Standing on My Soapbox

I am going to climb onto my soap box for this blog, so I’d suggest that everyone buckle up, please keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times, and hang on.
The “blurb” for my blog says that I am animal lover and a dog show addict. I have no problems admitting that I breed dogs—collies to be exact. I will also admit, very quickly and readily, that I have never even come close to breaking even with this hobby/business. Anyone who makes money selling puppies and doesn’t at least let you see mom to said puppies, doesn’t show (and I’m not talking about only conformation), and has a website full of cute puppies with nary a mention of AKC titles of some kind—RUN away as fast as you possibly can.
Because of the new APHIS guidelines, I am lumped into the same category as a commercial breeder because I have more than four breedable females on my property. Even though three of the six females are too old to ever be safely bred, under these new guidelines some APHIS inspector is going to determine their breedability, ignoring my own concern for those geriatric girls and even my girls’ veterinarian. At this point, spaying one of those girls would be the same as subjecting a ninety year old woman to a complete ovarian-hysterectomy. I very deeply resent being categorized as a commercial breeder. I am a reputable breeder.
There is a HUGE difference between a commercial breeder and a reputable breeder. As a reputable breeder, I do health testing on all my breeding stock. That means I do routine thyroid function testing (because as a breed, collies do tend to have a lower thyroid function than other breeds); I study pedigrees—not just to determine where to breed my girls or if one of my boys will bring to the table what a female needs to improve her, but because I want to know what I am breeding will be genetically sound; I do eye testing of my puppies and CERF my breeding dogs; I do the MDR1 mutant testing. Ask a commercial breeder what health testing they do with their dogs. The answers might surprise you. Or, maybe not…
Even though I am no longer a member of my parent club (that’s a whole other story), I attempt to abide by the code of ethics put forward by the Collie Club of America. I attend dog shows where I allow what I have bred to be judged as to how closely my breeding program conforms to the standard of perfection as set forth by the Collie Club of America and approved by the American Kennel Club. How many commercial breeders even follow a standard, other than “If the check doesn’t bounce, it’s all good”?
I am available all the time for the people who own one of my “furkids.” I still get Christmas cards from a few of them. I answer questions, offer solutions, make suggestions. I am responsible to that puppy for his/her whole life. If there is a problem with one of my puppies, I want to know about it. I want to help that owner. Think you could call a commercial breeder if there is a problem with your puppy? And if you bought that puppy from a pet store, do you even know how to contact your puppy’s breeder?   
Yes, my dogs live outside. They are a double coated breed, developed and bred to work sheep in the Scottish Highlands. I’ve never been to the Highlands, but from what I understand—it’s cold there. It’s often wet there. And, they have winter—with snow. Even though my collies live outside, they don’t live in small boxes. They have large kennel runs. There is no way on God’s green earth to develop muscling, bone, and proper body conditioning without exercise and they get plenty of it chasing my chickens and the horse. 
Yes, I have sold a few puppies sight unseen, but that was ONLY after long telephone conversations, at least three letters of recommendation (one of which MUST be from the prospective new owner’s veterinarian), calling the people who wrote those referrals, and then and only then, will I sell that puppy.  A few times when I insisted that the prospective new owner come to my house to get their puppy, I lost the sale. Frankly, I’d rather lose the sale than put a puppy from a breeding I have planned for over a year into a home where the new owner isn’t willing to come to me to get that puppy. 
My companion puppies are sold on a contract that insists the puppy be neutered before that puppy is six months old. The main portion of that contract though states that if at any time in the life of the puppy the new owners cannot or will not continue to care for the puppy, I get that puppy back. PERIOD. This is non-negotiable with me. How many commercial breeders will take a puppy back that doesn’t work out? Or a geriatric that the owners decided just won’t work with their newborn child so the dog was dumped in a shelter? (Yes, that happened to one of my “furkids” and I drove three hours to get that old lady and her companion that I didn’t even breed. They lived the rest of their lives on my couch. Thank God she was microchipped. When I sell my dogs, that chip number stays registered in my name.)
As I reputable breeder, I offer myself as a mentor to people who want to become involved in this hobby of breeding and showing dogs. That isn’t to say that I know everything there is to this crazy life, but after thirty-five years, I do know a little bit. Without mentoring, newbies coming into the breed and the sport burn out fast, become completely disillusioned, and leave. Where is the future of a breed if there are no mentors and no one to mentor?
I fully understand that there are some small hobby breeders who do not show in the conformation ring, obedience ring, or sporting events. Most often that reason for not showing in conformation is listed as “politics.” Yes, Buttercup, the dog show world is cut-throat and it can be political, but if you do your homework, learn how to handle your dog to his/her best advantage, and have a good dog, those things will overcome the perceived “politics.” Another reason listed by some hobby breeders is the people in the dog show world just aren’t nice people. You’re right. Some of them aren’t. Some of those people live and die by those championship points because those championship points mean their breeding program conforms to the standard of perfection for their chosen breed. Most of us are able to leave that competitiveness in the breed ring. What happens in the breed ring should never affect what happens outside of the ring. For the most part, dog show people are good people. If you had a bad experience with some people in the breed you’re involved with, find other people in that breed. Find your mentor.
I’d like to think I’m good people. And, I’m really tired of being lumped into the category of commercial breeder (read puppy mill). I am reputable breeder.

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