When we first began our individual journeys in the sport of dog breeding and showing, we did so with the highest of ideals, hoping not only to succeed, but also to make worthwhile contributions to our breed and the fancy. Along the way, we meet those who are prepared to cut corners and do what’s expedient, if not in the best interests of dogdom. How we react and respond to those temptations will speak volumes about our respect for the sport.
It’s been said that integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking. Has your path to reaching the following goals changed over the years?
Back in the era of large foundation kennels and breeding establishments, a consistent litter that contained one or two stellar puppies that finished their championships was viewed as a success. Competition was stiff in many breeds, some of today’s most esteemed judges were still working as professional handlers, and shows were strictly two-day weekend affairs. Breeders guarded against being kennel blind and evaluated their own stock with a critical eye. Things have changed dramatically. Entries are down in many breeds, it often takes just single-digit numbers to make a major, and we seem to have shows every day of the week if we are prepared to travel. Some breeder-exhibitors take advantage of that situation to enter half their kennel at some obscure Wednesday show and come home with a few new champions. There are even those who are sneaky enough to bring just one dog or one bitch and bank on the crossover points for Best of Winners, with the result that an animal can gain its championship without ever having defeated another animal of the same sex. There is a world of difference between a “just finishable” dog, possessing no disqualifying faults, and a typey, correct show-quality dog worth specialing. Other than adding another notch on a breeder’s belt, what value does the just finishable dog bring to a breeding program?
“At Stud to Approved Bitches”
At one time, stud-dog owners insisted on evaluating a bitch in the flesh before they committed themselves to doing a breeding. Of course the bitch’s pedigree was studied for compatibility, but her phenotype was key to the evaluation process. Today, with the ease of obtaining chilled or frozen semen, and the many reproductive specialists available to us, it is quite common for owners of bitches to go to stud dogs they have only seen in a YouTube video, and stud-dog owners might be equally unfamiliar with the bitches. Skeptical old-timers dismiss this as “breeding by Facebook.” With any luck, bitch owners have had their hands on some of the stud dog’s offspring and the stud dog’s owner has also examined some of the bitch’s puppies, but that is by no means a certainty. Such an impersonal, hands-off approach to breeding leads some stud-dog owners to accept a bitch of mediocre quality, rationalizing that the owner is “determined to get her bred, and if I don’t let her use my stud dog, she’ll just find a less demanding owner to pay a stud fee to.” Have you been tempted to look the other way?
Applying to Judge
There will come a day, after paying your dues, and years of breeding litters and finishing champions, that you feel ready to apply to judge your breed and perhaps a few related breeds. You gather your paperwork and begin the application process, documenting your sweepstakes and stewarding assignments, as well as your homebred champions. It is a slow process, but so gratifying when you pass the tests and you receive that all-important letter from the AKC granting you permit status.
To speed up the process, often to qualify to judge breeds other than their own in other groups, some folks sign on as “owners on paper,” thus becoming co-breeders of litters they’ve never laid eyes on. What is the rush to fast-track oneself on the road to multi-group judge, we might ask. It’s a legitimate question, but the loopholes exist for those bent on scamming the system.
Taking a Dog Back
Responsible breeders do not want a dog of theirs in a home where it is no longer loved and appreciated. Typically, the sales contract will stipulate that if, for any reason, the owners can no longer keep the dog, they must inform the breeder. In recent years, rescue groups have grown in number and in complexity. Rescue is a touchy, emotional issue; many believe it serves as a safety net for bad breeders who will continue to produce too many litters, knowing we have bleeding-heart fanciers who will postpone their own long-awaited litter to take in dogs after a kennel bust. The rescue “middle men” do let breeders off the hook, and some breeders take full advantage of that fact. Still, there are conscientious breeders who believe it is their responsibility to be involved in a rehoming that affects a dog they brought into the world.
Allan Reznik has been an Afghan Hound fancier since the early 1970s and also owns and exhibits Tibetan Spaniels. He is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster, who has served as editor-in-chief of several national dog publications. He appears regularly on radio and TV discussing all aspects of responsible animal ownership. Allan is an AKC permit judge of Afghan Hounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Tibetan Spaniels.