two Maltese
    bitches at the same time, which is still
    fewer puppies than most large breed
    litters. The biggest concern w/ the breed
    are grooming and house breaking, but
    it’s still a tiny hairy dog that makes little
    puddles. They adapt to apartment living
    well, they are easy to travel with.

    A Newfie breeder who’s line averages 10
    puppies per litter is a different story.
    That’s 50 huge puppies a year to house,
    socialize, groom, clean up after, etc.
    That’s also 50 good homes, who can
    handle a giant, drooling, heavy shedding
    breed. It cost more to board a giant
    breed, groom a giant breed, feed and vet
    a giant breed. When a giant breed has
    an accident, it’s a lake. A tiny puppy
    can’t get thir mout around a chair leg,
    where they Newfie may eat the whole
    chair in hour. Many hotels, apartments
    and HOA have weight limits on dogs. I’m
    not knocking Newfies, just listing reasons
    why it might be harder to find good
    homes for 5 litters of puppies. So yes, I
    could see why a fellow Newfie breeder
    might make a negative comment about
    someone having 5 litters.

    Same goes for still having pups from a previous litter. It’s one thing to have a couple of four month old Maltese puppies and new litter of 3 Malt puppies. It’s another thing to have 4 month old giant breed puppies and a litter of 9 more.

    And for that matter, I’ve never heard a dog person say back to back breeding is wrong. I have heard them steer novice puppy buyers away from a breeder that rountinely bred young bitches back to back (to back), usually to same stud and them placed them. Again, this is iffy in some breeds and okay in others. If a Standard Poodle bitch has 4 and is
    diagnosed w/ Addisons, what does that mean for the breed?

    While we should not condem breeders as unethical w/o first hand knowlege, we shouldn’t condemn others as bullies either. I don’t get why people don’t just ask questions. That breeder may have a good reason for doing a back to back breeding and that person ringside may have a legitimate beef w/ someone having 5 litters a year.

  • Reply M in TX January 11, 2014 at 12:13 am

    That should say: If a Standard Poodle Bitch has 4 litters on the ground at age 3 and is diagnosed w/ Addisons, what does that mean for the breed.

  • Reply Leslie January 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Here here! Finally someone with sense and speaks the honest truth!

  • Reply Daniel January 15, 2014 at 4:57 am

    The biggest I’ve ever read… this week. The world needs less breeders, not more. Responsible breeders? No such thing. It’s like saying there are responsible crack dealers. No. They all contribute to an ongoing problem no matter how slice and dice it or how many pretty little articles you write. A breeder is a breeder is a breeder. Sorry breeders, the truth hurts, I know you don’t like it and will never have the guts to admit it, but the pet overpopulation problem all stems from YOU.

    • Reply KellyK January 17, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      No, not actually true. Good breeders do everything in their power to make sure their dogs don’t end up in rescue. And most of them do rescue work themselves. So, for every good breeder you talk into not breeding, here’s how you’ve *added* to the homeless dog problem:

      -The people who would’ve bought dogs from that breeder get them from someone else. In at least some of those cases, that someone else is a puppy mill or backyard breeder. Because that puppy mill or backyard breeder has made more money than they otherwise would have, they breed more, and some of those dogs end up in rescue.

      -Now, some of those people who bought those puppy mill dogs have issues with the dogs. Nobody made sure they were a good home for that breed or that specific dog, or encouraged them to put the time and effort into training. Nobody’s going to take the dog back if something goes wrong. (Even if you expect pet owners to be willing to work with any issues a dog might have, people still lose jobs, get cancer, get divorced, or have other catastrophes that mean they can no longer keep their dog.) Those dogs end up in rescue or shelters.

      -All the people who would’ve seen the well-bred, well-socialized dogs that breeder produces now don’t. They buy a puppy mill dog because they don’t see the difference, and again, more money for the people cranking out dogs for profit, more dogs bred carelessly and placed carelessly, with no safety net.

      (Note that I didn’t even touch on any rescue work that good breeders do, or how the fact that they’re active in their breed helps facilitate that.)

    • Reply Dr. Carol Stuart January 17, 2014 at 9:58 pm

      Well you certainly are entitled to your opinion. But your argument doesn’t hold water. Dogs have been breeding since the beginning of time; with or without human intervention. The so called “pet overpopulation problem” really does not exist.

      There are areas such as Connecticut where the shelters are empty and they are importing dogs from Tennessee and Kentucky to sell to the potential adopters. There are other areas such as Austin, TX, where the “pet problem” is the result of owners allowing their animals to become pregnant due to economic situations. The cost of spaying/neutering is very high and little is being done to educate or help these owners. This is really about a distribution problem not a “too many breeders” or “pet overpopulation” problem.

      Some groups are importing street dogs from Puerto Rico and other countries to fill the empty shelters. No breeders involved here. They trap the street dogs and import them into the U.S. Along with a multitude of diseases.

      So in your opinion all breeders are bad. What about the breeders of Guide Dogs for the Blind? What about the Service Dogs? Not just any mutt from rescue has the health or temperament to perform the tasks for their owners. Are these bad breeders?

      How about the hunting breeds breeders? What if I want a working gun dog such as a German Shorthaired Pointer to use as an upland bird dog? One who will retrieve on land or from the water, one who will also track, one who will be easy to train and work at close range? I am not going to find that dog with those particular genetic characteristics in a mutt from a rescue. I want working gun dog from a breeder who knows his breed. And as of today, this is the only way I can acquire such a dog.

      Some jobs can be done by mixed breed mutts but those mutts got their particular talents from a purebred dog somewhere along the line. Breeders for have for centuries selected for certain characteristics to produce an animal to do particular jobs. Just as the naturally developed Shetland pony was incapable of pulling heavy wagons but the selectively bred Percheron pulled those wagon with ease; the purebred dog has been selectively bred to perform certain job that cannot be performed by any other animal or even another breed.

      Purebred Bloodhounds are the only dogs whose “work” or evidence is admissible in a court of law. Would you label the Bloodhound breeder devoted to producing the best Bloodhounds a bad person for breeding?

      What is your goal? Fewer animals in rescue and shelters? Educate the potential owners before they acquire a pet. Help them select an appropriate pet. Help them train that pet, Help them understand what good nutrition and veterinary care means. Then potential owner will be armed with knowledge to find a pet that will succeed in their home, be it a rescue or purebred. Those folks will find a pet somewhere, somehow. Let’s both try to be sure it is an appropriate pet that will stay for life.

      Calling us crack dealers is ridiculous. We are doing our part to educate buyers, current owners, and anyone else who is willing to listen and learn. I am willing to even try with you. You would do well to learn facts and give up the brainwashing you have received from the animal rights folks. Their information simply isn’t based in reality. Check your facts then get back to me.

    • Reply Dean November 5, 2014 at 2:57 am

      If good, responsible, ETHICAL breeders all stopped breeding, not only would that not help the dog overpopulation problem at all, but would leave a vacuum gthat WOULD be filled by poor breeders. Hence the problem world become worse. People driven by profit will not stop, just because the ones that care about the breed go away.

      I’m not a breeder either. So have nothing vested in that comment other than years of experience and research. I’ve also been involved with rescue.

  • Reply Gina Fox January 17, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Yes!! Another like minded person! Finally!
    Ever since Pride & Prejudice by Diane Klumb I have been waiting. Rise up and be recognized!

  • Reply Jade Hall January 19, 2014 at 3:53 am

    So absolutely true!! Wonderful article!

  • Reply Dolores February 16, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Thank you for standing up for your beliefs, and you are so right on what you say.Good pure bred puppies are hard to come by, not to mention, expensive.
    We waited two years for our standard poodle puppy and are so glad that we wound up with a great dog from a wonderful breeder.
    I too stay in contact with my breeder on a regular basis, sometimes daily, esp easy to stay connected through Facebook.
    We have three standard poodles, one of which we adopted from a breeder who had to rehome her, and it has worked out well.
    But you try finding a standard poodle in in NJ you’ll find tons of pit bulls, doodles and small dogs. Standard poodles? Never..
    And so, as one of my ‘pet’ causes, I support Carolina Poodle Rescue, but apologize to NO ONE that I will always buy my puppies from good breeders.

  • Reply Elaine Oakes October 27, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    I agree, I would never criticize any breeder for quantity if they are trying to do it right. I also feel that if a pet buyer has a reasonable quality well bred bitch and wants to breed her to a good male (and has a mentor to help), they should not be discouraged. For practical reasons, that might not apply in a breed that is already over populated or one that tends to have huge litters.

    However, breeders need to be careful how many dogs they KEEP, especially as we get older. There is a situation in my breed right now with an ethical breeder who developed major health issues and has a lot of mostly older dogs that suddenly need to be placed.

    I’m about to try for my first litter in many years. I had to stop breeding due to not being able to sell enough puppies (long before the internet, etc.) and having too many too soon. Lesson learned.

    Now I have an older Champion, Specialty winning male (litter brother to two Specialty winning and producing bitches) and was able to get a puppy bitch who looks like a good match both on paper and as an individual. I have been sort of holding my breath hoping that my boy would last long enough to do the breeding. If I am lucky I may get one or two good ones but will not keep more than one. I doubt I will breed again because I’m not getting any younger.

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