Author - Alexandra Gav

November 2018


Come talk to me, my friend dog breeder. Pour yourself a cup of hot beverage and come sit on my couch, a beautiful Boxer at you feet, a warm tiny Dachshund in your lap. Let's talk.

Today is my special little anniversary. There are never flowers or balloons, gifts or parties on this day, but I always quietly celebrate it in my head.

Twenty seven years ago to the day I became a dog breeder. My first litter of puppies was born in the middle of the night on November 19th 1991. There were nine of them, but one didn't make it. My fault, my mistake. I will make many more mistakes in the coming years. Wrong pairings, unnecessary c-sections, poor choice of a puppy owner, we've all been there.

If anybody asked me that day why I was entering the world of dog breeding, I would've said, "to better the breed! Of course!" You fall in love with an amazing animal who gives you their all, who makes your life complete, who makes you a better person. As a natural progression of that love you become enamored with the whole breed and want nothing more but to give back to it. Your passion is fueled by love, you're here to do great things!

"To better the breed! Of course!"

How much I came to loathe that answer!

As a dog person, you're familiar with Pavlovian acquired reflexes, right? You ring a bell, give a dog a cookie, and repeat several times. Soon the dog will start salivating in anticipation at the sound of a ringing bell. Its body learned the cookie is coming when the bell rings. In science it's called classical conditioning. The bell is the trigger, salivation is the response. The dog doesn't take the time to check if the cookie is on offer at all. Trigger-response. Trigger-response. A new neuron path has been created.

Our human brain is too subject to different kinds of conditioning, including classical. That's how we learn, that's how we keep ourselves safe in the big world filled with dangers.

When a newly emerged dog breeder starts learning, one of the first lessons he extracts from the slice of the society that mentors him is that the only acceptable motivation to breed dogs is to better the breed, and the only acceptable way to better the breed is by improving their health, temperament, and conformation. Soon it becomes a mantra, repeated any time the trigger questions are asked.

"Why do you breed dogs?" (Trigger)

"To better the breed! Of course!" (Response)

"How do you better the breed?" (Trigger)

"By improving health, temperament, and conformation! Of course!" (Response)

Just like the Pavlovian dog who doesn't stop to think if the cookie is still there, dog breeders stop considering the meaning of the words they utter and whether the learnt response still answers the question asked.

Dig a little deeper, my friend, and ask a breeder what exactly they do to improve the three pillars of purebred dogdom everyone finds so important, and you will hear, depending on the experience level of a given breeder, something along the lines of: "Oh, I health test every one of my stock before breeding according to the latest scientific recommendations", and "Oh, I participate in dog sports and only use animals who are able to perform in order to make sure their temperament is correct", and "Oh, if I have a bitch with a shorter scapula, I pick a dog with a correct scapula to make sure my next generation has improved conformation". Ad nauseum.

My oh my, the pride we take in belonging to the elite group of top class dog breeders, doing the right thing the right way, and doing it for the right reasons! Not at all like those dreadful other breeders who have not yet been conditioned to drool when the bell rings.

Self aware much, my friend? Yes? Really? Sure sure? Let's talk about what really is in your heart then. I'm going to dissect you slice by slice until I get to your very core. That soft, raw, unprotected part of you that you will never admit exists, not even to yourself.

Past your first 5-10 years in your breed, when the newbie confidence fades and the rose colored glasses come off, you suddenly realize what kind of bovine end product you really are in.

Your soul fills with quiet but absolutely terrifying dread every time you put two dogs together.

What looked great on paper turns out to be very different once it hits your whelping box. You did fix that short scapula, but suddenly your pasterns have gone to hell. You worked for years to obtain the best tail set in the country, but now 30% of your dogs have a wry mouth. And hey, I know that you painted that mask on your bitch's face. She was not born with it. I know about a repaired cruciate ligament on the pinnacle of your breeding. Keep telling yourself that "she just jumped wrong". And I know that you dread that someone will find out just how much trouble you're in and kick you out of the elite breeders club.

You spent $2000 in health tests and a year of your life researching two pedigrees, not to mention the two months you spent catering to your puppies' every whim, day and night, to exhaustion, sometimes (often) forgetting to shower or to cut your own nails, but now your puppy owner just called you to say a dog you sold them only three years ago is dying of cancer. Guess what, they also shared their grief on Facebook, and your archenemy read their post. You know they'll file that information in that large cabinet of dirty laundry they have on you, and it will come out, embellished with all sorts, to mar your name and destroy your reputation.

You achieved IPO 3 with both the sire and the dam, with pretty high scores too (only took you four years of strenuous daily work meanwhile your own life was put on hold, your husband divorced you, and your kid picked up a drug habit), but now two in a litter of eight pee themselves and pancake on the floor when their owners take them to Home Depot. You pray they never bring them to a class led by your fellow club member who will surely ask about these dogs' breeding, put two and two together, and gossip relentlessly behind your back until every single one of your stud dogs never sees an outside piece of croup again.

Cryptorchidism. Mismarks. Poor coats. Open fontanellas. Cow hocks. Cleft palates. Kinked tails. Yellow eyes. Flat feet. Generalized anxiety. Deafness. Hydrocephalus. Bad bites. Epilepsy. Elbow dysplasia. Hip dysplasia. Hemivertebrae. OCD. DCM. ARVC. IVDD. PRA. DM. JRD. SAS. TNT (that's not a real one, I'm just checking if you're paying attention).

My god, if you by some miracle and sheer luck manage to avoid all of the above, what if your next litter is not better than your last? Surely everyone will discover then that you are not improving the breed! You finished four champions the year before, and only three this year. Tsk-tsk-tsk.

Is your coffee getting cold? Let me pour you a new cup.

Admit it. If you've been in this game long enough, there is a giant, unspeakable amount of fear in your heart. You love breeding, but you dread it. You rarely can predict everything when planning a litter, and even if you think you can, the litter usually has a way of proving you wrong. If not this litter, then the next one. Disaster will strike. It will find you one way or another.

Do you know why people of so many different professions get along, help each other, form trade unions, fight for their interests, but dog breeders seem utterly unable to? Do you know why dog breeders like nothing more than to engage in endless bickering, bullying, scandals, and witch hunts? Why dog breeders truly enjoy singling one of their own out and running them into the ground? I'll tell you why.

Three words.




A psychologist would've had a field day at a dog show! His friend the psychiatrist would've too!

A dog breeder in her heart of hearts is completely terrified the world will discover she is a fraud and a failure. No matter how much effort she puts into her breeding program, she's never "quite there". The breed is stubbornly refusing to be improved. She is scared others will discover that she is *gasp* not bettering the breed and not improving health, temperament and conformation. Her show ribbons become her shield against the onslaught of the outside world, but come Monday, and she's back being unsure of herself. Shouldn't she be achieving more progress and faster? She's doing everything right, after all! More ribbons bring a temporary relief.

He builds a defense layer upon defense layer to conceal his tender, scared baby core. The core that knows the truth. Without these defense layers, the breeder will crumble and fall and spend the rest of their sorry life curled up in a fetal position under the bridge, chanting, "I failed, I failed, I failed, I didn't improve my breed." Our defense layers are our everything and we spend inordinate amount of time coming up with different ways to grow them.

One type, The Breed Police, does so by relentlessly hunting down and calling out others. She wants to see them burned at the stake, pulverized, and mixed into dirt. She spends her life noticing the slightest flaw, real or imaginable, in other breeders and their work and shouting Tally-Ho the moment an opportunity to gang up on someone presents itself. She knows for a fact that Mr.So-And-So bred his bitch at her very first season, that money hungry excuse for a human being. She will tell everyone that Ms.So-And-So's prized stud dog carries hip dysplasia, albinism, parvo, and fleas, just to rejoice in watching the community bully poor Ms. to tears. You see, as long as it's happening to someone else, it is not happening to her! Look carefully, and you'll see that her own dogs' water bowls are growing a green film because she's too busy joining yet another witch hunt on a breed forum somewhere. She knows, on a very primal, subconscious level, that by preemptively striking against someone else, she temporarily delays the outer world collectively striking against her.

The second type, The Breed Guru, does so by developing a narcissistic side to his ego, a classic overcompensation for the feelings of being insignificant, feelings of being a total fraud. He sits on his high horse, his nose up, his shoulders broad. He, and he alone, knows how to do things right. He, and he alone knows what lines to breed, what pitfalls to avoid. He, and he alone, knows the precise proportion between the tibia and the fibula of a dog in order to give it productive gait. He, and he alone, the almighty guru, knows how to raise and train puppies, how to house and feed dogs, and how to deal with the public. He might be a terrible husband and a worthless father, the dog world being his only arena of self realization. He fights tooth and nail to rise up in the ranks, trampling anyone who gets in the way. He bribes, he sucks up, he steals, he lies. Look, he is the president of the breed club now! Watch him puff his chest at the club meetings. Look, he puts on a bow tie and now he is a judge! He gets to tell others what he thinks of their breeding efforts, and you are paying him for it. Look, he is invited to judge in Japan! Have you ever been to Japan? No? That's because you're a bad, bad, very bad breeder, that's why. Follow the Guru, preferably with pen and paper, and take detailed notes. Mr.Guru likes to be called a mentor. He likes to have a following. In thirty years or so, if you're being a good, obedient little puppy, you might manage to approach his degree of greatness. Just God forbid do not ever question him about his achievements in actual dog breeding and whether he's had any at all. Of course he did, but that was many many eons ago, way before your time. Or not. Does it even matter now? You don't question a judge.

The absolute key element, common to both of the aforementioned types, of not letting your core crumble is to lie to yourself. Make excuses upon excuses as to why you are not succeeding in "bettering the breed" and believe in them with your whole heart. Aggressively attack anyone who doubts your excuses are valid. Torn cruciate? She just slipped and fell! Yellow eyes? Lack of iodine in the water! Cryptorchidism? Everyone knows it's in the sire's line, not your bitch's line, the stud owner lied through their teeth when you inquired, and you, poor innocent soul, bought their shameless lies! Shyness in a dog you sold? Naturally, those owners had no idea what they were doing and ruined the dog's perfect temperament you bred it to have. Overbite? Again, the owners played tug-o-war too much with that pup, and pulled the whole jaw out! Umbilical hernia? The bitch yanked on the cord in labor! Kinked tail? The wasp flew in through the window and bit the newborn pup right on the tail! Cancer? The owners wouldn't diffuse essential oils in the house even though you told them so at least a hundred times, and have you seen those high voltage power lines a mile from their house? Allergies? That's environmental, not genetic! A child bitten in the face? We all know how those spoiled millennials raise their even more spoiled brood, that child must've tortured the dog! Mismark? Err, just hide that one from the litter pictures you proudly post on your website and quietly sell the mismarked pup with no papers to someone looking for a cheap dog and old enough to not have an account on social media.

Are you, are you really bettering the breed, my friend? Don't tell me, please don't. I don't need to know. Just ask yourself this question and give yourself an honest answer. It's enough for me.

The complete cognitive dissonance between the Pavlovian mantra you adsorbed early on and the reality causes you to live in fear of being discovered. You go on projecting and overcompensating left and right, while making excuses upon excuses to others and to yourself until you lose all track of what really is happening, what's true and what's not. You become a Breed Guru and a Breed Police type rolled into one, lacking any hint of self-awareness, snapping at newbies and everyone else at dog events and only selling your precious puppies on spay and neuter agreement and a seven page long contract.

What's that? You're done with your coffee and you want to know if we can open a bottle of wine? Of course we can. Let me get the corkscrew.

My friend, I want you to know that I love you. I truly do. I'm made from the same dough and I'm a part of the same world as yourself. Have been for the past twenty seven years now. I don't know why I deserved this, but by some grace observing the dog world from the inside gave me just a hint more insight than you have right now at this very moment, and I want to share it with you, so that tomorrow you wake up wiser and freer than you are today. I want you to lose that fear I see deep in your eyes every time you bad mouth another breeder to me. I want to tell you just why you are not "improving the breed" the way everyone, including yourself, thinks you should.

Consider this.

At the very exact moment the stud book of your chosen breed closed, the selection of genes available to your breed abruptly closed off too. No new genes have entered your breed since that very day, spare for an odd mutation. You have been working with exactly the same genetic material as your predecessors. You're working with exactly the same genetic material everyone else is working with today. We are all in it together, in the same very swamp.

Listen carefully.

As long as the stud books stay closed....


Spare me your rabid Pavlovian drool right now. Here, take a Kleenex. Have a sip of that wine. Forget that you're a breeder, take a step back, and look at our dog world as an outside observer. Turn off your emotions and turn on the scientific part of your brain. I promise I will give it to you in the simplest possible language and the shortest possible sentences, because I know you're in shock right now and don't comprehend well. I have been there!

The breed is not what you have in your house. It is not what you see at a dog show on the weekend. It is not a picture in a book. The breed encompasses every single member of it across the whole planet. Think of it as one common global gene pool.

Stud books are closed. Therefore what? Gene selection is predetermined. You cannot modify these genes. You cannot bring new ones in. All you can do in the given realm is SHUFFLE the genes back and forth. From one dog to the next, from kennel to kennel, from country to country, from continent to continent. Whatever your breed's ancestors collectively brought into your stud book is ALL you have to work with. Worldwide.

You can, temporarily, obtain a larger portion of alleles responsible for say a better shoulder than your peers have in their kennels. Maybe you'll get a few more show ribbons, although given the current trends, nobody seems to want a good shoulder anymore.

You can, again, temporarily, produce a number of litters not affected by hip dysplasia. Your kennel statistics will go up, so will your stud dogs' use and puppy sales, until you discover that now your precious darlings with perfect hips carry megaesophagus.

You can have a line, for a while, of confident, drivey temperaments that bring joy to you and everyone around. Until you just don't anymore. Mother Nature is a funny broad!

As a whole, your little personal successes do absolutely nothing for the breed. It still has the same very genes it had started out with. You will come, you will go, as if you've never existed.

That other breeder you just bad mouthed to me for an hour, the one with horrendous disease in his lines. Do you want to know something? Lean over, I'll whisper into your ear....YOUR LINES HAVE IT TOO. You just haven't found it out yet.

What's that, you say? Can you not just BREED OUT all the bad genes and KEEP all the good ones?

No. You cannot. Not unless your mailing address ends in the word "Utopia".

Every time you select for a specific trait, you destroy a small part of your breed. Selecting for example for black eyes, you start discarding all dogs with yellow eyes. By discarding the gene responsible for yellow eyes, you put the whole complete genomes of the yellow eyed dogs into the trash bin. Along with the yellow eye gene you remove 2.8 billion base pairs of DNA from the breed's gene pool with every dog that you do not use for breeding. Essentially, by being zealous in selecting for uniformity of type in any given trait, you rob the breed of the other traits it once had. Remember, we started with a limited, given number of genes in your breed, predetermined by the first dogs accepted into the stud book? If you only select for black eyes, and your buddy only selects for black eyes, and your buddy's buddy only selects for black eyes, the gene pool of the whole breed becomes more homozygous and impoverished. By selecting for something you can see with a naked eye, you are inadvertently selecting against something you don't see, including traits that are vital for survival. Would you prefer to have black eyes or a piece of code in the immune system that instructs the T-cells to attack and destroy osteosarcoma cells? Would you rather have a perfect coat or a dog who is able to fight off mycoplasma? Would you rather have a great topline or an ability to process copper?

Would you rather have your dogs die of heart disease or lymphoma?

Would you like to know what happens when someone favors one trait over the other one and starts artificially selecting for or against it?

Hold on, another glass of wine is coming.

I will tell you a story that was relayed to me by a good friend, herself an old breeder.

In another galaxy, far far away, there once was a breed so fine, so good, everyone and their uncle was standing in line for a puppy. There was many breeders working with this beautiful breed, and it was so popular, that it was not at all unusual to have one hundred dogs of this breed in one single class at a show.

What was the breed, you ask? Look down, do you see that beautiful brindle body pressed against your foot? The best of the best, oozing nobility and expression, so smart, so loving, so brave, so loyal, the world has never seen a better one!

All was well. So many people wanted one of these dogs that breeders never had a problem finding the best of homes. Because they sold so well, breeders had the means to import dogs from other galaxies and travel to far away shows. They built beautiful kennels, bought the best of meat and mead for their dogs. And the dogs? They were healthy and happy.

Until one day. First one puppy in one kennel developed a strange problem, never before seen. Then another. Then one more. Then a tsunami of sick puppies came. Something silently mutated somewhere in the tiny, invisible doggy chromosomes, and now there was a new, very much hereditary neurological disease that was impossible to treat and always resulted in death. The name was PA.

Passing through the stages of shock and disbelief, the breeders pulled together and decided to defeat the disease. They collaborated with geneticists and veterinarians and exercised the strictest selection methods. Both parents and all of the siblings of any confirmed case were removed from breeding. Pedigrees were carefully studied, and a lot of personal sacrifices were made as famous champion after famous champion were denied any more stud work. A few years went by, and the breeders emerged victorious! PA was done with! An impressive feat, considering this was happening in an era before the Internet and way before the dog genome was sequenced. Happy, if a bit shaken, breeders could carry on. Scientists received ample accolades. Dogs were no longer dying young.

All went back to old ways. Beautiful kennels. Happy healthy dogs. Satisfied owners. Huge entries at shows.

Until a few years later. First one dog dropped dead in the prime of its life, then another, then one more, and soon it was apparent that a new deadly disease had reared its monstrous head. There now were dozens of known cases, and soon a few hundred. A cardiac disease dubbed BCM was swiping across the breed, definitely very hereditary, and definitely very deadly.

The breeders once again put their heads together, obtained advice from the scientists who in their turn were excited to be of service (a vain lot, them), and went on to fight this new malady. Once again the pedigrees were studied in depth, offending lines identified. Parents and siblings of known cases once again removed from breeding. Once again, famous champions were immediately removed from stud. Once again, the breeders won! What a success story! The world watched in envy. Happy end? If only.

Wouldn't you guess it, not a full decade went by, when the news arrived that puppies once again were dying. This time it was a kidney disease known as JRD. First one, then another, then one more, on and on, until there was no doubt there was yet again a new nasty killer of undoubtedly hereditary nature. Scientists came to arms, preparing for another battle round, calling to select, calling to cull, only this time the breeders weren't so keen. Some of them wouldn't report cases, and some pretended the problem didn't exist. Some doubted the familial nature of the disease, and some just were plain old worn out. What happened? Why the same very breeders who actively battled, war cries, banners and all, against the previous two killers, would suddenly appear to lose interest?

The population genetics was a rather new science in that galaxy, but it was progressing by leaps and bounds. A lot of study material was now readily available to anyone who cared to look for it, and it became plainly obvious that every time the breeders selected against one single deleterious gene, removing dogs who carried it from breeding, other dogs came into their place, now doing double the work, and spread their recessive nasties instead. If the breeders continued the way they had previously done, bottlenecking the population over and over again, the situation would have simply kept repeating itself, with more and more new diseases, until there was NO DOGS LEFT.

Every single organism in the universe carries something bad in its chromosomes. As long as the overall number of genes/possible alleles in the species/breed/family is broad, the organisms belonging to it will fare well as a group. Disease will appear, but rather sporadically, on those unlucky occasions when two of the same recessives meet within the same body. Artificial selection needs to be done carefully and gingerly, to not affect the overall soundness of the gene pool. Especially so in closed populations like the purebred dog! Yes, they will get sick, yes, they will die, yes, they will break our hearts over and over and over again, but that's a part of being alive. Remember, as dog breeders, all we do is SHUFFLE genes. We are not gods, we cannot create new ones in place of those we carelessly have thrown out. With a closed gene pool, once something is gone, it's really gone and you will never be able to bring it back.

Do you still want to breed for those black eyes more than anything else, my friend? How about more wine!

Yes, we CANNOT IMPROVE a breed with a given gene pool that is closed shut and cannot be enriched. It's like a sealed jar. Please abandon the ego-sponsored mottos. Abandon the Pavlovian mantra. You now know that you are not and never will improve the breed, and it is perfectly OK to say it out loud. I'll be right by your side to support you if anyone argues with you. Go ahead, say it! We are ALL in the same boat, you know!

What we must do instead is PRESERVE our breeds. Preserve the work of generations before us. Do not come in, with your youthful exuberance of a baby rhino, trampling over other people's work, proclaiming that you are the breed's new savior. Not unless your name is Jesus.

The best you can do in your time on this planet as a dog breeder is to HELP PRESERVE YOUR BREED.

Just what does PRESERVING mean?

To preserve something is to KEEP IT FROM DETERIORATION. Do you feel the difference between improving and preserving? Within our reality, it means keeping the breed's global gene pool of your breed as wide as possible.

It means meticulously saving old lines from extinction. Don't let a fashion or a trend set in and destroy old lines. Hold onto them.

It means paying attention to any signs of increased homozygousity affecting the very fabric of a dog.

It means using as wide a selection of dogs within your breed to produce the next generation as you possibly can.

It also means, when the push comes to shove, when the breed has spent its entire lifetime with us, thought its birth, growth, maturity, deterioration, and it is now time for it to go, we must let it. Everything dies, my friend, nothing lives forever. From an ant to an elephant, from a carrot to a tree, from a business to a country, everything in this universe goes through those same very stages. Birth, growth, maturity, deterioration, death. When the time comes for your breed to go, let it. Many other breeds have died and I bet several of them have ***found their rebirth in the very breed you love now***. I'm whispering now. Can you read my lips? What I am saying (and not saying) would really ruffle a whole lot of feathers out there.

More wine? No problem!

It's too early for your breed to die, you say, and I know you're right. It's late night now, and I was getting too gloomy. Right now we are working on preserving it. Let's summarize! In order to PRESERVE a breed, you need three things above anything else.




The larger your breed's POPULATION, the wider the selection of available alleles within the gene pool, the fewer disease, including hereditary disease, autoimmune disease, and yes, the dreaded cancer, you are going to see. You want as many worthy representatives of your breed to participate in preserving their genes as possible. Remember, every time you put your nose up in the air and refuse to place a nice puppy with a new breeder, but sell it to be neutered instead, you are robbing the breed. Do not let this become an elitist sport at the expense of the breed itself. Do not exercise too strict a selection. If your breed has a disease with a DNA test for, by all that is holy, do not announce you now only breed clear dogs. Love your breed, support its population, let it keep as much genetic variation as possible. What about disease, you ask? Gingerly, my friend, gingerly, and remember everything that lives will one day die.

In order to support population, your breed needs POPULARITY. The breed needs to be in the public's eye, and the breed needs to be able to offer real value. Be it as a show dog, a working dog, a hunting dog, a therapy dog, a herding dog, a service dog, a lap dog, a couch dog, it must offer something special for the public to want to own them. Identify the unique valuable qualities in your breed and talk about them to others! Run ads! Sponsor documentaries! Do they have the softest silkiest coats that blow the stress right off of you when you come home and rub their ears and neck? Can they fetch ducks out of the water better than anyone else? Do they have the most beautiful eyes that melt your soul? Are they always happy and energetic and ready to join you on a hike? Do they make you laugh with their comical ways? Venture out of the small world of your peers, bring your dogs out on the streets, let people see what they're missing, tell them about your breed's unique qualities, get them interested. Let your dogs be ambassadors. Humans have an innate appreciation of beauty. Stop hiding those beautiful dogs in your backyard. Remember, dog breeders are born from pet owners, pet owners are born from general public. Interact with the general public, and wonderful new breeders will sooner or later funnel through.

Finally, realize that your favorite breed is utterly doomed to a very rapid extinction, unless it has PEOPLE. It really really needs people just like yourself, ready to sacrifice all their time, all their energy, all their money, and their whole very lives to the altar of their beloved breed. It needs passionate people, people with drive, people who will not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. Stop being a snob! You're not the only one who should be allowed to breed dogs. You must stop, completely cease bullying, gossiping, witch hunting, running down, bad mouthing, hurting, poking, questioning, judging, naming and shaming, defaming, tormenting other members of our clan. We cannot win by fighting our own people, dude! You must do all you can to attract new people into your breed and be as helpful and supportive to them as you possibly can, as if they were your own kids. Do not "mentor" them, please don't. Too often, "mentoring" turns into a hunt for obedient young slaves to manage your own breeding program. Stop being so disgustingly selfish. Help young breeders with their very own breeding programs, not tied to yours by blood or financial obligations. Make yourself and your knowledge available, but let them make their own mistakes, just like you made yours when you first started out. They learn from their mistakes way better and faster than from your boring lectures. Encourage them, don't tell them "my way or the highway", don't withhold from them. Celebrate each and every time you're given an opportunity to attract a new person to your breed, for they are the very blood of dog sport.

More wine?

Accept that not every breeder will have the same priorities as you. Luckily! Remember what happened when we all attempted to breed for black eyes? Let you breed for that elusive perfect scapula, but please, please allow others to breed for perfect rears, long eyelashes, or cute dog smiles, or their dogs' wonderful ways with the children. Ensuring that we all have different priorities is what gives your breed the very vital genetic diversity! Stop, please just stop whispering ringside, "have you seen that dog's horrendous tail?" Yes, I absolutely have seen it. I also have noticed your dog's awful rear. OK?

Stop giving in to peer pressure. Nobody has all the answers. Your mentors, your club members, your breed wardens, your judges - stop letting them think instead of you, stop letting them command what you breed, how you do it, and what your priorities are and should be. Think for yourself. Do your best. Be your own worst critic. Do not listen to anyone until you understand their true motifs. The only responsibility you have as a breeder is that to your dogs and that to your puppy buyers. Stop trying to please the crowd, it's impossible to be liked by everyone. Walk your own path, but don't tread on others toes.

Stop demanding admiration. I don't have to like your dogs in order to love and respect you. I might secretly think your dogs are awful, but I also know that your right to breed them is exactly the same like my right to breed mine, and you can bet I will stand up for your right, for my right, and for her right too. Did you just call her "only a pet breeder"? Do you truly believe, in your heart of hearts, that the number of your dog's teeth, the size of its ears and the angle of its stupid hock spell a higher value to your breed than her dog's friendly disposition, its ability to be housebroken in one month flat, and its excellent immune health? Let's ask a layman which of the two dogs they would rather bring home. Falling off that high horse is going to hurt.

Let her feed kibble, while you feed raw swan tongues. Let her vaccinate her dogs, while you dab the newest coconut oil panacea on your dogs' ear flaps instead. Don't forget to add apple cider vinegar. Let her keep her dogs on a dusty couch, while yours are in the castle of a kennel. Let her sell her puppies for twice what you ask - as long as her buyers are happy, good for her! Are you envious? That's a bad emotion that will surely shorten your life. Stop being so darn judgmental, you are only a human, just like her! Live and let live.

I am a firm believer that the quality of a breeder can only be truly evaluated on two single points. First, are her dogs happy? Second, are the people she has business dealings with happy? As long as you answer "yes" to both of these questions, you are looking at an EXCELLENT breeder. Stop right there. Stop looking for any other flaws in her. Chances are you have more of them than she does!

Drop your "holier than thou" attitude. Nothing, absolutely nothing hurts your breed more. Remember, I know where you got that attitude from. From the fear in your heart. Every breeder out there has exact same fear in exactly the same place. Please try to sympathize, not antagonize. There isn't "us" and "them", there is only "you" and "me", do you hear? We be of one blood, ye and I.

The wine bottle is empty now, I'll drive you home to your dogs. In the car on the way to your house I will admit to you that I don't have all the clear cut, neat, easy answers. I'm only a dog breeder just like you. All I have is some ideas, mere ideas, born of twenty seven years in dogs, fifty champions, a single all consuming passion, and a lot of broken idols. Will you let me know what you think?

Thank you for celebrating my anniversary with me. We be of one blood, ye and I, my friend dog breeder...

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Alexandra Gav started showing dogs at age 11, became an all-breed pro handler in Europe where she finished over 100 dogs and won numerous Best-in-shows. She has been seriously involved in Schutzhund, served as a breed warden for Boxers for four years, then held a judge's license for Boxers, Dobermans, Danes, and Rottweilers. She sold her veterinary practice in 2017.


She has bred Boxers since 1991, with focus on preserving the outstanding qualities of old lines. Alexandra hand-picked and collected stock from far away countries where those lines used to exist. Alexandra says her crown jewel was her World Winner 2008 Ch.Twinkle Star v.Eurozone, IPO 1, SOM. This outstanding dog made breed history by becoming the first stud dog to be used by breeders from every continent and the first European bred Boxer to be awarded Sire of Merit in the USA since the time of foundation imports.


After living in seven countries Alexandra and her husband moved to the US in May 2016. Semi-retired, she published a number of articles, does seminars on Show Handling, Puppy Evaluation, Breeding, and the Boxer breed. Alexandra makes dog figurines as a hobby. She says she’s “very good at procrastinating about writing a book on dog breeding” but she did share this unusual poem with us.


She and her husband welcomed 2017 with a litter of puppies, their first in over a decade. The bitch blessed them “with an army of 11 pups.”