I recently found this quoted on another Curly breeder's site -
Breeding: What We're Taught
There are many platitudes in the dog world, such as "A fast maturing puppy will fade" and "Only breed when you'll keep one for yourself." This last maxim is even used to chastise breeders who do not keep a puppy from every litter. The idea is that in every litter there will be a star puppy who should be grown out by the breeder.
The fact is that not all litters produce show puppies. Keeping even the best puppy from a mediocre litter will not achieve the breeder's objectives. It would be best to place these puppies in permanent companion homes and try something different the next time around, but this is not often done in our breed. Instead, the breeder keeps the best in a particular litter, grows out the pick puppy, and takes her to dog shows. Dog shows are unforgiving and soon identify mediocrity. A determined person will put many shows on an average dog in an attempt to "prove" her breeding program. It would be better to make a more critical evaluation of puppies at 8 weeks and come to more realistic conclusions about their future prospects.
Another example of conventional wisdom involves litter frequency. This is carried to extremes when people start judging breeders by numbers: "Did you know she had (three, four) litters last year?" As if this were something shameful. In our breed, which has fallen from 36th in AKC registrations to 100th in a decade, this so-called wisdom is hardly wise. We need dedicated people who are willing to study, spend the time, and do the work necessary to breed dogs. Having one litter every few years does not make one a breeder, nor does it provide a person with the experience required to whelp and raise puppies or to develop a consistent line of dogs.
When you have questions and problems with a litter, who do you call? I call someone who has been breeding dogs for 50 years and, at one time that I remember, had three litters at once. He is in another breed, and has never been criticized for the excellent job he did with his puppies. Spring always found him whelping at least one litter for himself, and perhaps a few more for other people. We need these master breeders desperately: They have a wealth of knowledge to share about breeding dogs and raising puppies. We also need more ways to record their knowledge, share it with others and preserve it for the future.
We need dedicated people in our breed and, in fact, in every breed to continue the lines and to work to breed the best dogs possible. As baby boomers retire from breeding dogs over the next two decades, we will have to recruit new breeders to carry on. Holding people back with worn-out phrases will not work. There is room for everyone, for those who can breed only occasionally and for those who will become the master breeders of the future. We need to encourage and learn from those who have the time, resources, and dedication to spend shaping the future of our breeds.
(Reprinted from the June 2006 AKC Gazette breed Keeshonden breed column. Written by Deborah A. Lynch. Deborah A. Lynch is the Executive Vice-President of the AKC Canine Health Foundation. She has been a breeder and exhibitor of Keeshonden since 1971 under the Foxfair prefix. She is a member of the Keeshond Club of America and is past President of the Buckeye Keeshond Club. Deborah has also been a member of the Dog Writers Association of America and has judged her breed both in the USA and England.)
OK, let's take this point by point:
1. "The fact is that not all litters produce show puppies." Well, in Curlies they probably do, but that is sort of immaterial. A good breeder of Curlies should be breeding Curlies, not show dogs. I'll pause here while that sinks in...
What is the difference you may ask? I'll leave aside that there is far more to the breed than just running about a show ring for a couple of minutes (you know, they are a sporting breed...) and will point out that these days just about anything one wants to run into the ring in any breed can be a show dog. All it takes is money and dedication. So you might want to define "show puppy" - does it mean a puppy that will be likely to finish it's Ch? Likely to finish easily? Likely to be a special? "Show puppy" is just too vague, particularly in Curies where one can finish just about anything, and unsound/untypy dogs have had big wins.
2. "Keeping even the best puppy from a mediocre litter will not achieve the breeder's objectives." This very much depends on the breeder's objectives! Is the breeder looking to just create show dogs or is this person trying to produce all around good Curlies? What is the difference you may ask? Well, consider this - a big winning show dog doesn't have to have any of the following -
* Health clearances
* A good temperament
* Strong type
* Desire and/or ability to do the job the breed was originally bred for
* Ability to pass on quality to offspring
And if the dog is out with a pro handler and/or being advertised, it doesn't need to be sound, it doesn't need to
be sane and it doesn't even need to be the right color! This is nothing new - when I first started showing Curlies a
bazillion years ago, there was a top winner in another sporting breed that amazed me every time I saw this dog. Not
because he was so wonderful but because he was so crippled. I am not kidding when I say this dog could barely
move and it was painful to watch. Back when I was working for a top pro handler, we would have top winning specials that
were, well crazy! Just impossible to live with. Things are not much better today since I still see dogs winning big
who have fronts you could drive a truck thru, cowhocks, soft toplines and no side gait. Apparently, all a dog needs is
to be "showy" according to far too many judges who report that a certain dog just "asked for the win" or they wanted to
do for another dog but "it just quit showing". Not a whole lot there about finding the actual best dog of the breed.
So, if my objective as a breeder is simply to have a puppy to show, I guess I wouldn't want the best from a mediocre (as concerns show points) litter. But wait! I am not just a show breeder, I am a Curly breeder! I am concerned with producing dogs that could do well in the show ring but also that can do a days work in the field, have good solid temperaments, will live long healthy lives, are easily trained and make great companions and are likely to produce these things in future generations. Yes, future generations - a good breeder never just makes a breeding in a vacuum, each litter is a step towards creating and maintaining a line that mirrors that breeder's image of breed perfection. It is entirely possible that a "mediocre" litter with regards to the show ring is actually strong in everything else that breed is. And it is very likely that those pups will be sounder in mind and body than a litter that was bred merely to get another dog to show.
3. "It would be better to make a more critical evaluation of puppies at 8 weeks and come to more realistic conclusions about their future prospects." This is possible if the breeder is only concerned with whether or not an individual pup will become a show dog (whatever that means) and if the breeder is in a breed where one can tell at 8 weeks whether or not any pup will become a show dog (whatever that means). Good breeders tend to be more concerned with the whole dog and not just what can be seen at 8 weeks. Which means running a pup or two on from each litter so the breeder actually knows what she is producing. Shipping their little butts off to pet homes at 8 weeks is not going to tell a breeder much, particularly if they drop out of sight as far too many pet pups do.
4. "Another example of conventional wisdom involves litter frequency. This is carried to extremes when people start
judging breeders by numbers: "Did you know she had (three, four) litters last year?" As if this were something shameful.
In our breed, which has fallen from 36th in AKC registrations to 100th in a decade, this so-called wisdom is hardly wise.
We need dedicated people who are willing to study, spend the time, and do the work necessary to breed dogs. Having one
litter every few years does not make one a breeder, nor does it provide a person with the experience required to whelp
and raise puppies or to develop a consistent line of dogs."
I quoted this whole paragraph because of the leap made here, from three or four litters in one year to a litter every few years. What about having "only" one litter a year or a litter every other year? Having two, three or four litters a year every year means that the breeder will become good at raising and selling pups, but are they learning anything about what they are producing? Do they know enough about their breed to make good breeding decisions two, three, four times a year every year? If this breeder has 10 - 20 pups each year, can she possibly keep up with all of them? Does it matter to the breed what rank it is in AKC registrations? Should we breed more because our breed is lower than some X number?
I've been breeding Curlies since 1981 and have bred some top winners in the show ring. I think there is only one other active Curly breeder in the US who has been breeding longer than I have. I couldn't come up with two, three, four worthwhile breedings a year! And isn't that the point? Isn't that the difference between a good breeder and a puppy mill?
I really don't understand the push to have more and more pups, other than the ability to sell for high prices or the ego stroke from producing X number of Chs. I can't come up with a way that it could possibly be good for a breed, or for the individual dogs involved for a breeder to have two, three, four Curly litters each year. I had two litters in one year one time but then didn't have the next litter for over three years. Once I went over four years between litters. I have a recognizable line and am moving closer to my ideal of perfection (not that I will ever actually breed the perfect dog...) so I really don't see a need to pump out scores of pups a year. If I am going to do something with my dogs other than show them, I really can't be raising a new pup every year but I also don't see any point in going thru the work of breeding, raising and selling a litter if I am not looking to get something for myself! How does some arbitrary number of litters a year do a breed or an individual breeder any good?
For me, I breed when I come up with something I think is exciting and have the room for another dog. Those that have multiple litters and keep nothing for themselves can figure out the difference between what they are doing and a puppy mill.