Breeder's Roundtable
Tales from the Trenches:
Cedar Rapids Kennel Association Educates Vet Students about Responsible Breeders

Guest columnist Cindy McDonald is an American Kennel Club (AKC) Breeder of Merit, AKC Canine Good Citizen® evaluator, and member of the Cedar Rapids Kennel Association, Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America, Cardigan Welsh Corgi National Rescue Trust, K9 Ambassadors, and Clydesdale Breeders of the United States. She competes in conformation, performance and companion events with Cardigan Welsh Corgis and Collies. With her family, she is active in county 4-H programs and has taught obedience, showmanship and agility for more than 12 years. She writes about “taking back the conversation” through club-led educational programs for veterinary students.

Each year in Iowa, it seems we are fighting more and more restrictions on breeders and dog owners. There is increasing rhetoric against responsible breeders and a lack of understanding about all that we do on behalf of our dogs. So members of the Cedar Rapids Kennel Association decided to take back the conversation and develop a presentation for veterinary students to let them see that we are not the bad guys – in fact, we are experts on responsible dog breeding, ownership and care…and we love our dogs!

We decided to start at a local community college and contacted the director of the small animal program for veterinary technologists, veterinary assistants, groomers and animal control technicians. We already have a great relationship built, as many students attend our four-day cluster dog show and work as stewards or assist in our health clinics. We called our program a “Breeder’s Roundtable” and presented it on the evening of November 18, 2014. We picked a mid-term date that would not conflict with exams and other student activities.

As we all know, college kids welcome free food, so our club provided pizza and soda for the students. The response was amazing, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just the food that drew them in. We had about 45 total people, including three instructors.

I put together a PowerPoint presentation and materials to distribute. Other clubs are welcome to modify the presentation for their use; please contact me at if you would like a copy. It still needs some tweaking, and suggestions are welcome on how to improve it!

One of the points I made is that while it may appear purebreds have more health issues than mixed breeds do, that’s because responsible breeders do tons of health testing and are not afraid to put both the good and bad information out there.

I asked the students for a show of hands of those who had dogs. Then I asked for hands to remain up for owners of mixed breed dogs. I asked those with their hands still raised, “Who is going to health test your dogs? Will you obtain testing through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), PennHIP, a veterinary ophthalmologist, etc.?” Not one hand remained up. I think they understood my point.

I asked those who had contacts and eyeglasses, “Who did you go to for your prescription? Your GP? Or an ophthalmologist?” Then I continued, “Nothing against general practice vets, but having a clean bill of health from a GP versus a specialist is a very different thing.”

I explained that I would not be comfortable having my regular vet look at my dog’s eyes and simply say, “Yeah, they look good,” or put pressure on my dog’s back and wiggle the butt and tell me my dog has sound hips. I want the dogs that I consider for breeding to be evaluated by specialists.

I told them that a dog at my house is 14 1/2 year old and was diagnosed by OFA with mild subluxation of the hips at age two due to a wide socket and flat ball, yet she's still sound and moves beautifully. Just looking at her gait wasn’t enough information for me as a breeder. Responsible breeders seek out veterinary experts and use recognized testing protocols to obtain reliable and accurate evaluations of their dogs’ health and genetics.

After the program, we opened it up for discussion and allowed the attendees some hands-on interaction with the dogs. Club members brought an Ibizan Hound, a Weimaraner, and Golden Retrievers. My husband, daughter, and I brought four of our Cardigan Welsh Corgis. About half of the students stayed after the meeting, and we had some frank discussions about why we do what we do and why it is important to us.

We loved reaching out to the students and instructors, and they asked us to do more! Our club is planning a program in the spring to demonstrate the diversity of our purpose-bred purebred dogs – agility, tracking, obedience, therapy and service work, barn hunt, coursing, etc. We hope to expand the program to other universities and colleges in Iowa.

It took some time to put the program together, but it was well worth the time and effort. It was a welcome change for us to be proactive, it gave us great joy to share information about what we do as responsible breeders, and the students were very receptive to hearing what we had to say! 

We strongly encourage other clubs and breeder groups to think about what you can do in your communities to take back the conversation and spread the message that we love our dogs and what we do as breeders really matters.


The Cedar Rapids Kennel Assocation (CRKA) is a not for profit member club of The American Kennel Club (AKC) that has been in the Cedar Rapids area for over 75 years. CRKA's mission as set out in its constitution is:
• To further the advancement of all breeds of purebred dogs.
• To conduct events for which the club is eligible to hold under the rules and regulations of the American Kennel Club.