From my ‘Crossing the headlines’ column in Dog World (21st October 2015).
We recently bred our first litter of Boston Terriers and were lucky enough to have four strapping puppies born that have proved to be a constant source of joy and amusement but sadly (and all too soon) reality kicks in and one realises that these little, constantly-busy bodies will soon need homes of their own.
I think the actual advertising and vetting of potential puppy owners is the most challenging and stressful part of puppy rearing. A whole stream of interested people begin to email or ring with a list of questions that one carefully and patiently answers and initially someone stands out as appearing to be the perfect home for one of your precious babies. You then explain that the puppies aren’t ready to leave their mum… as they are only six weeks old…
“Oh, so we can’t take him/her home this weekend then?”
“No, but do come and visit us and our dogs… and of course see the puppies.”
“Oh, that’s a good idea… yes… can we come this Saturday? Would 11 o’clock be okay?”
“Perfect, see you then.”
Fast forward to Saturday… 11.20am.
With some concern we ring the number given, maybe the prospective puppy owners have got lost in the notoriously twisting ‘Bermuda triangle’ that is North Devon’s country lanes.
“Oh, hello, I was just phoning to make sure you were okay… We thought you might be lost…”
“Oh, er… mmmm,” replies the voice somewhat sheepishly. “Well the thing is… well… we’ve already got a puppy. I meant to phone you. Sorry.”
Infuriating, but part and parcel of today’s ‘must have it right now’ society. I always find that having people who are willing to be put on a waiting list quickly sorts the impatient wheat from the chaff.
With our current litter of Bostons (which we bred with the hope of breeding a bitch to keep and show and were indeed fortunate in having a single flashily marked girl born) we used our usual tried and tested routes of advertising to sell our three boys, placing them on a highly regarded site that ‘promotes responsible dog breeding’ and allows us to include a multitude of information and pictures.
Unfortunately, our bitch was just under two – she had her first and very heavy season at just six months old so was mated at her third season – when she gave birth and unbeknown to us the sites policy is that all bitches must be over two if the litter is to be advertised on its website.
So, for the very first time we advertised the litter with the KC as the option was available at the time of registering the pups.
I have to admit that I didn’t expect much of a response despite paying £20 for the privilege. There is so little information given on their puppy finder site; no photographs, no pedigree… not even space for a brief description! In fact it is just an online version of the old puppy lists that one had to send an SAE off for back in the 1980s!
However, I was shocked by the amount of well informed, educated people that subsequently contacted us; in fact, all but one enquiry arrived in my inbox via the KC site. It really does appear that their hard work has finally hit home with a portion of the puppy buying general public. We weren’t contacted by people wishing to show; our puppy buyers simply wanted a well-bred, well-reared puppy and had gone to the KC’s website to find one. Every one of them had done their research on the breed and asked all the right questions regarding health and health testing.
As I have said repeatedly in numerous articles over the years, the KC really needs to blow its own trumpet a little louder and this can only really be achieved by a publicity campaign on TV. The importance of a TV commercial was brought home to me through an entirely different circumstance.
Recently we had triple glazed windows installed on our new house. The fitting and subsequent service has been abysmal. When we wanted to get the ombudsman involved I was shocked to discover that the only way this excellent service can be utilised is if the actual company you are having problems with is a member!
If the company is a member of the ombudsman scheme then you have all the tools of resolution at your disposal, however if they aren’t a member then you are well and truly on your own.
This service isn’t widely known about and certainly isn’t advertised on TV. Most of us will only ever learn of its existence when we need help and by then (if the company you are in dispute with isn’t a member) it will be far too late. So much upset and distress could be avoided by a media campaign to inform the public before they buy.
A media campaign, similar to that employed so successfully by Dog’s Trust, is exactly what the KC needs to use to hammer home in the general public’s mind that it is THE place to go to if you want to buy a pedigree puppy.
Once the puppy-buying public have found the KC’s puppy finder website, surely what greets them should be something far more informative than what is currently on offer.
From the short list of available litters for any given breed, the information available to a prospective buyer is the number of puppies, their date of birth and the breeder’s name and location. From there an interested party can contact the breeder by email or telephone. With such limitations to showcase a well-bred litter of puppies, is it any wonder breeders are choosing to use other websites to advertise? However the amount of enquiries we have had through the KC despite such scant information demonstrates the potential success of this service if the KC invested in a one-stop shop for responsible breeding.
The KC already have a platform in place that attracts attention from buyers and, using the databases available, would it really be so difficult to bring it all together under one umbrella? From my experience of using the Find A Puppy service, I can clearly see that by allowing a breeder to include pictures and a description would offer so much more to a prospective owner. And why stop there?
By the time the breeder’s puppies are listed for sale, they are already registered. How wonderful would it be, as a potential owner, to view the pedigree, health testing and COI of the puppies they can see on screen? The KC has all the data – all it requires is time and investment to bring it all together.
We already have a great tool available to us as dog owners – MyKC. Using those ‘profiles’ already created, why not make a certain level of information available to a prospective buyer who can get to know the breeder, their dogs (and successes) and with that could come another great tool – the ability to see previous litters bred and registered by any breeder. Surely this would be an ideal method of deterring the unscrupulous backyard breeders and puppy farmers from advertising on the site as such history will be there for all to see.
The idea of using MyKC as a ‘hub’ for breeders and owners really is a feasible way forward. It would allow breeders to reach those looking for a quality, well-bred puppy and provide them with an efficient service from initial contact to transference of ownership.
Over the years we have discussed and written thousands of words on this subject in this paper but sadly we are preaching to the converted. The KC needs to reach out to the puppy buying general public and become known as THE place to go to when they are considering buying a puppy.
With all this in place and running alongside a well constructed TV/media campaign the KC could reach a huge audience and really make drastic improvements to the promotion of the pedigree dog and get across its message on how to make the right choices when deciding on a breed and buying a puppy. And the results of a well produced TV commercial could be even more far-reaching as Dog World Comment so succinctly put it last week, ‘it’s only with proper education that people can make the right choices about where to go when they want to buy a puppy, and by going to the right people for advice they will make the right choice about suitability of breed, which could go some way toward easing the abandoned dogs crisis.’
See more on Dog World’s website http://www.dogworld.co.uk/product.php/146704/