Sadly, with this headline I am referring to what is happening in a large number of European countries regarding all aspects of our passion – breeding and showing dogs – which for the vast majority “over there” is nothing but a hobby in which most enthusiasts take part without any motives of profit. I think it is a sad fact that for most people it is just that – a hobby and at times an obsession that cost a lot of money …
As we know, all the old, established breeds were created by passionate, dedicated breeders for a purpose. Originally, of course, as necessary tools for shepherding, guarding, hunting or any other practical purpose. Eventually aesthetics entered the scene, wanting dogs to be both beautiful and useful and then – actually, in a lot of cases after a while – simply beautiful!
Naturally, from the very beginning excellent health and longevity were important factors for the hunting and working dogs. Logical, as it took time to create and train the perfect individual for any important function. Nothing they wanted to repeat after a couple of years.
And for those concentrating on beauty and showmanship, health was always a prime consideration, as so may ended up as family pets where longevity was important for sentimental reasons. And face facts, if anything went wrong, be it during whelping or later in the dog’s life, in the early days the breeders were left to their own devices, making all major decisions about life or death without assistance from a vet! And in reality even later on in the process some breeders could not afford to pay for veterinary assistance.
Survival of the fittest was the name of the game. Something I think we should be grateful for – and maybe something we should try to re-introduce in a number of breeds.
In nearly all cases, in all breeds, the breeders succeeded, but if not, rolled up their sleeves and tried again! Even if we nowadays for a variety of reasons are unable to identify with the founders of each and every breed, I suppose we are all convinced that a healthy body and soul were part of their ambition.
What is so different from what we experience these days is that these people “operated” in total freedom. Nobody, be it kennel clubs or official bureaucrats, interfered or had any opinion on what happened in any breeder’s backyard. And just take a look at all the wonderful breeds we are blessed with today: They laid the foundation for some fabulously beautiful animals. And by beautiful in this context I mean beautiful whether you are a Poodle or a Neopolitan Mastiff – so, in other words , attractive in relation to their very special breed standards.
Government control, or even kennel-club interference, was something we personally first experienced in Sweden. Having lived the first part of my life in Norway, upon arrival in Sweden it came as a surprise how differently the kennel clubs as well as authorities operated. I don’t know if the rule is still effective, but I remember that when we had an illegal relationship between a Norfolk Terrier bitch and a Cocker Spaniel male I wanted to keep the singleton puppy, a delightful black little thing we named Pompe. I was then shown a piece of paper where my wife, when applying to take over her father’s kennel name, had signed committing to never have a dog of mixed breed on the premises!
So Pompe went to a local pet home …
Then the next surprise regarding our kennel-club relations: I sold a WFT puppy to a buyer referred to us by SKK (Svenska Kennelklubben), which a few months after arriving to her new home developed some health issues! Being long-time SKK members, we were rather surprised that the club’s consumers department recommended the puppy buyers join the club – and they would assist them with the case against the breeder (me), who had already offered to repay the purchase sum and all vet expenses until the poor girl was back to full health.
We at the time probably had – from a hygienic as well as animal-comfort point of view – the most perfect set-up. But one of the kennel inspectors (from SKK) wanted us to raise the outside beds by one inch! (They were just there for the dogs to sunbathe.) And he would re-measure next year …
I could go on with all requirements coming from breed clubs. In many cases, like in too many countries, ruled by people who definitely were not qualified to be allowed to make any major decisions whatsoever! A lot of silly rules and restrictions came along that I think most people ignored. But if you followed the rules, everything good or bad would be published by the SKK – which may be a good thing.
If you didn’t yourself, the vet was committed to send a report of any defects or deficiencies to the kennel club …
But a lot of ignorant people all of a sudden received a lot of information they didn’t really understand. Which again led to some very interesting conflicts and situations.
Our move to the UK felt like a trip to freedom!
As even as late as some 40 years ago, the British breeders could live by the rules they always had: Their own! And breeders could continue to breed fabulous dogs which they then exported all over the world. Which they had done for decades!
For those of us who at one time were pedigree buffs (me, no more), it was so interesting to study how so many of these top-class animals had been created. And I dare say that according to a majority of influential sires and dams, close inbreeding or very close line- breeding was part of the secret formula.
No doubt in my opinion that if the current rules, plus DNA, had been in force 100 years ago, many breeds would look very different from what we see today.
We talk so much about designer breeds flooding the market these days, but in reality all breeds were originally designed for a special purpose (or in some Toy breeds, none at all).
What has disappointed me is the fact that whenever there is some bad press about these horrible dog shows, there is nobody standing up to explain things. Which could have given the right authorities (aka kennel clubs) golden opportunities to educate the world after the turmoil following that infamous BBC program or that Crufts tail-lifting incident!
I just had conversations with a couple of well-known European breeders who informed me about all the regulations they have to follow to be able to register their litters! It must take away a lot of the enthusiasm, pride and pleasure in trying to produce that next superstar. Compare today, where DNA in so many cases can tell you which individuals not to combine in the effort of producing the next healthy generation, to the experimenting, gambling and guesswork of the “founding fathers and mothers” 100-plus years ago …
So where did all this nonsense about “inbreeding coefficient” and, based on number of registered dogs per year, restrictions about how many times a dog could be used at stud in his lifetime come from? These rules are actually being enforced by kennel clubs in countries we hitherto have considered civilized and sensible! They cannot possibly come from people with any knowledge about how One Dog (or Bitch ), if given the opportunity, could improve the gene pool for a breed regarding health as well as looks …
Shouldn’t this modern science and technology, as long as the results were respected, open doors to more freedom and confidence? Not restrictions! In most cases imposed by people who don’t know what the hell they are talking about?
Until next time …