The struggle to find just the right stud dog for your bitch and your breeding program has become even more of a challenge with the added health information we have today. Still, the extra information can help us make better informed choices and be aware of any problems that may crop up. As more genetic tests become available, our knowledge will increase and be even more objective. Finding the right combo will always be as much of an art as a science though.
I do have a caution — with more available testing, including DNA tests, very few dogs are going to show up with a completely clean bill of health. Don’t immediately write a dog off for a bad recessive trait. Look at your bitch, make sure you aren’t going to double up on that trait and if the stud measures up in every other way, do the breeding and be grateful that you are walking in with your eyes open.
How do you start finding the right dog? Many breeders begin by coming up with the dogs whose structure and temperament they like. They want a dog to complement their bitches’ strengths and hopefully mute out any weaknesses or faults.
Speaking with three small but respected breeders, I found the same first response. Diane Almy of Greystoke Border Terriers, Becky Tehon of Traveler Collies and Judy Brown of Caleb Acres Airedales all responded that you look at “families” of dogs first. This is sort of like checking out prospective in-laws. The relatives of your chosen dog may be just as important as he is when it comes to health information.
Once you have a list of possible studs, you can search the known medical databases such as OFA, CHIC and CERF. AKC has made things easier by including some OFA data directly on pedigrees. I like the fact that CHIC and OFA give you enough data to start filling out a health pedigree with the information that is included on siblings, half siblings and offspring.
Judy says that most Airedale breeders feel health is important. Checking hips via OFA or PennHIP and having eye checks via CERF are fairly standard practices. Unfortunately, some health problems do not have standardized testing. For Judy, “Temperament is one of my first considerations, along with physical soundness.”
While temperament may not seem related to health, remember that many dogs of all breeds are euthanized each year simply for temperament problems. Judy’s Airedales are very stable, top performance dogs as well as lovely champions and she doesn’t want to lose any of that!
When looking for the right Collie stud to complement her bitches, Becky looks to Collie family lines that she is familiar with. She has a good feel for what lines will cross well with her dogs and having been in the breed for many years also has a good feel for the health problems that may lurk in certain lines. Becky comments, “Having been in the breed, I can approach many breeders and ask about littermates of a dog I am interested in, plus other family members of that dog and find out how relatives from all over are doing.” Structure, temperament and working ability are important considerations as well.
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