Tag Archives: Breeders

Why We Need Purebred Dog Breeders

Why We Need Purebred Dog Breeders published by Huffpost Impact, The Blog

By Carlotta CooperWriter, DogFood.guru; Author, ‘The Dog Adoption Bible’

With the Westminster Kennel Club dog show recently on TV, it inevitably stirs debate about purebred dogs. These days, a vocal segment of the population detests purebred dogs and their breeders. Whether this is a class issue, a generational issue, politics, or something else, it’s hard to say, but it goes far beyond the facts about breeders and their dogs.

Today there are over 400 recognized breeds of dogs in the world. Many of them have historical origins dating back hundreds, even thousands of years. Wherever humans have lived, dogs have been alongside them performing various tasks. One of the reasons dogs have been such a successful species is because they are so adaptable. They have made themselves useful in countless ways to humans so we kept feeding them, providing shelter for them, and, yes, breeding them. It’s no accident that we have dogs able to hunt, herd, guard, track, and do so many other things at an expert level. Humans figured out early on that if you bred dogs that were good at these things, you would get offspring that were also good at doing them. All of these jobs performed by dogs were necessary for our own species to survive. It’s no secret that we owe a lot to dogs, just as we do to other animals.

Today some of these jobs are performed in other ways and dogs don’t do the work they used to do. Hunting is a sport today and most of us don’t have to hunt with dogs to put food on the table. English Cocker Spaniels and Irish Setters are more popular as family pets than as hunting dogs. Dogs aren’t commonly used to kill rats today and it’s been a long time since the adorable Yorkshire Terrier, originally bred to kill vermin in textile mills, was used for this kind of work. Dogs still have some specialized uses for search and rescue, narcotics detection and other kinds of detection, along with other specialized skills such as therapy dog work, but most people don’t need to use dogs for work. Nevertheless, breeds still have their admirers. Some people love a dog’s appearance. Some people love a breed because they are from the same tiny corner of the world and they feel a kinship with the dogs of their ancestors. Some people love the temperament of a certain breed or its athletic ability. There are all kinds of reasons why people love a particular breed.

What you may not know is that many breeds today have very small populations. If some breeds were any other kind of animal they would be considered endangered. You may find it hard to believe, but breeds can become extinct. If you read any histories about dog breeds, you will find lots of references to breeds that are gone now. Countless breeds have become extinct over the centuries. In some cases we have some of their descendants because they contributed to newer breeds, but not always. Some people might not care if particular breeds become extinct, but if you are a fan of a breed, then this might matter to you. From a genetic viewpoint, it’s always good to have a wide selection of dogs that contributed to a breed’s foundation. You never know when it might be necessary to reintroduce some of the genes from an older breed for health reasons. If those breeds are extinct, that’s no longer a possibility.

In Great Britain the Kennel Club maintains a list of “vulnerable native breeds.” This refers to breeds that were developed in the UK which register fewer than 300 individual dogs per year. There are currently about 29 breeds on this list, with more breeds on the Watch list, meaning they are close to Vulnerable status. Although the Kennel Club in Britain registers fewer dogs than we do in the U.S., the situation with purebred dogs in the U.S. is similar. While the Labrador Retriever – the top dog registered by the AKC for over 20 years – has tens of thousands of individual registrations every year, other breeds have far fewer numbers. Beyond a few popular breeds, most breeds have relatively small numbers of dogs registered each year. We have many breeds in the United States which register only a few hundred individual dogs per year.

That’s why we need breeders of purebred dogs today. People who breed to preserve dog breeds are usually hobbyists. They may participate in dog shows or companion/performance events with their dogs. The dogs that they can’t keep are usually placed in pet homes. Yet cities and state legislatures are passing laws that can make it virtually impossible for smaller breeders to continue this important work.

For example, a bill currently under consideration in New Jersey would ban breeders from selling dogs outside the state unless the sale was made face-to-face. If you are a breeder in New Jersey and a potential buyer in say, California, is interested in one of your dogs, this buyer would have to come to New Jersey to see and buy the dog. Or the breeder would have to take the dog to California. This is obviously onerous and unnecessary. It also adds a tremendous expense to the cost of the dog. This kind of legislation is proposed in the name of “consumer protection” but it is actually meant to punish and discourage dog breeding.

Before you say that the person in California could find another dog closer to home, what if the New Jersey breeder is one of the few people in the country breeding that particular breed? In many cases we are talking about breeds that may only register a few litters per year. That’s why this kind of legislation is so dangerous. In some cases it could literally cause the extinction of breeds. Breeders give up breeding rather than face these kinds of legislative problems.

Other breeding bills lump small breeders in with large commercial breeders. Small breeders are in no any way able to meet some of the kennel requirements written for large commercial establishments because they typically keep their dogs in their home as pets.

No one is suggesting that people should not get a dog from a shelter or rescue if that’s what they want to do. Many breed clubs were among the first dog rescue groups in the U.S. Breeders love dogs and believe in rescue. But people should also have the option to purchase a purebred dog from a dedicated breeder without harassment or guilt. And breeders should be able to breed their dogs without punitive laws.

The wonderful dogs that appeared at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show do not happen by accident. They take years of planning and loving work on the part of dedicated breeders. We can’t let those breeders – or the breeds so many people love – become the victims of short-sighted anti-purebred legislation.

Carlotta Cooper is a vice president of the Sportsmen’s and Animal Owners’ Voting Alliance (SAOVA) and an AKC Legislative Liaison. She writes for Pawster.com and Dogfood.guru and she’s a breed columnist for the AKC Gazette. She’s also a contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She is the author of several books about dogs and other animals.

UK Top Vulnerable Breed Competition Winner is Gordon Setter

In the UK, the Kennel Club takes an assertive approach to the issue of declining registrations in purebred dogs, and they’ve put special focus on breeds who are nearing record low registrations, breeds like our Gordon Setter. The Kennel Club’s newly introduced “Top Vulnerable Breed” competition is an example of that approach.

A quote from this article reads “…in 2015 only 234 Gordon Setters were registered with the Kennel Club and it is therefore considered to be a vulnerable breed. The Kennel Club launched the new competition to raise awareness of these breeds and to recognise those who are dedicated to their survival and prosperity.”

A huge congratulations to James (the Gordon Setter), his breeders, owners and handlers for taking our Gordon Setter to the top of this competition, what a wonderful ambassador for our breed!

To read about this competion and James’ win click here to read the Canine Chronicle article: James The Gordon Setter Crowned UK’s Top Vulnerable Breed And Wins A Place In Best In Show At Crufts | Canine Chronicle.

And from me to you, let me take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for preserving our breed, to those who are actively pursuing the protection of the Gordon Setter through responsible breeding practices, those involved competitively in conformation, field, and performance events proving the worthy characteristics of our purebred, those who take our beautiful Setters to public events to display the breed and and to those who participate in therapy and other similar work where we introduce the value of the breed to the general public. Push on my friends, we have a very important role to play at this time in our  breed’s history and I for one am very grateful for the part you play!

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

 

Hands On – Breeder/Exhibitor Chat at the National

Learning to see the positive qualities of a dog can be challenging and we plan to help you see the best in every dog during our “Hands On” chat session.

Seeing is believing and touching is allowed during our interactive Breeder/Exhibitor Program coming to you at the 2016 GSCA National Specialty (presented by the GSCA Breeder/Exhibitor Education committee).  Whether you’re new to exhibiting and breeding or a veteran at this game you’ll enjoy participating!

We encourage learners to attend, those who are willing to bring their questions, and those who are willing to bring their dogs for hands on exams and discussions.

And we can’t do this alone so we also need you experienced folks (mentors) to attend, bring a dog or two for others to examine, be prepared to discuss their good fronts or rears or top lines, feet, rib spring, substance, size (you get the drift). Share your expertise. (Dogs needn’t be great in every area mind you, we are teaching how to find what’s good!)

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Photo courtesy of Silvia Timmermann

 

We’re calling this a chat for a reason, it’s a group of breeder/exhibitors sharing knowledge, asking and answering questions while learning how to “go over a dog” with your hands to find those qualities we want and need to preserve. How to get your “Hands On” a dog and understand what you are finding through that touch.

NOTE:  There will be absolutely NO FAULT FINDING comments or discussions allowed in this session – we are teaching how to find the right qualities. Learning to judge faults is easy, truly understanding how to recognize a dog’s good qualities by sight and touch is a learned art, an art we will discuss in depth during this program.

Our Hands On Breeder/Exhibitor Chat will be held on Wednesday, May 11th  – Meet me at the FAIR!2016 National logo

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Photos courtesy of Silvia Timmermann

 

 

Heads Up

(Editors note: antique print illustrations were added by the publisher for your viewing pleasure and are not intended to illustrate points in the author’s article)

by Barbara Manson

Up to this point, we have only visually examined dogs, much of it from across the ring. Now it’s time to take a closer look.  In this article, I would like us to step to the front.

Imagine yourself looking down at a well groomed and stacked dog before you.  The first aspect you will notice of the Gordon before you is the head.  If you’re like me, you will be immediately drawn to the eyes and expression.  The standard says the eyes are “of fair size, neither too deep-set nor too bulging, dark brown, bright and wise.  The shape is oval rather than round.  The lids are tight.”  Eyes come in all shades of brown.  The darker they are, the more pleasing the expression to most of us.  This is purely esthetic as color of the eye does not affect the dogs ability to function.  However, the prominence of bulging eyes would seem to present an increased possibility of injury in the field and dogs with eye lids that are not “tight” (drooping lower lid with mucous membrane showing) or too deep-set, would leave open the possibility of chaff collecting in the lower lid while the dog is in the field.  Round eyes also can change the dogs expression, but once again, is esthetic only.

old prints4The standard also calls for the ears to be “set low on the head approximately on line with the eyes, fairly large and thin, well folded and carried close to the head.  Most breeders will see, from time to time, a dog with shorter, thicker ear leather.  I have one right now and I need to be vigilant about cleaning and caring for her ears because the thickness seems to lend itself to ear infections, especially in hot, humid weather.  These short ears are also not as pleasing to look at, particularly when she chews the hair off!  A high ear set also negatively impacts expression.

The standard goes on to say the skull should be “nicely rounded, good sized, broadest between the ears.  Below and above the eyes is lean and the cheeks as narrow as the leanness of the head allows.  The head should have a clearly indicated stop.”  The skull should broaden out to its widest point at the between the ears but this should be a gradual widening and when viewed from the top, the head should not look like a large slice of pie or a giant wedge of cheese.  This look is often referred to as “wide in the back skull”.

A definite stop between the eyes is ideal, but if it is too deep or severe, it can give the look of a hard expression and not the typical softness desired.

old pritns5“Muzzle – fairly long and not pointed, either as seen from above or from the side.  The flews are not pendulous.  The muzzle is the same length as the skull from the occiput to stop and the top of the muzzle is parallel to the line of the skull extended.  The lip line from the nose to the flews shows a sharp, well-defined square contour.”  This is easier to visualize if you think of it as a brick on brick look when viewed from the side.   It’s common, but not correct, to see dogs when viewed from the side with the top of the skull level, that will have a muzzle that is not parallel to the top of the skull but instead is pointing slightly downward.  This look is referred to as down faced or it can be said that the dogs head does not have parallel planes. As our dogs get larger, so do heads, and with that seems to go a tendency for pendulous flews.  Many times this occurs in conjunction with seemingly too much skin, including loose lower eye lids and throatiness (extra skin on the neck, under the jaw).  I can cite examples of throaty dogs from the past that didn’t have loose eyes or dogs with loose eyes and pendulous flews that weren’t particularly throaty, but there were far more who carried all three.  A previous edition of our standard referred to houndiness (think Bloodhound here) as being undesirable.   I think it’s wise to remember ideal dogs need to look as though their skin fits like spandex and not sweats.

Our standard describes a bite where the teeth meet in front in a “scissors bite with upper incisors slightly forward of lower incisors.  It also says a “level bite”, where teeth meet evenly in the front, is not to be considered a fault.

old printsThe standard is specific as to color on the face and I won’t go into much detail here except for a couple of points.  Young dogs with mahogany markings tend to darken with age, especially on the face.  This is not a fault, but in my mind, an expectation.  Also, you can often find a young pup with a small stripe of tan over the top of the muzzle at the nose.  This may well disappear or greatly diminish with age and should not be faulted.

As you sit ringside or wander the grooming area, you will see many different heads.  Take note of them.  Notice if the bitches heads look feminine and the boys look masculine.  Notice if the head fits the body.  We often hear “that dog doesn’t have enough head or that bitch looks doggy”.  Is that true or does the head fit the body for that style of dog.   In some lines, young animals gain head and flew with age and in others, the heads are large early and the body needs to grow to fit them.  Typically, heads, and even in some cases, bites, can change until the age of three.  When evaluating an adult, it’s very important to overall balance that a dogs head looks like it’s the one he or she should have for their body type.  Check out the expressions and note the ones you like or dislike and attempt to ascertain what it is about the expression that impacts you.

I have not included photos of heads here because there are many looks that can be considered correct by standard.  It’s important, as breeders, that we take a look around and widen our horizons by taking note occasionally of stock, other than that in our own kennels, and try to develop an appreciation of the efforts of other breeders.  In some lines, it may be the heads that catch your eye and in another, it may be another trait that earns your admiration.  These are all useful bits of information to file away and may lend direction to the search for the best sire for a litter not yet thought of. (editors note; antique prints were added by the publisher for your viewing pleasure and are not intended to illustrate points in the author’s article)

Happy head hunting everyone!

Barbara Manson, Stoughton WI

Faults of Type

Assessing virtue is the essence of the whole judging process. However, the assessment of faults is also a part of that process.” Ann Gordon, Dachshund Club of America, February 2013 AKC Gazette

New dog show exhibitors will soon find that it is relatively easy to learn about, recognize and evaluate faults in construction. Soundness, proper construction, is a virtue that is necessary in any breed and is especially so for our Gordon Setters who are bred as hunters. Noting constructional faults during judging, like weak top-lines, poor tail-set, flat feet, or an incorrect bite; these things help a judge (and a breeder) to evaluate the dog against the typical competition.
What is also important though, what can pose a problem is the dog who is structurally sound but departs from an ideal type. An example might be the Gordon Setter with less than ideal angulation both front and rear who moves very clean coming and going, from the side however, this dog does not have the appropriate reach and drive of the Gordon Setter and does not display the outline of breed, this dog instead resembles more closely the Irish Red & White. In this case the dog would not be considered wholly typical, he lacks breed type, he has a fault of type.
breed-style 2
Photo by Bob Segal taken at the 2015 GSCA National Specialty

Whether we are new to breeding or have spent years putting puppies on the ground, we must always maintain perspective in the assessment of faults. When a dog possesses a fault that detracts from the very essence of Gordon Setter breed type, then both breeders and judges will need to be cautious in their assessment of that particular animal; and breeders need to be extra cautious as to the judicious use and the depth to which those faulty genes are going to be introduced into the gene pool, if at all.

Let’s be honest, there are many dogs who are very glamorous, who have beautiful showmanship and when those qualities are added to the fundamentals of breed type that dog is a sight to behold for breeders and judges alike. Where we need to be cautious is in viewing the dog who is superficially attractive but missing a fundamental quality of breed type, we must learn to see beneath the flash and glamor to the place where breed type is also needed to assess the overall quality of the dog and his use for breeding. (remember that the word “dog” used here is equally as applicable to a bitch)

In weighing faults of type one must include in the assessment, all the attributes this dog brings to the breed in order to properly determine the judicious use of the dog and the legacy left in the gene pool. If this dog is a top winner and breeders all rush to use him, then it is his owner who may be holding the reins that guide the future direction of the breed through the gene pool, especially if other breeders do not make appropriate choices for their bitch.

On the flip side, we must also understand that it is not always the top winning dog, lacking in type, who negatively impacts the gene pool, though it is easier to hold them accountable as their high profile makes them more obvious targets. Sometimes faults of type are being replicated litter after litter in a more prolific manner by those who fail to recognize the qualities of breed type, and therefore, unaware that they are replicating fault, continue to put multiple litters on the ground with faults of type.

So we must all, new and experienced, understand faults, both in soundness and in type, and we must all recognize that we each have a grip on the reins guiding the future of the breed. And most importantly for those who are experienced, we must be there to guide and mentor those with less experience as they may quickly learn to see soundness but breed type is best learned through the guiding eyes of others.

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Photos by Bob Segal are for viewing pleasure only and are not intended to illustrate points in this article.

NEWS FLASH – Gordon Setter Students & Mentors

I started a new discussion group that you may find totally useful if you’re seriously into breeding and/or competing with your Gordon Setter. Now, I realize that many of you are not on Facebook and may well have sworn never to go there BUT you don’t have to turn into a Facebook junkie, nor do you need to accumulate a slathering of friends, but you will need to set up a Facebook account in order to view and post to the group.  There are already fabulous discussions starting, questions being posed, and pictures being shared of dogs from way back, all things educational can be shared here.

Here is the link Gordon Setter Students & Mentors click here if you’d care to check it out or join the group.

Gordon Setter Students & Mentors

Description

Welcome Gordon Setter students and mentors! This group is meant to serve as a resource and learning tool for Gordon Setter fanciers who are serious students or experienced breeder/exhibitors willing to join forces where everyone can learn about and mentor the art of breeding better Gordon Setters. A place also to fine tune our skill and expertise when competing in conformation, performance or field events. Topics might include such things as genetics, structure, pedigrees, ancestors, health, and proper care, grooming, as well as training tips pertaining to competition in conformation, performance and field events. To make the most of this forum you are encouraged to submit questions, content and photos to provide examples as well as actively participate in discussions with helpful answers and guiding principles.

Things to keep in mind:

No personal attacks, ridicule, or harassment on or about another member’s post. You will be removed from the group and blocked. We don’t always need to agree and various opinions on a topic are encouraged to promote a learning environment, however remember when you are expressing an opinion to please do so in a tactful and polite manner.

Since this group is meant to serve educational purposes only, please do not submit your win photos and brags, we do love to see those and are very happy for you, but let’s post them on other forums to maintain focus here. The same would be true of those happy Gordon photos we post just for fun.

Please focus on the positive traits of any dog pictured. If you have constructive criticism always be considerate and tactful in your comments to ensure you are providing encouragement as well as an educational experience for the student. Please do share educational articles and links to other sites that will educate and promote better breeding and competition practices.

No SPAM or ads to promote the sale of merchandise or dogs. Spammers will be removed.

No personal attacks on other members! We are here to help each other learn and we will respect everyone and treat each other with dignity because of our differences, a different view could be where a new learning begins.

Enjoy!
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Photo by Bob Segal – 2015 GSCA National Specialty

Gordon Setter Health Clearances before Breeding

All the Gordon Setter health clearance links in one place. If we’ve missed any, or there is information here that needs updating please be sure to send us a comment or an email at: gordonsetterexpert@gmail.com

Gordon Setter Expert

meet n greet Photo by Bob Segal

As with any question, ask several breeders the same question and you’ll get several different answers. When it comes to acting responsibly as a breeder to bring healthy Gordon Setter puppies into the world it’s agreed that completing certain health clearances on breeding animals before any mating occurs should be a priority. However, ask any breeder which tests are necessary or which certifications are the most important – that could become a topic for debate. For purposes of this article, we are listing the screening tests that address health issues that pertain to the Gordon Setter along with where to obtain or find proof of existing certification. These screening tests are suggested tools that will prepare you to make informed breeding choices that will affect the health of many future generations of Gordon Setters. OFA StickerCanine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) – screening/certification organizations. Click any of the active…

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The Future of Purebred Dog Breeders and our Clubs

I am a responsible breeder of purebred dogs, if you are also a responsible breeder please understand the importance of educating the public to our cause. I am not anti shelter or anti rescue – I love what responsible organizations accomplish. I am not anti mixed-breed, they happen, but I cannot and will not support the creation of designer mixed breeds. I am a responsible breeder of purebred dogs and I want our purebreds to continue to be an option for those who seek a dog as their pet. If you are a responsible breeder I hope you  champion our cause by taking a stance and educating others with information that supports our cause. Breeders need to take action. 11870673_814576981996021_3150899512258634826_n

I am a responsible breeder of purebred dogs and for over 40 years I have belonged to many dog clubs such as, All Breed kennel clubs, my Parent (National) Breed Club, my regional Specialty clubs and my local Sporting Breed club. I belong to these clubs because I support and believe in purebred dogs. I believe that purebred dogs make wonderful, predictable pets and I want to contribute, where ever I can, to furthering their propagation in the healthy, responsible manner that a respectable breeder exhibits. I belong to these clubs as that is what we do, clubs provide a source of education through mentors and educational programs and those activities propagate the purebred dog. Our (club’s) purpose is not simply to host dog shows, obedience trials, hunt tests, field trials and the like, our purpose is to also educate about and promote purebred dogs.11885305_814593841994335_2629024497194385452_n

As I watch the number of registered purebred dogs decline while the membership of purebred dog clubs follows suit, I recognize that in addition to addressing this issue as individuals, so must we also band together as groups to address and send a more unified and potent message. If you are not a member of your Parent club, a local all breed club or a similar organization, and you want to continue your right to be a breeder, it’s time to join forces with others like yourself and become a working, contributing member. If you are already a member of a club I believe it’s time to recognize the need to go back to the educational basics of your organization, it’s time for our clubs to step up to the plate to publicly address head on, the issue around the bad rap that’s being handed out to the general public about breeders and their purebred dogs. Our club’s role should include educating the public through publicity to tell the story of purebred dogs and their breeders. Does your club have any plans in place to work on this? Has it ever been an agenda item for one of your meetings? Have the Officers & Board of your club ever held discussion around the topic? Have you brought this to the attention of your leaders, or are we all, leaders and members alike, simply sitting back waiting for someone else to heed the call to action, or worse yet simply hoping it will go away if we keep our head in the sand long enough?

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I for one believe we need to send a potent message. I am a responsible breeder of purebred dogs and I would like other breeders like me, and more importantly our clubs, to recognize the need to create and distribute our own “billboards” to promote what we do and who we are. Start with what we can do for free and move on to what our club budget allows, whether we use websites, Facebook, Twitter or newspaper ads and roadside billboards our message needs to be heard and through many, many more voices and media channels.

I am a responsible breeder of purebred dogs and I hate what they are saying about us. I will do my part to send a counter message. I hope that every other responsible breeder will join the campaign to promote purebred dogs, that every breeder will join forces with their fellow breeders through membership in organizations and clubs. I hope every one of you will step up and be a part of the collective voice of breeders who know and promote purebred dogs as a rich source of healthy, socialized, and predictable pets who’ve filled our lives with love and joy for centuries.

PetaBillboard

Boycott breeders breedersBoycott2

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

From the American Kennel Club website:

Why do I want a purebred dog?

  • Because I want a puppy whose parents have been carefully selected for health—and who have gone through a series of genetic tests to ensure that the dog I get has the best possible chance of being healthy and well-adjusted.
  • Because when looking for my puppy, I get to work with a breeder, who loves the puppies like they’re her own children and is available to answer all of my questions, give advice, or just happily accept a flood of photos of my puppy growing up. I get a healthy puppy, yes, but I also get a friend for life.
  • I’ll be able to predict my dog’s size, care requirements, temperament, and more from 100-plus years of traceable pedigrees. Also because I have a personal relationship with the breeder, she’ll be able to match an individual puppy’s temperament perfectly to my individual lifestyle.
  • When training my dog, I’ll have the advantage that the process has already been started for me. My puppy has been handled from the start and has already begun to be socialized, which greatly affects how well-adjusted he’ll be as an adult.
  • Furthermore, my puppy will have gotten top-notch expert care from day one. Perfect nutrition, the best medical attention, and ample supervised playtime—all the ingredients for a happy, healthy adult dog.
  • If something should happen to me, my family won’t have to scramble to find a caretaker for my dog because the loving breeder promised in writing to take him back from the start.
  • There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a dog’s natural instincts that have been carefully, expertly bred into him come to life. Watching a pointing breed aiming his muzzle at a bird even though he’s never hunted a day in his life? Watching a Border Collie herd ducks around the yard? Fascinating.
  • And it’s so satisfying to cultivate those instincts into earning medals and titles for my dog in fun sports, like lure coursing, herding, and more. Doing this will also build an unbreakable bond with my dog as we work together as a team.
  • With that new puppy comes a whole community of people who love their breed and their breeders. The American Kennel Club offers a huge network of dog lovers, available to give me advice and invite me to sports and play sessions
  • I’ll be taking time to research a breed that fits my lifestyle and personality perfectly. And by doing that, I’ll be practically guaranteeing that the bond with my dog will be like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I’ll have a partner in crime—a friend who will never judge me and who will share my happiness and my tears for years to come. Who will break my heart when he passes away because he’s been in my life since he was a baby—and even so I know I’d do it all again for him.

That’s why I’m buying a purebred dog.

Part 2 – Do breeders need to change?

There is so much to be said about breeders and our contribution to the world of purebred dogs, especially and most importantly when it comes to the “sport”, the shows and performance events we support with our purebred offspring.

Breeders hanging out and having fun together at the dog show! This is what it's all about... Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the photo memories!
Breeders hanging out and having fun together at the dog show! This is what it’s all about…
Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the photo memories! GSCA National 2011

I wish you could all see yourselves through my eyes, because even through my rose-colored glasses, I see that it’s breeders who hold power in the dog show world. Let’s see…

AKC – soon defunct without purebred litter registrations. Dog shows, Field trials, Obedience trials, Agility trials, Rally, any and all of those events – how many do you think John Q. Public would support if only mixed breeds competed and purebred dog breeders stopped participating? Dog Show Superintendents – “let them show mutts” perhaps? Well, good luck arranging those mixed breed Groups into some semblance of order. Judges – hello there mixed breed judging! At least one wouldn’t need to know a breed standard, it shouldn’t be hard to educate a judge, or would it be impossible as the parent breed clubs would be extinct? How will professional handlers earn a living if breeders aren’t producing purebred puppies – maybe they could show guppies – guppies might be good on the go-round shown in a round fishbowl – won’t take much in the way of handling expertise though so could be anyone’s game!

Photo by Sarah Armstrong from 2015 GSCA National
Photo by Sarah Armstrong from 2015 GSCA National

I know that what I just said probably sounded like nonsense to you, but “Hello Breeders!” You really are in a position where you could have more control, more clout, more voice, more power. Yet, when breeders talk we often sound like victims who are at the mercy of all the other players invited to our game; the judges, handlers, superintendents, and so on. Why do breeders continue to allow themselves to act and sound like victims instead of taking charge where and when it’s needed?

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Photo by Sarah Armstrong 2015 GSCA National Specialty

Well, I’ve felt those emotions and I’ve been in those conversations, so I do understand how they can happen. Why do so many breeders get so deeply involved in complaining and playing the victim instead of taking a stance, voicing an opinion, creating a solution and championing change? I’m just wondering you see, if as breeders, our majority took a more active role in the decision-making processes, if then the changes we seek would become a reality? How do breeders find our collective voice so we can clearly drive our sport in the direction we believe it should go?

I’d think that more breeders could start by speaking up and speaking out. When was the last time you took the time to voice an opinion to the AKC regarding any issue, whether it be about judges, qualifications for judges, registrations, dog show rules, handlers, any thing, any time? A few of you might have done this, but I know I haven’t done enough of it and I’m an average person so I’m guessing the majority of breeders are like me, and that most of us haven’t done enough to reach out to the right people, at the right time, to voice our opinion about things, any things! Too much apathy in the air and perhaps too many of us stuck in the victim role. If I didn’t like how things were run why didn’t I round-up a petition to voice a collective concern? And, why do breeders tend to look sideways at other breeders if or when they do take a stance on a topic? Why don’t we choose to stand up and stand together, be one voice?

Are we afraid people will see us as a big yellow chicken?

Photo by Sarah Armstrong from the 2015 GSCA National Specialty
Photo by Sarah Armstrong from the 2015 GSCA National Specialty

Competition does get in the way and so plays a role. Generally speaking, there are more losers going home from a dog show than there are winners, and so what naturally follows is that there is more negative emotion generated around an event than there is positive. Defeat. Disappointment. Jealousy. Embarrassment… so many different emotions, many of them painful. We’re breeders and we’re competing against each other in show rings, in the whelping box and when finding homes for the puppies we bred. How can we be human and expect to avoid all the negative emotions that will occur in an arena such as that created by dog shows? We preach about sportsmanship but then when our dog gets dumped or fails to win the coveted award we slip away to lick our wounds, heal our injuries and soothe our egos by finding fault with our competition, who just happen to be – other breeders and their dogs. People who are just like us in so many ways. And that begins the explanation as to why breeders feel we have too little power, too little control, and why breeders are seldom seen as, nor are we often heard as, the decision makers and the governors of our own sport. As breeders we do tend to spend our energy finding fault with judges, and fault with professional handlers, but mostly we breeders expend far too much energy in the pursuit of finding fault with our fellow breeders and their dogs.

When, I wonder, will breeders chose to take power back by ceasing the attacks on each other? When will we collectively group together and choose to use our power to create positive change in purebred dogs and dog sports? When will we work together to create change that could increase entry numbers, encourage people to buy that purebred puppy and get involved in the sport. Seems to me that we could make an excellent start if we simply agreed not to spend our energy attacking each other, and to redirect that energy instead to cultivate and practice respect for each other. With a true respect for each other you see, I believe breeders would then present a more united and formidable front that would create and drive change in the sport of purebred dogs. Change that may be long overdue. I know this kind of change would be cause for celebration, and everyone loves a party, especially Gordon Setters and their owners!

Let’s go have some fun at the dog show where breeders hang out, shall we?

Do Breeders Need to Change (Part 1)

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

When all else fails breeders get out the scorecards to give the judge a clue? Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the fun photo memory!
When all else fails breeders get out the scorecards to give the judge a clue? Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the fun photo memory from the GSCA National 2011

Do breeders need to change?

The face of breeding, as I’ve known it, has changed considerably since I first joined the ranks of Gordon Setter breeders in the 70’s. So much more information is readily available, resources for every question can be found at the touch of a keyboard, cross-country breeding is accomplished without shuffling the bitch off to the airport, and the availability of genetic tests is growing quickly to theoretically help us breed healthier dogs. But are we, the breeders, utilizing the results of those tests with a consciousness that will improve the overall health of the breed or could misguided perception and dwindling numbers cause the downfall of the breed instead?

Photo by Susan Roy Nelson
Photo by Susan Roy Nelson “Four Ladies in a Row”

I just read, and then reread an article written by a Corgi breeder Joanna Kimball – “How We Must Change as Breeders and Why – A Football Field of Dogs”  published in Best In Show Daily (point and click on the bold title to link to the article). Joanna raised some valid points regarding breeding that I believe bear discussion among Gordon Setter breeders. I hope you’ll join me here in considering some of those points and then by sharing your own perceptions, agreements or disagreements as they be.

First the assumption that as a breeder we should all agree that only a very few dogs should ever be bred – is this true? The breeder’s thought process as Joanna wrote is “I should be as picky as possible, first health-test everybody, prove that each dog is healthy, make sure that only the ones who are incredibly high-quality in terms of conformation and show success are allowed to breed. I should build the next ten thousand dogs from the most elite pool of this one.” That’s the conventional wisdom, the way “good breeders” do everything, right?

In fact, Joanna says we should bear in mind thatEVERY DOG WHO IS REMOVED FROM THE POPULATION HURTS THAT POPULATION.” To maintain health in any breed we need to understand the need for genetic variation, and to retain genetic variation we need to be breeding from many lines, to many sires not only the one or two most popular sires and so on.

crufts 2
Photo by Silvia Timmermann

I often want to go back to when I was younger, just starting out, and in this case I’m talking about the days when breeding wasn’t a four letter word and the propaganda of animal rights activists hadn’t put us all under their spell. The spell that makes breeders feel self-righteous for eliminating as many dogs as we can from the breeding pool because breeding is, after all, a very bad word. As the battery of DNA tests for genetic disorders continues to rise breeders are feeling satisfied as we believe we are gaining ground on health issues. But, should we also be considering that we might be losing ground on genetic diversity as we eliminate more and more dogs from the breeding pool with those tests?

Joanna states in another  point “SINCE EVERY DOG THAT IS REMOVED FROM THE POPULATION HURTS THE POPULATION, WE MUST REMOVE ONLY THOSE WHOSE PRESENCE WOULD HURT IT EVEN MORE.” To me this is like saying “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”. A common sense approach would include knowing what health condition could cause the death of our Gordon Setters, or what health condition would ruin the quality of life for our dogs, before making breeding choices based primarily on health testing, testing that if used incorrectly could eliminate other necessary qualities from the breed’s gene pool. Using testing to learn what, if any, health condition might be passed from one generation to the next is a wonderful tool, but it is not the only tool that a breeder should be using. Utilizing health testing to obtain the appropriate result in breeding requires very judicious application on the part of the breeder, who must also keep in mind the continued genetic diversity of the gene pool, as well as the overall soundness of the breed both physically and mentally.

Why, for example, would one choose to breed an OFA fair bitch to a dog because he had OFA good or excellent hips but also carried an unsound front, instead of breeding her to an OFA fair dog who is sound and beautifully moving both front and rear? In this case the breeder might get one or two additional puppies with better hip ratings (might) but the breeder will also be adding some puppies with those unsound fronts? Did the breeder really improve the breed or the gene pool with that breeding? Or, what about choosing to breed the Rcd4 carrier bitch to the Rcd4 clear dog whose parents both died of cancer at age 7, instead of breeding to the Rcd4 carrier dog whose parents died of old age at 13. We don’t have DNA tests for cancer available for Gordon Setters, but we do know that cancer causes the death of many Gordon Setters before their time, and we know the history of certain cancers can be prevalent in families. By theory, 25% of the puppies in the Rcd4 carrier to carrier litter could be affected, and at age 10 there may be one, perhaps even two of those affected dogs who might (there’s that word might again)  go blind from late onset PRA. Doesn’t the carrier to carrier litter – as a whole – have a better chance of living a healthy, happy life until old age takes them from us? Which choice does a breeder make and how does it affect the diversity of the gene pool? What if the breeder decides not to do either breeding because they don’t like the health choices? Can the diversity and size of the gene pool continue to be maintained if this were to be the constant decision?

Photo by Silvia Timmermann
Photo by Silvia Timmermann

So, why all this fuss about the gene pool, and gene pool diversity, and strength and size of the gene pool? A relatively simple example to help us understand is to look at the mixed breed population, and their reputation for being “healthier” than their purebred counterparts. Why is that? Genetic diversity is solidly at play. Odds are there are no common ancestors for generations in the pedigree of any mixed breed dog. A huge and diverse gene pool lies behind the mixed breed.

Before you decide I might be plumb crazy talking here about an issue with the size of gene pool let me ask you if you’ve read and absorbed, yes absorbed to the point where it makes perfect sense to you, the article at the Institute of Canine Biology by Carol Beachat PhD “Is your breed drifting?” (point and click on the bold printed title to link to this article)

As I look at the Gordon Setter in general, comparing them to other purebred dog breeds, I believe that Gordon Setters have relatively few genetic health issues that occur regularly. We are lucky in that respect. However, we cannot hope to improve the health characteristics we’d like to change, if our gene pool continues to shrink to the point where the majority of dogs are related, where there is not sufficient diversity to enact change. We need a diverse and a large population and we need responsible breeders who understand how to accomplish those health driven goals while maintaining the integrity of the breed.

by show ring
Photo by Bob Segal

As I look at dog show entries, where the rubber meets the road when it comes to proving the merit of our breeding stock, I find an ever decreasing number of Gordon Setter entries along with a decreasing number of new faces joining the ranks of breeders. Those who are showing today find ourselves scrambling to locate shows where there will be points, majors are difficult if not impossible to find unless sometimes you can bring your own entry – which accomplishes what exactly as far as improving the breed when you’ve finished a dog simply by winning over your own breeding? Specialties are struggling to build 5 point majors and many are no longer able to do so, despite offering two shows in one day. Our National Specialty entries have dropped from all time highs of between 450 to 550 dogs in ’93, ’94, and ’95 to approximately 220 entries for 2015, half the number that were participating 20 years ago.  Fewer entries, fewer breeders, fewer litters equals a smaller gene pool and thus loss of genetic diversity. To me this issue is two-fold; as breeders we need to appropriately and wisely utilize health testing without the elimination of too many dogs from the gene pool, and secondly we need to address the shrinking gene pool by understanding that we need to bring new breeder/exhibitors on to follow in our footsteps, to pick up the reins and drive on.

Many of you have been at this breeding/exhibiting thing for a while now. I’m curious how you feel about these concerns or better yet do you even believe there are such concerns? What would you change if you believe change is needed? How would you drive change? What do you think could be utilized to bring about improvement? Who do you believe is responsible for leading change in the breed? Can or should breeders accept responsibility for driving change?  How can breeders mentor others? So many questions and opinions, let’s start a discussion by sharing them, discussion is the first step. Your thoughts and comments are very welcome here, do remember to be respectful of others please.

For those of you who are Gordon owners but perhaps not involved in breeding and showing, what might entice you to change your focus, what would drive your interest in showing/breeding Gordon Setters? How would you want to learn? Who would you want to learn from? As above, your respectful thoughts and comments are welcome here.

To share your thoughts you may use the reply field at the very bottom of this article or click “Leave a Comment” at the very top of this article.

I’d like us to talk to each other people, as I believe change is needed and that is why I write this blog for you…to bring change through the sharing of information, common goals, and a love for our breed, the Gordon Setter.

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

 References:

Part 2 – Do Breeders Need to Change?