Are you a breeder raising and selling dogs? I have a tip for you! It’s purely my opinion and you can disagree, but here it is!
What is sorely needed today are dogs with calm temperaments, moderate exercise needs, not too smart and a genetically healthy body and mind, and low coat maintenance. This combination is hard to find! So if you are breeding, please consider this as a bare minimum.
In the past 15 years, I have seen too many dogs being selected as service dogs (and family dogs for that matter) who come from unsuitable parents. Too high energy needs, have chronic health issues (many preventable genetic issues), too smart for their own good, and very high grooming requirements.
What we used to see is that dogs like this were re-homed and became agility or other sport dogs. Only a very small percentage of dogs are ever lucky enough to end up with owners who want to compete. Even fewer end up in jobs that need the very high energy levels and persistence that cause them to be re-homed. These situations are few and far between in the big scheme of things. So many dogs end up struggling to adapt to the situations they find themselves in.
Usually what we see in the parent dogs is what the offspring become. Of course, no line produces all dogs exactly the same, (and it can take several generations to stabilize such characteristics) but in general, what you see in the adults, is what you see in the pups. High-energy dogs produce high-energy pups. Moderate energy produces moderate. You get the idea. Aim for healthy calmer low maintenance dogs!
Most people with disabilities are already limited in their time and energy and can’t keep up with a dog that is unsuitable for them. They are already drained at the start! They are hopeful “this dog” will reduce their burden and be a miracle for their family. Even people with pet dogs who happen to have children (adult or child age) with disabilities are not looking for a project. They are looking for a family member to love that will fit easily into their lifestyle. They are not looking for a dog that’s going to drain their bank account due to medical costs or the insurance to protect against those medical costs or grooming requirements.
What People Want:
If you want your dogs to be in demand (and many breeders right now are left sitting with pups at 12 weeks and beyond!), then choose health-tested adult dogs (for joints as well as genetic diseases), dogs that are calm and whose exercise needs match the average family. That would be 45 minutes a day of physical and mental exercise.
Pick dogs with average intelligence. While most people THINK they want to have a smart dog, the realities of living with one can be a challenge. Dogs don’t need to be very smart to figure out how to successfully live with most people or to learn what behaviors are wanted with positive reinforcement training. What they do need to be is confident and resilient. But not too much so or they become persistent at times when the owner doesn’t want or need them to be.
Combine persistence with high energy needs and you have a dog that is a nightmare to live with or, at the very least, the quality of life for your puppies is significantly reduced. They don’t get to do what they naturally do.
If you are breeding non-shed or thick-coated breeds, look closely at how much maintenance above the “normal” does your lines produce? Some coats are prone to tangling more than others. Some absolutely need down to the skin brushing daily or they get matted quickly. Daily grooming is NOT going to happen in families going about their lives.
A Case Study:
Breeding dogs that are suitable to living with average activity-level families, especially those that are looking for either an emotional support dog or a service dog. They need dogs with low to moderate energy. Recently a neighbour complained about her young golden retriever. The breeder just laughed it off and said, “Yeah. Her mother was crazy too!” These people thought they were doing their due diligence in looking for lines that met their needs, and communicated this with the breeder. They were even referred by another breeder of choice who didn’t happen to have pups available.
The breeder placed with pup knowing the family has an adult child with significant mental developmental delays. The mother can’t walk the dog as it pulls her off her feet. Yes, they are partly at fault for not starting and maintaining training early, but at a core level, this dog is wholly unsuitable for their family. The dog is smart, persistent and high-energy. The pup is not “crazy”. She’s a pup whose needs cannot be met in the environment she finds herself in. Yes, she has a fenced yard. Yes, they take her for daily walks. Yes, they do enrichment activities with her. She would excel at retrieving ducks and other breed-related activities but this family does not have the time or energy to do that and it was not what they were looking for when they got the pup. Very few families are looking for that.
Look to the Future:
In the best interest of your future litters, please choose your breeding bitches and dogs carefully. Aim to produce dogs that better fit an “average” home. And if your dogs aren’t what they are looking for, don’t place them. You will be saving them, the dog, and yourself much emotional turmoil in the future. Your name will get out there as producing great family dogs with the occasional service dog candidate. These are in high demand!
So how do breeders select dogs that are suitable for the “average” family or one with disabilities? Consider both parents! Are these dogs emotionally and physically stable dogs? Get them tested genetically for all diseases the breed (or mix of breeds) is prone to. Get them screened for joint issues. Would these dogs be able to live with a minimum of 45 minutes of leash-walk every day? Would these dogs be able to figure out how to live in a family situation with minimal guidance but a whole lot of love? Remember why people get dogs in the first place! They are looking for a family member, not a project! If the dog ends up being a service dog, that’s a huge bonus!
If you are a breeder and read this far, congratulations! You actually care about what your consumer needs! Yes, I know that many consumers aren’t educated, don’t choose wisely, and should walk away from some breeders. That’s on them, but you need to continue to do your role in producing dogs that will be a better fit. If you are breeding for money, please reconsider or at least make better choices in who your dog is paired with. Dog breeding is much more complicated than just putting two dogs together and selling the pups!
If you are interested in learning more, check out https://functionalbreeding.org/ or join the many reputable breeder groups that are available on social media.