Finding a stud dog is easy. Finding a good stud dog is a little more difficult. Finding the right stud dog for your bitch can be downright daunting. By following these guidelines, you can narrow your list to just a few contenders.
1. Be objective about your bitch’s good and bad points, and prioritize which are most important.
The chances of finding a stud that complements all of your bitch’s weak areas is low, but it makes sense to focus on dogs that don’t share many of her faults and, more importantly, don’t share her more-significant faults. Even better, find a stud that has corrected the same weak points when bred to other bitches.
2. Learn as much as you can about the inheritance of the traits you need to change.
If your bitch’s undesirable trait is inherited as a simple dominant, then the stud dog may not be able to correct it, even if he doesn’t have that trait. If your bitch’s undesirable trait is inherited as a simple recessive, then the stud can only correct it if he does not exhibit the same trait, and even then some puppies may still inherit the trait if he carries a recessive gene for it.
By looking at the stud dog’s ancestors, you can gauge how likely it is that he might carry a recessive gene. If an undesirable trait is inherited polygenically (by the combined action of several traits), then the stud may only be able to correct it part way, depending on how affected he is. You can get clues about what hidden polygenic genes the stud might carry by looking at his siblings.
3. Open your eyes to dogs from other lines.
Don’t just focus on big winners. Remember: handlers and advertising can make a top dog out of a mediocre one. At the same time, don’t get caught up in the “hidden treasure” syndrome, in which you think you’ve discovered an unknown, perhaps un-shown, dog that nobody else has noticed. Judge him as objectively as you would the big winner, without excuses. Just because a dog has lost a leg in an accident, for example, doesn’t mean he would have had perfect movement if he still had four legs. All else being equal, a dog with a better win record has a greater chance of attracting puppy buyers, so don’t totally neglect that aspect.
4. Write out sample pedigrees of proposed litters.
You can find programs (some on the Internet are free) that will calculate a coefficient of inbreeding (COI) for each proposed pedigree. The COI is an estimate of how inbred your puppies would be, which in turn, is an estimate of how likely a recessive allele will double up in one of them. Give extra points to the pedigree with a smaller COI, particularly one under 10 percent. Because many hereditary health problems are inherited recessively, your chances of healthier puppies are greater with lower COIs.
5. Arrange to see prospective stud dogs in person.
Pictures can be doctored, and videos can be carefully edited to disguise faults and temperament gaffes. The best place to see a lot of stud dogs is at your breed’s national specialty or, if you’re looking for a performance dog, at the premier event for that activity.
6. All else being equal, choose a less-used sire over a popular sire.
For one thing, who wants what everyone else has? In addition, if you plan to breed subsequent generations, your dogs will be more valuable to the breed if they don’t carry the same genes that are swamping the breed’s gene pool.
7. All else being equal, choose a middle-aged or older sire over a young one.
Young dogs may not have reached maturity, and also may be too young to be affected by age-related health problems. Very old dogs have shown they can live to old age. However, they may have problems with sperm quality.
8. Consider the location of the stud.
Although location shouldn’t be your primary consideration, it may not be practical to choose a dog from far away if it’s too hot to ship your bitch by air, or if you can’t take a week or more off work to drive your bitch there. Although chilled semen is a good option, some dogs’ semen survives chilling better than others, and extra expenses are involved in collecting, chilling, shipping and inseminating.
9. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, contact the owners.
It’s better to contact only real contenders; other owners won’t appreciate a shotgun approach, especially if they send you lots of information and you never get back to them. Be prepared to tell them about your bitch, and either show her to them or supply pictures. Explain what you hope to achieve with the litter and when you plan to breed. It’s bad manners to simply assume they will say yes. Instead, ask them if they would consider a breeding.
10. Ask to see the stud’s genetic test results.
You should already be familiar with the hereditary problems in your breed and any available tests for them. In fact, your bitch should have already had the same tests you require of the stud dog. Ask about the health and longevity of the stud’s siblings and ancestors. Give preference to a dog whose owner seems upfront about possible problems.
11. Ask about breeding terms.
Most stud owners will ask for either a fee or a puppy, usually second pick. If your bitch is to stay with the stud owner, does boarding cost extra? Is there a fee if she must be picked up from the airport? If the stud owner is to get a puppy, at what age will it be chosen? Ask about what constitutes a litter, and what arrangements are made in case no litter results. What sort of pre-breeding tests are required? Both males and females should be tested for brucellosis.
12. Improve your chances
Your priorities will differ according to your situation and breeding goals. For example, if you’re breeding for show dogs, you’ll be less likely to compromise on conformation aspects. If you’re breeding for pets, you’ll want to emphasize temperament and health over conformation. If you plan to keep in touch with the stud owner, as most breeders of competition dogs do, then you may even factor in how well you get along with him or her.
Remember, just as no dog is perfect, no stud choice is perfect. But doing the best research you can may raise your chances of perfect puppies.
D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D., is a breeder, owner and handler of top-winning Salukis.