WITH SARA KARL, SANDY NOVOCIN, ABBY PATRIZIO, NANCY STEWART & DEBORAH WILKINS
In Bernese Mountain Dogs, we have lots of “good show dogs”. However many of our winning dogs at the all breed shows lack true Bernese type. This is a breed that should not be allowed to become a generic show dog at the expense of proper dog as described in the standard. DW: The breed has improved dramatically over the past thirty years. The dogs in the show ring today are much more consistent and embody the breed standard. Class dogs may appear to be “all over the map” but this can be attributed to the very slow maturation of the dogs. The best dogs are those that are strong, sturdy and balanced or good breed type and temperament. 2. The biggest concern you have about your breed, be it medical, structural, temperament-wise, or what? SK: I think we struggle with the consistency of our general outline. There is too much variation on how this breed looks on first impression. SN: Medical: Since I have also raised two other breeds for over 35 years , I know for a fact that Berners have a lot of health issues that I have not had to deal with in my other breeds. Orthopedics are always an area to work hard to get consistent soundness. We can x-ray elbows at a year and get normal and then re-x-ray at two years and find one elbow grade one or even both. We have been told to go ahead and use those grade one elbow dogs in a breeding program if they do not exhibit problems and don’t always seem to produce it since our gene pool is small and 1 / 3 of our gene pool does not have clear elbows. DM has been a big problem in our breed, although there are breeders who still do not feel it is a problem they need to deal with as they continue to think it is only an old age problem or feel the tests are not reliable. I bought a dog in the early 1990s who had to be put down at age six due to his inability to stand alone anymore. I do not call age six an old age problem. It is true that some do not show signs of DM until older and since many Berners do die between eight and ten years, they may not see it. But why take a chance? I have followed the tests for DM for years and have found it to identify dogs that breeders need to be careful when breeding. If one has a good idea as to the status of the genetic make up of their dog (whether it is a carrier, at risk or normal) then the breeders can hopefully discon- tinue to produce DM. The only problem here is that people who do have carriers or at risk and continue to use the normals in breeding are continuing to produce more carriers. Breeders need to continue to breed some normals to normals so that we still have dogs with nor- mal genetic make up to use in these breedings of carriers and at risk dogs.
Structure: Our fronts need a lot of work. Some are quite wide and the dog continues to throw out their front legs rather than move toward the center. Some pasterns are just too loose and the dogs are pounding down and not reaching forward. Our tail carriages also need a conscious effort on breed- ers’ part to improve. A carriage straight out from the topline gives a lovely side movement. Sometimes the tail can be carried a touch higher if the dog is excited but should never have a curl or swing up and over. Some breeders do not feel that this is a fault, so they do not strive to improve this area. Our dogs need to be balanced—not too long and not too short in body and not too tall or too short on leg. Front and rear angles in both front and rear should match with the dog. Every once in a while I have seen a dog that is really overdone in the rear. I certainly hope this is not a new fad that we see in our breed. Temperament: I have only seen a couple Berners that have been aggressive in the ring, but I have seen some that have been a little soft in the ring. Part of this is socializing the dogs but also part of this is judges not really knowing how to examine a Berner. I have seen judges at our National Specialty have their tie dangling in the face of the dog as they go to examine them rather than wearing a tie clip so that the dogs were not hit in the face. I have seen judges lean over the dogs head from behind the dog’s neck to try to see if the bite is good on both sides, rather than being in front of the dog and looking from side to side. Sometimes, I think the Berner gets a bad reputation due to the technique used in judging them. AP: My biggest concern is health with overall quality right after that. NS: The generic show dog, as mentioned above, and tem- perament. The sweet disposition and steadiness of the breed is paramount and should be the top priority in any breeding program. DW: Longevity. The average lifespan of a Bernese is seven to eight years. Cancer is the primary cause of early mor- tality. Bernese fanciers are very participatory in health research, giving generously in hopes of improving the lifespan of this breed. The Berner Garde Foundation ( www.bernergarde.org) is the hallmark of this devotion to this wonderful breed. 3. The biggest problem facing you as a breeder? SK: Age—I’m getting too old to show my own dogs and whelping a litter is a lot of work! AP: My biggest problem is finding a good quality stud dog with good health and temperament. NS: Finding a stud dog! We have so much information today on health and pedigrees available, especially through
248 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , A UGUST 2017
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