With COVID 19 and shows cancelled, I hope this gentle, but prideful, reminder of who we are, the legendary dogs that enable us, and the people who inspire us will help.


There’s only one path to success as a breeder and it’s mostly uphill, winding across the rocky terrain of commitment in such a way as to get a lot of people lost.

We can set goals by the dozens, be blessed with good looks, good dogs, and a huge bank account. We may read all the right books and travel in the best circles. We can soak up knowledge like a sponge and spew out platitudes by the hour.

All of this may bring short term satisfaction, but only one thing earns respect from one’s peers and lasting success as a breeder: It is an unwavering commitment to ethics and excellence.

AKC records reveal that it takes about five years before most people give up. Only a handful spurn the shortcuts and, making a personal resolution to arrive at their destination, begin the climb to high ground.

Make no mistake—walking the lofty path of commitment is the exact opposite of having one’s head in the clouds! It means being grounded in a realistic obligation to the breed, to the sport, and most of all, to personal standards of integrity.



Webster’s gives us some interesting definitions: “To nourish, cherish…to generate, engender…to cause, to occasion…to bring up, to nurse and foster,” and more to the point, “to produce by special selection of parents or progenitors.”

Anyone who puts two animals together for the purpose of producing young does “generate, engender, cause” the propagation of that breed. Ahh, but here’s the rub: Only a handful of persons involved in the production of companion animals can be said to “produce by special selection of parents or progenitors.”

A Breeder (with a capital “B”) is one who thirsts for knowledge, but never knows it all; one who wrestles with decisions of conscience, convenience, and commitment.

A Breeder is one who sacrifices personal interests, finances, time, friendships, fancy furniture, and deep pile carpeting. A breeder gives up dreams of a long, luxurious cruise in favor of turning that all-important specialty show into this year’s vacation.

The Breeder goes without sleep (but never without coffee) while watching anxiously over the birth process and, afterwards, every little sneeze, wiggle, or whimper.

A Breeder skips dinner parties because the puppies have to be fed at eight. He or she disregards birth fluids and puts mouth to mouth to save a gasping newborn, literally blowing life into a tiny, helpless creature that may be the culmination of a lifetime of dreams.

A Breeder’s lap is a marvelous place where generations of proud and noble champions once snoozed. A Dog Breeder’s hands are strong and firm and often soiled, but ever so gentle and sensitive to the thrust of a puppy’s nose.

A Breeder’s knees are usually arthritic from stooping, bending, and lifting puppies, but are strong enough to enable the Breeder to show the “keeper” in Sweeps!

A Breeder’s shoulders are often heaped with abuse from competitors, but are wide enough to support the weight of a thousand defeats and frustrations. A Breeder’s arms are always able to wield a mop, support an armful of puppies, or lend a helping hand to a newcomer.

A Breeder’s ears are wondrous things, strangely shaped (from being pressed against a phone receiver), deaf to criticism yet always fine-tuned to the cry of a sick pup.

A Breeder’s eyes are blurred from pedigree research and sometimes blind to his own dog’s shortcoming, but they are ever so keen to the competition’s faults and are always, always searching for the perfect specimen.

A Breeder’s brain is foggy on faces, but recalls pedigrees faster than an IBM. It is so full of knowledge that sometimes it blows a fuse. It catalogs thousands of good fronts, hocky rears, and perfect heads… and buries in the soul the failures and the ones that didn’t turn out.

The Breeder’s heart is often broken, but it beats strongly with hope everlasting—and it is always in the right place!

Oh yes, there are breeders, and then, there are Breeders.

photo by ©Matthew Palmer

  • Barbara Andrews

    Barbara “BJ” Andrews is the breeder of over 300 AKC Champions including over a dozen All-Time record holders. She is the author of 8 breed books and founder of 3 AKC Breed Clubs. In 1998 she launched the world’s first public website (TheDogPlace.org) followed by TheDogPress.com and TheJudgesPlace.com which, as part of the NetPlaces Network, serves all facets of dog ownership and exhibition. She and husband Bill pioneered the Akita, Miniature Bull Terrier, and Toy Fox Terrier to AKC recognition and BJ served on the board of each Parent Club. She has judged in England and AKC Specialty Sweeps. She was awarded UKC All Breeds approval but has never applied for an AKC judges license because it could interfere with objective reporting on the sport.

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