When people ask me what I do for a living I often find myself immediately on defense. Like, if I tell them I am a breeder, especially a “doodle” breeder, I am likely to get an appalled look followed by a game of twenty questions.
Over the years I have heard all sorts of questions and comments like “Oh…you’re a breeder.… you at least treat your dogs well I hope?” Or “so you just use your dogs to make money? I could never do that.” Or “ I ONLY believe in rescues! Breeders are the reason the shelters are so full”. Better yet comments like “Oh, so you get to just play with puppies all day? I totally want that job! It would be SO easy!” “So you just put two dogs together right… and then bam.. puppies! So, like, why are they so expensive? The dogs do all the work for you!” I figured I would take a minute or two to address these issues because I truly think these comments and questions are most often made not out of malice but out of ignorance.
First to the “Oh.. you’re a breeder.. you at least treat your dogs well I hope?” question. Um, yeah. I am 99% sure my dogs eat better than I do. They definitely get more regular health care than I do, spend more money on their hair than I do, and spend more time on my couches and beds than I do. They are first and foremost members of our family. We integrate our dogs into our daily lives as much as possible, everyone gets the snuggles and games of fetch and plenty of toys and treats. They see the best vet in town on a regular basis and he is ALWAYS available for any emergency (shout out to Dr. Mark and is staff for being awesome!). They eat the best dog food money can buy. They are living their best lives over here. The same is true for EVERY responsible breeder I know. We are DOG PEOPLE… like… to the core. If you know you know and if you don’t, well, you should really get yourself a great dog and join the club.
To the “So.. you just use your dogs to make money? I could never do that.” commenter… OK Karen… But do you have a marketable skill that allows you to make a living? Oh, you do.. and you just use that to make money?? But, you don’t feel guilty about it right? Here’s the deal.. I have 25+ years of experience raising, training, breeding and showing dogs. I also have years of experience working in vet clinics as a tech and am a professional member of the APDT. This gives me unique insight into the dogs and what it takes to breed healthy, happy, well rounded dogs able to do the jobs they were bred for and also able to be fabulous family pets. In addition, my degree in Psychology and minor in marketing are put to work every SINGLE day dealing with potential customers as well as current puppy families with questions and concerns. Aside from my degree, I use the knowledge that I have gained in over 25 years of working with dogs, along with the most up to date science, to be sure that I am breeding the highest quality dogs I can and pairing them with the best families for them. This includes knowledge of both operant and classical conditioning, genetics, dog psychology and behavior, anatomy, nutrition, animal husbandry, parasitology and preventive medicine, emergency care of whelping mamas and newborn puppies… I could go on for days about the depth and breadth of knowledge a good breeder will have. You can literally ask me anything from what brush to buy for your dog’s coat, to how to stop nuisance barking, to what to do if your dog has eaten your kid’s socks, to what to do if your dog is having an unexpected litter and it’s not going well. I’m sorry you don’t agree Karen, but my expertise is worth something. You wouldn’t tell a cattle farmer or a breeder of racehorses they should not be making money would you?? Same applies here.
Next, the “adopt don’t shop” set. While I wholeheartedly support adopting from shelters, I do not ONLY support adopting. Basically, by ONLY supporting rescue, what you are really saying is that the only dogs that deserve homes are the ones dropped into shelters by irresponsible breeders, accidental litters and puppy mills; in essence, the cast offs tossed into the “rescue” machine. The only dogs worthy of homes are the ones that were oopsies with unknown parentage?? What if that dog’s parents both carry an awful genetic issue? Believe me when I say there are many that would make the average person cry. By reviling responsible breeders you’d really be creating a world where the only available dogs are the potentially unhealthy animals with sometimes unstable temperaments that are the result of accidental encounters and unscrupulous “breeders” out to make a quick buck. We don’t call those guys breeders.. they have not earned the title. We call them assholes and we despise them as much as you do.
“Oh, so you get to just play with puppies all day? I totally want that job! It would be so easy!” There are definitely days where I play with puppies all day and those days are fantastic. There are days when the disinfecting of whelping areas and playpens goes quickly and smoothly; when the mamas haven’t made other messes for me to take care of; when all the pups are doing great and everything is a breeze. I LOVE those days! More often though, there are extra messes to clean, puppy applications to filter through and weed out the ones I don’t find suitable for my pups, questions to answer from the customers, the potential customers, the vet, etc, paperwork, paperwork, paperwork, dewormings to handle, nail trims, baths, sanitary trims…More messes to clean, mamas to feed. Those days are ok, exhausting but ok. Everything is still going smoothly on those days.
BUT then there are the days when I go to clean playpens and find a lethargic puppy.. I then spend a couple hours in the ER, a couple more worrying about that baby while the doctors figure out what the issue is… the next few days giving whatever meds or treatment is necessary all while hoping for the best outcome and bracing for the worst. It’s NOT all sunshine and puppy kisses guys and it is NOT easy money. There is frustration, there is exhaustion, there is heartbreak more often than any of us would care to admit. There are sleepless nights spent bottle feeding weak puppies and sometimes they pull through and my efforts are rewarded but sometimes they don’t and I feel awful and second guess myself. There are sleepless nights spent delivering pups and if all goes well the delivery is smooth and I get to drink a cup of coffee in the morning with a happy if a little sleepy smile. Some of those deliveries do NOT go smoothly though and I am left doing chest compressions or mouth to mouth trying to restart a fading puppy’s heart or breathing. My hands have ushered new lives into this world many times but have also been the only hands to hold a fading life and comfort it as it leaves this world too. Again, Not all sunshine and puppy kisses. There are tears and curse words and second guesses as well.
To those who think breeders are just in this for money and that we don’t care about our dogs, we know all too well the pain of losing a well loved dog. They become family to us and leave gaping holes in our hearts when they go. We do everything in our power to make sure they lead happy, healthy lives and that they are with us as long as possible.We also know that there comes a time when we have to make the decision that is best for our dog, even when our hearts are screaming at us that we haven’t had enough time. I have sat there, calm and soothing until the very last breath so that my friend can be sure to feel safe and loved even in death. I’ve melted into a sobbing heap on the vet clinic exam room floor after saying goodbye to my best friend on more than one occasion and I know, every time, that I will be here again all too soon. I’ve broken down in tears on the way home from the vet with that weak puppy who couldn’t be saved. I understand completely when you call looking for a puppy and break down on the phone while talking about the dog you recently lost. I feel your pain and you are exactly the kind of family I want for our pups because even though you are hurting, you’ve got room in your heart for one more great dog.
If you have had the privilege of getting a dog from a responsible breeder, count yourself lucky to have been welcomed to their family of dog lovers. Because, for most of us it really does become a family of sorts. We email back and forth with puppy families, we love to get picture updates of your dogs, we have social media groups with our puppy families and watch as they form relationships with each other as well, setting up playdates, sharing favorite tools and toys, asking questions. We are in this for the long haul and we are always available to answer questions or give advice. We always want what is best for your dog above all else.