So much time and planning go into finding a puppy that may go on to become a mom or dad in our breeding program. I wanted to give a little glimpse into te process, which starts an average of 4 years before the first litter.

Step 1 Finding a Breeder

We start looking for an exceptional puppy by first finding an exceptional breeding program. More than just “AKC registered” or “Health Tested”. We first want to find a breeder who shares the same values and ethics that we do.

Then they have to do OFA certifications on the parents, which means that a specialist in that area has examined them. We also look for Genetic Testing: while this can’t test for everything that can go wrong, it does allow us to rule out some big scary conditions, and make sure we aren’t reproducing a life-limiting condition. While not perfect information, it’s a really great tool.

Then we look at the personality and temperament of the parents and siblings and previous litters – every dog is “cute” and “cuddly” but we look for key descriptions that tell us that these parents are amazingly temperamented dogs. Then we ask the breeder “Which puppy would you recommend?” If they say “any of them” then I know they aren’t the breeder for us. They usually have ONE puppy or even NO puppy from a litter to recommend. In the case of no puppy? We wait!

STEP 2 Finding a Puppy

We find a breeder with all of the qualifications, and we find the puppy with outstanding potential and the combination of health and temperament that make them shine.

We then pay a non-refundable deposit for the breeder to hold the puppy while we wait for genetic testing to come back. Is this a big ask? YES. If the breeder isn’t willing to (which is understandable) then they aren’t the breeder for us, and we go back to step 1!

STEP 3 Puppy Comes Home

Everything so far has gone great – so our first stop is our vet.

Things can go south here quickly – if our vet finds something not great, it could put all of that work and money out the window, puppy gets placed as a pet, and back to step 1. Even something small that is a “wait and see” could eventually wash a dog from being a breeding prospect.

STEP 4 Finding a Home

As much as I would love to keep every dog that comes through my home, we want to place any “breeding prospects” into their forever families as puppies.

Finding a perfect “guardian home” is not easy. This requires a LOT of trust on both sides and an exceptional family who can commit to 5+ years of me popping in and borrowing their dog for reproductive appointments and eventually, 9 weeks at a time to have puppies.

They keep me up to date and often help me decide on if a dog will go on to the breeding program. They are equally committed to the ethical practice of placing puppies into their forever families as puppies, and not rehoming adult dogs just because they no longer can breed. The program would no be able to continue without them.

STEP 5 Adulthood

Our breeding prospect has reached adulthood, and we do final OFA certifications for hips, elbows, patellas, cardiac, and eyes. Their temperament is amazing.

We then go for our pre-breeding reproductive visit, and everything is great! Then we proceed to try to breed. Some dogs don’t get pregnant, have small litters that require c-sections and then spay, or have something happen that isn’t ideal that removes them from the breeding program. This can happen before a litter, after 1 litter, or after any litter. We go back to step 1. Or they have successful litters, and retire after 4-5 litters with their guardian families, and that is the best success!

The average time from STEP 1 to first litter: 4 years

Average cost for breeding prospect before first litter arrives: (not including regular “pet care”) $12,500

Average Success rate of breeding prospects: 35-40%

I hope that gives a little insight into the process, the time, and the commitment that goes into running an ethical breeding program. I deeply appreciate the breeders, guardian homes, families, and vet professionals who share this goal.