This is my least favorite question, so I'll get it out of the way up front!
First, I often wonder whether someone should own a large breed dog like a Swissy if the cost of buying/adopting a puppy is a major concern. The purchase price of the puppy is a small drop in the bucket compared to the cost of taking care of that dog over the course of its life. Of course this is not a valid reason to overcharge for Swissy puppies. This is anything but a money-making venture for me, though some people do breed for a living. Therefore, this is a very valid question because prices for Swissy puppies seem to run the gamut. I've seen them advertised on the internet for $1000, and also for as much as $3000.
All Aegis puppies are the same price, whether companion or show. The reason? I want all of my puppies to be valued equally, as pets first and foremost. Just as I would not charge more for a show puppy, I would also never charge more for puppies that I believe to have the best temperament for a companion home, or the most working drive for a performance home. Puppies are placed strictly on their suitability to a home, not who is willing to pay more for them!
All Aegis GMSD puppies are $2500 with the following incentives in place:
$200 will be returned to the puppy buyer upon proof that the Swissy has been on a good accident/illness health insurance plan for the first two years of its life (and beginning no later than 4 months of age).
$100 will be returned to the puppy buyer upon proof that the Swissy has passed a CGC (Canine Good Citizen title from the AKC) test at 12 months of age or older.
So, the true cost of the puppy would be $2200.
WHY GIVE INCENTIVES INSTEAD OF JUST CHARGING LESS?
The concept of "rebates" or "incentives" is not new to Swissy breeders. Some breeders will give puppy buyers $100 back for any titles earned (such as a championship, an obedience title or draft dog title). Sometimes those rebates are applied immediately, whereas some beeders will apply those rebates toward a FUTURE puppy from them. This is all well and good for people that plan to get into the breed seriously, will compete with their dogs on a regular basis and may have plans to get a second Swissy soon. Even then, I always believed that the titles were enough of a reward in themselves. And $100? That doesn't even cover the cost of going to one show in this day and age.
The reality is that most puppy buyers, whether they enjoy hiking or carting recreationally with their Swissy on occasion, will not be title-seeking at dog shows. And truthfully, my first priority and greatest concern is that my puppies will have healthy, happy lives in loving, FOREVER homes. So I tried to think of ways I could, as a breeder, help insure that. Of course I start by trying to breed for health and temperament at all times! By partially subsidizing the first two years of health insurance, I feel that I am helping to give that puppy a great start to a healthy life, while still seeing to it that his new family is ultimately responsible and accountable for his health care decisions.
Why health insurance, when it is a relatively new concept? I guess I have just known way too many Swissy owners who wish they'd made the decision to get health insurance for their dog before it was too late (not that the dog died, but with pre-existing conditions usually excluded, it was pointless to get the insurance after the dog had been diagnosed). Perhaps people become too comfortable in the thought that they did everything right in searching out a healthy puppy from a very reputable breeder. Here's the rub though: even when we take every precaution possible to avoid health risks, no dog or line of Swissies is immune from them. And while you may think you've gotten the best puppy on the planet from the healthiest parents alive and the most reputable breeder the world has ever known...what if your puppy somehow gets the short straw? What if he has an accident? Or is struck by some freak illness we almost never see but may cost thousands upon thousands of dollars to treat? The costs of vet care can be staggering, and they will continue to skyrocket with new legislation that puts vets at risk for huge malpractice suits. All it may take is one ingested sock or remote control, or a slip and fall that results in a torn ACL, or a bad virus that knocks your puppy for a loop, requiring supportive care and fluids...and that insurance policy has more than paid for itself. It's important to find policies, as well, that don't exclude genetic issues such as OCD, etc.
And as for temperament, while I try very carefully to match the appropriate puppy with right family based on temperament, a puppy's behavior is yours to mold from there on out. He will not be born with manners, he will learn them from you. He will not come home with you knowing much more than his name at 8 weeks...or more likely, only responding to the univeral puppy call ("Puppy,Puppy, Puppy...here Puppy, Puppy, Puppy). It is up to a Swissy's new family to make them a civilized, well-mannered member of their family and community. And that requires training. Therefore, to get my puppies off on the right foot, I want to encourage all puppy owners to take Puppy Kindergarten, Basic Obedience and ultimately pass their AKC Canine Good Citizen test.
WHAT ABOUT A HEALTH GUARANTEE?
I will have done my utmost to breed and produce only physically and temperamentally sound GSMD of the correct overall type required by the breed standard. However, I have no control over the genetic makeup of the puppy and therefore cannot guarantee against recessively inherited defects such as hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis, and epilepsy, nor other potential disorders such as GDV/bloat or splenic torsion, which are not evident at the time of sale. Furthermore, I have no control over environmental circumstances and management practices once the puppy has left my home. All of my puppies are placed with the hope they will be healthy and live long, happy lives.
I will guarantee that the puppy is in good health to the best of my knowledge when the puppy goes to its new home. It will have had veterinary check ups, been de-wormed and started on permanent inoculations. I do have a health guarantee extending 72 hours from the time a puppy buyer takes possession of the puppy. I urge all puppy buyers to have the puppy examined by a licensed veterinarian within this guarantee period. Should the veterinarian find anything seriously wrong with the puppy, I will exchange it for another puppy of equal value either at once or when another litter is available, or refund the full purchase price of puppy, on the condition that the puppy buyer's veterinarian provides the necessary proof of the puppy’s illness and the puppy is returned within the above-mentioned seventy two (72) hour time period.
In addition, I also the following health guarantee options to the puppy buyer:
A. I will refund $200 when the GSMD reaches two years of age once I have been provided with documentation that GSMD has been covered by Pet Health Insurance for the first 2 years of its life (beginning no later than 4 months of age). The policy must include coverage for what are often considered hereditary issues in large breed dogs (e.g. OCD, hip dysplasia, etc.)
B. If the puppy buyer chooses to forego Health Insurance coverage for the GSMD, I will refund Buyer $200 if GSMD presents with any serious health disorder requiring major surgery or ongoing medical treatment (such as OCD or epilepsy.)
I strongly encourage puppy owners to select Option A. Different breeders may have different guarantees. Some who charge more for show than companion puppies may refund the difference in price if a puppy presents with a health issue that prevents it's being shown or bred (e.g. Hip Dysplasia, etc.) Others may offer a replacement puppy in that situation. I realize that most companion Swissy owners don't really want a "replacement dog" but just want their dog to be well. And even a guarantee that gives some cash back often doesn't begin to cover the costs of treatment for serious health issues. This is why I want owners to opt for the health insurance subsidy.
WILL I BE ABLE TO MEET BOTH PARENTS?
In most cases, I do not own both the sire and the dam of the litter. First, I never keep more dogs than I can adequately care for in my home as companions. I do not have a kennel full of breeding animals at my disposal, nor would I desire to have that. Second, the dogs in my house may be totally inappropriate choices for the female I am breeding. In fact, the best choice of stud dog may be on the other side of the country, or in some cases (thanks to the advances made in reproductive science) the stud dog may no longer even be alive.
Convenience is the last factor that enters my mind when selecting a mate for a potential breeding. Before that, I consider the dogs whose strengths best offset any weaknesses in the female I am breeding. I also hope that my bitch may adequately compensate for any weaknesses in the stud dog. I not only consider the two dogs themselves, but the strengths and weaknesses of the dogs in their pedigree and what they may be contributing to the genes in this particular breeding. Ideally, we also prefer to make decisions not only based on the actual dogs, but what they have produced in previous breedings. There are absolutely beautiful, sound dogs who for whatever reason (often weaknesses or lack of depth in their pedigree) never go on to be great producers. That said, I will use "unproven" dogs, as all dogs have to start somewhere. But I will only take a chance on an unproven dog if I believe there is great strength and consistency of quality in their pedigree.
Health also plays a critical role in my choice of stud dog. I have to consider any health concerns in my bitch's pedigree and find the dog who has the best chance of offsetting those issues. This involves not only looking at the strength and depth of health clearances in the pedigree, but also considering problems such as epilepsy, cancer, and general longevity.
And finally, temperament too is a factor. If I am breeding a dog who has a particularly soft temperament with low working drive, I will seek to find a mate that may have a higher drive, as it's my goal to not only produce wonderful companions but also dogs who have the temperament (as well as breed type) of the true working Swissy.
If you would like to meet the stud dog I have chosen, I will make the appropriate introductions between you and the stud owner. I would never breed to a dog whose owner is unwilling to let people meet him, should you choose to make the effort. If there are other offspring of this dog whom you may be able to meet, I will endeavor to help you meet them as well.
Finally, I would caution puppy buyers not to put so much emphasis on meeting both parents if that means ultimately looking for a breeder who owns both the dam and sire. Ask yourself, in that situation, if the best possible mate for that female just happens to be the male dog living under that roof...or if the choice of stud dog may have been driven instead by cost and convenience.
WHEN CAN I BRING MY PUPPY HOME?
I do not let puppies go to their new homes until they are at least 8 weeks of age. This not only gives the puppies adequate time to learn the beginnings of pack behavior from their mother and littermates and develop other social skills, but it gives me a chance to evaluate the puppies' temperaments and structure so I can make the best match between each puppy and their new home.
At approximately 7 weeks of age the puppies will have their temperaments evaluated. This process takes place in an unfamiliar place and the tests are conducted by someone the puppies have never met. This gives the evaluator a chance to observe how the puppies respond to various situations and stimuli. At this point, we can determine which puppies may be more confident, which are more submissive or reserved, which are more curious, etc. All this information is very useful in identifying which puppies may be more appropriate for homes with children, which may be better suited to homes that intend to do competitive performance events such as obedience, etc.
At 8 weeks of age, give or take a few days, the puppies' structure will be evaluated by someone who is experienced in evaluating young puppies and objective where the litter is concered. Neither I nor the stud dog owner can be totally objective when evaluating puppies, as we may already have hopes and dreams for these puppies. Therefore we seek the opinion of someone who can be brutally honest. This process not only helps determine which puppies may have potential as show/breeding stock down the road, but also identifies structural faults that might make a puppy less suitable for rigorous working and performance activities.
For these reasons, I do not let puppy buyers "pick out" their puppy. With all the information we gather from these evaluations, we have a much better chance of picking what will ultimately be the puppy who is the best possible fit for your family and lifestyle. Only in a very rare situation, if there are two puppies who have basically identical temperaments and no structural issues that would preclude placement in your home, would I consider letting someone choose between puppies.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO CO-OWN A DOG WITH YOU?
"Co-ownership" in the simplest definition means that both the puppy buyer and the breeder will own the dog together. Beyond that, it's really up to the breeder to define what the terms of that co-ownership are. Some breeders require that the owner of the dog will give them breeding rights to the dog (as in, the breeder may take the bitch back and breed her, or require you to breed her). This may mean even GIVING a puppy back to the breeder. If you consider the value of a Swissy puppy, that is like paying for your dog twice! That is NOT the way I work.
I sell ALL show/breeding potential puppies on a co-ownership contract merely for the purposes of mentoring and seeing to it that the dog will not be bred until it has finished its championship and has all its clearances. And then, if the dog passes all clearances, finishes and we agree the dog should be bred, to help guide HOW the dog is bred. This may seem limiting or controlling on my part, but please understand that I expect nothing back and am only trying to insure the best futures for my puppies and their owners, and to preserve the legacy of health, soundness and temperament we are working so hard to achieve. I simply do not want to see the puppies I have worked so carefully to produce go on to contribute to the careless breeding that is becoming rampant in this breed. The day that I see my puppies wind up in the pedigrees of pet store and puppy mill Swissies is the day I know I have failed terribly as a breeder.
Quite often, I will also place show potential puppies under a co-ownership agreement in pet/companion homes, if they are willing to work with me -- in other words, allow me to show their puppy to its championship if the puppy grows into its potential. In these circumstances, I do everything in my power to minimize any time that the puppy spends away from home...showing locally whenever possible, and only when I think the dog is truly competitive. One such puppy from Moxie's second litter finished his championship in five weekends of showing.
Please understand that breeding a bitch can put your dog's life in danger. Therefore I will NEVER require you to breed your bitch. That is something we both must agree is in the best interest of the breed and something we both want to see happen. AND UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DO I RETAIN THE RIGHT TO BREED YOUR GIRL (beware that some breeders do expect to be able to take your female, breed her and profit off her themselves or expect puppies back should you breed her). If we both agree that a breeding will take place (pending passing ALL required health clearances and agreement on the stud dog), I will not expect anything in return except the right to PURCHASE a puppy from you. I will help select the stud dog, I will help screen and approve homes, I will answer questions and share everything I know with you, but it will be up to you to do the real work. That not only means caring for a pregnant bitch, whelping and raising a litter, but also being there for the owners of YOUR puppies for the life of those dogs. These are all things to consider carefully before deciding you want to breed.
Breeding is certainly not for everyone, and only a fraction of those people who enjoy showing their dogs even go on to breed. So if you ultimately decide that while the showing was fun, you have no desire to breed your girl, I will happily sign off completely when she has been spayed.
In the case of co-owned male dogs, assuming the dog has finished his championship and passed his clearances, I only ask that we discuss and agree on all breeding decisions. Other than that, I will leave it to you to take the lead role as stud owner -- which means dealing with bitch owners, taking your dog to the vet for various evaluations, collections, etc. The rule is, you do the work, you should get the stud fee. Some owners, however, have no desire to deal with all this nonsense but are willing to let the dog be "used" if they don't have to do all the work. In that case, I will faciliate the breeding of the dog if at all possible. In this case, we will split stud fees, 50/50.
It will be totally up to you whether you decide to collect and freeze semen, and your expense should you take that route. However, I will also retain the right to collect and freeze a limited amount of semen for my use only, with bitches owned or co-owned by me.
Of course, should the dog not be capable of finishing his championship or doesn't pass all required health clearances, or if we decide for another reason that he should not be bred, I will happily sign off the dog once he has been neutered.
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