Milford, Michigan — A dirt road rolls off the back of a paved cul-de-sac in exurban Detroit and leads through about twenty yards of thick woods before ending in front of American Kennel Club Breeder of Merit Lynn Taylor’s house. The 20-acre property owned by Ms. Taylor and her husband is also the location of her German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) breeding business, High Caliber Kennel.
Ms. Taylor’s house is the last in a row of homes bordering automaker General Motors’ famous Black Lake vehicle testing facility, a 67-acre sea of black pavement.
An expansive lawn is carved out of the thicket that surrounds the house on all sides. Downslope and left of her front yard is a small body of water. A larger one sits at the end of her backyard.
A dog’s life
There is a single outdoor kennel run in the back of Ms. Taylor’s garage, which she says she occasionally uses to house her GSP’s (only in mild weather, during daylight hours, she adds). For the rest of the time, Taylor says her dogs live in her home, sometimes crated or running in the front yard as they were during The Canine Review’s visit in September.
The pack appeared healthy and well-socialized, if not particularly active.
“I’m not really a kennel operation,” she explained.
“Field titles, first”
Her entrance into the breeding world grew out of a passion for hunting. An avid grouse and woodcock hunter, she told The Canine Review that she originally adopted German Shorthaired Pointer rescue dogs to use in the field. Eventually, Ms. Taylor bought a puppy from prominent hunting dog breeder Abbe Lane Kennels, owned by Robert and Judy Moerman. Taylor credits the Moermans for helping her get her start as a breeder as they planned out their retirement. Taylor’s own foray into breeding began 10 years ago, and she still has the dog that started it all.
“I started with Riot, that’s my stud dog. He’s got about a hundred puppies out there,” she said.
Taylor considers herself primarily a hunting breeder. “For me, I hit the field. I get my field titles first,” she explained.
An AKC Grand Champion, “Riot” has also won AKC titles such as a Master Hunter and Companion Dog. His five generations of breeding is key to his performance, Taylor said.
“The lineage proves it. When you look at a pedigree, you know if your dogs have hunting in them because of the titles you put on the dogs or what is behind them,” she added. “Riot’s dad is a versatile champion with NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association), and a master hunter. He’s proven.”
Taylor’s younger dogs have also won awards.
There were seven full-size GSP’s on Ms. Taylor’s lawn when The Canine Review’s visited on the evening of September 17. Most were adults, but at least one was a puppy that Ms. Taylor kept from a litter born earlier in 2019. Ms. Taylor said she currently owns three generations of dogs. When asked how many dogs in total were living on the property, Taylor would not say. “I can’t go on record. It’s just not really something I publicize,” she said, adding that the exact number fluctuates. “They come and go. One, I co-own with my sister, for instance, is a lab,” Taylor continued. “I have him here on weekends and then he goes back home. …If I’m putting a title on them, they may be here for a while.”
According to Taylor, there are “about 12” dogs around the country that have the “High Caliber” name on their titles, including the pack in the front yard. Some of these dogs are co-owned by others who care for them. She also has an ownership share in all dogs that are on her property, she explained.
High Caliber produces one to two litters per year, Taylor told The Canine Review.
“I’m not a big breeder. I only breed because I like what I have, and I felt it’s fair to share what I have.”
This may also be due in part to the fact that her breeding business is not her full-time occupation. During the week, Taylor works full-time as an accounting and finance vice president for a construction firm in Ann Arbor. She lets the dogs out every morning before work and again, when she returns home. Her husband, John, cares for the dogs during the day. High Caliber Kennel has no other employees, save for Ms. Taylor’s sister who will step in during her vacations.
Asked about how she plans her litters, Taylor said that temperament and structure are her priorities when pairing up dogs, while also trying to ensure that any weaknesses at the show level are checked and not doubled up in the next generation.
Puppy placement and policies
Taylor told The Canine Review that she places puppies with families, rather than allowing buyers to choose their puppies. She does this, she explained, to create better matches based on what owners intend to do with the dogs. The people who buy her dogs are predominately hunters. Hunters are more likely to meet Taylor’s high-level activity requirements for prospective owners.
“It is a lifestyle. You have to be ready to exercise the dog,” she said.
Apartment dwellers would need to work overtime to convince her to let them have a dog.
“I turn down people a lot. I’m not afraid to,” she added. “If I feel like they’re not ready for this breed, I’m happy to tell them they should consider a lab or a golden retriever.”
To pre-screen buyers, Taylor uses a questionnaire that probes would-be owners’ intentions and history. She meets all buyers in person to hand off her puppies, she said, sometimes traveling to the airport to link up with those flying in.
“I’ve never shipped one in cargo, and I don’t know if I would. I wouldn’t put my own dog in it,” she added.
Although Taylor lists the price per puppy in an upcoming litter at High Caliber as $1,200 on her website, she explained that her prices vary. If puppies are produced via artificial insemination, the prices will be higher than a live cover pregnancy. Educating clients about the behind-the-scenes costs is one of Taylor’s toughest challenges.
“How many people are out there breeding because CJ won Westminster? So, everyone out there wants a GSP,” Taylor explained.
Before puppies go to their new homes, Taylor says they go through the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) certification program administered by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). She also prioritizes early neurological stimulation and administers temperament and structure evaluations.