Do you want to know THE most important thing about your breeding career?
I met with Robin Thomas, owner of Highland Goldendoodles. We talked about the most important part of dog breeding and the impact it can have on your business.
If you'd prefer to watch the interview, you can watch it here:
As a doodle breeder she also frequently will take her Poodles to shows. One reason that she has chosen to show her dogs is because the AKC and UKC worlds do not like breeders. So she wants to show the Kennel Clubs that there are very responsible doodle breeders. These breeders can also have very beautiful show dogs.
When showing Poodles it is an American Kennel Club (AKC) and United Kennel Club (UKC) breed standard for them to have a Continental Cut. This has to do with the history of Poodles.
Poodle dogs are bred to be a retriever for waterfowl. So, they would shave the dog’s back legs and joints so that the water would come off the dog easier. This helped to avoid freezing problems.
Robin wants people to know that she can have show dogs as part of her program. She can ALSO responsibly bring doodles into the world. Doodles also have a higher rate of being healthy throughout their lives and are great as therapy, ESA or service dogs.
A study was recently done by an insurance company for dogs. They found that doodles have a 75% lower chance of getting cancer compared to purebred dogs such as poodles, golden retrievers and labradors. Bringing in the virility of other lines really helps to reduce the chances of your puppies getting cancer throughout their life.
This study really hit home for Robin because she lost her Golden Retriever to brain cancer. She also has rescued dogs, which she loved. However, they ended up costing her a fortune in medication.
These rescued dogs had a lot of health problems and did not live very long. While this is not the case for all rescue dogs, this was her experience.
So now she wants a dog that will live a really long life that she knows will be healthy. And there are many people who have a similar desire!
She now breeds therapy dogs. Her goal is to breed dogs with long lives. These dogs should live 12-15 years without needing much health care.
Many people ask why breeders charge so much. Well, the answer is health testing. Rescues are beneficial to society and we should support them. However, we must be aware of both the advantages and disadvantages of the source from which we adopt our dogs.
Breeders can do both genetic testing and other health testing. When you pay for a health checked dog that has been fully tested parents you’re going to generally have less vet bills.
Robin offers 5 year genetic health guarantees. She has been breeding for 10 years now. In that time, she has had maybe 3 or 4 occasions when something has come up with her dogs.
One of them was a fluke from how the puppy developed in the womb. The others were all fairly easily fixable. So, all of the dogs that she has bred in the last 10 years are living good lives and doing well.
People often think that mixed breeders don't take measures to ensure the health of their dogs. They falsely believe that these breeders don't do health testing or care about their dogs' wellbeing. But I want to highlight that there are a lot of mixed breeders that are really doing it right. They are doing it for the right reasons.
One of the health tests that breeders can and should do is hip testing. There are OFA Hips and PENNHIP tests. Both of these tests look at a dog’s hips to make sure they do not have hip dysplasia. Robin is well-known for her dog’s hip scores.
With hip scores, the dog is scored from 0 to 106, the lower the score the better. She aims to keep her dog’s hip scores as low as possible. She has many of her dogs with hip scores in the 20s (which is incredible!). She does this testing on both her male and female dogs.
In addition to PENNHIP and OFA Hip, Robin does Elbows, Patellas (on dogs under 22”), OFA Heart and Eyes. While it gets really expensive, Robin wants to make sure that her dogs are really healthy.
She also helps protect her puppies’ hips. She includes in her contract that they cannot be run on asphalt or concrete in the first year.
Hip dysplasia is essentially widening of the hip so that the joint does not fit snuggly. Jumping or running on hard surfaces during hip development can cause hip dysplasia and pain in later life.
Taking Testing Seriously
Robin (and many good breeders) take genetic health testing and other health testing very seriously. She spends a lot of money on each dog that she plans to breed to complete all of the health testing. However, if a dog's test results do not pass even one of the health tests, she will not breed it.
That is how ethical breeders work. These are responsible breeding practices. You don’t just do a couple of litters to try to get your money back. If a dog does not pass then you let it go and move on.
This is how you, as a breeder, can build a reputation. Choose to approach breeding as an all-or-nothing situation. This avoids problems further down the line.
Healthy parents or no puppies. Then you don’t have comments about unhealthy dogs or anything like that. You also really don't have to worry about inherited disorders that your puppies could have.
Building a Reputation
Build a good reputation, collect positive reviews, and ask for customer testimonials. This is how you can reach the world and find good homes for your pups. Robin currently has dogs in England, France, Portugal, Canada, Mexico, Panama and South Korea as well as 43 states. She knows that this is because of her reputation.
Robin began breeding with six children at home. She chose to go at a slow pace and devoted her time to learning as much as possible.
To gain knowledge around breeding you can talk to other breeders, talk to your vet, and go on Forums on Facebook. Forums on Facebook vary greatly. Some can be quite mean, while others are very helpful. To get the most out of the forums, it's important to find the ones that are kind to newcomers.
You need to find someone who will share information with you and those are the gems to hold onto.
So here it is, what is most important is your reputation.
Robin’s advice to any new breeder is to start off with really good stock. Do not start out cheap. Go for quality. Use studs only from people who have done all of the same testing that you have.
If you want to be a breeder, it is worth it to invest right from the beginning. It will save you a lot of problems down the line. Buy from breeders who have good reputations. Educate yourself and, again, start out slow.
Currently the market has slowed down for puppies. Robin’s advice is to watch the market and breed accordingly.
Robin has recently bred less of her girls. This just extends the length of time that she can use a specific dog. Each of her females has 4 litters. So, by skipping a cycle she can simply breed them over a longer period of time.
Your reputation is everything. Be very careful about the dogs you are buying and the people you are working with.
If you are interested in learning more about how to do health testing, how to grow your breeding business or how to build your reputation, I'd love to chat with you!