While evaluating two puppies from a litter born in October 1994, I made my usual comparisons with my previous litters. Although most of my dogs are still set to memory, I occasionally rely on photos and videos to rejuvenate the old brain cells. One of the unkind things about growing older is the toll time takes on our memory. This age of video is wonderful, for now not only do we have still photos of heads, toplines, etc., but we can now see other important details, like movement. I have several litters on video now and these tapes have certainly made my job a little easier in my evaluation process. However, I still feel the acquired knowledge of my own foundation and faith in that endowment still serves me very well. I have long been a believer in a strong bitch line and that faith in my girls and their produce have paid off many times over. They don't merit all the credit, I have matched them carefully over the years with some excellent dogs; but, I have learned I can count on my girls most. They are my foundation.
Today I think breeders are too quick to eliminate puppies from their show stock. I think too, we are pushing some of our puppies to quickly into the show ring. If experience has taught me one thing over the years, it has been patience. One cannot rush perfection. The story of the ugly duckling comes to mind quite often when I look at my puppies at their various stages. If the potential is there, we must be patient and maintain our faith in our foundation. We must also remember that no two puppies are alike, some will blossom at an earlier stage. Some will never reach full bloom (their promise will be realized in someone's heart, not the conformation ring). Many will be late bloomers; but, when they bloom the flower is well worth the wait! While we're waiting, love them, nurture them and by all means enjoy them! Raising puppies is the true joy of breeding.
Far too often we choose not to listen to our heart, our head or our experience. Instead we allow outside influences to pressure us into making quick decisions. Some cannot empty the litter box fast enough. Pick one or two flashy puppies for show, plain puppies to pet homes and place the rest. It is best to accept the fact that Boxer puppies go through a variety of stages. Unless we use our knowledge and experience wisely, we may discover down the road that we made some impetuous choices. It takes time to grow a boxer puppy, weeks, months and yes, sometimes years. I personally like to study my puppies while they are wet at whelping, at five or six weeks and again at about four months. After that, I shelve any additional evaluation indefinitely.
Puppies do not turn into show dogs overnight. Unfortunately, many are gung-ho to show and finish puppies from the puppy or American Bred classes. Remember, it is the rare puppy that is capable either physically or mentally of accomplishing this achievement. Often puppies burn out long before they really reach their greatest potential. We have seen some striking puppies finish at an early age. Yet when full grown, the grown dog no longer resembles the once exquisite puppy. Time can take its toll on the Boxer as well. Some of those early blooms may just be pretty weeds, weeds no one really wants in their flower garden when they are ultimately grown. Your faith and acquired knowledge in your foundation must sustain you article.
At 15 weeks Ch. Sarkel's Back To The Future hardly looked like a show potential. A true ugly duckling. Even taking into account my poor stacking abilities, I am sure there are many who would have culled him from their show agenda. Marty's ear trim was horrible, a really bad cut, far too short (that of course, was not his fault - a botched job by the vet). His head was out of proportion, his topline went in an S, he was down on his feet, etc. What did I see in him? Why did I keep him? What was I thinking? Faith in my foundation was all I really had to go on. I didn't look at where he was but where I believed he was going.
Six months later he took his first points from the 9-12 puppy class. At 11 months there was no denying his potential. My foundation, conditioning, patience, love and a competent handler paid off. How many of you would have placed the ugly puppy as a pet without any hesitation? Marty may not have been a barnburner but I'll take one like him any day of the week. He won a couple of grand sweepstakes while still in puppy classes, placed second in his American Bred class at the ABC in 1993, picked up a few more points from the American Bred class and finished with his majors and a couple Best of Breeds from the Open class at 2 1/2 years of age. A solid dog built on a reliable foundation.
Don't confuse a breeder's faith in their foundation with kennel blindness. We know our dogs are not perfect. If they were, there would be no reason to continue this course. The warning here is not to be too quick to judge and eliminate your puppies. Again, know your foundation, trust it and build on it. A foundation should be constructed from the standard. This is the blueprint we all should be following. If being true to the standard makes some cry "kennel blind," then so be it. It is far better to remain true to the standard and ourselves than risk watching our foundation crack because we are foolish enough to think we could start building in another direction simply to satisfy the current craze. If you choose to run a risk, make sure that craze has what you need to complement and strengthen your foundation, not weaken it.
If you are just starting out, find the breeder who knows the standard and their own foundation. You can only benefit from their experience. They do exist; I can see their knowing smiles as they read this article. Their foundation of faith has benefited them too!
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