Part 1- Some Thoughts on Breeding
We are in a strange time right now and don’t have a lot of reliable information in order to make even basic decisions. As a result, many dog breeders are changing, delaying, or even cancelling breeding plans. This makes sense of a lot of levels, as the availability of vet care is limited in some areas and transporting dogs for breeding or puppies to new owners is problematic at best. Ironically, many breeding plans are being changed at a time when demand for puppies is very high. People are trapped at home and many are finding the time for things they have put off while looking for comfort and a way to keep busy. Adding a new pet to the household can seem like a good idea, and in some cases it might be. I feel like there can be a lot of disconnect between breeders and potential puppy owners under the best of circumstances and that this is definitely not the best of circumstances.
First, a quick tutorial on the realities of dog breeding. Despite what you may have learned from animal rights propaganda, female dogs are only fertile for a few days each year and we don’t get to pick which days those are. I’m sure there are dogs out there who come into season every 6 months, but in the case of my dogs it’s more like every 8 to 10 months. This means that breeding plans can’t be delayed for a few weeks or months to see if the country re-opens. Delaying means waiting close to a year for another opportunity. Since most of us don’t breed bitches older than 6 or 7, not everyone has a year to wait. Breeding a litter also means arranging home, work, and travel schedules for a period of 4-5 months, which can be easier at some times of the year than others and may be especially hard for anyone who is also losing several months worth of income at the present time. So realistically, fewer litters are going to be bred because of the pandemic than would have otherwise be produced.
I know some of you are thinking that this is a good thing- there’s that animal rights propaganda sneaking into your thinking again. What you may not know is that the majority of AKC recognized breeds, including our beloved PBGVs, fall into the category of “low entry” breeds, meaning that a very small number (if any) can be expected to be found at most dog shows. I am personally not a fan of this term, as I feel like it implies that the show ring is the only measure of a breed, so for these purposes I am going to use the term endangered breed. In the case of PBGVs, in 2017 only 18 litters were registered in the US, totaling 56 puppies. Our breed has never been popular, but this is a significant drop. Low population numbers mean a smaller gene pool and the potential to lose important breed characteristics while multiplying negative traits in the population. If numbers are dropping to dangerous levels in a “normal” year, endangered breeds could easily reach a crisis point if breeders are not able to proceed with planned litters.
In my case, I didn’t have a litter planned for 2020, as I had some significant competition goals for my dogs this year. Because of cancelled events, it’s not likely that all of those goals are going to be met. The temptation in that case would be to further delay breeding plans, but I worry about the negative impact on the long term health of the breed if everyone does this. I completely understand why breeders are not breeding right now, but hope that producing litters will be a priority as society returns to normal. In some cases, this might mean breeding dogs who are not breed champions, since the opportunity to show our dogs is going to be very limited or impossible in the coming months. I’ve always felt that a dog’s record in the show ring was not the best measure of quality, but now more than ever might be the time for breeders to trust their instincts and knowledge to make the best choices available for our breed.
Stay tuned next week for some thoughts on interactions with potential puppy buyers.