By Patricia H. Gilbert
My observations and opinions span an entire lifetime in purebred dogs and involvement in many breeds. I have managed breeding programs, selected breeding stock and shown stock for several clients in my career. Due to my client relationships I will not provide breed, names or places.
Breeders have moved from the world of animal husbandry for personal challenges to produce top quality examples of the breed into a more public pet industry.
Prior to World War II it was not considered wrong to put to sleep those that were considered inferior for breeding. You only kept the very finest because no one wanted anything else.
My parents thought of breeding purebred dogs as animal husbandry and strove to improve with each generation. They never saved an unhealthy puppy by extreme measures. Mother Nature ruled. Their goals were to breed good esthetic representatives of the breeds that were able to PERFORM THE JOB FOR WHICH IT WAS BRED. People only bred for themselves and no one and nothing else was considered.
Keeping a kennel and horses in those days required a good chunk of money.
Many people in that day simply could not afford to keep any dog that did not earn its keep. It was an agrarian society that was being transformed into an industrial society. The horse was being replaced by the car.
It was very difficult to sell less than top quality animals. Could it be done? Yes. Was it done? Not as often as today.
There is a lot less study and understanding of form and functionality today because our dogs no longer perform their basic original purpose. Animal husbandry is basically unknown in most areas of society. People don't know; don't know that they don't know; and don't care to know.
We keep very complete records of who attends our K-9 Structure and Movment seminars. 80% of the attendees have been involved in purebred dogs 30+ years. What does that tell you? New people who are breeding dogs don't need to learn? They don't think so because "after all our Afghan Hounds dogs don't live on mountains and don't hunt". Huhh? What do you say to a ringside mentor who tells aspiring judges that the Afghan Hound is all about coat!
Too bad we can't put the aspiring breeders and judges on the mountaintop with the Afghan Hounds and let agility and intelligence weed out the gene pool.
This is where we are now.
Today's world for demographics and economics allows people to think of their dogs as pets, family and children. I say fine. Who am I to say others are wrong?
Do I think this way? No, they are dogs and my companions.
However, while the child/family mentality permits people to place many more dogs in a litter that may not have had a chance in the past. Why not as long as they are healthy? But are they?
As soon as the money becomes an issue then bye bye pet. I think about Jessica who works for us. Her primary employment is as a vet tech. Jess is aware of what is happening right now in the US. Jess states that due to the economy, most injured and/or sick animals brought into the clinic are put down – the cheap alternative to proper Veterinary care.
Are we responsible for every breathing creature we put on this earth? Yes, to a certain degree but we can not become all controlling. If we want to be all controlling then that puts us back to the position of keeping everything which requires a huge amount of time, care and money.
My Personal Opinions From The Heart
Culling in today’s society means to eliminate from the gene pool by spaying and neutering and keeping or placing an animal in an appropriate home on non-breeding terms.
Mother Nature knows best.
I cannot ever take extraordinary measures again to save that pup the Dam keeps pushing away. I saved a puppy against my instincts with excuses. The bitch was maiden. It was a large litter. It was a puppy bitch of a color that I had been waiting for. I raised her up and sold her to a family who provided a gorgeous home. The puppy was diagnosed and died from leukemia before she was two years of age. The family was devastated and it ripped my heart out.
How about that puppy that is tube fed and does not thrive on its own? Why? The feeding tube was the only thing that completed the esophagus. Without the tube the poor pup could not survive.
Science is wonderful and exciting but we need to exercise some discretion. We have removed nature and survival of the fittest from the breeding of dogs equation.
We do artificial inseminations if the bitch is cranky. Who wants their stud dog chewed up? Maybe that bitch should not be bred? Maybe the stud dog does not have enough survival cojones to reproduce? We have the ability to freeze, cold store, ship semen and inseminate surgically. We need to make doubly sure these dogs should remain in the genetic pool for the breed.
We bottle feed and tube feed puppies that can't or won't nurse naturally. What happens to those animals when they grow up? What if they reproduce and subsequent generations suffer loss of vigor and preservation?
As a breeder we are responsible to do the very best breeding possible. We are responsible to research not only pedigree for phenotype but for genotype and equally important HEALTH issues. We are responsible to breed the very best animals. The three C's should never be a consideration in breeding. Cheap, Close and Convenient.
Science is wonderful and we need to use it properly. We have a lot more information available to us than people of even 25 years ago. Do most of us avail ourselves of that information? A very resounding NO.
How dare I say this? Where is the Afghan Hound health data base in the AKC Canine Health Information Center (CHIC)? Wait a minute! There is one, but at last count (December 2009) only about 50 dogs were in the data base out of approximately 5 to 10 thousand Afghan Hounds in the United States. This does not provide the statistical data base required by researchers. Lack of data does not mean there are no problems, but it does mean we are breeding in a black hole.
All Breeders should adopt the following criteria:
“Choices are sometimes difficult to make but for the betterment of our breed (Bloodhounds) I feel that only dogs of the highest quality and meeting strict health clearances should be bred. Get your dogs’ heart, hip, and elbow clearances. Use only high quality bitches and find that right dog to enhance your breeding program. It will take awhile but in the end your rewards will be many.” Heather Whitcomb, Heather Hounds, Sight & Scent, October 2009