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Billy Slate - Better Breeding

By way of introduction, my name is Billy Slate and in 2006 I founded the Noxterra Kennels

I am very much looking forward to this Event, and am honoured to have been asked to give a talk and impart some of my knowledge to those that are attending the Show.

I have been around dogs my whole life, mostly protective larger breeds. German Shepherds from the day I was born, to Rottweiler crosses and Staffies as a teenager, then Bullmastiffs and more recently Boerboels as an adult/older man.

The Noxterra Kennel was started as a Bullmastiff breeding kennel Noxterra Bullmastiffs. creating the name from 2 Greek Gods of mythology - Nox and Terra.

My family had bred German Shepard’s for the previous 3 decades on a small scale. I loved dogs, particularly larger breeds, and decided it was time to make my mark in Bullmastiffs. We were the first to ever cross the famous German von Frankenthal line with the successful Flintstock UK line with great success!.

In 2013 we lost the last 3 of our beloved bullies to cancer and decided it was time to make a change. In 2014 we moved across into the South African Boerboel. Mainly because they were regarded as the healthiest of the mastiff breeds and of course were relatively unknown back then, and I like to be different. Since then, we have never looked back. Importing all of our foundation dogs from South Africa, taking on a superstar mentor, touring the country many times and building relationships and partnerships around the globe as we went. Fast forward 8 years and the Noxterra Kennel is now one of the most well known Boerboel breeding kennels in the world. We have over 200 clients in 15 countries ranging from Families of all types, to UFC members, to NFL players, to Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists, to successful business owners and everything in between, not forgetting of course the other breeding kennels that use our lines as a foundation to build on.

Over the years we have mentored, helped and advised hundreds of owners and breeders in many breeds, and the one thing we realised, regardless of the breed, was the lack of reliable, useful, factual information from experienced, skilled breeders. We saw that lots of the more successful breeders did not help those looking to learn, as they saw them as competition down the line.

School fees

There are 2 big key points to becoming a Better Breeder

• Experience

• Knowledge

Traditionally these have been gained by making mistake after mistake, learning from them, and creating your own path to do things well. One of our mentors called this process “School Fees”. These fees can be very expensive in many more ways than just money. They can take a lot of years, lots of emotional heartache and energy to get through, and of course financial losses, causing many would be breeders to give up and retire along the way.

What if there was a way to bypass and/or massively reduce these School Fees….

Big Decision

We decided to create the course that would help put an end to this. A course that would release all of those Big Breeder Secrets that are so closely guarded by most.

The brief was to create a course that we would have loved to have had as a new breeder, all those years ago. The course that we would have relied on as an upcoming breeder, the course that would have helped us solidify ourselves as an established breeder, and the course that would have kept us focused and motivated as a breed influencer kennel. No easy task.

Better Breeding Secrets

The Better Breeding Course is the result of this decision. Thousands of hours have gone into this course. A combination of 16 years of breeding giant breeds ourselves, and the combined experience and passed down knowledge from our 2 world class Mentors of the past, Crufts and International Judge, Breeder of multiple champion dogs Mrs Janet Gunn of Flintstock Bullmastiffs (author of Pet Owners Guide to the Bullmastiff) and, now retired International Judge and Senior Appraiser and Breeder of multiple South African National Champions, plus many European and USA Champion Boerboels Mr Lukas Van Vuuren of Spitsvuur Boerboels (author of Boerboel Breeding).

The Better Breeding course is designed to be used by all types of breeders, from ALL breeds. From those single pet owners, having their first ever litter, that need to learn the basics well, to upcoming breeders that want to make their mark in their breed and gain notoriety, to established breeders who want to up their game and take it to a world level, to top tier breed influencer kennels, that want to make sure everything is running as it should be, to keep their kennels in front of the pack and look for ways to expand and monetise what they do so well.

The Better Breeding course is stacked full of breeding information. How to Guides, step by step Manuals and processes, plug in documents, templates, checklists, contracts, products that work, and much much more. This course will save hundreds of hours in time, endless heartache, huge financial savings from the inevitable mistakes and most importantly reduce the amount of lost pups that come from a combination of inexperience, disorganisation, inefficiency and lack of education.

Everything you will need to shortcut your path to success and to become a Better Breeder

The course is a 6 week online course, in classes of around 12, held once a week and delivered by myself.

It will include detailed modules on:

• Kennel setup and compliance

• Business set up

• Finding your breed

• Sourcing your foundation dogs

• Raising your breeding dogs

• Corrective Breeding

• The Breeding Process - best practises

• Female Pregnancy

• Birthing pups

• Raising pups

• Marketing litters

• Finding the best homes

• Achieving the best financial result

It will also include modules on

• Goal Setting

• Mindset and wellness

• Planning

• Online Profile and it’s importance

• Social Media And how to do it well

• Onboarding the right Team members

• Kennel Monetisation

and much much more.

Students will have 3 x 45 minute 1-2-1 calls with myself over the 6 weeks, to make sure they are getting the most from the course. If that’s not enough, we are also going to include all of our own manuals, processes, software apps and products that we use here at Noxterra, that help us do what we do at the level that we do it.

Bad Breeding

Bad Breeding is a term that’s bounced around a lot nowadays. It is used negatively to label certain breeders or dogs for all sorts of issues from sub standard dogs, health issues in dogs produced, to lack lustre service and beyond.

Bad Breeding from a breeders perspective generally stems from one or more of the following

• lack of knowledge

• lack or experience

• lack of time

• lack of space

• lack of resources

• lack of care

10 Tell tale signs of Bad Breeding.

There are lots of what we call “Red Flags” that could be signs of bad breeding or less than ideal practices going on in breeding kennels. There are many that we have come across over the years, but for the sake of this article here are a few of the more common ones, that we feel should not be ignored.

1. Breeding dogs are in bad health or are of lower quality than they should be

Dogs that are being bred from, should be good examples of the breed, and in good health, both males and females. If when you visit a breeder and the dogs are not in good health, or look to be low quality examples there should be cause for concern. Parents should be registered (if pedigree), health tested individuals, (particularly for any breed specific issues or genetic problems that occur), that are being bred from to improve the quality of the pups over the parents. At the very least the breeder should be aiming to replicate the parents, if they themselves are excellent. In most cases breeders use excellent males to try to improve the quality of the pups, over a less than perfect mother. If you do not like the breeder's dogs, or are concerned for their health, this is probably not the breeder for you.

2. Not allowing visits.

Most breeders will generally welcome at least 1 visit for clients to visit their facilities (we ourselves allow 2/3). Visits are an ideal time for breeders to get to know the clients better, to see the way they interact with the dogs, to make sure this is the right breed for them and that they are the right home for their pup. It’s also an opportunity to show the clients the environment that pups are being raised in, and answer any questions that clients have. If breeders do not allow visits at all, ask why. Not allowing visits could mean there is something to hide, such as a bad kennel/home environment, the pups or parents are unhealthy, or that there is something else that they do not want you to see. There could also be genuine reasons, for example bringing in germs, it’s very common for breeders to not allow visits of pups until pups are 5+ weeks old, to lower risks of infection. Or it may be as simple as a security issue, there are lots of criminals these days that target breeders of expensive breeds, so security is a real concern for breeders. We ourselves do not allow clients to visit until home checks have been carried out, and we feel that the clients are genuine. Breeders that will not allow any visits of any kind, or are not wanting to carry out video calls would be a big red flag and a possible reason to avoid

3. Not allowing clients to meet mum (and dad if on site)

Breeders not allowing clients to meet mum (or dad if he’s on site) should be a big red flag. This would in most cases be done to hide something. Low quality or unhealthy parents is one reason, bad tempered parents is another, mum (and dad) not being there is a third. Any of the 3 should be a cause for concern and questioned heavily. Low quality or unhealthy parents will generally lead to lower quality and unhealthy pups. Similarly bad tempered parents, will tend to produce bad tempered litters. If the breeder will not allow clients to meet parents there is a reason, usually a bad one.

4. Breeder pushing for pups to leave before 8 weeks.

A Breeder that seems to be happy for, or prefers that pups leave them before 8 weeks should be avoided. There are very very few acceptable reasons for a puppy to leave its mum before 8 weeks of age, it’s actually illegal since 2018 to do so. Anyone that allows this to happen should be avoided. Our own pups do not leave us until 8.5-9.5 weeks old.

5. The breeder either cannot or will not answer your questions.

Good breeders should be able to answer any and all client questions when asked, stuttering, changing the subject or total ignorance are clear signs that there is something not quite right. It could be lack of knowledge or lack of interest, both should be avoided if possible as they could lead to less than good breeding practices and less than well bred pups. Good breeders will generally welcome clients with lots of questions and appreciate the effort that they put in, I know we do.

6. Not having a waiting list.

Good established breeders tend to have waiting lists - Period! Breeders that do not have waiting lists, should be looked at carefully. It could be that they are new breeders, they just have not created huge demand for their top quality pups yet, we all have to start somewhere. It could be they just do not operate that way, they sell first come first served with no vetting process - not ideal - or that they just do not have demand for their pups or that supply of their pups outweighs demand. All of the above should be looked at it more detail before any agreements are made.

7. Online reviews are bad.

Bad reviews or opinions of a one breeder, in one place or one group, are reasonably common, politics and attempts at tarnishing stand out breeders are commonplace . They can originate from online trolling, or just pure nastiness and/or just plain old jealously. Consistently bad reviews of one breeder, in multiple places, forums or breed specific groups, could be a tell tale sign of possible issues to come. Online reputation is something that is important to breeders, especially in this modern era, a bad reputation online can be a strong sign that this breeder should be avoided.

8. Not keeping pups for themselves.

Most good breeders will be creating litters to improve their own breeding programme, to increase the quality of the dogs they have, and grow their own kennels in some way. Breeders tend to keep the pick of the litters back for their own purposes or place them with specific clients . Breeders NOT keeping pups back from litters and/or offering Pick of the litter pups, particularly to new clients, can be a sign that the driving force for the litters is not correct, or the litter itself isn’t of a high enough quality for the breeder to keep from.

9. Lack of references or reviews

Breeders that cannot or will not give references, or can’t (or won’t) put you in contact with past clients, could be another sign of bad things to come. Good breeders tend to have a list of clients that will happily give you a reference if asked. Keep in mind most people will be happy to send a message, or write a reference, or maybe have a quick phone call, the list of clients that would welcome a visit to their home may be a lot shorter !.. New breeders that do not have past clients to speak to, should be able to put you in contact with their mentor, a well established breeder in their breed that will vouch for them.

10. Putting down other breeders

Good breeders will not tend to talk bad of other breeders in their own breed. The breeding world is a very small world. They will let the dogs and the quality of them speak for themselves. If they do, then concerns should be raised. Too many not so great breeders, or those that are new to breeding, feel that to make themselves look better, they need to pull others down. Good breeders will tend to be respectful of other breeders because they know the hard work and dedication it requires to build a good kennel. If a breeder is talking bad of other breeders, it should be a reason to be concerned and is another Red Flag for us.

Best ways to find a good breeder

Don’t rush - You are looking for a new family member, that’s with you for 8+ years, or for a foundation dog that will be the basis of everything you build on for future generations (or both). Now is not the time to rush, or buy the first pup that’s offered. Take your time, do your research, build a list of breeders you come across and look to find the right breeder that you will be happy to be part of your life for the coming years.

Be prepared to travel - Just because a breeder is close does not mean they are the right breeder for you. Be prepared to make the extra effort to travel to the right breeder, with the right dogs for you, your lifestyle and your family.

Shows - Attending shows to see dogs in the flesh is an excellent way to see dogs you like, and meet the breeders that produce those dogs. Keep in mind that shows are usually a very busy day for breeders, so be prepared to take a number or email address and talk more at a later date. Don’t forget to check out past show results, breeders that produce dogs that do well in shows are always worth adding to your list.

Breed Clubs - Speaking to long established breed clubs is a good place to start when looking for reputable breeders of a specific breed. Keep in mind that some breed clubs can also be run or owned by a breeder, so you may be directed to the owner of the club. When contacting breed clubs try to contact as many as possible and add those recommended to your list.

Breed Specific Groups - Go online and join reputable breed specific groups or forums and Facebook groups, particularly in the country that you live in. Ask questions about breeders, the breed and ask for recommendations for good breeders. It’s here that you should be able to speak to owners of the breed and get first hand experience of any breeders that are recommended.

Search Engines - This is always a good place to look. Good breeders will tend to have good websites, social media pages and YouTube videos that will be easy to find and research them well before you contact them directly. Those that have gone to the effort to build an online presence, will usually be those that are here to stay. Those that do not have the above should be treated with caution. Just because a breeder does not have a website or social media channels does not mean they are bad breeders, but keep in mind nearly all good breeders will have all of the above because they understand how important they are in this day and age.

Pedigrees - Go to source. Studying pedigrees of dogs that you like is another good way to find the breeder for you, particularly if you are looking to build your own breeding line. Kennels that consistently produce high quality dogs, win shows and help to start other breeding kennels and are always worth adding to your list. This is the way that we ourselves found our own breeder and world class mentor !.

Emails/ Calls - Now you should have your master list, it’s time to make contact. You will most likely have found that the same few breeders names come up over and over again if you have used the above methods. Contact those breeders that you feel have been producing the dogs that you like the look of, that would like to own, or would like to use as the basis for your own breeding kennel. Introduce yourself politely, give them a complement or two, explain what you are looking for, and ask if they can help. Do not send one word or one sentence emails or messages such as Price ?. Or You got pups ?. These will very likely be ignored. Be prepared to have to wait for the very best of breeders, they will tend to have a waiting list.

Ask questions - Ask lots of questions, make a list of everything you would like to ask and see if you can book in a call to have them answered. Most breeders are very busy, but will welcome clients that have questions, that are genuine, and that have pre booked a call with them.

Put the miles in - Visits. At this point you should have greatly shortened your list, you may have that special breeder that you have just got to have a pup from, or you may have 2/3 breeders on your list you would like to go and see. Good breeders will usually welcome visits and will be happy to show you their breeding dogs and dogs that they have produced. This gives them a chance to vet you as well as for you to vet them. Top tips for visits, arrive on time, have questions ready and be prepared to get mucky.

Trust your gut - Above all trust your gut, if something feels off it usually is, if you don’t feel you will get on with the breeder, that they are hiding something, or they aren’t being transparent, be prepared to walk away.

Some useful advice for those that would like to become involved in breeding.

1- Find the right breed.

Make sure to select the correct breed that suits your lifestyle and the space, time, finances and energy that you have to invest. It should be a breed that you have a deep affection for, when times get tough, (as they undoubtedly will), if the love for the breed isn’t there, the temptation to give up maybe be too much to ignore.

2- Educate yourself.

The single most important part of any new project is education. This project will be no different. Educating yourself on not only the breed you have chosen, but also the breeding processes and breeding as a whole, will be invaluable to you as a new breeder. Books, audio books, the internet, podcasts, and of course Breeding Courses like our own Better Breeding course, will all be of great use to any new breeder.

3 Find a Good Mentor.

Experienced and educated Mentors are a very powerful tool to help get you to where you want to be, faster, making less mistakes, and being more cost effective than any other tool. In my opinion, a good Mentor is a great idea in any business or project that you are undertaking, breeding is no different. The 2 breeding mentors that we have had in our lives previously, have been invaluable in our breeding journey, and without them, we would very likely not have got to where we are.

4- Build relationships/partnerships.

Relationship building in breeding is as important as anything else. Client relationships, mentor relationships, and relationships with other breeders will be an important part of your progress and how fast it happens.

As with most things you will get further, faster with partners rather than alone. Breeding is no different.

Partnerships (either as a breeder, or as a client) are another good way to speed up your growth and reputation as a kennel. Partnerships with the right breeder, at the right time, can seriously help growth and notoriety within your own breed, fast tracking you to the level you are aiming at.

5- Start with females.

Females are the backbone of any good breeding kennel, they are the lifeblood of the breeding programme. The quality of the females you have in your kennel, will determine the quality of the pups you produce, and the direction you take as a breeder. Owning males is not a necessity for a new breeder, the use of good males is. Fresh or frozen semen can be obtained from around the world and if necessary shipped to most places within 48 hours. If used correctly, by experienced reproduction specialists, both options are very successful in creating litters. Using only very good proven males on the best quality females you can find, especially at the start, will put you in a position of creating the very best quality pups much quicker. The best of these pups can then be kept back to help grow and improve your own breeding programme.

6- Buy Adults -

Buying adults is much less of a risk over purchasing pups. With adults you can see the quality you have, you are not hoping for a high quality dog, you already have the end result. Another advantage is they are of breeding age. Buying adults can save a lot of time and limit mistakes with selection of pups. With pups, even the most experienced breeders out there, cannot guarantee how the most promising of pups will develop, or if indeed they will end up being breeding quality adults. Knowing what you have in the beginning is a huge advantage. The main downside of purchasing adults is the cost, they will tend to be much higher than pups, and persuading breeders to let good quality adults leave them, is not an easy task. This is where co-ownerships, partnerships and relationships can be a big help.

7- Make mistakes honestly.

This is one of the most important in my opinion.

As a new breeder you are going to make mistakes, hopefully much less, once you have educated yourself well and managed to get yourself a great mentor, but inevitably you will make mistakes as you grow and develop your skills. The key is to make honest mistakes. Honest mistakes are those that just happen, those that you did not know better of before they happened and those that were innocent and which you learn from. Dishonest mistakes are those that you do, knowing them to be a mistake or wrong. Examples would be selling the wrong dog to a client knowing it would not suit them, or breeding from a lower quality dog just because you had one, or even selling a dog to someone knowing they had some sort of issue and not disclosing it. Dishonest mistakes will always come back to haunt you in some way, will damage your reputation, and limit the heights you can reach within your own breed. Bad news travels fast and karma has a funny way of paying you back with interest. Always try to make your mistakes honestly.

8- Don’t rush

One of the most common mistakes that breeders make, especially early on, is to grow too quickly. All too often excitement and impatience get the better of a new breeder. We made this mistake ourselves in the beginning. Making the decision to become a breeder, purchasing the wrong dogs, or too many dogs (or both) will take a huge toll on both you and your breeding programme, often leading to the closing of a kennel, or having to start again after a few years, once you realise that the dogs you have, and the pups you are creating, are not what you started trying out to do. Select only the best that you can find and that you can afford, then take your time, pace yourself and grow slowly.

I hope that this article has been of some use to you, that you have picked up some helpful information and are already on your way to becoming a Better Breeder. I’m very much looking forward to seeing you all at the show.

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