Lifting the Breeding Endorsement
So, you have bred a litter of nice pups, and like most responsible breeders you endorse the entire litter not for breeding ("Progeny not eligible for registration") and "Not for export". You asked all your puppy buyers to sign a contract stating they understood their puppy was endorsed.
You know if you did not get this agreement in writing, the Kennel Club will in the case of a dispute lift the endorsements as the buyer can claim they were not made aware of it. You also added some information about under what circumstances you would lift the breeding endorsement; such as if the pup once adult has passed all the relevant health tests for the breed with good results, if it has been shown or worked with good results, and if any breeding plans are discussed with you, the breeder, in advance. The puppies are sold, the buyers happy, and everything is fine, you've done the right thing.
A couple of years later one of the buyers gets in touch asking you to lift the breeding endorsement on their bitch. They can prove the health tests have been done and you know the dog has been shown a few times and done fairly well, it's a good example of its breed. So you write a letter to the KC and request the endorsement to be lifted, and receive a response within a week telling you this has been done. The owner then mates her bitch and that is the end of the story.
Not Quite the End of the Story
Or is it? If you sold your puppy to an experienced breeder, already in the same breed, this could well be the happy ending to the story. The bitch is mated, has some nice pups and a few months later you see them in the show ring. However, what happens if the bitch owner is a novice? Maybe has never bred a litter at all, or only has experience of a very different breed? Well if this is the case, then you will have to become a mentor. Are you ready for it? Are YOU experienced enough?
When a novice breeder has a litter from a bitch that you have bred, the entire experience can end up being as stressful and busy as having a litter of your own. The only difference is that you don't have to clean up all the mess the puppies make! The first task you will have will be to help the owner select the most suitable stud dog for the bitch. Here you need thorough knowledge of your lines and of other lines, knowing what goes well together and what does not. Knowing about health, size, temperament, working ability, looks etc. Even though it is not your bitch, and you will not have final say in the matter, you need to spend as much time considering the choice of stud dog as if the bitch was your own. As you bred her, you will most likely have kept her litter sister, and may have plans to breed from her. Mating litter sisters to the same dog would be of little use to the breed in general, so you may need to come up with a different option as to what your own first choice for your bitch would be. Have you seen the bitch you bred recently? Do you know what little faults she has? Anything that could do with improving needs to be taken into consideration when picking the stud dog.
Next there is the timing of the litter. The last thing you will want is for two litter sisters to have puppies at much the same time -unless yours is a breed with very small litters where pups are easy to sell, or a very common breed where you live at opposite ends of the country, so that you will not be competing against each other for buyers. You need to work together with the bitch owner to decide upon a time that would suit you both.
Has the bitch owner done anything to gather a waiting list of people interested in buying a pup from their bitch? Don't assume, ask if they have. If not, suggest they leave the mating until a later season and actively start to spread the word that a litter is planned. If not, chances are that you will end up having to help find homes for the pups at the last moment.
Then a stud dog is selected and the bitch has come into season. This is when you will get the phone calls asking when to take her to stud and how often. If the mating goes well, next follows a few weeks of phone calls to ask you how they can tell if the bitch is pregnant or not. What signs should they look out for? Once the bitch is confirmed pregnant, you will get all the questions about how to feed her, about the whelping box, preparations for the birth, what day is the most likely for the breed to whelp at. This is where it will help a lot if you have experience of more than one bitch of the breed having puppies, as of course all bitches are different.
The Birth is Imminent
When the birth is imminent, make sure to always have your mobile with you wherever you go, and count on staying up all night on the phone, just like you would if it was your own bitch giving birth. At least you can lie in your own bed -just don't fall asleep! You're the bitch's breeder, the mentor, the experienced one, the rock. You're the one with all the answers -supposedly, at least. In the next few days count on plenty of phone calls asking whether this and that is normal, should the bitch act like this ? You may then, if lucky, get a couple of week’s rest, until it is time to start weaning and worming the puppies. That's when the questions will start up again. And really, at this stage, the questions will continue, even for a litter without any problems the novice will have a lot of questions and you will need to be there with answers. Not only about the care of the pups either, but about the potential buyers. How do they pick the best buyers? What should they ask? How do they know if a person is right for their pups or not? And how do they register the puppies with the Kennel Club? Should they endorse them? Should they sell any for showing? Can you come to look at them and tell them what you think of the quality? Which one should they keep? (Of course, this is something you'd look forward to in any event I am sure -meeting your "grandpuppies"!)
Then the day comes when the first puppies leave for their new homes, there are tears on the phone. And then a couple of days later a phone call -one of the buyers has a problem with their pup and what should they advice? And this, in all honesty, could continue indefinitely -I know I still ask my mentor for advice many years down the line even though she is no longer breeding.
Are you Ready for Your Responsibilities ?
So what am I saying -should no breeder ever lift the breeding endorsement of a bitch if the owner is a novice? Only you can answer that. Only you can know if you are prepared, willing and able to shoulder your next responsibility as a breeder -to be a mentor for somebody just starting out. It may sound so easy to simply ask that the bitch is health tested and shown or worked and then the endorsement will be lifted, but in reality this is just the start of a long journey.