One   Breeder's    View Points


"The disposition of noble dogs is to be gentle with people they know
and the opposite with those they don't know...
How, then, can the dog be anything other than a lover of learning
since it defines what's its own and what's alien ?"


From the Editor

Quality Control
Surveying Puppy Buyers Will Identify Your Kennel's Strengths and Weaknesses.
Dogs in Canada ~ May 1997
by Rick Stopps  M.D.

Kennel Inspection
What Constitutes Good Canine Husbandry ?
 Dogs in Canada ~ March 1998
by Rick Stopps  M.D.

Computers in the Kennel
A Wealth of Options Exists to Help in the Business & Pleasure of Raising Dogs
Dogs in Canada ~ February 2000
by Rick Stopps  M.D.

From The Editor (Dogs in Canada  - 1997

"Given the trend toward evaluation of performance, is it unreasonable to expect breeders to monitor their own kennel establishments, and the after-sales support they offer ?  Absolutely not, says Golden Retriever breeder Dr. Rick Stopps of Grimsby, Ontario.  In fact, he endorses the concept of of quality assurance in the dog fancy, and encourages  breeders to keep on their toes by polling past buyers through regular kennel surveys." 

"When Dr. Stopps submitted his thoughts to us on kennel surveys and their value in keeping breeders focused and on target, it triggered some interesting discussion.  Many breeders are quick to dismiss any talk of business practices, contracts and legal matters.  "This is a labour of LOVE, our Passion, our Hobby," they protest, recoiling in horror at the mere mention of filthy lucre in relation to dogs.  True, it may be a hobby, but it happens to be one in which many, many thousands of dollars change hands yearly.  Yet it isn't unusual to approach long-time breeders, exhibitors or handlers at a show - people who've spent a small fortune over several decades of active involvement in the sport - and ask for a business card, only to have them rip out the back page  from the show catalogue and scribble down the vital statistics.  Would you feel comfortable dealing with an accountant or physician who scribbled his telephone number on the back of a subway transfer ?" 

"It is simply a matter of professionalism.  Hobby or not, if breeders are to view themselves as professionals, they must acknowledge that they are providing a service.  Judging the quality of one's own service isn't easy.  That's where the empirical evidence provided by a kennel survey of the type advocated by Dr. Stopps can be so useful." 

Mr. Allan Reznik
Message from the Editor
Dogs in Canada
May 1997


Quality Control
Surveying Puppy Buyers Will Identify Your Kennel's Strengths and Weaknesses.
Dogs in Canada ~ May 1997
by Rick Stopps  M.D.
Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) is a common theme in working environments today. 

CQI is a journey rather than a destination. Knowing  where  our breeding programs started and what results we have now helps to direct our emphasis and efforts for improvement. A kennel survey seeks the longer term answers from your clients about how your dogs really turned out as adults - how they rate you and the health and happiness of the dogs you produced. 

If you are truly adventurous (and have a thick skin), you might also ask for feedback on your customer service, call backs, phone mail, warranty, etc. 

There is the potential to discover unexpected physical or emotional traits exhibited in your animals. You might be alerted to areas that require more client education with new puppies, or clearer contractual obligations (such as spay/neuter contracts). 

You might redefine your criteria for breeding, screening or vaccination. 

Invest time in the development stage

What are your goals and objectives? 

What do you hope to achieve or improve?  One of the most difficult parts of a kennel survey is to establish the explicit questions you wish answered; the more vague the questions, the less exact the responses and, consequently, the less useful the information. Ask your questions in a clear and concise way. Typical queries have to do with health, behavioural or customer-service issues. Use 'plain English' - phrases like "canine hip dysplasia" or "arthritis" rather than "CHD," for example. 

Clearly establish the dog's identity on the answer form, so you can compare males to females, or traits from given litters or 'lines' of dogs. 

Make the total number of questions manageable, since you will have to tabulate the results. Excessively long questionnaires also cost more money to reproduce and mail. 

Having decided what you wish to ask, you now must determine what 'target' you wish, and can afford, to survey. If you bred 50 puppies a year for each of the last 10 years and you target every owner of these dogs, you will have to produce and mail 500 copies of your survey! Perhaps you should then aim for owners of dogs produced within the last two years - and 100 surveys. 

Telephone surveys become personalized and are much more difficult to conduct objectively unless they are done independently, and the caller sticks firmly to the questions. 

Calculate the Costs

A four-page questionnaire can be 'reduced' (by photocopier) to two pages per side on a standard 8-1/2-x-11-inch piece of paper; this can then be folded into a pamphlet. This would mean two photocopies a double-sided page at 12¢ a copy or 24¢ a survey. Canadian postage will cost 45¢ to 90¢ per survey, and you will  need two envelopes per survey: a mailing envelope and a (stamped?) self-addressed return envelope. 

If you don't own or have access to a computer or the appropriate software, computer time, printing and copying facilities can be rented from companies such as Kinko's. Typical charges are 20¢ per minute computer time and 50¢ per laser copy (black and white). If you have a clear idea of the survey you want to create you will need about two hours of computer time ($24), typically four laser-printed output sheets ($2), and 100 double-sided photocopies ($24 to $35) to produce the questionnaire. Folding, envelope stuffing and stamp licking can be done while you watch some boring tv show or hockey game. (Add $5 for 200 envelopes - i.e., two per survey.) 

Your costs are thus about $55 plus postage ($90+) and personal time just to produce and mail 100 questionnaires; to be safe, budget $1.50 per survey. We  were able to use existing computer and photocopy facilities and reduce the direct costs to about 70¢ per survey. 

Maximize Convenience & Maximize your Return

Clear, typed questions in large, easy-to-read print will encourage answers; leave space to the right side of each page and use yes/no 'check'-type boxes to minimize both the respondent's confusion when answering and your labour while tabulating results. 

Prepare 'squared' accounting-type paper (using NCR with a duplicate is a good idea) for recording results. Develop short forms or codes to record all possible answers to each question: each column of results for each question forms a profile or snapshot of the question as it applies to your kennel. Percentages of the total questionnaires mailed out, rather than of responses, account for 'lost' surveys (e.g., returned mail with no forwarding address) when calculated at the bottom of each column. 

This is a perfect opportunity to use a computer spreadsheet to collect and compile results and produce an integrated set of graphs. We have always found graphs much easier to see than raw data in a table (see Tables 1 & 2). 

Lastly, allow enough time for respondents to answer: remember the vagaries of mail via Canada Post. 

Compiling Considerations

We would recommend refraining from compiling results for at least eight weeks after mailing. Try to avoid hitting peak mail periods like Christmas, but perhaps include your survey with an annual newsletter from your kennel. 

The effort and time required to compile the responses will depend on the volume of returns and your computer resources. It is easy to start seeing the potential of your final product and spend vast amounts of time generating even more artistic, coloured graphs on a computer. Use the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and stick to pie charts or bar graphs. 

The Hands-off Approach

If you think the creation, mailing and compiling of your kennel survey is beyond your abilities or will require more time than you can spare, there are alternatives. 

Many business programs at community colleges and universities offer a 'small business advisory service' for a nominal fee. These programs often focus on marketing research or financial planning. You could also hire a professional polling company, with corresponding professional results and fees! 

Justifying the Cost?

If you run your kennel as a business, this survey is both a marketing tool and a breeding-program directive. It tells former clients that you are interested in the long haul, not in a fast buck. 

Return or repeat clients and their referrals represent a large proportion of new puppy buyers. If the survey earns repeat business, or identifies areas where you need to improve (and thus prevents the return of a puppy by a dissatisfied owner), it has paid for itself. 

The costs to produce and distribute your survey, and to compile the results, should be deductible as a business expense. 

If you breed as a hobby - solely for the love of dogs - you may wish to invest in a kennel survey to turn your "beliefs" to "facts." While there are many talented amateurs in the dog fancy, there is no blindness like kennel blindness! 

We often calculate these cost considerations as 'puppy equivalents': the stud service, veterinary vaccinations, exams and worming, feeding, client handouts, registration and advertising can all be reduced to an equivalent number of puppies from each average litter. An average kennel survey will 'cost' you less than 'half a puppy', and will help direct content in your client contracts, choice of stud service or the selection of dogs that become 'keepers' for future breeding stock. 

Read Them and Reap

Having obtained the results, and graphed them, you must start to look at the tale they tell. This is not the time to be defensive or rationalize about why all those people said what they did. 

Considering the amount of time and expense you invested in seeking their opinions, you should value their feedback. 

You will learn the most from negative results and comments. We all like a pat on the back for a job well done, and enjoy the satisfaction of positive feedback. We mustn't rest on our laurels about the things we are already doing right, but we don't want to devote too much time doing those things better while leaving other areas wanting. 

If the negative data suggests you have a problem in a given physical or behavioural area, are you prepared to change your breeding program? Are outcrosses necessary? Have you linebred too tightly? Do you need to start searching for a new stud dog, or is it perhaps time to retire a particular brood bitch? 

Breeding-program improvements do not implement a 'scorched-earth' policy  whereby you repeatedly restart from scratch; rather, they are much like pruning in our apple orchard, taking away the weaker, less productive wood and allowing more nourishment and light to the healthier branches on each tree. As with pruning each winter and spring, this kennel improvement process is a yearly, ongoing phenomenon, gradually building on our previous strengths. n

Two examples of responses compiled from the Silmaril Survey
(See 'Types of Questions to Ask' sidebar)


Types of Questions to Ask About the Dog

Was your puppy ill shortly after arriving at its new home? 
Did it experience more than one day of diarrhea? 

Were all the puppy's vaccinations completed? 

Was your dog checked for worms at 12 weeks? 
Did it require medication? 

Did you spay/neuter your pup? 
At what age? 

Did you have your pup's hips x-rayed? 
Did you understand why you did? 
Was the result reassuring? 

Did your pup demonstrate any behaviour problems? 
If yes, what? 
(Dominance, Chewing, Digging, Timidity, or Excitability ?) 
At what age were these problems exhibited? 

Have you done obedience training with your dog? 

Are you involved in competitive activities with your dog? 
If yes, what? 
(Obedience, Conformation, Hunting/Tracking/Field) 

About the Breeders
Did you find the initial information 
packet useful? 

Did you find the 'new puppy' package helpful when you took your pup home? 

Did you have questions/concerns not addressed in the handouts? 
If yes, what areas need more attention?

~ FAQ's


Kennel Inspection
What Constitutes Good Canine Husbandry ?
 Dogs in Canada ~ March 1998
by Rick Stopps  M.D.
As responsible breeders, We all try to provide the best in care and living conditions for our canine friends ~ our breeding ‘stock'.  We know the costs required to campaign a dog or show a small number of dogs regularly, and have a clear-cut way to evaluate our success, but we might not know how to ensure we're providing the best day to day care for our  canine charges , and how our efforts would hold up in a more standardized system for assessing adequate care ?

What are the minimum requirements for maintaining a healthy kennel ? 

There are wide variations in cultural and regional practices.  Urban pet owners who rarely breed will see this issue differently than a rural breeder with an agricultural perspective.  And breeders limiting themselves to conformation activity in the Toy Group, for example, will see things differently from those involved in lure coursing, field trials or sledding.  They all love their dogs, but each may have a different view of what constitutes good canine husbandry. 

According to the Ontario Humane Society, a kennel owners minimum legal responsibility is to provide food, water, and shelter from the elements with enough room to stand, turn around and stretch out without bending.  This ‘bare bones' approach separates cruelty from care, but surely cannot represent the minimum standard of GOOD care ? 

While the concept of an inspection system, referred to as the CKC Breeder Accreditation Program, has been introduced for discussion, it has not yet been further addressed by the CKC at either the committee or Board levels. 

The Canadian Veterinary  Medical  Association established a ‘Code of Practice for Canadian Kennel Operations' in 1994.  This code mirrors the individual codes of practice for each domestic livestock species as developed by Agriculture Canada.  As "pets", shouldn't our dogs benefit from the code at least as much as livestock ? 

Putting the code into use might work like the approval given to pet foods that meet the minimum requirements.  This could become a voluntary system of inspection and ranking ~ like the 
'Michelin guide to restaurants'  ~ with all kennels, driven by prudent consumers, striving to reach a ‘5 star' rating. 

Institute Your Own Inspection

What should we do until formal kennel-certification programs are in place ? 

We can institute our own kennel inspections !  Inspections legitimize our contribution to debate on specific approaches to kennel inspection within our own breed clubs or the CKC, and they improve our animal husbandry. 

Start by obtaining a copy of the CVMA code of practice [see sidebar].  Review each of the eight sections and then within each topic or subsection, rate the situations as "unacceptable", "okay" or "terrific". 

For example, Section II.J.3 deals with outdoor exercise areas.  Your rating system could indicated that runs littered with several days worth of fecal contamination and stagnant pools of urine are "unacceptable".  A single, fresh stool sample per dog per pen with good urine drainage is "okay".  A kennel attendant standing at the ready, pooper scooper in hand, would be "terrific" !

Once you've established a detailed inspection list, get an objective referee to perform a review.  Pay your Veterinarian for expert advice on the facility.  Alternatively, ask another knowledgeable breeder to rate your facilities and level of care; if  you're worried about cliques within your breed, ask a fancier from a different breed or group.  An inspection based on a standardized list of criteria would avoid the potential for problems arising due to personality conflicts.  Developing suitable breed-specific ' scoring ‘ sheets within a breed club would help establish an educational rather than a punitive approach. 

The ‘inspector' will need to make a site visit to see, smell and hear your dogs in their own setting.  He or she should be able to randomly ask for genetic clearances, health and registration records, etc.  When the ‘score sheet' is handed in, add up the scores from each section to highlight the more general areas of success or difficulty.  Finally, ask for an overall impression. 

If improvements are required, they need not be expensive.  Better record keeping and filing might simply call for a cardboard box and a regular time commitment, while improved sanitation might require only a change of disinfectant or soap.  Perhaps regular part-time help is needed to lighten the chores and leave you more time for training, competition and companionship. 

Voluntary participation in an inspection program, hand in hand with educated puppy  buyers, would collectrively provide the stimulus to improve care and put pressure on uninspected or abusive kennels.  Start with your own Vet or a trusted fellow fancier, and review your facilities now ! 


The Canadian Veterinary Medical  Association's  Ma7 2007  ‘A Code of Practice for Canadian Kennel Operations' 
addresses issues of specific interest to breeders : 

n    Housing & Accomodation 

n    Food & Water 

n    Care & Supervision 

n    Transportation 

n    Emergency & Unforeseen Problems 

Appendices include minimum space requirements for a dog and the recommended vaccination schedule in a breeding kennel. 

Copies may be obtained by contacting the CVMA   [or by using the online 'hotlink' above]
339 Booth Street, 
Ottawa, Ontario.  K1R 7K1 
(613) 236-1162

Next Page
~ FAQ's


Computers in the Kennel
A Wealth of Options Exists to Help in the Business & Pleasure of Raising Dogs
Dogs in Canada ~ February 2000
by Rick Stopps  M.D.
The Monks of New Skete defined relationships with dogs as 'the three 'C's' : Communication, Compassion and Communion. 

In this electronic information age, we would irreverently add a fourth - Computers

Computers have the power to free us from repetitive and time-consuming tasks.  I previously used a computer that boasted a then-huge 512K (k=1,000) bytes of memory and occupied an entire  room on King Street in Toronto!  Today my desktop personal computer, with a 128mega (mega=million) bytes of memory, occupies the corner of my desk !  Computers are faster, have larger memory and are much more affordable these days.  While 'Super Computers' have moved to sustained levels of teraflops, one personal computer now boasts the ability of a gigaflop - a billion separate calculations in one second !  So how can we,  as dog fanciers, harness this awesome computing power ? 

The Primary and Most Frequent Use of a Computer is as a Quality Word Processor

All word-processing programs boil down to rapid, readable, spelling and grammar checked documents.  These documents can be saved as templates and reused for everything from letterhead (including 'watermarks' and logos) to contracts for such purposes as stud contracts, leases, sales and non-breeding agreements.  Many software programs have 'Forms' capability, allowing computer data to 'fill in' forms such as litter registrations, etc.  These programs also reduce the small business need for printed letterhead and business cards.  Many word processors allow you to directly 'send' your letters via fax or e-mail (a modem is required) rather than to a printer.  These electronic notes bypass postal strikes, lost or delayed delivery, and are often cheaper than mail.  They truly save time and money. 

Word processing programs serve as a 'bridge' from handwritten forms to genuine electronic communication with e-mail and file transfer protocols on the World Wide Web.  Take note however; that the Canadian Kennel Club does not yet allow electronic litter and dog registrations or electronic signatures on documents. 

Let your first foray into the high tech world be a quality word processor; many can be bought as modules in a larger integrated electronic office package.  Start with what you can really use and add spreadsheets, bookkeeping, statistical and photo packages later. 

If You Are Breeding, 
Your next Investment might be a Software Pedigree and Database Program

These programs enter family history, breeding, showing, medical and identification information on each dog - just once each !  The integrated database allows fancy printed pedigrees, as well as an electronic file cabinet on all of your dogs' important records and their relationship to other dogs.  Such a program allows analysis, such as Wright's Inbreeding Index or probability analysis of shared genes in different dogs pedigrees.  You no longer have to understand calculus or laboriously do the calculations by hand to get useful scores to improve your planned breedings.  Many permit easy pedigree analysis and 'What-If' type questions.  This facility reduces the expertise previously acquired through years of experience, doing in-depth pedigree analyses.  Comparing individual dog records to the 'average' in your own  kennel can provide an early warning system - e.g.  a 'failure to thrive' based on puppy weight gain compared to a sex and age specific standard might indicate the need for adding supplements or tube feeding, resulting in salvage of a precious young pup ! 

To Keep Track of Your Expenses, Buy a Simplified Accounting Package

These flexible programs allow you to have one electronic file that balances your cheque book and personal expenses, another file that keeps track of kennel costs and perhaps a third that records business expenses.  Some programs will even fill out the cheques !  Your accountant will truly love you when you no longer hand over a grocery bag of  little Bits 0' Paper at tax time !  Such integrated records will also make it much easier to survive a Revenue Canada audit, if you should ever be so lucky ! 

It is amazing how many fanciers spend tens of thousands of dollars on their 'hobby', but have only a month-to-month 'feel' for when they can afford to show or breed their dogs.  What is your budget for Veterinary expenses this year ?  What is your single largest proportional expense ? Direct breeding costs ?  Food ?  Advertising ?  Exactly how much did you spend campaigning that famous dog ?  Do you really want to know ?  Ask your bookkeeper about a simple accounting package. 

Consider a Photo-Printing Program

Our kennel's last client survey showed a strong demand for colour pictures and/or videos of specific dogs.  Clients wanted pictures with puppy-inquiry packages, and many buyers wanted pictures of 'Mom' and 'Dad' when they bought a puppy.  Most stud services were accompanied by a request for pictures of the stud dog.  Aside from the inconvenience of obtaining quality colour photocopies, there was always the expense.  Digitizing your photographs onto a CD format at the time of processing or having specific pictures scanned, allows duplication of pictures quickly and at reasonable cost.  Like the calculators of old, the cost of colour inkjet-type printers has dropped steadily.  You might buy a scanner to digitize your own pictures.  Analyze the costs of pictures (using your accounting package !) and calculate how long it will take for that scanner or colour printer to pay for itself.  Consider a simple picture manipulation software program, like one of the entry level programs from Corel or Adobe.  Do keep in mind that most electronic photo storage and manipulation requires fast computers with large memory and very large storage capability.  As a former programmer and computer systems-analyst, I know just how quickly users begin to see the potential for new things; as every new exciting chapter unfolds, they make more and more demands on the software and hardware that runs it !  If you are going to store pictures electronically, buy much more storage capacity than you think is necessary. 

Consider a Spreadsheet Program

If you want to calculate graphs of normal growth rates of puppies in your breed and the impact of a health concern (e.g. canine hip dysplasia), then you will need a spreadsheet facility with an integrated graphics program.  Collaboratively, we could all help accumulate staggering amounts of information about our breeds.  For example,  standardized growth curves had not been calculated on Golden Retrievers for more than 30 years !  This data collection and analysis can be used to satisfy your own curiosity or for more formal research. 

The Internet and the World Wide Web are upon Us !

A newer personal computer with a moderately fast modem opens up the potential of the Web.  You just sign up (and pay for access time) with an ISP (Internet Service Provider) for a gateway to the Web.  You can have a web page as a 24-hour-per-day 'presence' and or e-mail to make communication with other fanciers easier.  The server or gateway is available to others 24 hours per day, so you can answer their queries when you are awake.  It is possible to establish e-commerce as a vendor, accepting Internet Visa cards.  This will enable you to order and pay for kennel supplies electronically, and comparison shop. 

You can belong to newsgroups and chatlines dealing with the canine fancy, rescue or your own breed.  Search engines allow you to make complex requests for information at sites around the globe, all from your local telephone or cable connection. 

Beware !  There is "disinformation" as well as information out there ! 

The potential for the Web is expanding exponentially.  It represents a convenience and facility for information exchange that has never existed before.  Canadians as a percentage are 'more' web connected and have more 'high speed' access than any other nation on earth !   n

Computer Basics

n    Buy quality hardware that can 'grow' with you.  You don't need the newest and fastest, 
       but don't buy an outdated machine from the classifieds. 

n    IF you plan to store pictures, buy lots of storage capability. 
       Buy the biggest hard disk you can afford. 

n    Buy software modules that can be integrated and expanded as you need them, 
       rather than all at once.  You might try them first (called shareware), and pay for them 
       if you keep using them. 

n    Take software lessons (at night school or a community college) so you can use your existing
       programs and the Internet to the max.  Neophytes own much more software 
       than they actually use ! 


Next Page
~ FAQ's