Columns: No Margins, No Limits, No Kidding!
“Have responsible hobby breeders become the “New Puppy Mills” targeted by these AR zealots?"
11|11|08 | TheDogPress.com
Gini Denninger, Reporter
Writer Denise R. Monette posed several critical questions in Stemming The Animal Rights Tide: "How did public opinion shift towards shelter adoptions to ‘save’ the animals instead of seeking pets from dedicated hobby breeders who love their dogs and produce healthy pets, typical of their breed?” How did we lose our way?
The answers are simple - the solutions complicated. The dog fancy has not had a cohesive message for a long time, if ever. Look within your own breeds to see the dissension and discord. The way breed fanciers treat each other is abysmal. Lack of respect and kindness is rampant. In an effort to be rid of the competition (instead of breeding better dogs) breeders themselves discredit each other.
After so long, it gets old, causing quality breeders with genuine interest in their breed and its welfare to drop out. This allows those fueled by ego and self-serving reasons to fill the void. These persons are not breeders with honorable breeding practices and so they make the dog fancy an easy target for the AR zealots.
Show dog breeders are portrayed as a snobby greedy group, asking way too much money for puppies. The AR message: instead of dealing with these awful breeders, go to the pound, do something good, rescue a dog that "really" needs a home.
Dog fanciers who choose to disrespect those that came before them and spurn their knowledge do a disservice to themselves as well as their breed. Many newcomers to the dog fancy are not aware of the time honored ways of the past with true mentoring. They don’t take time to learn about their breed and to begin to become great breeders themselves.
They often fall into the trap of pseudo-mentoring: "buy from me and I will direct you in your breeding program, which will be an extension of mine really...until you get sick of me or I of you, due to you having your own ideas...we break up our relationship...” It may be called a friendship but such a breeder-novice relationship never really was.
At that point the snide comments, name calling and putdowns begin. Newcomers with a brain see this, process it, and are disgusted but they are the future breeders who could do great service to dogs. Sadly, many do not have the time or stomach to muck through this.
How do you form a cohesive voice for the entire fancy when there is so much divisiveness at the core? I suggest reevaluating your motives and desires carefully. Start a discussion with other breeders. Attempt to reconcile with others in your breed. Agree to disagree but in the process, not to denigrate each other or the age-old crafting of breeding good dogs.
How to start? Start within yourself. Some suggestions I have are as follows: Slow down, take time out and examine your motives harshly. Remember why you got into the fancy. Was it for the love of your breed? Did you get excited in the beginning, learning about what makes a good dog verses a great dog? Were you fueled by imagination as you looked at a litter of puppies, yet at the same time developing a critical breeder’s eye? Did you learn to avoid kennel blindness?
Ask yourself if winning became more important than breeding a good dog and making life-long friends? Do your dogs win despite politics or because of politics? What do you want to accomplish? And, of what you want to accomplish, is the creed: Accomplish at all costs?
How do your dogs live, would the novice-you feel that the seasoned exhibitor-you offers a quality life to your dogs? A warehoused dog never has a good life. When I see dogs that live like that, I know deep down the breeder’s original purpose has been lost or buried. Is producing the next big winner of utmost importance or is quality of life for your current dogs secondary?
Review and see if you have strayed from the best and only reason to be active in the fancy. Do you "you love dogs-all dogs, and especially a certain few breeds? Are you excited and challenged by the mysteries of continuously producing great dogs?
Accept that you might not become liked, famous or wealthy because of being in dogs. In fact the opposite usually occurs if you are successful. The good news is, if you are sincere, you will make quality friends with whom you can enjoy the dog world, and you will breed great dogs.
If you have become jaded, or strayed from the original purpose, forgot that you love dogs... well this plays into one of the reasons why Animal Rights volunteers, encouraged by PETA, HSUS and other anti-breeder groups, hate breeders and give them bad press. It gives them traction against us when we can't work together. If you as a breeder, are basically out for self-aggrandizement instead of for your breed, it’s really hard to get others to work with you. Hence the lack of cohesion within a breed fancy.
My favorite motto is "I would use my worst enemy’s dog in my breeding program if I thought: a) it would advance my dogs’ qualities and b) if my worst enemy would let me." The reverse of that is even harder to swallow. But here is the point, if you really love the breed and your worst enemy came to use your dog because they recognized its qualities and what it could do for their program, would you let them? From a purely breeding point of view, say all other things were equal - your testing methods, maintenance of dogs, etc. would you let this person breed to your dog? And restrain from bragging about it in a way that belittles or puts that person down? Can you put your ego aside???
Within all breeds, there is a lot a fence mending that needs to occur. People need to swallow hard and try to see others as people not enemies. Until this happens, it will be hard for the fancy to put a good foot forward. AKC, UKC and CFA and all other dog organizations just can't do it alone. The heavy lifting is up to us, the average dog fancier-breeder.