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Polish Lowland Sheepdog - pons - pon the dog








Hagabergsliden Kennel

(Ragna Hellberg - breeder, Sweden)





Thinking the Unthinkable : breeder’s responsibility

by Linda Aronson, DVM

(applying responsibility to beardie, PON and all breeders)


As breeders of beardies we do the best we can to make sure the puppies
we produce have the best conformation, health and temperaments
– even if type is something we may never all agree on. We also try to
do everything we can to ensure those puppies go to the best homes
there are. We do everything to safeguard their futures with contracts
stipulating what will happen if the owners decide they no longer want
to or are unable to keep their puppy, when pets should be spayed or castrated,
and a lot more guidelines for those puppies we send to show
homes. However, contracts are, as we all know, very hard to enforce.
We also spend a lot of time talking to the new owners about every aspect
of puppy care, feeding, grooming, training, house-breaking, sports,
toys, crates and health problems that they should be aware of within the

"True leaders are not those who
strive to be first but those who
are first to strive and who give
their all for the success of the
team. True leaders are first to see
the need, envision the plan, and
empower the team for action. By
the strength of the leader's commitment,
the power of the team is
Author Unknown

Breed. We also know that in their excitement of adding a new family
member most of it went in one ear and out the other. If we have established
the right bond with the new owners we hope they will come back
to us for every question they have, and at first they do, but many want to
just enjoy their own puppy and communication
begins to dwindle. Staying in touch and frequently checking
in with all the owners is something we should be doing though, and not
just to make sure they are participating in the registry. We need to know
how every pup we produced works out, for our own information, certainly
to improve our abilities to assess future litters, but what about
once they are grown up?

We need to know of any health problems, but particularly those which are
known to be inherited or may be inherited. There is a scenario that was
presented to us recently though, and it is one that may help us try and formulate
a plan in case we find ourselves in the same situation. An adult
Beardie was diagnosed with Addison’s disease and the owners opted to
have the dog euthanatized before letting the breeder know. I don’t
know the reasons for the owners’ decision, although we can speculate
on them. I do know the breeder was very unhappy. She would have
wanted the opportunity to recover the dog and treat it. On the one hand we
can look at this as a decision that was solely the owners to make. It may
have been made based on their financial ability, there unwillingness to
care for a dog with an illness that would require constant monitoring
and would not be the healthy companion they wanted, or it could have
been based on the recommendation of the veterinarian. Sadly, many
vets feel it is their business to make decisions based on their perceptions
of the owners and their circumstances. Many vets will not have
treated cases of Addison’s and not be able give an accurate prognosis –
that most dogs with hypoadrenocorticism can live happy and pretty
healthy lives with appropriate treatment. At this time, making the decision,
the owners were probably not thinking about the breeder. Obviously,
there are times when a dog is in pain, failing fast, has been in a
bad accident when the owner should make the decision without consulting
the breeder, with the best interests of the dog only being important.
This was a situation in which the breeder felt she should have had the
opportunity for input, to ask that if the owners did not want to pursue
treatment they return the dog to the breeder. Given that adoptive homes
rarely want to take on a dog with chronic (and expensive) illness, that
is probably committing herself to caring for the dog for the rest of its
life. She was not given that option, however.
While she could stipulate in her contract that the owner should consult
the breeder whenever the dog becomes sick or euthanasia is being
considered – a useful clause, but as with the rest of the contract basically
impossible to enforce – is there anything more the breeder could
have done? It’s not easy to bring up the subject of what if…. we don’t
like to consider the possibility that
those cute fluff balls could ever develop a life threatening, chronic
disease, especially when they are at what should be the start or maybe
the middle of a long and happy life,but to prevent us from finding ourselves
in this situation, it is what we need to do. We need to be comfortable
discussing the health problems that afflict our basically healthy
breed, particularly the ones we know to be prevalent in the breed.
We can tell the buyer we have done everything currently possible to give
them a healthy puppy, but that there are no guarantees, and some puppies
will be afflicted despite our best efforts. Having discussed the possibilities
we then need to go one step further. We need to lay our commitment
to the puppy on the line, to say that if the dog becomes sick, and the
owners for whatever reason feel they cannot cope with the illness,
that we will take that puppy back, whatever its age, just as we would
take it back if it was healthy but the owners changed their minds. We
made the decision to bring the puppy into the world, and want to be
there for the decision as to when it should leave. Then we need to remind
the owners of this commitment at appropriate intervals. Say
something once, even something of such impact, and it will be forgotten,
it takes at least three iterations for anything to be remembered.
Hopefully, all your puppies will live full and healthy lives with their new
owners, but if that is not to be the case, we have a lifelong responsibility
to them, and should make it clear
that this is so.

A grateful thank you to Linda Aronson, DVM for this article.