TO SELECTING AND BREEDING A QUALITY BOXER (Do AKC papers
mean quality?) by Theresa Garton, MD
published - on Boxer Rescue Mailing List web pages.
Q. "My Boxer
is AKC registered. That's all I need to prove its a good one, and I would
be foolish to not breed it, right?"
Let me make it clear, having AKC papers DOES NOT mean a dog is a quality animal. It DOES NOT mean the dog is worthy of being bred.
ABC, or the American Boxer Club, is the official consultant of sorts to the AKC about what it takes to be a quality Boxer. ABC is the organization that sends the blueprint to the AKC, by which judges at dog shows rate quality. ABC is the group that does not recognize white Boxers. However, they can not tell AKC what to do, because AKC is the "parent" club, so to speak. AKC chooses to register whatever is represented to them from a registered (notice I did not say quality) sire, from a registered (again, this does NOT mean quality) dam, and out of a registered litter. The puppies could be purple, shaped like salukis, act like Japanese Chins, and if someone could prove they were from appropriately registered parents, they would still be registered by AKC.
Shows are where quality is measured. This is why it is so important to look for championships VERY CLOSE in the pedigrees of puppies you are considering buying. If the champions are no closer than 4 or 5 generations away, it is very possible that the dogs in the subsequent generations were not carefully bred by a knowledgeable person with a well thought out plan for improving and maintaining the characteristics that make a Boxer a Boxer. Obedience degrees, and other measures of temperament also provide information, and if the breeder can also provide information about family health history, screening for hereditary diseases, etc., then you have found a responsible breeder.
So, again, when looking for a puppy, look for champions very close in the pedigree, hopefully father or mother or both. Learn the "breed standard", this will tell you how to accurately measure the quality of the parents you look at, and the puppies or adults you consider buying. Avoid breeders who try to sell you puppies from parents with disqualifying faults.
In Boxers, disqualifying faults would include fathers who only have one descended testicle, and especially any puppies with one or both parents who are white. Any breeder who is using a white Boxer for breeding or offering white puppies with full registration is, by definition, acting irresponsibly, as surely as another breeder who either doesn't do basic health and temperament screening, or knowingly breeds a dog with a poor temperament or health problem.
Q. "OK, I know I want a healthy Boxer, so checking for health problems is important. However, I just want a pet, not a show dog. Does it really matter if there are champions in my puppy's pedigree?"
A. The answer I have to the question above is another question: Does it matter to you whether or not you have a BOXER?
It seems to me that people seek out a purebred, of ANY breed, because they have certain expectations of appearance and behavior. The purpose of showing dogs it to ensure that breeding stock adhere to the accepted standards of what MAKES a good example of whatever breed the puppies represent.
If a person pays good money for a Boxer puppy, I suspect that person wants a BOXER and not a Great Dane. I suspect they want a quality representation of the breed, one they can be proud to call a member of the breed they have chosen. Breeders who don't even know what a standard is, or who ignore the standard in choosing their breeding stock are behaving unethically in many ways. This sort of breeder damages the breed, and gives short shrift to people who buy their puppies -- buyers who think that they are getting quality.
On the other hand, there are a VERY few breeders, who don't show themselves, but who could be considered responsible and ethical. Nonetheless, these breeders DO study the standard, pay attention to health and temperament issues, and in other ways, work very hard to make sure the dogs they chose to breed represent accepted standards. This sort of breeder may still go to shows, so that they can continue to learn; learning the standard is a very long and complicated process. This is an excellent sort of breeder, and I would have no qualms in referring someone who wanted a quality puppy to them. As it turns out, their dogs do often have championships documented in the resulting pedigrees, as they often chose a CH sire for their well bred, but never shown bitch.
BUT, and this is a very big but -- it takes a very special and RARE person to not fall victim to kennel blindness, or overestimating the quality of their dogs, without some objective doses of reality in the show ring. So, caution is still well advised.
Another scenario is a plain dog or bitch, owned by someone who felt it would be too expensive or difficult to overcome that marking pattern. Plain dogs may be well bred, and of excellent quality, but without documented title. I consider this a very unfortunate situation, but it is reality.
So, again, it is not necessary to seek out breeders who SHOW to get a quality puppy, but such a breeder should still be able to discuss the standard with you, and show you ways in which their dogs meet the standard, minor ways in which they may not meet the standard, explain the breeding rationale that they hope will correct minor flaws in future generations, etc.
Q. I've heard a lot about tests breeders conduct before breeding their Boxers, tests like OFA. What does all this mean?
A. As for OFA, many very knowledgeable vets, and breeders for hat matter, consider the OFA a very imperfect test. My own veterinary orthopedist reports he has seen NO CHANGE in the rate of hip dysplasia since OFA has been in wide use. He personally prefers the PennHip test. But, neither of these is a perfect screening tool.
So, a quality breeder may or may not obtain OFA credentials. I myself have been using PennHip, at the recommendation of my orthopedic vet. Eye problems have a very low incidence in Boxers; I think that this test would be so "low yield" that I personally don't insist that this certification be done (it WOULD be essential for say, a poodle). Thyroid problems are very often environmental, or otherwise not hereditary, so, especially until we get our heart problems under control, I would not insist on this test. And of course, an echocardiogram or cardiologist consultation to check for aortic stenosis, and a holter monitor test, are vital tests to check for the inherited heart problems in the breed.
But, before all of this, a Boxer should be a Boxer. Otherwise, go pick a mutt out of the pound. There are plenty of them who could be wonderful companions for you. If you want a BOXER, look for someone who understands CLEARLY what that means, and is struggling to make sure that the breed continues to improve.