Thank you Halina at Varkata Labradors and Leonbergers for agreeing to this interview. I love following the antics of your various puppies as they adventure around your farm.
My next book, “The Boy Who Dared” will reveal the horror of unscrupulous puppy farms, (also known as puppy mills) where dogs are treated as commodities, their welfare is neglected resulting in many of the puppies born with life-limiting defects and illnesses. People often think the only alternative is rescue dogs, but there is a case for ethical dog breeders such as yourself also. What are the positives of buying a dog from a breeder?
In October 2018 it became the law for breeders of dogs to have a breeding licence issued by their local council. In order to obtain a licence numerous high standard conditions must be adhered to. The premises are inspected by the council and the dogs by a vet. By purchasing a puppy from a licensed breeder you know that checks have been made and standards met. Many breeders will health check their dogs and only breed if the health is up to breed standard. Great care and research goes into choosing the correct mate for both health and temperament reasons.
Can you tell me, what made you decide to breed puppies and how often do you have a set of puppies to take care of?
Back in about 2003, I acquired a two year-old black Labrador from a friend I worked with. She and I had the most amazing bond and she was the most loving loyal girl I’ve ever had. I decided it would be lovely to have a puppy from her to keep and so it was decided to find her a suitable mate, and that is where it all began. Raising the puppies was an amazing experience and such a privilege.
Just as puppy mills can be a bad start for puppies, a bad owner can be a terrible life for these fur-babies. What checks did you do to make sure that your puppies were going to safe homes?
As a breeder it is important that the puppies go to the best homes. On first registration of an interest in our puppies we like to talk over the telephone and get a feel of the family and find out the work commitments, family members and previous puppy experience. Once our puppies are four weeks old we invite interested families to visit, this gives us a good opportunity to start building that bond of trust. After this visit families may visit again (sometimes this is not possible due to distance).
You have been breeding for a lot of years now. If somebody reading this interview wanted to breed their dog, what would you warn them about that people often underestimate or get wrong?
Many people think that breeding dogs is easy money and easy to do. It’s not as simple as just putting the two together. Firstly, there is the health checks that need to be done, hip and elbow X-rays and eye tests and blood samples for genetic DNA testing. All these tests are costly. There is the licence to apply for and again this is costly. There are risks all along the journey, risks in the mating process where the bitch or dog could get hurt even though it is a natural process. There is the risk of the bitch losing her puppies and the big risk and worry of the whelping. It is not uncommon in a litter for a puppy to be stillborn. Then the first ten days are very important as it is during this time when the bitch can easily lie on a puppy and squash it. You must have plenty of time to spend with the bitch to watch this doesn’t happen. Once the puppies are up and about, they need to be socialised and follow an enrichment program to prepare them for moving on to their new homes. From four weeks the new families start to visit and this also helps the puppies socialise. A written puppy information pack is prepared and given to new families to assist them with raising the new addition. All the puppies are health checked by a vet prior to leaving us.
Many people miscalculate the time, cost and commitment of adding a dog to their family. Do you have any advice to help in any of these areas?
The most important things you can give a puppy is your time and love. The value of your house and belongings is not important to them. We don’t like our puppies to go to homes where they are going to be left alone for long periods of time. Puppies do well with routine and boundaries and you should start as you mean to go on. As well as having play time and exciting times, puppies also need to have calm and quiet times. Puppy classes are a good way of learning how to teach your puppy and it’s important that every house member follows the same training rules.
If you could change something about the breeding process, what would it be?
If I could change something about the breeding process I would like the Kennel Club to only register litters from parents that have been health checked and met the breed standards. I would also like potential puppy purchasers to be more educated about the Breeders Licence requirement.
Thank you so much for your time and wisdom. I’m so pleased there are ethical breeders such as yourself. Especially as we will be looking to purchase our next puppy soon. With your advice, we can make sure that we give our new puppy the best start.
“The Boy Who Dared” will be published 1 October 2022 and can be bought here
James has just one chance to save his dad, his friends and a hundred starving dogs. Can he face his greatest fear, before the criminal gang track him down?