As show and working breeders, we are committed to preserving and, where needed, improving the qualities that make our Cardigans such superb family dogs and working companions. That means we need to have an active and vibrant breeding program. But we’re not just breeders. We’re moms, dads, daughters, brothers, and – most important – family dog owners. We never want our dogs to be kenneled, or for our numbers to get large enough that our dogs don’t live as beloved family companions. Our solution is to allow extremely select families to share the very best prospects from our litters.
We call this “The Conspiracy of Ravens.”
How it works
The Conspiracy of Ravens
Conspiracy homes are charged with a very special mission – taking care of the dogs who will go on to make the next generation of working dogs, service dogs, and show dogs. We try to be both intentional and careful when we place these puppies, who are the best of their thoughtfully bred litters. They are the puppies we would keep ourselves, and we are grateful to the families that care for them and allow us to keep our numbers low and our dedication to our dogs high.
A Conspiracy puppy has an important destiny, but it’s still a puppy. We want their families to feel that their dog is bonded to them and has a fulfilling family life. We encourage you to get your puppy involved in obedience, in sports and performance, and in therapy activities. They need lots of exercise, tons of love, and of course training and discipline to thrive and shine. After all, they will spend very little of their lives with us in their role as show or breeding dogs – they will be with you and in your home all but a few days a year.
About the Conspiracy
Is there a cost involved in the program?
Yes, initially. We do not give our Conspiracy dogs or pups away. Families give us an initial payment, generally about half the amount of a normal pet purchase price.
Our Conspiracy families are responsible for the general routine care and wellness of the puppy/dog placed with them. This means any needed vet care, feeding the high-quality dog food we specify, grooming, monthly heartworm prevention, flea/tick prevention, training, regular exercise and socialization, and – most important – love, care and attention.
Any costs related to the show or breeding life of the dog will be paid by White Raven.
After the family has completed the term of the contract (generally two litters of puppies, though we reserve the right to attempt a third under certain circumstances) we will offer them a free puppy from their Conspiracy dog’s final litter or reimburse them for the full amount they paid at the beginning of the agreement.
Why do people choose to belong to the Conspiracy?
Some people have a great natural “eye” for a dog, and fall in love with the puppy who is our show/working pick. Those puppies are available only on a shared basis, so those families partner with us by default. Others want to get involved in the big world of show breeding, but don’t want the tremendous financial commitment that requires. One big benefit of being a Conspiracy member is that we health-test and title the dogs at our expense, so at the end of the term of the agreement (four years) we’ll transfer to their families full ownership of a beautiful, health tested, champion dog. We stay in very close touch with our Conspiracy partners, and maintain a thriving Facebook group. They often come to cheer on their dogs in the show ring or at trials, they watch their dogs’ puppies grow up (and are welcome to visit often!), and follow those puppies as they go to new homes across the country and around the world.
Can any family be a Conspiracy member?
We accept only families in the New England area, and you must be willing to travel to meet us when we need the dog. Most of the time that is only a few weekends a year (plus one or two breeding “vacations” for a female), and we do everything we can to make sure you’re not inconvenienced. You must promise that your puppy will grow up as a family companion, will always be an indoor dog, and will never be left outside without supervision or a physical fence.
Show and working prospects are quickly ruined if they are allowed to get fat, get no exercise, or aren’t trained. We expect you to feed an agreed-upon diet, to keep the puppy well groomed with short nails, and to keep it lean and athletic. That usually means more than just running around the yard – Cardigans need regular walks and deliberate exercise. We love it when hikers, walkers, mountain bikers, beachgoers, and other naturally active people apply.
Conspiracy families must let us know immediately when a female dog comes into season. We do not breed before maturity and we generally bred only twice, so you’ll be dealing with 4-5 heat cycles that do not involve breeding. If you feel capable of handling heat cycles and keeping a dog from being bred, that’s fine. If you don’t, we will gladly take the dog back for a few weeks until the cycle is over.
How does it all work?
We decide whether there will be a promising puppy available in a litter sometime between eight and nine weeks of age. Often we will grow a puppy up for several months to confirm that our instincts were correct, and then consider the best possible placement for him or her. If we decide that he or she should go to a Conspiracy home, we match that puppy’s personality and talent with the best possible home for him or her.
We will watch the puppy grow, and evaluate it regularly. At some point, usually around a year old, we’ll begin that dog’s show career and start the health testing process (DNA for 160+ diseases and disorders, hips, eyes, and elbows). Once we receive all of the results from the dog’s health testing and have had him or her evaluated in the show ring, we will decide whether or not the dog will enter our breeding program. If for any reason we decide not to breed the puppy placed with you, we’ll end the contract early and give you permission to spay or neuter the dog. At that point we’ll sign ownership over to you, and the dog will be a family pet. In our experience, about half of all Conspiracy placements end early.
How does it all work?
Assuming the dog has completed its health testing and has done well in the show or performance ring, we will breed it once or twice (if a female) or collect and freeze semen once or twice (if a male). Sometimes males will be used for in-person breedings, but often the ultimate goal is the storage of his DNA and potential for a breeding many years from now.
Females being bred will travel to us for the breeding. They will then be returned to their families until one week before the due date. They come to us for the whelping and to nurse their puppies, and will be returned once puppies are fully weaned, approximately 5-6 weeks later. Conspiracy families are welcomed and encouraged to visit puppies, and often do so every week.
Once the term of the contract (generally 48 months from the date the dog was placed in the Conspiracy home) is up, we will give the family permission to spay or neuter the dog. Once that is done, we will sign full ownership over to the Conspiracy family.
What if we change our minds?
We are very aware that sometimes circumstances change. You may need to move out of state, or you may decide that being a Conspiracy home just isn’t for you. We never want you to feel trapped in the contract.
Each of our agreements includes both a return agreement (you may return the dog to us, no questions asked, at any time) and a buy-out clause. If you want to use that buy-out to convert the contract to a regular pet ownership arrangement, we completely understand.
Is this program like the way doodle breeders have ``Guardian Home`` placements?
We don’t have anything against doodle breeders, but what we do (and why we do it) is quite different than what pet-only breeders do.
Our goal is not to produce puppies to sell – it’s to maintain and elevate the quality of our breed. We don’t sell at a profit, or want to get many puppies from a dog. We don’t breed more often thanks to our Conspiracy families; what they allow us to do is breed with greater genetic diversity. Every breeder watches many beautiful, healthy, talented puppies end up spayed or neutered simply because there aren’t enough show/breeding homes for them. This places more breeding pressure on the few dogs we keep, which increases inbreeding in the breed. Having more dogs available in the breeding program lowers this pressure and allows more of the gene pool to contribute. It is much better for (for example) four siblings to have one litter each than to have one dog have four litters.
At least half of our Conspiracy placements result in zero breedings, and the majority of the ones that end in a litter stop at just one. We have extraordinarily high standards for what dogs are allowed to contribute to our breeding program, and we will not continue a pedigree that weakens this wonderful little working dog. If a bitch is not a good mother, if her puppies do not thrive, if she had a difficult time whelping and needed a c-section (aside from sections for stuck puppies, which are not her fault), or if she produces puppies with life-altering health problems, she is never bred again. If a dog cannot consistently make sound, happy, healthy puppies with good minds and people-loving natures, he’s retired.
The way we share our dogs is actually more difficult, more involved, more complex, and definitely MUCH more expensive than it would be to simply fill a kennel with dogs and do all our breedings ourselves. Most breeders who start out with a program like this end up abandoning it, because they quickly find that the reality is incredibly different from what they thought it would be. We’ve continued to do it, despite some huge setbacks and disappointments, because we believe that it’s better for the dogs. They deserve a meaningful life as a member of a family. And after all – if we’re not doing the best for our dogs, then why are we breeding?
Our shared future
The dogs of the Conspiracy
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