There are as many definitions of a ‘good’ breeder as there are breeders. What do you think?
Assuming that the breeder has done their homework and bred dogs who are healthy and have sound temperaments, the most important and time consuming part of breeding is properly taking care of the puppies.
Here are is an interesting excerpt from Patricia McConnell’s book For The Love Of A Dog regarding the
importance puppy development (page 81-84):
“Many people know something about the importance of environmental stimulation for young children, but often we fail to apply that knowledge in picking or raising a puppy. I’ve seen any number of clients who raved about the cleanliness of the kennel where they got their pup, but who had no idea of what the pup experienced after birth. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” in America, and I’ve learned that clean and neat is what people look for when they’re choosing a place to buy a pup. Clean is good, I’m all for it, but it’s not enough to ensure that your pup has really had a good start in life. The extreme of “clean” is “sterile,” and sterility, it turns out, is a good thing only if you’re doing surgery. Sterility can equal environmental deprivation, and that can cause no end of trouble to a developing pup.
Environmental deprivation can happen anywhere. It can disable puppies born in filthy puppy mills as well as those raised in spotless kennels. Clean or dirty, if dogs grow up with little environmental stimulation they can turn into adults who are lacking in the ability to handle even minor stress. Stress is just change, after all, and if a pup has matured in an environment that never changes, she doesn’t develop a brain that is wired to cope with it. Numerous studies on rats and nonhuman primates show that barren environments create individuals who are unable to cope with stress as adults, because the stress-related pathways in their brains aren’t able to develop normally. Rats who were taken away from their mothers for fifteen minutes a day turn out to be less reactive to stressful events than those that weren’t… Rats raised in the standard, sterile boxes used in most laboratories have fewer connections between their brains’ cells, and thinner cerebral cortexes, that rats raised in “enriched” boxes…
I don’t want to discount the importance of genetics here; it plays a big role in who a dog is and how his or her brain reacts to the environment. You can usefully compare genetics with the ingredients in a recipe, and the effect of the environment with the method of putting them all together. The best eggs in the world aren’t going to make a good omelet if you hard-boil them before you mix them with the other ingredients.”
Here is an excerpt about helping puppies be more capable of handling stress (page 84-85):
“The research on the effects of environmental stimulation and the ability to handle stress got a lot of attention a few years back from the U.S. military. In search of dogs who could perform difficult tasks under stressful conditions, the military developed a method of early sensory stimulation that they believe created adult dogs with superior problem-solving abilities and more tolerance of stress. The process takes only a few minutes a day, and involves five simple exercises, to be done on each pup in the litter, from birth to thirteen days old. The pup should be picked up in one hand and be tickled between the toes of one foot for just three to five seconds. Next, use both hands to hold the pup, again for three to five seconds, so that his head is directly above his tail. Carefully cupping the puppy in both hands, reverse his direction so that his head is pointing straight down, and hold again for three to five seconds. (Dropping the puppy is not advisable for optimum brain development, so do this carefully!) Next, hold the pup so that he is parallel to the floor, belly up, for the same amount of time as the other exercises. Last, put the pup on a cold, damp towel for three to five seconds; and then return him to the litter.
Carmen Battaglia, a Ph.D. scientist and American Kennel Club judge who has written extensively about this plan, cautions that breeders should follow it exactly: he suggests that repeating the exercises can potentially cause harm. This does not mean that you should restrict normal cuddling and handling that every puppy nees )and most of us can’t resist giving). The exercises described involve stimulation that pups would normally never get, and possibly act to kick-start some aspecs of neurological development. Because too much stress can backfire, if you’re going to try this out, I’d suggest doing it exactly as described. I used the plan on one litter, and the pups did grow into calm, resilient dogs-but that doesn’t tell us much, because who knows how the litter might have turned out otherwise. Maybe they would have been the same, or maybe they’d have been better if I hadn’t done the exercises. However, the research suggests that the exercises do have value, and they are an important reminder to us of the effect of the environment on your pup’s brain.
The exercises are designed to stimulate the senses that are fully functioning at birth: the sense of touch, another sense called proprioceptive, which involves the brain knowing where the body is in space, and the ability to sense warmth or cold. Once the eyes and ears of puppies are functioning, starting around fourteen days or so, they need stimulation in the areas that process sound and vision. That doesn’t mean a pup should be bombarded with constant noise and handling. Pups, like babies, need lots of time to be left alone to sleep. But when they’re awake, the need enough stimulation to encourage connections to form among neurons in different parts of their brains.”
Here is a video of Ian Dunbar talking about the importance of what goes on in a dog’s life before they are 8 weeks old and their training.
I’ve always felt that dogs raised with kids were somehow calmer and more tolerant – maybe because kids provide them with some more varied experiences? Do you have any special techniques you use to help pups grow up into stable dogs? Is there anything that you think should be avoided?
Here is a link to a great list of questions to ask a breeder if you are interested in their puppies:http://www.bmdinfo.org/newpages/Ask_the_Breeder.php