It is your choice

Recently, the animal rights movement has gained momentum in placing guilt over how people obtain their next pet. Obtaining a pet should be a choice made on research and determining what is best for you. Most dogs and cats will be expected to live at least a decade and require veterinary care to keep them in happy and healthy. Purchasing a pet should never be done in an impulse buy.

Currently there is a smear campaign saying “Adopt don't shop” sure it is catchy but the real phrase should be “Adopting is still shopping.” The phrase is supposed to place guilt on buying an animal from a breeder. However, that campaign is doing absolutely nothing to educate the public regarding responsible pet ownership and thrives on impulse buys which will require people to make choices that they are not able to follow through on once their animal is home. The phrase originally was a way to tell people to avoid purchasing animals at pet shops and therefore supporting puppy mills and commercial breeding operations.

Would it surprise anybody that is it is becoming rarer and rarer to find purebred puppies from commercial breeders in pet stores? Instead it is commonplace to find dogs and cats from privately owned rescues available for immediate purchase at every single big box pet supply store such as Petsmart and Petco. Is it better to buy a dog as an impulse buy from a private rescue that has absolutely no government inspection requirements in some places as they have been purposely exempted from basic animal care laws? I say that it isn't, those animals are no healthier or better than puppies sold at a flea market. It is actually better to buy a dog from a commercial breeder because those breeders and brokers have to follow federal laws, inspections and even must follow state lemon laws. Buying a dog from a private rescue means that you could be fueling illegal dog trafficking and importing across state lines and even into the country. Private rescues in many cases are 501(c)3 non-profit organizations but all that means is that they must not show a profit so they can make a LOT of money on animal sales as long as they do not have an operating profit for 3 out of 5 years then they are fine. Private animal rescues can even pay their staff salaries that in some cases are six figures a year.

If a person buys a sick dog from a rescue where the rescue knew that the dog was sick puts 100% of the responsibility on the new owner. If a person buys a sick dog from any breeder where the dog was already sick, in many cases 100% of the responsibility is on the breeder. Buying from a breeder means that the new owner is protected from adopting a dog with communicable diseases, buying from a rescue means that the rescue can sell dogs for hundreds of dollars with absolutely no oversight at all. Also, some rescues will follow this model, adopt out a dog as fast as possible, hope for it to be returned as often as possible and continue to collect multiple adoption fees for the same animal. So some rescues can easily make thousands on just 10 dogs or less.

Rescues can and will import dogs from various locations to tug at the heartstrings of the general public. In actuality, these rescues may be stealing dogs that have owners and profiting on dog theft. Rescues hope and pray for natural disasters so that they can benefit on people not being able to have the resources to find their animals if they are lost. Recently, some Golden Retrievers have been imported from Turkey at a staggering rate but a watch group found out that the majority of those dogs imported were actually stolen dogs or dogs reported missing. Another case is the case of Piper the champion sheltie that a rescue held hostage for a year while the legal owner fought to get their dog back after the rescue illegally and knowingly stole the dog.

A new report done by the NAIA showed that 85%+ of all dogs in America have been spayed or neutered. That fact alone means that we are at an all time low for dogs being euthanized. The more disturbing side of that fact means that there are less than 15% to maintain the growing demand that Americans have for puppies. We are looking at a massive dog shortage in the next 5 to 10 years, many urban locations are already seeing that shortage. With this shortage means that rescues are becoming more desperate to find dogs to adopt, some rescues are even using dogs that come from commercial breeders to adopt out, they are patrolling lower income neighborhoods and liberating or harassing people who have different views on animal care to get new dogs to adopt, they are even trying to contract with substandard people/breeders to breed puppies to adopt. Many rescues are exempt from lemon laws so they just want dogs to adopt as fast as possible. Rescues are getting in more and more trouble for adopting out animals with behavioral issues where they will bite, attack and sometimes kill their new owners. Rescues need the same oversight as breeders.

Buying from a responsible breeder means that you are getting a valuable source of expert advice, a healthy puppy, and the comfort in knowing how your puppy will be as an adult. Some responsible breeders will also rescue (I list available rescue Hamiltonstovare on my site and we have fostered before), breeders will also have the knowledge of generations of dogs to explain why a puppy looks the way it does. I can look at Raven, Selene, Griffin and Henry and see elements of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond. Responsible breeders will make sure that you are obtaining the right animal for your needs and at the right time. Some people will say that it is impossible to obtain a dog from a responsible breeder or to contact one, but the key is email us detailed and thoughtful emails that show you have done research. I get LOTS of emails that say “I want one, when can I pick one up?” My waiting list is full of people who I have built up a relationship with, know what they want out of their next puppy and know when they are ready for their next puppy. Responsible breeders do not cater to impulse buys, they cater to people who have done their research on which breed is right for them and why. Responsible breeders support responsible pet ownership, responsible pet ownership does not cause animals to end up in shelters, impulse buys and catering to the irresponsible does.

Do your research, find the dog for you that fits you as it is your choice. Buy an animal that you know will suit your needs, no guilt trip needed.  

Why do my puppies cost so much?

The biggest issue that I get with people is why my puppies cost so much. I understand that people must think with their wallets a lot of the time but in terms of buying from a responsible breeder expect to pay at least $1,000 for a puppy regardless of quality or breed. Hamiltonstovare generally fall into 2 categories, one is imported and the other is native born. The imported Hamiltonstovare will ALWAYS cost more than the native born. A breeder in the UK or Sweden may charge between $1,000 to $2,000 for a puppy but that does not include the cost to get the dog to the states. Currently the average cost to bring a 14 week old (the youngest that they can legally travel) Hamiltonstovare is around $1,200 and the price goes up exponentially as the dog gets older. So if you want to budget for a 4-6 month old Hamiltonstovare to be brought over, plan on spending close to $5,000 with all of the various costs from the breeder, the shipping agency, the vet fees, microchip, flight crate (which will be different than their home crate), and any other thing you can think of.

This blog will focus on what and why native born Hamiltonstovare puppies that are AKC and UKC registered will always cost between $2,000 and $3,000 per puppy. My next litter will be $3,000 a puppy and the reason behind it is complex. The first thing that I must factor in the cost for AI (Artificial Insemination) is high, at the low estimates for shipping from Sweden and the insemination process is around $3,000. I am planning on doing a c-section for Alice as she needed an emergency c-section with her last litter and that is around $1,500 including the ultrasounds and x-rays leading up to the c-section. So already prior to the puppies being born the cost is close to $5,000. Thankfully, I already have a good whelping box and liner, however I am planning on implementing a few new changes to the whelping area that will cost about $100 to do.

The rough estimates to keep a litter of 4-5 puppies alive is around $100 a week. I keep my puppies for a minimum of 10 weeks so that they can have the maximum amount of socialization and human interaction possible. So that is $1,000 just to keep the puppies and the mother alive. That does not include any vaccinations, socialization trips, puppy evaluations, toys, etc.

According to my calculations to keep a litter of 4-5 puppies alive, socialized, with proper vet care from conception to new homes is close to $8,000. This again is not factoring in for the amount of money and time I spend on showing the mother to the level that she is at, nor does it factor in any health testing done on either parent. The sire of the litter has also been shown extensively in Europe, so that is not factored in at all. Also, a stud fee has not been factored in either as customarily it is either a fee or a puppy. So, lets put things into perspective, I am planning on keeping a puppy, the stud owner gets a puppy and there's only 2-3 puppies left to sell. With me charging $3,000 a puppy, that's a net loss of $2,000 for a litter of 4 and a possible slight profit of $1,000 for a litter of 5.

If I were to factor in things like cost of showing, import of the mother, care and maintenance of the mother then for a litter of 5, I'd be at a loss of over $5,000 at a conservative estimated minimum. The idea or concept that breeders make money with their puppies is just not true. If I wanted to make money from my puppy sales then I'd have to charge close to $6,000 a puppy at minimum and that just isn't fair. I do not believe in charging the same as horse for a dog. I also do not price differentiate between males, females or for quality. It costs the same amount of money to raise each puppy regardless of gender or quality. I do have various levels of contracts though that will stipulate how that puppy is to be raised and just because I charge $3,000, that does not mean that you can breed the dog at all or to anything. My pet quality contracts stipulate a spay/neuter to be done on the dog after the growth plates have closed by a licensed vet for males and after the first heat cycle and close of growth plates for females. My breeding/show/performance quality contracts strictly forbid spay/neuter unless it is medically necessary (ie pyometra, testicular torsion, cancer, etc.) however that decision must be made by a licensed veterinarian and I must be informed of the procedure by the owner with vet records proving the medical need for it. My breeding/show/performance quality contracts also stipulate that any breeding must be consulted by me prior to any breeding or agreements being made of any kind. I want to make sure that my line of Hamiltonstovare is known for being the very best and I want to ensure that going forward. I take these items very seriously and place financial penalties on these items on my contracts.

I understand that spending a lot of money up front for a puppy can be difficult but the school of thought at play here is that spending $3,000 up front now will actually save you money throughout the span of the dog's life. All of my puppies come with a 1 year health guarantee against any congenital issues, so throughout the first year of life all you have to pay for is the puppy price, well puppy vet costs and basic care/training.

I am going to explain next why it is so important to be willing to spend the money up front because if you don't, you could easily spend 10 times that if you are not careful. At the same time that I got Alice, a relative of mine got a backyard bred Golden Retriever who was already 18 months old. This dog did not come from health tested parents nor did it come from parents with any titles at all. This dog was also spayed way too young. As a result, this dog had to have multiple expensive surgeries, and unfortunately had to be put down due to an aggressive and preventable genetic disease. Her owners spent over $30,000 in the dog's lifetime in medical bills alone. To put that into perspective I have spent less than $10,000 in the lifetime of 6 dogs for medical bills spanning the same amount of time. This person had consulted with me prior to obtaining the dog and I advised them to go to a responsible breeder but they refused to pay the puppy price. So instead of paying $2,000 for a well bred puppy, they spent over $30,000 on a poorly bred dog only to have the dog live less than the breed's average lifespan.

So $3,000 for a healthy puppy or a lifetime of vet and/or training bills that will total far in excess of what any responsible breeder would ever charge? You decide.   

Spay and Neuter

Conventional wisdom says that if you aren't going to breed your dog then spay or neuter it. It is also considered by most to be a responsible dog owner behavior to spay and neuter your dog. However, most responsible dog owners don't know that the very procedure that they think is responsible is actually causing harm, especially the younger the dog is. 

New research has shown that the benefits of spaying or neutering may not outweigh the harm that is being done in the long run. Hamiltonstovare were involved in a large study in Sweden regarding early spay and neuter. Early spay and neuter is a procedure done prior to the growth plates being closed, which in Hamiltonstovare is 18 months to 2 years of age. The study results were shocking. Those dogs that received an early spay/neuter were more prone to behavioral issues, bladder issues, growth issues, and cancer. 

Spaying does have a health benefit and it is the only way to prevent pyometra, which is a potentially lethal infection of the uterus. The risk for infection goes up as the dog ages. After Alice's last litter or when she is 8 and a half, whichever comes first, she will have an ovary sparing spay. The ovary sparing spay is a relatively new procedure and it allows the dog to get the benefits of the hormones but eliminate the risk of infection. This procedure will be done to all of my females after their breeding career is over. In Hamiltonstovare, a study was done and the adjusted percentage of the breed that may develop pyometra is roughly 1.2% with a 85-97% survival rate based on age. Pyometra can develop for a multitude of reasons but the theory is that it runs in lines and is also based on environmental factors as well. 

In my contracts, I strictly prohibit spaying and neutering for the pet quality dogs until the dog is 18 months old and gone through at least one heat cycle for the bitches, the dogs it is 18 months and certified by a veterinarian that the growth plates are closed. Puberty is a very important process that all dogs should go through, it allows their brain and body to fully mature and receive vital hormones for their developing body. Without those hormones, spayed and neutered dogs will grow larger than their intact littermates. This also weakens various tendons, ligaments, cartilage and even joint structures. A new study that was recently published theorizes that early spay and neuter may be a contributing factor for dogs developing hip displaysia. Another study showed that early spay and neuter greatly increase the risk for tendon ruptures in the knee. 

Several cancers are on the rise and several studies within Rottweilers and Golden Retrievers suggest that early spay and neuter can contribute to the cause of some cancers. The main cancers that seem to have a link between spay/neuter and development of those cancers are osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and prostate cancer. Prostate cancer in particular seems to have the most direct link, conventional wisdom says that the risk should diminish but the exact opposite is true, the testosterone produced in the testes seems to slow down or inhibit tumor growth. 

Another adverse reaction to spay/neuter is behavioral. This is theorized in that the adult hormones required for brain development are never allowed to develop so behavioral problems can happen. Another issue is that hypothyroidism, obesity, and diabetes risk increases dramatically with spay/neuter regardless of age when the procedure is done. 

It has been advised that for those interested in performance sports such as agility, lure coursing, weight pull and many other activities to not spay or neuter unless medically necessary. In my most recent litter, not a single puppy has been spayed or neutered and I hope it stays that way for a very long time. I have even toyed with the idea of even allowing my pet quality dogs to be kept intact but have strict contract requirements that have massive financial penalties should breeding take place. Right now, I treat it on a case by case basis as I feel that keeping dogs intact is better for them. I prefer ovary sparing spays for older bitches because the hormones are kept but the risk for pyometra is eliminated. If a method is devised for vets to perform vasectomies, then I would be for that as well. 

For more information please see this compilation of many studies done by the NAIA:

Puppy Talk and Socialization: why I don’t breed a lot

Generally in this day in age when you tell people that you are a breeder, regardless of the breed, they think that you are surrounded by puppies every single day. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Most responsible breeders don’t have puppies around all the time, but for a few brief moments and then devote countless hours planning the next litter and following up with those produced.

My first litter of puppies was not something that I planned fully and just happened. My list of lessons learned is about a mile long. The next litter that I am even considering is 2016, I personally don’t see how a person working 40+ hours a week can breed a litter every year. I need some breathing room. This first litter was highly anticipated just because of the parents alone. So when Alice kept everybody on their toes then it was no surprise to me. Alice has always been a dog that kept everybody guessing. The emergency c-section was a two-fold situation. The first was that Alice’s temperature went from 100.6-98.7 between days 58-63. It is enough to drive any breeder crazy. Between days 60-63, I was having Alice go through an ultrasound to make sure everything was ok. After a solid 24 hours within 98F range and yet no puppy or any sign that she would ever push, I went nuts with my emergency vet who monitored her and then the final ultrasound at the reproductive vet showed signs of fetal distress. So the puppies arrived amid stress and freaking out on my part on May 21, 2014 around 11am. At that point, we realized the issue was a puppy had died around day 56/57 and was mummified.

As soon as Alice and her 4 puppies arrived home, the real work began. The puppies were monitored for weight, ability to nurse and other vital signs. Around day 3, I started the Super Dog program of early neurological stimulation. The Super Dog program lasted until they were 13 days old. It consisted of various movements, stimulation of the feet, and exposure to brief periods of cold. It may seem strange but it really worked, every puppy hit their milestones 2+ days ahead of schedule. All 4 puppies have no issues with any sort of anxiety and all are extremely friendly. After their Super Dog program ended, they were exposed to various people in a controlled environment. As such, these puppies seek out people for comfort and really enjoy the company of people. That is a huge change from their parents who have great temperaments but aren’t very affectionate nor to the truly seek out people for companionship (other than me, they adore me almost to a fault).

After the puppies started walking is when I started instinct testing them. They would be exposed to rabbit scent and pelts. Then they were exposed to fox scent and a fox tail. After they were old enough to run, I would take a rabbit pelt and tie it to a lunge line to see how their natural prey instincts were. During the instinct testing and exposure is when I started housebreaking and leash breaking.

All of these things take time and effort, and that is the main reason I do not breed that often. I am devoted to each and every puppy, not just the pick of the litter or the one I am planning on keeping. I make sure that each puppy is well rounded, healthy (both mentally and physically), and ready to leave before their new owners come and pick them up. Also, I have to think about every single time I breed that complications could happen. I want to have Alice with me as long as possible and to lose her while producing a litter of puppies seems very selfish. As such, Alice will only be bred one more time and then that’s it. Her daughters will never be breeding machines either, they will only be bred 1-2 times total. I don’t believe in repeat breedings (Rolo is a product of one, which I am glad but they aren’t for me). I believe in the Swedish model which is making sure that genes do not become too prevalent within a population and cause a bottleneck. 

Breeding is a joy in that I get to mold the next generation of Hamiltonstovare in America. It isn't for everybody because if you think of things in a financial speak, you will lose money almost every single time. However, when you breed you can honestly see the future of the breed right in front of you. I want what is best for them and care deeply about how they impact the breed as a whole.