By Andrea Holsinger
Most Flat-Coat owners love their dogs. As a matter of fact, it has been the relationship between dog and owner that is the heart of the Flat-Coat breed. However, loving your dog is not a reason to breed your dog. Instead, you must love the breed enough to become the most knowledgeable and educated Flat-Coat enthusiast that you can.
To love the breed is to look long and hard at your Flat-Coat and ask: Does my dog have anything to offer the breed as a producer?” To love the breed is to wait until you know this breed like the back of your hand before breeding a litter. To love the breed is to train and show judiciously so that you understand talent, type and temperament.
Your first couple of Flat-Coats may or may not be of breeding quality. Also, more should go into the decision to breed than the quality of the dog. You need to be ready to breed and that takes time and effort.
Using your first few Flat-Coats as learning tools is an excellent way to educate yourself. Set some goals in the breed ring, obedience, the field and tracking. Join a fly ball team and get involved with pet facilitated therapy. If you cannot find the time to educate yourself, then you should not breed Flat-Coats. Top breeders spend most of their free time thinking, breathing and working Flat-Coats. That commitment to our breed has protected it from harm. Anyone can put two dogs together and allow them to breed. The term “breeder” has been applied to such notable and influential people as Bonnie and Glenn Conner. The term breeder has also been applied to those who run puppy mills. Anyone can breed dogs; only a few put the time and effort into their programs to do it right. It is difficult to describe the level of knowledge that a person should achieve before breeding.
The following is a checklist of ideas, not to be considered complete. Let us assume that your potential breeding stock is of acceptable quality, proven by achieving some titles and has something outstanding to offer the breed. Can you, the potential breeder, respond positively to the following:
A) You are at a dog show. A group of Flat-Coat enthusiasts are outside the ring. They begin to discuss breed type, using several dogs in the ring as examples of different breed types. If all of the Flat-Coats in the ring look alike, you are not ready to consider breeding.
B) You are at an obedience trial. Some people begin to discuss front end assemblies and their relationship to a dog’s ability to jump. Different theories are presented. If you do not understand at all or understand the discussion but cannot see it with your own eye, or do not understand many of the terms used, you are not ready to breed.
C) If you do not have a mental picture inside your head of the perfect Flat-Coat with every detail included, you are not ready to breed.
D) Can you answer, in detail, a question about why you want to breed your bitch? In other words, what does she have to offer the breed? Also, do you know her faults, and how to choose a dog to offset her faults and compliment her? If you cannot answer these, you are not ready to breed.
E) Do enough Flat-Coat people know and respect your accomplishments in the breed to consider purchasing a puppy from you? Are you ready to educate new puppy owners and to keep strings on your stock? Are you ready to enforce the terms of your agreement if someone breaks them? Will you put written spay and neuter agreements on all non-breeding stock? If not, do not breed. An excellent litter of Flat-Coats in the wrong hands can damage the breed. Be responsible for your stock.
F) Do you understand the following terms and have you worked your dog enough to know where she fits into each of these?
IN THE FIELD: Nose, Style, Marking Ability, Memory, Courage, Physical Ability, Birdiness, Trainability
IN OBEDIENCE: Style, Stability, Willingness, Intelligence, Trainability
BREED RING: Style, Conformation, Attitude, Stability, Type
THE HOME: Stability, Temperament, Social interaction w/ people, Social interaction w/other dogs, Sensitivity
G) Do you have long term goals established in your breeding program? Do you know what you want to accomplish and do you have a general idea of how you are going to do that? If you cannot think past your first litter and do not know if you want to breed past one litter, then why do it at all? Let someone else breed and buy a puppy from an experienced breeder.
Just having a breeding quality dog does not a breeder make. Your level of knowledge about the bred is just as important as the quality of the dog. If you expect to reap some monetary benefits from the production of puppies do not breed. Often, people try to express their love for and pride in their dog by defining those feelings in monetary terms. For instance, you exclaim to a friend, “My dog just became a champion, which makes her worth a lot of money. Her puppies will sell for a lot too.” Most people feel embarrassed about expressing their love for their dog and, instead, try to explain the situation in terms they think their friends will understand. Most people outside the dog world still believe that involvement with dogs is a business situation. Few think of dogs as a hobby. For most of us, that is exactly what it is. Don’t breed your dog so that you may brag to others about the value of her puppies. Your dog’s most important value should be in your heart.
The truth is that very few dogs out of any litter should be bred. The odds are against any one person getting a breeding quality animal every time they purchase one. The odds stack even more heavily against that person being someone who should be breeding dogs.
Breeding Flat-Coats indiscriminately is a dangerous and insidious practice. There are no exceptions to the rule. Anyone who breeds a litter when they have questionable stock or lack an extensive base of knowledge is endangering this breed. Please, if you love this breed as most of us do, then help protect it. The formula is a simple one: If you are not prepared, do not breed. If you do breed, control what you breed with co-ownerships and spay/neuter agreements.