DOG WORLD ARTICLE 2010:
Well here we are, almost into 2010 and I am sure it will find all conscientious breeders examining health schemes for their dogs, how to improve their stock and how to improve their breed so that all their dogs produced are indeed ‘Fit for Function and Fit for Life’. We have been lucky within the Boerboel breed in that most breeders ARE conscientious and continue to evaluate all progeny from their breeding stock, databases have been kept and shared and any health issues and new health scores are usually openly discussed. There is of course the element that will refuse to share information, will deny or ignore any problems and will remove all reference to new problems found within the breed from their websites. These are the breeders who may ultimately cause the demise of such a young breed in the UK.
As pedigree dogs have taken such a bashing by the media, the RSPCA and their like minded friends who have apparently disowned our KC due to ’that’ programme it is imperative that all breeders are testing and using results wisely, in a carefully thought out breeding programme that won’t ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater‘. A much used phrase but in a breed that still has a tiny gene pool then we cannot afford to only use the dogs with perfect scores, as much as we would like to. Hopefully that day will come when we have a larger gene pool and in the breeds defence there are breeders out there now who are willing to go the extra mile and actually start the whole long process of searching out, identifying and bringing in new stock or frozen semen to facilitate this. We are very pleased to read about super hips scores all coming back. We are seeing superb scores of 4 ,5, or 8’s this year as opposed to the very high scores seen a few years ago. Elbows on the main are all coming back perfect too but in this breed we have to remember that great scores are not the be all and end all, we must also breed not just for soundness but for temperament, for ability,for that confident capability in itself that the breed must have to be classed as a correct Boerboel. The latest test that we have personally started and that we strongly urge all Boerboel breeders to take up is the BVA eye test and gonioscopic test for glaucoma, because as much as people deny this, it IS out there. This is in addition to X raying hips, elbows, shoulders and knees, of certifying during the eye test no ent/ectropion of the dog and of routinely checking a bitch during her season for hyperplasic, we also recommend that all breeding stock is routinely DNA profiled along with each and every puppy from that stock making use of the KC scheme. Not cheap in total for all this testing but we should be able to start to build a picture of the health of the breed very quickly if all results are shared. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I don’t think there are many other breeds that do such extensive testing before breeding (by decent breeders) and this is even before the appraisal of a your dog by a judge who may decide that just on conformation alone your dog is not breed worthy and may be disqualified from any breeding programme, no matter how good the health scores are!!
Onto competing Boerboels. There have been a few successful breed owners who are now taking up the obedience challenge and are actively competing in KC registered events. This is great to see and can only stand the breed in good stead for eventual KC recognition. Many new owners have been taking part in the CGC schemes and we only wish there were more places in Scotland that actually do classes and test for this as some owners are having to drive for more than an hour to do this, a bit unfair on the dog I would say, especially as a puppy. The ones taking part are doing well with a few now having reached the top accolade of having their dog pass the Gold award. Although not all owners are able to take this test we have found that most Boerboel owners do some form of obedience and training, be it roadside training classes, agility or ringcraft. We even have the Boerboel now taking part in horse and rider events. Long may it continue.
We are all aware of recent events in the news with the young toddler being tragically killed in Liverpool and we must as breeders of a large, guarding breed always be aware that when placing puppies that everybody is vetted and that all owners have been to visit, are fully aware of the capabilities of a large,working Mastiff breed and will competently train and socialise their Boerboel. More than ever now, the large breeds are going to be under the spotlight and the DDA looms ominously. Although legislation will change we have to always be vigilant and try wherever possible to put the Boerboel in a good light by placing the correct pups with the correct families.
The biggest threat for the decent breeders of the Boerboel is of course that element who don’t care who they sell to, who crossbreed the Boerboel, who rip off unsuspecting prospective puppy owners with new highly inflated prices after taking deposits from them for another price, who use the breed illegally, who won‘t do full health tests, and who won‘t share the results. Unfortunately these people are out there and they will continue to be there as long as long as people stay uneducated about the breed.
The best advice we can give any new prospective puppy owner is to please, please do your homework, go visit as many breeders as possible, go to somebody who you feel has great, not just good ethics, do you think this breeder is somebody who will support you if anything goes wrong,are they telling you all about the breed, you need to hear the good,the bad and the ugly!! A responsible breeder will tell you all of this.
Written by Sandra Brownlie for The Dog World newspaper, 2010.