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Breeding Dogs For Dummies
By Richard G. Beauchamp
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-0872-5
Chapter OnePassing the Responsible Dog Breeder Test
In This Chapter
* Why purebred dogs make sense
* Who should breed dogs
* Why responsible breeding is an issue
* Contributions you can make
* Working with a mentor
So what's the big deal with breeding dogs? Old Nell did just fine by herself whelping and raising her litter of tail waggers. The pups grew like weeds and once they started eating on their own, off they went to their new homes. That was that!
That, however, was then, and this is now. Cities or counties that let you keep any number of horses, cows, and goats place strict limits on the number of canines that you can house on your property.
Attempts are being made everywhere to control the number of dogs that are born. If you think that there's no reason for these controls, all you need do is pay a visit to your local humane society or animal shelter.
We certainly don't need anyone else adding to the country's ever-increasing canine population unless they're breeding a certain kind of dog for specific reasons and under sensible guidelines. The American Humane Society reports that well over 15 million healthy and friendly dogs and cats were euthanized in the year 2000. Most of the dogs were mixed breeds, but many of them were purebreds that were born into caring homes but who fell into the hands of irresponsible disappointed owners.
I say "disappointed" because a good many of the purebred dogs in the shelters are there because they failed to live up to the romantic expectations their owners had. Even a pricey dog won't be Lassie or Rin Tin Tin. Purebreds in shelters are there because they didn't arrive pretrained or pan out quite as heroically as the owners expected.
This chapter is intended to make you think long and hard about taking on all the responsibilities connected with dog breeding. If, after careful consideration, you do decide to breed dogs, this chapter contains valuable tips and advice on who you can contact to help you with your goals.
Why Purebreds Make Sense
All puppies are cute. Just about anything naughty they do is forgivable, because they do it in such an innocent and beguiling way. Who wouldn't melt at the sight of puppy? Unfortunately, all this puppy cuteness lies at the bottom of many problems.
Puppies like the ones shown in Figure 1-1 grow up, and not all of them grow up to be cute or have the temperament that you may want them to have. (Although what's attractive and compatible to one person is not necessarily seen in that light by another.)
Size and temperament can vary a bit within any of the purebred breeds. However, the results of hundreds of generations of selective breeding pretty well insures the buyer of what the puppy he purchases will look and act like as an adult. Therefore, the surprises and disappointments that you have with the surprise package of a mixed breed just aren't as prevalent.
Just as important as the predictability of size and personality, and even more important to some people, is the fact that you can purchase a purebred dog for a specific purpose and feel reasonably certain that the pup will grow up with the ability to fulfill that role. There are hunting dogs and guard dogs, dogs inclined to bark at most any unusual sound, and dogs that live to do nothing more than bring a ray of sunshine into your life. You can get a better sense of this in Chapter 3.
In fact, many breeds are amazingly specialized. There are field dogs that freeze at the first scent of hidden game and point it out to the hunter. Other breeds will swim through icy water to retrieve winged fowl that the hunter has brought down. Some breeds of dogs protect by attacking on command, while other breeds knock intruders to the ground and stand guard and call for assistance by barking.
There are companion dogs so small and light in weight that even the most elderly person can manage them easily. There are breeds with such an inborn need to please and assist that they are easily trained to become guide dogs for the blind.
No doubt exists in my mind that practically any dog, purebred or not, is capable of becoming a great companion. However, common sense would indicate that if we are going to perpetuate any kind of dog it should be one that has a high potential of finding exactly the right kind of home and owners who will be satisfied that they got what they really wanted
Who Should Breed Dogs
Many people believe that the only real requirement for breeding dogs is just being a dog lover. I wish I could say that's true. Unfortunately, it's not. Granted, being a dog lover is an essential component of a good dog breeder's makeup. Who else would be willing to put up with the all the disappointments, setbacks, and sheer drudgery that is often involved?
Much more is involved in becoming an accomplished breeder of dogs than loving them. In fact, a mighty long list of characteristics mirrors the one that I give to people who ask me where they should go to buy a well-bred dog.
If I were forced to select just one word to describe the characteristic that overrides all the other important characteristics of a good dog breeder, that word would have to be responsibility. So much that's involved in breeding dogs can be done haphazardly or not at all. Practically no laws or licenses exist that force anyone to be a good breeder. Other than those that are self-imposed, there aren't many sanctions for a lack of ethics in dog breeding.
The Responsible Breeder Checklist
Why Responsible Breeding Is an Issue
The responsible breeder gives each and every dog bred or owned all the care and attention it needs. That care even precedes the birth of the dog. Many hidden hereditary factors must be considered when mating two animals. I find it hard to believe that an irresponsible person would take all the time and endure the high costs involved in determining if the breeding stock about to be used is clear of some of these debilitating physical problems or temperament flaws.
You must understand that no breed, no dog, no animal (human or otherwise) is entirely free of hereditary defects of some degree or another. Chapter 9 takes a closer look at what can be inherited, both positive and negative.
Contributions you can make
Breeders who consistently produce mentally and physically sound dogs and who adhere to guidelines similar to those listed in the accompanying Responsible Breeders' Checklist can derive great satisfaction from the dogs they breed. Breeding and owning that dog of your dreams is a point of great pride, but the satisfaction can and does extend far beyond those few dogs who you're able to keep.
You can't help but take pride in knowing that you have established a line of dogs that's positively altered the course of the breed. That contribution lives on long after you have bred your last litter - even beyond having said a final goodbye to the last dog of your line.
Everyone who breeds championship-caliber dogs takes pride in the accomplishments of their dogs, but an even greater thrill can be derived from seeing what those outstanding dogs are capable of doing for the breed.
Stories of encouragement
Some years back I was invited to judge in Sydney, Australia. My first breed of the day was Bichon Frises, a breed that I had some measure of success with back at home in the United States. Among the entries was a dog of such outstanding quality that he stood heads above anything else that was competing.
I placed the dog Best of Breed and at the conclusion of the judging told the exhibitor that she should be extremely proud of having bred the dog. In my opinion, I told her, the dog was undoubtedly the best specimen of the breed I had ever seen.
She thanked me profusely and told me the dog had done a great deal of winning in Australia. She then said, "You have reason to be proud as well. Everything in this dog's pedigree goes back to your stock!"
I learned that dogs I had exported to England had produced well for their new owners there, and they had exported offspring to Australia who produced the dog that I had just awarded a top prize to.
Or consider the letter a friend of mine who raises Pugs received from the mother of a young man who was a paraplegic. The young man's injuries were the result of an automobile accident he was in while still a teenager.
The mother wrote, "Pugsley (the name of the dog) is absolutely devoted to my son and never leaves his side. When my son is due back from school, Pugsley sits at the window watching and waiting until he sees the van drive up. I think the greeting between the two is a high point in both their days. I can't thank you enough for sending this wonderful, wonderful dog into our lives. He has been a godsend!"
Other friends and breeders have told me wonderful stories about how their dogs have protected children or sounded the alarm when fire threatened. Bee Godsol, a dear friend of mine and a famous breeder, had her life spared because of the devotion and intelligence of two Newfoundlands who she had raised since the day they were born.
If you're not familiar with the breed, a Newfoundland is a very large (120 to 150 pounds), heavy-coated dog with a very calm and gentle nature. You'd never think it to look at the big old fellow but, when the need arises, the "Newfie" is a devoted and protective companion to those whom the dog loves and a heroic rescue dog for even an absolute stranger in need.
Bee was driving home from a friend's with just the two dogs in her car. It was late at night and snowing heavily. Her car hit a patch of ice and skidded off the road and down a steep embankment. Part of the way down, the car hit a tree and the impact threw Bee out of the car. Bee couldn't move her arms or legs. She was paralyzed and helpless in the blinding storm.
Between long periods of unconsciousness, she realized that her two Newfoundlands were lying close on each side of her. Occasionally, they would go off and she would hear barking in the distance.
When she woke up in the hospital, she was told that someone driving along the lonely stretch of road had stopped to investigate why a huge black dog was alone and frantically barking at the side of the road - obviously in a frenzy about something. The passerby soon realized that something was amiss at the bottom of the ravine and called for help.
When Bee awoke in the hospital, the ambulance driver told her that if it hadn't been for the dogs, she couldn't possibly have survived. The only problem he encountered, the driver said, "Was those two black beauties who couldn't decide whether we were there to help you or do you harm. It took a whole lot of coaxing and petting to get them to let us put you on the stretcher!"
To be responsible for bringing dogs into existence who have as great beauty, persistent devotion, and intelligent bravery as the dogs in these stories is something that most breeders aspire to. Naturally, every dog who you breed isn't going to be responsible for stories like these. Having that type of impact really isn't the point of breeding dogs. But the stories do illustrate that remaining loyal to what the creators of our breeds intended the breeds to be and do is a sign of great respect and, in a way, preserving the breed shows a love of mankind as well.
Working with a Mentor
Breeding dogs with the beauty, the brains, or the abilities that the breed is intended to have isn't something that you can do easily. In fact, just breeding one dog that combines most of what the breed standard requires is a genuine accomplishment. It doesn't just happen by accident.
In a perfect world, the beginning dog breeder would spend at least a few years reading, studying, and observing the rights and wrongs of a breed. A newcomer would fully acquire the knowledge that old-timers in that breed have to pass along. The study time would also help the beginner learn some of the lingo that goes along with all the different breeds. Note: If I start to use some of that lingo, there's a glossary in the back of the book.
Where to start
Most of us have not yet achieved nirvana, entered paradise, or otherwise become perfect. We're inclined to get started where most dog fanciers get underway - somewhere near the middle.
Most of the people I know who are now established breeders have told me that they were well under way and already owned a number of dogs before they came to the realization, "Uh oh, what I should have done was...." Fortunately, all of us learn (or should learn!) from our mistakes.
Excerpted from Breeding Dogs For Dummies by Richard G. Beauchamp Excerpted by permission.
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