The Seven Stages
The seven stage apprenticeship for breeders.
The Beginner:....Doing everything wrong. Buying wrong. Feeding wrong.
The Learner:.....Who now realise they have started badly and while still keeping their original mistake, have now learned better and are doing their best to set out on the right path.
The Novice:......Who have corrected their mistakes and are starting to win and are beginning to be known and recognised by other breeders and exhibitors.
The Everlasting Novice:These are always nice people with an equally charming dog. To them, dogs are a pleasant and interesting hobby.
The Middle-Range Breeder:This is the largest section of all. This is the average breeder who is definitely one of us. Recognised as reliable, breeding decent litters, rearing the puppies properly, with a good eye for a dog and the facilities to keep the odd stud dog and a nice bitch or two. These are the backbone of any breed and are indispensable because they supply the majority of the average puppies for sale; serve their own area with a decent stud dog and form the mass of ringsiders. These breeders are members of various breed clubs and support all activities. Being dead keen exhibitors they try their best to be an asset and a credit to their breed.
The Good Breeder:This is a rarer category because these breeders have realised something the middle rangers have not. That is that there is a definite thing called a good dog and that a decent dog is not quite good enough.The good breeder is always ready to learn and has taken the trouble to find out most of the advanced points, such as what constitutes a good lay of shoulder or a good length of hock and where other virtues may be found. The good breeder knows what a good head feels and looks like; what constitutes good expression and understands structure with an eye to the dog's use as a herding animal. The good breeder has nice stock and has learned how to use it to best advantage. He may still depend on other people's studs to try and improve each litter, but has learned that the title of 'Champion' does not automatically mean the dog carrying this title is necessarily the best for his purpose. The good breeder is trying to improve all the time and will sell a bitch or dog that the middle ranger would have stuck to, realising that either he has better in his kennel or that these good dogs are not quite good enough. These are the breeders that supply the middle rangers with better stock when they themselves wish to raise their standards. The good breeder has nearly always had ten years or more experience with dogs and is recognised as such
The Top Breeder:...This is a very difficult category to define, although we all know them. There will be about 20 of them at any given time. They go on, seemingly forever, always able to produce a good one, always with quality finished dogs, these usually having failings rather than faults, and give nothing away in type, style, make and shape. Usually they have been at the top for many years and have a strain of their own, readily recognised as being of a distinct and individual type. They never seem to disappear and very few breeders join their ranks. They are often than not internationally known names and if we get two new top breeders in ten years who are really going to last and have an influence on the breed, than we are lucky.
To reach the level of "good ordinary middle range breeders" you must have done your homework, been breeding at least three years, have bred your first three litters and have discovered and recovered from any initial mistakes you made. Now you are in that vast reservoir of breeders that go to make the breed. This reservoir is fed from below by the novices. It is easy to get into, almost inevitable, if you are seriously interested in dogs and have the opportunity to make it a major hobby. It is very difficult to get out of the middle-range and many never do.
The first question is, can you keep on with it? You have to able to keep at least five or six dogs to be able to breed two or three litters a year and run on a couple of puppies from each litter, at least until you can see which is the best for you to keep. You have to have the room, a fair area of land and good neighbours. A keen and compatible mate is useful and you must somehow contrive never to forget your children.
How to get out of the middle-range and move to becoming a good breeder is the next question. Many never succeed. There are many reasons why they fail.
One of the first problems comes from how they moved up to the middle-range in the first place. As novices, they may have fixed any initial mistakes in their buying. We all start out with a pet we will have for the next ten years. Then they will have gone to a good kennel and bought a decent bitch or puppy or two.It must be remembered that neither the good breeder nor the top breeder will sell their very best bitch or puppy.
So the novice will start with a decent dog/bitch with some "if" that caused the breeder to sell it. So now the middle-ranger has a kennel of original, loved mistakes, a decent bitch or two, or maybe two or three youngsters from earlier buys.
Now we come to the first disadvantage - any pup he breeds will be judged against his own collection of dogs. Those that are worse will be sold. Anything better will stand out, but those 'much of a muchnesses' will often be kept as well. Thus he will clone his own mediocracy. The average standard of the kennel will improve slowly, if at all. The plateau ( the kennel norm) will be fair to average, and, when these puppies get into the show ring they will still be fair to average, because all the other middle-rangers will have stock of exactly the same standard.
The good breeders plateau will be at a much higher level. The stock in their kennels will be judged against a higher standard and anything not up to scratch will be sold. If the middle-ranger can somehow recognize this and raise the plateau, he is on his way to being a better breeder.
The second obstacle to the middle-breeder is the ringside - his fellow middle-range competitors. The ringsiders who have some knowledge but not a lot of experience will go for the obvious choice from the ringside:- the nicely balanced, well presented, good showman, and will nearly always judge on outward appearance, because they can not do much else from where they are standing. They can not "go into" the dogs, which is what the judge must do, and he isn't much of a judge unless he does go thoroughly into his dogs.
What the ringside can't know is that the judge may find that the popular choice doesn't stand "looking into". But the judge finds that the top breeders dog in the same class does not fall to pieces under his hands, so up goes the top breeder's dog, and down goes the ringside choice. The ringside agree amongst themselves that 'once again wrong has triumphed and a name has won and that there is no honesty or justice in the game. This is a very big obstacle because the middle-ranger can find an excuse for his own loss. Instead of looking at his dog and judging it against the top dogs, he agrees with the ringside that 'names' win because of influence.
Many middle-rangers fail on the next obstacle of 'ignorance'. They have not learned from their homework, studied the breed and what it was bred for, looked at the old photos and tread what the old-timers said. They have not bothered to learn anatomy, not even the little bit one requires to judge a dog. They have, as learners, learned from and listened to learners and they do not know their stuff. They do not know the standard and will perpetuate myths about what a dog should have or what it should be, often erroneously. Often they blindly follow the word of the cult leader they admire. If the winner is not of that breeding, it is worthless. They look, but they do not appreciate a good dog wherever it is found.
This is where many middle-rangers get stuck. If they do not 'get on', it is because they get a small judging assignment at a match. Then the eyes of the blind MAY get opened. They may come to realize the vast difference between a an average dog and a good dog. If they can atake advantage of this experience, they are on the right track. However, there seems to be a lot of middle-rangers who can learn nothing from handling a good dog. They can always find faults but never bother to learn outright virtues. They will stay owning decent, average dogs, just above the mediocre level, having few faults but no great virtues.
The last big obstacle for the breeder trying to rise from the middle-range is that he gets cluttered up with stock. He can't get rid of his original mistakes. He loves them. He can't part with his first 'home-bred' for sentimental reasons. He keeps two each from his first litters, breeds annually and wants another litter from his foundation bitch. Then he thinks it is time to keep a stud dog. Before he knows it he is cluttered up with 15 dogs. His neighbours, spouse and friends are complaining and the work becomes overpowering. It is important to know what and how to sell to keep yourself going with room to improve.
Through the years the number of middle-rangers seems to stay the same. They always make up the largest group of breeders. Few seem to graduate into the good breeder category. Some advance because they raise the plateau of their own kennel. Most fail to get ahead for a number of reasons. They have a useful bitch and want to improve on her, so they consider the top champions as the ladder to which to take her. Somehow the 'newish' breeder will have a vague idea that to mate to the top dog somehow puts their bitch into a top category. They will seldom consider using anything else, even if this dog does not suit the bitch. The champion sired pups are easier to sell. However, the suitability of this mating is rarely questioned.
The middle-ranger does not yet have a string of his own. That is, a very advanced string and is really only found amongst the best and oldest breeders
Using a champion dog that ties in with your bitchs pedigree is an excellent way of grading up, providing you know the inherent dangers in the line you are collecting.
Many breeders are not even this logical. They breed to the big winner of the day or to the dog that is promoted the most. As soon as he becomes the dog of the day, every middle-range breeder send their bitch to him. His type doesn't matter. He is the top dog and he gets the bitches. Using the dog of the day will probably grade your norm up slowly and every little bit helps, until the day you want to breed from the progeny. Then you find that almost every dog and bitch in the country are either by him or one of his grandchildren. It then becomes the problem to find a dog they can use.
For the middle-range breeder to get higher, he must study his own stock and must look at the various dogs inthe ring. He must have a perfect clear picture in his mind of exactly what he wants.
To grade up into the good breeder ranks, you have to think for yourself, rather than let judges or other handlers /breeders do it for you. Once you do this, and start getting the dogs you want, you can grade up a lot quicker because you are breeding stock from stock YOU have improved. Thus the dog you select to help you improve will be almost sure to produce at least one puppy you will like, not just accept. And at last you are on the way up...