At church yesterday, a friend, who was thinking about getting a puppy, asked me how they might find a good breeder. I suggested visiting the AKC website or the national breed club website for the breed(s) that they were interested in. “Oh! I don’t want a show dog.” they replied. I reassured them that, as a “show” breeder, most of my puppies are placed as pets. It’s a common misconception…that show breeders only produce show dogs that go to show homes.
A good breeder is breeding not for profit, not to produce their next “show prospect”, but to improve their own breeding stock and the overall quality of the breed. To do this, a breeder must first have a good understanding of the purpose of the breed, the structure required to perform its purpose, breed type, temperament, movement, health, and breed history. We have a “Breed Standard” which attempts to describe the breed in words and, in the case of the beagle, includes a scale of points and height disqualification. An appreciation for the finer details, and the ability to interpret the standard properly can take years and requires the input of wisdom from many mentors to develop a good eye for the breed.
Once a breeder has a vision of what they are breeding toward, they must then objectively look at their own breeding stock and set goals for their next breeding: what are the strengths of their bitch and what are the two or three traits that they most need to improve upon? This analysis is an analysis not only of the bitch that stands before them but also the generations that came before her. So often we find the grandparents showing up in our whelping box…and sometimes traits that have lain dormant for generations, only to pop up unexpectedly in an otherwise lovely puppy. Some faults we can live with; some we must cull ruthlessly lest they pop up again in the future. These are the hard choices that we make. Many times these faults have no effect on the life of the puppy as a pet in someone’s home but, as a breeder, we know that it is a trait, a recessive gene, that lurks, that must be eliminated…and we move on.
A bitch’s first litter often tells me a lot about what she can produce. Sometimes that first litter is what I hoped for and sometimes not. Clues lie in that first litter and adjustments can be made in selecting the sire for the next. In 2020, I bred Roux according to Alyce’s wishes. The goals that Alyce had hoped to achieve with the breeding were accomplished but, as I suspected there might be, there were size issues. When considering a sire for Roux’s second litter, I looked for a stud dog with a “small” pedigree. I had other goals in mind, too, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to move forward if the puppies would be disqualified. I selected Beowulf Nor’Easter Saranan Benedictus, not a yet a champion and a dog that I had never seen, going against one of my precepts: “never use a dog that you have not seen and gone over in person”. However, it was COVID-times…and exceptions had to be made. Benicio’s sire had made a very positive contribution to my breeding program years ago and after a great deal of research, Roux’s second “husband” was found.
The breeding was successful and the primary goal of size reduction was achieved. All of Benicio’s parents and grandparents are 13’s (with a couple of just over 13″ exceptions). My heads are not yet where I want them to be since my return to breeding “post-cancer” but, I’m very pleased with progress made in this litter, particularly in Galileo. I hope that he will be able to contribute to size moderation, expression, coat, feet….and other qualities in generations to come.
Four puppies from 2021 remain at Talbot Hill: Marte, Galileo, Sturla, and Rowan. I was rather surprised in September to receive half a dozen angry/disappointed emails from families who did not receive puppies this year. I don’t usually keep a waiting list but I did in 2020/2021 during COVID-times with so many wanting puppies and with my daughter and I working at home due to the pandemic. It was a very unique situation that allowed us the time to have three litters in the summer of 2021. I tried, in my blog and in my Facebook posts, to express just how exhausting this was. I also tried to be very clear about how many people I had waiting for puppies (I cut off applications when I had 50 applicants). After that, people continued to contact me every. single. day. I would get up before 5 am to care for the dogs, caring for them before myself, I’d write a blog post or post in the Facebook group before going to work at my full-time job, and I’d spend breaks and time after work caring for dogs…every single day, for four months. I just didn’t have time to keep up with all of the individual correspondence as I would like to. By the time I got down to the final four puppies that I decided to “run-on” in September, angry messages started to appear…
I set goals for each of the litters that I bred in 2021 and I was overwhelmed by the quality in each of the litters. I was equally overwhelmed by the quality of the applications that I had to choose from this year. The choices were not easy but, as always, I chose what was best for the puppy. Fifty is A LOT of applications to choose from and some were referred to other breeders. I don’t usually keep a waiting list because years ago, when I did, I would offer someone a puppy and they would write back “I got a puppy from someone else” or “my life circumstances have changed and I can’t get a puppy right now”…and I’d find myself starting all over again, asking for applications anyway. COVID presented a unique situation. I apologize to anyone who felt that my process over the past 18 months has been unfair or unclear. I’m very sorry. I’ve tried very hard to keep everyone informed about the status of the litters and the placement of the puppies. In 2022, I will no longer keep a waiting list (again, “No Waiting List” is my normal practice) and I will only accept applications when I have puppies available. It is still possible that one of the male puppies from 2021 may be available as a pet. If you have previously filled out an application and you are still interested in a male pet puppy, please feel free to contact me by e-mail for Facebook message. I have NOT yet made a determination about the puppies but I suspect that a male puppy may be available before the end of the year. One or two litters may be bred in 2022 but timing will be key. Litter announcements and an open application period will be announced on my blog and in the Talbot Hill Beagles Facebook group.