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Breeding dogs takes time, patience, a great willingness to learn, the ability to be humble, and sometimes a little luck. Having a good eye for a dog does not hurt any, either.

One of the most important things about being a good breeder is avoiding kennel blindness. It has been the undoing of many a good breeder. The key is to recognize the faults and/or weaknesses in your dogs and in your line, and know how to correct them. Keeping an animal who has one fault (not a disqualifying one, I might add) that can be corrected in one breeding when the rest of the animal is exceptional is, in my opinion, intelligent and responsible breeding.

The breeder must always keep in mind that there is no perfect dog, and that all dogs have faults. One of my mentors, who has been in dogs for 30-plus years, has always told me, “You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” I think this is very wise advice.

A good breeder is one who studies, reads, watches, and learns from other longtime breeders, and who breeds responsibly and carefully for a number of years before they can be considered a “successful breeder.”

Some new breeders make the mistake of listening to people in dogs who are not experienced in the breeder’s breed. Some dog people think they know everything about every breed of dog. That, of course, is impossible.

Another thing to remember is that just because a dog is doing a lot of winning does not necessarily make him or her an asset to your breeding program. Breeding just because a dog wins is not “thoughtful” breeding. It is breeding to win, not breeding to improve the breed, and that way of thinking can backfire on a breeder.

When I started in American Eskimo Dogs in 1983, I sought out longtime breeders, people whom I felt were much more knowledgeable than myself and could help me understand the breed. I thank them all today for what I have learned and am continuing to learn, as one can never stop learning.

It is important to remember that there is no perfect dog. We should all strive to breed a dog as close to perfection as possible. I know that the perfect dog exists in my mind. When breeding, a breeder must compare the prospective sire and dam in terms of not only phenotype (physical appearance), but genotype (what is in the pedigree/genes) as well. Just because two dogs complement each other in physical appearance does not mean they will complement each other when comparing pedigrees.

As spoken so well by my mentor, breeding is an art. When doing a breeding, stick to the breed standard, and strive for perfection. Although you will never accomplish it, you must try to get as close to it as possible.

Debbie MitchellAmerican Eskimo Dog Club of America; June 2015 AKC Gazette

Meet “Atka the Amazing Eskie,” who perform unique therapy-dog trick shows while educating the public about the American Eskimo Dog breed.
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This article was originally published in AKC Family Dog magazine. Subscribe today ($12.95 for 6 issues, including digital edition) to get expert tips on training, behavior, health, nutrition, and grooming, and read incredible stories of dogs and their people.
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