To Breed Or Not To Breed?
I am not a breeder. Never have been. But I have thought about it. I’ve thought about the pride of having my own little brown pups running around. Seeing Traveller’s little runts chase after peoples ankles when they finally get mobile. Seeing them grow into fine hunting companions (hopefully). But then I think, why? There’s a very well known book by Simon Sinek, “Start With Why” that I’ve tried to attribute to every aspect of my life. If I asked myself, why should I breed Traveller, I’d be left with money and ego.
Don’t get me wrong, Traveller is a pretty good hunting dog. To no fault of his own, it’s his lazy and ignorant owner holding him back. We’ve been on hunting expeditions all over the country. Up and down the east coast, all the way to ND and WY and in-between. He’s been able to retrieve almost every North American waterfowl species there is and multiple species of wild upland critters. He can retrieve 90% of the birds I am able to knock down, which if he could talk would say that’s a miserably low conversion ratio. But, he isn’t a “Master Hunter”. He doesn’t take casts perfectly. He breaks on occasion. He gets lippy if I’m walking him up to flush a pointed bird. Hell, he still glares at me sometimes when I won’t let him show off his retrieve. God forbid I don’t feed him at exactly his feeding time or I get the death stare. While I could never ask for a better shotgun riding, 24+ hour road trip, sleep in the front seat of the truck at a rest stop, sleep in a tent in a hailstorm in single digits in a tent partner; there are better hunting Boykins out there.
What I have noticed online, and social media is more and more Boykin pups being bred. More and more “great hunting dogs” being bred. Perhaps I’m turning the page from excited youthful exuberant excited youngster to old curmudgeon, but I think it’s getting ridiculous how many “insta-breeders” I’m seeing. I hold the Boykin breed near and dear to my heart, I was born with them. I was raised with them. There has never been a time in my life where we didn’t have 1 or 3 swamp poodles by our feet with their nubs wagging. Recently, the popularity of this breed has exploded. For better or worse. Is the breed gaining more popularity a good thing? I’m not so sure. Not to sound conceited, but I’ve done a few podcasts about the breed. Now I have a sense of guilt for exposing the breed, am I actually hurting the breed? Maybe that’s my ego again? I guess the best thing I can do is try to educate people about the breed. Educate people about those “insta-breeders” out there purely in it for profit or their own gain.
In talking to a decent amount of bird dog trainers out there, sometimes the Boykin has a bad reputation. Some trainers won’t even touch them. I think a part of that stems from their personalities. But also, a major portion comes from the fact that people are breeding Boykins and marketing them as these Tom Brady-esque retrievers when really, maybe they’re more Ryan Leaf (if you don’t know, Leaf is one of the biggest NFL draft busts of all time). Looks great on film, aka instagram, but not that great in real life. I guess I’m just saying people are putting way too much value on what social media portrays. People will reach out to me about a Boykin, I’ll suggest some quality breeders I know, or direct them to breeders that I know produce quality gun dogs. Instead they’ll respond with “I went with a cheaper guy I found in (insert random state here)”. Not saying they won’t have a good dog, but I don’t want to hear complaining when they went to the cheapest options. We all know this, the initial purchase of the pup will be the first investment you make in this 10+ year investment, why not make it the best investment you can?
I should note, I’m not a hunt test/field trial snob either. In fact, I am God awful at them. Ask my girlfriend. I get nervous. I get cranky. I personally can’t stand being on the line. But I truly love watching other dogs and handlers do their thing. This is not an article saying only buy from hunt tested lines. But I do think you should buy from PROVEN lines. What do I mean by proven? Well, for one, a seasoned or beyond titled dog is often a hell of a dog in the field. If, like Traveller, it isn’t a titled blood line, I’d say go watch it in the field. Hell, ask the owner or breeder if you could hunt over them. Surely if they expect you to spend $2,000+ (which I’m seeing most “proven” Boykin pups are going for, some as high as $5,000), then they can take you on a hunt. There should be a breeder/owner relationship anyways, right? If you can’t go on a wild hunt, could you find a preserve? Could you go watch the dogs at a hunt test?
As a breeder, you’re looking at giving someone a true 10+ year investment, longer than the average car loan in the US. Why not open yourself to the buyer? Have you done the proper health tests? Why are you breeding boykins? Are you adding a litter from proven bird dogs? Has the sire and dam been health tested thereby adding to the health of the breed? If you’re doing everything ethically and for the right reasons, then I salute you and will gladly buy you a beer. But if you’re not doing the suggested health tests, if you’re presenting your dogs as something they’re not, then why are you breeding them in the first place?