Decades ago the dog fancy could depend on large kennels to produce many promising litters each year, providing up-and-coming breeder-exhibitors with quality show prospects to make their mark. Breeders were left in peace to focus on the goal of improving their bloodlines with each generation. There were no troublesome animal rights fanatics or overzealous politicians to cast aspersions on our sport. No science fiction author could have concocted a world in which slick promoters deliberately cross-bred dogs, gave them silly “poo” and “doodle” names and charged inflated prices for them, misleading the public into believing these designer mongrels possessed bona fide paperwork.
Fast forward to the 21st century when dedicated breeders wishing to enjoy their hobby face unbelievable hostility from social and political forces. Gone are the large kennels of yesteryear, largely replaced by hobby breeders who maintain a handful of dogs in their suburban homes and raise a litter or two per year, chiefly to keep a puppy for themselves. Shelters have convinced the media that adoption is the mantra for pet lovers everywhere. While responsible fanciers have always looked after dogs of their breeding that fall on hard times at whatever point in their lives, many breeders today all but apologize for producing an occasional, carefully planned litter from healthy, genetically tested parents.
Since few of us have the space or resources to keep great quantities of dogs or produce unlimited litters, we are all having to breed smarter and make each litter count. Many European nations have been doing this for years and have valuable lessons to teach us. Where fanciers live in larger cities without kennel facilities, it becomes practical for friends to co-own dogs and split up the animals among several households. One breeder might keep the bitches, another the dogs. Two or three friends might retain all the promising show prospects in a litter, resulting in few puppies needing to be sold. In breeds that produce large litters, housing and socializing the puppies becomes less daunting when the task is shared.
The AKC today will register a litter sired by multiple stud dogs. This can be a great advantage in breeds that produce large litters but have little to no market for puppies. In a single litter, you can see how well a bitch has produced when taken to two different sires. This could save you at least a year in your breeding program, along with untold expense.
For breeders these are trying times, indeed. But the dog fancy is not for wimps. Most of us have learned our lessons in the school of hard knocks. The same determination that fuels us to produce a better generation of dogs will not let us cave in to external pressures. This sport is all about rising to the challenge, and the best dog breeders are survivors.
From the February 2013 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the February 2013 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.