by Tiffany Cannon (2021)
By Tiffany Cannon, 2021
What is your criteria for choosing an international mate?
I have not yet sold a dog overseas, but I have brought in dogs from Sweden and the Netherlands. I have a sort of 'gentlemen's agreement' with Swedish breeder that I won't send puppies back into Europe. And I've never felt comfortable sending one to South America. This upcoming year I plan to bring in another from Sweden and possibly one from Finland.
The most important things I consider when choosing a kennel or breeder to work with are: health, conformation and pedigree. When choosing a kennel to work with, the first thing I do is get to know the breeder. What reputation do they have with their peers, what is the life span of their typical dogs, who do I know that can tell me the good, the bad and the ugly (if it exists). If I can't trust the breeder, I certainly can't trust the information given to me. I reach out to other breeders who can help me put together a picture of the people I'll be dealing with. And then, we spend time talking on the phone. Facebook provides a good introduction, but nothing is a good substitute for talking directly.
Health clearances aren't much of a concern for me. While I know that sounds bad, I'm not saying that health isn't a concern. But the clearances available don't give me the health information I'm looking for. Eye clearances are important and I would definitely insist that I know the dog's POAG status. But I need to know that I can have honest communications with the breeder about when and if they have ever seen epilepsy or seizures in the line. Have there been heart problems, meningitis, any other health issues that might prove to be hereditary. Has the dog been bred before and what did they produce? Are there any siblings that have had issues? I am much less apt to trust someone who tells me they've never had a problem than one who will say, yes, we've seen seizures in one dog but we're fairly certain it goes back to 'xyz.' Someone who tells you they've never had a health problem either hasn't been paying attention, hasn't been breeding long enough or is lying. The most important part of the exchange to me is being able to trust the other breeder.
Cost isn't all that important to me. It's expensive to bring a dog in from overseas. Unless they are hugely outrageous in their expectation, I'm sort of committed to the idea of spending to get the dog anyway. Costs also get tricky. Unless the breeder is quoting you in US Dollars, exchange rates can play havoc on your plans for how much things will cost. One imported dog was going to cost $2500 but end up costing more like $1900 once the exchange took place. The dollar was favorable to the kronor at that point. Another ended up costing me a lot more than planned. Price didn't change, but the exchange rate did. From my experience, cost for stud services runs what it does here, roughly the cost of a pet puppy. I have bred unsuccessfully to an imported boy and those were our terms.
Trust has a big role to play in importing - trusting the breeder related to health concerns and related to conformation quality. Especially when you are bringing in a puppy, you need to know that the breeder is evaluating in a similar manner to how you would evaluate. Seeing photographs on Facebook is somewhat helpful, but can easily be made to look better than they are. When importing, I shared with breeder what I was looking for in a male to complement my female. Based on this a dog was selected for me. However, I flew over to pick him up in person and we went over the puppies together. I was much newer to PBGVs at the time and I'm very grateful I was able to do this. I learned a great deal from this breed who had been breeding since the 1980s. The rules/laws about bringing in dogs have changed now and I wouldn't have been able to do what I did. My 10 week old puppy and I flew home all the way from Sweden in a bag under my seat - they never let me take him out. Nine hours to New York. This first international puppy choice was is in no way the perfect dog, but he has contributed to my line exactly what I was looking for. Because the rules have changed, this next year (2021) will represent the first time I will be importing PBGV puppies without putting my hands on them first. I have personally met both breeders and believe they will not send me something they wouldn't believe in themselves. But there are certainly no guarantees when bringing in puppies. Which is probably why a lot of people bring in older puppies or adults. Importation is an expensive adventure for the risk that the pup doesn't turn out how you think he will. My first puppy has been exceptionally healthy (although he did break a bunch of bones by getting kicked by a horse or cow which gave him a limp and took him off the show circuit). Still, importing him went about as smoothly as it could have. …
In terms of selecting, I approach it the same way I approach any breeding. When considering conformation, I make a list of three things: 1) What do I have in my dogs that I don't want to lose under any circumstances, 2) what do I want to correct and 3) what can I live with losing if I have to sacrifice something. … Each breeder needs to have their lists and this is how we end up with the differences we have in our dogs. Once I can reliably replicate good shoulder placement, strong pro sternum and nice toplines, I'll start trying to correct for soft coat and tail length. Maybe this isn't the right way to approach breeding, but it is how I've done it. I share my thoughts with the breeder I'm working with and trust them to choose a prospect for me.
Pedigree is typically a big concern for me. I can get a very nice dog from a breeder here in the US, so there's no reason to import simply to get a nice show dog or girl to breed. When I've gone out, it is to bring in a different gene pool. I'm not looking for star quality, I'm looking for unique, healthy and meeting my conformation needs. My first girls were very tightly line bred and I've tried in both GBGVs and PBGVs to go outside my lines and bring in something as unrelated as possible. My foundation bitch was the result of a litter with a COI of 22%. Introducing my first imported puppy to the gene pool reduced the COI on her puppies to 5%.
For me, it's important to keep all of these in mind with trust being hugely important.
Who have you worked with internationally that have proved to be a responsible breeder?
I worked with several breeders in Sweden and one from the Netherlands. Even though the Netherlands breeder no longer breeds PBGVs, they know most of the European breeders and I consult with them.
Once an international mate has been chosen, how do you get the semen/puppy? Best shipping process, paperwork?
I flew my first international puppy home in-cabin with me. Given the new rules about a puppy having a rabies vaccine prior to entering the country, this isn't as doable anymore. But, I would definitely prefer to ship the pup anyway (have it fly as cargo). Honestly, being crammed into a little bag for 9 hours was very tough on the boy. They came filthy from peeing and pooping in the crate, but felt free to go and was good as new with a bath. My Swedish puppy held it for 9 hours and was screaming to get out when we were waiting in line in New York Customs. I don't think flying the dog yourself for such a long flight is any easier on them than traveling in a crate.
I will most likely be shipping in semen this year. I don't know the cost, but I know it cost me $775 to ship it from Florida to Houston in September. Fresh ship isn't bad, but frozen is super expensive. Given the difficulty of registering a litter from frozen semen, I highly suggest buying the semen and transferring ownership before implantation. It's much easier if you own the semen and own mom. I will then pay a storage fee at my vet of roughly $100 a year for each dog I have stored.
If your litter has a serious health condition, how do you deal with your puppy buyers?
I have thankfully not had a bad genetic health concern in PBGVs that warranted letting all puppy buyers know. I did inform one puppy owner when she had her bad reaction to Vetmedin this summer that resulted in her death and I informed her puppy owners of her old lady congestive heart issues. My first litter of GBGVs resulted in 1 boy having seizures. I paid for health tests to try to determine if there was an underlying cause since epilepsy is not common in GBGVs. Turns out, he had low thyroid. It took four months to achieve a good thyroid level and he has had no seizures since. I'm waiting to make sure he stays seizure free - it has almost been 9 months. Then I plan to write to each of the owners of his 8 siblings (who don't already know) to inform them that they should keep an eye out for thyroid levels in their dogs. We did not repeat the breeding and placed the sister we had kept as a female for breeding in a pet home. Even for minor concerns, I have paid for a test or eye exam when there has been a concern with my PBGV puppies. I recently sold an 18-month-old that had been living with a handler. His new family picked him up directly from the handler and reported he was marking everywhere in the house the first weekend he came home. I consider this to be unusual behavior for a PBGV and suggested they take him to a vet for a possible UTI. I paid for the visit and antibiotics as it turned out to be correct. Last year, I sold a PBGV puppy to a couple from Florida. Their crazy vet told them he had a condition called "Florida eye." When I asked for information about what that is, the vet provided me with paperwork printed off of Wikipedia. I contacted breeder friends in Florida and got a suggestion for an eye specialist. I paid for the eye specialist visit which resulted in a diagnosis of a very minor and harmless PPM. I recommended they switch vets immediately. In 10 PBGV litters, I have bred 3 dogs that have had a seizure or a limited number of seizures but I believe them to have had a cause other than epilepsy - 1 vaccine related with no seizures past 5 months old, 1 shock collar related, and 1 with two incidents of seizures after the Orkin man sprayed the house.
I must say, something I wasn't prepared for as a breeder and when selling puppies, was the crazy things some people's pet vets will come up with. It's important to get involved, suggest your pet owner get a second opinion at a vet of your choosing and that you demand explanations from vets on some of the crazier diagnoses. Magically, most of those concerns go away when the puppy owner tells their vet they need medical records to take their dog elsewhere for a second opinion.