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Frank Grover on Breeding

Breeding Doberman Pinschers was declared a creative art by the late Peggy Adamson, the late Tess Henseler and Marge Kilburn. Each of them had the results to illustrate their authority and achievements. What none of them wrote is, what they produced as breeders was done by their own decisions…it was not bound by nor regulated by any organization. If breeding Doberman Pinschers is a creative art, it is like many other creative arts… it rarely flourishes under regulation and supervision. The freedom to do according to your own observations and sense of possibilities can’t be shackled by outside rules. This has been evidenced in so many areas where creativity can produce art, it just about a truism. Certainly, it is supported by the history of the breed in this country.

In his preface to the great “Bible” of Doberman Pinscher development, Philipp E. Gruenig in 1934, states as follows:

 “Organizations, which have as their professed aim the improvement and welfare of the Dobermann, are only mentioned herein in connection with their stud books and registration records. Thirty years of experience has taught me that such organizations do less for the professed purpose of their existence than for the individuals composing their management.

The DPCA that I have experienced in many ways for fifty years or more has created activities for those who own Dobermans and been very innovative in making these activities interesting to see. Seldom have they been well administered because those who volunteer usually seek less for the breed’s values in the activities than for their own interests. Of all the activities of our National Club, the Futurity is for the breed’s future. But the design of the Futurity and its administration if evaluated carefully for the assistance they give the breed would not get a high rating. All its rules and procedures should be focused on building a better breed for the future… and that is hardly the focus of administration that seeks ways to keep good dogs from competing. A comparison of the freedom allowed breeders for our futurity and those breeding German Shepherds for their Futurity show how restrictive we are. It is a comparison that ought to be made and published.

In a broader sense, the Futurity is only one activity of the DPCA and does not involve all members who breed. But rules and regulations are being cast over everyone. They come from two interests: the first is the COPE program that worked so valiantly to reduce the number of Doberman Pinschers needing rescue; and the second is in the use of medical tests as irrevocable decisions about what breeders can do.

The two together have reduced Doberman Pinscher registrations from roughly 80,000 a year to 14,000 and the trend is down. (Editors note: 2008 Doberman registrations were10,547). Yet, we seem to have no reduction in the numbers needing rescue!! What are those that must be rescued and why?

We need a great deal of information to make careful decisions. But certainly the restrictions on using a male at stud before he is a year… and making it law …the restrictions on earlier breeding of a bitch than her 18 month birthday needs re-thinking. The idea that a bitch may only be bred three times needs review. Sometimes I wonder what Tess would have said had someone told her she could not breed a bitch a fourth time. We can assume that genuinely creative breeding of Doberman Pinschers will come from non-members of the DPCA if it comes at all.

However, the largest concern we are apt to have to face comes from the health research that all of us feel is so important. If we knit into our code of ethics acceptance of DNA tests as final, we may well destroy the breed in five to ten years.

We are dealing with a breed that came from mongrels…street dogs… and we must assume that any genetic disorder in the mongrels of central Europe in the 1890’s is in the DNA of our Doberman Pinschers. Any may emerge in tests if the assumption of the immutability of DNA stands up under more scrutiny.

The righteous zeal that sets the procedure in meat and food animals of eliminating the infected stock will be the knee-jerk reaction as it has to the Von Willebrand’s test results. Dogs with poor reports will not be acceptable to use to produce pups…even though they may be more brilliant, possess better temperaments, and be more beautiful than any around them. And Von Willebrand’s as far as Doberman Pinschers are concerned, has proved to be a disease rarely if ever has significance to living or longevity. When we get the prophesied tests for cardio, what will we do? I think of the dog I had that died a sudden death at 6 years. Had I known I would have him only for six years when I picked him, I would have still chosen him. The brilliance of mind, devotion, and beauty of body stand out. I would want the time with him; though wishing still it could have been twice as long. ..…

Can we trust a test that much? Some of the most rewarding experiences with our family’s Dobermans center around dogs whose tests results said they had diseases so bad they could not be treated and in the usual vernacular “should be put down.” By refusing to accept this course of action, we experienced almost miraculous recoveries that we could only trace to the powers of the dog’s devotion in their healing.

How to handle testing and test results by a breeder can be discussed and insights developed and perhaps good ways to suggest as reasonable courses to breeders and buyers. But whatever the suggestions, they would hopefully not be laws that disgruntled buyers can use or rival breeders can turn into a way to eliminate competition.

These are not problems to be decided by those who do not breed without the input of those who do. The rivalry among breeders is so keen they permit those who don’t breed, write the code of ethics, and make all sorts of decisions about futurities and granting of money for research and what is good for the breed’s future. Years ago, this difficulty in Club work was under discussion, and one of the elder statesman of the time said, “Breeders who breed very much are so busy, they don’t have the time.” It is rare breeder who can also take on Club responsibilities.

In Gruenig’s preface, he concludes as follows;

“Therefore I have dedicated this book to him who in the spirit of love and sacrifice and great cost brought our breed to the present state of genetic excellence, who is its real creator, its guardian and sponsor: The Breeder.

And it is to the Breeder that I address these recommendations: You are shackled by the DPCA and the Code of Ethics. You do not have the freedom to pursue the art of breeding Doberman Pinschers. You should have it. Conscientious persons in office or on the board must be very cautious about trying to dictate what you must do and what you must not do. You need freedom to create. Worse, for the next years, you are forbidden to use those that do not pass the tests for various health questions.

For the most part, those on the Board and in Office are trying to do the right thing. They are not too sure what it ought to be; and they quite often make decisions because they feel it is time to decide. If you breeders will take the lead and think through what is best and present your thinking to the Board, you are almost sure to prevail.

Frank H. Grover