Know your limits?

I was recently asked to write an article for the D News. I thought I would also share it here with you.

Have you ever heard the phrase, sometimes less is more? This can be applied to all aspects of life, but let’s apply it to our lives as breeders and dog owners. How do we know we are not trying to take on too much to the point that our quality or program suffers because of it? The key is to know your limitations. Narrowing down your focus can help.

FOCUS! FOCUS! FOCUS! If you have ever watched the show Project Runway, you have heard Tim Gunn tell the contestants to take an editing eye to their projects. Truer words have never been spoken. Don’t be afraid to narrow down your focus. Take all of your ideas and write them down in a business plan. Whether this is a hobby, a pet you plan on having a few litters with, or a breeding program, you need to have a plan. Great pairings don’t just happen, but they are planned and created.

The first step is to know your customer base. Who are you marketing to and producing for? This will determine how far you need to go with most aspects of the breeding process. Narrow it down. If you don’t have a focus, you may spread yourself too thin to be good at any one thing. Even if you are just producing a litter for you or your program, you need to have a plan for the rest of that litter as well, so think it through.

Pick a type. Whether we agree with division in the lab breed or not, it is there. You need to essentially choose as side. Are you breeding more English type, field type, or the coveted all around dog? Again, don’t spread yourself too thin by having too much variety.

Who is your clientele? If you are breeding for a pet home, you may be able to limit your expenses to some extent and have a few more dogs than someone who is producing hunt test dogs, or champion conformation dogs, as training and showing expenses may be less. If you are producing hunt test dogs, you need to know to what level you want to be producing. Do you want a hunt/pet that is a bit more of an entry level hunt test dog, or do you want to be able to go to the Grands? With these decisions comes expenses and time commitments. Most people can learn to show and train an entry level dog, but may need to hire an outside trainer if they would like to take it to the next level. How many litters do you want to be able to produce out of your bitch? If you are showing or hunt titling the dog, you may not be able to breed as much as you anticipate with a bitch as opposed to a male that you can collect semen on and freeze. With that in mind, take a look at your business plan. How much sense does the amount of money put into the training and showing play into your revenues? Don’t be afraid to pick the brain of a professional or seasoned breeder. It is better to learn from someone else’s mistakes early on in the planning process, than make them all on your own while you are trying to make a go of it.

How does this effect my health testing? Your market may determine the extent of your health testing to some extent, however I think this is a case where you can never do too much. If you are breeding titled dogs that are likely to be purchased by breeders, the more you can error on the side of caution, the better. Not to mention you are then ensuring that you are only reproducing the best specimens to propitiate the breed. If you are asking more for your puppies, this may also mean the difference between an essential panel and both the essential panel and the supplemental panels and the addition of a CHIC#. With this in mind remember there is no such thing as perfection. As breeders we strive for the perfect combination. It is our jobs as breeders to access the flaws, determine if they are worth breeding out, and through selection of the right mate, fix them. Sometimes it pans out, sometimes it doesn’t, but remember perfection is subjective.

Don’t forget to take this editing eye to your program a couple of times a year and make sure you are still on track, or your situation hasn’t slightly changed. Sometimes we are selecting mates or putting deposits on puppies 6 months to a year or more down the road. Don’t be afraid to make a change in the best interest of your programs or animal health.

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