What is a responsible dog breeder?

And why you should care

Responsible dog breeders may become an extinct species.

They’re under attack from animal rights groups and we even saw a media story calling the winner of the Westminster Dog show “elitist” and trying to shame Poodle owners about loving their breed.

We’re amazed by the level of misunderstanding in the world of dogs. If we don’t recognize the value of, and support the efforts of, responsible dog breeders, there won’t be any left. And we’ll have no choice in dogs. Only mixed-breed, irresponsibly bred dogs will remain. 

What is a responsible dog breeder?

Responsible dog breeders are people who love their chosen breed – be it Mastiff or Chihuahua. Their goal is to perpetuate the finest qualities of their dogs. To find and reproduce the healthiest, soundest examples of their breeds. To share their lives with their dogs, and to find wonderful homes for the puppies they produce and don’t keep. Those people become part of their own extended families for life.

For their entire lives. Because responsible dog breeders are there for every single puppy they produce for the entirety of their lives. They make new puppy owners sign contracts promising that if, for any reason, the new owners cannot keep the dog, it will go back to the breeder. For any reason. For as long as the dog lives.

We’ve known lots of responsible dog breeders. And we’re always amazed that all of them can rattle off the names of every single dog they’ve ever produced, whether it lives with them, across the country, or in another country entirely. They can tell you where the dog is, how many members of the family, and what each one does. They care.

And when their careful vetting of potential puppy owners goes awry, they never forgive themselves. If they lose track of a dog, or if it gets sold without their knowledge, they go to the ends of the earth to make it right. And always feel guilty when they are unable to “fix” it.

It costs a fortune

In the breeds we know best, producing puppies costs a lot of money. Responsible breeders are never in it for money, because there isn’t any. There’s a saying among breeders: “Want to have a small fortune breeding dogs? Start with a large one.”

A responsible dog breeder plans a litter – looking at pedigrees, knowing their own dogs strengths and weaknesses, and doing health testing to make sure they’re producing healthy dogs. Every breed has specific health issues they’re prone to – responsible breeders will test their dogs for those issues and avoid perpetuating the problem. 

A friend of ours, a Cocker Spaniel guy, had his young dog go blind from Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), cutting short a promising agility career. When our friend was looking for a puppy Cocker Spaniel, he sought out a breeder that tests for PRA. He knows that his puppy won’t suffer with the condition because he found a responsible dog breeder who spent the time, effort, and money to be sure.

Breeding to the standard

Many people say they don’t need a show dog, so why should they bother seeking out a responsible breeder?

We need to look at that idea from a different angle. 

Your house doesn’t need to be in Architectural Digest, so why should you use a licensed contractor?

Because you want your home to be built according to the building code. The code that says your pipes can’t be made of lead so your family won’t be poisoned. The code that says that electrical wires have to be shielded, so your house won’t catch on fire. Your life, and the lives of the people you love, depend on that house for shelter, safety, and comfort. 

Abide by the code

Photo of a house blueprint, showing that responsible dog breeding is like following building code.

The “standard” of any breed is the building code for that breed. We all are drawn to the looks, characteristics, and personalities of particular dogs. That’s the kind of dog we’re attracted to, we want to share our lives with, and make us happy. And responsible breeders, to the best of their abilities, produce dogs that come as close to their vision of that standard as they can. The “standard” is developed by the people who love the breed and want only the best. 

We’re going to use the example of French Bulldogs. They’re popular right now, we know a lot about them, and we’re familiar with both responsible and irresponsible breeders of Frenchies. They’re also a breed with a list of issues regarding health, from allergies, to orthopedic, to heart issues. 

Responsible French Bulldog breeders test their dogs for heart, knee, and spine issues. They test for communicable diseases, and genetic issues. They pore over the standard and choose their best options for breeding. And they only breed their dogs when they’re looking to expand their own families. Most responsible breeders we know may have one litter every year or two. And French Bulldog litters are small – four is a large number of puppies. 

Patience is a virtue

Because they produce so few, and demand is so high, many responsible breeders’ puppies are spoken for even before they’re born. It takes time and patience to connect with a responsible breeder, getting to know them and letting them get to know you. 

In this age of instant gratification, people want what they want when they want it, which opens the door for irresponsible breeders to cash in. Irresponsible breeders don’t do the health testing, don’t follow up on their dogs’ lives, and don’t pay attention to the standard, the “building code” of their breed. And breed their dogs often, regardless of the health consequences.

In French Bulldogs, this is apparent in the “rare” colors, like blue or merle, that irresponsible breeders are selling at a premium. The colors they’re touting as “rare” are not part of the Frenchie standard because they’re associated with health problems. The “black and tan” coloration isn’t part of the standard because it’s genetically dominant (think Doberman Pinschers). In short order, all dogs would be black and tan. 

Every breed has a “parent club” that sets the standard. These are responsible breeders, joining together, to set the code for their own dogs. And all members of the club are required to sign a code of ethics to protect their breed. Anyone with intact dogs can have puppies. But do you want “anyone’s” puppy?

Completely responsible

Responsible dog breeders are in it for the good of the dogs – all the dogs. Almost all the breeders we know are also involved in rescue organizations for their breeds. And almost every breed club has a rescue arm they support. Most breed clubs also fund health studies and research to solve their breed’s issues. They’re part of a community of dog lovers. If there’s a breed you love, do an internet search for “ XX breed club of America.” You’ll find it, and a list of responsible breeders across the country. You’ll also see the research they support, the outreach they do, the education they provide, and the events they sponsor. It’s lots more than just having puppies.

No horse in the race

Why do we care? We’re not dog breeders at all. But we think it’s important to support people doing it right. 

We have friends who say their favorite breed is “rescue.” That’s a wonderful option, for those whose choice it is, even if you want a pure-bred dog. There are breed-specific for almost every dog breed. 

But it’s not everyone’s choice. Everyone has the right to choose.

A look at dog sleeping positions

How can that be comfortable?

A day rarely goes by that social media friends doesn’t post pictures of their dogs sprawled in some contorted sleeping positions, across some unlikely piece of furniture, asking “how can this be comfortable?”

It probably helps that almost every single one of the people we follow are dog people. But it also brings up the question – how are dogs supposed to sleep?

Sleeping positions

In our research, experts varied between five and 10 described sleeping positions dogs prefer. We’re going to go with five – others are variations on a theme.

One they all talk about, and give the same name to, is the “super hero” position. This is when your dog is flat on its stomach, front paws stretched out in front and back legs stretched out behind. The experts say this is mostly for cooling – fur on a dogs’ stomach is thinner and the dog can cool off faster by getting in contact with a cool floor. 

They also say that it’s mostly a position that puppies use. And speculate that it’s the best for “leaping into action” when they wake up after their nap. Considering all dogs sleep from 10 to 14 hours a day, and puppies even more, we say they should be well-rested enough to “leap” any old time. 

We actually see this one a lot from Torque, Hope’s French Bulldog, especially in the summer. He’ll even head into a bathroom with nice, cool tile floors for a nap if he’s hot. Smart creatures, dogs!

All curled up

The curled up sleep position is one seen most often in wild canids (wolves, foxes, coyotes, etc.) And, sadly, also in animals held in shelters. This position signifies that the dog is trying to stay warm, while at the same time protecting its vital organs. 

Picture of a yellow Labrador Retriever in a curled up sleeping position

We don’t think you can actually read all that much into it. Especially if your dog likes lying in circular, or oval dog beds. It’s not necessarily a sign that your dog is insecure – it just means that they like snuggling, even all by themselves.

Since some of our dogs (French Bulldogs) are physically incapable of achieving this position, it’s not one we see much of. Booker (Fran’s 7-year-old Boston Terrier) will use it occasionally, especially after he digs his way under the throw-blanket on the couch.

Crazy legs

This is the all-sprawled-out, on their back, legs-in-the air sleeping position that our social media friends post most often. Their dogs are draped over the sides of couches, benches, people, even tables and exercise equipment. These are dogs that really know how to get comfy and relax with abandon. 

We don’t see this one very often – Simon (Fran’s 1-year old Boston) is the only one who ever sleeps on his back. According to the experts, using this position indicates that the dog is relaxed, confident, and secure. Which describes Simon pretty accurately. 

If your dog sleeps “crazy legs” we’d love to see any pictures you have – we think it’s adorable. 

Side sleeper

Side sleepers are also characterized by their confidence. It’s another position that leaves the dog’s vital parts exposed. All of our dogs use this and the next position the most:

Cuddle bug

Whether with you or another pet, the cuddle bug has to be in touch. It really is a way of telling us they love us, they want to be with us, and they’re happy and confident. It’s also the one that makes us say “awwww” the most.  One of the most comforting feelings in the world is having your dog lying back to back with you.

What’s your dog’s favorite?

We’ve seen some unique and hysterical pictures of dogs sleeping, but inquiring minds want to know! Which position does your dog favor? 

Coming Soon
What's your dog's favorite sleep position?
What's your dog's favorite sleep position?
What's your dog's favorite sleep position?

Odd little stuff you didn’t know about dogs’ teeth

February is “National Pet Dental Health Month.” So go brush your dog’s teeth. Nuff said.

Okay, we’re lying. We have lots more to say about dogs’ teeth – but just because we came across some really weird stuff that turned out to be interesting. If you need help getting your dog to let you brush his teeth, we’ve written about it before – here. If your dog has stinky breath, brush her teeth and stop feeding her fish-based food. That last bit is the voice of experience. Torque is much more welcome to cuddle since we switched his food!

Lots and lots of them

A bulldog, running with its mouth open and the dogs teeth showing

First amazing dogs’ teeth fact: they have way more than we do! Adult dogs have 42 teeth. Adult people have 32 – including wisdom teeth. And those dog teeth are classic carnivore – the fronts are for tearing (which is why it hurts so much when they grab your hand instead of the toy) and the side/back ones are for gripping and gnawing. There is no such thing as an indestructible toy!

That huge one on the side is the “carnassial tooth. Its special shape and tooth surface is designed to help shear, crush and hold. This is why you see dogs grasp chew toys with the side of their mouth, chomping feverishly. This is also why you have to replace so many chew toys.” according to Pet Health Network.

Baby teeth

Apparently there’s a myth that gets passed around that dogs’ teeth are replaced when they lose them. Like sharks! But it’s not so! 

Dogs do have “puppy” or “milk” teeth, which they start losing at about 14 to 16 weeks. The dogs’ permanent teeth come in over the course of a couple of months. But that’s all they get. If a dog loses an adult tooth, they’re out of luck. Just like us. 

And, contrary to another myth, you can’t tell a dog’s age by his teeth. You can tell whether the dog’s adult teeth have come in. You may also be able to approximate age, based on how worn the teeth are, but a heavy chewer may have worn down their teeth at a young age. While an older dog who doesn’t love chew toys may not show much wear.

Other oddities

Dogs don’t usually get cavities. They have a different mouth chemistry and bacteria, which apparently makes them relatively immune from decay. 

The bite strength of a dog is almost twice that of a person. Humans average bite force is around 162 pounds per square inch. Dogs average bite force? 269 pounds per square inch. Unless you encounter a Rottweiler, which holds the record at 328 pounds per square inch. Luckily, the Rotties we know are sweethearts!

Size makes a difference

Small dogs are prone to different dental problems than big dogs. 

Big dogs are more likely to fracture teeth, which can lead to infection and tooth loss.

Small dogs are more prone to building up plaque, and are more likely to lose teeth because of gum disease. Toy dogs, in particular, may be born with imperfect dentition. We have personal experience with this – our Brussels Griffon Tango only has about a dozen teeth. But he still has all the ones he came with. Because we brush them. Go brush your dog’s teeth

Saddest email ever

We got the saddest email from a customer today.

“Please cancel my harness order. I had to put my dog down. I am devastated.”

Oh, my. It’s the worst day of any dog owner’s life. And in the midst of her grief, she thought about her harness order. 

It may seem strange to think of a thing like that at the time, but it makes total sense to us. When you can’t cope with the awfulness that’s just overtaken your life, you concentrate on the little, peripheral things. Because you can’t focus on the huge, gaping hole in your life. The enormity can’t be grasped.

Been there. Cried over that.

Most dog people have had at least a few “worst” days. They don’t get better, or easier, or less painful no matter how many of them there are. It doesn’t matter if your dog was old, or sick, or young and seemingly in good shape. It’s unmitigated pain and your life will never be the same again. 

Picture of sadness - heart behind broken glass

For many people, who live in a wider world than the dog community, it’s magnified by the non-dog people who say awful things like “at least it wasn’t a person,” or “it’s just a dog.” But psychiatrists agree, mourning is normal.

We know that he wasn’t “just” anything. Your dog is your closest companion. No one else is allowed in the bathroom with you.. Your crappiest day gets better when you open the door and your dog is there. He’s never too busy or distracted to give you a joyful welcome. You’re always the best thing that happened to him today. Every single day.

Forever different

Even if you have other dogs, life is forever different. His particular bark, footstep, mannerisms won’t ever happen again. That particular dog was unique and he was loved. 

Because we love being part of our customers’ lives, we hear dog stories all the time. And we’ve heard the pain in people’s voices when they say they’ll never have another dog. Losing them is just too painful. 

We disagree. It may not be time yet, but there should be another dog. Because the pain of losing that friend can’t be more than the joy of the time you spent together. The smiles and companionship, the laughter and love, have to be the legacy every cherished dog leaves behind.

Sadly, we empathize

When we got that email, we cried. We’d never met the dog. Only corresponded with the owner via email. We know almost nothing about this person’s life. We don’t need to. She’s a person who loved her dog and she was in pain. 

These days we need to remember the things we have in common. One of the strongest is our love for dogs. The sub-culture of dog people that we belong to doesn’t have a test for membership. If you love your dog, you’re welcome here. Dogs make our lives better. 

We’re reaching out to hug our customer who sent the saddest email. We’re so very sorry. We hope it won’t be too long before you can smile when you think of your beautiful boy.