I probably don't need to say this to anyone who has met/read J/me/this blog, but we are very much pro-rescue. J ran the SHCV Rescue for four years, we have three dogs acquired through rescue programs and I have really enjoyed my tiny association with NVSDR. So you might be surprised that we are also pro-breeder.
A lot of people who are pro-rescue believe that while dogs are still waiting for homes in shelters and pounds all over the country, noone should be paying money for new puppies. And when it comes to pet shops that acquire puppies from puppy farms and unscrupulous "back yard" breeders, I totally agree. But pet shops and "back yard" breeders will continue to push dogs into having more and more puppies as long as there are people out there who are prepared to pay money for their second rate dogs. And anyone who has ever seen the Oscar's Law information about puppy farming will understand why that's disgusting.
So, let me be clear, when I say we are pro-breeder, we are pro responsible, peer-reviewed, registered breeding that puts the health and wellbeing of the dogs before any money-making opportunity. Breeders who strive to produce dogs with good temperament, good structure, free of health issues and meeting the breed standard. That means that these breeders must be registered with Dogs Victoria (or the equivalent registration body in their state), participate in showing or dog sports where their dogs' structure and characteristics can be compared and rated against others to help select the best dogs in their kennel for breeding, and health test, health test and health test. These breeders usually don't turn a profit, because they spend significant amounts on testing the prospective parents for genetic abnormalities, getting ultrasounds on pregnant mothers to ensure they know how the puppies are developing and rushing the mother off for a caesarian section at the first sign of distress. Then they have few litters, to ensure each mother has the opportunity to recover fully from her pregnancy before putting her through it again. Each puppy is carefully raised, socialised and matched to the best possible home, usually desexed, and only a very select few are kept entire as breeding stock.
Why should a person spend so much time and money, lavish so much care and affection on dogs and puppies when there are other dogs in pounds and shelters who desperately need homes? Well, if you want a commonly found breed, or have a general idea that you want a small dog, or a fluffy dog, or a family friendly dog, then you will undoubtedly find what you are looking for in a shelter or rescue. But if you are looking for a specific dog, to meet a specific need or desire, a good breeder will be able to supply you with a dog that has a higher than average chance of meeting that need or desire. There are no guarantees of course, but if your puppy comes with a ten generation pedigree, you can look at the dogs in those previous ten generations and expect your puppy to be mostly like its ancestors.
At the NVSDC Classic, I was racing with Czar in the Novices, and at the end of the first heat, I was overtaken by one of the Idigadog teams, who were actually racing in the Veteran class that had started behind the novices. Cooper (Sibenah I Digdogs Cooper), although he's been racing in Veterans for a couple of years, is still pulling out great times, and is known around the racing circuit as an amazing dog!
Around the same track as the Novices & Juniors, Cooper managed a winning time of 4.49, while the best Novice was 6.14 and the best Junior was 6.27. His times as an 8 year old dog are still good enough to put him in the top five of the open class. He's never had an injury and never been dropped from a race.
His family at Idigadog are quick to point out that he's not a perfect Sibe, but they saw some features they thought would make him a great racing dog, and that trust has been repaid with a great career in harness.
So, Idigadog have made careful decisions about breeding Cooper. He has been a father twice, and his puppies and grandpuppies show much of his wonderful promise, as well as having some great traits of their own. I've handled his daughters Splash (Snofall Paint It Black) and Tayzer (Snofall Black Assassin) in the Snofall teams, and they are wonderful racers that combine good traits from both their parents. His son Sully (Idigadog Coopers Sully By Teela) has been a rising star in the Idigadog team, and has fathered another promising litter of Cooper grandpuppies. One of those puppies, Ruff (Arcticstarr Taxi N Sullys Ruff), shows a lot of potential to take over Sully's spot as rising star as he grows.
There are plenty of other Cooper puppies and grandpuppies out there who combine great aspects of Cooper with great aspects of their carefully selected dams. The hope of the various breeders is that Cooper's well balanced structure, fantastic temperament, and long period of healthy running will be passed on. Therefore his 'wives' Marli (Birindi Monica Lewinski) and Teela (Arcticmoon Teela) have been selected to try and provide other positive traits that Cooper lacks, rather than females who would reinforce any issues. None of this would be possible if Cooper had been mated over and over again to whichever random female was available, as might happen with a back yard breeder or a puppy farm, or crossed to other breeds without care for the potential combination of issues like high prey drive or stubborness.
So, while its important that dogs are rescued from shelters before being PTS, it is also important that there are well bred puppies being born that are improving the breed. Hopefully, one day, more people will be prepared to pay a responsible breeder for an amazing puppy that has a high chance of turning out as the best combination of its parents and grandparents, rather than buy from a BYB or pet shop. Of course, buying from a breeder can involve waiting for an appropriate puppy to be born, rather than being able to fulfill an impulse in minutes in a pet shop (and I admit, I'm guilty of having done that in the past), as well as a myriad of other commitments. The bonus is that the cute puppy grows up to fulfill a specific need - a dog built for running in harness, without injury or issue, for many happy years!
Special thanks to the folks from Idigadog and Snofall for their help - this article has been about 9 months in the making and I couldn't have made sense of all these complex issues without their explanations. While they have provided many facts and ideas, ultimately, this article reflects my own opinions and any errors are mine.