Updated: Feb 19
Choosing an adult sire/dam to start a breeding program? Keeping a puppy from a litter within your breeding program? Buying a puppy to start a breeding program / kennel? All are important decisions that ultimately will have an impact on the future of your breed of choice and the quality of dog you produce. The term “kennel blindness” refers to a phenomenon at which a breeder is incapable of judging or criticising his or her own breeding stock and incapable of realizing that a dog within their program should potentially not be bred.
“The breeder, to be successful, must look his dogs…not only in the face, but in the body, front and running gear. Even to themselves many breeders will not acknowledge their failure when they fall short of their objective…and in an effort to convince others of the perfection of their dogs, [they] convince…usually only themselves.” K. Onsott
Every breed has a standard. This standard is a guideline and has been put in place with the functionality and temperament of the dog in mind. There is no perfect dog. There is always room for improvement. In order to improve we must first recognize flaws or faults and realize the areas at which we can improve. We can then find a complimentary match for our sire/dam and try to correct those faults and in turn better the breed. Below are some characteristics that may constitute somebody as “kennel blind”.
If your dog is consistently not doing well in the show ring, you blame everything BUT the potential that your dog may be flawed. Bad judges, inexperienced judges, show politics/drama/favoritism etc. Those concerns may be legitimate and validated for some of the results however if this is happening on repeated occasions under different judges, different venues, different organizations etc – perhaps there is a reason for it. That reason is likely that your dog does not fit the standard in one way or another. Instead of placing blame, ask somebody experienced in the breed to evaluate your dog and offer insight. Make sure you accept the potential criticism with an open mind.
The inability to see and appreciate the better qualities in your competitors dogs. If you find yourself only pointing out negative qualities in your competition but never in your own stock, you may be “kennel blind”. Next time you see another breeder with your breed of choice, take a moment to appreciate the good qualities that you notice instead of focusing on the bad ones. This could even act as a learning experience to compare and decide where you can potentially improve. Don’t be jealous if you feel they have better quality dogs than you. Use that as a motivator to improve the quality of your program.
Believing your dog is perfect and cannot be improved upon. Such a specimen doesn’t exist. Even what someone may consider the best in their kennel or the best dog of their breed (historically or currently), there will still be something that can improve. Whether that’s conformation, esthetics, movement, temperament etc. There is no such thing as a perfect dog so if that’s what you’re flaunting you need to sit down and have a serious conversation with yourself and with your breed standard.
Nowadays with social media in the hot seat, it seems everybody thinks they have the top dog, the best dog or the perfect dog of their breed. Don’t get me wrong, we all have the ability to consider our dogs “the best” or “perfect” but from an owner standpoint, not from a breeder standpoint. Hyping up your dogs using fire and gorilla emojis does not validate their quality and confirm they are a good specimen to breed. Refer to my “Purebred VS Wellbred” blog for more on that here
Those who may be more susceptible to being “Kennel Blind”:
If you only have a small selection of dogs to use and you are not working with an outside mentor or breeder (you buy a male and a female in hopes to breed them). When you don’t have much to choose from you may not be able or choose not to acknowledge the issues in front of you.
You hype up your dogs or a certain dog so much that when or if you notice an issue your ego gets in the way and you can’t admit it. You may get worried about your reputation or what other people think when you announce that said dog will not be bred or said dog is being removed from your program. In actuality this should make you look more favorable as a breeder who is genuinely paying attention and caring about the future and preservation of the breed.
Lack Of Knowledge
Perhaps you purchased a breed without researching or knowing much about it. Perhaps you purchased a sub-par puppy/dog from a non-reputable breeder. Perhaps you purchased a puppy/dog whose temperament is not favorable for the breed. If you don’t know any better then you more than likely will not see the problems in front of you. That may make you “kennel blind” but that can be corrected if you educate yourself ahead of time. Do the research and the work to find quality dogs before you start your journey into becoming a breeder and starting a kennel.
If you are relying on your litters as primary income or you potentially don’t have additional income / are in financial distress, that may affect your objectivity. You may either realize that your dog is not of breeding quality but not have the financial ability to replace it, or you don’t realize at all because all you see are dollar signs. This circles back to your goal as a breeder and the purpose behind why you’re breeding. If you open your eyes to your breed history and breed standard, you’re less likely to run into kennel blindness.
How about those that are * not * kennel blind? These are some characteristics of breeders who do not possess this quality:
· Rarely satisfied with their dogs. Always nit picking, criticizing their own dogs flaws and faults more than others would. Well aware of where they can improve and striving to do so.
· Extremely picky when choosing new stock/ new puppies to add to their program.
· Happy to appreciate and acknowledge a nice specimen within their breed, regardless of who owns it.
· Ready and willing to remove a dog from their program and possibly even restarting from the ground up when realizing the specimen(s) they have may not be the best quality or have questions or doubts about where they purchased the dog from.
So how can we correct kennel blindness if we come to terms with this being our reality?
· Try to remember to keep the focus on the whole dog. Many breeders like to focus on one particular trait that they may become “blind” to other faults that may be arising. For example if you are a stickler for bone but don’t realize that your angulation and topline are going out of whack. We can absolutely breed and look for dogs that excel in our ideal qualities but we can’t lose sight of the whole package. Be careful not to deviate too far out of your standard or you may compromise structure and functionality.
· Ask for help. If you can find a breeder (one who is not kennel blind themselves and who is familiar with the breed standard) and have them do an honest evaluation of your dogs strengths and weaknesses. Accept the critique and keep an open mind. Don’t get defensive. Use it as education and value their opinion. You can ask several breeders and gather the collective critique.
· Be honest with yourself. Realizing and accepting that you may need to make some changes is the first step in doing it. Sit back, look at what’s in front of you and devise a plan. Don’t be afraid to recognize you may be falling short of your goals.
In conclusion, do your best to educate yourself before starting a kennel or breeding venture. Have a clear goal. Do your research. Ask questions. Get a mentor. Be a sponge and take in any valuable information you can get. It will only make you a better breeder.