BERNESE IN PUPPY FARMS - NO PLACE FOR A DOG!
Owners of Bernese fall into all sorts of categories – those who have a single dog, those who own a quite a few and every possible equation in-between. The Bernese ‘community’ in the UK has seen quite a few changes over the years – some folk arrive and then depart whilst others become entrenched in the breed and become part of the ‘establishment’. There are bound to be fluctuations, but now we seem to be witnessing a somewhat different attitude to the breed and associated activities.
Most UK based breeders of Bernese are hobby breeders. Some breed just one or two litters and then lose interest, whilst many regard themselves as somewhat dedicated, long-term specialists, preferring to concentrate their attention and energy on the occasional production of just this one, single breed.
Of course, being interested in breeding Bernese does not mean that every owner/breeder has to admire or keep only Bernese in exclusivity; some breeders do combine breeding Bernese in conjunction with breeding one or two other breeds and they, presumably, find their Bernese are compatible to co-exist with other types of dog. Presumably, the owners are able to provide the needs of each of ‘their’ own dogs/breeds whilst still maintaining their breeding of dogs within the boundary or limits of a hobby. Since Bernese arrived in the UK there have always been a few Bernese breeders who fall into this category, and without some who were already established in other breeds and who ‘took on’ Bernese back in the 70s Bernese may not have found the firm foothold that allowed the breed to grow to current prominence. It is interesting to note that almost all of those early pioneers who helped establish Bernese in the UK appeared to reduce their activities in their other breeds and dedicated their time and enthusiasm to specialise in Bernese.
Photo taken in the 1980's. The lamp hanging over the litter box is the onlly source of light in this UK breeder's 'puppy rearing' barn used for Bernese and various other breeds. The photo has not been edited or darkened in any way.
Throughout the history of Bernese in the UK there have also been a few Bernese breeders who also bred large numbers of puppies from multiple breeds. Currently there are people in the UK who breed Bernese but are also breeding a large volume of puppies of many other breeds (and crossbreeds) too. For example, the Kennel Club Breed Records Supplement shows that one UK breeder of Bernese registered 44 litters of eight different breeds with the Kennel Club, during 2006 + another 33 litters during 2007. That amounted to more than 600 puppies in those 2 years but of course that total doesn’t include any puppies which were not Kennel Club registered.
Bernese have very specific and ‘special’ needs and they need ‘special’ owners who recognise, appreciate and provide those needs. Bernese are a particularly demanding breed – demanding of attention, time, in fact extremely demanding of every resource an owner has and more!
Photo taken in the 1980s. The pups under the lamp were in a wooden box on straw – the 2nd photo has been lightened and clarified for better viewing. These pups were being viewed by a potential purchaser who did decide to buy one of these pups (out of pity?) If you thought this type of puppy-rearing was a thing of the past you are mistaken.
Bernese need careful rearing to achieve optimum health and soundness - most enlightened breeders and owners realise that what may be appropriate management of, for example, a GSD or a Labrador or any other ‘large’ breed is not appropriate or even, perhaps, sufficient for a Bernese. The heavier bone/body mass and growth rate of a Bernese, coupled with erratic and somewhat exaggerated growth-spurts need careful monitoring and regular adjustment of food, exercise etc., appropriate to each individual dog’s current stage of development.
Not all Bernese are lucky enough to live in safe or secure environments. This pup on a multi-breed premises could easily escape, or be injured by the rusty corrugated iron barriers or the unsecured chicken wire.
The ideal Bernese temperament is a combination of confident and out-going yet sensitive. Bernese are VERY tuned-in to people and are very dependent on human company – they don’t thrive in kennel environments and will never achieve their full potential – or happiness – if they spend long hours away from people or the normal household and family activities.
Bernese may be classed as a ‘working’ breed (and therefore by default considered a ‘hardy’ breed) but lets not kid ourselves – most potential owners choose to buy a Bernese because they invariably want a ‘family’ and ‘companion’ dog who comes from stock proven to function in, and be suited to, family life. Caring breeders know that rearing a litter is an almost full-time occupation demanding almost full-time attention. Bernese are time-consuming and crave individual attention – baby puppies even more so.
It beggars belief that anyone who knows anything about Bernese or perhaps more to the point anyone who CARES about Bernese should think that this special, sensitive breed should be used for commercial purposes within a multi breed, high-volume puppy producing business. The price of a stud fee or the revenue from a puppy sale appears to be all it takes for some breeders to condemn future generations of Bernese to be part of a miserable production-line for a greedy individual’s financial gain.
Bernese breed clubs may very soon, if not already doing so, have to consider their stance on this increasing trade. Will it be acceptable for puppy farmers (and their associates) to become members of Bernese clubs? Should those who are already members of clubs continue to enjoy the benefits of Bernese club membership or attend club events?
The committees of the clubs and societies who were formed to care-for or promote or foster or regard themselves as custodians of Bernese will decide how best they could share the information they have to ensure all their members are made aware of the use of Bernese in large-scale, commercial business, or whether they prefer to maintain silence. Factual information available in the public domain identifies those who use Bernese (plus other breeds) for high-turnover business purposes. Those who want to avoid their dogs and themselves becoming involved (innocently) in that trade would definitely appreciate (and perhaps expect?) being kept informed and updated.
Owners and breeders will undoubtedly have many and varied views about owning and breeding Bernese but does ANY Bernese deserve to become part of a ‘commercial’ enterprise?