It is my responsibility to educate people who are interested in the PWD and I do take that seriously. I tell the good, the bad, the funny, the annoying -- it's all "out there" and I encourage people to really think about the work involved in raising a new puppy, and the consistency, training and patience that is going to be tested over the first 6 months to a year....I guess I'm one of those people that deals better with things when I have been told what to expect. (That's probably the Navy wife in me!)
That being said, I want to take this "forum" to try to educate the inquiring public about the process of making breeding decisions, the time commitment and goals for each breeding, and why everything isn't always going to be "Black and White." A good breeder knows the bloodline of their dog, and the structural, temperament, and health strengths and weaknesses of those pedigrees. There is no perfect dog. But, we should not be breeding dogs "just to produce puppies" - - we should be bringing together a dog and a bitch that compliment each others strengths and weaknesses in hopes of creating a better generation. The goal for each litter should be to produce puppies that ARE BETTER SPECIMENS OF THE BREED than their parents are. If we achieve this with each litter, at least with a percentage of the puppies, then we are moving toward improving the breed with every generation. That being said, there are ALWAYS going to be puppies that will not have the exemplary structure to go forth and contribute to the gene pool, and those puppies, although healthy with great temperaments and beautiful to look at, need those quality pet homes. Good breeders need good pet homes....
Let's think about the "priorities" of creating "new life" when it comes to dog breeding. The top considerations for any breeder should be health, temperament, structure and breed type. Filling those four "orders" is a big task.....we spend years researching pedigrees, offspring of stud dog's and brood bitch's, thousands of dollars attending the National Specialties each year to see PWDs in person to find that hopeful, next "perfect" mate for our dog. Then we want to spend time with the dog, get a feeling for the temperament, talk to it's owner to see if we're on the same page with our breeding goals.....and possibly - - if we're lucky -- feel strong enough about the combination to move forward to working out a contract and breeding arrangements. Then we wait for Mother Nature....and then we toss our whole life up into the air to do whatever we can to get the dog bred when our vet's have told us that the "timing" is right. This might involve having a dog "collected" and having semen shipped and implanted, it might be a short notice road trip of hours (or even days!), or it might mean putting a dog on a plane to the stud dog's home. Okay, now - everyone breathe! The breeding is done....now we wait to see if the "magic" worked....another 28 days until we know if she's pregnant....then, if we're fortunate, 9 weeks from the breeding date our bitch has a beautiful, healthy litter with no complications.....
I'm getting a little bit side-tracked on my message here, but I do think it's important to provide background of the "process" a responsible breeder goes through.....But back to the "black and white" thing.....so, through all of this we've been talking to people who are inquiring about puppies....we hear things like "I want a female, black and white with a curly coat." This is where our education process begins.....I often find myself wanting to ask a person "Did you pick your spouse because of his hair color?" I guess it's my way of making them stop and think about what they are saying to me....because, in life, isn't the MOST important thing in the relationships that work for us the fact that we "get along" with each other? That the person "blends" into our life instead of causing strife and anxiety? Think about that....
Portuguese Water Dogs have a range of temperaments and energy levels. We do not allow people to "pick" their own puppy from our litters. First and foremost, we try very hard to get the best structurally sound puppies that we think can continue to contribute to the PWD gene pool into show and performance homes where they will be able to build on our mission to "Better the PWD." Then we look at the temperament and family dynamics and experience of our puppy inquiries and work through matching a puppy with the right family to provide as much guidance as possible toward a successful "team". Maybe we're like a "Dating Service" in that respect - - we know the puppies better than anyone because they have lived in our home since birth, and we also understand the breed. You tell us your experience level, activities you are interested in, and we only let a puppy go home with you if we think it's the right puppy for your family. If the only puppy we have has an energy level that would benefit from being in an Agility home, then why would we sell it to someone that was interested in a family pet with a "lower drive" (meaning - not a bull in a china shop!!) And if the only puppy we have that fits your "physical description" is a wild indian - is that one you really want bouncing off of your furniture for 10+ years?
We completely respect your desire to have a "WISH LIST" for your new family member.....gender, coat type, color.....but to us, the LEAST important factor in this mission is COLOR. We do not breed for color. There are a LOT of breeder's out there who do! There are a lot of black and white stud dog's that get used because the breeder's are hoping to get black and white puppies because that's what the puppy buyer's want!! Is this the best choice for the improvement of the breed - or the best choice to be able to sell your puppies to pet homes??? The fact is, we're not breeding dog's to sell as pets....so color is the LAST thing in our "big picture" - - health, temperament, structure and breed type...and then we'll see what we get for color when the pups are born!
I love to tell this story to my puppy people.....in 2008 I bred "Chloe" - who is a solid black curly girl, to a solid black wavy boy ("Fleet"). WHAT I WANTED was a solid, black wavy bitch.....as a breeder, it is my responsibility to keep the BEST PUPPY (structure, temperament, health, type) and who stayed at my house was "Phoebe" - a black and white curly girl!! Now, let me tell you - - SHE IS BEAUTIFUL!! But trust me when I tell you that she has the attitude of a SHOW DOG and is one little handful to live with and most "Pet Owners" would not be able to deal with her energy and activity levels! (See Chloe, Fleet and Phoebe below)....that being said, most Puppy People would come in, see her, she'd be all over them and they would have wanted to take her home. It would have been a disaster....she would have driven the average dog owner crazy (she drives me crazy sometime and I am the one who created her!)
My point in all of this? You have a couple of options (probably more, but I'll discuss just two)....work with a Breeder that you trust and who you believe in and then "Believe in the Process" or go on a internet puppy website and pick your puppy out based on it's markings and make that the FIRST priority in your decision. Don't worry about whether the person is just looking to "sell puppies" - whether they spent hours and hours socializing the babies from birth and giving them the best start in the world, whether you will get the support that you will inevitably need through the process of owning a PWD. But think about this - - PWD puppies are not cheap. If you choose to support that concept of dog breeding, you are encouraging a profit for people who do not have the best interest of the PWD at heart. And maybe you'll end up with a fantastic dog, and maybe you won't. And maybe that process will work for you, and maybe it won't. But you will have stacked the odds against yourself with a check for $2,500.00 and a puppy with those four white feet like you REALLY wanted.......more things you should know? White coats mat a lot quicker than black and are impossible to keep clean. People go on my website and LOVE the pictures of Liza and Phoebe....but remember, you're seeing a picture that was taken after a bath, blow dry and trim job that took three hours!! Here are some "clean" and "not so clean" pictures so you know what I am talking about!!
One last story (I promise!) When I bought my second PWD, I attended the 2005 PWD National Specialty in Maryland and spent the entire week OBSERVING dogs, breeders, exhibitors, etc. After that experience, based on my knowledge of dogs, I contacted "Pouch Cove" about purchasing a show bitch. I talked to Peggy and Milan in September of 2005....I never heard from them again until April of 2006 when they told me they thought they might have a bitch for me. They worked with me, as my husband and I had just been transferred and had moved to a new state.....and I purchased a bitch puppy from them without ever even seeing a PICTURE of her!! I was told she was a black curly and that some of her best attributes (as a potential contributor to the breed) were some of the hardest things to get in a PWD. I trusted them. They shipped her to me. She went on to win Winners Bitch, Best of Winners and an Award of Merit at the National Specialty in 2006 at 8.5 months old. She defeated over 300 of the top PWD's in the country and she was one of the youngest dogs there.....she is my "Chloe" - Champion Pouch Cove Every Sailor's Dream AOM. (Maybe I should mention here - she is an awesome cuddler, a blast to play in the water with and is an athlete in every sense of the word!)
So, what have I learned? Find someone you can trust to work with, trust your own instincts and know what your priorities are. Love doesn't just come in "Black with White Markings".....it's available in a whole lot of different colors in the PWD, and none of them are prejudice! Maybe Michael Jackson said it best (am I really going to quote the King of Pop??) - "It Don't Matter If You're Black Or White"