I’m getting frustrated with putting all my eggs in one basket

Switching wildly from dog topic to dog topic… because that’s the way I roll, baby.

I’m looking at my beautiful corgis sitting on my couch and I’m counting noses. Those noses belong to a host of dogs that have lived with us and have been my hopes for the future of my breeding program. 

I’m thinking of Tess, who was my show prospect keeper bitch… until she blew her mouth up (literally; she dug out from under the fence and put her teeth in something mysterious, possibly a pipe bomb or shotgun shell, and destroyed a third of her teeth) and after she recovered I put her in a pet home. Or Mitch, who was my IDEAL show dog conformation-wise but hated the show ring and would drop ten pounds over a weekend from the stress. After three weekends, during which he looked like someone was actively beating him with a stick and still went winners twice and reserve three times, I took him out and never put him back. I used him for a couple of litters but he went to a pet home too. And Maggie, the most beautiful black bitch I ever saw, who was sacrificed to an unexpected pregnancy and postpartum. Pet home. 

Clue finished fast but her injury means that one litter is likely to be all we get from her (and everyone knows how likely it is to get that amazing puppy from one litter). Bronte is shouldering a lot of my hopes, but this illness has me spooked. I’m very worried about stressing her by breeding her.

On the one hand, these are not failures. Every single one of the ones I placed went on to thrive in their homes; their owners are some of the very best I have and they love those dogs. The ones that I’ve spayed or neutered and kept as pets have been sources of great joy to us. But I am VERY TIRED of going years and years between litters because my one breeding bitch can’t be bred. I don’t like counting on a single dog or bitch to move my whole program forward. And I am really not comfortable with the compromises I’m tempted to make when it HAS to be this dog or it HAS to be this bitch. For example, I want to make a decision about breeding Bronte, whether she can handle another pregnancy and lactation, without even a hint of “but if I don’t breed her I am stuck without puppies for years.” 

I am looking for feedback from more experienced breeders. How do you keep the focus on the dogs and keep their quality of life high, while making sure that you can have at least one litter a year? I’m not looking to have more than two in any year, but it’s starting to feel like I need to have ten dogs around to even get to that point! How fast do you make decisions to cut bait and place a dog or bitch? How many bitches and/or dogs does a breeding program need to be relatively self-sustaining (continuing to use outside dogs, of course, but working toward the goal of at least occasionally breeding my kennel name to my kennel name)? 

I think that, making a long story short, I’m ready to move into taking breeding seriously. I want to transition from “I own dogs and if the one dog I keep every two years turns out, I get to have puppies” to “I show and breed dogs.” But I CANNOT lower the dogs’ quality of life to get there. I am thrilled to have a dog room, but I don’t want kennel dogs who don’t live in the house full-time. I want to be able to do stuff with each of them and not have anybody get lost in the shuffle. 

So talk to me, spam me, scold me, teach me. Is this even possible to do?

9 thoughts on “I’m getting frustrated with putting all my eggs in one basket

  1. What are your thoughts on fostering? I know several breeders who have their dogs live with other owners, but are shown and handled and bred by the breeder in question. It seems like it’s a reasonable way to keep the dog’s quality of life up and still have access to a decent number of breeding dogs.

  2. I think co-owning with pet homes is the only way to keep access to a decent number of breeding animals. And that can come with a host of other problems at times, it really depends. Then you keep the girls, and place the nice boys from your line with pet homes. If he grows up nice, collect him and neuter him, or keep him intact if the home is trustworthy and doesn’t mind.

    But who knows. I’m in the first camp, I occasionally might have puppies, so I clearly have no expertise here. 🙂

  3. I’ve been laying in bed at night thinking about this for several days.

    My bitch luck hasn’t been very good. You get a baby girl and dream and dream and then, a year and a half or two years down the road, when you’re ready to get started and have puppies, hips don’t pass, or something else happens. You place her and get another, and the same happens again.

    I always really wanted to have puppies. And, not to sound pathetic, but having the puppies turned out to be one of the most wonderful and rewarding experiences of my life, and I have the bug. If not for you and Bronte I’d be waiting two, or four, or six years more.

    I really wanted a girl from this litter, and while I have three that I consider “okay,” Dex was the only puppy that I considered a good gamble. Stella may or may not be used depending on how Susan feels. Thankfully Erika is on board with Maizey, so hopefully that will bear fruit. That leaves me Ella, and while I hope like hell she’s breedable I don’t feel very confident in that prospect. Although I did feel VERY confident about my first two bitches (nativity, mostly), so she may work out after all! 😉

    I’m pretty much at square one again, too, and yes, it sucks.

    At the same time, I don’t want to have 10 dogs. Three feels ideal, five would be okay, seven would be the absolute maximum. I want them to all live in the house, and the more you have the harder that gets. I think I may just build a super big, nice dog room with an itty-bitty apartment attached. And a Kind-sized bed. Or two! 🙂

    I’m eager to hear what people say, also.

  4. Re: fostering – I agree with Jeri. Sometimes it works and sometimes it’s a NIGHTMARE. When it works, it’s an ideal solution. But it’s exerting a lot of control over a set of owners and it can lead to resentment on both sides because so much money and effort are involved.

    For example, you ask them to bring the dog to you at xx show site and they arrive an hour late and you miss the class (one of my friends had the owners miss the ring time at, seriously, twenty shows). Or they show up but the dog isn’t groomed to your satisfaction. Or they show up and the dog is overweight or underweight or shy. All of which you know (or believe) they are responsible for, and they don’t understand why you’re making such a huge deal out of something so small and they drove two hours out here and so on.

    And all too often you hear stories of those homes who are thrilled with the whole process until they realize that you’re grossing eight grand on a litter from their dog. Unless they’re experienced breeding homes (and if they are, they are not likely to be fostering a dog for you!) they don’t know that the outgo and investment is MUCH higher than that dollar amount and they just think that you’re screwing them out of money that they could be taking home.

    Lots of them work, of course, but it’s not an effortless thing.

  5. I really understand how you feel, except at this point in my life I’m not very dedicated to breeding dogs (I’m still a kid, and not in a life position where I can make the life long commitment to a litter for sure- future YES, now, no way), but I’ve dreamed of my own show dog since I was a young kid, and both my prospects, are flops. It honestly hurts, and I wish I didn’t feel so deeply attached to having a dog to show, as I love my dogs as pets too. (And Galaxy is a DREAM performance dog) Like you, I’ve shown just about everything I’ve ever had any interest in. Plants, sheep, cattle, rats (I’m a well-known show judge too), art, photography, and more. It interests me, and I love doing it.

    The dog show/breeding hobby is hard, all animals it’s hard. As a rat breeder, some of my biggest disappointments have come from, those girls I placed all my hope in. I just lost a litter of 8, to a girl I’ve been trying to breed for 5 months, who’s likely the single best animal conformation quality-wise, and temperament, to come out of my rattery. Shelby is 8+ years of passion, blood, sweat, and tears, all rolled into one little body. Your luck with dogs, reminds me a lot of the problems in rats. Rats are comparable to Danes… short lives, lots of health issues. So much can, and does go wrong- more so than most other animals.

    Boys for me are easier to deal with, as one boy, can be used so many times, and since we don’t neuter pet rats, I can 2 years down the road contact pet buyers, and go “Hey, how’s so and so doing, and if well, do you mind if I use him as a stud”, and all so far have been THRILLED to allow their pet to donate, and usually take one, or two kids from him to cherish. Works well for me! Girls have a time-limit, where the max most people will breed them is 8 months. With that, a rattery puts all their hope, into the one, or two does they keep, hoping, against all hope, that THAT rat, is ‘the’ rat.

    I think that you and Kate asking pet owners with promising pups to leave them intact for now is a good thing, and placing the most promising pups, with homes who’re at least slightly interested in doing something. Good move! If worse comes to worse, you can leave boys intact, or collect from them before they’re neutered. Girls are still harder though, unless pet owners are able to litter raise, or willing to let you litter raise. It’s very valid though, when that one you put all your hope in, doesn’t turn out as planned. Boy, do I know that one well! I think it’s becoming my life story 😉

    Good luck! I’m rooting for you!

  6. Oops I just posted then got distracted and now it’s gone. Alas. Anyway, I’m on board for Kate breeding Maizey someday. However, I already love her so much that I may try to persuade Kate to relocate to Charlotte for the breeding!

  7. Maybe you need to consider leasing a bitch? Yes there can be problems with that too, but, it also allows you to have a litter even if the girls at home cant at the moment.

  8. Well, you know I’m open to possibilities with Stella. But time and health results are the factor. Meantime we each do our part raising these wonderful puppies!
    Stella has adapted quickly to sleeping on my bed. She looks for me all the time and wants to be with me. We’ve really bonded. Right now she and Tyler are under my desk. In a minute they’ll follow me to the studio. I think the dogs adapt to the family unit and structure no matter how many you have, pets and/or show dogs
    We had at least 8 GS show dogs at any one time when I was a kid. They were ALL house dogs but would be rotated between actual house and barn/kennel depending on time of day, etc. That was part of their training. My dad had a network of dog show and obedience people that would regularly visit our farm. There was no internet then. It was probably a much larger time commitment but from my kid perspective seemed quite friendly, fun and social. Our dogs won a lot of ribbons and trophies, I think mostly for obedience and performance. They were big strong dogs and my dad was very proud of their good hips. He did not co-own with anyone but did remain quite connected with many of his buyers. And it was not a money making venture, strictly a hobby with a lot of heart.
    So my point is, if you can maintain some of that old fashioned, down to earth, passion, patience and good manners it should be a positive experience no matter what happens.

  9. If Erika wants to I’m happy letting her raise the possible future puppies from Maizey herself. I can plan to fly down, or she can fly solo if she feels comfortable. Lord knows she has more experience birthing than I do! And I did fine.

    I’ve been seriously considering leasing a bitch, and may post about it on ShowCardi-L in the next month or so. I really would like to have a litter next year. For 2011 I *should* have a girl of mine ready. Knock on wood.

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