AKC Gazette Columns

AKC Gazette - January 2001

This month's guest columnist is Sandra Novocin, longtime breeder-exhibitor and AKC judge.

International Breeding Symposium

On Sept. 9, 2000, the first international breeding symposium, sponsored by the Swiss Club for Bernese Mountain Dogs, was held in Langenthal, Switzerland. Its purpose was to bring together representatives from parent specialty clubs outside of Switzerland - the breed's original homeland - who were concerned with the different aspects of breeding and selecting Bernese in their countries. In addition to the United States, representatives from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland were present. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America was represented by Mary Durham, secretary; Sue Hoffman, board member; and myself as vice president. The official languages were English and German. To ensure that attendees could understand the presentations and discussions, two interpreters were also present.

Qualifications for breeding in most of the countries represented are similar to those of the American Kennel Club. Germany has a number of requirements that must be met by each breeder before a dog is issued a breeding certificate. In Switzerland, the breed club can pass regulations, which will, upon approval, be enforced by the Swiss Kennel Club, an equivalent to the AKC. For example, all Bernese dogs and bitches used for breeding must have clearances for hips and elbows, must pass a temperament test, and must be evaluated by two conformation judges. Dogs and bitches not passing these tests are excluded from the breeding program. From the standpoint of breeding controls, Switzerland, followed by Germany, is the most rigid.

A number of BMD clubs represented have worked on creating a database of individual dogs' records. Several have developed methods that they feel will help them identify orthopedic strengths. Dr. Ruth Morgenstern reviewed her system, Breeding Estimation Values, for determining the incidence of dysplasia. This system is in use in Germany and Switzerland. In the United States, the Berner-Garde Foundation, which was established to understand and reduce genetic disease in Bernese Mountain Dogs in the 1970s, has the longest-established database on Bernese Mountain Dogs. Margit Kitchin, file manager, presented the importance of recognizing all aspects of family health that are maintained in the data files of Berner-Garde.

The symposium concluded with a discussion of what the representatives from each country would like to see accomplished for the future. One of the most important issues to all was health, particularly cancer. Another concern was that the judging of Bernese Mountain Dogs throughout the world should be more uniform. Participants felt that if database systems were more consistent, information on Bernese could be shared worldwide.

The first international breeding symposium opened a door for global exchange. Everyone left feeling that we now should meet again to continue to address problems facing the Bernese Mountain Dog community, and to determine what steps we can take to unify our resources. The symposium's culminating activity was a specialty show held the following day. Exhibitors came from all over Europe to show their Berners at the gala event, which is held once every two years. Viewing the dogs in their ancestral homeland and visiting with fellow breeders inspired participants to fulfill the primary objective of the Bernese Mountain Dog of America: "to do all possible to bring the natural qualities of the Bernese Mountain Dog (Berner Sennenhund) to perfection." - S.N.

Thank you, Sandy. - Julie Crawford, 26391 May Twilley Rd., Delmar, MD 21875