WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO BREED HER?
THE TRANSITION FROM OWNER HANDLER TO BREEDER
BY DAN SAYERS
“W hen are you going to breed her?” This innocuous question was asked of me on the day I finished my first owner-handled show dog. I’d just had the official win photo taken when a second-gen- eration breeder innocently inquired about my future plans for my (now champion) Irish Water Spaniel. The lady’s ques- tion caught me off-guard. I hadn’t made plans for my young bitch beyond earning her conformation championship, so the thought of breeding her (much less raising a litter) hadn’t even crossed my mind. Now, with the idea before me, I had a deci- sion to make; one that required a plan. Some owner handlers begin like me, with little or no thought about becoming a breeder. They move through the sport from show to show, collecting ribbons and titles as they go. Some join the ranks of performance competitors, embrac- ing activities that are really, really FUN—and don’t require pants with pockets or pantyhose! Others, like me, enjoy the conformation ring and have a fundamental affinity for the “original” sport. For us, there are few things better than watching a knowledgeable judge sort through a class consist- ing of quality animals. (Okay, maybe winning such a class is better… and it’s far better still if that class is Bred-By!) And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Assessing “breeding stock” is the reason dog shows came into being and it’s why they’re still here. And without purebred dog breeders, there wouldn’t be any dog shows at all—other than those requiring weave poles, bales of hay or pools filled with 30,000 gallons of water.
Until relatively recently, conformation shows and obedience trials were the only places where the dog-lov- ing public could go to be introduced to the wide world of purebred dogs. In the “good ole days,” clubs placed ads for their upcoming shows in local papers and, as if by magic, the public came in droves. Ringside and on the bench, conversations took place between potential puppy buyers and purebred dog breeders. Phone num- bers were exchanged and followed up with actual phone calls. (Remember phone calls?) Hand-written letters were also exchanged and photos shared. (Photo shar- ing simply required a postage stamp and a trip to the post office.) Eventually, litters of puppies were produced and, ultimately, a few of their puppy people—after waiting several years to receive word of the new arriv- als—would find themselves in the show ring with their long-awaited pup, encouraged in their new activity by their dog’s breeder. These novice owner handlers entered a rarified world where they met other exhibitors who’d gladly spend the entire day just “talking dogs” and mak- ing plans to attend upcoming shows. Friendships were also made with more experienced owner handlers, some of whom were breeders who grew up in the sport. These veteran exhibitors could easily recognize a dog-loving rookie with the potential for remaining committed. This is how things happened with me when I didn’t even know that I wanted to breed dogs or if I even had what it took to care for a pregnant bitch and her litter of puppies.
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