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Breeder of the Year

Breeder of the Year

This page is my response to the recent Collie Club of America Breeder of the Year change being pushed. I believe it is wrong for  club members to give away club property - property that was donated by dedicated Collie fanciers - without the knowledge of the club's members.

When people run for office or volunteer to do a job, we expect them to be  transparent in their dealings and act in the good of the club. I know by putting this out there that I will become the target of a few club members. So what will happen if I piss off a few people?  I may lose a few dog shows. I may suddenly have the AKC show up to do a kennel inspection. I may have the local police show up with unfounded allegations of dog neglect. Frankly, I don't give a damn. So here it goes:

For many years, the CCA President’s Award for Breeder of the Year has been given to those individuals who have finished the most conformation champions in a calendar year. A minimum of thee champions is required and the award is given to both those who have finished the most smooths and those who have finished the most roughs.  Sometimes there is a tie and more than one person wins.

There has been discussion over the years that conformation winning shouldn’t be the only criteria when deciding who should earn the Breeder of the Year title. Recently, a vote was taken and passed 33 to 24 calling for the end of the Breeder of the Year awards as originally set up. This vote should not be valid because the wording is wrong. The motion that passed states “The President presents for approval the following motion made by Nadine Beckwith-Olson and seconded by Jackie Caruso on 06/06/12. I would like to make a motion to discontinue the breeder of the year award based on the current criteria of number of champions produced in the calendar year.” The award was not based on champions produced in a given year but number of champions finished in a given year. "Produced" means created or born as in ‘how many litters did a breeder produce during the year’. Also, there is no time period given for when the current criteria discontinuation would take place such as “beginning with the 2013 calendar year”. To make a change is fine, but not during the current calendar year for which the award is being given. The motion should not have been voted on with the above wording.

In any case, a committee was formed and chairperson charged with the task of coming up with new criteria to earn the title beginning in 2012. This is putting the cart before the horse. If the CCA wants to change the criteria, it should have come up with something new to present to the membership to vote on before doing away with the old criteria. This sequencing of events makes no sense.

I am not involved with this committee but I was asked for my input by the chairperson. I have won the award three times in the last thirteen years and have strong feelings about the subject. My fear is that this award is just going to turn into another popularity contest. A person who doesn’t breed much or win a lot is suddenly going to be eligible to win this award based on subjective criteria - picked because of who they know in the CCA or their personal popularity. Since the top-winning breeders beat a lot of others in the ring, they are not always the most popular people with other exhibitors.

This article is going to examine the multitude of ideas that could go into choosing who wins the Breeder of the Year award and the problems associated with these ideas.

First of all, what is the goal of the new criteria? Is it to even the playing field so that people who have infrequent litters or don’t show often, have a chance of winning the award? Is it because some top-winning breeders are repeat-winners? I have heard complaints that the award should be based on quality rather than quantity of champions. To me, this is broad and dangerous ground because quality is subjective vs. quantity which can be substantiated. So let’s look at the quality aspect.

The first question is, Is it the quality of the dogs or quality of the breeder that we want to count? If it’s quality of the dogs, do we include the number of specialty wins versus all-breed wins? The German Shepherd Dog Club, when tallying ROM points, uses detailed criteria including reserve winners at a specialty. If we start tallying up the number of wins at specialties, what do we include? BOB? Winners? Sweepstakes 4th place? Which specialties should be included – stand-alone shows or those held in conjunction with all-breed shows? How about supported entries? For some parts of the country, there are very few specialty clubs or specialty shows. Should someone who goes BOB at a 25-dog specialty show get more points for winning than a dog who goes RWB with an entry of 40 class bitches? In some parts of the country, there is little breed competition but dogs do very well at the group-level. Should all-breed winners be included in the quality point category if they go BIS at a 500 dog show but don’t beat a single dog of their breed because none were entered that day?

Should the quality of the dogs include their breeding record – for instance, some of the breed’s top-producing dogs weren’t big ring winners. If a dog is a top-producer, but not a ring winner, should that be given points toward the title? Should the top-producing status include both ROM and ROM-P status?

How does breeding ethics come into play? What about breeders who knowingly breed their DM carrier? What about people who stud out their blind dog? Should breeders who use a blind stud dog or brood bitch be penalized since there is so much negative controversy surrounding this practice? I remember the late Jan Wanamaker had a stunning but blind double-dilute bitch who was bred several times and produced many winners for her. Jan loved that bitch. Yet there are many breeders who think breeding blue to blue is unethical and would never breed a blind dog. Should a top-winning breeder be penalized because their champions are sired by a blind dog? Or because they breed blue-to-blue and put down the double-dilutes? Or do they get extra points for not killing the blind and/or deaf offspring but instead work to place them in loving homes?

Should the quality of the dogs be judged on their temperament? If a breeder’s dogs are used by assistance-dog organizations for war veterans or as junior show partners, should that give them extra points for having excellent temperaments in their dogs? What if a dog is a top ring winner but is known as very dog aggressive? Should points be taken away for temperament? Should the breeder’s dogs be temperament tested before being considered for the award since the standard states” Timidity, frailness, sullenness, viciousness …impair the general character.”

Should the award include only those breeders whose dogs win at conformation? Should it include performance event winners? If so, what kind of wins would qualify for performance? A beginning title like BN or a championship such as a MACH? Would CCA national wins such as first place in Brace Obedience qualify or do you need to go HIT to be included? There is nothing in the standard about working ability or herding instinct, yet the Collie standard talks about the dog’s condition and movement which are needed for a working dog. Many breeders take great pride in the fact that their dogs win in both the conformation and performance rings. Shouldn’t breeders who breed for the dog who can “do it all” be encouraged and rewarded? Should those breeders who don’t have the physical capability, time or money to compete in more than one venue be penalized?

Should wins at big shows such as Westminster or Eukanuba or the CCA National carry more weight than other shows? What if someone doesn’t have the money to travel around the country with their dogs and only attends the national every five years when it is held in their zone? If you have a dog who qualifies for the annual Top Ten Invitational, does that give the breeder more points? Should it matter if the top-winning dogs are campaigned every weekend by a professional handler or shown selectively by its owner? Should the dogs who win that are handled by their breeders be given more recognition? Does spending thousands of dollars campaigning to have a dog be publicized as “Number 1” give the breeder more points?

What about breeders who work hard at rescue, spending their time and money caring for dogs bred by other people? Some breeders have a clause in their sales contract stating that dogs they sell must be returned to them if the buyer can no longer keep the dog. Should extra points be given to these people? Should breeders who refuse to take back dogs be penalized? Say you sell dogs to someone who is ill or is sent to prison and can no longer care for their dogs. Should you get extra points for taking the dogs back or should you be penalized for sending them to rescue to adopt out?

What about the breeder who donates puppies to service dog organizations? Or who mentors juniors? Or participates in AKC Breeder Days held around the country? Should they be given extra points for doing this to advance the breed? Should people who don’t have service dog organizations in their area to donate to or don’t particularly like working with kids be penalized for only participating in the breed ring?

Should breeders who volunteer for dog clubs be given extra points? If so, what kind of clubs? Specialty? All-breed? The health or rescue foundation? The AWCA? How do you measure dog club involvement? What counts - belonging to a bunch of clubs by sending in the annual $25 dues? Holding a club office? Volunteering at the national every year? How would the CCA measure this – what kind of documentation would need to be sent in and to whom to prove your involvement? 

Does being Breeder of the Year have anything to do with going to legislative hearings when the HSUS is trying to impose restrictive laws in your state that impact breeding and owning dogs? Very few breeders are actively involved against the HSUS assault on our breeding rights. Should people who work with their elected representatives get more points since they are helping all breeders in general? Should people who don’t put any time or effort into defending their right to own and breed pure-bred dogs be penalized for this?

What about the breeder’s home set-up and how they treat their dogs – should people who whelp dogs in their home be given more points versus those who use an outside kennel? Does it matter what a breeder’s kennel situation looks like? Or the number of litters they breed a year? Or the number of dogs they own? What about breeders who don’t own any elderly dogs because they place them when the dog is no longer winning or  producing? Or they don’t have any old dogs because they die of DM, bloat, lymphoma, etc by the time they’re 7 years old? Should there be a longevity component to see if a breeder’s dogs live good long lives in comfort? How about dog food? Is one breeder better than another because they buy the most expensive dog food or feed raw vs. Dog Chow from Costco?

Now let’s look at health. Should health testing criteria be included in the Breeder of the Year award? The CCA’s official magazine, The Bulletin, does not allow for any health testing results to be advertised with the exception of CERF #s and OFA #s. These numbers are only proof that you tested your dog, not what the actual results of those tests are. Should breeders who regularly test their breeding stock for CEA, PRA, MDR-1, OFA, thyroid, Renal Dysplaysia, etc. be given extra points? Should those who do not test be penalized? What if a breeder tests their breeding stock and the results aren’t good. Should these tests count? Who decides if a dog is “breedable’? Who in the CCA gets to look at the test results to verify that they were done?

If the breed’s parent club won’t publish health testing results because they are considered “subjective” then should the Breeder of the Year award even have a health component as part of the criteria? The CCA requires its members to do eyechecks on puppies but this means nothing since the results aren’t public – who cares if the dogs have eyechecks when the offspring has colobomas or detachments? The judge in the ring doesn’t ask to see a dog’s health record before pointing to it and there’s nothing in the standard about health testing.

What about the health concerns that aren’t testable? The Collie’s biggest health concerns today are bloat, auto-immune diseases and cancer. How do you reward breeders who breed for good health versus those who don’t? How would the CCA know whose dogs are dying of inheritable disease vs. old-age?

Should the number of dogs a person owns and keeps on their property matter? There are people who don’t actually whelp litters but are in partnership with other people and on the AKC registration as breeder – should all 4 or 5 people listed as breeder get credit if they are on the registration of the dam because they are footing the show career of the dog or are due puppies back? Should it matter if a breeder has 5 dogs, 20 dogs or 50 dogs? The top-wining breeders of decades ago had 50-100 dogs on their property. Today these people would be called puppy mills or hoarders.  If having a lot of dogs is a bad thing and good breeders used to keep a lot dogs, then who is right? The AKC statistics show the Collie is ranked on average about #37 in popularity. Should good breeders be breeding more litters, not fewer, to make the breed more popular? Who gets to decide how many litters is too many?

Will letters of support for the breeder, say from puppy buyers and co-owners, be included in the award criteria like the letters currently written for the Sportsmanship and Shining Star awards? How about negative letters from jealous fellow exhibitors saying the breeder shouldn’t win because the person is a jerk to compete against and their dogs win because of the judges they know. What about lawsuits against the breeder from a puppy buyer or co-owner for unethical behavior? Will this be held against them? Who will gather this information?

If the CCA decides to come up with a list of subjective criteria that people need to meet, who is going to tally up the results and keep track of all of the critera’s proof? Some people suggest the award should be based on number of get finishing in a litter, believing that shows depth of quality of a breeding program.  Points would be given for the percentage of get finishing. This is a statistical nightmare. Example: What happens if you have a litter of 8 rough and smooths born 1/1/08. You finish 2 smooths as puppies in 2008. The roughs take longer to mature. You finish one in 2011 and one in 2012 so 50% of the litter eventually finishes. When does the person qualify for Breeder of the Year for having 4 dogs finish from one litter? What if you have a litter of 5 and decide to keep the best bitch, selling the others on spay-neuter contracts to nice pet and performance homes. The bitch goes on to win several specialty BOB awards. Are you penalized for only finishing one puppy out of five? I would rather keep the best 2 puppies in any litter to show than all 5 born and drag them around for years trying to finish to achieve the new criteria. Or say you have a litter of five smooth males, keeping two and giving the other three away on co-ownership to your friends and relatives. It takes 5 dogs to win a major in your area. You finish the whole litter by building your own majors, but never actually beat another breeder’s dogs. Should you be penalized for this? Maybe you live in an area such as Hawaii where you are the only breeder. Should that matter in this case? Should it matter if a breeder puts in their old finished champions as class dogs to make majors for their young dogs to say they finished a whole litter? Quantity of champions in a single litter could equal mediocrity, not quality.

Again, if the award is based upon subjective criteria, who will gather and tally the information? Where will it be stored? Who has access to the submissions? Will there be a committee who goes through a list of nominations and picks who they like? Will it go through a vote of the membership and DD’s? Do the club officers get to choose?  

Should it matter if you have won the Breeder of the Year title more than once? Is this title something that gets passed around from breeder to breeder each year? Can more than one breeder win in a given year? What if the criteria is so loose that 10 people qualify that year – does the award even mean anything then?

The Breeder of the Year Award has always been given to those with the most Conformation champions separated by variety. Should these varieties be combined now that more people are breeding both varieties?  

Will an award be given? If so, who is paying for it? The previous awards were paid for with private donations and given in perpetuity. When the club voted to change the criteria for winning the Breeder of the Year award this summer, the trophies has already been given away by the newly elected CCA President. They were given to the 2010 smooth winner and the 2011 rough winner to keep permanently back in Aprilbefore the motion was made, before the vote was taken, even before the membership’s opinion was considered as the awards were given away before the motion was made.

 The people who donated the funds for these perpetual trophies were told the AKC no longer allows perpetual trophies so they were given away. This is not correct.  The AKC rules state “In shows held by breed Specialty clubs, awards for Best in Puppy, Twelve-to-Eighteen Month, Novice, Amateur Owner Handler, Bred-by- Exhibitor, American-bred, and Open Classes, Best in any additional classes which the show-giving club may offer in accord with the provisions of Chapter 3, Section 13, in which the sexes are divided, may also be awarded on a three-time win basis provided permanent possession goes to the owner and/or breeder winning the award three times, not necessarily with the same dog, provided such prizes are offered by the show-giving specialty club itself or through it for competition at its shows.”

The Breeder of the Year awards are not show-related and therefore the AKC rule does not apply.  If the awards were supposed to go permanently to the person who won it three times, then the rough trophy should have been retired years ago, not this past April.

As a past recipient of this award, the process to change the award to make it easier for more people to win is crazy. The whole reason that dog shows started was so that breeders could show off their breeding stock. The standard that breeders follow is to produce the best breeding stock. Winning at shows is a way to measure the success of the person’s breeding program. If breeders shouldn’t be recognized for breeding winning dogs who meet the standard, then why give a Breeder of the Year award at all? Watering down the award or making it a popularity contest so that a lot of people can qualify does nothing positive for the breed.

 My suggestion is to give the awards out each year to the people who produced the most champions as was originally intended by the award donors. If the CCA no longer wants the award on their table at the annual national specialty, that’s fine as it’s an annual recognition trophy, not a show-win trophy anyway.  The CCA can still come up with new criteria for the President’s Award and give out an award for that.

The CCA has a large backload of unresolved problems. Creating new issues to further divide the club is stupid.

Laura LaBounty


Epilogue: So what happened? The CCA's  paperwork stating that the awards were to be retired after 3 wins NEVER MATERIALIZED. The club changed the wording of the original vote and it just barely passed. The wording was still wrong though - no date for when the Breeder of the Year criteria would change! A committee was appointed by the CCA president. The president then issued a one line statement saying the award might resume in 2013 after the committee's recommendation. Their recommendation? Get rid of the award because there's no fair and subjective manner in which to give it out! HA! This was the intention all along.

So for 2011 and 2012, a group of breeders got together and had 2 awards commissioned - a hand-painted platter and cookie jar by well-liked artist Kris Mulliagn. The awards were handed out privately (and as a total surprise to the recipients) at the 2013 national to myself (for winning it in 2011 with 8 champions) and Alesa Pesak (for winning it in 2012 with 12 champions). Shame on the CCA! And a big thank you to the fellow breeders who wanted to recognize those who do so much for the breed.