Let me say from the outset that I am but a student of the breed and one who is trying to master a challenging calling. I do not claim to be an authority. I have had access to some of the finest minds in dogs and not all of their teaching fell on deaf ears. The premise that "In the Land of the Blind the one eyed man is King" has special validity in the dog fancy. Twelve years of breeding Norfolk has taught me something of value in a breed, which is producing experts in greater numbers than puppies.
The ultimate objective must be the pursuit of excellence. With this in mind our chances of success, however we may measure it, are greatly enhanced.
Now we come to the hard questions. Some will be offended. So be it. If, perchance, they cause you to stop and think about your breeding program, even for a moment, my minimal objective has been achieved.
First: hands up those who have read the Breed Standard this year? This decade, then? Ever? I thought so. Now the questions become even more difficult.
How many know that it is taboo to double up on a fault? A poor front bred to a poor front will hardly produce a good front. Not that difficult to understand, right? So why is it constantly happening?
When you send a bitch to stud, what research do you do? Do you attempt to examine the male yourself? How is his mouth? Bad mouths do not have to exist in Norfolk. If we cannot eliminate them, we can certainly reduce them.
Are you familiar with the mechanics of shoulder lay back? Can you put your hands on a dog and satisfy yourself that all is well or do you rely on the word of others who probably do not know either? Do you understand movement in your breed?
Are you familiar with the anatomy of the dog? Boring stuff, but essential.
Have you really mastered what is required for the correct Norfolk head? No shame here either. It takes time and means looking closely at a lot of Norfolk.
When making breeding decisions, do you seek the advice of your handler? Another breeder? Someone who has used the male previously? The AKC Gazette Results Book? Dog News? Your horoscope? All of the above?
Are you familiar with the concepts of COI (Co-Efficient of Inbreeding)?
No shame here. It is not easy, but it must be done. Do you calculate the
COI for a complete ten generation pedigree or do you simply glance at a
three generation pedigree which may not accurately reflect the true antecedents
of the stud.
Have you read The Norfolk Terrier by Joan Read? How fortunate we are as Norfolk breeders to have this priceless collection of knowledge and wisdom. If only I had had this valuable textbook when I started in dogs.
Do you go to dog shows and look at dogs? I do not mean the annual pilgrimage to be seen ringside at Montgomery wearing your finest and fawning over whoever happens to own the top winning dog of the moment. (Fawning over a breeder who just might provide you with a quality bitch is quite acceptable, if usually fruitless.) Do you actually look at the dogs? Do you ever ask to go over a dog? Most handlers will say 'no' but some will oblige if your timing is right. Owners are more accommodating. One cautionary word. This should be used as a learning process and not an opportunity to assassinate the quality of the dog.
Do you refrain from repeating rumors and innuendo concerning other Norfolk? No need to answer this one. We are all guilty sometimes. Mea Culpa. No matter how much you praise a dog it is the negative comment that is remembered, repeated, and eventually conveyed to the breeder/owner. The better the quality of a dog the better it is for the breed. If the other breeder produces better dogs it will in turn encourage you to produce better dogs.
Do you exhibit or work your dogs at any level? Do you put anything back into the breed? Do you really give a hoot? Do you take the puppy money and run? Are you breeding to produce cute, saleable puppies or are you trying to improve your lines? Are you a true breeder, or merely a dilettante?
One final question, if your National Kennel Club or some level of government in your community introduced the licensing of breeders would you qualify? Only you can answer this truly, but the time may come when others may be making that determination.
If you have answered 'No' to any of the above questions, there is room for improvement in both your breeding program and possibly your lifestyle.
The purpose of this article is to drive home this point: we may have a breed that is in better shape than most and one which has escaped many of the problems of health and temperament afflicting our canine cousins. We are deluding ourselves if we think that all is well. Our worst enemy is our own ignorance. For this we have no excuse.
ANTIC, June, 1999
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