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Five lessons learned during a lifetime in dog breeding:

1. A critical eye is a must in assessing the value and worth of your dog’s contributions to a breeding program. It may mean changing your mind on the stud dog you thought would add something, turning down a potential bitch to your stud dog, or retiring a star dog when his shine is beginning to dim.

2. Producing dogs with sustainable quality over the course of many years is not accidental; sometimes it is lucky, but never accidental. While there is some room for experimenting and minor missteps, researching pedigrees, keeping abreast of health issues, and maintaining strong communication with those who have purchased dogs and other breeders of integrity—whether in your breed or not—are critical to developing as a breeder.

3. A major mistake in not properly researching pedigrees for health, temperament, and genetic traits can be catastrophic for a small kennel. It could take years of recovery or mean starting over. Attending national and regional specialties to assess the “competitive health” of your line and your breed will help drive these wise decisions.

4. In a breed as mine where the gene pool is moderately small and two or three prolific breeders can change the direction of a breed for years, you need the ability to stay focused on your vision according to the standard. When conformation judging becomes stuck on a singular trend, you need to have faith in your breeding decisions even if they aren’t winning at the moment. When you are on the upswing of winning, it pays to keep a healthy perspective on what your breeding program still needs to improve or to maintain its quality.

5. Finding homes for show prospects is not difficult, generally speaking. Finding a home that will value the dog not just for its ribbon count and understands the challenge of a breed that requires devotion and dedication adds to the interviewing mix, and thereby brings a challenge. It’s important to delve into a potential owner’s personal vision of success. A solid base of excellent pet homes is important and these homes are equally as cherished. Not every dog can be a star in the breed or performance rings but every dog has the potential to be someone’s personal star.

Read about the Belgian Tervuren.Find more advice from master breeders in the AKC Breeder Newsletter archive.
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