Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Puppy Process

Back in May, my mom and I drove to Michigan for Queezle to be bred. The lucky guy is Poncho, CH Blackwater's Side Kick.

You know those programs on TV every now and then about how your food is made and all the crazy shipping and processing, etc involved in getting it to your grocery store? Well, for dedicated, responsible breeders, the process of having a litter is equally complicated, not to mention expensive.

The first step for me was to have a top-quality foundation bitch, aka Queezle. The Q came from a very nice litter with parents who had done very well in both the conformation and performance rings, not to mention having great health. Even so, this did not guarantee that Queezle would be worthy of being bred. To get to this point, she had to finish her conformation Championship to prove that she adheres to the Belgian Tervuren breed standard and pass numerous health tests - hips, elbows, heart, thyroid and eyes every year. Even with all the health tests and her CH, she still might not have been deemed nice emough to be bred. However, luckily for us, she has turned out to be a stunning bitch, sound in both body and mind (temperament plays a huge role in your dog's life - a spooky or aggressive puppy is not going to have a good life, and probably won't have a good home, so why would you want to produce one?).

Next, I needed a stud. The catch to having a really nice bitch like Queezle is that you then have to find a stud dog that a) will not take away from any of her good qualities, and b) will hopefully improve on her weaknesses. Obviously there is no perfect dog, and so concessions must be made. For me, my first priority is that the puppies be healthy and sound, capable of living a long, happy life free of pain or genetic health defects. Then I would also like those puppies to be excellent examples of the Belgian Tervuren breed. My ideal Terv is capable of excelling in both the conformation and performance rings.

Finding that perfect stud was a long and arduous process. I must have spent hundreds of hours poring over photos and pedigrees - every time I came across a dog that had the right look I wanted, he turned out to have underlying health issues in his close relatives that I did not want to risk bringing into my lines. Fluke things happen - there is no way to know all of the recessive genes your dog might be carrying - but if you know that a dog has a genetic health issue behind him, you then have to decide if you are willing to risk producing that issue in your puppies. My deadline for making a choice was December, but I just wasn't quite happy with what I'd come up with at that point.

Finally, I was flipping through an old Tervuren News Tales and saw an ad for a very nice looking young male. He was just barely two years old, and so wouldn't have had all his health clearances yet, but one of the mantras many breeders throw out is that if you like a dog, look to his sire. His sire was Poncho. A health check and many phone calls later - to his breeder, the two people who had already bred to him, other respected breeders in the area that would have seen him at shows, etc - I was satisfied and decided that Poncho was the dog I wanted. Both the bitches he had been bred to had been looking to improve the same things I was, all of his puppies were healthy at 2 and 5 years of age, and his littermates were consistently healthy and good-looking. Luckily his owners agreed that it was a nice match, and we were on our way!

Now we are waiting on Queezle's ultrasound the end of next week to see if she is definitely pregnant, though she has been having some morning sickness which is a very good sign (not all bitches get morning sickness, but some do and Queezle did with her first litter). Then comes the x-ray a couple weeks down the road to see how many puppies, and then the munchkins themselves, and all the care, feeding and cleaning that comes with them. It is a lot of work (not to mention a lot of money - it is generally considered in the dog fancy that if you do it right, you are lucky to break even on a litter, and breeders usually lose money), but getting over all those barriers - the health testing, an objective analysis of whether your dog is truly breeding quality,picking a match who meets those criteria and can help make your bitch better, then the care - makes it even more special when you finally have those beautiful puppies climbing over the ex-pen and digging holes in the yard. We breed because we love our dogs and are dedicated to improving our breed, not to make money.

Keep your fingers crossed for the Q!

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