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Livestock Guardian Dogs

baśka-fantazja filos, "Kazia", (Polish Tatra Sheepdog, Owczarek Podhalanski) - Future Dam

 

Dużo Serca kraina zimy FCI, "Dużo", is our recent addition to the family. We hope that Dużo will become a stud in future years. 

Ebor Dolina Małej Panwi FCI, "Beżyk", is our most recent addition to the family. We hope that Beżyk will become a stud in future years.

 

My thoughts about breeding the Polish Tatra Sheepdog in the United States:

 

For those unfamiliar with the state of the Polish Tatra Sheepdog in our country, it may seem a bit different to you how I am approaching the prospect of breeding the Owczarek Podhalanski (or the Polish Tatra Sheepdog).   If I were breeding Labradors or Golden Retrievers, for example, my website would look quite different.  The number of such dogs in the United States is so great and the competition so large that you would see the best breeders listing many health screenings over and above the hip and elbow scores, AKC titles, etc. on each dog they were planning to breed and would encourage primarily all-indoor homes for the puppies they would place. 

 

The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is a rare breed in North America. At this time in the United States, we have only a handful of breeders — actually, three known USA breeders associated with the PTSCA and one pending (me) at the time of this writing. Each of us are striving to preserve the few genetics available and some of us are working to bring in dogs from other countries from the best possible breeding stock we can find. Although some of us have our dogs registered with FCI, we cannot register our future litters with them because we do not have a breed association here in the USA that is affiliated with the FCI, even if both the dog and bitch are FCI registered. Consequently, we can only register our litters with UKC or ARBA since the AKC does not recognize this historic breed. 

 

If we hope to carefully grow this beautiful breed here in our country, we must take care to evaluate conformation, health and temperament before we import. We must familiarize ourselves with the breed standard in great detail and study the existing Tatra lines.  It's possible that at smaller local shows, a judge may never have even seen a Polish Tatra Sheepdog in person. Fortunately for us, the breed standard for the Polish Tatra is remarkably sensible, sound and reflects the need to preserve the working traits of the Polish Tatra.

 

Breeders of the Polish Tatra Sheepdog have to weigh the future good and preservation of the breed as a livestock guardian with the desire to enter the it into the show ring in the future. I personally believe there is room for preserving both traditions, so long as breeders are frank about the temperaments and working qualities of their lines.  I have seen Tatras with amazing ability in the area of livestock guardianship while also encountering a few with a clear affinity for house duty. One type would not necessarily be happy doing the other's  job on a full-time basis. As breeders, we must be keenly aware of the need to place our puppies in the most suitable homes for their particular temperaments and talents, not just a blanket and random placement. Because the Tatra is a working dog and has been for hundreds of years, we must keep in mind the prime position of the Tatra  as a working dog. When we forget this fact, we find that many Tatras cannot live in a home without some kind of daily challenge that allows them to think independently, such as being able to work livestock. Because of the variability within the breed, however, we do see a few Tatras capable of indoor living so long as they get plenty of daily outdoor exercise, strong and consistent leadership and have a person or persons whom they can strongly identify with as their “flock” to love and protect. Every breeder may need a few homes from working farms and a few from pet or show homes, depending on the individual abilities and variability represented within the particular lines and individual litters they have. 

 

We must be aware of the lines that the few breeders here in America are breeding from so as not to encourage more inbreeding. We must look carefully at the hip backgrounds going back several generations and use every means available to evaluate the temperaments of the dogs we are importing. We need to check the bites, testicles, conformational and temperamental soundness of the puppies before we acquire them, particularly because of the great distances they may be coming from. We must try to establish a good relationship with breeders in other countries, while also maintaining an open and honest relationship with our future puppy owners. We must be careful on many levels since the genetics are largely overlapping, going back to some of the same stud dogs and bitches only a few generations back, in a number of cases, especially since World War II brought almost-extinction to the breed in Europe, shrinking the gene pool. 

 

 

I have been preparing for nine years now to breed my first Tatra. This in no way makes me better suited to breeding than someone who has been preparing less time. However, it shows the difficulty we have in locating solid genetics, bringing in good dogs from abroad, raising the puppies to the proper age to test their hips and elbows, and assuring that their conformation, temperaments and health are sound before breeding. Fortunately for our breed, the Tatra is a healthy breed and does not experience many of the genetic problems that other more popular breeds today are experiencing in larger numbers. Even with that good news, however, our challenge is great.  If we try to do everything exactly like breeders of popular dogs, we will likely end up unable to grow the Polish Tatra breed in this country. There is much room for discussion about how to best preserve the breed.

 

Although I have not yet bred even one litter of dogs, I have over fifty years of experience with dogs and almost nine years with this amazing breed, the Polish Tatra Sheepdog. Though I have much practical experience with the Labrador, German Shepherd and Golden Retriever because of my many years of guide dog raising and training, as well as familiarity with several other breeds, I have found the Polish Tatra to be one of the most amazing, stable, courageous, sensible, and beautiful animals  that I have ever had the privilege of working with. This is the breed that I hope to put my life experience together to further, protect, preserve and hopefully one day, breed.

 

I will not be a “perfect” breeder or a large breeder.  I am learning a great deal every day, but I pledge my best efforts in this endeavor and I deeply hope that we can save this breed from extinction in our country and bring about a solid base of conscientious breeders who can work together for the good of the breed, growing with one another in our task of becoming the best breed stewards possible in the United States.

Lisa Arnold

June, 2018