Intro to Dogs: Q & A with a dog breeder

(photo provided courtesy of Bev Dorma)

If you’re considering welcoming a new dog into your family – and you’re sure you’d rather get a puppy from a breeder than adopt a dog from a shelter – then the next step is to figure out what breed of dog is right for you.

Attributes such as activity level, grooming requirements and friendliness are all vital when choosing which breed will suit you and your family best.

There are several great online resources to help you figure out what breed is right for you. However, discerning the best-fitting breed isn’t the hardest part of getting a puppy from a breeder. By far the most difficult – and often most frustrating – part of the search is finding the right breeder.

Bev Dorma, from Cobble Hill, B.C., has been heavily involved in dog breeding for over a decade. She and her family are part of a group that breed and show Havanese, the national dog of Cuba. These little dogs are intelligent and affectionate, making them a great family pet.

Q: How did you first get involved in dog breeding?

A: Besides loving dogs, I am a very maternal person. I love babies and puppies. I am into breeding more than some, I guess. Basically, I always wanted female dogs and pups since I was little. I got started in breeding with bloodhounds for the police department and search and rescue. That’s how I learned the importance of breeding to the standard and the best health possible.

Q: What is a “responsible dog breeder?”

A: A responsible dog breeder is someone who works to better the existing breed. Trying to add new genes and new lines to the mix by importing dogs from all around the world to find the healthiest dogs. Good breeders health test the dogs’ eyes, their patella’s [knee caps], and their hearts. They’ll give you access to those health tests, along with all their vet records. Responsible breeders are almost always part of some association, whether it’s a national breed association or the CKC [Canadian Kennel Club] or AKC [American Kennel Club]. Breeders who are registered with the CKC or AKC have to submit their health records to the organization to prove they meet the current breed standards, so that’s always something to be aware of. Any good breeder will be more than happy to have you come visit their homes and see the dogs for yourself, too. By doing that you get to see the puppies as well.

Q: That sounds like a lot to keep up with. What is the most challenging part of dog breeding?

A: Dealing with the politics of it can be rough. Other breeders will lie about their health tests – either the results or the fact that they’ve even been done in the first place – so that can make it hard to add new bloodlines into the mix. There are a lot of people who won’t disclose health issues at all, because they’re afraid of losing money on their studs. That’s another thing, too: people get into this sometimes because they think it’s a good way to make a quick buck, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. Dog breeding, when done correctly, doesn’t make you any money.

Q: Why’s that?

A: When you do it right, when you pay for all the food, the health testing, the vet care, it adds up very quickly. You also need to learn the breed standard and show your dogs to prove that they meet those standards, which costs a lot of money. With dog shows, there are travel expenses, grooming expenses and then entry fees. Then there’s the cost of breeding the dogs in the first place, and stud fees aren’t cheap. The dog next door may be a $500-$1,000 stud fee, but I generally pay around $2,500. Then there’s importing new bloodlines. The last dog that we imported cost $10,000. So if you spend all that money and have puppies; you spend all the money to show them to up their value and prove they’re meeting the breed standard; and then at two years old they fail a health test for some reason – like a loose patella – and the dog has to be spayed and you start all over again. So, yeah it’s not a cheap hobby, for sure!

Q: You obviously have quite a passion for it, though.

A: Oh, obsessively so according to some people! But it’s what I love. I love watching puppies grow up and go on to make other families happy, whether through being a successful show dog for them or just a companion. It makes me happy, even though it can definitely make you want to pull your hair out at times. Responsible breeders do a lot for their dogs, so it’s very frustrating when you see all of these dogs – like the poo-mixes, the Maltese/Poodle mixes or Pug/Beagle mixes – that come out of really horrible breeders. And people buy them up! They have no idea! Then at six the dog has to be put down because it has pancreatitis and they wonder what happened. There’s a reason buying a puppy from any reputable breeder is going to cost more than a couple hundred bucks. We put lots of time and energy into making sure that you’re taking home a healthy puppy. So the least you could do is make sure that that’s what you’re getting, too.

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This is part two in a series on dog ownership. Part one is here; the next installment of Intro to Dogs: A Beginner’s Guide to Responsible Dog Ownership will cover the designer dog fad.

Taylor Lima

New England native relocated to British Columbia. For the past 12 years, my hobbies have revolved around animals, from 4-H club to teaching horseback riding lessons, to apprenticing under a dog trainer with more than 20 years experience. When I realized veterinary school wasn't a good fit for me, I decided to write about the things I love, instead.

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