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What does it mean to be a dog breeder? by Dr Martina C. Hitschfeld,

The following is reprinted with permission by the author, Dr Martina C. Hitschfeld, veterinary surgeon, reproduction specialist and Chihuahua breeder based in Chile.

Martina, like our own Tracey Tonkin, is that rare creature - a veterinary doctor with postgraduate specialty in reproduction (although Tracey is still in the process of achieving her Masters Degree in Reproduction at Massey this year). Martina recently posted this in Spanish so I apologise if some of the translation is less than perfect, but it is a wonderful explanation of breeding and the dedication required to be an ethical and responsible breeder.

What does it mean to be a dog breeder?

What does this mean? Occasionally or professionally – it means you can make breeding your "Hobby", or make it an economically sustainable job, which, in either case, must be carried out under the premises of responsibility and ethics.

Ethical and responsible means:

  • Being ethical is ensuring all the dogs have regular health exams as well as a screening of possible diseases common to the breed and understanding what they could pass to their offspring (I have talked about this before).

  • Being ethical means not selling a puppy to just anyone, no matter how much we need the money. It means researching the homes where our puppies will go, as well as making sure they get the best home possible.

  • Being ethical is being able to share with other breeders your work and your triumphs, whether it's your experiences, or your breeding.

  • Being responsible is keeping your dogs in the best conditions possible, no matter if you live in a small house or on a large plot. It means you will only have the dogs that are fit for that space (if you live in an apartment may be perfect if you have a few dogs in kept in excellent conditions, well socialised and taken on their daily walks). On the other hand, living in a large area may not be ideal if you don't have a proper management plan, putting your dogs at risk.

  • Being responsible is to schedule both work, economic and physical, for every mating and litter we schedule.

  • Being responsible is to sleep side by side next to our litter the first weeks of life, especially for first mothers.

  • Being responsible is to register with the corresponding institutions, each and every one of our puppies.

If a person is not able to comply with these minimum criteria, they cannot call themselves a dog breeder, simply a "dabbler" of dogs, which brings new lives to the world without fulfilling a series of requirements minimum to ensure at least the first step.

There are some things from my personal experience that I would like to add. A balanced dog can change the life of a person or a child for good (very well), and therefore we can make others happy by sharing our work.

But on many occasions, the cost of our breeding have exceeded the benefits, especially in studs that we have invested a lot. We have gone into debt importing a desired line, improving kennel infrastructure, buying our dogs better food, or to taking a dog in need to the best specialist. On each of these occasions, the cost may have been the value of dozens of puppies we have sold.

Also, we strive never to suffer so-called "Breeder's blindness" (kennel blindness). We know there is always something we can do better.

A breeder should never fail to recognize the work of another breeder from whom they have acquired a puppy, hide their dogs under their kennel name, or ignore the words of someone who trusted one of their dogs to them, especially if they gave you an outstanding puppy to bring into your breeding lines.In my case, I am a veterinary doctor with postgraduate specialty in Reproduction, Neonatology and Theriogenology, who has been breeding for more than 15 years part-time and then 8 years professionally, who has brought hundreds of litters to the world. I have dogs who come many kilometres from their homes in the city to my clinic so they can have better place to live. We have built a fully equipped, purpose-built clinic. I have practiced years to be able to perform surgery and have also studied anaesthesia, intensive care and emergency medicine.

At out clinic, we provide intensive supervision days before and days after a dog has its puppies. We perform ultrasounds every 2 hours in dogs to term, we have a team of people in charge, who have come from distant places throughout the world who have participated in many exhibitions in different countries, who study which puppy may or may not reproduce (having females of 4 OR 5 years never crossed), who study where each of their puppies remains and which one It's the best for every family, who knows and is clear the hundreds if not thousands of people that those little angels have made happy.

Even then, we know we have endless things to improve and learn. We still make many mistakes and mistakes, but fight day by day to be better and make breeding a professional activity, and that must be admired and respected as such. As each of the people who guided us and advised us on our way, we also do the same with others as we can. Never forget where they come from, or where they go. In simple words, a dog breeder, is a natural person, occasionally or professionally dedicated to the selective upbringing of certain canine breeds, in an ethical and responsible way using selective breeding (acquiring sound dogs with which you will seek to generate offspring), under a series of health criteria, temperament, standard attachment, pedigree study, compatibility between both progeny, and from another ethical and responsible breeder.

For the purpose of breeding the healthiest and closest to the standard possible, the ethical breeder will run a series of tests and minimum exams, according to the specialist vet, to screen for genes or diseases to that might be passed on to offspring. An example of these could be: English Bulldog (thoracic x-Ray, echocardiogram, hips and knees, exam under sedation or anaesthesia to examine palate, larynx and glottis). Exams can be from clinical, blood, DNA Tests, radiographic or echo, or even much more specific as a colonoscopy (congenital linfagectasia or early intestinal inflammatory disease). Each breeder must be previously informed and know about diseases or conditions that may afflict with the highest incidence the breed to which they want to dedicate themselves, as well as request all health exams that they consider convenient to the people of whom they will acquire them.

  • Being ethical is respecting the periods of rest of females, and in the case of any underlying pathology or condition which can put it the bitch at risk at the time of reproduction, chose to cut that female from their breeding lines.

  • Being ethical is to make a good reproductive evaluation and follow-up to our females, to be clear that at the time of the mating they are in good condition, both physical and mental, to face the process that will happen; and clear the dates from the breeding and possible delivery.

  • Being responsible is not leaving the female alone, at least one week before the likely date of birth. If you need to perform ultrasound every 24 hours in the last days of pregnancy for medical reasons this is not an option.

  • Being responsible is to keep each and every one of your dogs with the best food you can give them and take care of them until the end of their days (even if they suffer from a disease that requires a treatment or costly operation, even if from a reproductive point of view, the dog is no longer suitable or cannot give you economic benefits.

Ethical breeders are not part of the problem of overpopulation of stray dogs and animal abuse, on the contrary, they are part of the solution. I am in complete disagreement with those breeders who value puppies based on colors or other aesthetics as this says only that their selection will be guided by something not fundamental to the health, beauty and character of a particular breed, skewing the selection criteria. This can be extrapolated to other features, such as raising dwarf dogs by size.

If the motivation is to prioritize an economic benefit over the real importance of what we seek in a dog, this just shows how mediocre your work is.

We must be recognized for our achievements, and not for the few of the rest. I would like to thank a lot of people who have made this possible, both for my growth in breeding, professional and personal. We must be grateful day to day of all good breeders: anyone in their right mind, be this professional with training in the area (Biologist, geneticist, Veterinary Doctor, etc) or simply a person without any prior knowledge, but who is aware and makes all the necessary measures to advise, attend to your puppies, and always count and when necessary, by one of the suitable professionals to assist you.

  • Being ethical is to treat as much as possible, to show your specimens, in dog shows, but never to perform some kind of dishonest behaviour for achieving triumph.

  • Being responsible is to bring your plan of vaccines, parasites, and all the relevant control and health management, on the dates and with the professionals that correspond- genetic work and selection are extremely important and a responsible breeder deserves a lot of respect.

I believe that this is a description too big to cover, which would make this explanation very long, however I can give some good examples as a summary. I hope this description will serve everyone, so that we seek to improve in what is possible, otherwise not to perform a type of activity in which we are not prepared; more than bad, we are playing with lives.

To those who are on their way to become breeders and want to perform this activity responsibly, I congratulate and admire you.

Thank you, dear colleagues, owners of my puppies, handlers, breeders, families, my family, my husband and especially my parents.

Being responsible is not waiting for the last minute to get the vet who performs the ultrasound or c-section in case of being necessary, echo or radiographic monitoring is a basic and minimum test to perform (at least 2); and have a vet available in case of an emergency. It is not putting labels on our puppies, especially those rated as a lacking in the standard as "Teacup " or "miniature".

Ethical breeder do not talk about economic interests over the health of the specimens, stay away from those scoundrels!

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