ABOUT BREEDING PHILOSOPHY
BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOGS... my passion since 1991.
My breeding philosophy is based on the love I have for the dogs I own, the love I have for the puppies I have sold to others, and the love I have for the breed overall. I am very committed to the well-being of all Bernese Mountain Dogs as well as the future of this breed. Sharing my life with these dogs is a privilege, and I always want to make the best decisions for the dogs. If my primary goal was to run a profitable business, this goal would not always be compatible with doing what is best for the dogs and the breed. I will never “cut corners” on the care of my dogs, and I won’t breed a litter just to have puppies to sell.
Participation in AKC conformation shows is at the core of my breeding philosophy when it comes to breeding to produce Bernese Mountain Dogs that meet the AKC Breed Standard. I often attend shows even when I don't have a dog entered, to watch and learn - and maybe select a future stud dog! Every breeding bitch (a polite word in the dog world!) I have owned, earned at least her AKC Champion title (except for Trixie, who had a litter in 2020 and hasn't been shown much due to COVID-19) – and in recent years, since AKC started awarding Grand Champion titles, they have been GCH as well. Although quality varies among AKC champions, earning a CH title reasonably guarantees that a dog is at least slightly above average for the breed – and of course, some champions are truly exceptionable. I also believe in putting titles on both ends, so most Tanzanite bitches also have performance titles behind their names. The goal is for all of my dogs to be BMDCA Versatility Dogs – CH, Novice Draft Dog and one of the qualifying AKC titles such as CD, PT, TD, etc. (Titles explained here.)
The concepts of health screening and open sharing of health data, are at the core of my breeding philosophy when it comes to improving health. The open health/pedigree database Berner-Garde plays a large role in my breeding program. As a breeder, it is very important for me to truly know if I am meeting my breeding goals. Full litter screening is a very important component of my breeding program. I depend on the cooperation of my puppy buyers to achieve full litter screening – at a minimum this requires being willing to have every dog’s hips and elbows x-rayed and sent to OFA for evaluation at 24-36 months of age, providing updates on health for the dog’s entire life, and eventually contacting me with date and cause of death. (For more information on how to use Berner-Garde, click here.) I also support the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) - this is a centralized canine health database sponsored by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), with the goal of not only doing the health tests recommended for each breed but sharing these results openly.
Additional health screening that is very desirable includes eye exams and cardiac exams. Many AKC dog shows put on Health Clinics that offer eye exams and cardiac exams at rates that are much less than making a private appointment with a specialist.
There are currently 3 standard genetic tests available for Berners: vWD (von Willebrand’s Disease, a bleeding disorder), DM (Degenerative Myelopathy, usually a late onset disease leading to lack of mobility) SOD1-A, and DM SOD1-B (there are two mutations for DM). Both parents of every litter here at Tanzanite, will either have had these genetic tests done, or their status will be known “by parentage” – for example, if both parents are Clear for vWD, all of their puppies will be Clear as well. In the event that a DM Carrier to DM Carrier breeding is done (which could make sense in some cases), all puppies will be genetically tested here, before asking puppy buyers to decide if they are comfortable with the risk or not. Not every DM At Risk puppy will actually develop DM – my Hannah was DM At Risk; she died at just over age 8 from lymphoma without ever showing symptoms of DM, and Hannah’s mother Hillary (also At Risk) lived to be 12.6 years old with no symptoms. Since breeding for health is very important at Tanzanite, DM Carrier to DM Carrier breedings would not be undertaken lightly, and our puppy buyers will always know whether or not a puppy is At Risk for DM (based on the two currently known mutations) before taking a puppy home. There is also a new Histiocytic Sarcoma Risk available - although I originally didn't believe this test was worthwhile, I changed my mind and am planning on updating this website to include a page dedicated to explaining this test (more info available at the Health and Longevity page). BEWARE of sellers who advertise that their puppies are tested for hundreds of genetic diseases using a panel such as provided by Embark. Only TWO of the diseases that Embark currently tests for, are relevant for Berners - and they do NOT include one that is (DM SOD1-B). Sellers who make claims about all the genetic diseases, are either ignorant or just slick salespeople.
As you search for your perfect Berner puppy, some of your friends may have said “Adopt Don’t Shop” – meaning that instead of buying a puppy from a breeder, you should adopt a shelter dog instead. Although I strongly support rescue, I also believe it is the “legacy of irresponsibility” and I would hope that someday it is unnecessary. Most rescues are needed because an irresponsible breeder sold a pup to an irresponsible owner. None of my pups have ever ended up in a shelter!! As a responsible breeder, I sell puppies with a contract that specifies that if the owner is unable to keep the dog, they must contact me. I will pay the owner the prevailing rescue price for their dog, and I will take the dog back. Or, if the original owner already has a potential new home, I will communicate with them and if satisfied, transfer the contract to the new owner. It is very important to me that I always know where all “my” puppies are! Responsible breeders do everything they can to make sure they don’t add to the shelter population. So far all of my pups have gone to live with very responsible owners.
I strongly believe that breeders should belong to AKC breed clubs – both to continue their education about the breed, and also to support their breed. The American Kennel Club itself does not have individual members – it is a “club of clubs.” Most AKC-recognized purebreds have a national parent club – for Berners it is the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA). Most national clubs also have regional clubs – in my area the regional club is Bernese Mountain Dog Club of the Rockies (BMDCR). In the past, I have been on the Board of both the BMDCA and BMDCR. I am a current member of both BMDCA and BMDCR. I comply with the BMDCA Code of Conduct - click here to read. I am also an AKC Bronze Breeder of Merit.
My breeding philosophy is that of an ”AKC preservationist breeder” as described by corgi breeder and AKC judge William P. Shelton – click here for more details. I am happy to help novice breeders who want to be on the same “AKC preservationist breeder” path that I am on. Unfortunately, I cannot be an effective mentor to novice breeders who don’t live in the same general dog show area. Although I may help a novice breeder get started by placing a show/breeding potential BMD with them, it is fair to say there are many strings attached! Puppies sold as pets are NOT to be used for breeding of any kind, and that includes not being part of any “designer dog” breeding program.