I’m going to have to ask for forgiveness ahead of time: This post may well offend some of my friends, neighbors, and readers. I’m sorry – and conflicted.
I’ve been asked a number of times for my opinion about breeding dogs. Do I know a good male Jack Russell to mate with their female; would I suggest buying a puppy from that breeder who advertises puppies on the billboard by the highway; how long should they wait until they breed their German Shepherd Dog?
In each case, I probably initially appeared to be having a heart attack, what with the sudden paleness, dry mouth, sweat on my brow, and an enlarged artery throbbing at my throat. In every case in which my opinion has been solicited, my answer was that a truly responsible dog owner would find the puppy or dog of his or her dreams at a shelter or rescue group.
But oh!, my friends have unwittingly replied, we want to keep this bloodline alive, and all the puppies are spoken for already. We really want a dog who is related to all these other dogs we admire in the field. And we are looking forward to making some money on these puppies!
In none of these cases have I thought the person I was talking to had a valid reason to breed their dog.
Don’t get me wrong: I love, admire, and respect well-bred, purebred dogs – dogs whose parents were healthy, sane, sound, well-researched and thoughtfully selected (and scrupulously prepared for producing a healthy litter).
Unfortunately, these are in the minority, and more amateurs getting into breeding aren’t going to increase their numbers. There are many, many purebred dogs – “AKC registered! With papers!” – that have been produced by genetically, physically, and/or mentally flawed parents at the hands of ill-informed owners. Other people buy or adopt these “registered” pups when they are darling, and their defects are not yet apparent . . . and many, many of them wind up euthanized in shelters and vet clinics all over the country.
I don’t know a single person who has spent a significant amount of time in an animal shelter who condones anything but the most stringent, selective, limited breeding of purebred dogs. There is something about seeing piles of dead pets, day after day, that pretty much turns off the desire to deliberately see more pets get produced.
What about people who work in rescue, or the very rare shelter that doesn’t kill (or transfer away) ANY dogs or cats? (Remember, most “no-kill” facilities do kill animals; they just label these ones “unadoptable” or they transfer the “unadoptable” ones to facilities that do the killing.) Folks I know in rescue work or “no-kill” shelters are also against breeding – not because they’ve seen so many dead animals, but because they are so completely overwhelmed with the oversupply of difficult-to-adopt living animals.
Look, I tell my friends and neighbors: At my local shelters, I can find a dog of any breed, size, age, color, and temperament that you want. It might take a little time to find that young make merle long-haired Dachshund or adult apricot toy female Poodle – but it can be done without breeding. I yearn for the day that this is different, when the shelters are well below capacity and every dog can find a home within days of losing another one.
In the meantime, unless you are one of those special few, who can recite bloodlines and honestly assess their merits, who produces just a few dogs each year and is prepared to take each and every one of them back, for the life of the dogs – please don’t ask me about breeding.