Anatomy of a Working Kennel
The development and operation of a working kennel is vastly different than a hobby kennel, or a show dog kennel. Not to mention the breeding of working police dogs is vastly different than family companions or show dogs. The failure to recognize these facts is what has led to the decline in the ability to breed, raise and train young dogs bred in American compared to the young dogs in Europe. In today’s economic climate, it is almost impossible for a young person starting out to open and operate a working kennel. In reality you need someone who has been in the business along time to assist you or sell their business to you with an established clientele. Without this help today your odds of success are greatly reduced.
Any decision to open or operate a kennel should first be based on what goal or purpose do we hope to accomplish. Is it to breed top working police k-9s, or breed companion dogs? Once we have made our choice of goals, then we look at how proceed to become successful and reach our goal. Breeding working dogs is NOT and cannot be a part time job or hobby. It must be a total commitment by yourself and your family if you hope to succeed. It is not a goal that can be accomplished by you alone.
The first area we must focus on is obtaining our breeding stock or foundation animals. This area is where many people cause themselves many problems, by getting hung up on what some pedigree or some piece of paper says a dog should be. You must see the dogs’ work; learn their health history and what they may or may not pass on. Pedigrees are nice and have their place. However it is more important to have solid nerve, top drive, and good health versus having a pedigree just because some people think it will be good. I never buy a dog based on a piece of paper.
Along with this many people fail to invest in the top breeding stock, and choose to buy a pup, raise it and hope it turns out healthy and what they want. Or they will hold a female pup back and try to raise it and breed it and then another female and so on. Pretty soon you are so many generations removed from an import and /or an actual working dog; you have bred the drive or nerve right out of the dog without even realizing you were doing it. This philosophy is exactly the mindset promoted by some registries in the USA and the biggest factor in the downfall of quality of dogs in the USA. Breeding isn’t easy if done right and if looked at as a money maker, then the person is breeding for the wrong reason and producing the wrong type of dogs and the wrong drives we need for work. People who operate under this mindset never succeed and never produce the quality dogs and drives we in law enforcement need for working dogs. The cheap way is never the right way. You have to invest in good breeding stock to produce good working dogs. Time and time again I see people fail for this reason alone.
The operation of a kennel depends on the quality of people you hire or have helping you. It takes people, to work dogs, watch their health, care for puppies, and of course care for and feed. You must hire solid people, which isn’t easy and you can’t expect to get people who care if you hire part time students, or adults who you pay minimum wage to and they are there only till they find a better job. Your success depends on these people, catching females in season, knowing what to watch for in pregnant females, and how and when to intervene medically if the need arises. To expect a part time high school student to understand what goes on a day to day basis, or how important minor details can be, is almost impossible and you’re kidding yourself if you think this can and will happen. You must have people who are there full time and actually care about the dog’s not just care about getting a pay check. They must be “dog” people as well. That means, love dogs, not being afraid of them, not being afraid of getting bite, or unwilling to stay up all night delivering puppies or watching a sick dog.
The diet that you feed in a kennel must be a solid top quality food. Raw food diets do not work in larger settings and are disasters waiting to happen. You need a balanced high quality food, that has consistency and the company has a technical staff to help you should the need arise. You cannot feed a cheap diet and expect not to have problems with low birth weights, sick dogs, or a host of other problems. It goes back to you get what you pay for.
Along with diet, cleaning in a larger kennel setting is crucial. The first impression when clients come to visit or buy dogs is extremely important. That first impression will make or break you. Many times I hear clients say they were just at another facility and it smelled terrible, the dogs were filthy, uncared for, or sick. The next comment they make is they will never go back there. Cleaning must happen every day, and be extensive. You must disinfect every day, and bleach is a cheap product that covers a huge spectrum. My staff cleans kennels every morning and disinfects every day. Our nurseries are cleaned twice a day normally. The nurseries are built from sanitary grade ceramic material, just like milk plants or food processing plants are. This allows for easy and complete cleaning. We pride our self on the fact of very low odor, and clean kennels, and cared for dogs in appearance.
Training and exercise is another important factor in a kennel. It is very difficult to find staff that will play with dogs, or exercise them. The dogs need this everyday to maintain stability, and mental well being in the kennel where they are all striving for your attention. Without this the stress in a kennel rises which leads to more illness issues and their working ability will deteriorate from just sitting is the high stress environment.
Selecting a Veterinarian is a major decision in a kennel just as it is for your personal dogs care. We use 4 main Vets depending on the problem. All of these Vets are from different backgrounds, all from different practices. As an example we have one who specializes in OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) x-rays and he also is a specialist at doing C-sections. So for these situations we use him day or night. We also have a Vet who teaches in our academy and he handles, tattooing, consulting on health problems, and solving unusual health issues. These two Vets are 45minutes and 1 hour and ¼ away from us respectively. We use them because of their knowledge and willingness to work with us. We have bred 120 litters (700 puppies) and imported over 2000 adult dogs. We do not except any Vet dictating to us on what we do or how we do it. We have a mutual respect for each other and each other’s knowledge and experience. Never forget they work for you and you should always maintain control on what happens in the kennel. We do all our own vaccination work, we own our own tattooer, we assist with all x-rays in the room with the dog and staff, we have our own on site mini pharmacy and maintain a supply of basic medications and if the dog should need something we have it, we do not buy it from any Veterinarian we buy from a wholesale distributor because of our volume. This controls costs and when you have many dogs this is important. We are also lucky we have an on staff Pharmacist who can handle the Vets instructions and medications. It also gives the Vets comfort knowing the person handling the medications is trained to do so which makes that working relationship work allot smoother. We also stock IV’s, and many emergency treatment items on hand at all times, and we will intervene if we need to, rather than losing a dog or waiting till we arrive at a clinic. Because we have done this for 25 years and on thousands of dogs the Vets have no problem working with us. Again it is your dogs and your business; you should be making all decisions. Never permit anyone to dictate the operation of your facility or what is acceptable or not. Use their suggestions and make your own decisions. You cannot look at dogs in a working kennel the same as your personal pet. Things you might do for your pet, you cannot economically justify thus can’t do in a kennel setting. Educate yourself and make your own decisions. In our case the fact is we see more x-rays and do more c- sections, surgical breedings, raise more puppies and see more health problems, than a vast majority of Veterinarians do. So select a Vet who is willing to accept your impute and build a mutual respect and working relationship with them. These things are more important than how close you are to a clinic.
The last thing to consider in the operation of a kennel is the time requirement. I always compare the time requirement to the commitment it takes milking cows. Rain or shine, 7 days a week, holidays and even when you’re ill, the dogs still have to be cared for, and they depend on you. If you’re not willing to make this type dedication of time and energy you will not succeed and should reconsider your plans to operate a kennel. It is demanding and requires a huge amount of sacrifice by you and your family to be successful.
- Al Gill
Master Trainer- NAPCH/APCA
Patrol/Narcotics/Explosives/Cadaver/School Resource Officer
Chairman of Trainer/ Master Trainer Accreditation for NAPCH, and member of Accreditation Board for APCA
Von der Haus Gill German Shepherds
16863 Boundry Rd., Wapakoneta, OH 45895
phone: 419-568-9400 | fax: 419-568-9405
Kennel Office: 419-568-9454
Our facility is licensed by The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, The Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.
Our facility is also an approved Police K-9 Training Program for the Ohio Peace Officers Training Council and Indiana Council on Law Enforcement.