Well yesterday’s blog certainly generated a lot of conversation. Some chose to answer on this blog, others through different e-mail lists and then many to me personally. Unfortunately some of the best responses are sent to me personally and I wish I could share them with everyone as they are normally very informative. However, because some people name names, I can understand their hesitance in sharing some of their e-mails to the public for fear of offending others.
One of the letters I received asked me if I would write an article about the health problems in the breed. She was wondering why we breeders are not more willing to share health problem issues with one another. She, like many others feel it would be very beneficial if we knew the problems in some blood lines so we could make better judgments when choosing breeding partners for our animals. She asked me why breeders are not willing to share this information with one another. My answer to her (of course my opinion)……MONEY! But on further reflection, I still say that that is the number one reason, BUT there can be other reasons as well. Those reasons can be because of friendship with the stud dog or bitch owner. It could be fear of talking about someone’s dog and having them never talk to you again. I can hear people saying right about now, “Well friendship should have nothing to do with honesty in breeding.” You would think. Try telling that to the person whose dog you will be talking negatively about.
Lets say you breed to your friends dog. You have high hopes for the litter. Like usual, it looks so darn good on paper. The pups are born. Within the first few weeks, you see puppies who are throwing up after nursing. You’ve never dealt with this before. Right away you are thinking (and rightfully so); you have some puppies with mega esophagus. So you tell your friend who owns the stud dog about this. She tells you that so far he hasn’t produced it with any other bitches. So obviously this was a bad combination with her stud and your bitch. So now you are stuck with a litter of genetically sick puppies. Now do you go telling your other breeder friends about this knowing you may ruin the future stud services on your friend’s dog? Some of you may be saying, “Well that stud dog shouldn’t be bred if he is producing genetic health problems.” Do you risk the anger of your friend or maybe even lose the friendship by telling people the health problems of your litter? Yup, I know there are those of you saying, “Well, if you lose the friendship because of dogs then it wasn’t a very good friendship to start with.” And yes that’s the right way to think about it, but we’re talking about MONEY here and people can do crazy things because of it!
Alright then you breed your bitch to a stud dog that isn’t owned by a friend. The breeder is well known. You get a litter with a bunch of bad temperaments. You tell the stud dog owner. She tells you, “Oh that must be your bitch’s line. My dog is known for the good temperament that he produces. That’s not in my lines!” You tell her your bitch and her father and mother before her are therapy dogs and go into hospitals to be with the sick. She screams at you saying, “Not my problem!” and hangs up on you. This is not the type of communication you were hoping for. This is not honesty among breeders. There can be no honesty if BOTH parties are not willing to take responsibility for their bloodlines. You may breed that bitch again (some would not) and she may never produce the problem with different stud dogs. BUT, realize that her puppies and their puppies will carry her gene and the same health problem can come up in future generations.
If breeders are not willing to acknowledge the problems in their lines (and they all have them), then what is the unsuspecting honest breeder to do? If you don’t get the help from the stud dog owners and people don’t want to tell you the problems that they got with their litters, we continue to breed blindly and end up having a cesspool of genetically unhealthy dogs that not only affect this generation, but generations down the line. These genetically inferior dogs are not like breeding for better pigment that you can correct in one or two generations. Their ugly little heads with pop up time and again, if we are unknowledgeable about the lines that we are breeding to.
Will we correct the health problems in our breed? Well in my opinion……not anytime soon! As long as money is involved with the breeding of dogs, you will find that many (not a few) will continue breeding with their heads in the sand because of the almighty buck! If word gets out that their stud dog produces health problems than no one will want to breed to their dog and lost stud services equal lost money. If word gets out that a bitch produces health problems, then no one will want to buy her puppies. No puppy sales equal no money!
So right about now, if you’ve read this far, there are those of you who are saying, “We’re supposed to be breeding to better the breed because we love the German Shepherd Dog.” Yup, and you’d be right again. That’s because you are one of the more conscientious breeders who truly does love the breed. I’m not going to say that there are not a lot of people like you out there because I just don’t know. What I do know is that anytime that money is involved, it can bring out the worse in some people. Some people are looking for prestige and acknowledgement from their fellow breeders. They would have you believe that their lines are free from all faults except maybe a long coat or two every once in a while. So then, where is all the health problems’ coming from if no one admits to their lines producing them?
When you call up a stud dog owner, do you ask them about the health problems or faults that their dog is producing? Are they admitting to any? How about in their blood lines? What problems are behind them? Are they willing to talk to you about them? Be weary if all you hear is about that cute little long coated puppy or the lighter pigmented puppy as the only thing undesirable that they have produced! These are things that can be easily corrected. Health problems are not. On the other side of the equation, how many stud dog owners ask the bitch owner, what faults has she produced or discussed your bitch’s bloodlines with you? I have personally NEVER had a stud dog owner ask me about the genetic problems in my bitch’s line!
Strictly looking at the German Shepherd Dog you see a “hardy” healthy looking dog. But is he really? I mean he’s big and hunky looking. He’s a brave looking dog. But what blood flows through his veins? What genes will he carry to future generations? Eventually the dirt will come out in the wash. People do talk and some don’t care if they lose a friendship or not. They don’t care if you lose stud services or if you can’t sell your puppies. These are the dedicated breeders who are willing to step up to the plate and say, “Look, these bloodlines didn’t blend well together because I got this problem or that problem.” They know why they’re in the breed……improvement, improvement, improvement! Their egos are not that fragile that they are concerned whether you breed to their dogs or buy their puppies. They love what they do and most importantly they love and cherish this breed and want it to be around for many generations to come. These are the TRUE breeders of the German Shepherd Dog! Every line produces it's share of problems. There is no sin in that. The sin is denying that they do!
My rating: breeders concerned with health problems: (4), breeders concerned with making a buck no matter what: (1)