Bernese News 26th March 2019


The Kennel Club has confirmed the judges for Bernese at Crufts for the next three years.

2020 - Steve Hall
2021 - Joanne Sutton (Bernsteph)
2022 - Di Atherton (Athersbern).


For several months there has been a lot of discussion about breeding practises plus some lively online debate regarding the proposed amendments Annie Wilson has placed on the Agenda of the Annual General Meeting of the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Great Britain which takes place this weekend. This has not lessened as the date of the meeting draws nearer.

Annie Wilson's announcement of her proposals and her associated article were published in Bernese News 19th March 2019.


Helen Davenport-Willis Emailed;
"As the breeders of Annie Wilson's (Anni Wils) Bernese Mt Dog, "Button", perhaps it is time for the other side of the story. The tragedy in all of this is that "Button" - who is still a young dog - 15 months, has had to undergo 5 anaesthetics in her short life.

"After a great deal of thought and due consideration, Joanne and I decided to breed from "Anja" the dam of "Button". We imported "Anja" into the UK at 5 mths of age, she had been retained by the breeder with two other siblings. She was an active puppy and grew up to be of excellent breed type, bred from at least 4 generations of clear 0/0 elbows. That is 30 relatives, 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents and 16 great, great grandparents, all with 0/0 elbows. It is lamentable that the UK Kennel Club does not at this time, include this orthopaedic information of imported dogs on to their current data base, so "Anja's" relatives' elbow scores are not included, nor tabulated into her Estimated Breeding Value (EBV). She is from a litter where at least 5 other siblings have clear 0/0 elbows, one of which her sister, scored 0/0 under the BVA/KC ED Scheme, lives with me. We mated "Anja" to "Bolt" - who not only has clear 0/0 elbows (BVA/KC Scheme), but also at least 4 generations, ie 30 relatives with clear 0/0 elbows. As in the case of "Anja" - he too is an import into the UK, so again his relatives' excellent elbows scores are not included in his EBV. I hasten to add here that had any of the 60 relatives behind "Anja" and "Bolt" had an elbows score above 0/0, we would not have even considered breeding from her. These were imported lines. So with an excellent record of relatives all clear elbows behind her when "Anja's own score of Grade 3 was returned, it was a real surprise for both of us. She had shown no signs of a problem in her elbows, nor had she been operated on in the elbow. In our considered opinion, we had belief in the mating of the two and it was our intention to retain two females for our future breeding programme, which we have done. Why would we have considered doing this, if we thought we would be storing up future problems? The inbreeding co-efficient for the litter was calculated to be 1.7% (average inbreeding co-efficient for the breed is 5%) so our pair's combination is well below the average. Both parents are clear for both Exons for DM. In terms of conformation and temperament, the coupling of "Anja" and "Bolt" was complimentary for both dogs. As is the correct procedure, we considered many aspects of the combination, before the mating was secured.

"All prospective puppy owners were left in no doubt why we had done the mating; documentation sent to them prior to purchase clearly set our our reasoning behind our actions. We were overt and straight talking from the beginning. This is the way we operate. We are not novices. We are not head strong, ignorant fools. We are not motivated by financial reward, nor do our dogs do not have to earn their keep. We are ethical breeders with a plethora of knowledge and "hands on" experience of the breed. We explained clearly to all our puppy people that in pedigree breeds, Bernese rank among the worlds worst affected breeds for ED, the development of which depends on a number of factors both genetic and environmental. It is because of this a breeder can make a combination of 0/0 with generations of clears behind the breeding pair, yet still produce dogs with a wide range of scores.

"All our puppies had vet checks prior to them leaving for their new homes. They were sold with a contract, (the owners signing, among other items to say they thoroughly understood our reasoning/explanation for the breeding, in particular with regards to the the dam's elbow score of 3). KC registration papers were endorsed not to be bred from. We also told our puppy owners we were retaining two females for ourselves.

"In the case of Annie Wilson, who incidentally described her and her husband Chris as "walkers" - they had had a Bernese before, so were not novices. However in view of this information, we went to great lengths to explain to Annie that the puppy would need "wrapping in cotton wool" for at least the first 12 mths. We went through all the usual sensible things a responsible breeder would explain to an an owner about general management of the puppy. There was a great deal of dialogue between Annie and myself and Joanne and Annie. There was never any pressure on her or her husband to purchase the puppy.

"Joanne and I became initially concerned when the first photographs of Button began appearing. One in particular of her covered in snow (at about 8/9 weeks). She developed a uterine infection and had to have a prolonged course of antibiotics. She was behind her siblings having her final injections because of this. We were sent emails from Annie saying what a happy puppy she was and how she was "sitting in" on Annie's patients consultations, having a positive affect, thus helping people. Annie even wrote an article about "Button" intended for one of the BMD club's magazines. It was obvious that "Button" had high energy levels of activity. In an email Annie told us that "Button did the "zooming around things that puppies do and makes things worse". Evidence of this "activity" was to play out in videos we were sent via the "What App" group that Joanne set up for our puppy owners. "Button" whilst still a young puppy, certainly under 4 months of age, was shown on many occasions playing in the garden with Annie's adult Sheepdog. On another occasion Button, the Sheepdog and an adult BMD were all playing running off lead in a large field chasing each other; at one point the adult BMD completely rolled "Button" over and off her feet. Email correspondence told us that "Button" was being taken on a month's camping holiday in Scotland. She was not 6 mths of age at this point. Again the alarm bells were ringing . We were sent photographs of where " Button" had dug herself a large hole under the tent wind break. We were concerned about the amount of walking she would be doing on this holiday. We were sent videos of her attempting Agility, weaving rough the poles and racing through the tunnel. In July 2018 at not 6 mths of age "Button" began to limp. Annie told me her referral vet said "Button's" condition was "100 percent genetic".

"Annie inferred that the reason she was having these problems was because of "Anja's" elbow score. I disputed this and told Annie that environmental factors had to be taken into consideration.
"It has become apparent that at no point has Button's owner ever asked whether or not she could have contributed in any way to Button's impediments. We wonder why this is?"


Re; Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Great Britain AGM 2019
That Club's General Code of Ethics as it appears in the 2018 Club Handbook begins by stating "All members of the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Great Britain undertake to abide by its general Code of Ethics"` and goes on to include a passage pertaining to elbow dysplasia which contains "All breeding stock must be x-rayed for evidence of elbow dysplasia" and "Breeders shall treat mild cases as they would any other any other fault and exclude from their breeding programmes dogs with more severe evidence of elbow dysplasia."  Amendments were subsequently passed at the 2018 AGM and adopted by the Club and the additional phrase "or with a poor EBV rating for elbow dysplasia" was added to the General Code of Ethic.

The KC/BVA Elbow Dysplasia (ED) Scheme applies Grades ranging from 0 to 3. It would appear that many people might consider Grade 3, the highest (worst) Grade to be "severe" but there are also those who appear to regard Grade 2 as severe.

Annie Wilson's first proposal for the forthcoming AGM is for a clause to be added to section 15.2 Dealing with Specific hereditary Conditions - "It is prohibited as a club member to breed from any animal with an ED score of 3." plus a further proposal for section 15.3 to be amended to "In extreme cases it is possible to apply a standard to test results and as such it is now prohibited for club members to breed from any animal with an ED score of 3. (ref 23)."

Back in 2013 following that year's AGM of the BMD Club of Great Britain I wrote the following comments and I believe them still relevant and worth repeating prior to that Club's AGM due to be held this coming weekend.

"Those who embark on the journey of attempting to breed Bernese of desirable type and quality soon realise it is an activity which is infinitely more complex than could ever have been envisaged; as actual experience and knowledge is gained it becomes clear that breeding Bernese is a most complicated conundrum and an endless learning curve.

"Attempting to retain the desirable attributes of a limited population whilst also trying to improve quality within that population is a delicate and sometimes disconcerting balancing act. The on-going revelation of the inherited faults, defects and attributes which lie within all the bloodlines of a breed population may dictate that those dedicated to breeding Bernese with integrity and honesty will inevitably have to consider making compromises and of course those compromises will be different for each breeder dependent on the bloodlines and individual dogs and bitches they are each working with.

"The theory of dog breeding and the reality of breeding Bernese is NOT the same thing! Dog breeding really IS an activity whereby greater experience equates to greater in-depth understanding of a process that is not an exact science.

"Any recommended or mandatory Code adopted by a club will likely generate controversy but whilst the activities and/or recommendations of a club may have an impact on a breed, the administration of any adopted Code is primarily an issue on how a CLUB is run - no club or individual are "in charge" of a breed or breeders, nor "the law" of a breed or breeders and ultimately it is up to conscientious breeders to choose what dogs they do or don't breed from and whether they engage in their breeding programme activities as a member of any club - or not."

Bernese are STILL considered by most knowledgeable and experienced breeders as a challenging breed insofar as quality is not always achievable to the degree that most breeders aspire. Even the 'cleverest' breeders cannot guarantee to swerve problems associated with the breed whilst simultaneously attempting to maintain and improve quality in their stock but all things considered, any breeder with integrity will make careful, considered decisions and always endeavour to try to stack the cards in favour of breeding Bernese who have the best chance of being healthy whilst conforming closely to the Breed Standard but the reality is that compromise on some traits cannot be avoided. Dog breeders "roll the dice" all the time whether they know they are doing it or not!

Breeders must firstly decide whether any Bernese is of sufficient merit to warrant being bred from and buyers will ultimately decide from whom they purchase their puppy from - each must assume responsibility for their decision.

So here we are again, six years down the line with the same degree of speculation on exactly how any club or organisation might actually "prohibit" their members from doing anything. Whilst the KC continues to accept registrations of litters bred from sires and/or dams with poor health test results (even from members of their Assured Breeder Scheme) and also from those sires and dams with no test results at all some might consider breed club committees are likely to be repeatedly banging their heads against the very hard wall that has been constructed by the KC itself. And of course with the announcement in the BMD Club of Great Britain 2019 Handbook that a decision has been made "not to publish the full membership list in future" members may not be able to easily identify who is or is not a member of that club anyway let alone who is or is not abiding by any club Code of Ethics.

As both ED and HD are generally regarded as being multi-factoral conditions with no definite correlation between an ED Grade or HD Score and actual, functional soundness or impairment of mobility it will be interesting to see the outcome of that AGM, and if accepted the consequences or impact of Annie Wilson's proposals.

So, it would seem prudent to try to determine exactly what percentage of UK bred Bernese are bred from sires and/or dams with ED 2 or ED 3, and/or HD Scores above the breed mean as recorded in the published results of the KC/BVA ED and HD Schemes? Those statistics are included further down this column within the data reproduced below.


The arrival of the fourth and final quarter
of the Kennel Club Breed Records Supplement (AV) allows us the opportunity to analyse the Bernese Mountain Dog transactions for 2018 and compile some statistics.

With the dramatic increase of Bernese litters bred in the UK, many of which are advertised for sale as NOT KC registered, plus a significant number of imports a which also remain unregistered, these statistics provide a reliable indication of "mainstream" UK Bernese breeding activity but does not represent the full picture which is outside of KC involvement.

There were 525 new registrations (not including imports) for 2018 representing 91 litters which is an increase on 2017 (464 registrations - 84 litters).

63 breeders (including members of the same family and partnerships, each of which I counted together and regarded as one) registered litters; 7 were listed as KC Assured Breeders.
9 breeders registered 2 litters within the period,
5 registered 3 litters
2 registered 6 litters (one breeders was a KC Assured Breeder)

11 of those litters were registered without an affix

27 dams are listed as having had 2 litters
8 dams having had 3 litters.

Oldest dam was 6 years and 11 months old
4 dams are listed as having whelped a litter when under 2 years old - aged 18 months, 19 months and two others were 21 months old.

1 dam whelped consecutive litters 6 months apart,
4 dams whelped litters 7 months apart and
1 dam whelped litters 8 months apart.

14 litters are recorded as having been born by Emergency Caesarean

6 litters born by Elective Caesarean.

17 of the dams were imports.
15 of the sires were imports with another 3 sires residing overseas; 8 sired 2 litters, 7 sired 3 litters, 2 sired 6 litters each and one sired 7 litters.

The oldest sire was 9 years and 4 months old at date of service (mating).

There were 45 imports listed;
3 bitches from Belgium,
4 bitches from Czech Republic,
1 bitch from Denmark,
1 dog and 1 bitch from Hungary,
6 dogs plus 7 bitches from Ireland,
2 dogs plus 5 bitches from Lithuania,
1 bitch from Netherlands,
2 dogs plus 4 bitches from Poland,
1 dog plus 2 bitches from Romania,
1 bitch from Russian Federation,
1 bitch from Slovakia,
2 bitches from Sweden
1 dog from USA.

1 male was exported to Kenya.

There were 82 HD Scores listed;
61 scores up to and including a combined (both hips) total of 10.
18 scores between 11 and 20
3 with higher scores - 1 score of 22 and 2 scores of 58.

There were 79 ED Grades listed;
61 x Grade 0
6 x Grade 1
1 x Grade 2
1 x Grade 3

Of the 91 litters of Bernese registered during 2018 FOUR litters are recorded as being produced from either a sire or dam recorded as having ED Grade 3.

One breeder partnership listed as members of the BMD Club of GB bred a litter of 12 from an ED Grade 3 dam.

Another breeder member of the BMD Club of GB (who is also listed as a KC Assured Breeder) registered one litter by a ED Grade 3 sire and another litter out of an ED Grade 3 dam whose sire, grandsire and great grand-dam are all recorded as ED Grade 2 whilst the sire of the litter she produced was ED 0 but was himself the son of an ED 3 sire.

Another male with ED Grade 3 who was bred by a well-known breeder sired a litter of 5.

7 litters had one parent recorded as having ED Grade 2.

17 litters had one parent with no HD or ED results recorded (one of those was a sire who was 9 1/2 years old)

3 litters are recorded dams with no results mated to a sire with HD score only

5 litters had both their sires AND dams with no HD or ED results recorded.

The BVA/KC HD Scheme statistics for 2018 are available to view online on the BVA website. The poorest (worst possible) HD score is a total of 106 (both hips added together) and the median score for Bernese has reduced during the past 15 years from 12.3 to 11.4.

14 litters were bred from a sire or dam with an HD score of 20 or above.

4 dams scored 20

1 sire had a score of 20, siring one litter to a dam with an HD score of 19.

3 dams scoring 23, 24 and 25 respectively.

1 male with an HD score of 29 (he is also ED Grade 2) sired three litters

1 male with an HD score of 40 (owned by a KC Assured breeder who is also a member of the GB Club) sired 3 litters.


Jude Simonds

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