I - ENJOY YOUR DOGS
The primary reason anyone becomes involved with dog breeding and
showing is a fundamental love of dogs. We treasure the
companionship, the never failing loyalty, the delight they
exude. We love to have them on our beds. Their eagerness to face
the new day, even when we wake them up at dreadful hours,
provides us a wonderment that brings back the exuberance of
childhood. They forgive us when we lose our temper, when we are
impatient, when we are far less than they are. They bring out
the best of ourselves, they nurture the "big" us.
Unfortunately, dog breeding and exhibiting can tempt our
"little" selves. It can feed a fragile ego until it becomes a
raging ego. Often, this need to feel we are better than our
fellow man is expressed in our possessions. We need to have the
biggest winner, the producer of the most champions, the most
champion puppies. We buy, we co-own, we collect. Soon we have no
time for dog pleasures, no time to play or rub a grateful belly,
no time to stroke a patient brow. Soon we have no room for more
dogs; we stack them and crate them and store them as though they
were baubles that have no meaning but to make us feel important.
We lose our ability to love. Dog showing and breeding is a great
vocation. It is creative and challenging and very rewarding. But
we must never expect our hobby to take the place of a
psychologist's work. We must never expect an unhealthy mental
state to be cured by self-indulgence. Far too many people take
to showing and breeding for the wrong reasons. Their houses go
to ruin, their bank accounts evaporate, their credit hits the
skids, their spouses and children are left to survive on their
own as the breeder pursues their own manifestation of what they
perceive to prove their self-worth. Being a dog breeder is a
huge commitment. It means we should assign ourselves the role of
lifetime student. It means we will be humbled in countless ways
and in countless circumstances. It means our lessons will be of
the hard knock variety if we are to truly learn them. It means
frustration, long hours, late nights and early mornings. It
means never getting to sleep-in again. It means finding
friendships - some of which will last for a lifetime and some of
which will founder, being built on social advantage. It means
being quoted and misquoted and having words put in your mouth.
It means being given ample opportunity to be as "small" as a
human being can be. But, hopefully, it can provide an
opportunity to learn to be "big," to be generous, inquisitive,
and adventurous. We should never ask ourselves if we are envied
or important or successful. Those questions are meaningless. At
the end of the day, we should ask ourselves, "Am I proud of the
person I've become?" What we must always be are dog lovers. We
must be their advocates. We must ensure the life of every dog we
breed and every dog we own is fulfilled and an illustration of
humanity at its nest hour. Our vanity must not be stroked by
having our pictures in a magazine or seeing our name on some
ranking system. Our self-worth must come from knowing we provide
our dogs a life of love, of pleasure, and of happiness.
II - BREED FOR IMPROVEMENT NOT WINNERS
It is easy to become lost in the purpose of breeding quality
dogs. For some, the attraction of the bright lights, the glamour
and the glitz cause them to stray from the path. Developing a
bloodline that is well considered and that is a positive
influence for the breed takes considerable discipline. Too
often, the seemingly slow and carefully orchestrated effort to
improve a breed is crossed up with the immediate desire to breed
that one big winner and become famous.
The breeder's pledge must be to harbor and safeguard the breed.
No breed is in perfect shape when the breeder happens upon it
and none shall be perfect when they leave. But to leave a breed
in better shape than it was when you came upon it is the
greatest compliment. To improve type, movement, temperament and
health must be the bottom line for every committed breeder.
Such accomplishment takes a long-range plan that is carefully
thought through. It requires dedication and purpose. All too
often, we are sidetracked by our desire to breed to the latest
big winner, and then to the next and the next. Before long the
pedigree is a long list of "who's who" that have no relationship
to each other, other than they found success in the ring. What
is key to learn (and to believe) is success in the ring is not
an automatic indication of the dog's true quality. We all wish
one indicated the other but that is too easy. It would require
the removal of human fallacy to be accomplished!
Dogs do not excel for all the same reasons. Consequently, you
can't simply breed one big winner to another and produce more
big winners. Every feature and their nature of inheritance must
be studied and understood before you can "manage" the
inheritance variables. Once you gain this skill, you are on the
road to producing a great line of winners.
III - TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE
The breeding of fine purebred dogs should be considered the
pursuit of perfection - it is not the maintenance of it. All
dogs have faults, all dogs are less than ideal in some ways and
areas. If not, the "ideal" has not been well enough conceived.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of being defensive about
one's own dogs. This usually happens because what we assume to
be correct is challenged by another as being less so. This
disharmony causes confusion in our mind and ultimately
unhappiness. To right ourselves, we often become defensive and
try to rid ourselves of that which is causing us the discomfort
- namely the opinion that does not complement our own.
We must realize that "truth" is the ultimate standard by which
our decisions should be made. In most cases, a roached back is a
roached back, whether we choose to recognize it as such or not.
Consequently, the best way for us to not be put into a position
of being unhappily surprised is to pursue knowledge relentlessly
to ensure our opinion is as accurate and close to the "truth" as
This knowledge is gained in many ways, one of which is learning
from fellow breeders. We must fight the urge to make up our
minds about something and refuse to consider another viewpoint.
Indeed, we do not make decisions based on facts when we are
first learning; we are depending upon what we perceive to be the
expertise of others to provide that for us. If that so-called
expertise is, in fact, faulty our whole knowledge base is called
into question. And that causes us great anxiety.
The best place to sit is in the seat of the knowledge seeker.
Whenever provided with an opinion that is different than the one
you currently hold always seek to under the viewpoint of the
other. Why does the person perceive something differently than
you? Understanding another's point of view can be the road to
greater knowledge. If you shut that door and do not entertain
the prospect of learning something different than what you think
is truth you will never actually recognize the truth and you
will not succeed in your goal.
Quite honestly, you should be more critical of your dogs than
anyone else could possibly be. That is not to say you should
attribute faults to your dogs they do not possess, but your
evaluation must be as detailed as possible and you must strive
to see clearly their true faults and virtues. From this comes
the map to success.
IV - DEAL WITH OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE
THEM DEAL WITH YOU
Sounds a bit like the golden rule that we learn in childhood.
Yet it is amazing how many people forget this very important
axiom. In dealing with others, regardless of the matter, think
always of the other person's position. I have heard repeatedly
people state how they were burned in a co-ownership agreement.
All too often the agreement is geared toward benefiting one
party (often the seller) over another. Written agreements
somehow are tainted as being only needed in a contentious
situation. This is the first misconception. Not having a written
agreement should be the very rare exception, not the reverse.
Too often should a worthwhile puppy be produced from one of
these undefined arrangements, the fight is on for possession.
Before contemplating selling a dog on a co-ownership or leasing
it or offering stud service for a puppy back you should think
through what exactly you expect and desire from such an
arrangement. Too often these business dealings occur in the spur
of the moment during a telephone conversation, and the deal is
struck before either party has really had an opportunity to
think it through. For some reason rather than rethinking the
situation, we tend to try to follow through on such an ill
conceived arrangement only to end up bitter enemies in the end.
If people would stop and think about the likely end result they
would realize the best possible thing to protect the friendship
is to have a written understanding.
It is very rare a litter is going to have more than one star if
any at all. Consequently, it is important to understand who is
going to own that super puppy, should it appear. People are too
willing to tear apart relationships should one person seem to
benefit a bit more than another. This is too sad and is
reflective of the self-benefit motivation that all too many find
as the driving force for their actions. When pressed, it is far
better to give than to receive. It is far better to let the
other seemingly benefit than to destroy a relationship and
acquire the reputation of being disreputable and self centered,
if for no other reason than it makes you grow as a human being,
which is probably a fair trade off in the long run.
V - BY GIVING YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE
Another pitfall breeders often experience is the inability to
celebrate other's successes. While certainly we feel the route
we are taking is the best way to approach that utopian plateau
of breed perfection, there are actually many routes to that same
goal. It takes nothing at all away from our own accomplishments
to recognize the accomplished efforts of other breeders.
This inability and unwillingness to appreciate other's efforts
usually comes from having made a decision not to breed to
certain bloodlines or deal with certain persons. When such a
kennel then produces a success, it is difficult for us to
acknowledge such an achievement for we tend to find that
inconsistent with our opinion of that particular person or
family of dogs. It takes quite an honest and secure person to
recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of others.
While it is probably good advice to hold our criticisms closer
to our chest, recognizing another's achievement only brings good
things. By being someone who can see the virtues in breeding
lines other than your own, you gain a reputation of fairness and
objectivity that is a very rare pearl in dogdom. You may find,
over time, that your point of view and your philosophies are
taken with much greater weight when others do not perceive them
to have originated in a mind consumed with self-aggrandizement.
Thus, by doing so you lose nothing and yet you gain so very
VI - MAKE USE OF OTHERS' ACHIEVEMENTS
One of the worst situations a breeder can find her/ himself in
is to partition themselves off from another kennel or bloodline.
It is highly unlikely that all improvements toward the
perfection of a breed are going to come from one single kennel
or bloodline. Like flowers in the field, they will spring up in
various places. The clever breeder is the one who knows how to
pick from all the field those who will make the ultimate,
sublime bouquet. And to do this, you must be able to use the
strengths of other kennels and bloodlines. Breeders will tend to
have certain biases; and quite honestly, there are certain
strengths and weaknesses in most bloodlines. While you may feel
you have achieved the highest ground in certain areas, there
will doubtless be other areas in which your dogs and bloodlines
are less strong than others. Not to recognize this fact is to
ensure you will plateau quite early in your breeding career. And
by that I mean you will stabilize and go no further. You must
always keep a watchful eye for that very special bloom that will
enhance your bouquet.
It is this sophisticated combining of families without losing
the good points of your own bloodline that strengthen a kennel
and move it forward in breed importance. It takes careful
consideration, orchestration and pruning to come to fruition.
VII - YOU ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR
My last axiom addresses the whole issue of morality. It has many
facets and many ways of expressing itself. Spreading rumors, the
accuracy of which might be doubtful, is one very good example.
Selling dogs on co-ownerships as a means to control other
breeders is certainly another. Accusing other lines of genetic
problems while being less than entirely honest about your own is
yet another. In all, it goes to the very core of who we are. Do
we know right from wrong? Do we practice right in all
circumstances? Dog breeding is not about that one great win or
that one great winner. It is about breed improvement over time,
it is about protecting a breed. Too many people are in search of
some kind of sign of their self-worth and they think they will
obtain some special level of respect and honor if they have a
big winner. Dog breeding is a lifetime's work. It is a continuum
of which, no matter how quickly you want to "put yourself on the
map," will ultimately be a reflection of your true character. To
wit, you can't fool all of the people all of the time.
There is no honor in "adjusting" reality to give you the
appearance of achieving something you have not. Politicking for
wins will not make your dogs any better than they are. Faking
your dogs will not make them any better than they are. You may
think you can fool the world, but you will ultimately pay the
price. No one wants to be a pretender. And yet, some of the
worst pretenders are people who seem to be infatuated with
spreading rumors about other people and dogs. These people live
in glass houses and invariably they know it. The breeding of
dogs is not about how you impress the neighbors, your peers or
anyone else. It is the expression of your love of dogs and your
personal pursuit in creating an art. You cannot lie about the
art you create; you cannot lie to yourself.
While this list, I am quite sure, sounds like a sermon from the
mount, it encompasses the many pitfalls that we dog breeders
face every day. Some of us are equipped to navigate these
disturbances better than others, but all of us CAN navigate
them. We are all tested from time to time, even the most
educated, psychologically balanced, intelligent and honest
amongst us. There are times when it feels much better to zing
someone who has been hurtful, to control those whom we feel do
not have the proper motivation, to become the ones who attract
the adulation. Only through careful thought and well-considered
action can we hope to become better people and therefore better