When in Doubt-Pet it out

The dogs I started out with, were not exactly show quality.  I tried and tried to buy a quality stud so I could “breed up” from my “pound-puppy-quality” Papillons, who I literally thought were beautiful, quality Papillons.  The first one, who I thought was beautiful at the time, looked more like a coyote.  Another one that looked like a cross between a pap and a corgi, another with splayed feet and flagging tail and very small, and another that was liver and white.  The liver and white had (by far) the best structure (looking at her pictures now, she did have really nice structure).  In my venture of trying to find the dogs to start my breeding program, I was told many times, that in order to be reputable, one has to show their dogs, to prove that they are in fact, “worthy”, and by golly, I was going to show her.  After all, liver and white was not listed in the standard as a disqualification.  Maybe I didn’t know how to interpret the standard very well, or how to read between the lines, but I do know the difference between a fault and a disqualifications.   After all, even a “severe fault”, is not technically, a disqualification.  At least not in other show animals.

I finally contacted a lady who had more time to visit with me, extensively.  OMG, I was so hurt, angry and offended by the time she was done with me!  She told me that my prized Papillons that I searched so hard for and paid so much to get, were not good enough quality to breed from, and I would have to make some changes before I would be able to acquire a show quality dog.  How dare she judge my Papillons?  She is so high on her horse that she doesn’t want to admit how beautiful they are, nevermind how much I loved them!!  She just wants to be mean and put people down!  (looking back at the dog’s pictures now, I’m ashamed to have thought they were so beautiful.

This lady had the audacity to tell me, that if I wanted to be serious about breeding, and produce quality dogs, that I had to have quality dogs to breed from.  She told me that if I was sincere about wanting to breed quality show-dogs, then don’t breed PET quality dogs.  She said to cull hard and don’t keep anything with major flaws like loose patellas, open fontanels, bad bites.  Pet them all out, and if I had any doubts about any of the other puppies, pet them out too.  O gosh, I was soo mad. The nerve of her, to say my dogs had FLAWS!!  But after a few days of fuming over it, and not being able to get over what she said, I took a long hard look at my dogs, and I’ll be damned if she wasn’t right.  Maybe she wasn’t being mean after all.  Maybe she was just being honest, and I took it as being mean.  Telling me the hard-to-swollow truth, was probably the kindest thing anyone had ever done for me, in this breeding venture.  After all, she can’t be responsible for how I receive the message.  So, I petted them all out, and began my search to start over from scratch……but still, no one in the US would sell to me without requiring me to get a 2nd mortgage to pay for one and sign a contract stating that I had no rights to it, except for the right to meet its daily needs and the right to show it, so I started looking in Europe.  Was able to import some really nice European dogs.

I showed what I could, having 5 young kids at home, (3 of which with special needs) which wasn’t a whole lot, but was enough that I could learn the rules and procedures.  I bred my European dogs and followed the ladies advice.  I culled hard, and when in doubt, I culled some more. I did not keep any puppies with bad bites, open fontanels, loose patellas, bad fronts/rears.  In fact, I don’t think I kept a single puppy for the first few years.  I finally bought a really nice male from an unknown breeder and hired a handler to show him.  He nearly finished, and only needed a single major and then, because I didn’t know how important it was to care for their teeth, he lost some teeth and  quit showing well. I bought another nice male from Europe, and put him with the same handler and finished him within 6 weeks…. Anyways (getting back on point)  This handler asked me why I petted out all my puppies and never showed them more than once or twice, and I told him that I didn’t think they were good enough.  He said it was time to start showing my own lines, they are good enough and I was being too critical.  That mean, rude lady that scolded me for my “pound puppies” was right.  I followed her advice and it worked.  I have now finished 2 dogs that I did not breed, and 4 dogs that I did, and have 3 more that are almost finished.  When 2 of these 3 finish, I will have  a whole litter finished.  How many breeders have kept 3 in a litter of 4, and put the other in a show home, and manage to finish them all?  I’m confident they will, and when/ if they do, I think that will really be something worth bragging about!!  All because this mean lady dared to tell me the truth!

I still consider myself a novice, even though I’m a Breeder of Merit now.  But OH MY GOSH, I have come such a long ways!!!  So, my advice to people wanting to get into breeding to produce quality dogs:  Cull hard, and when in doubt, cull some more.  Don’t make excuses to keep a puppy from every litter.  Don’t make excuses to keep a puppy from ANY litter.  If you have to look for a reason to keep it, it isn’t worth keeping!  The ones worth keeping are unmistakibly so.  You don’t have to question it.   Don’t keep anything with an open fontanel, bad bite, loose patella, bad front/rear, light eyes.  If its an obvious flaw, don’t keep it.  They have enough flaws that aren’t so obvious, so don’t take a chance with the obvious ones.  If you don’t have the experience to breed a flaw out of a line, then you will only reproduce it, so why waste the time and energy??  When in doubt-pet it out.

And a word to the wise:  if you are a person who asks everyone you encounter for advice, and never follow any of it, and ask the same questions over and over again, yet don’t make any changes in your breeding program, and instead,  make excuses why you should keep them all…..then you are not really all that sincere about breeding better.  You are, instead, looking for someone to confirm/validate, that the quality of you’re dogs is really as good as you think they are, it usually is not.