Breeding and Selling Puppies

26th September 2012 - in Breeding

It seems so easy -you breed a litter of pups, then you sell them. There may be some hard work in between the first and the second part of that sentence, but this seems to be how many first time breeders view their decision to breed a litter of pups. The numbers of dog breeders are increasing a lot -and make no mistake, once you have bred just one litter, you ARE a breeder. You may decide to never breed another litter again, but you are still the breeder of that one litter.

Breeders and Owners

I may be old fashioned, but when I started in dogs, there was a clear distinction between breeders and pet owners. In fact, I was in awe of breeders, and it was something I always inspired to be -one day. Breeders were people who had a great deal of knowledge -you could ask them any question about your puppy or your breed in general, and you would get an answer. It didn't matter what the question was, be it about feeding, training, grooming, health or anything else, they knew the answer or had an opinion on the subject. They went to shows and/or working tests, and they were gaining placings regularly. They were seen advertising in the breed club magazines and year books (at this moment in time there was no internet!) and they listed their achievements with their dogs. If you read the dog papers and the breed notes in them you would see the breeders mentioned week after week. To me, there seemed to be a gap the size of an ocean in between being an ordinary pet owner, and being a breeder. Thus, I always wanted to earn the privilege to one day become a breeder. I went to training classes, I joined my breed club, I went to shows both with and without my own dog, I studied pedigrees for years and read books. Every book on the breed I could find. I even had my pure pet dog both eye tested and hip scored, because I learnt that it was important for breeders to know the health status of all dogs they bred, not just the ones that were destined for breeding.

My first and second dogs both remained pets. They were shown but never gained any placings, although my second dog was graded Excellent at his first show. (This being when I lived in my birth country of Sweden, so under FCI rules.) My third dog actually did gain the odd placing at shows and even my first ever class win. But I realised that in a popular breed, this wasn't enough. Also he had the occasional bout of skin problems. If I was going to breed a litter, both the parents would have to be of very good quality indeed, so I could hold my head high when I gained the ranks of breeders.

In the end it took 23 years and several dogs and bitches before I felt that NOW the time was right to breed a litter. My bitch had been hip scored and eye tested with good results, she had been shown and placed not just the odd time, but consistently. She had good temperament and excellent general health and had even competed in obedience. Her breeder was happy for me to breed a litter so lifted her breeding endorsement, and suggested a suitable stud dog -and was then with me every step of the way. The process of breeding was new to me (in dogs, anyway -I had plenty of experience of breeding first smaller animals and later cats) but I had a good mentor, and after all the years I had kept dogs, I now felt reasonably qualified to answer my own puppy buyers' questions.

I got lucky with that first litter. My breed was rare and there were no other litters around at the time mine was born, and I got all my pups sold, apart from the one I kept back for myself for showing. I was able to pick and chose between my potential buyers and ensure my pups got he best possible homes. My mentor helped by sending enquiries my way, too.

But it hasn't always been this easy, and it will most definitely NOT be as easy for anyone breeding their first litter of a common breed -where buyers can pick and chose between dozens of litters on the ground. At this moment in time, not only do pedigree dogs have a bad name, but people are short of money and selling puppies is harder than ever.

Finding Buyers

So just how do you find buyers for your puppies? Well, the first important thing to bear in mind is to ONLY breed if you have the required knowledge and already have a bit of a reputation with your dogs, be it from shows or in any form of working tests. Let's face it, would you like to buy a puppy from somebody who had bred a litter from their first ever pet dog, and would be unable to answer all your questions? Wouldn't you rather go to somebody with knowledge, to know that you always had back up and support through the puppy stage, adolescence, adulthood and even when your puppy gets old and his health starts failing? I know what I would choose. Yet many breeders these days do just this -buy a pet bitch, have no other involvement in the breed, and a year or two later breed a litter from her. Such a breeder is of very little help to their puppy buyers. Sure, such a breeder may well be able to sell their puppies, but they often tend to sell to just anyone who asks -as they have no choice. The discerning puppy buyer would simply not go to this type of breeder and therefore you are essentially left with the buyers that have little or no knowledge, and maybe have spent little time considering whether their lifestyle even is suitable for a puppy of your chosen breed. If you act responsibly and promise all your buyers to take back any dog you have bred at any time during its life, for whatever reason, then you have a high likelihood of finding yourself with adult dogs or half grown pups being returned to you at some point. If you simply don't care and DON'T promise to take any dog back, well then your puppies may well end up in rescue centres, or as strays, and may not have the good lives we all wish for our puppies.

So, first you ensure that you know your breed, and have done some sort of competition. Then you start spreading the word about your planned litter long BEFORE the mating even takes place. If you have a toy breed that has very few puppies, you may not need a waiting list before you mate your bitch, but if you have any breed that is likely to give birth to anything from 5 to 15 puppies, then I would advice you to always have a waiting list. Don't just accept anyone for it, spend time chatting to all the people first, and find out if they are suitable owners. And bear in mind that even if somebody says they definitely do want one of your puppies, they may still change their minds, for whatever reason. Don't count on all pups being sold just because you have a waiting list!

Do advertise -both in advance of the pups being born, and after. Explain about all the merits of your bitch, and of your chosen stud dog. List hip scores, eye tests, anything of relevance to your breed, as well as awards won. Give both parents KC registered names so that potential buyers can verify health tests on the KC website (only available for certain tests and certain breeds, but never hurts to print registered names rather than just pet names). Mention that you give a lifetime's support and will take any pup back at any time, and will want a contract signed to that effect. DON'T use phrases such as "Deposit secures!", "First to see will buy!" or "Puppies flead and wormed". You don't WANT a deposit to secure the purchase of your puppies, because you want to ensure they go to the best possible homes, and therefore if you change your mind about a potential buyer, you want to be able to easily turn them down. You don't want your puppies to sound like a second hand car to be sold to the first person to see it -you have standards and want to be able to pick the best possible buyers, to ensure your puppies have good lives in permanent homes. And yes, worming must be done of all pups but surely neither your bitch nor your puppies had fleas, did they??

Where to Advertise

Where to advertise is a subject that can cause many discussions. Examples of good quality places to advertise at would include the Kennel Club's website (a small advert can be placed there when you register the puppies), Champdogs and the two dog papers Our Dogs and Dog World. Personally I find that via these, I get a better type of puppy enquiry. The person who knows enough to look at Champdogs, the KC website or buy the dog papers, usually already knows something about dogs and knows where to find a good breeder. Then there are literally hundreds of other places to advertise in. There are the various puppy selling websites which attract puppy farmers, back yard breeders and responsible breeders alike, as well as dog magazines, local newspapers, pet shop windows and vets waiting rooms. All places where you can find advert for puppies for sale. Sure, go ahead and advertise in them all -but be prepared to spend some extra time questioning the people who contact you, as invariably you will get emails or phone calls simply asking "How much for your puppies?" or "I want one of your puppies, can I collect it Wednesday?" In fact you can end up with very unsuitable enquires, but then there is always the chance that among them, there may be a gem -the perfect buyer.

Don't be afraid to turn people down. As I mentioned before, the best possible homes matter more than anything else. It is of little use to you, anyway, to be able to sell a puppy at 8 weeks of age only to have it returned as an untrained 8 month old. If you don't feel like asking lots of questions, just ask people to tell you about themselves, their family and their dog experience, and usually it will all follow automatically and become an informal chat rather than an interrogation.

Finally, never breed a litter counting on making some money. Chances are you will not. And never breed a litter unless you are able to keep one or more pups, as good homes are never guaranteed and unless they can be found, your only option is to keep the surplus puppies yourself.

  • 15th October 2012 14:05 - Posted by : Suzanne Porter

    Many thanks for this informative article.

  • 5th November 2012 13:04 - Posted by : Labrador Retriever Owner

    This is a very good article and one would expect serious breeders to adhere to these standards.

    However I have been sadly disappointed.

    I have a puppy from a breeder who most people in UK and internationally would say is a top class breeder but from 14 weeks of age I started noticing a problem with my puppy. She is now a year old and the problem continues. I am fully committed to giving her a decent quality of life and all the vet care she requires but thank goodness for insurance as the vet bills have already been hefty.

    The breeder has shown very little interest, has not replied to emails, and has avoided me at shows. When I did manage to speak to her she acted as if she couldn't get away from me quickly enough. I didn't want anything from her apart from to talk to her about it and hear any advice/experience she had to offer, but I'm now left feeling I can't/don't want to contact her.

    This has saddened me, once she's had the pick of the litter, are the rest only a means of getting some money?

    My intention was/is to get another puppy in a year or so, but now I am left wondering who to trust.

  • 2nd March 2013 19:14 - Posted by : Pat Styles

    I agree that even the 'big names' in a breed can disappoint. I bought a gsp puppy over 12 years ago from a reputable breeder who was also a judge. She had 4 generations of the pup. After a few weeks we noticed the puppy had one eye smaller than the other, and our vet referred us to a canine eye specialist. He said that whilst he didn't foresee any long term problems, we should tell the breeder about the problem for her future information in her breeding programe. I did not want to return the puppy, we loved him to bits. But I got a very cold reception to my very tactful phone call. The dog in question is now almost 13, has been a very healthy boy and a wonderful friend.

  • 4th June 2013 16:49 - Posted by : Megan Challenger

    Thankyou for this article, it is really helpful.
    Unfortunately, I too have experienced untruthful breeders. I have two Labradors and I bought my first, Bella, from this very website with the intention of breeding. I made this very clear to the breeder and she assured me both mother and father had clear eye tests and good hip scores. My previous dog had had horrendous trouble with his hips and so I looked mainly for hipscores and so when I glanced over the eye certificate and she told me it was all as it should be, I didn't think to inspect. However I know that it said that the mother had clear eyes.
    One year later, when I looked into breeding Bella, I find that the kennel club records say that her mother had AFFECTED HC. I looked into it and found it was hereditary cataracts and I was devastated to find I couldn't breed from Bella. Obviously I contacted the breeder who didn't want to know and she refused to accept that it was cataracts and was 'just a cyst'. She refused to be truthful with me and I was so saddened by this and it stills saddens me to this day. Soon after though I bought another dog, Molly! Her parents were reasonably healthy with good hip and eye scores so I expect for her to be the same. Bella remains our much loved family pet, as does Molly and we should hopefully be arranging her litter in the new year!

  • 29th July 2013 23:36 - Posted by : JKM

    To be quite honest, I am not a huge fan of the elitist attitude that permeates the show ring breeders. I prefer a breeder who is mindful, careful, responsible, and most importantly sticks to the healthy standard of their breed w/out the aesthetics of the dog taking center stage over health. In short- I prefer working/agility hobby breeders over show breeders any day! One only has to look at the destruction the GSD show dog has gone through to see what breeding for 'beauty' only can do.

  • 5th August 2013 04:36 - Posted by : Lusahn

    Comment removed

  • 22nd September 2013 18:17 - Posted by : Jan

    I don't speak for all show exhibitors but would like to say that as an exhibitor I love the breed I have chosen to share my home with and as a responsible dog owner I breed for health and quality first and foremost and I love the type that I have I look round the breeds and there are so many different examples of that breed like people they are not all the same and like people they are not all healthy. The majority of the show exhibitors that I no breed for health quality and soundness the breed they choose looks beautiful to them so the beauty bit is there in the eye of the beholder as they say. It is the irresponsible pet owners who decide to breed with the dog down the road regardless of any health issue do they have it vet checked before they go ahead no they aren't interested it doesn't matter that the dog might only have one testicle or undershot jaw that's not life threatening a lady said to me they can't see and don't seem to mind that its got a bad heart if theres a good point here at all at least they look after their beloved little bitch nurturing her through her pregnancy then the puppy farmers who don't give a damn about bitch or dog or any health issues either so please before you go bad mouthing the show people who love their dogs and enjoy a hobby which means sharing every weekend with their dog remember its only a very small minority of show exhibitors that are ruthless and don't give a damn about breeding healthy quality babies

  • 4th March 2014 20:32 - Posted by : Jacqueline Moulds

    There appears to be very few responsible dog breeders in this country as the stats on the health will prove. You appear to have done your work beforehand. My daughter also did her work beforehand. She has boxers and even drove from Scotland to Italy for her male dog.
    In the boxer world there are a few breeders who are knowingly allowing their dogs to be used fof studs when they are aware that their dogs have major genetic flaws!!!!! Genetically flawed dogs should never be used for stud and should not be allowed in any show ring and neither should their offspring!!!!!

    It is however, very much a closed shop with the breed council having on its panel the very worst dog breeder!!!!!!

  • 11th March 2014 18:33 - Posted by : K Watson

    I have been searching for a puppy to join our family for some now and have been careful to research each one. I thought I had found the perfect pup today and was shocked and disappointed to find that the parents had not been health tested, probably due to the fact that one their parents had a hip scores of 54!! There should be laws about breeding!

  • 26th May 2014 09:08 - Posted by : kate

    Comment removed

  • 12th March 2015 14:55 - Posted by : Sarah

    I sold a puppy to a family 2 weeks ago who already have a dog, that dog sleeps upstairs. The puppy would not settle downstairs at night for the new owner, so she is upstairs, otherwise she cries all night. Now the owner is telling me that when she is out the puppy, mow 10 weeks old, cries and barks. she is not with the other dog and the new owner does not want to leave them together as there is a huge size difference. the puppy must be so stressed by now . I am worried. should i offer to take her back and should I offer a full refund???? just dont know what to do.

  • 12th June 2015 18:32 - Posted by : Claire crofts

    Hi Sarah what did you do? I'm in a simul situation :-(

  • 17th July 2016 20:30 - Posted by : GlynervaHand Crafted

    Comment removed

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