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Cultural Differences

By Cecilie Stromstad & Henning Lund

Boxerhaven, Norway

This article was originally written as a part of an ongoing discussion on the Boxer Mailing List about the ethics of breeding a pet bitch.

Here in Norway, and in most of Scandinavia, about 90% of the breeders are what in North America would be labelled as "pet-breeders." They have one bitch at a time, or maybe even two. The bitches are bred, the puppies are raised in the house with the family, in the living room or kitchen. Most of these people breed a sequence of separate litters and do not work systematically to improve the breed or the line. This is the way it always has been and probably always will be in this part of the world. Very few breeders have kennels, most only have up to four dogs at a time, and they almost always live in the house as pets. The dog buying puplic in fact is a bit suspicious of those breeders who aren't "pet-breeders," as it is a common belief that these "pet-puppies" are raised better and taken better care of than puppies from more systematic, "successful" breeders. It is believed that the "pet-puppies" are raised in a home environment, they are well socialized, and that the mother was bred because she was a healthy, happy animal, and not just because of her good looks. The belief that these pet-puppies are raised differently from those of succesful breeders are mostly based on superstition. As stated earlier, almost 90 % of all breeders raise the litter in the house with the family.

A very obvious cultural difference between the US and Norway is the Norwegian’s suspicious attitude toward succesful people. In many other countries, people admire those who are succesful in any field, and dog-people admire succesful breeders or exhibitors. In Norway we have an unwritten law saying, "You shouldn't think you are somebody." It is called the "Jante Law," and it is very powerful. This leads to a situation in which succesful breeders are looked upon as somewhat suspicious - since they dare to try to "be somebody." Many people seem to think that it's not possible to breed for beauty, brains and health at the same time - so the succesful breeders must have less healthy dogs! This may be a strange way of seeing things, but that is how many of the puppy buyers in this country think.

Still, there are succesful breeders, and they maintain a high quality through the years because of a genuine interest in the breed they are in, and because they have a breding program based on knowledge of the breed-standard and basic genetics as well as an eye for a good dog.

To keep a broad breeding base, breeders have bitches out on terms, and take them home to have one or two litters. This makes it possible to be very strict when selecting against hereditary defects, and for good quality and breed-specific traits.

Many of the "pet breeders," too, have a genuine interest in the breed and make a decision to breed based on knowledge about the breed, the standard and health issues. But many’s the time their bitch is bred just because she is so cute.

Almost all purebred dogs are registered with the Norwegian Kennel Club, and to ensure that a minimum of health testing is done prior to breeding, all dogs have to be identity marked, and for many breeds the parents have to have their hips x-rayed if the puppies are to be registered. Boxers are one of the breeds with this requirement.

To protect the puppy-buying public, consumer laws also include the purchase of a puppy. These laws make the breeder responsible for any defects the puppy may have, or any flaw that may show up later. If the breeder knowingly has bred parents who have a defect, or previously have produced offspring with a defect, the breeder even has to pay damages if they sell a puppy that developes this defect! Breeders are not protected in any way.

When it comes to spaying and neutering - this was prohibited by law until a few years ago (it could be done for medical reasons of course, and for dogs in special service, like seeing eye dogs). Now we can spay or neuter even if the dog is "only" going to be a pet, but the law still says it has to be beneficial to the dog, depending on how the dog is going to be "used" (service dog, pet, show, etc). Being a vet myself, I have to take a stand here and say that, in my opinion, spaying or neutering would certainly be beneficial in making a dog a well adjusted pet! The tradition however, is NOT to spay or neuter, and that goes for cats as well.

You may think that this has resulted it an overflow of unwanted dogs roaming the streets. It doesn't - that is probably also a cultural difference. There are literally no stray dogs here, all dogs are owned, and most dogs are registered purebred dogs. The Norwegian Kennel Club estimates that more than 90 % of all pedigree dogs are registered with them. There are "accidents" so we have a range of mix-breeds as well, of course, but they are a small minority. What do we do to prevent bitches from having unwanted litters? Most people just keep the bitch on the leash and under control for the duration of her season. In a multi dog household, it is common to leave the entire dogs with someone else for that period - or just keep the dogs in separate rooms with closed doors. Most people know that having a bitch means having seasons once or twice a year - and put up with that. There have been a few that do not want this, and since spaying has not been an option, they gave their bitch progesterone shots every 5 months. Almost all female cats are on the pill. Luckily this trend is changing now, since these medications have horrendous side-effects. Most female cats are now spayed at a young age, but dogs are still not, the owners put up with the seasons instead.

A final point I haven't mentioned yet - the price of puppies here in Norway. All puppies from a litter cost the same, and the prices within a breed varies very little from breeder to breeder. The costs of a litter of puppies are so high, that each puppy costs much more to raise than what I have seen mentioned as a pet puppy price in the US (we estimate that in a litter of 8 each puppy costs us about $6-700 USD, that includes all health tests for the Dam divided by three, the stud fee, traveling expences and so on, but NOT the cost of buying, raising and showing the dam). The price of boxer puppies at the moment is from $1000 to 1200 USD. Just as in the USA, people will want to pay less for an older puppy or an adult.

cecilie_vaar.jpg (7420 bytes)
Cecilie is sending Vaar, Boxerhavens Pastorale, off into the woods to do her "job"!


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Henning and Vancroft's Mr. Roberts, "Dollar"


Willy, The Rescue
Farewell to Audrey
Cultural Differences
Breeding to Improve
Bobtail Story Part 2
Don't Buy that Puppy
Canine Cuisine
Osborn Saga
Boxer Bytes
Bear Speaks

Editor: Virginia Zurflieh
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