Ethics and the Reputable Breeder by Susan J Mulley: Ethics is a subject that seems to plague the dog fancy. Over the years of my involvement in Vizslas, periodically a new debate emerges about ethics. This column was written as the final "President's Point of View" before I left that position in the Vizsla Society of Ontario in 1992. I developed this code of ethics much earlier however.... in fact very early in my development as a breeder. I'm always pleased to see how well it holds up, and I still follow the fifteen points which comprise what I consider to be ethical breeding practices. As always, this post represents my point of view, but I'd be interested to hear what people think
CODE OF ETHICS
1) A reputable breeder works hard to acquire information both about dogs in general and about Vizslas in particular. This means more than reading the 7 or so books currently in print about Vizslas. It means talking to or corresponding with many of the authorities in the field, collecting snippets of information, finding treasure troves of old Vizsla magazines and archive material. I was fortunate to spend 9 years working closely with Dr. Phil Wright, one of the most knowledgeable Vizsla breeders in Canada. Fortunate but also determined. I spent day after day at his kennel, his barn and in his house watching, reading and questioning him on what he did, why, how, and what it meant. I learned irreplaceable information on pedigrees, breeding practices and specific problems of Vizslas. At times I'm sure Phil tired of my constant presence as well as my constant questioning but as a dedicated breeder, he never stopped providing me with information and support. I went on to make my own decisions regarding how I would act - some of them quite different from his, but I did it with the background of information which he provided. The corollary of this point is that reputable breeders freely share their knowledge and information with others involved in the breed just as Phil Wright did with me.
2) Reputable breeders support the breed clubs. They are involved, provide information on clubs to callers, and buy memberships or at least send a free issue of the Voice or News for all their puppy buyers. Contact between Vizsla owners and honest exchange of information can only strengthen the breed not weaken it.
3) Reputable breeders provide callers with information on how to look for a good breeder. Many people have no idea what questions to ask when looking for a puppy. Reputable breeders should provide them with this information.
4) Reputable breeders do not 'bad mouth' all the other Vizsla breeders in the area. No one breeder has the corner on competence, ethics or good puppies. While there are certainly breeders I do not feel I can recommend there are many, many breeders whom I freely refer potential puppy buyers to. Breeders should provide puppy buyers with a choice - they should be able to talk to other breeders with confidence.
5) Reputable breeders are honest about the faults as well as the advantages of our breed. It is only fair to always warn callers that they are obviously not getting an unbiased view about the breed if they are talking to someone who loves Vizslas enough to breed them. We should always warn people about the down side of owning Vizslas - the incredible energy they have and the constant contact with their people that they crave. In addition, a reputable breeder is honest about the inherited problems that are found in the breed and does not try to pretend that the Vizsla is the 'perfect' breed.
6) A reputable breeder always breeds with the function of the Vizsla in mind. Vizslas are medium sized, hunting dogs. Trying to breed for hunting ability, conformation, genetic health and temperament is not easy - but it is a disservice to the breed to do any less. This means not breeding to the male down the street, or in your house simply because he is convenient. Unless you truly feel that dog is a superior representative of the breed and his pedigree combines well with your bitch it is irresponsible to breed simply for the sake of having a litter. Of course reputable breeders do not breed a bitch unless she is a good example of the breed either.
7) Reputable breeders never breed a dog or a bitch before they are at least two or even three years of age. Most genetic defects will show up before the age of three, for example idiopathic or inherited epilepsy usually shows up between the ages of two and three. Reputable breeders never breed dogs that are not fully certified by the OFA or OVC for hip dysplasia. In addition, as tests become available for other inherited problems, reputable breeders have their breeding stock tested.
8) Reputable breeders provide some kind of a guarantee with their puppies. Obviously the puppies must be guaranteed healthy when they leave the house. (A veterinary inspection should be required within 72 hours to confirm this). In addition responsible breeders should offer some kind of guarantee against genetic defects.
9) Reputable breeders sell puppies and dogs only on non-breeding contracts. The Canadian Kennel Club may subsequently lift these) but reputable breeders know the damage ill-informed and indiscriminate breeding can do to the breed. Non-breeding contracts are one way to help prevent this. (Note for the list: as per our previous discussion thread, this is not yet a fully workable option for most American breeders.)
10) Reputable breeders provide long term support and advice. They are available to those who buy puppies (both their own and others) and provide help and encouragement.
11) Reputable breeders are willing to take back puppies they have bred and find homes for them if they ever need to be placed again. They recognize that the decision to bring this life into the world was theirs and they take the responsibility of protecting it.
12) Reputable breeders take responsibility for their mistakes. This responsibility includes accidental breeding, breeding which turn out badly etc. All ethical breeders should be well informed about the process of conception and the prevention of ill-advised litters. Lying or hiding information about litters that did not turn out well does not help the breed and ethical breeders are honest about their mistakes.
13) Ethical breeders are fully informed about the dangers of inbreeding and the difference between inbreeding and line breeding. This is especially important in Vizslas since the initial gene pool for our breed was quite small and contained sufficient problems that any great duplication of bloodlines runs considerable risk of genetic problems. Line breeding is only valuable for a breed when the lines being closely crossed are free of problems - otherwise you are perpetuating a crime against the genetic future of the breed. Inbreeding certainly has its place. However, reputable breeders, if they choose to inbreed, will either keep all the puppies until it is determined which ones have problems and need to be put to sleep (then they DO it) or they place those puppies in homes who are fully aware of the potential problems of owning an inbred puppy.
14) Ethical breeders are fully aware that without temperament in a dog we have nothing. The best show dog, the best hunting dog, the best obedience dog are nothing if they are shy, or aggressive. Vizslas live closely with their families. There is no room for breeders who knowingly breed poorly tempered dogs. While the nature vs. nurture debate still rages, it remains clear that temperament is a strongly heritable trait. There are many examples in Vizslas of poor temperaments that can be traced back for generations. Vizslas should be active, happy, outgoing and unreservedly friendly, without a trace of shyness or aggressiveness. Breeding dogs with any other traits is irresponsible.
15) Finally reputable breeders are good sports. They do not spread gossip or rumors about other breeders or owners. They encourage people to get involved in different aspects of owning a Vizsla. At ringside and in the ring they are polite and supportive. In the field they encourage and help others. This is not to say that we are all angels! We may hold different views than others about the relative merits of the dogs in the ring, or the performance of the dogs in the field - but we discuss those views in private with only those we trust not to harm the feelings of those involved. Reputable breeders act always with the knowledge that our dogs are dearly loved and criticize only constructively, and only when asked.