I think I got this concept from Patricia Craige Trotter’s book Born to Win, Breed to Succeed. Basically, if you want to be a successful breeder who makes a positive impact you need a plan.
Vision, Part I – How many dogs?
I’ve noticed that many, though not all, of the breeders who have a huge impact on their breed tend to breed frequently. This makes sense when you recognize breeding for what it is: playing the lottery. Beyond selecting the parents you have absolutely no control over what genetic material gets passed on to your puppies. The more you breed, the better chance you have of hitting the genetic jackpot. [This is not an endorsement for irresponsible breeding!] The challenge is to have that kind of impact while enjoying your dogs individually and keeping them happy.
Let’s assume your breed has an average lifespan of 15 years; eventually you’re going to have multiple dogs living under one roof. I’ll also assume that your girls have their first litter at age two and have one litter per year for three years. The image below illustrates three basic approaches you could take and how each one impacts your household. Every time you add or lose a dog it impacts group dynamics and increases the risk of dog-dog conflict. How will you maintain a healthy, stable, peaceful household?
Vision, Part II – What is your ultimate vision?
With your approach in mind, create a mission statement that describes your aims and values. This will guide your decision-making, spell out your goal, and provide a path. To breed healthy, structurally sound, even-tempered puppies that are cherished in a forever home. Then create a vision statement that describes your desired future position. To conserve the breed and make a positive difference in the fancy.
Select a breed that makes your heart sing
You’re going to sacrifice blood, sweat, tears, time, and money. Showing is a huge investment by itself and breeding is definitely not for the faint of heart. This should be a breed you’re deeply invested in emotionally, otherwise ask yourself why you’re doing it.
What is your standard of excellence?
I think of this as, what characteristics does my ideal dog have? My ideal Border would have excellent breed type, balanced structure, fluid movement, and a great temperament. They would also have satisfactory OFA scores and a CH title. Basically, Wally. Break these down into their component parts (what makes up balanced structure?) so you can prioritize them for the next step.
What are your conformational priorities?
No dog is perfect and there are some traits that might be especially important to you. What traits should you focus on to achieve your mission and vision? These will come into play when choosing your foundation dogs, selecting mates, and deciding which puppies to keep. What are you willing to sacrifice and what is truly non-negotiable?
Study anatomy and physiology, breed standard and history, behavior, and genetics. You’ll be making decisions that bring life into this world! Set your dogs up for success by having a broad knowledge base. This will also allow you to run the advice of others through your mental filter to make decisions you feel confident with.
Join clubs, go to shows, and find a mentor. You’ll need them! It’s possible to fly solo but you’ll achieve greater success more quickly if you have a mentor to guide you. Just remember that your mission and vision may not perfectly align with theirs so sometimes you’ll respectfully disagree. A good mentor should expect this!
Acquire an awesome foundation
Your foundation bitch should be as close to perfection as possible since your entire breeding program will be built around her. That being said, no dog is perfect so revisit your priorities and figure out what’s most important to you. What are you willing to spend time “fixing”?
You don’t need a stud dog
Two reasons: money and genetics. At first glance it seems a lot cheaper to own a stud dog since you get to cut out all the stud fees and vet bills that come with using an outside stud. You might also think you’ll make some money on stud fees. How do you find out about studs that are available? They have ads in magazines and show every weekend, which costs thousands of dollars. Unless you plan to do that it’s unlikely anyone will approach you about using your stud.
Genetically you’ll be limited within your own breeding program, assuming you’re trying to avoid inbreeding. You can use your stud on your own females but not the next generation, so ultimately you’ll have to use outside studs anyway.
Remember that, above all else, your dog is your companion. Enjoy the naughty puppy phase and make training fun. Showing should be a big party! Showing and producing puppies is just a tiny part of your dog’s life. Most of it is spent being your best friend.