Dog trains man

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Does The Netherlands Really Need a Third Hovawart Club?

To my suprise, a third Hovawart club, "Hovawart Rasvereniging Nederland", was born in the Netherlands.

The need for so many clubs in a country with so few Hovawart litters is difficult to see.

And what are the other Dutch clubs - here and here - doing wrong, that can only be solved by erecting a new club?

These were just some first questions that came to mind, and I interviewed Marika Hoeben, acting as the spokesperson for the new club:
"We explicitly don't reject any of the other clubs, but we do strive to accomplish the specific goals we have set out to achieve. Our goal is to move the Hovawart in The Netherlands towards the official breed standard, and to return the Hovawart to how it is bred in it's motherland."
The motherland, being Germany, has three Hovawart clubs of itself, and although it was never mentioned, one can only assume it is the RZV in Germany, the new club leans up to. Their logo's have a striking resemblance. Which makes it even more intriguing, as this RZV club, through the International Hovawart Federation (IHF), works together with one of the other Dutch clubs. Or should I say, so far.

On the subject of health- and behavioral testing, Marika commented:
"As you can see on our website we have an extensive and strict health testing protocol in place. For behavioral testing we lean up to the motherland initially, and will work together with professionals to shape this test further."
The list of health-test was comprehensive indeed and differs from the other clubs. In the meantime it has disappeared from their website, but that is probably because the website is still work-in-progress at the moment. As I remembered it, their test program leaned up to the existing club "Hovawart vrienden", but was more rigid in it's interpretation, where each positive result would mean to be excluded from breeding, where the existing club "Hovawart vrienden" was willing to make execptions, depending on the health issue and it's cause.

It is ashame in my opinion, progress is always sought in more testing and more rigid selection. The more you select in a closed gene pool, the quicker a breed will deteriorate, as for every "faulty" gene you exclude, you throw out a gazillion other perfectly healthy genes as well. And you will first find out you threw away too much, when it is already too late. A concept very well explained on the Border Wars blog in "Health testing in dogs is limited".

The fact that the behavioral testing of the club will follow a more average protocol, like most clubs in most countries do, was to be expected. The first Dutch Hovawart club, "Hovawartclub Nederland", introduced Canine Good Citizen tests which is disliked by many. The Hovawart, as a protector and guardian of family and property, didn't fit into that ideal of the modern dog.

It was a brave experiment though, and it is with mixed feelings I see this initiative being torpedoed again. Society is changing in regard to the expectations we have of our dogs, and not having this addressed, means a rocky road ahead at the least.

As a last thought, I do think all this "verzuiling" - yes, the Dutch are famous for another word than apartheid as well - is a disservice to the Hovawart, to the dog and to the breed. It is confusing for the future Hovawart interested buyer, it allows breeders to "shop" for a club, it scatters data - many times held by individuals - over a club's borders, and is mainly to satisfy people and ambitions.

If it would be up to the Hovawart, he would just have one international club, acting in his best interest, in which we, his people, could all unite.


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