The Tragic Loss of Bloodlines and Mentoring in America
Take the following rudimentary quiz to challenge yourself:
1. How many bitches does it take to produce a quality line of dogs?
a. Five (one from each of the top names in your breed)
b. Ten (the above group plus one from each of the top breeders in Europe)
c. Thirteen (one can never go wrong with a baker’s dozen!)
d. As many as you can accumulate with the funds you have or can finance
e. One good one from a reputable line
2. How many puppies in each litter are show prospects if you have produced a typical litter of four well-bred pups?
a. Four (they all came from the same parents and the same pedigree)
b. Three (one is bound to be a pet and you have one pet home waiting as it turns out)
c. Two (keep the best bitch and the best dog or the best two pups regardless of consistency)
d. None of them until your mentor has helped you evaluate which to grow out.
3. What actually constitutes pet quality?
a. A serious genetic defect
b. A breed disqualification
c. A & B combined
d. Bad temperament
e. A, B & D combined
f. A mediocre specimen regardless of pedigree
g. Pet home waiting
4. What actually constitutes a show prospect?
a. No genetic defects
b. No breed disqualifications
c. Showy, outgoing attitude
d. Loud color
e. Good legs Â this baby can really move out!
f. Pretty face and fabulous coat
g. An outgoing, outstanding breed representative with a solid pedigree to back it up.
h. Show home waiting
5. What is the difference between a “breeding quality dog” and a show quality dog?
a. Breed disqualification(s)
b. Good quality, poor temperament
c. Ugly head, sound legs
d. Pretty head, can’t move
e. Great dog, lousy pedigree
f. None of the above. There should be no difference.
6. How many pups per litter do you need to keep to maintain a bloodline?
a. Half the litter
b. One dog, one bitch…just in case one is sterile or does not turn out.
c. The two best bitches
d. The whole litter, in case some don’t turn out or are sterile.
e. The one pup that is better than it’s quality parents.
f. How many bloodlines do you intend to work with at one time???
7. How many litters per year do you need to produce to maintain your bloodline?
a. Two if it’s an easy breed or five if it’s a hard breed to raise live litters out of.
b. Three, in case the first two didn’t cut the mustard
c. As many as possible without sending a red flag up at AKC
d. Enough to cover all doggy expenses
e. One, if it’s well thought out and carefully evaluated
f. How many bloodlines do you intend to work with at one time???
8. Why do you need a mentor and why should he or she help you evaluate your litters initially?
a. You don’t, really. Take their good advice or leave it since it’s basically just another opinion.
b. You only require a mentor long enough to obtain that quality dog.
c. Anyone who will trust you with his or her life’s work will gratefully help you manage it properly. An ethical mentor will never intentionally steer you wrong and will work hard to see you succeed. Translation: your success is their success!
d. ‘Mentor schmentor!’ Anything she can do, I can do better already.
e. This is my third litter and I’m tired of growing out puppies. I want something that will WIN and I mean, NOW!
f. Which mentors do you intend to work with now that you have all those bloodlines???
9. What is the correct definition of a top quality litter of pups?
a. None have breed disqualifications
b. None have serious genetic defects
c. None have poor temperaments
d. All are ideally marked
e. Half of the litter finished
f. One pup became a Top Ten ranking show dog (gotta’ repeat this one right away!)
g. The quality of the pups was equally distributed; the majority finished, the pedigree was solid, and they created a permanent, positive impact on the breed
h. Both parents are champions
i. Show homes waiting impatiently with money in hand.
The correct answer is available in each category. Moreover, they are overt answers. Did you quickly arrive at them? If you were regularly drawn to multiple choices in each category and are confused at this point you definitely need a good mentor. If you aren’t sure whom to approach in your breed, ask around at dog shows. (Forget the Internet, you will merely come out showered with arrows!) Collect sufficient expert opinions to obtain a consensus. A quality mentor can document considerably more than a decade in their breed; will have produced many champions and one or more notable producers of that breed. Conscientious mentors carefully monitor the genetic defects within their lines throughout each generation and can prove it. Such individuals will desire to mentor only serious students, so please do not waste their time and break their hearts if you do not happen to be one of them. If you aren’t in this hobby for the long haul, please get out now while the getting is good. Successful dog breeding is about quality relationships, long-term investments, a dauntless love for dogs and conscientious determination. If your ideal hobby is all about winning and making a big name for yourself as quickly as possible, you are harboring an incognito loser mentality and what you really need is counseling. That’s a strong opinion. If you decide to stay, you will discover many more where that one came from. However, if you really love a certain breed of dog and your heart’s desire is to be intimately involved, produce a line of healthy, happy, sound dogs from proven bloodlines, then by all means find a good mentor or two and super glue yourself to them. If you are willing to become a lifelong student, can take advice humbly and gratefully from those who are willing to share their doggy endeavor, you deserve a good mentor. If respect ranks high in your personal vocabulary and you weren’t born knowing it all, you have the potential to contribute as a valuable member of doggy society. Honestly, I cannot recall even one top breeder I have known that succeeded entirely alone. One day you may discover that you are a dog breeder of renown and qualified to mentor students yourself! You will become absorbed in a worldwide community of dedicated, ethical, compassionate people who have embraced you slowly but surely.
One word in admonition; if you are in the process of being mentored and choose to intentionally thwart prominent mentors who have taken you under their wings, the doggy world can become a very cold and lonely place all of a bloody sudden! (This is by no means a reference to honest mistakes which all of us can and do make regularly.) I remember one of the first individuals who ever mentored my husband and I. At a club meeting held in our home he hung back after everyone departed and confided in my ear, “These new people come in and they want you to help them get started. You help them and they turn around and put a knife in your back so you can never trust them again!” I cringed internally wondering if our club leader was on drugs or just an overly dramatic sort of fellow. At the time I thought it was a rather amusing incident. Years later I came to appreciate the full impact of his presumably paranoid statement. Anyone who has been in dogs for a decade is already mentoring newbies. It just happens naturally for most of us. At that early stage the process is rather akin to a teenager mentoring a toddler. A decade later there is a further transformation and we become adults leading teenagers. In each mentoring relationship there is mutual growth from differing aspects. That is how this mentoring relationship should progress. It is at the initial checkpoint that we are noting a bizarre glitch in the system, if you will. Around the five-year mark those students who should depart since they are unwilling to learn anyway, for various, insidious reasons – don’t. Instead, they tack up their own signs and go into business thumbing their noses openly at or even more commonly, behind the backs of their previous mentors. A few actually resort to destroying the reputations of their former mentors as a boorishly pathetic hobby.
Reading every dog breeding and genetics manual ever manufactured won’t cut the mustard when such independent students actually try to breed litters from various bloodlines (especially those ridiculous, tossed-salad combinations thereof.) Half the time, these mentoring dropouts retain the wrong pups and let the outstanding prospects go, thus insuring their own failure. Without proper mentoring, they are literally lost amidst a world of pedigrees, canine husbandry and exhibition. Still, the foolishly proud would rather struggle alone than face the music and apologize to the honorable instructors they have grieved. I’ve watched such individuals attach strings to every pup they sell in mortal terror of repeating these dread foibles. A team of veterinarians will be less successful at diagnosing the various stages and odd quirks of those lines than one longtime breed mentor. In stubborn rebellion, these folks will rely upon any opinion other than that of a qualified expert. The number of lives of dogs saved by good mentoring is impossible to calculate but I would suspect at least a dozen for each successful mentor. Which is why it irks me to no end that some veterinarians treat all dog breeders like dirt bags. Technically, we are on the same team and it is beyond certain that we’ve saved lives their professional education and training could not. Whether veterinarian and dog breeder or mentor and student Â it’s all about functional relationships. Lacking respect, no relationship will function. Yet daily we witness supposedly serious students of dog breeding or handling backstabbing their dedicated mentors!
Mike and I have mentored newcomers to the world of purebred dogs for the entire duration of our marriage. I can recall few instances I have been as emotionally wounded by our own family members as I have by doggy individuals we chose to mentor. Perhaps it is human nature to become too controlling over those we mentor on occasion. We may overprotect them out of concern that others will misuse them. At the same time we strive to help them avoid making terrible mistakes. However, mentoring at this initially intense level should never extend beyond the point at which the pupil has actually advanced into a successful breeding program of his or her own. There must be a clear distinction between manipulation and guidance. Yet, release from quality mentoring can only be unwisely sought with the first champion produced or in the first five years of breeding for that matter. The use of poor judgment by the mentored is never as hard to swallow as utter disrespect without provocation. Foolish as it will undoubtedly seem to most of this reading audience, I sold many outstanding, young show prospects to complete novices. I remembered how difficult it was to obtain a quality dog. Equally importantly, I did not want my dogs in large operations or breeding kennels, stacked in crates in people’s basements or garages. So I stuck my neck out and took a chance on novices who kept their dogs at home, primarily as pets. Each of them made verbal and written promises. Only a handful lived up to their contractual agreements. Some of our mentored were extremely successful (the patient minority) while others ruined perfectly good dogs. One newbie we sold a quality pup to continually despaired that the dog would never reach its’ full potential. However, maturity occurred precisely when I insisted it would and the dog finished with a flourish. In fact, this dog continued to collect honors regularly until it began to win on a national level. This apparently happy conclusion was completely spoiled a short time later when I inquired to purchase a pup from the individual hoping to regain the bloodline that I had disbursed in order to more freely judge dogs. To my old fashioned way of thinking I believed my request would be received as an honor by the grateful novice, only to be quoted a price nearly twice that of the original stock with potential strings attached! In shock over this scandalous misbehavior, I was then formally advised, “It’s only business and that is the current pricing.”
Whoahoahoaaa there, little doggeez! Letâ€™s pause for a moment and analyze the statement that selling dogs is â€˜strictly business.â€™ It wasnâ€™t â€˜way backâ€™ when your mentor entrusted you with their foundation stock! Moreover, if you claim to bear any love for them whatsoever, dogs are never â€˜strictly business.â€™ If they are, you are not a hobbyist – you are a profiteer and had better change your â€œbuy from a breederâ€ motto to reflect your grasping mentality. Secondly, no student of a breed in the initial process of learning should ever charge top dollar for any puppy because he possesses neither the experience nor the credibility to back up that price tag. After you have endured a decade or two and have produced noteworthy, prepotent dogs that actually had some influence on your breed and when you are able to scrupulously manage and predict the general development of a bloodline as your mentor did, then and ONLY THEN charge a reflective price. You did not breed the dogs of note in those pedigrees that you are basing the outrageous prices upon, nor do you even remotely grasp the full impact of the innate faults and virtues harbored within those bloodlines. No photographs or second-hand rumors will ever reveal that information to you. Only a trusting, experienced mentor can offer those breeding shortcuts and such information will never intentionally be shared with a fool. Following in the wise footsteps of my own mentors, I failed to charge full price for a show prospect until I had fifteen years under my belt as a breeder. We rarely placed strings on any dog and only requested approximately five puppies back in all those years. We did not ask pick puppy for a stud service in those days nor ever required litters back on bitches sold. Our stud dogs, when at public stud, were offered at fees reflecting the PROVEN value of their get. There is a point that seems to have been reached in our modern dog world where hard-nosed business principles have completely overshadowed good sense and propriety. There are sufficient dog profiteers outside the legitimate Fancy; we certainly donâ€™t desire any on the inside. Many dog breeders are visibly infected with a self-serving greed that has eroded their essential respect for mentors and minimized the true value of purebred dogs to such a degree that it is reducing an otherwise fine Sport to a paltry game. The reality is that the hearts of this generation must change for gracious, sensible conduct to reemerge in our world.
In another frustrating case, a sympathetic, longtime mentor tucked under her wing what could only be described as an â€œiffyâ€ candidate for mentoring. This student came from a most precarious position having purchased breeding stock from disreputable sources and selling it over a puppy millerâ€™s network. However, the student seemed bent upon a course of integrity and cleared up the negative ties as requested. The candidate further insisted all mediocre stock was disbursed and began health-testing the few quality dogs on the premises. The mentorship ensued and the pupil was able to finish a high quality dog of superior pedigree with the guidance of the breed expert. Naturally, the mentor was contacted again in order to help select the appropriate mate. The mentor pored over pedigrees of available dogs at the request of the student until an excellent choice emerged. At the pupilâ€™s further request, the mentor offered herself as a reference since the stud owner was quite discriminating. Suddenly in midcourse, the pupil jumped ship and decided instead to breed to an untitled dog with an incompatible pedigree. The motivations were supposedly financial and for the sake of simplification. A very old, mediocre quality dog was provided the pupil without charge from a calculating source that only requested â€œa puppy back in return.â€ The clever, second-rate breeder was thereby able to seduce the naive student and acquire stock from a bloodline that was previously unavailable without investing a penny. Moreover, an unwanted dog at retirement age was conveniently disposed of at the same time from a sizeable kennel operation. When the mentor was informed of this treachery, she replied calmly and candidly, â€œIf it were possible to breed high quality dogs conveniently and cheaply, every dog breeder in America would be equally successful.â€ Consequently, in both cases the mentors severed all ties with these (sic) â€˜serious studentsâ€™ of their breed.
What other course can ensue when mentors apply full effort and skill toward the success of individuals who later proffer the proverbial â€œknife-in the-backâ€ treatment? One could wish to label these pupilsâ€™ sophomoric actions â€œpoor judgment,â€ but the greedy motivations behind them would swiftly nullify those otherwise inert descriptions. These are but two examples plucked from among dozens of graceless incidences mentors around the country are reporting regularly, obviously increasing the number of abandoned or dropout students each year. The only reward any mentor is ever granted for his or her personal investment is the satisfaction of shaping a successful and ethical patron for their breed. After several such devastating experiences in the lives of longtime mentors, it is little wonder so few will extend their time and talent to the continually inquiring newbies vying for their attention. It is seldom true that the dog worldâ€™s finest canine mentors are, as so commonly characterized, â€œstuck up,â€ but rather that they have simply been burned emotionally one too many times. If you are a student of a breed; please donâ€™t confuse emotional distancing with arrogance since they arenâ€™t remotely alike. If you would be mentored by one of Americaâ€™s renowned Doggites, you may find it necessary to prove your loyalty to them and their dogs first.
â€œBloodlines,â€ as we once acknowledged them, are fast disappearing. The remnants of those precious, former hardwoods are being sold as a commodity to the highest bidders both here and abroad. In the place of the elaborate effort that once hallmarked a lifelong craft one discovers pressed board covered over with cheap laminates. Is it possible that the invocation of genetic charting in some fashion has ended Americaâ€™s reverence for bloodlines? Or is it merely the saturation of equal amounts of greed and egomania on the part of todayâ€™s foundationally disengaged crew of incoming dog breeders that is to blame? The principles that have long sustained dog breeding, as applied both intellectually and instinctively are clearly on the wane. In direct repercussion, mentoring has become a most precarious proposition for all who compose the framework of the Sport of Dogs. Will educating breeders with the intact blanket approach resolve these issues? We will be most fortunate if this program can manage a nip at their fast wilting buds. If public education could instill ethics and character this program could be deemed feasible, however, individual mentoring (like the parenting role that it has always evoked) remains the only practical, proven and effective means by which to tackle such perplexing problems and that process is entirely dependent upon willing and worthy students. It occurs to me that in order for a breeder education program to succeed, there must be a valid mentorship program firmly in residence. Recruitment for qualified, mentoring volunteers to act as â€œbig brothersâ€ to novice breeders will prove absolutely essential. No family is functional without diligent parents nor will any breeder educational system flourish minus experienced, conscientious mentors. If those prerequisites could be met, it still remains to be seen whether or not there exists a sufficient headcount enrolling in breeder education to salvage the future of an entire nationâ€™s purebred dog Fancy.