For the Good of the Breed

by Nannette Newbury © 2000 AKC Breed Column
How many times have you heard this simple phrase uttered at dog shows, at breed club meetings, amongst respected breeders or out of your own mouth? It is an extremely powerful statement, but one I often think is perhaps misunderstood or misused.

For the good of the breed quite simply means putting personal opinion, personal goals and personal feelings aside and doing what is right for the Australian Shepherd, no matter what.I assure you it is much easier to say the words than to practice the principle.

Take for instance the breeder who sends their National Specialty winning dog to a foreign country (and thus eliminates it from their own breeding program) to assist others in starting their own quality breeding program; versus the breeder who capitalizes on the need of the foreign market and sends an inferior dog to the same country for an exhorbinant price. Who is acting the breed’s best interest?

What about the breeder many years ago who stood up and announced publicly that a bitch she owned had produced a serious defect in three litters with three different sires? She did this as a matter of principle and for educational value. At the time she was vilified and despised within the breed. She did what was right for the breed and paid a huge price for her courage. Those who made her life miserable were not acting in the best interest of the breed and have set the stage for breeders of today to be careful when discussing genetic defects in the breed and specifically their breeding program. Is this truly the result we are looking for? Is this truly in the best interest of the breed?

Perhaps the single most important question we as breeders can ask ourselves when faced with decisions within our breed is, “What is my motiviation in making this decision?” Be it about people or dogs, if your primary motivation is for the good of the breed rather than for the good of you, then perhaps you are on track.

As breeders we are faced with tough decisions regarding our own breeding program on a daily basis. Decisions regarding genetic defects, sires to chose, finding outstanding permanent homes for puppies, removing dogs from our breeding program, assisting with breed rescue, and determing which faults we can live and work with. It is a tough hobby that can include more heartache than many of us are prepared to deal with. It is also punctuated with some pretty outstanding success stories that keep most of us committed to the breed and the sport.

When you become an active particpant in your national breed club, you can then be faced with issues regarding the breed as a whole, that are no less difficult to answer. These might include selecting prospective club members to serve on the board, or as committee chairs; choosing club members to hold breed and judge’s education seminars; determining mentor breeders and selecting breeders to sit ringside at a National Specialty and counsel current and prospective judges.

In any national club decison-making on such issues as the ones above can either be a golden opportunity for growth and have a positive impact on breed or can rip a club apart. What determines the result is the basic motivation for the decisions that are made within the club by club members. If the decisions made are slected with the breed’s best interests in mind, then even tough decisions can be more palatable.
Perhaps no greater contribution for a breed’s parent club is in the craftsmanship of their breed standard. This is the foundation, the road map such as it is, for breeders and judges alike to make decisions regarding what animals to promote within the breed and what animals to remove from the breed.

Our national breed club has opened the door recently to work together on strengthening and improving the current breed standard. If you don’t think this is important, consider the case of the judge who recently did not disqualify a dog from the breed ring because it had one body “splash” not “splashes” as indicated in our breed standard!

When opportunities arise for us as breeders to serve the club and the breed in this manner, the responsibility is not to be taken lightly. Now, as never before, it is time for us to put aside personal preferences and beliefs and truly ask ourselves, “Is this in the best interest of the breed?” rather than “Is this in my best interest?”

This becomes a unique opportunity for those of us involved with and who care about the breed to do what is right for the breed. An improved standard that is clear and leaves little room for examples such as the one above can be nothing but of value to the Australian Shepherd.

As newer members of the fraternity of the American Kennel Club we have a wealth of experience from other breeds, other breed clubs and a much longer history that we can also draw on to assist us to draft a standard that not only serves the Australian Shepherd, but can become a standard for other breeds as well. To accomplish a goal of this nature we will have to work together for the good of the breed. It is the right thing to do.