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What makes a responsible breeder?

Responsible breeding requires time, dedication, and an inherent passion about the breed you wish to share your life with.
What makes a responsible breeder?

True responsible breeding starts off from the very first day of interest in that breed; understanding all of the breed nuances and personality traits, their environmental requirements, and their daily care routine, to know and understand if this is the breed for you.

Starting the journey to becoming a responsible breeder  

Responsible breeders will always start off with the best of stock from which they can lay the foundations of a carefully considered breeding plan. This journey starts with identifying a suitable breeder from where to purchase a foundation bitch. Most responsible breeders will breed with retention in mind – they will wish to have a litter to keep a relation, usually each time they breed. This often means that a foundation bitch may have daughters retained from her which are then bred from in the future, so her suitability in terms of health, temperament, type and overall soundness is absolutely essential. 

Responsibilities of a responsible breeder

There are many responsibilities which a breeder must shoulder when they are considering breeding, as producing a litter can have wide reaching effects. First of all they have to consider if they are in a suitable situation to breed.

Whelping and rearing

Whelping and rearing puppies takes a considerable amount of time and dedication, particularly during the period of the puppies arriving, and the last few weeks before the puppies go to their new homes.

Bitches must be whelped in a warm, quiet area, ideally away from other dogs in the household and preferably in a peaceful surrounding so they are not disturbed during the process. As a litter grows and develops the space they will need will increase, and many breeds benefit greatly from access to the outdoors in good weather – there is nothing more fulfilling than a litter of puppies playing out on the grass in the sunshine.

Making a lifelong commitment to every puppy

It may be that some of the litter will stay until they are over eight weeks of age, and a responsible breeder will always make allowances for any puppies which have not found homes by the age of eight weeks and will be able to accommodate them accordingly. As breeding comes with a life-long commitment to every puppy you produce, a responsible breeder should always be willing to take back any dog they have bred, irrespective of the age or the reason, and allowances should always be borne in mind for this as well. 

Health tests, temperament and mating

If a breeder decides they have the time, and the facilities, to have a litter, they then need to consider the suitability of their bitch to be bred from. She must have a 100% clean bill of health in the first instance, and be of the appropriate age for that particular breed to have a litter. She must have undertaken, with appropriate results, the required health tests for that breed, and she must have a suitable temperament to have a litter – this temperament will be passed on!

If a breeder is satisfied with this, they then have to find a suitable male, who should tick all of the same boxes in the first instances.  Responsible breeders will often travel the length and breadth of the country to find the most appropriate male to mate to their bitch. 

When the breeder has arranged the mating of their bitch to the most suitable dog, the ensuing nine weeks require the best of care and attention to the pregnant mother, ensuring all of her health, dietary and exercise requirements are met in the lead up to her having her puppies. 

Early weeks with a litter

When the litter finally arrives, many breeders will endure a few sleepless nights whilst they watch over their bitch with her puppies, ensuring they are all thriving, feeding well, and that the new mum is happy and settled with her litter. Responsible breeders will watch every puppy grow and develop during these early weeks, to ensure they are all maturing equally and growing healthily.  

They will also be keeping a close eye on their bitch, to ensure her health and well being – a good milk supply, adequate high quality food, and appropriate exercise and stimulation for the mother during this time is essential. 

Early socialisation and enrichment

As the litter grows and develops, responsible breeders will ensure their litter is exposed to a variety of sights and sounds associated with normal daily life. They will usually also ensure their litter has careful interaction with a number of people so that the puppies become accustomed to being quietly and carefully handled by people. Responsible breeders will provide environmental enrichment for their litter in terms of toys and play things, so the puppies can experience an array of textures and sounds as they grow on and develop. 

Finding a home for the puppies

One of the most challenging aspects of responsible breeding has to be the sourcing of good homes for the puppies which will not be retained by the breeder. Responsible breeders will carefully screen all prospective owners to ensure they meet exacting requirements and suitability for one of their puppies.

Breeders will ask many, many questions of new owners to try and ascertain their suitability as an owner of their breed and one of their puppies. Responsible breeders carefully scrutinise each owner who makes an enquiry – no stone is left unturned – and will be comfortable in suggesting to someone that now is not the right time, if their situation is not suitable for that breed at present. 

A responsible breeder will send their puppies off to their new homes with a plethora of items to prepare their new owner in the best way possible. Food, toys, treats, accessories, advice, insurance, all sort of things to ensure the addition to the family has the best start to their new life. 

The ongoing responsibility

Responsible breeding brings with it lifelong dedication and commitment. Breeders will always be on hand to offer advice and assistance whenever and wherever it is required, and will always do the best for any dog they have bred – no matter how old or young it is, or even how far away it lives. 

Responsible breeders dedicate their lives to their dogs, and their emotional commitment to every dog they breed is never to be underestimated. A responsible breeder will keep in regular contact with the owner of any dog they bred, and will always be at the end of the phone. Many new owners find they gain not only a new addition to the family with their new puppy, but a new friend in the breeder of the dog, whom they can call upon at any time for advice and support. 

This article is written by Sarah White and David Alcorn.

About the Author

Sarah White is Breeder Channel Manager for Agria Pet Insurance. She's also a huge dog fan and has some exceptional experience owning, breeding and showing the very stately Borzoi.

More articles from Sarah White

About the Author

Show dog handler, trainer and behavioural adviser, David Alcorn is an experienced Weimaraner breeder. In 2024, David won the Gundog group title at Crufts 2024 with his 4 year old Weimaraner, Hendricks, and competed for the coveted Best in Show title.

More articles from David Alcorn

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