I started Keep the Tail Wagging to promote dog rescue and responsible breeding. Our dogs add so much to our lives that I couldn’t imagine a life without them. I know that every dog and cat owner who reads this blog feels the same about their pets. I don’t know a lot about breeding, but I do know the terms “puppy mills” and “backyard breeders.” Before I judge someone for purchasing a puppy from a breeder instead of adopting one from the shelter, I thought it would be a good idea to actually speak with a few breeders.
I went to the American Kennel Club site and found breeders in their directory and started dialing for interviews. Some didn’t return my call, but several were very excited about the series. During the month of May, my goal is to publish one article a week sharing the truth about reputable breeders. If this picks up steam, then I’ll continue until breeders stop talking to me.
Shawna Whetzel – Purebred German Shepherds
My first interview was with Shawna who breeds purebred German Shepherds. I wanted to jump in my car and go to her house; she lives on a farm with horses and lots of dogs. I asked her why they chose to breed German Shepherds and learned that the breed is her husband’s favorite and a dog that he had a child. German Shepherds are herding dogs and highly trainable.
Dysplasia may be due to over breeding
I keep hearing that one reason why we shouldn’t buy from breeders is because the puppies have issues. Shawna explained that this is due to over breeding, which has led to dysplasia problems with German Shepherds. All of her puppies receive a hip check by their vet and that information is given to their new families.
Puppies are bred for a good temperament
When I asked what’s most important about a puppy and Shawna believes that it’s temperament (which is can be breed). She shared that a couple had picked out one puppy, but another actually chose them and they went home with a completely different puppy and it turned out to be a great match.
If you work with a breeder, look for a puppy with personality, good character, and a good temperament.
The one thing that Shawna shared that really made my heart sing is that she takes the time to talk to prospective dog owners to understand their expectations with their new puppy. She won’t sell a puppy to someone who wants an aggressive guard dog, because they’re showing her that they may not understand the breed.
Getting attached to puppies
I got attached to a foster in a day; I couldn’t imagine having a home full of puppies. Shawna shared that she does get attached and there are usually one or two exceptional puppies in a litter that she gets tickled about; she keeps in touch with families so that she knows how her puppies are doing.
Because we have litter mates, I wanted to know if she had a rule about selling two puppies to a family and she said that it really depends on the family. If they know what they’re doing, they’re familiar with the breed, and she’s confident that they can handle the work, then she might consider selling two puppies.
German Shepherd litter size
Her litters are usually no more than 8 puppies; but this breed can have up to 22 puppies, which is very hard on the mom. Shawna only breeds 1 litter a year, giving her dog time to rest. Her puppies are potty trained, because from the start, they learn from their parents to go outside. And living on a farm with many animals helps socialize the puppies.
Another thing that made my heart sore – in Shawna’s contracts, she shares a list of veterinarians and trainers, there is certification that the puppies’ hips are healthy, and she educations on the breed and training for German Shepherds. How responsible is THAT?
Why are puppies so expensive?
I found myself ankle deep in a litter of Golden Retriever puppies one afternoon and I wanted one. She cost $1,500. I put her down. Why so much? The price covers the cost of veterinarian visits, certifications, food and supplies. My boyfriend and I spent over $2,000 the first summer we had our dogs. Granted, some of that was me buying toys, but the rest was food, medical care (+$600) and supplies. Not to mention, having two puppies running around was a lot of work.
I now appreciate this price, because I think someone willing to pay $1,500 for a puppy has done their homework and is going to give the puppy a great home.
There’s no perfect animal and if you don’t take the time to property train your dog, and then you may not be happy with the results. This isn’t the breed, this is the owner. Understanding the breed we love is an important first step to understanding the type of training they’ll need.