Here is my question to her:
> Sylvia, I want to thank you for bringing up so many very interesting and
useful ideas over the last three weeks. I’ve been reading with avid interest.
> I’ve also been sitting with a calculator and a pad and pen, running a hundred
or so calculations and looking over my records for the last ten years. I’ve had
another breed and then Cardigan Corgis in that time.
> As show breeders or serious performance breeders, we feel morally obligated to
finish (or at least steadily show) *every single breeding animal,* unless he or
she has a purely cosmetic fault that keeps them out of the show ring (a tail
docked due to injury, for example). In the case of performance breeders, every
single bitch and dog is trialed and titled, hopefully advance titled. We feel
that otherwise we cannot ethically advertise show-potential or
> This is very, very seriously peer-policed; if you claim to be a
show/performance breeder but do not show/trial/title the overwhelming majority
of your bitches you will find very few of the best stud owners willing to touch
your girls and your reputation among your peers will be pretty low. Which is, I
think, proper–if you can’t put your money where your mouth is you shouldn’t be
claiming to make puppies that will show successfully. It really is an ethical
> What I see as the investment to get a bitch in shape to breed (as someone who
shows, but I believe the investment to be as high or even higher for the
performance breeders) is the following:
> 1) Normal feed/vet bills for two years (about $2,000). I do not do shots
beyond puppy shots and I do not run to the vet at every squeak–this is the
annual exam, SNAP test for hw/Lyme, rabies when needed, normal blood panel and
any necessary meds, an average of one visit per year for minor injuries or
illnesses, plus 300 lb of chicken, organs, and veggies per dog (I use a
restaurant supplier, so raw feeding is MUCH less expensive than kibble for me).
> 2) Showing and associated expenses (travel, training, equipment, grooming,
etc.). This runs from $500 per point awarded to over $1,000 per point awarded
depending on whether a handler is used. I would say a minimum amount to finish a
very nice bitch is $10,000 or so (that’s puppy K, additional training, handling
classes, ten weekends at the shows with associated hotel, car, meals, grooming,
etc.–the whole package from birth to age 2).
> 3) $1,000 in health testing (hips, eyes, heart, thyroid, brucella–doesn’t
include elbows, vWD, etc. because those are not endemic in my breeds)
> 4) minimum of $1,000 for a stud fee, which is substantially cheaper than
raising and finishing my own stud dog (he’d be ten to fifteen grand to finish
and special, and another grand or two a year to maintain, so it’s a lot less
money to pay a stud fee). Double that if I have to do an AI.
> 5) minimum of $2,000 per litter to get puppies from birth to eight weeks. If I
have a c-section, double that (my last section was $1,600). That includes feed,
worming, equipment, supplementing, vet checks, airline approval, etc.
> That’s a total investment of a *bare* minimum of $16,000 to get to the point
of having ONE litter go out the door. It has been a LOT more than that for most
of my puppies. You can see that the costs would dramatically increase if I had
to purchase her as a puppy, if she had even one health crisis, if I used a
handler, if any breedings did not take, if I had a c-section, if she took longer
to finish, etc.
> Each additional litter requires $5,000 (the cost of repeating relevant health
testing, stud fee, raising the puppies, and normal feed and vetting for her for
> In other words, at normal puppy prices for my breed (about $1000 per puppy on
average), if she has six puppies per litter, even under ideal conditions she’d
have to produce SIXTY-SIX puppies, eleven litters, before I made even a dollar
of profit. At litters one and two, on paper I’m ten grand and nine grand in the
hole, respectively, which is pretty close to what really happens as backed up by
my tax returns :).
> And that’s what happens if I don’t keep anything from her! I’d normally keep
at least one puppy from each litter.
> Even if I doubled the puppy price (which would be laughable–NOBODY charges
that much in this breed) I’d be well into my third litter from that one bitch
before breaking even.
> I know you have specific guidance on the money end of things in the book, but
I didn’t see a breakdown like the one above. And so I have sat for three weeks
with my calculator and my notebooks, and I still can’t make it work.
> Is there any way for show/performance breeders, who believe very strongly that
1) successfully shown parent dogs, and 2) very careful stud selection, so you
are routinely paying stud fees even if you have boys at home, MUST be part of
the “ethical” definition for a breeder, to even break even?
> Joanna K.
> Cardigan Corgis, NH
I have never heard that [she is speaking of the obligation to show every parent dog] before! You would
think that with all the time I spent in the profession it would have come up
somewhere!? If you have two bitch sisters, you would show both of them? What
about brothers? Are you also “morally obligated” to campaign your finished dogs?
How long? Till they reach #1 or until they are too old to compete anymore?
I don’t believe morality has to do with showing or competing with your dogs. It
may be easier to sell puppies that way, or it may mean that it would be more
difficult to place a puppy in a show home, and if the pedigrees behind your
breeding stock are completely “blue collar” you really can’t claim to be
breeding performance quality puppies. Morality, for me, has to do with
misrepresentation, stealing, lying, cheating, abusing animals or children. Just
because you and your friends in your breed have this philosophy – doesn’t make
it a moral judgement. It is a philosophical belief. This is very different than
feeling that you are morally superior to those who do not have the resources to
show dogs every weekend! Maybe you have a breed with small numbers. Take a
Bloodhound to a show with 4 dogs and you have an automatic 5 point major! Your
dog will get “finished in a few weekends” – but take a Labrdor bitch and you are
going up against literally huge numbers just to get a 3 pointer. If you have
political judges that know the professional handlers, you may never finish the
bitch without paying for a pro to handle her! ait is a necessity to limit your
showing to only your best candidate. Sometimes showing has more to do with
attitude in the dog than to quality of its structure or gait. Same can be said
for hunting tests and field trials – a tough hard dog will do better in Field
Trials than a soft, pliable dog. It takes incredible focus and heart to qualify.
that doesn’t mean the dog isn’t high quality for breeding and regular hunting.
I looked over your “calculations” and never in my life did I spend $2,000 a year
to feed one bitch or to provide routine veterinarian care. I would never charge
my showing hobby expenses against my kennel profits. That is an activity you
elect to do for your own pleasure. You aren’t winning purses or earning million
dollar prizes! I can see writing off your stud dog because that makes more money
for you if he is titled. A stud dog is a genuine investment. Your kennels must
be the equivalent of the Hilton for a dog.
You are right – I don’t think my book applies to what you perceive as
Professional Dog breeding. And maybe the breeders that you associate with are of
your same mind set. If it is morally wrong from their point of view, or because
of their unique moral obligations they believe it is impossible, to actually
make a living from breeding dogs then nothing in my book will be of help to
them. when someone is already locked into that way of thinking – they are almost
embarrassed if they make any money on their puppies. It makes them feel guilty!
I believe this simply reinforces my claims that hobbyist breeders do not
appreciate the value of their puppies. If something costs $5000 to produce why
would you sell it for $1000. I am not altruistic and I never claimed to only
breed dogs exclusively for the improvement of the breed. Hence the designation
of “Professional Breeder”. Websters defines “professional” as “engaging in some
activity as a renumerated occupation” So if you are not making a profit you are
not a Professional Breeder.
Thanks for your comments and for this important discussion. Sylvia
Begin me (Joanna) again: I have spent many hours looking for the records of the Labradors from her kennel. Remember, she claims to be a 30-year breeder of champion Labrador Retrievers. In fact, she has produced hundreds and hundreds of dogs in that time. She has finished FEWER then TEN, verifiably, and possibly fewer than FIVE. I believe you can see above why she was able to make so much money, and how she intends you to do so.