Re: Newbie/Questions on Costs
I think you're on the right track. It's obvious from your posts that you've done some research and aren't taking this lightly and it's great that you're looking for advice on how to get started in breeding the *right* way. Everyone would be better off if more people did that before jumping in and having a litter.
Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:
The strongest advice I can give you echos what many others have said in this thread. Get involved in training. You've said you have a preference for the working lines and that's what you'd want to breed, and in that case the usual (and most widely available) route for involvement would be SchH training.
The best breeders are those who also work/show their dogs in the venues which are standard for their type of GSD, and prove that they and their dogs have what it takes to be successful in these areas. Through training, each dog's strengths and weaknesses will be brought to light. Not only is this important just to determine if the dog is breed worthy or not, but this infomation is imperative to making good breeding decisions and selecting a mate who will enhance the strengths, compensate for the weaknesses, and thus help the breeder reach the goal of improving in each generation.
Involvement in training is also the only way to learn what traits are beneficial, detrimental, or could be either depending on the overall balance in the dog, in order to put together the right mix of traits that constitutes "working ability". Really the only way to fully understand what constitutes a good, bad or mediocre dog for work is to get out and see those different dogs. Work yours and watch other's working theirs. It's amazing what you can learn just by watching others and eavesdropping on the conversations on the sidelines.
Getting out and seeing lots of different dogs will help you learn about pedigrees and bloodlines; when you see a dog you really like, or really don't like, ask the pedigree. This will help you get an idea not only of what traits you appreciate and want to breed for, and what you want to avoid, but it will also help you learn which bloodlines produce those traits. Comparing your dog against others helps keep you grounded in reality, and helps prevent kennel blindness. Additionally, the more knowledge and experience you gain through training, the better able you will be to provide good advice and support for puppy customers. And getting to know other dog people in the area and network with them will give you routes to even more knowledge.
Involvement in training will also help you sell puppies. Good homes are hard to find. And I feel working line breeders have an even harder time finding suitable homes for their pups because of the types of dogs they are. The truth is, the majority of pet owners in this country are not prepared for a working line dog. Frankly, my opinion is that many (if not most) aren't prepared for any dog and would be better off getting a houseplant. A GSD, and particularly one of working lines, is going to be too much dog for many pet owners. These dogs are better suited for working/sport homes mainly because people who are involved in work/sport tend to be more knowledgeable and experienced and also already have committed to an activity that will ensure the dog will receive the training, exercise and mental stimulation it needs. And if good pet homes are hard to come by, working/sport homes are much more difficult. The biggest hurdle you'll face as a new breeder is finding good homes. Having a questionnaire and thorough screening process is a good place to start, but it takes more than that. You need to be able to attract the kind of buyer that is suitable for your type of dog. And that is infinitely more difficult to do when you're the new kid on the block and no one has ever heard of you. Getting involved in GSDs and training within your area will get your name out there and that in turn will help attract suitable buyers.
As for obtaining a broodbitch, there are pros and cons to each option.
The disadvantage is pups are a crap shoot. Even the most well bred pup may develop health or temperament or structural problems that make it unsuitable for breeding. And even if all goes well and the dog turns out to be a great breeding candidate, then there is always the possibility it will develop fertility problems or other issues that prevent it from having pups.
One advantage is cost. Pups are the cheapest way to go. But the biggest advantage is the knowledge and experience you will gather along the way as you raise and train and title that pup yourself. Training a dog yourself brings with it an intimate knowledge of that dog that can't be obtained any other way. And that allows for better breeding decisions. The road to titling also brings with it all the other advantages of getting involved in serious training before breeding.
The advantage is obvious. She's ready to breed and has been proven that she can.
The disadvantages are many though. First, cost. A proven broodbitch can run you $5-$10k or more. Good bitches don't come cheap, if you can even buy them at all. Few breeders are willing to sell a good broodbitch for any price. There are probably more dishonest peddlers of adult dogs than there are honest, trustworthy ones. Bargains are usually not to be had, and if they are there is usually a reason. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The other disadvantage is that someone else trained the dog; meaning that person knows the dog really well. But you don't. This is a handicap not only from the standpoint of making breeding decisions, but also from the selling puppies standpoint. There are lots of people who just buy titled dogs and breed them. They aren't involved in training, they just breed. And they are not the breeders who attract the good buyers.
A young, untitled dog. This is kind of a best of both worlds situation. They cost more than pups, but not as much as a good proven broodbitch. But they are more of a sure thing than pups as they are old enough to evaluate for health and temperament. They still need training and titling, giving you a dog with which to get involved in training, and age wise they're ready to jump in and start training right away. No waiting for puppy to grow up. So essentially it has the advantages of raising and training a puppy, without as much risk. But again, you've got to be careful of dishonest peddlers, and you've got to determine why the green dog is available. It may just be any number of circumstances, or there may be something wrong with the dog.
Another great option for someone wanting to start breeding is to enter into a co-own with an experienced breeder. This is a way to get a top quality breeding prospect for less cost than if you did it on your own. But more importantly it allows you to break into breeding under the mentorship of someone who is already a seasoned breeder, already familiar with the bloodlines, has a reputation you can draw off of while you build your own reputation, and who is vested in your success. It helps new breeders get started off right, with a little less risk and some help getting over the major hurdles, and it allows experienced breeders to have breeding access to their bloodlines without having to always keep dogs back themselves. It can be a great arrangement for both parties.
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