What does a good breeder look like?

Turns out, a responsible breeder looks a bit like me!  Well not all of us have purple hair, although we do have a tendency to eccentricity, since our lives revolve around our dogs.

Assured Breeder Seminar

On Saturday, I went to an Assured Breeder Seminar, run by the ABS department of the Kennel Club.  It was a great day, well run, well attended (100 people) and with some very interesting talks, on the following subjects:

  • Fourteen years of the Assured Breeder Scheme; how the scheme has developed since its inception
  • The importance of health testing and screening, such as hips scoring, elbow grading and EBVs
  • Changes to the puppy contract; showing compassion and dealing with issues; and the legal implications of social media to exacerbate issues
  • The rise in illegal puppy imports
  • Breeding Licence Regulations and the DEFRA Reform
  • Focus groups to allow breeders to discuss recommendations for the future of the scheme.

I learnt a great deal and had the chance to speak to lots of lovely dog breeders.  It seems that there are in fact plenty of responsible people doing a great job, just for the love of it.  Listening to the history of the scheme and the way it has progressed reflects the way that we think about dog breeding in this country.

front row: Luna, Sunny back row: Aura, Bea, Pudding, Wispa, Chip, Busy. And me, the proud breeder!

 

Demand for dogs

It is estimated that in this country we ‘need’ around 800,000 puppies each year, just to ‘replace’ dogs that have died.  The Kennel Club expects to register around 300,000 dogs this year.  The remaining dogs will include crossbreeds and people doing a ‘one off’ litter from their family pet.  Sadly, a large number of these puppies also come from commercial breeders and illegal imports.

We were told that 73% of breeders only have one litter and only 5% have more than 10 litters.  There are around 4,500 members of the Assured Breeder Scheme.  Talking to the breeders around me, most of us Assured Breeders have had dogs for a long time and generally have around one litter per year.  That’s around 5-10 puppies, per year.  Not enough to meet demand, is it?

Breeding for health, not money

What was apparent in listening to other breeders, backing up the view I expressed last week in my post Should I breed from my dog? is that it is difficult to be a responsible breeder AND make money doing it.  It’s one or the other, generally.  This is one of the reasons that Assured Breeders do not generally have a licence from their Local Authority; we see it as a hobby only.

“Where you buy could determine whether they live or die”

Lovely babies!

Responsible breeders stop dogs going into rescue

They do this by:

  • vetting prospective owners and matching puppies to the correct homes
  • telling owners to look at alternative breeds and/or not to have a puppy
  • taking puppies back rather than allowing them to be dumped.

It is a never-ending challenge for the Kennel Club, trying to persuade dog buyers that this is the case.  Fortunately, other organisations such as RSPCA, Dog’s Trust, Battersea and the Government are now working alongside the Kennel Club to promote this message.

Responsible breeding saves money

Agria Insurance have done an extensive survey and been able to demonstrate that there is a significant saving in vet’s fees when dogs are bred responsibly.  For example, puppies from an Assured breeder are 23% less likely to visit the vet and owners spend around 18% less in vet’s fees.

Why breed?

I did a poor job of answering this question last week.  In fact we do it to:

  • improve the breed
  • continue strong, healthy breed lines
  • produce dogs that have good temperament and are fit for purpose.

Think before you buy?

One key fact that I learnt on Saturday about supply and demand should give us all pause to think.  From 2007-2016 demand for French Bulldogs went up, resulting in 3000% increase in registrations of the breed.  From 2015-16 registrations went up by 47% and this year it is expected that there will be 30,000 registrations for the breed.  There are now 31 Assured Breeders for the French Bulldog and 160 other breeders of the breed.  Wow!  Compared to just 23 listed Border Collie Assured Breeders.

In order to make so many puppies, what kind of life do those dogs have?  Who is loving them?  Are they having a litter every six months?  Are they being illegally imported, whilst pregnant, so that they can provide the puppies that the public are demanding?  What will happen to these dogs once the demand dries up?  Dumped or dead, most probably.  Please think before you buy?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

 

 

Should I breed from my dog?

What do I need to think about if I want to breed from my dog?

Discussing this round the dinner table yesterday, my father-in-law made an interesting point.  He said “If you’re breeding cows, you want to breed them to produce lots of milk.  If you’re breeding racehorses, you want them to run really fast.  But with dogs, you want so much from them.  You want to them to look a particular way, but also to have a good temperament as a pet, and to be keen to do dog sports etc etc.”  It’s a bit of a challenge, isn’t it?

As a breeder, I believe that I am just doing ‘what anyone would do’.  But is appears that this is not the case.  I want to produce the best puppies I can, who will go out there and enhance their owners’ lives.  I want them to be good with people and other dogs, to be ready and keen to learn, to be confident, outgoing dogs.  I want them to be as healthy as they can be and to live long, healthy lives.  I also want them to look fantastic!

In the last couple of days I have heard about a renowned agility trainer and competitor who has a large number of breeding dogs.  They are kept in barns and all mixed in together, so the parentage is not always clear.  They are delivered to their new owners, who do not visit and will not see them with their mum.  They are not registered as pedigrees, so they are not regulated.

I have also heard about a renowned obedience trainer and competitor who has had a fifth litter from a dog aged over 8 years, bred to a cousin probably.  Not ideal. Again, not registered as pedigrees, so not regulated.

Finally, (and most upsettingly) I have learnt that a dog owned by a show breeder who has sired an epileptic pup, has been used to sire another litter.  Because there is no proof that epilepsy is carried genetically and there is no test for epilepsy, they can do this.  Would you buy a pup, knowing that it might develop this disease?

All of these examples demonstrate that dog breeding is a minefield.  For those of us trying to do the right thing, we struggle to find dogs to mate with ours that are from healthy lines and have no temperament issues.

Why bother to breed?

The first thing to think about when considering whether to breed from your dog is why you want to do it.  Please, please do NOT do it for the sake of the dog.  I promise you it is a stressful and difficult process and they won’t thank you for it.  Many dogs hate the mating itself.  The health testing involves sedation and/or anaesthetic.  The births can involve trauma and the feeding is exhausting.   Even for a male dog, the process is hard work and stressful.  Keeping a male entire might seem like the kind thing to do, but you then have a dog being tormented by raging hormones and once used at stud, they will be forever searching for the next female.

I had watched and been involved with my mum having over a dozen litters from 7 different dogs over the years.  She had a very laid back approach and produced lovely puppies without too much difficulty.  I loved my dogs and loved the puppies, so always thought it would be a ‘fun thing to do’.

When I started, I was fortunate to have an experienced breeder to mentor me. She ensured that my dog was fully health tested and advised me about many aspects of breeding that I had not previously considered.  I have run a successful business and am a good administrator, so I have enjoyed that side of breeding, as well as producing lovely dogs.  But I had completely underestimated how emotionally challenging it would be, finding suitable homes and dealing with all the owners, supporting them through the process of taking their puppy home.

Health Testing

Before you do anything else, you need to ensure your dog is as healthy as it can be.  If you go and look at the KC Health testing page you can look up the requirements for each pedigree breed.  Of course if you are breeding a crossbreed, you should ensure that the parents have all the relevant test for their breed.  Poodles need eye testing and Labradors definitely need hip scoring, for example.  As I said, some tests involve the dog being knocked out and all are expensive.

Temperament Development

If you want to breed from your dog, you should ensure that it is of sound temperament.  This means that you need to train it.  If your dog is an uncontrollable maniac, it won’t make very nice puppies.  You need to engage its brain and develop its obedience.  You need it to be good with people, including children and other dogs.  You need to expose your dog to a variety of experiences.  It should be fit and athletic, participating in sports appropriate to its breed.

Proving your dog’s value

In order to demonstrate to people that your dog is worth something, you need to ‘campaign it’.  This means either showing it, or competing it in a sport, or having something to prove that it is not just any old mutt.  Of course eventually, if you have plenty of dogs and you produce lovely puppies, you will have testimonials and people will want to buy from you, being prepared to wait.  However initially, you may well find yourself with ten puppies and no homes for them.

Assured Breeder Scheme

Ideally, you want to become a Kennel Club Assured Breeder.  More about this scheme can be found on the KC website, looking at Assured Breeders for Border Collie for example.

Don’t do it for the money

You won’t make any!  If you go into as a commercial enterprise, you will be a puppy farm, putting the money before the welfare of the dogs.  It costs thousands of pounds and months of time to produce a litter of puppies and doing it on any sort of scale inevitably compromises the dogs.

In Conclusion

Dog breeding is an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience.  It’s certainly the best job I have ever had!  But it is also the worst; the hardest, the most emotional, the most upsetting.  Have a look at this Novice Breeder Checklist and then ask yourself: “is it worth the hassle?”

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

 

 

Happy New Year!

A good place to start?

A friend posted this on social media this morning and it seems like a brilliant idea to me.  I do already spend nearly all my time with my dogs, but over the past year or so they have become the focus of my life and I am much happier as a result.

It’s not just that I enjoy hanging out with my dogs.  I also enjoy hanging out with my dog friends and doing all the dog activities that this brings.

Help, please?

I am looking for topics to write about, so if you have any questions, queries or problems, can you please let me know?

I also want to find more ways to engage with my dogs and have fun with them, including going on holiday with them.  So if you know of any great dog friendly accommodation, please tell me about it?

It would be great to have other ways to help dog owners, so any thoughts you have about this are also welcome?

It’s a dog’s life, thank goodness.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

What is good temperament in dogs?

What does it mean for a dog to have ‘good temperament’?

How would you describe yourself to someone new?  I think my husband might describe me as being ‘high maintenance’.  Intelligent, but a bit tricky, demanding and emotional.  Others might add that I am caring and thoughtful.  My sister would add ‘feisty’.  Thinking about my own temperament makes me realise why I love Border Collies so much – we are pretty similar.

“Beautiful Border Collies, bred for better temperament and health”

I think the picture of Aura above sums her up really well.  She is looking adoringly at me, because she wants me to throw the ball!  She is an extremely loving, caring dog who is generally happy and confident, liking nothing better than to cuddle up to you.  However, she is also a bit neurotic, as she is on the ‘fussy’ side, easily spooked and a bit wired when it comes to coping with different situations.  Aura is the most typically collie of my girls.  She gets really excited when someone arrives, squeaking and wriggling around them, wanting a fuss.  Busy tends to stay in her bed when Chris arrives home, remaining calm and slightly aloof.

Aura reacts to high-pitched noises, such as the food processor, or the knife sharpener, so she starts whining and rushing about when we open the cutlery drawer, in anticipation of ‘something happening’.  If Sunny happens to be singing ‘Happy Birthday’, Aura will get hysterical with excitement and usually bite Sunny.  Not ideal.

All these characteristics are typical for Border Collies.  They are not really a problem for us, as the house is generally pretty quiet and we are easily able to manage Aura, putting her away in another room when making soup, for example.  But they are good examples of how temperament affects the behaviour of our dogs and how we need to manage them.  A great description of Border Collies and why they are so ‘special’ can be found on the Border Collie Breed information page.

What should you be looking for?

The puppy is not like her cousin.  Ounce is much more like her mum, Busy, in that she is relatively placid and easy-going.  This is what I am aiming for in my puppies.  I would like a dog that can ‘cope’ with new situations and not worry about much. I want a dog who is confident enough to go into a new, busy environment and find it interesting and stimulating, rather than stressful.

At the same time, I want my dogs to have ‘focus’ and ‘intent’.  I want them to want to learn and do things for me.  I want them to be motivated to please me, so that I can train them to behave well and ‘work’ in agility, or in school, or doing tricks.  Other breeds of dog are far more easy-going than border collies, but they don’t care about what you want so much.  A Labrador will be happy to hang out, but won’t necessarily work too hard to figure out what you want from them, unless you have sausage of course!

How do we get good temperament?

As so often, good temperament comes down to a combination of nature and nurture.  First of all, we need good lines to breed good dogs from.  I absolutely knew that Ounce would be lovely; easy-going yet engaged, loving and bright, because both her parents are like that.  I’m feisty because I’m like my mum and my son is the same (only one of them thank goodness!)

Once we have the building blocks for good temperament in place, we then need to add to this with a good breeding environment.  As you know, I have my puppies in my house at all times.  They are constantly being handled (cuddled) and I work hard to ensure that they are exposed to as many different people as possible, usually around a hundred in the first eight weeks.

I also work on some basic bits of training and expose the pups to different experiences and all the usual noises that are in a normal family home.  Border Collies are not bred to cope with noise (see Border Collie Breed information), but early exposure really helps.

Finally, I provide my new puppy owners with plenty of information and advice on how to develop their puppies over the first few weeks and months after they take them home.  They are told to take them out and about and introduce them to a variety of situations and environments.

Can you change your dog’s temperament?

I’m not sure about this question.  I know you can change a dog’s (or a person’s) behaviour, but their underlying temperament is harder to alter.  A dog will have a predisposition to cope with life, or not. What do you think?

Ultimately, we want a dog who is happy to live the life we provide for it.  A happy dog is easy to live with and means we don’t have to spend time worrying about it all the time.  We can ask other people to look after it for us, or we can go out for a few hours, without having to rush back, thinking about it howling or wrecking the house.  We can relax in the knowledge that we will have less visits to the vet because our dog is suffering from stress-related illness.

Aura is going to be taking part in the Great Big Hairy Winter Stress Study being run by the Royal Veterinary College (for more details go to RVC Canine Epilepsy Research).  A hair sample will be examined for cortisol levels, indicating her level of stress over time.  I am going to keep a record of her behaviour and activity over the next 3 months, to demonstrate any particular incidents, so that the study can see if there is a spike in stress related to these incidents.  All of this is part of a bigger study to relate stress to epilepsy in dogs, particularly collies.

I have chosen Aura because she is the most likely to get stressed – the others are too laid back to care!  Love my princess!  NB: Stress is not always a bad thing – she is my ace agility girl after all 🙂

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post. 

 

When to neuter your dog?

What is the best age to neuter a dog?

Unfortunately, this is not a simple question and as with so many aspects of dog ownership, it is subject to fashion and cultural context.  When I was growing up, I don’t think dogs were routinely neutered; it was more often carried out when a dog was becoming a problem.  Male dogs were often allowed to roam the streets, looking for a mate and puppies were very often produced through a neighbour’s dog appearing in a garden one day. Of course these things do still happen, but happily we are inching forwards into a culture where responsible dog ownership is becoming more commonplace.In the past, dog owners who were being responsible would whip their puppy off to the vet’s to be neutered almost as soon as it was brought home.  When I got my first puppy, in 1987, it was expected that he would be castrated at six months, so that his behaviour would remain more manageable.  He still cocked his leg and enjoyed playing around with Sunny when she was in season, but he didn’t hump your leg, which was good and he didn’t try to go off roaming the neighbourhood.

More recently, we are finding that it is good to allow dogs to reach full maturity before they are neutered, both male and female.  If you search online, you will find articles such as this one from the Blue Cross neutering-your-dog which say that there are a number of health benefits to neutering early, such as reducing the chances of cancers.   However, other articles cite the benefits of neutering later: “When a dog’s testes or ovaries are removed, the production of hormones is interrupted, which affects bone growth. Because the bone growth plates may close earlier in dogs neutered young, orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears may result. Neutered dogs also tend to gain excess weight, further stressing the joints. But neutering does not equal obesity. It’s more difficult to keep neutered dogs in shape, but it can be done.” taken from when-to-spay-neuter-your-dog

Personally, I think it does come down to good management.  If you feel that you will struggle to cope with an unneutered dog, get it done from the age of six months.  If you can manage for a while, leave it until the dog has reached maturity, which for collies would be around a year to 18 months.  If you can’t be bothered with the hassle, definitely get them neutered.

Yesterday I wrote about what happens to a bitch coming into season and how to manage this.  If you are prepared for the need to pay attention to your dog every 6-8 months and make sure that they do not come into contact with uncastrated dogs, then you may choose to leave your dog unneutered.

As I said earlier, I had my only male dog castrated at the age of six months.  My first dog was done in middle age, having had two litters of pups, to ensure she did not suffer from pyometra.

Pyometra is defined as an infection in the uterus. Pyometra is considered a serious and life threatening condition that must be treated quickly and aggressively. “Pyometra is a secondary infection…” Pyometra is a secondary infection that occurs as a result of hormonal changes in the female’s reproductive tract.”

Much safer to have the operation.  I had planned to have Sunny spayed once she had had her third litter.  I hesitated because I felt that it was a major operation that she did not need to have.  I can manage my dogs, I thought.  Sadly, Luna had to have a caesarian with her last litter and when the vet asked if I wanted her spayed as well, I thought ‘why not’.  I asked if it would make the operation more complicated and he said “No, it will be simpler, as it’s easier to remove everything.”  I then didn’t have to worry about post-op infection in her uterus as it had all been taken out!

Luna made such a great recovery from the operation and really rocked the shirt provided by the vet, which was brilliant compared with the stupid lampshade they usually provide.  She was moving around normally within a day or two and a month today since the op she if fully healed and back to her usual self.  On the strength of that, I decided to go ahead with Aura’s spay, which was done a week ago.  Aura is more active than Luna, so I thought it might be harder to manage her recovery.  Silly me!  She is younger and fitter than her mum, so is completely better within the week. Amazing.

Now I don’t have to worry about them being in season when I enter shows and I have less girls to clear up after.  No more worrying about dogs chasing us when we are out – at least with these two.  I am a total convert!

In conclusion

Leave it until they reach maturity, so that their bones have a chance to develop fully and normally.  Then do it!  Stop the production of unwanted dogs and make your life easier.  Then make sure you keep your dog fit and healthy, through exercise and training.

Remember..

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.

News from the Animal Health Trust

Winter Update from the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT

Exciting news!  The Animal Health Trust have sent through their latest newsletter.  Dr Cathryn Mellersh, from the AHT canine genetics team says “By the end of this year we will have launched six new DNA tests? That is incredible progress and a new record for us! We have also been extremely busy with our Give a Dog a Genome project, which launched early in 2016 with the aim of creating the largest canine genome bank in the UK. This has kept us very occupied as we’ve been busy choosing the right dogs for genome sequencing, collecting their DNA, sequencing their genomes and analysing the data.  All with the aim of improving our research in the future: this could help any breed of dog fight inherited disease, not just the 77 involved in this project.”

I have participated in their research into canine epilepsy by sending through a DNA sample for Aura.  They were looking for samples from both epileptic and non-epileptic dogs.  I sent hers through and told them that one of her pups had developed epilepsy.  They found this interesting.  Hopefully one day we will have a reliable test for this terrible disease.

I go to the AHT for hearing and eye testing for my dogs and puppies.  It’s a great facility and I know that they provide fantastic support to people when their animals are seriously ill.

the newsletter includes details of the Give a Dog a Genome project, more details of which can be found here: Give a Dog a Genome interview

What has been the most positive thing about Give a Dog a Genome so far?

Without a doubt the increased interaction and engagement with so many dog breeders, all of whom are so passionate about their breed. We do all of this research to benefit the dogs that so many people care about, so we really do need that dialogue with the breeds to be able to make a difference.

For more information about the Animal Health Trust, please visit their website.

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Border Collie Colours

What colour should a Border Collie be?

My friends and family are tired of me telling the story of the person who had applied for a puppy from the A-Z Litter when I had the two remaining black and white boys remaining.  They rang before they came to say that they didn’t want this one because they were looking for a ‘classic collie’.  This photo of him (taken by Bridget Davey Photography) went on to feature in a magazine article on Border Collies, as it was a great example of the breed.  Lol.

This morning I was asked if I would be charging more for Ounce’s puppies if they are lilac and white, like her.  I said I would not do that, because for me, others factors are more important in determining who has which puppy, as I have said elsewhere.

Yesterday I received an enquiry for a ‘brown’ puppy.  I very snobbishly replied that I breed chocolate and white or red and white, not brown.  Of course deciding whether a border collie should be red or chocolate is a bit of a matter of opinion.  Both Sunny and Luna are registered as red and white, because I didn’t realise chocolate was an option.  Now I know that reds are much lighter, like Charlie (who is registered as a chocolate :p).

Apart from a few reds, I have produced chocolate and whites, black and whites and four chocolate merles, here demonstrated by Nell, Lyra and Jumble.

The only other colour I have had is the gorgeous Chester – my blue boy.

The Kennel Club lists the following colours for Border Collies:

  Black & white Blue & white Chocolate/ Red & white Lilac & white
Solid yes yes yes yes
Tricolour yes yes yes yes
& Tan yes yes yes yes
Merle yes yes yes yes
Merle tricolour yes yes yes yes
Sable yes yes yes yes

Gold (otherwise known as EE red) can occur with all these variations, as can Slate.

Other colours: Cream, Seal  Source: Kennel Club BC colours

Someone on Facebook, Wonderful World of Border Collies, shared this infographic with me:

Amazing isn’t it?  I put a post into TheBorderCollieGroup which generated a huge response – lovely!  Personally, I don’t care what they look like, as long as they are healthy, happy dogs.  Of course that is easy for me to say when I own the MOST BEAUTIFUL PUPPY IN THE WORLD!

Remember..

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.