by Judy Voran
There has been some significant discussion lately on health issues, breeding and exhibiting. Here are some thoughts that I've had as a result of these discussions.
* First: Have confidence in yourself. You have gotten to this stage in life through intelligence, common sense and the ability to work with people. In all your dealings and work with other breeders trust your gut instincts. If you do not feel comfortable and do not feel that you can work with the breeders whom you have approached *turn around and walk away*. They may have a wonderful litter of puppies or the Stud Dog of the Century, but if you feel that you cannot have a collegial, happy experience in which you work as partners with the breeders, that wonderful puppy or that great stud dog can, and almost certainly will, be the source of bitterness and grief. Do not let yourself be overawed by reputation. You have a lot to give that breeder. Don't accept arrogance or coldness or compromise the standards you have established for yourself and your breeding program
* Second: Educate yourself. Study breed history. Look at the Greats. Look at the not-so-Greats. Few of us are given the the blessing of having a Great. Study pedigrees -- (see below). Understand health issues -- (see below). Have a working knowledge of dog shows and the rules that govern them. Understand money. Have a realistic understanding of how much money it takes to show and breed. *Do not enter into showing or breeding with the concept that you will make money.* Talk to breeders with courtesy, civility and respect -- just as you would any prospective business partner/father-in-law. All of of this will help support the first point.
* Third: Understand your priorities. What is most important to *you* in purchasing a puppy or in choosing a stud dog or accepting a bitch for breeding -- temperament, health, conformation? You have talked to other exhibitors and breeders; you have read from the classic Boxer books. You have studied the Boxer Standard; you have attended shows and developed an image in your mind of the concepts of type, soundness and balance that work for you. Where do you believe the Boxer breed should be 10 years from now? What can you do in developing a breeding program to contribute to that vision?
* Fourth: Develop a plan -- understanding that many plans have to be revised. Part of the educational process described in the second point should include an understanding of breeding philosophies. Line breeding or outcrossing? Study pedigrees in relationship to dogs produced. In linebred pedigrees and in outcross pedigrees and in offset fault breeding what do you see in the historical results in relationship to the priorities you have set for yourself. Will breeding to the Stud Dog of the Century produce what you want in relationship to your vision for your kennel or would you be better off breeding to a low profile dog who has what you want in relationship to temperament, health and conformation? Just because the sire of the puppy that you are looking at is one of the top winning Boxers of the year, will that particular puppy have the qualities needed to be the foundation of your vision?
* Fifth: Understand health issues. There are those who might quarrel with the placement of this point in the list. If you do, move it up. The American Boxer Club has published an informational brochure on genetic diseases known in Boxers: aortic stenosis, Boxer cardiomyopathy, hip dysplasia, and thyroid abnormalities. This brochure might serve as a *starting point* for your own research into these genetic conditions. This List is an important source of information on health issues. The "Boxer Underground" on the web has an archive of articles on health issues. Talk to your veterinarian, and if you think it will be helpful, make an appointment to talk to veterinary specialists in these areas. Understand the tests that are available for evaluating the health of the stud dogs and brood bitches who will produce the puppies that are the foundation of your vision for your Boxer kennel. Understand the concept of "truth in advertising".
Many advertisements in the Boxer Review and on individual web sites will proclaim "Heart clear", "OFA certified -- Heart and Hips", "Thyroid Clear". Understand that an OFA registration for heart testing is virtually meaningless -- it is the test that is performed and by whom that is meaningful. Be very clear in your own mind as you approach these advertisers for breeding or prospective puppies that these advertisements are but a proclamation. The proof is in the pudding and any breeder who advertises a Boxer which is declared to be clear of a genetic condition should be willing to produce hard copies of test results that can be verified by the examining veterinarian. This is one point where it is very important that you not be overawed by reputation or arrogance. Ask for and expect copies of tests that the breeder says were done. On the other hand -- do not expect any breeder to produce any documentation until you have proved serious intention of purchasing a puppy or breeding to the dog they have available. Expect to produce documentation of health testing done on your brood bitch. If the breeder cannot or will not produce documentation to support their advertising *turn and walk away*. Do not accept verbal assurances.
There is a great deal of discussion on encouraging breeders to do health testing. There will be those breeders who will test because they are convinced that offering sound, healthy dogs for breeding is fundamental to breeding to better the breed -- and they are committed to the health and welfare of the Boxer breed. For these breeders the moral imperative arises from within themselves. On the other hand there will be those breeders who are not convinced that health testing will get *them* anything. For these breeders the driving force that will bring them to meaningful health testing will be those prospective puppy buyers who come to purchase show puppies or who want to breed to their male and who expect and will accept nothing less than verifiable documentation of health testing. The responsibility for the betterment of the health of the breed is shared by breeders and by prospective puppy buyers and those who wish to breed their bitches. Accept nothing less than adherence to the highest standards of ethical behaviour on the part of those with whom you hope to work. Offer nothing less than the highest standards in your own dealings with others. On these principles rest the future of the breed.
* Sixth: Don't gossip. Following your vision, educating yourself, and implementing your goals will probably take all the time, effort, energy and money you have available. Don't waste it in pointless accusations of others. Share the resources you have available in supporting your local club, participating in rescue work and promoting the breed in such activities as therapy work. That ought to keep you occupied, out of trouble and off the streets.
Copyright Mary L. Curl & Martha Bowman. All rights reserved