A conversation I had with another breeder (not Cardis) had me thinking about this.
Aside from your normal conversations, Christmas cards, etc. with puppy owners during the course of the relationship (and everybody knows that some owners stay with you forever and some never call you again), and the normal blog posts and group e-mails, when do you make a special effort to contact owners?
For the first few weeks after the puppies have left, I usually call and e-mail around a LOT, as owners report different things to me and I want to communicate them to the others.
But after that I have to say that for me not too much gets to that level. I think I called the bitch owners when Lucy died, because she died from spay complications (not health or genetic – it’s a giant-dog problem with anesthesia and vets inexperienced with 140-lb dogs) and I wanted the owners to know the lessons I’d learned from the experience. I was very glad I did, because one of her daughters had similar issues and was pulled through.
I’d also call around if something suddenly changed about how they should plan their life with their dog, like if I found that their dog’s mom had cardiomyopathy and they were thinking about breeding their dog. But there are very few owners like that, because I never liked to sell to show homes. (It’s wonderful that there are breeders who do, but I just hated the pressure of the dog “turning out” and I was a lot happier with pet homes.)
I don’t call if whatever event or health issue or whatever won’t affect their dogs’ lives, or won’t make them make different decisions. If I own the mom I’m not going to call about lipomas or mammary tumors any more than I’d call because she was going grey. If I own the dad I’m not going to call if he comes back with a minor thyroid thing that doesn’t need medication (unless, of course, they are breeding their dog). I’ll send out a group e-mail if there are new developments in the breed, or to celebrate a new milestone, or share the joy of one of the littermates completing a title, but I don’t insist that they write back.
I’m not sure I understand some people’s insistence that breeders call around if a littermate has a cold. There’s not a lot that overlaps the siblings, honestly; if one dog ends up with pancreatitis or pyometra there’s absolutely no reason to think that the others will be any more or less likely to get it. Old-dog issues ditto. Things that are established as genetic should be communicated to those owners who may be considering breeding their dogs. Otherwise I don’t really see the necessity of it.
Obviously, I’m very open about whatever my dogs are going through; any owner who wants to check in and see what’s up will get an earful. But call around? Only very rarely.