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Ethics is a very interesting subject and one that may cause controversy and is in many ways a matter of opinion, however, with recent overseas media and scaremongering within the border collie community it is a subject that I am happy to express my opinion on. This is merely of course my opinion and something I feel quite passionate about having had such an “interesting” induction into the world of the border collie and perhaps sharing can help you to make the right decisions and avoid some of the anxiety that I have experienced.

Everybody has their own idea of ethics and as such you will find those who find 5-10 litters per year acceptable and those who think it is only ethical to breed every 5 years. The NZKC made moves in 2016 to standardise a minimum level of expected ethical behaviour from breeders under its blanket. This has served to govern things such as minimum/maximum breeding age of a bitch, maximum number of litters and timeframes within those parameters, acceptable relationships (correlating roughly to COI's and small population limitations), how we sell puppies, deal with owners, raise our dogs etc. This has been a great starting point for all new breeders however, is only minimum requirement so each breeder has the ability to take that and build on it to create an ethic they are proud to promote.

There are however many breeders with rose-tinted glasses and these are the most ethically dangerous breeders.

Ethics is a multi-faceted thing.

You buy or breed a pup. Either way you have that dog but is it worthy of being bred? Applying an ethical standpoint, just because you buy it doesn't mean you have to include it in your breeding programme if it is not up to par, and this goes beyond health testing and more into the realms of structure, temperament, workability, untestable health and line history.

If you did breed from that dog, did it produce similar with improvement or worse than itself, this should be a decider on whether that dog is bred again.

Have you got a plan of what you want to achieve out of mating and by this I don't mean a champion ribbon or a pretty coloured dog, I mean a healthy, well structured dog with a good temperament, geared towards something in particular - show, agility, obedience, working, pet etc that is still going to be healthy, well structured, and free of diseases at 10 years old.

Ethics is not about breeding a perfect dog as we will ALL breed one of those in a breeding lifetime. It is about how the breeder deals with that problem when it occurs as no dog can be guaranteed 100%. As I type I am thinking of a fellow breeder who recently ran into a problem and ofcourse problematic people to go with it but I fully admire how that particular breeder took that information and used it. The ethics behind the situation were spot on.

Colour is another heated ethics conversation. So often we see rainbow litters and breeders whose first consideration when picking a stud is to race to Anadune the border collie database and see what colours they will produce in a test mating and then pick a sire accordingly. Not saying that breeding a coloured dog is unethical because it certainly isn't done correctly but these breeders will often have hugely variable prices outside the realms of belief dependent on what the colour is. Sadly the colour of the dog doesn't make it a better pet, worker or anything really, just a different visual display!

We could talk about the intricacies of Ethics for ever more but lets move on to the Breeders Code of Ethics.

Dealing with the Ethical Breeder

You must ask as many questions as you need to satisfy yourself that you are making the right choice. If the breeder gets agitated or annoyed with the questions, be wondering why? An ethical breeder will be happy to answer a million questions as they are as interested in the right home as you are in the right puppy.

You will be allowed on the property of an Ethical Breeder, they will allow you to play with and view their dogs and view their dog housing. Their puppies will be bright, happy and full of life and they will be able to typify the parents natures, attitudes and personalities.

An ethical breeder may turn down your choice of puppy from their litter and recommend another. This is simply because they know the breed, they have talked indepth with you and can pick the characteristics in a puppy that best suit what you are looking for. Never get huffy if this happens to you, the breeder is merely looking out for your best interests and the puppies.

Be clear about what you are wanting in your puppy and an ethical breeder will be very clear about what you are getting.

An ethical breeder will not provide unwanted defamatory slander about other breeders of type to puppy buyers to make a sale. Be very wary of any breeder who is more interested in running other breeders and their dogs down to you than they are in telling you about their own dogs, their quirks and their natures. This includes the kennel club and any other affiliated club.

Do not be blinded by scientific jargon. Scientific jargon should always be accompanied by scientific proof from a registered scientific company for example Genetic Technologies, Optigen, Orivet, Massey University or UNSW, companies that are sanctioned and qualified to make assessments with professional staff who are qualified and have spent many decades researching genetics. Backyard geneticists are around every corner, in reality they are just butchers….. bakers….. 

hell some are even cabinetmakers!

And finally, if it doesn’t feel right, if you just don’t feel like you are getting the full story or are not happy with what you are seeing or hearing, you may well have found one of these “unethical breeders”. Do not be scared to walk away, there are plenty of other breeders out there that have their ethics in check!