Celebrate the Whippet Breed

What is a Good Breeder

by Dr. Lisa Costello, DVM

To me, a breeder is a person who has two dogs that unite sperm and ova
and produce puppies.  It is as simple as that.   I do not believe the
term "breeder" implies any special qualities to a person with regard to
their knowledge about the breed, their ability to evaluate dogs, their
ability to pick good dogs or anything else.  If you have two dogs of the
opposite sex, they breed and you are responsible, then you are lucky
enough to be a "Breeder".  This is the same definition of all the people
who supply pet stores and make puppy mills a daily reality.

What makes a *Good breeder*?  Now to me, that is the real question.
Does it mean you have to keep a puppy from each litter?  No.  Does it
mean you have to use two champions as sire and dam?  No.  Does it mean
you can only breed one litter every 5 years?  No.  Do you have to be a
member of the parent club?  No.  Do you have to plan and wring your
hands over every single litter you produce....no, not even this.  Here
is what it means to me, as a person who sees hundreds of puppies every
year from all kinds of breeders....98% of them not in my category of a
"Good Breeder":

I think you need to know your breed (this would rule out all the
Puggles, Labradoodles and all the other ridiculous mixes they sell for
thousands of dollars that are not breeds but mongrels).  This doesn't
mean you sit ringside and talk to other people or finish a Champion or
go to a lot of shows, trials, etc.  It means you are involved in the
breed for more than 6 months (or even a few years) before you breed, you
get to know people in your breed, you learn about the different familial
lines in your breed, you become familiar with the function of your breed
and most of all, you learn the health and temperament problems inherent
with your breed.  This is a tall order but the longer I am in whippets,
the less I think I truly know and I have always considered that to be a
good thing...it means I keep learning.  Good breeders don't actually
know it all and they know they don't know it all.  They learn with each
litter and they WANT to learn with each litter.

Good Breeders health test parents of litters as much as possible and
they DO NOT BREED AFFECTED DOGS.  Good breeders educate new owners with
respect to what might be in their puppies pedigree with regard to
disease and are open about breeding healthy dogs.  They are interested
in full disclosure.

I think being a Good Breeder means you take every puppy you produce
seriously and to your heart.  You are creating living, thinking beings
that deserve the best life they can have on this earth.  That does not
mean they have to run around a show ring, break out of a box on the
track or chase the white plastic bag (that's all icing on the cake).  It
means they live in homes where they are loved and considered for their
individual qualities as a living, thinking, loving dog.  Not a single
person on this list can tell me 6 litters of puppies produced in less
than 3 months time on one property can fulfill that unless you have at
least 20 or 30 people raising those puppies on a daily basis.  The
puppies should have individual attention, they should be handled on a
routine basis, have their nails trimmed, be given baths, fed good
quality food, dewormed and vaccinated appropriately and started off in
their new homes with the best possible chance (ideally knowing what a
crate and leash are as well).  The owners of the puppies from a Good
Breeder should be able to utilize that breeder as a mentor, as a friend
and as a resource of knowledge about their breed and what lifelong care

Being a Good Breeder means you will take those puppies back, regardless
of circumstance, for the remainder of their lives.  It doesn't mean you
have to keep all of them (Good Breeders don't) or control the rest of
their lives or their owners lives...but you need to be there if they
need you.  Does it mean you have to find the perfect homes?  No one can
do this on a 100% basis but having homes on waiting lists before litters
are bred sure helps.  Being a Good Breeder doesn't mean you won't ever
have problems with dogs or owners or have litters that don't turn out or
dogs that really should not be bred....it means knowing these things do
and will happen and how to navigate them successfully.

I would say the great majority of puppies I see today have only breeders
behind them, not Good Breeders.  I have seen many pups in the show ring
that are no different.  I don't think there is one definition you can
give with regard to number of litters per year, puppies produced per
decade, number of champions finished per year, field titles earned,
trials attended, etc. etc. etc. that will successfully define a Good
Breeder....it is in how you introduce those puppies to the world and how
you introduce your new owners to their huge responsibility.

In closing...consider this statistic, which I learned at a recent
lecture on puppy gentling and early training in the vets office:  80% or
more puppies today will lose their lives due to behavior than any other
single disease entity.

What this means is that the large majority of dogs who die will do so
because of behavior problems, not health issues (voluntary euthanasia).
Behavior is the main reason dogs are turned into shelters, rescues or
abandoned or euthanized in our civilized world today.  Man's Best
Friend?  Not so much anymore.  I think Good Whippet Breeders are one of
the first lines of defense in keeping this statistic to a minimum in our
breed....they choose the owners of their puppies, they help educate them
and field problems when they occur.  I think anyone seriously
considering breeding needs to think about the minds and health of the
1-13 puppies/litter they plan on producing.  If you can stomach that and
can step up to the plate....you might just be a Good Breeder.

Lisa M. Costello, DVM, MS