KNOWING WHAT YOU WANT
by Karen Thayne
Very few people in dog breeding are able to achieve exactly what they want. These few who do know what they want, formulate and establish an ideal towards which to work.
A true breeder has in their mind, a blueprint of the perfect dog that they set out to execute into flesh and bone through the plans they formed. Just how do we go about getting what we want?
1. KNOW THY DOGS:A breeder must know a fine dog first before he can know a fine specimen of his own breed. A breeder, to be successful, must look at their dogs, not merely in the face, but the entire package. A breeder should value the virtues the dog may have but also must detract the faults the dog embodies. Sound foundation of canine structure, form and movement are key essentials for a breeder to breed successfully. This knowledge cannot be learned through books or even speeches on the Internet, but through hands-on interaction with the breed and hopefully with a knowledgeable mentor at their side. While ringside observation at conformation shows will give some clues to movement, real learning for most breeders is watching the breed perform it's actual function.
2. KNOW THY STANDARD.Standards only offer a hazy concept of what is wanted. To breed excellent dogs, it is essential to know how to apply the standard to the living dog. The standards of perfection written for various breeds is an attempt to describe the characteristics which differentiate one breed from another. A breeder must not merely have read it or know it by heart, but analyze it and seek to decipher its meaning. Many fine points of a breed are impossible to put into words. Many standards only set forth the essentials parts of the breed and leave a wide interpretation of the nonessentials. History of the breed will help define and give a well rounded view of the breed's standard. And once done, a breeder should become familiar with standards of other breeds that are similar to their own. How can a breeder know a good sighthound without knowing the fundamental differences between sighthound breeds?
3. BUY GOOD BREEDING STOCK.Having a good dog need not involve investing great sums of money, but it does involve the knowledge of what one wants and obtaining those dogs who have the ability to produce it. Anyone with enough money can buy a good dog. They don't even have to know a good dog when they see one. They can purchase the biggest winners and continue to purchase big winners. But this does not guarantee a good foundation and does not make a them a breeder. In 1962 in his book Breeding Better Dogs, Kyle Onstott wrote: "But merely to win does not satisfy the breeder. He not only wants to possess good dogs; he wants to breed good dogs. It is a kind of mania. Indeed, it is his means of self-expression, a creative art. As the sculptor manipulates his marble, so the breeder of dogs expresses himself in canine flesh and blood."
4. SEEK OVERALL EXCELLENCEIt is human nature for a breeder to place emphasis of one trait above another. The trait which one chooses to emphasize is usually the expression of the breeder's artistic ideal of the breed. Some become "headhunters," others sticklers about rears and yet others may place importance on coat texture. Seeking to produce well-balanced dogs without glaring faults should be a breeder's goal. It is an ever constant battle to balance our need to emphasize a trait we like, with the need to produce overall excellent dogs.
5. NEVER BECOME STATIC.No breed has remained the same throughout time. As breeders grow in their knowledge and experience, their concept of the breed may change. A good breeder will criticize their ideal from time to time and make only the necessary changes when needed. Never sacrifice your ideal without good reason. Know the difference between fads within your breed and evolutionary change. Breeds will drift towards finer concepts of the standard, but fads are nothing more than side roads that lead nowhere.
The breeding of dogs is one of the most fascinating of all activities and to true dog lovers, a passion. The successful dog breeder does not breed for money, but for the love of dogs, their improvement and the pride of owning and breeding fine dogs.
Knowing what you want will help you bend your efforts towards the realizations of your dreams and obtain your goals.
Copyrighted... Karen Thayne 10/2003