Thanks for joining me for a special episode. Normally my podcast is written for breeders, but today, I have a love note for all the wonderful owners out there who have chosen to buy a dog from an honest breeder. Today’s episode is for you, I want to share with you all the things I wish you knew about working with an honest breeder.
Who am I? My name is Julie Swan and I have been breeding since 2014 and it is my full time job. I have sent home over 250 puppies and I love what I do.
First off, I want to applaud you for looking to buy from a breeder, you are helping to solve the over-population problem by doing so—sounds counterintuitive right? Has a friend given you a bit of a guilt trip over buying a puppy and not adopting from a shelter or rescue? Have they give you a hard time about spending the money on a high-quality dog? Rest assured, you’re actually part of the solution. Here’s why: when you buy from a breeder, you are supporting a process that has been meticulously thought out and designed for your success. There are thousands of decisions in breeding, everything from selecting the right breeding dogs, to health testing, to puppy rearing, to managing multiple dogs at our homes, to managing nutrition, to finding the right buyers and setting them up with the right dog.
The thing is, at the end of the day, after all that work, we aren’t successful until you are successful as an owner. If we give you a dog that creates more of a burden in your life than a pleasure, then we failed. We failed you and the dog you got from us. When you buy from a shelter or rescue, they don’t gauge their success on yours, rather, their success is determined by inventory, how quickly they can turn inventory and, ideally, the lack of inventory. If you have problems with an adopted dog, it doesn’t become their problem until you decide to return the dog. With us breeders, it becomes our problem as soon as we are aware of the problem. Now, usually, we don’t take on financial responsibility, but we want to help you find the solution. Dogs are living creatures, and they have some crazy in them, getting into things from time to time, but that’s why we are here.
This isn’t just breeding, but also support. My goal is to not only give you perfect potential in a puppy, a puppy that can grow into your dream dog, but I want to help you make the best decisions for your dog so that you are successful with your dog. I can take my expertise and experiences and help you find solutions for your problems, everything from helping you find a good dog food so that your dog is healthy for the long-term, without bad vet bills or excessive shedding, to helping you make a plan for your puppy that prevents maladaptive behaviors.
As a breeder, our specialty is gestation and raising puppies. And while we are familiar with the quirks of our dogs, most of the time, we breeders aren’t veterinarians, nor trainers. It’s a balance of knowing our dogs, sharing what we know, but also knowing when to tell you to get an expert opinion from someone else.
I want you to look at us breeders as members of your team. You are the owner, that makes you the CEO, but let us be on your Board of Advisors, next to your vet and your trainer. We want to help you build the relationship of your dreams with the puppy you got from us. Your success is our success.
We also really appreciate it when you reach out. Obviously we love seeing pictures and videos of our dogs, hearing how they are doing, but if you’re having difficulties, this is also helpful for us to know, even if it is a little hard for you to tell us. When we know where you struggle, we can learn solutions, but more importantly, we can adjust our breeding programs to prevent those issues in the future. So please, let us know when something isn’t working.
And, should life happen, and you can no longer keep one of our dogs, please bring it back to us. We will gladly accept any of our dogs back, at any age, in any condition, no questions asked. We have people contacting us for our dogs all the time and we are well-suited to find a great home for your dog, should you need it. It helps a dog to return home, sort of reset, and then find a new home, it is much less stressful than a shelter or rescue, and it feels and smells like home.
It is because we always take our dogs back that we are not contributing to the overpopulation problem, we aren’t creating a burden on society. We accept that burden when it arises. By you buying from us, you are also supporting responsibility in dog ownership by never needing to surrender a dog to the shelter because even if you have a problem, there’s a built-in solution.
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I know it can seem a little bit worrisome filling out a puppy application, being worried about filling out something wrong and being rejected. I want to let you know that we aren’t the Wizard of Oz, we aren’t that cool. Rather, we want you to have success, so that means that we want to make sure you are prepared to have one of our dogs.
Each breed has drives that were bred into the dog over generations and generations, allowing the dog to perform incredible tasks and assist us humans in our life. As we have evolved in our culture, we need dogs less and less for day-to-day tasks, and more and more they are becoming companions. There are certainly some working tasks that dogs are still managing, but chances are, if you want a dog for a task in your household, it won’t be as intense as it used to be for the breed. Such as a German Shepherd bred to work in prisons will probably be a little intense if you have a 3-year-old.
When planning for success with your dog, you want to be sure to understand the type of drive, for example, herding, hunting, guarding, that your dog has, as well as how much drive the dog has. Think of drive like a slider bar, and so our goal is to get you the puppy that has the bar slid to the right spot for your family and lifestyle. Misaligned drive, between the dog and the lifestyle the owner leads, is the number one reason that owners struggle with their dog, and a major reason that trainers are called in.
As breeders we understand that we need to adjust drive to fit into with the lifestyle of our buyers, this also means if we tell you that you aren’t a good fit for our dogs, it isn’t rejection, we are trying to save you from a bad fit that will make you want to pull your hair out.
There really aren’t better or worse dogs, but there will be better or worse dogs for you and your lifestyle and, as honest breeders, it’s our due diligence to set you up with the right puppy for you, the one with the best potential for what you are looking for.
This is why we hope you’ll be flexible with some things like color or coat pattern, within a litter there will be different personalities, different levels of drive, and different temperaments, we want to set you up for success by getting you the best puppy in the litter for you. Again, there aren’t better or worse dogs in the litter, but some will be better or worse for you.
This also goes with timing. My hope is that your mindset has shifted from “I want to get a puppy now,” to “I want to get the right puppy for my lifestyle.” Placing priority on the right puppy will make the entire journey of dog ownership much more rewarding. Remember, it’s a considerable time commitment, I’d rather you wait a few months to get the right dog and have a perfect match, instead of getting a poor fit right now.
Let us help you figure out which one will be best. But since you know your life and lifestyle much better than us, you’re a key component to this process. This is why we really appreciate it when you tell us the truth about your life, the good and bad. If you don’t have a great fence, it’s okay, but let us help you figure out a solution. If you work a lot, let’s find a dog who can handle the alone time or maybe help make a plan for a dog walker or doggy daycare.
It’s not my job to judge you, nor your lifestyle, my job is to help you find a dog that will thrive in your lifestyle and improve your quality of life. If we can get you the dog that will improve your quality of life, I know you’ll give the dog a high quality of life in return.
I also want to share a few things that I wish buyers understood that often cause confusion or can come across the wrong way.
First off, many times not all the dogs live in our homes, this is okay! In fact, it’s often safer to have facilities for the dogs where they have their own space and can’t interact with one another negatively. For example, at my home, I have 9 studs, it would be impossible for me to have them out at the same time, they would get into it, especially if a female is in heat. For their safety and peace of mind for us all, I have my dogs in their own areas, they have different pens, exercise runs, and I’m constantly rotating.
This is about safety more than anything, but it also prevents unwanted breedings, and allows for each dog to get their own individual care and food, sleeping in peace.
Not having all my dogs in my home doesn’t mean I don’t love them, it is my love for them that has me creating a facility that appropriately addresses their needs.
Another question that often confuses buyers is why we breed back-to-back, as in every six months when the dogs come into heat. This method is actually better for the fertility and health of our mama dogs. Unlike humans, dogs don’t shed their uterine linings each time they have a heat. In fact, the bleeding for dogs is actually like a billboard for the males that says, “hey! I’m coming in season soon!” Not the release of the lining. The only time a dog sheds their lining is when they have a litter, so in order to prevent the stacking of linings (which complicates pregnancy and the birthing process) we breed back to back. Occasionally, we may skip a heat cycle for an event or because the timing isn’t good, and this is okay once in a while, but usually not standard.
We also sometimes rehome our retired breeders. This isn’t because they are useless to us after they are done breeding, but it is instead for their quality of life. I have 4 females in my current breeding program, let’s just say they breed for half their life (it is usually less), if I kept all my breeding females until they passed, I would be managing twice the number of females at any given time. That means I have to spread my attention across 8 females instead of 4 and that’s just females, not males. It would be unfair to spread my attention so thin. It is much better for the retired dogs to go to a home where they are one of the only dogs, they’re doted on, and maybe a little fat. If you want to get a retired breeder, they’re usually amazing dogs, they are generally extremely healthy as they were selected to be breeders, and they’re usually very easy-going because they are used to a bit of chaos living with so many dogs.
I am going to be picky though when retiring these dogs. They have been with me for so long, and so they aren’t blank slates, they are established in some of their ways. They’re sort of like how people dating in our 30s and 40s, have a little emotional baggage—should we call it experience?—and we have some non-negotiables. Selfishly I wish I could keep all my retired dogs, so I’m never in a rush to find them homes, which makes it easier to be picky and wait for the right fit.
I breed full-time, and a lot of us, although not all of us, do. Yes, we do profit from our dogs, but that profit allows us to give them the best care. I never hesitate to take a dog to the vet because I have the financial means to do so. I buy quality dog food because I know it makes healthier dogs and healthier puppies for you. I don’t have to cut corners because I have the resources to do things the right way. When you buy from an honest breeder, you are supporting honest practices in dog breeding. It’s sort of like spending a little more on an engagement ring so you aren’t buying a blood diamond.
The other thing you are paying for is our ability to be there for you, for the long haul. Once I became full time I could spend so much more time on research, learning new techniques to raise better puppies for you, I was able to spend more time talking with buyers, new and old, so their needs are always met.
In exchange, you get to have high expectations for your dog. You can expect a lack of health issues, you can expect a support network, you can expect a certain temperament and drive. Buying from an honest breeder minimizes the unexpected, so you can increase the likelihood of getting exactly what you are looking for in a dog.
Having that said, puppies are potential, they aren’t finished products. My hope for you is to embrace the journey. Look at your new puppy like an exciting project and a pathway to delightful, and occasionally ridiculous, memories. When you’re struggling, reach out, let us help you, we want you to be successful with your dogs and have it live up to everything you could have hoped for.
Thank you for choosing to support honest dog breeding, the true solution to the overpopulation problem. If we do our job right as breeders, the shelters and rescues won’t have a job.
Thank you Brian, a fellow veteran, for giving me the suggestion for this podcast.
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