UK BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOGS UNDER THREAT

 


UK BERNESE UNDER THREAT by Jude Simonds

Every dog deserves to live in a comfortable home where all their needs are met and where they are happy and loved by caring, devoted owners. Our planet is already vastly over populated by unwanted dogs and it has been suggested that the only justification for breeding more dogs is for breeders to attempt to breed the best dogs they can and in the case of recognised, pedigree breeds that equates to a committed undertaking for breeders to arm themselves with sufficient knowledge to enable them to engage in ethical dog breeding, and to breed only from dogs which themselves are at the very least, very good or excellent examples of their breed.

The sight of a magnificent typy, sturdy, sound Bernese was something that was inspirational and completely captivated me almost four decades ago which fired a passion for this breed that changed the direction of my life. Even now when I see a Bernese of excellent characteristics and quality that exudes true breed type it is a breathtaking and mesmerising sight which fills my eye and my heart and never fails to lift my spirits but sadly, Bernese of high quality and distinction are becoming a less common occurrence. There are too many uncharacteristic Bernese of inferior quality being bred from and this is escalating at a frightening speed to the extent it may become the 'norm' for our breed. I know other long-standing Bernese enthusiasts have also witnessed this decline in quality and feel as concerned as I do.

The Kennel Club Breed Standard for Bernese Mountain Dogs can be found on the Kennel Club website here; www.thekennelclub.org.uk/services/public/breed/standard.aspx?id=5114

Bernese are considered by most knowledgeable and experienced breeders as a challenging breed insofar as quality is not always achievable to the degree that most breeders aspire. Even the 'cleverest' breeders cannot guarantee to avoid problems associated with the breed whilst simultaneously attempting to maintain and improve quality in their stock but all things considered, any breeder with integrity will make careful, considered decisions and always endeavour to stack the cards in favour of breeding Bernese who conform to the Breed Standard. The integrity of Bernese in the UK has been under fire for many years but has now reached a level that should be perceived as a real threat to the future of 'proper' Bernese.

The essence of what a typical Bernese SHOULD BE as set out in our Breed Standard is being undermined from numerous directions to a degree of detriment that I have never witnessed before; the potential damage to the future of our breed is obvious and should not be underestimated.

Puppy Farms and multi-breed dealers
Back in the 70's when the UK population of Bernese was still striving to sustain a firm footing, enthusiasts were horrified to discover that a few Bernese puppies were advertised for sale by a large, infamous, multi-breed puppy retail outlet, in effect a "puppy supermarket' in the North of England; during the next decade more litters were offered for sale from those premises at more regular intervals.

In the 80's, another multi-breed retail outlet in the South began to advertise Bernese puppies and so I travelled to the shop to check it out and see what the situation was. My feeling of sadness for the poor unfortunate puppies of all the breeds displayed in their little cubicles was exactly the same as I had felt for the babies I had seen previously at the Northern premises. Whilst housed on clean bedding in their display booths, the puppies were nothing more than disposable merchandise produced solely for profit and they had already been shipped across country at a very tender age from the suppliers to the retailer to be offered for sale to anyone and everyone who was willing to pay their ticket price.

Apart from the obvious welfare concerns, the majority of the puppies on display were pretty much the familiar colour and markings expected of their breed but otherwise they were very poor examples of their respective breeds. Most were timid, puny and scrawny looking with that pathetic, sad, wizened look about their faces. Few, if any, seemed to possess the positive characteristics set out in their respective Breed Standards. A high percentage of the larger breed puppies seemed very small and undernourished for their age whilst many of the small and toy breed puppies were larger and rangier than one would expect a carefully-planned, well-bred and well-reared puppy would be. The Bernese puppies on offer looked pitiful with few of our breed's essential characteristics and had originated from a known, multi-breed producer.

A poster on the wall of the shop advised "If you can't see the breed you want on show, ask one of our sales staff and we can usually oblige." That sent me cold.

I remember standing there and thinking how awful it must have been for the really dedicated pioneers and enthusiasts of those other breeds commonly found at almost all such multi-breed outlets - Labradors,GSDs, Westies, Collies etc. Breed stalwarts seeing their beloved breeds unashamedly exploited for greed was something they would have had to come to terms with but they must have been so sickened to have to accept the reality that the quality and integrity of their breed would likely always thereafter be undermined by this appalling and snowballing trade.

I wondered if British Bernese would ever be in the same position and dreaded the prospect. That dread has been realised.

As the years have passed we have seen a significant increase in poorly bred 'puppy-farmed' Bernese puppies in the UK although, thankfully, not to the same epidemic level as some breeds but it HAS now reached a degree that is having a negative impact on the UK Bernese population.

The problems generated by people who are not interested in even attempting to breed to conform with the Breed Standard are not just the lack of quality of the dogs they breed from and produce, but also the lack of guidance and nil education passed on to the buyers of those pups, many of whom become the next generation of opportunist breeders who decide to breed Bernese despite having minimal knowledge or long term interest. And they WILL do it just because they can.

Dog breeding is attractive to opportunists because it is one of very few enterprises which generates large sums of cash from a low set-up cost - all that is needed is a fertile bitch and access to a male dog for stud purposes. In the case of Bernese there is usually an unending queue of undiscerning folk willing to buy the puppies, and breeders are rarely challenged by dissatisfied owners of "faulty" puppies as most owners love their dogs and wouldn't even consider returning them for a refund. It is no surprise that an increasing number of people who are otherwise disinterested in dogs in general and Bernese in particular spotted a lucrative opportunity and without hesitation grabbed it with both hands.

Opportunist breeders

We were all 'Bernese Beginners' once - even those of us who had knowledge of other breeds before acquiring our first Bernese. Every Bernese owner starts out as a novice and some of us pursue knowledge and gain experience to progress beyond 'novice' stage whilst others may not. Unfortunately novice breeders who lack sufficient knowledge of the breed and do not even have the advantage of being guided by an experienced, reputable mentor are now the source of an ever increasing number of poor quality Bernese.

To learn about any breed one needs to spend a lot of time with the breed (other than our own dogs) and interact with and learn from other owners and breeders of repute who have experience and in-depth knowledge. Gaining knowledge is not a quick process!

Although dog breeding is a very complicated topic, there are three basic factors which are generally considered to be of primary importance for those who desire to breed quality, pedigree dogs;

1. In depth knowledge of the breed,
2. Integrity, and
3. Dogs which are of sufficiently high breed quality and thereby good enough to breed from

BUT .....

1 - this cannot be acquired without serving an apprenticeship which is ideally overseen and guided by
an established, reputable mentor who has earned their stripes.
2 - cannot be acquired - you either have it or you don't, and
3 - you cannot determine if you have dogs of quality unless you are already in possession of 1 and 2!

The demand for, and prices commanded by Bernese puppies has not gone unnoticed by some owners of companion Bernese who have no knowledge and care even less about what faults and
virtues lie in the pedigree of their own bitch and simply seek any conveniently located male of the same breed (although NOT always the same breed - Bernese crossbreeds are on the increase too!). Advertisements offering poor quality Bernese are now in abundance, ands those offered for sale without KC registration were almost unknown until a decade ago but now seen often.

Of course owning a Bernese is not an exclusive right for the privileged few or even dedicated breeders and committed enthusiasts, but in a complicated breed like Bernese there IS a convincing argument that BREEDING Bernese should be in the hands of only those who have served an apprenticeship within and amongst the knowledgeable Bernese fraternity first!

Mail-order and Internet imports
Since changes in the UK Pet Travel Scheme came into force in January 2012 there have been numerous stories and TV reports of the influx of imported puppies of all breeds flooding in from
overseas dealers and we have seen numerous litters of Bernese bred overseas, most commonly from Eastern Europe, being imported by the van load and sold to UK buyers. No Bernese breeder of repute would EVER sell their puppies to buyers they had not previously met and interviewed, and would certainly not sell whole or part litters to middle-men distributors who then sell the puppies on. That there seems to be no shortage of buyers who are keen to throw caution to the wind and buy puppies via that process is both sad and worrying.

Many such imported Bernese puppies have unknown or questionable backgrounds and are of depressingly consistent poor quality; already some of those hapless purchases have been discarded by their owners because they didn't turn out to be as expected and that is no surprise That some of the owners of those mail-order imports have bred from them or are contemplating doing so simply because their dogs (most of whom lack breed type and quality and have nondescript, under-whelming pedigrees) carry "NEW blood" is both reckless of the owners and a cause of huge concern for Bernese enthusiasts; our breed needs a foundation of "GOOD blood" and simply being born overseas has nothing to do with canine quality or merit.

Puppy Buyers

Whilst breeders are responsible for their breeding decisions and the quality, or lack of quality in the dogs they breed, buyers also influence the Bernese population. Most of us were initially attracted to the look of Bernese, and then we read the Breed Standard and thought "That's the dog for me!"

A discerning potential owner will go on to do some further in-depth research, familiarise themselves with the pros and cons of the breed and then proceed to locate and acquire a carefully planned, well-bred puppy from a known, established and reputable breeder.

Unfortunately, a great many potential owners seem to have little interest in spending time and effort in making a careful selection when it comes to making a purchase. I'm not suggesting a Bernese is like a piece of furniture or technology, but if potential Bernese owners were planning on spending the price of a Kennel Club registered Bernese puppy which currently seems to be between £1200 - £1500 [2019 prices currently range from approx £1600 - £2500] on something else, perhaps a plasma TV or maybe a new smart phone they would likely;

a) look for recommendations,
b) interrogate the salesman,
c) choose a well established manufacturer of quality products who have good reviews,
d) compare models and
e) only make a commitment when they were sure that their final choice had all the functions they hoped for and was compatible for the intended purpose.

It is therefore astonishing that when potential puppy owners are asked what aspects of the breed would be a priority in their new puppy, they inevitably answer "it doesn't matter, I just want one."
But it DOES matter, and that careless, and some might say reckless attitude definitely contributes to the lack of quality within the breed; if buyers are prepared to hand over a considerable sum for sub-standard dogs from unethical breeders who have no regard for the breed, then there is no incentive for breeders to bother to implement a better breeding ethic and more stringent selection processes which are essential for improving the quality of their litters.

The show ring
Dog shows were originally set up to judge dogs against their respective Breed Standard and those with sufficient merit to be rewarded accordingly. There is no such thing as a perfect example of any breed, and at every show there will likely be a huge variation of type and shape and quality in the exhibits. That is certainly the case in Bernese. But that is what judges are there for - to carefully examine each exhibit, identify the best examples of the breed and award prizes accordingly.

The Kennel Club has issued instructions to judges, reminding them of the importance of their task and allows them to exclude from competition exhibits with serious defects such as aggression or condition(s) which adversely affects its health or welfare such as;

Lameness – including ‘hopping’

Inappropriate temperament – refusal to be handled, timidity or aggression

A discharge from one or both eyes or any signs of discomfort in either eye

Obvious breathing difficulty

Obvious skin or ear irritation

Significantly over or under weight

Judges may also withhold awards if a dog fails, in the opinion of the judge, to meet the minimum
quality standards that determine if

a) it is breed typical; and

b) it is of sufficient merit to justify the award.

Whilst judges may differ in their interpretation of the Breed Standard their varying opinions should not be so diverse to allow serious breed faults to go unnoticed and/or un-penalised. Ringsiders at many of our shows regularly report with dismay that Bernese who are lame, those with serious conformation defects and even Bernese with unstable temperament who refuse to be examined by the judge often achieve high awards, and of course Bernese that win in the show ring have a high probability of being bred from. With Bernese entry figures very low at some shows, it has been suggested by some that too many dogs of very poor quality win by default simply because there is a low attendance and because some judges appear to be either unfamiliar with the Breed Standard, incompetent and/or unprofessional or are, as some have suggested, lacking in courage.

Whatever the reason for poor quality Bernese achieving high awards, all judges have a responsibility to conduct each judging appointment with knowledge, honesty, impartiality and absolute integrity and whilst judges cannot dictate the quality of the entrants that appear before them at any given competition, the judge's task is very clear - to uphold the Breed Standard by recognising and rewarding ONLY those exhibits who have sufficient merit to deserve those awards.

Social media and networking
The phenomena of social networking has swept the planet and continues to grow in popularity as it becomes an essential part of daily life for millions of people. The benefits of instant communication are obvious and many have embraced the opportunity to share common interests and pursue online friendships

BUT .....

there is also a negative effect for our breed.

Voicing admiration for Bernese owned by online 'cyber friends' is indeed a common act of 'friendship' but it has reached the degree whereby poor quality, uncharacteristic Bernese are unashamedly promoted and loudly commended as "stunning" or "fantastic" examples of the breed when they are clearly no such thing, and poor management and unethical breeding practises are openly praised and even widely encouraged and applauded.

Most of us will likely have owned and loved Bernese who fell far short of the ideal example for the breed - I certainly have and have loved and cherished those as much as other Bernese I have shared my life with who have been nearer to Breed Standard and better examples of the breed. That is exactly as it should be when we have opened our homes and our hearts to a dog, Bernese or otherwise, who becomes a valued member of our family. BUT, our emotional attachment to our own dogs and even our fondness for those dogs owned by 'friends' should not divert us from making an honest and objective evaluation of their breed type and quality, and of their suitability or lack of suitability, as candidates to be used for breeding.

Selective breeding of Bernese MUST be favoured, and promoted over indiscriminate breeding practices.

Whether the owner of a single, companion Bernese or an aspiring or established breeder, everyone who professes to care about Bernese MUST try to promote the importance of breeding Bernese to meet and reflect the Breed Standard, thus retaining all the necessary and distinctive, positive attributes that a make a Bernese a PROPER Bernese and define it from other breeds.

Our breed needs all of us who care to be pro-active and instil upon others the importance of our mission to try protect the future of Bernese Mountain Dogs as they SHOULD be. We all need to resolve to heighten awareness NOW of the real threat that Bernese face, and if that can be accomplished we may just be able to redress the balance and restore more typical Bernese to a higher profile.

UK BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOGS UNDER THREAT - Part 2

I received a lot of response to Part 1 of this article and ALL of it was positive and ALL of it in agreement that UK Bernese are facing quite a predicament. It was very sad that ALL of those longstanding breeders/owners who got in touch with me described their sadness at the decline in quality we are witnessing with too many poor quality dogs (although happily there still are some good typy,sound Bernese around even if they are in the minority) and some used words such as "despair","frightening" and even "sickening" to describe this downturn.

Of course there is no way that we can compel anyone do something such as improve their ethics and upgrade their breeding stock no matter how much we want them to so it would seem that
education must be our prime strategy; the burden of educating both the buying public and novice breeders (those who at least appear to be open to the concept of learning) will inevitably be borne
on the shoulders of a relatively few Bernese enthusiasts who are

a) equipped with the experience, knowledge and skills essential for the task, and
b) have the integrity, dedication, commitment and willingness to share their expertise and offer
guidance.

So, assuming we agree on the areas which pose most problems to our breed, what steps if any, REALISTICALLY, COULD BE IMPLEMENTED to try to improve the standard of a greater
percentage of the population of Bernese Mountain Dogs in the UK?

Let's take a look at some of the points and views raised in the feedback I received - in no particular order.

1 - Puppy Farms/commercial breeders: I am sure none of us would think that any commercial kennel would be a suitable place for Bernese (or any other dog) but getting to grips with the current laws that we have and improving upon basic welfare requirements plus FULL disclosure to the relevant government departments, including the Tax man, would perhaps reduce the number of commercial producers and by consequence begin to reduce the problem.

One of the first steps (and any improvement would have to start with the fundamentals) might be for ALL commercial puppy producers and suppliers to HAVE to comply with current laws and
regulations; it would seem that not all such premises apply for a licence as required by the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 which can be found here; www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/486/pdfs/uksi_20180486_en.pdf

It has been reported that even some of those who do have a licence appear not to have been inspected regularly. If unannounced spot-checks were made periodically that would seem to be a good way of monitoring and identifying issues, ensuring compliance with the Act but that isn't something that happens and I am led to believe that any inspection visits are by pre-arranged appointment. There have been numerous reports of such businesses flouting the law such as dogs not being properly identified with microchips etc., or the number of dogs kept and/or litters bred exceeding specified limits and it continues because the law is not efficiently enforced.

Also the Kennel Club could insist on the production of a current breeding licence with every application to register a litter by a commercial volume producer, or perhaps the Kennel Club could demonstrably decry the commercial production of puppies by refusing to register more than a set number of litters annually (maybe 4 or 5?) from any owner/family or address.

2 - Opportunist breeders: A high percentage of caring UK Bernese breeders employ the option of applying the Kennel Club Registration Certificate endorsement "progeny not for registration"
to puppies they sell in the hope of providing some protection against companion Bernese and those lacking sufficient quality from being used for breeding by novice owners.

Up until recent years there was an accepted degree of honour between most dedicated breeders and their buyers that a pup purchased as a companion would be nothing more than a companion.
Nowadays an endorsement isn't worth the paper it is written on because

a) some owners are completely lacking in honour regardless of any 'contract' they may have signed at the time of purchasing their pup, and

b) an endorsement doesn't physically prevent a dog being mated and nowadays non-KC registered Bernese puppies sell for up to four figures.

There will always be opportunists who grasp the chance to jump on a cash-laden band-waggon and the consensus of opinion was that reputable breeders need to be extra cautious when deciding to whom they provide Bernese stud services or sell puppies to. Some breeders fail to make any, and/or insufficient checks before agreeing a stud service or puppy sale and that could definitely be improved upon, and sharing concerns with other reputable breeders when we feel that someone has subsequently exploited a Bernese originally sold in good faith as a companion
is something that we could all subscribe to.

Those who engage in "friendships" on Social Networking sites should also consider how much (or more importantly how little) they ACTUALLY KNOW about someone before aiding them in
acquiring a Bernese puppy or encouraging them to become involved in breeding Bernese.

3 - Improved mentoring of aspiring breeders: Gaining knowledge is not a quick process and most of us will have - at some time - tried to run before we can walk. The enthusiasm to begin
breeding Bernese ASAP needs to be countered by first having enough information and a truthful assessment of not only the dogs owned but also an insight into what lies within our dog's bloodlines plus a more general knowledge of the desirable and undesirable traits within other bloodlines as without that we cannot hope to make informed decisions about what lines to incorporate into any breeding programme. And to achieve anything worth building on for our breed it DOES need to be a breeding PROGRAMME and not the equivalent of a quick-fix-one-night-stand!

Seriously though, worthwhile mentoring can only be effectively achieved by enrolling those with enough knowledge, experience and integrity to engage with those who are willing to learn! We
need to recognise and MAKE USE OF the wealth of knowledge that we still have at our disposal within our Bernese ranks.

There are lots of folk who excel at "talking the talk" and pushing themselves forward for self promotion but not so many who have actually "walked the walk" but that's where the real benefit to our breed lies, within the wisdom painstakingly acquired by those who have actually been down that hard-trodden path. Looking at ways to more effectively bring together those with knowledge and experience and enthusiastic novice breeders could bring big benefits.

4 - The Breed Standard of the Bernese Mountain Dog:
This most important of documents has been given some lip-service and is tucked into a few publications but in reality it has been
sidelined for far too long and should be given much more prominence.

It is the official, essential, written description of what characteristics a Bernese should have and what makes Bernese unique and different from other breeds but yet the content and importance of the Breed Standard remains a mystery to a very high percentage of Bernese owners, many of whom are owners of companion Bernese but also too many of those who are already engaged in breeding Bernese. That is something we could begin to rectify if we choose to, and we SHOULD choose to because without promotion of, and adherence to the Breed Standard the quality within the breed will continue to decline and that is something we cannot afford.

Back in the year 2000 the Bernese Breed Council published an illustrated, expanded Breed Standard which elaborated upon each of the points of the concise (basic) Kennel Club Standard to help better explain them. I am led to believe that some of the UK Bernese Clubs involved in it's production have reverted back to using/referring solely to the basic, minimally worded Kennel Club Standard.

The concept of an illustrated, elaboration of the basic Breed Standard is a good one even if some enthusiasts were disappointed that the format and some of the content of the 2000 publication
could have been better.

If producing a more comprehensive version of the basic Breed Standard was considered an important initiative back in 2000 one can only wonder why there has been what looks like a backward step to the minimally worded version alone, rather than the production of an improved, updated, expanded version too.

Some Clubs may reproduce a stark copy of the Breed Standard in some of their publications but it is often overlooked or ignored and it's importance is rarely, if ever explained fully. That should not be allowed to continue if we wish to try to begin to counteract the declining quality in our breed.

5 - Bernese Breed Clubs: All Kennel Club recognised Breed Clubs must comply with Kennel Club Rules and guidelines and most of the UK Bernese Club Constitutions state that their objectives are similar, i.e. to foster/promote/protect/further etc., the Bernese Mountain Dog.

A Club's activities can be pretty much directed by what their members desire but the mission statement of a Breed Club should be clear and consistent and it should address the important and essential issues. That appears to not always be the case and an area that the various Club's members and the committees they entrust to run their Clubs could perhaps improve upon.

For example, the first paragraph in one Club's Constitution states "to impress upon exhibitors and judges the true type as defined in the breed standard" which is relevant and understandable EXCEPT it omits to include breeders who I am sure most would agree are THE most essential group of people to impress the breed Standard upon!

Surely the importance of the Standard should be impressed upon ALL potential owners and actual owners for obvious reasons and would seem to be appropriate to include in the introductory
paragraph of that Constitution. What then becomes even more confusing was an unsuccessful attempt by the same Club to adopt a mandatory Code of Ethics which would mostly be aimed at
the conduct of Club members who are breeders yet breeders are not included (listed) in that initial mission statement of that Club's Constitution!

Maybe a careful review and, if needed, an overhaul of some Club's Constitutions and Rules might seem to be timely in the interest of clarity.

A commercial multi-breed producer (puppy farmer) was listed as a member of at least one Bernese Breed Club but the Constitution and Rules of most Club's makes removal of any member a very difficult process. The Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme regards membership of a Breed Club as an accolade contributing to an impression of "quality" which subscribers use for self-promotion so it would seem pertinent to expect all Breed Clubs to have a membership approval procedure which is based upon relevant information pertaining to past, current or planned canine involvement gleaned from the submitted applications from those who have been duly proposed and seconded by current members.

Breed Club's have a captive audience in their current membership plus a regular stream of new members joining up each year and as such Breed Clubs hava a unique and invaluable opportunity to engage with and embark upon educating new members as soon as their acceptance to the membership list has been confirmed, as well as ongoing opportunities to use their various resources to inform and guide the wide spectrum of longer established Bernese enthusiasts. But there have been suggestions that some aspects of some Breed Club's activities and educational curriculum (or lack of) have been identified as confusing, ineffective and in some cases completely absent. Some Breed Club's finances may somewhat restrict their operations but those Club's with resources such as magazines, handbooks and websites could all emphasise much more regularly and vigorously the vital importance of the Bernese Breed Standard whilst also providing other essential information relevant to maintaining and improving quality within the breed.

Every event organised by a Breed Club might also be better utilised as an educational opportunity too; it appears to be possible for some Club's committee members to transport banners or placards bearing a Club's logo te events, or shaped award boards etc., to be displayed at shows so perhaps it would also be possible to provide and display some posters of the Breed Standard, an explanation of why the standard is such an important reference for all breed enthusiasts and perhaps some well designed leaflets of same to hand out free of charge to attendees at all of their events.

The problems our breed is facing would seem to dictate that some Clubs could try harder to engage with their members, and some might also clarify or even rethink their remit and expand their activities to employ more effective and pro-active education which many would agree needs to be implemented without undue delay.

6 - Judges: I received many comments from those who are critical of the attitude and performance of some judges and their seeming disregard of the breed Standard which they demonstrate by endowing high awards to some Bernese who have undesirable faults and defects.

The Kennel Club sets out criteria which has to be met before approving judges to rise through the ranks and all the Breed Clubs choose to endorse some judges by including them on their own Club's Judges Lists.

There is always a "post-mortem" after each show but there does seem to be compelling evidence that poor (some have described it as "woefully incompetent") judging continues to occur, it generally goes unchallenged by those who endorsed or engaged the judges (and will continue to engage the same judges for future judging appointments), or continues due to inadequate or ineffective complaints procedures.

All exhibitors and interested parties can easily acquaint themselves with the relevant Kennel Club Rules and pursue the correct course of action if circumstances dictate, and dissatisfied exhibitors
could, of course, vote with their feet but low entries or controversial placings don't seem to deter some organisers from engaging the same under-performing judges time and time again.

That leads some to wonder whether it might be helpful if Breed Clubs were to consider and possibly adopt a policy of engaging more closely with everyone who judges Bernese by providing each and every one with some timely, relevant, breed specific educational material; it might comprise of a copy of current KC Guidelines to judges, a copy of the Kennel Club Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Standard accompanied by a copy of an agreed, expanded Breed Standard plus anything else that might help and encourage judges to

a) understand and recognise all the positive and desirable attributes of our breed and

b) impress upon them how essential it is to the future of our breed that judges must identify and penalise, in proportion to their degree, the defects which should preclude some exhibits from attaining high awards.

7 - Social Networking Sites: I received SO many comments from Bernese enthusiasts who are horrified at how this free, simple, global resource is being used in ways which are detrimental to both individual dogs and the Bernese breed as a whole.

It is easy for exploiters to create a profile and history which may bear no relation what they are really up to and what their real agenda is yet they invariably get accepted with open arms by others who are gullible and allow the wool to be pulled over their eyes.

All of those who wish to acquire a Bernese, or who already owns a Bernese, or is actively breeding Bernese may NOT be "reputable" (whatever that might mean!) or have honourable intentions! Embracing all those online contacts about whom you know nothing as "friends" and accepting them into an online mutual-admiration society gives them credibility and a perceived status or respectability which some may not deserve.

Another risk to individual Bernese and the breed in general are those who brag about minor achievements won by default by their low quality dogs and display their arrogance and ignorance like a badge of honour yet are applauded as minor celebrities by those who do not understand the consequences of those actions!

There are numerous Social Networking "Groups" focussing on Bernese which are relentlessly utilised by some to generate puppy sales and stud services. Some individuals with too much time on their hands energetically self-promote, seemingly on a desperate mission to cultivate superficial and meaningless glory to enhance their often dismally lacking, personal CV. No wonder the social networking activities of some has been described as "the feckless preying on the reckless".

Everyone must take responsibility for their own actions and novices may be excused for making assumptions or bad choices which make them easy prey for those who wish to take advantage of them, but Bernese definitely deserve better. Whilst disreputable breeders (and some of them have perfected very personable online profiles and engaging interactive skills!) producing puppies from poor quality stock continue to be aided in their destructive activities by those who are at best oblivious, or at worst unconcerned, our breed will decline further.

Social networking has some obvious benefits - for sure - and many of us enjoy the ease of instant interaction but it also provides the biggest, global "shop window" for trading in poor quality Bernese and everyone who professes to care about Bernese could, in the very least, use some of their time spent on those social networking sites to actively promote the importance of the Bernese Breed Standard; if some could also exert some caution and investigation before engaging in or helping to promote any online activity or presence that could further damage the quality and integrity of Bernese Mountain Dogs in the UK that could be a big help too.

Jude Simonds © 2015 








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