So you want to breed and show dogs?

It’s a cakewalk, right? WRONG!

A dog breeder's round table


Actually, dog breeding is like a lot of other life pursuits – some lucky people do it without either skill or experience and make it look easy, and others spend virtually all of their spare time learning about their breed, training their dogs, planning litters to improve what they have, and devoting their attention to eradicating serious genetic problems in their lines. The former folks consider themselves fortunate to make a few dollars selling pups to friends and neighbors and through classified ads; the latter consider themselves fortunate if they don’t lose a boatload of money in the process.

Still want to join the dog show fancy? Here are some tips from our breeder’s panel.

Gale Snoddy; Borzoi breeder; Milford, Ohio

  1. Read lots about the breed. Many National breed clubs now have illustrated standards for their breed, and these can be very helpful
  2. Attend lots of dog shows where you can observe several specimens of the breed and meet many exhibitors and breeders. Specialties are especially helpful. Ask handlers if you may examine the dogs and for their comments about the dogs. Ask lots of questions, but keep in mind that not all people will be willing to be open and candid.
  3. Visit as many kennels as you can. Again, ask to examine dogs and see dogs move, and ask the breeders to discuss their views about the breed and their own dogs.

Taking the plunge:

  1. If a novice has done his research well, he will know what kennel he would like to get a dog from and what breeders he can trust. They are not always the same.
  2. A novice should not expect a breeder to sell him a fabulous dog unless there are lots of strings attached. The average number of years most newcomers stay in the fancy is appallingly short. With that in mind, it is understandable that a breeder would not sell one of his better dogs to someone with an unproven track record.
  3. Expect to make mistakes. Don’t automatically blame the breeder for selling you a poor quality dog. Genetics is just one of the many things that go into making a good show dog. Expect to spend time conditioning your dog, grooming him, socializing him, training him. If you are handling the dog yourself, you will have a great deal to learn about showing your dog to its best advantage. If you are going to send your dog out with a handler, you will need to spend time selecting the best one for your dog. If you do have a poor quality dog, it means you really didn’t learn what you needed to about the breed, and you were unable to recognize the poor quality when you selected your pup.
  4. Don’t be in a rush to get your dog out right away. Many people, even experienced breeders, often make the mistake of showing a dog before it is ready. This can give you lots of experience, which can be valuable, but it can be an expensive and frustrating experience. This is part of the reason so many people give up. The best thing for you and your dog is to attend puppy matches, handling classes, etc. These are valuable training grounds and will help novices decide if they even want to continue in the sport.
  5. Expect to sign a contract when buying a dog. Many breeders require these even for companion dogs.
  6. Don’t be in a rush to breed a litter. Breeding is a huge responsibility – you are creating lives. Whelping can present many problems, be costly and time-consuming, and can even threaten the life of your bitch. You must know what you are doing. Also, it takes many years to learn about a breed. When you breed a litter, you not only have to have a good understanding of the process, but also know the general health and characteristics of the generations behind your bitch and the stud dog, have a basic understanding of genetics, and so on. Trying to learn all this in a short time is daunting. Always seek the help of others in a position to have information you can use, and take the time to do it right. As a breeder, your puppy owners will count on you for help and guidance. Be sure you plan to stay in the breed and sport before you make this long-term commitment.
  7. Never stop asking questions, reading, learning. Knowing the breed is a life-long endeavor.
  8. Good luck, but remember, showing and breeding isn’t for everyone.

A note about mentors:

Breed mentors are very helpful to newcomers. Mentors should be open minded, willing to share information, willing to see those they help surpass them. Mentors should advise people, not dictate to them. They should NOT imprint their opinions on the people they are mentoring. They SHOULD encourage the novice to learn as much as possible about the breed, and ask the novice to express their views. The mentor should encourage the novice to speak to as many breeders as possible, and to formulate his own understanding of the breed standard. The goal is an individual who is knowledgeable, well-rounded, open-minded, and who can contribute to the sport and breed.

Melody Greba; German Shepherd Dog breeder; Verona, Kentucky

Mentoring good potential contributors for any breed is difficult.

Many people will show casual interest in German Shepherds, but most can not make it their life’s primary interest. The German Shepherd Dog is a multi-functional breed that should be preserved through selective breeding for function as well as form. It should remain a large dog (not giant breed) with a sound body and the proper temperament and vitality to be useful in different tasks. This is no small task for a casual puppy producer, and the lack of selective breeding is evident.

Based on pedigree knowledge and long based knowledge of working/service/sporting German Shepherds, we make a serious effort to place the high drive puppies from high energy, high drive parents into the homes of people currently involved (or newcomers with detailed and realistic goals) in performance activities or service work.

Buyers interested in showing in conformation are presented with the difference between the AKC conformation ring and German-style conformation showing. Puppies with the attributes for succeeding in these rings are placed into the appropriate homes to maximize their owner’s success.

We utilize limited AKC registration for people who lack history of involvement in any dog oriented activity. We can later change the limited registration status to full registration if all certifications and titles are obtained. It is a common occurrence for well intentioned buyers to realize their limitations and not be able to fulfill their goals.

Dog shows and performance events are addictive. Pet people are normally impressed by the beauty or the trainability of the German Shepherd Dog. They realize that a good shepherd is predictable around the whole family, including children. And soon, the curiosity manifests itself into wanting to own and train a dog like the one that so impressed them.

Buyers must not be sold on a performance or activity at the time of sale of the puppy. People who involve themselves naturally in dogs are the most likely to stay with the breed and become great ambassadors of the German Shepherd Dog. Natural progression into dog activities will occur if it truly exists in the heart of the person. The door to enter into the larger World of Dogs, is always open.

Tracy Leonard DVM; Basenji breeder; Dayton, Ohio

To get started in a breed, one needs to find a good breeder to help. A contract is the best way to be sure that all parties understand what is expected of them. I sell every puppy, show or pet, with a contract so that everyone knows what is expected of them. As for finding a good breeder, a person needs to find one who is dedicated to the breed and not his wallet.

A long time friend (who currently does not even own a dog) told me he had a quick and easy way to find out if a person is a reputable breeder: ask him if he makes money breeding dogs. If he says yes, he is not a good breeder! If he laughs and says “I wish,” he is probably a trustworthy person who is in it for the love of the breed and not financial rewards.

Those who are dedicated to a breed are going to be very picky about who gets one of their puppies. They are also going to do the required health testing. They should be members of the national parent club for their breed. If a newcomer comes to me about breeding stock, I will thoroughly check him out before selling, even with a co-ownership.

In my opinion, an individual should have a couple of years under his belt before having puppies unless he is working in conjunction with an experienced breeder.

I feel it is my responsibility to mentor and train the future responsible breeders.


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