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The Minor and Greater Sins of Dog Breeders

    Dog breeding is a lesson in patience and humbleness, whereas people greedy for their dogs' success, and the consequent fame and glory, tend to wish they win every time and at any cost. Thence all the foul play in dog breeding, at the expense of one's own dogs - and the competition.

    From my observation I have learnt that people most prone to engage in such foul play, and least resilient to failure, are the persons who, on the one hand, treat dog shows extremely emotionally - and on the other, those who treat dog breeding as their main, and sometimes the sole, source of income. There is one more group: the lucky people whose very first dog turned out to be winner material. Such individuals tend to think that they are born winners and that nobody else's dog has the right to win over theirs. After as little as two or three years in the dog show world they seem to have learnt all the secrets of genetics, dogs shows and dog preparation for the show.

    A breeder who usually has between a pair to a few dozens of animals is obviously more likely to experience all possible misfortunes and fall into more pits than the happy owner of a single pooch. Before making a decision to start a breeding kennel we should be prepared that some unlucky events beyond our powers may happen - or tragedies, which we may cause due to ignorance, stupidity, carelessness or routine. Someone who expects a dog kennel to be all about success, money and glitter will soon be very bitterly disappointed.

Here come a few dangers:

Failed imports

    Purchase of a new dog abroad, hopefully awaited and worth a fortune, is connected with our natural expectation of a miracle, which will take all the shows by storm. Unfortunately, reality hardly ever matches our dreamy expectations.

Examining photos and show history does not guarantee that the puppy will be equally outstanding as its parents. Furthermore, let's be frank: an experienced breeder we usually only heard about, will not sell us a really valuable animal. The truth is, the best puppies either stay with the breeders, or go to familiar, trusty people.

At worst, if the specimen you purchased has a history of inheritable diseases or is actually suffering from one, you as the new owner may, in that case, feel tempted to hide such facts from others and thereby introduce the defective genes into the breeding stock.

Faulty and missing teeth

    There are breeds which frequently develop additional teeth or miss teeth. There are others, where such anomalies appear sporadically. The problem is not in teeth scarcity or malocclusion, but in what lengths breeders go in order to hide these faults.

The simplest method they use is taking the dogs to vets who give them implants and braces to correct malocclusion.

Bent tails

    In many breeds a bent, connate or vestigial tail is a defect that disqualifies the dog for shows, in others this is an acceptable, or even, desirable feature. If the defect is found it may point out to unwanted genetic problems - or even inbreeding.

Dogs undergo surgery removing the visible defects, have their tails put into fixed dressing or amputated broken tail tips. It is disgusting that their owners actually can produce veterinarian's certificates stating that the tip is missing due to an injury or accident.

Defective coloring

    A dog's coloring may be slightly different from the breed standard, which may imply that our pedigree animal does not have a fully correct appearance. It may also be the case, that the puppy was examined in a very early age, before it acquired full pigmentation.

In case of minor deviations, exhibitors may want to hide certain minor defects of this kind before a show.
Dyeing Yorkies', Puddles', Fox Terriers', or Airedale Terriers' hair does not happen frequently but sometimes it is discovered by judges, although many breeders have reached such perfection in this matter that only specialist tests could eliminate the chemicals from in the dogs' hair.

Suspiciously big litters

    Substituting puppies of one mother for ones of another is another common sin of the breeders whose sole purpose is to make money. According to the regulations of the Polish dog breeders association Związek Kynologiczny w Polsce (ZKwP) a bitch may mate only once a year, and even if the association agrees that she mate once more, she cannot breed in the following one. In connection with these limits some people purposely mate several bitches at the same time and, with no remorse, register additional puppies as the offspring of only one.

Dog substitution during dog shows

    If one outstanding dog is well-known, has his own special characteristics and his photos are easy to be found online, even a particularly dishonest owner would never think about presenting another dog at a show in his stead. It is not the case with many animals, theoretically purebred, of average appearance. A dishonest owner may be tempted to substitute a less valuable specimen for another. Such treacheries usually go unnoticed, since a judge is not always able to remember all the dogs, or is too limited by the time allowed for checking the dogs' tattoos, not to mention chips. And even if the trick is discovered, it can be easily explained as a mistake, due to little time, by the owner who is showing several dogs in one day.

Exactly the same mechanisms appear during trials or shows where one, well-trained animal makes up for several others' performance.

Substituting healthy dogs at veterinary checkups

    The same problem occurs during tests such as the popular X-ray displasia test. Only twice during my breeder's career I had the vet check my dogs' tattoos. The chips were never checked. Because of this careless approach, single healthy dogs undergo vet checkups for the whole kennel, of dubious health condition.

Littermate - but which one?

    In the case of a kennel having many male dogs, where one of them is unwell (especially one with an attractive set of "papers"), a dishonest breeder may consciously register a litter as his, even though the real father of the pups is another dog.

Prosthetic testicles

    This may seem absurd, but even such cases occur! Sometimes a silicone testicle implant is so aptly done, that only an extremely scrupulous and inquisitive judge will be able to notice it is not connected with the spermatic cord. The dogs with cryptorchidism whose owners risk such immoral actions are usually of exceptional appearance. Many unsuspecting breeders mate their bitches with those dogs.

Euthanising elderly dogs

    In kennels targeted mainly on financial profit, elderly dogs are seen as the ones who occupy the place where younger ones could be. Therefore, when they can no longer breed, they are simply put down.

Breeding dogs for fighting

    This dirty business is especially favored by dog traders and backyard breeders, but it also takes place in some pedigree kennels. If you take into account black market prices on purebred dogs trained for fighting you will see why.

Vocal cords removal

    Breeders with dozens of dogs who are kept in the proximity of human dwellings are exposed to their neighbors' criticism due to constant noise. To eliminate the problem some decide to have all their dogs, or just the most notorious barkers, undergo this type of surgery. Afterwards, instead of deep and loud bark, or mad yapping, the dogs are only able to make quiet, wheezing sounds.

Friends and friends of a friend at dog shows

    I see it as perfectly natural that exhibitors and judges (and often both) interested in the same dogs and presenting them at dog shows for many years become good friends. However, the fact that you are somebody's friend does not release you from the duty to remain fair and unbiased. Apparently, some cases of biased, unreliable, malicious or incompetent judging make all the community look bad, including the great, experienced and honest arbiters. Also the Polish association ZKwP suffers from these practices, since it is funded from the money earned at dog shows and from member fees. I am aware that I may become unpopular with some judges, but my belief is that I can no longer remain silent despite their sometimes unpardonable behavior at show rings, their lack of tact and manners, or practices such as accepting the role of a judge for the same breeds on many shows in the same year - due to which many exhibitors cannot enter the obligatory sets of contests and win titles their dogs deserve. Acting like they own the ring, quarreling with dog owners or dressing inappropriately are the common practices as well. I believe that many dog owners stopped presenting their dogs at shows just because they have been mistreated.

Additionally, a large number of pedigree dog owners, and therefore potential members, never signed up having been warned by their friends. I am a dog judge myself and I present my dogs at shows. The more unpleasant it gets for me, when I see this kind of activity and see how critical, unjust, and hurtful is this common opinion to most of my colleagues.

In order not to scare you anymore, I'd like to sum up that the unlawful practices I have mentioned above do not mean that all Polish kennels are bad places. Still, it is my opinion, that I better share my knowledge on those sad matters with you. Perhaps, after reading this text some dishonest breeders will have second thoughts on what they have been doing, and some others will realize that they are not anonymous, and will not go unpunished forever.

Jadwiga Konkiel