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More Than Just a Pretty Face

As hobby breeders listed on the web sites of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of  America (SCWTCA) and the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of Greater Tampa Bay (SCWTCGTB) , we receive many phone calls and e-mails asking about the availability of puppies. Many people who contact us have done their homework. They want to know about the diseases that run in the breed and ask about the testing we do on our breeding stock. Many indicate an understanding about Wheatens being high-maintenance dogs which require regular grooming. Some people tell us they are looking for a non-shedding dog, because of a family member with allergies. Others ask about the size and temperament of our dogs. Some people want to know how long we have been breeding, and if we own the dam and sire of the litter. Eventually, most everyone asks about the price of our Wheatens and tells us they are just looking for a pet.

At that point, we explain about pet or companion puppies. We say that we are hobby breeders who breed show dogs, and, as such, generally breed only Champion sires and dams. Our goal is to breed healthy dogs who most closely meet the breed standard. Before we keep a puppy for potential showing and one which may become future breeding stock, we evaluate the puppies for conformation to the breed standard. Ideally, a show potential puppy should be closer to the breed standard than its dam. Our goal is to improve our line with each successive generation. It is unlikely that all of the puppies in a litter meet these stringent requirements, so the puppies who do not have show potential become the pets or companions of people who are not interested in showing their dogs. A typical litter may only have one show-potential puppy. We place the rest as companions. The companion dogs from our breeding program or those from other hobby breeders are very well-bred dogs. The pedigrees of these dogs include many generations of champion show dogs, many of which were the most famous dogs in our breed.

Prior to selecting a stud dog, hobby breeders study his pedigree in concert with the pedigree of their bitch to ensure they do not end up with too many of the same dogs in the two pedigrees. Hobby breeders also study the SCWT Open Registry of dogs affected with diseases such as PLE and PLN (protein-wasting diseases), Renal Dysplasia, and Addison’s disease to insure the dogs used for breeding are not closely related to affected dogs. Although this effort does not guarantee a dog free of these diseases, it does help decrease the likelihood of producing an affected dog. In an effort to reduce the incidence of heredity diseases affecting our breed, many hobby breeders are introducing European bloodlines into their breeding programs to broaden the gene pool.

As required by the SCWTCA Code of Ethics, hobby breeders who are members of the SCWTCA and/or its affiliated SCWTCGTB have breeding stock over two years of age OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified free of hip dysplasia. Additionally, they have the eyes examined by a veterinarian ophthalmologist to ensure the breeding stock is free of eye disease and have breeding stock undergo blood and urine testing for indication of any heredity diseases. A well-bred dog is also more likely to have better bone structure and a proper gait, which can prevent orthopedic problems.

We talk to callers about the hazards of buying a commercially-bred (puppy-mill) dog from a pet store, whose only interest in selling puppies is making money; or from a “back-yard” breeder who does not know what he or she is doing . Buying a puppy from such sources is like buying a “pig in a poke”. It increases the likelihood of future health and/or temperament problems.

On the other hand, the main interest of hobby breeders is in improving the breed. We recommend that callers contact only breeders who are members of the SCWTCA and/or its affiliated SCWTCGTB who abide by the SCWTCA Code of Ethics. We tell them not to buy a puppy from any other source. When a caller indicates an interest in adopting an older Wheaten, or indicates the inability to purchase a puppy from a hobby breeder; we recommend they contact Wheaten Rescue and provide them with the necessary contact information.

The SCWTCA Code of Ethics includes four sections: General Conduct, Breeding Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, Placing Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, and Competing with Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers. For a copy of the complete SCWTCA Code of Ethics, go to the Wheaten web site at www.scwtca.org. A summary of the ethics relating to breeding and placing puppies includes:

  • Only breed pure-bred dogs eligible for AKC registration,
  • Breed for characteristics set forth in the SCWTCA Official Standard,
  • Only use breeding stock with sound temperament, good health, no known hereditary or congenital diseases, and free of parasites and communicable diseases,
  • Only breed mature dogs and bitches (18 months or older),
  • Do not breed any individual dog or bitch excessively (3 litters for bitches and skip a season between breedings),
  • Only breed stock that is OFA-certified for hips, or who meet the average mean for SCWT using PennHIP,
  • Only breed stock whose eyes have been examined by a Board certified veterinarian ophthalmologist prior to the first breeding and every two years thereafter,
  • Only use breeding stock that has blood (full chemistry study) and urine testing (protein/creatine ratio) prior to the first breeding and at least annually thereafter,
  • Keep accurate health records on breeding stock,
  • Use a written stud contract for each breeding (and ensure appropriate testing is done prior to the breeding).
  • Participate in AKC conformation events as a means of evaluating breeding stock,
  • Mentor those with whom breeding stock is placed.
  • Make careful placements of all Wheatens,
  • Do not place Wheatens or provide stud dog services to pet dealers, wholesalers, brokers, laboratories, individuals conducting raffles, contests, auctions or other types of giveaways, or anyone unethical in dealing with the public or their treatment of purebred dogs,
  • Only place Wheatens who are in good health, of sound temperament and in good condition at the time of delivery,
  • Require that non-breeding dogs be spayed or neutered,
  • Require that new owners advise their breeder of any health problems, physical abnormalities and/or death of the dog,
  • Require that new owners advise their breeder of their intent to place or give up the dog, so the breeder can assist with finding a new home for the dog.
  • Support new and old owners with advice, resources, and information.
  • Provide new owners with the following:
    • AKC papers, when presented with documentation of spaying or neutering of non-breeding stock
    • A 4-generation pedigree,
    • Written instructions on feeding, health care, training and grooming,
    • A written contract

The “bottom line” is that when a family purchases a companion puppy from a hobby breeder, while they are getting a beautiful puppy that usually closely resembles the show potential puppies in the same litter; they are getting more than a “pretty face.” They are also getting a puppy from a carefully planned litter that has been well cared for and well socialized. While no breeder can guarantee that such a puppy will be a healthy dog with a good temperament for a lifetime of enjoyment, a hobby breeder who is a member of the SCWTCA and/or its affiliated SCWTCGTB offers the best chance that this will be the outcome.

Submitted by Dennis & Bonnie Wirth