The following article by Jonathan Jeffrey Kimes
Kansas City, Missouri) is reprinted with his permission. The article
first appeared in the 1996 Cardigan Welsh Corgi handbook.
Seven Foundations of a Successful Dog Breeder
Listed in this article are some axioms that I have
created as a
learning tool. These axioms are reflections of the temptations we face
on a daily basis as dog breeders. If one were to make a similar list
for any human endeavor, I doubt it would differ much from what I have
listed. I think this list is one that we should all review from time to
time, for it requires maturity and self-confidence to master -
we all should continue to hone throughout our lives. The ultimate
payoff is the ability to succeed in and to enjoy our dog breeding
I - ENJOY YOUR DOGS
The primary reason anyone becomes involved with
dog breeding and
showing is a fundamental love of dogs. We treasure the companionship,
the never failing loyalty, the delight they exude. We love to have them
on our beds.
Their eagerness to face the new day, even when we wake them up at
dreadful hours, provides us a wonderment that brings back the
exuberance of childhood. They forgive us when we lose our temper, when
we are impatient, when we are far less than they are. They bring out
the best of ourselves, they nurture the "big" us.
Unfortunately, dog breeding and exhibiting can
tempt our "little"
selves. It can feed a fragile ego until it becomes a raging ego. Often,
this need to feel we are better than our fellow man is expressed in our
possessions. We need to have the biggest winner, the producer of the
most champions, the most champion puppies. We buy, we co-own, we
collect. Soon we have no time for dog pleasures, no time to play or rub
a grateful belly, no time to stroke a patient brow. Soon we have no
room for more dogs; we stack them and crate them and store them as
though they were baubles that have no meaning but to make us feel
important. We lose our ability to love. Dog showing and breeding is a
great vocation. It is creative and challenging and very rewarding. But
we must never expect our hobby to take the place of a psychologist's
work. We must never expect an unhealthy mental state to be cured by
Far too many people take to showing and breeding for the wrong reasons.
Their houses go to ruin, their bank accounts evaporate, their credit
hits the skids, their spouses and children are left to survive on their
own as the breeder pursues their own manifestation of what they
perceive to prove their self-worth.
Being a dog breeder is a huge commitment. It means we should assign
ourselves the role of lifetime student. It means we will be humbled in
countless ways and in countless circumstances. It means our lessons
will be of the hard knock variety if we are to truly learn them. It
means frustration, long hours, late nights and early mornings. It means
never getting to sleep-in again. It means finding friendships - some of
which will last for a lifetime and some of which will founder, being
built on social advantage. It means being quoted and misquoted and
having words put in your mouth. It means being given ample opportunity
to be as "small" as a human being can be. But, hopefully, it can
provide an opportunity to learn to be "big," to be generous,
inquisitive, and adventurous. We should never ask ourselves if we are
envied or important or successful. Those questions are meaningless. At
the end of the day, we should ask ourselves, "Am I proud of the person
What we must always be are dog lovers. We must be their advocates. We
must ensure the life of every dog we breed and every dog we own is
fulfilled and an illustration of humanity at its finest hour. Our
must not be stroked by having our pictures in a magazine or seeing our
name on some ranking system. Our self-worth must come from knowing we
provide our dogs a life of love, of pleasure, and of happiness.
II - BREED FOR IMPROVEMENT NOT WINNERS
It is easy to become lost in the purpose of
breeding quality dogs. For
some, the attraction of the bright lights, the glamour and the glitz
cause them to stray from the path. Developing a bloodline that is well
considered and that is a positive influence for the breed takes
considerable discipline. Too often, the seemingly slow and carefully
orchestrated effort to improve a breed is crossed up with the immediate
desire to breed that one big winner and become famous.
The breeder's pledge must be to harbor and
safeguard the breed. No
breed is in perfect shape when the breeder happens upon it and none
shall be perfect when they leave. But to leave a breed in better shape
than it was when you came upon it is the greatest compliment. To
improve type, movement, temperament and health must be the bottom line
for every committed breeder.
Such accomplishment takes a long-range plan that
thought through. It requires dedication and purpose. All too often, we
are sidetracked by our desire to breed to the latest big winner, and
then to the next and the next. Before long the pedigree is a long list
of "who's who" that have no relationship to each other, other than they
found success in the ring. What is key to learn (and to believe) is
success in the ring is not an automatic indication of the dog's true
quality. We all wish one indicated the other but that is too easy. It
would require the removal of human fallacy to be accomplished!
Dogs do not excel for all the same reasons.
Consequently, you can't
simply breed one big winner to another and produce more big winners.
Every feature and their nature of inheritance must be studied and
understood before you can "manage" the inheritance variables. Once you
gain this skill, you are on the road to producing a great line of
III - TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE
The breeding of fine purebred dogs should be
considered the pursuit
of perfection - it is not the maintenance of it. All dogs have faults,
all dogs are less than ideal in some ways and areas. If not, the
"ideal" has not been well enough conceived.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of being defensive about one's
own dogs. This usually happens because what we assume to be correct is
challenged by another as being less so. This disharmony causes
confusion in our mind and ultimately
unhappiness. To right ourselves, we often become defensive and try to
rid ourselves of that which is causing us the discomfort - namely the
opinion that does not complement our own.
We must realize that "truth" is the ultimate
standard by which our
decisions should be made. In most cases, a roached back is a roached
back, whether we choose to recognize it as such or not. Consequently,
the best way for us to not be put into a position of being unhappily
surprised is to pursue knowledge relentlessly to ensure our opinion is
as accurate and close to the "truth" as possible.
This knowledge is gained in many ways, one of
which is learning from
fellow breeders. We must fight the urge to make up our minds about
something and refuse to consider another viewpoint. Indeed, we do not
make decisions based on facts when we are first learning; we are
depending upon what we perceive to be the expertise of others to
provide that for us. If that so-called expertise is, in fact, faulty
our whole knowledge base is called into question. And that causes us
The best place to sit is in the seat of the
Whenever provided with an opinion that is different than the one you
currently hold always seek to understand the viewpoint of the other.
Why does the person perceive something differently than you?
Understanding another's point of view can be the road to greater
knowledge. If you shut that door and do not entertain the prospect of
learning something different than what you think is truth you will
never actually recognize the truth and you will not succeed in your
Quite honestly, you should be more critical of
your dogs than anyone
else could possibly be. That is not to say you should attribute faults
to your dogs they do not possess, but your evaluation must be as
detailed as possible and you must strive to see clearly their true
faults and virtues. From this comes the map to success.
IV - DEAL WITH OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DEAL
Sounds a bit like the golden rule that we learn in
Yet it is amazing how many people forget this very important axiom. In
dealing with others, regardless of the matter, think always of the
other person's position. I have heard repeatedly people state how they
were burned in a co-ownership agreement. All too often the agreement is
geared toward benefitting one party (often the seller) over another.
Written agreements somehow are tainted as being only needed in a
contentious situation. This is the first misconception. Not having a
written agreement should be the very rare exception, not the reverse.
Too often should a worthwhile puppy be produced from one of these
undefined arrangements, the fight is on for possession. Before
contemplating selling a dog on a co-ownership or leasing it or offering
stud service for a puppy back you should think through what exactly
you expect and desire from such an arrangement. Too often these
business dealings occur in the spur of the moment during a telephone
conversation, and the deal is struck before either party has really had
an opportunity to think it through. For some reason rather than
rethinking the situation, we tend to try to follow through on such an
ill conceived arrangement only to end up bitter enemies in the end. If
people would stop and think about the likely end result they would
realize the best possible thing to protect the friendship is to have a
It is very rare a litter is going to have more
than one star if any
at all. Consequently, it is important to understand who is going to
own that super puppy, should it appear. People are too willing to tear
apart relationships should one person seem to benefit a bit more than
another. This is too sad and is reflective of the self-benefit
motivation that all too many find as the driving force for their
actions. When pressed, it is far better to give than to receive. It is
far better to let the other seemingly benefit than to destroy
a relationship and acquire the reputation of being disreputable and
self centered, if for no other reason than it makes you grow as a human
being, which is probably a fair trade off in the long run.
V - BY GIVING YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE
Another pitfall breeders often experience is the
celebrate other's successes. While certainly we feel the route we are
taking is the best way to approach that utopian plateau of breed
perfection, there are actually many routes to that same goal. It takes
nothing at all away from our own accomplishments to recognize the
accomplished efforts of other breeders.
This inability and unwillingness to appreciate
usually comes from having made a decision not to breed to certain
bloodlines or deal with certain persons. When such a kennel then
produces a success, it is difficult for us to acknowledge such an
achievement for we tend to find that inconsistent with our opinion of
that particular person or family of dogs. It takes quite an honest and
secure person to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of others.
While it is probably good advice to hold our
criticisms closer to
our chest, recognizing another's achievement only brings good things.
By being someone who can see the virtues in breeding lines other than
your own, you gain a reputation of fairness and objectivity that is a
very rare pearl in dogdom. You may find, over time, that your point of
and your philosophies are taken with much greater weight when others do
not perceive them to have originated in a mind consumed with
self-aggrandizement. Thus, by doing so you lose nothing and yet you
VI - MAKE USE OF OTHERS' ACHIEVEMENTS
One of the worst situations a breeder can find
her/ himself in is to
partition themselves off from another kennel or bloodline. It is highly
unlikely that all improvements toward the perfection of a breed are
going to come from one single kennel or bloodline. Like flowers in the
field, they will spring up in various places. The clever breeder is the
one who knows how to pick from all the field those who will make the
ultimate, sublime bouquet. And to do this, you must be able to use the
strengths of other kennels and bloodlines. Breeders will tend to have
certain biases; and quite honestly, there are certain strengths and
weaknesses in most bloodlines. While you may feel you have achieved the
highest ground in certain areas, there will doubtless be other areas in
which your dogs and bloodlines are less strong than others. Not to
recognize this fact is to ensure you will plateau quite early in your
breeding career. And by that I mean you will stabilize and go no
further. You must always keep a watchful eye for that very special
bloom that will enhance your bouquet.
It is this sophisticated combining of families
without losing the
good points of your own bloodline that strengthen a kennel and move it
forward in breed importance. It takes careful consideration,
orchestration and pruning to come to fruition.
VII - YOU ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR MORALS
My last axiom addresses the whole issue of
morality. It has many
facets and many ways of expressing itself. Spreading rumors, the
accuracy of which might be doubtful, is one very good example. Selling
dogs on co-ownerships as a means to control other breeders is
certainly another. Accusing other lines of genetic problems while being
less than entirely honest about your own is yet another.
In all, it goes to the very core of who we are. Do we know right from
wrong? Do we practice right in all circumstances? Dog breeding is not
about that one great win or that one great winner. It is about breed
improvement over time, it is about protecting a breed. Too many people
are in search of some kind of sign of their self-worth and they think
they will obtain some special level of respect and honor if they have a
big winner. Dog breeding is a lifetime's work. It is a continuum of
which, no matter how quickly you want to "put yourself on the map,"
will ultimately be a reflection of your true character. To wit, you
can't fool all of the people all of the time.
There is no honor in "adjusting" reality to give
you the appearance
of achieving something you have not. Politicking for wins will not make
your dogs any better than they are. Faking your dogs will not make them
any better than they are. You may think you can fool the world, but you
will ultimately pay the price. No one wants to be a pretender. And yet,
some of the worst pretenders are people who seem to be infatuated with
spreading rumors about other people and dogs. These people live in
glass houses and invariably they know it. The breeding of dogs is not
about how you impress the neighbors, your peers or anyone else. It is
the expression of your love of dogs and your personal pursuit
in creating an art. You cannot lie about the art you create; you cannot
lie to yourself.
While this list, I am quite sure, sounds like a
sermon from the
mount, it encompasses the many pitfalls that we dog breeders face every
day. Some of us are equipped to navigate these disturbances better than
others, but all of us CAN navigate them. We are all tested from time to
time, even the most educated, psychologically balanced, intelligent and
honest amongst us. There are times when it feels much better to zing
someone who has been hurtful, to control those whom we feel do not have
the proper motivation, to become the ones who attract the adulation.
Only through careful thought and well-considered action can we hope to
become better people and therefore better dog breeders.