In this final installment I shall endeavor to place myself in the position of a beginning dog breeder, who, after having read considerable background genetic material, has decided he wants to produce, as a minimum, some good specimens of his chosen breed or, as a maximum, a distinguishable strain within it.
I shall of necessity presuppose that he has a clear picture in his mind of the KIND or TYPE of dog he wants to produce, and that, through contact with successful breeders, a study of his breed’s Standard and attendance at many dog shows, he has learned through observance and study what constitutes near-perfect examples of his breed.
In a preceding installment, I have explained the necessity for knowing what is a GOOD article whether it be a manufactured product or a dog, before one starts to make it — and I cannot stress this too strongly! However, in view of what has been written above, some words of warning and additional advice seem to be in order.
Fallacy In Breeding For “Winning” Type
One too often hears from exhibitors and breeders such remarks as, “I breed for the type that is winning, regardless of the Standard.” This means to me that the speaker’s future as a consistent producer of high quality dogs is most doubtful — and that his real interest in the “game” is the superficial one of winning, rather than of breed improvement.
It becomes, therefore, more important for the beginner breeder to obtain some knowledge of genetics, together with a complete understanding of his breed’s Standard, than for him to visit dog shows to see what type is winning!
It goes without saying that in the long pull, the time it takes to breed consistently good specimens, let alone establish a strain, a breeder must hitch to something — and that should be the Standard of his breed rather than what is currently the “style” as established by the interpretations or perhaps vagaries of the judges.
In other words, if there is to be any continuity of effort toward the production of a standard type within a breed, it must be predicated upon an all but unchanging written Standard of perfection, rather than upon an often-changing of the Standard (either written or implied) through interpreting it to fit the present show dog. Any current fad incorporating qualities not called for by a breed’s Standard can, and often does, change periodically, leaving breeders who have based their efforts on producing stock to conform to “today’s winners” out of the running.
With the establishment in the minds of beginner breeders of what has already been written, we can now turn to some applications of these precepts and theories which have been propounded in this series of articles on planned breeding.
Beginner Breeder Often Handicapped
Much easier would it be, and more quickly could salubrious results probably be obtained, were the beginner breeder for whom I am writing the owner of two or three very good bitches. Such is not the customary case, however, judging from the situation of many who have contacted me since the inception of these articles. Few indeed are those who have more than one bitch and, more often than not, that one not such a specimen as a knowledgeable fancier of the breed would select as a foundation brood matron.
Questioning brings forth this usual information — they are stuck with what they have, and feel they must use it. Affection for the animal, lack of funds with which to purchase a better one, or inability to find and select a more suitable bitch for their start, are the more common reasons given for not beginning with something better than the one perhaps mediocre specimen they already own.
In addition to the physical shortcomings of the average beginner’s bitch, she is apt to have a hit-or-miss pedigree. There may be numerous “Champions” in it, more likely than not all picked for use because they WERE such title holders, but without any selection having been made, in the matings producing her and her immediate ancestors, for physical compensation of faults.
To Achieve Better Results Faster
Our editor has asked that, taking such a bitch as an example, I try to point out a procedure by which a beginner breeder might, most quickly and surely, improve the “mean” or average quality of his production — and indeed might within a few years bring forth, and quite consistently, some “toppers.”
Granted that the possessor of such a foundation bitch as outlined above must expect to spend much more money and time than if he could start with either or both: the bitch herself a good show specimen, and/or the possessor of a line-bred pedigree. In the absence of these qualifications, however, he must take the longest and most difficult road — the one being traveled by the greatest number of beginners, and whom we most want to help.
Instead of names for the animals in the pedigree, I shall take alphabetical letters. In the interest of keeping the use of space to a minimum, as well as for elimination of confusion, I shall, at least for the present, project only a 3-generation pedigree.
Following, then, is the pedigree with which we will start:
It will be observed that no dog appears more than once in the above pedigree, so it is what is known as “wide open.” Also that none has been designated as a Champion, although several or all of them might have had that title.
We must now carefully analyze the structural attributes of the above bitch and to do so, I shall presume her to be a German Shepherd Dog. As explained in previous installments, although I have made some study of almost all of the A.K.C.-recognized varieties, with particular emphasis on Working and Non-Sporting, the most of my breeding work has been done with Shepherds.
Many Standards Require Similar Specifications
Furthermore, the Standard requirements of quite a number of breeds, especially those of the larger varieties, demand somewhat similar specifications They all stress the importance of type, balance, toplines, ribbing, fore and rear angulation, bone and substance, feet, correct “bite,” gait, color, of eyes, color and texture of coats, etc. Surely there are enough characteristics in that list for us to use here in an evaluation of the hypothetical bitch being considered.
Studying her, we will probably find that she has many shortcomings and faults, that she is more or less, “just another dog” of her breed. To the non-critical and uneducated eye she might be called “pretty,” and is easily recognizable as a specimen of her particular breed. She might have done, or be capable of doing, some winning, even placing above superior specimens at times for one reason or another. Yes, she may even be a Champion for, as we all know, “holes” can be found in even the best of such title holders, and no absolutely perfect specimen of any breed has ever been produced, or is likely to be!
Know Faults To Breed For Correction!
For the purpose of our present study, we must center our attention on several faults in type or structure possessed by this bitch, so we can go about breeding her for correction and over-all improvement. I shall select topline, fore-assembly (the entire shoulder structure composed of shoulder blade and upper arm, the length of those bones, as well as their placement one with the other — the angle made where they join) and, as the third structural characteristic to be considered, rear angulation.
I have selected these three for several reasons but mainly because the proper formation of these is the most important in the make-up of the greatest percentage of dog varieties, as well as the ones most often found to be faulty.
No more than a cursory glance at our bitch indicates to the knowledgeable fancier of her breed that she is “soft in back” — that is, she has a dip in her topline, the back between her shoulder blades and hips being lower than either. When trotted, her back “bounces” instead of holding steady and firm as it should in order to ensure no loss of power as it is transmitted from the rear to the front.
So, since we find this bitch to be somewhat soft in back, we will want to mate her to correct this fault in her progeny, or at least in most of her grandchildren. Closer inspection, necessitating perhaps the use of our hands, divulges a too short and “steep” shoulder blade. Instead of being long and well laid back, or put on “obliquely,” as many Standards state, this one, we find, is too perpendicular.
Likewise, as in the matter of topline, the third fault in our bitch is quite easily observable — she hasn’t sufficient rear angulation, is “too straight in the rear.” A full explanation of this as well as the two above-mentioned faults would necessitate the use of all the space allotted to this article.
Besides, I have explained earlier that until a breeder is fully conversant with what constitutes idealized perfection, as well as faults and shortcomings in his breed, he should not attempt, or at least expect, to consistently produce outstandingly good specimens. I must therefore presuppose a complete knowledge on the part of my readers of ALL facets pertaining to the three structural faults listed above, and possessed by our mythical bitch.
Bitch May Be Only Seed Bed For Improved Seed
Because, amongst the 14 animals in her immediate pedigree, there does not appear the same dog’s name more than once, it would not be likely that we could determine from which, or any several of them, came one or more of her faults.
If we DO know that either the sire or dam, or any others amongst her ancestors, did have one or more of the faults mentioned, then we most certainly do not want that dog or dogs in the pedigree of the mate we select for her — if we can possibly avoid it. Should such be unavoidable, then that animal should be so far back in the pedigree as to make its influence negligible.
Having a hit-or-miss bred bitch with which to start and one with such a complexity of faults, we must consider her as only a seed bed — the “ground” in which to plant the improved seed (sperm) of a male who, in particular, is correct in the places where she is faulty and without other and perhaps as bad shortcomings. We must also try to find one who not only possesses these correct attributes himself, but comes from dogs who had them.
We should also select a stud who is preferably inbred, or at least quite strongly linebred, so that the strength such breeding gives to his prepotency will most likely ensure his dominance in the mating pair.
Favorite Breeding Practice For Superior Stock
After quite some time searching for a compensating male, and study of available studs’ pedigrees, the male whose pedigree follows was selected.
There is a favorite breeding theory, or system, used by successful breeders of many varieties of animals. It usually eventuates in superior stock IF the male selected is himself an outstanding specimen, nearly faultless, and has such progenitors.
It goes as follows: “Let the sire of the sire be the grandsire of the dam, on the dam’s side.”
Does that seem complicated? A look at the above pedigree will clarify it. The dog we are using (BB) has as his sire O, while his dam P also has as her “grandsire on the dam’s side” the same dog O.
Because the majority of dog breeders formulate no breeding plan and seldom if ever, when making a mating, consider how or what they will mate any of the resultant progeny, a stud bred such as the above dog is not common. As you will recognize, it takes some years of planned breeding to produce such a dog.
Modifications May Be Used — But Wisely!
In the absence of a stud with such bloodlines, those with modifications of it can be used. As one example amongst many, the sire of the sire might be the grandsire of the dam on the SIRE’S side, instead of on the dam’s. Another: the sire selected might be the result of either a full or a half brother and sister mating, and thus inbred. And so we might go on listing differing formulas indicating inbreeding and linebreeding.
The point I want to make, however, is that in selecting a mate for a faulty bitch whose wide-open pedigree offers no individual in it free of her faults, and dominant in correcting them, one must select as her mate a dog not only himself CORRECT where she is failing, but through some intensity of corrective blood is dominant.
Foundation On Which Worth Is Built
I feel it well to interject here that “paper breeding” is not alone the answer, any may be dangerous — in case I haven’t made it sufficiently clear heretofore that:
“Physical compensation is the foundation rock upon which all enduring worth must be built.”
It therefore goes without saying that we have selected stud BB not only because of his line-breeding on O, but also because both he AND O are correct where the bitch AA is faulty.
It has not seemed practical for the purpose of this article to become involved with listing dogs further back in the pedigrees than are given. However it is worthy of note that in the ancestry of our stud BB there are lines running in the fourth and later generations to top quality as well as top-winning males and bitches.
Two studs and one bitch, for instance, appear three or more times back of the 3rd generation, and all three were eminently strong in the sections where our bitch is weak. The male O, as an example, goes back with three lines to the great dog we will designate as UU and four times to one of the best bitches ever produced in the breed, ZZ.
The latter, incidentally, not only possessed a practically perfect fore-assembly, ideal rear angulation, and an uncriticizable topline, but, in turn, was a descendant of another “great” in the breed, one dubbed as “the dog with an iron back.”
The litter resulting from mating the dog BB to the bitch AA would have the following pedigree:
Some Correction In Get — But Not Trouble-Free
It would be unreasonable to expect that in this first generation produced from an entirely outcross-bred bitch with several faults, although sired by a line-bred male without them, we would get any, let alone all, of the resultant litter entirely “trouble-free.” It is, however, reasonable to assume that one or more of the pups showed some, or a complete correction of one or all of the dam’s faults. Why?
Because, as we have pointed out, the sire through his linebreeding should be somewhat dominant over the “seed bed” in which his sperm was placed. As all experienced dog breeders know, such a mating as outlined above does sometimes produce considerable improvement over the dam, with some or most of the puppies resembling the sire a great deal more than their dam.
So that we can proceed with this projected breeding plan, in which we found it necessary to start with such a foundation head as described above, and attempt to “breed up” from her, we must go on, using the best of what we have obtained for this first mating.
Select Best Bitch Puppies — Not Male!
As soon as the litter is sufficiently grown so enough can be told about them to make a fairly safe selection (and this varies amongst different breeds), we try to pick the best bitch puppy. Let us presume that we find one resembling her sire more than the dam, as we have planned and hoped for.
We are not at all interested in keeping a male, and should not be in the foreseeable future, unless none such as we must use in our breeding program is available at public stud. As a beginner breeder without the space and means to permit us the luxury of maintaining a large breeding establishment, we must of necessity confine ourselves to the use of others’ studs for the small number of bitches we can breed and litters we can produce.
Impatient for desired results and those good-quality specimens it is our determination and desire to eventually produce, there are two things we can now do with our foundation bitch AA. We can “pension” her as a pet, discarding her as a breeder, or we can mate her again while waiting for the selected puppy from her last litter to become old enough for breeding.
Incidentally, it is always best to keep two females in a litter from which one plans to pick future breeders, giving some insurance that, should one be lost while maturing, there will be a replacement.
Should the alternative be decided upon (breeding the bitch AA a second time), there are again two decisions to make: Shall we repeat the first mating or select another stud? The decision as to whether to repeat the mating will, of course, depend upon what came out of the first.
If a different mate is selected for AA’s second litter, then who should he be? One could decide upon several courses — select another stud with different bloodlines but equally corrective and prepotent, or one closely related to stud BB.
In the first instance, the resultant litter might be of such higher and more uniform quality as to make it advisable to use one from it with which to carry on, and in the second, with the two litters having a measure of identical (and corrective) blood, a puppy or puppies from each litter might later be mated together.
Breeding Bitch From 1st Litter
We are patently unable to delve deeply into such problems or matters in this article. In fact, it is bound to run a greater length than planned if I go no further than suggest what to do with the selected bitch from the first litter of BB to AA, which litter I will designate as CC.
If what I have written in earlier installments, together with this one, has been followed by our readers, I am sure you will pretty well know what I shall suggest as the next move in this projected breeding program. Yes, you are right — further use of the bloodlines of the original male BB and, in particular, that of his sire and his dam’s grand-sire O.
We will say, as would have been quite likely, that the puppies in litter CC showed improvement in, or correction of, the listed faults of their dam, at least to some extent. Also that the bitch puppy selected for future breeding use was found to possess her sire’s good fore-assembly, and topline but not his proper rear angulation. After all, one cannot hope for, or expect. EVERYTHING wanted from just one mating, and I am stretching the probable facts greatly when I admit to the above two improvements so soon after the start. But, in the desire to be helpful, I should be as encouraging as possible. Right?
If it takes longer to obtain such correction as outlined above, do not be too discouraged — you must continue with intelligent breeding to corrective and, if possible, closely related animals.
In the mean time, this warning: Make sure you do not lose other and valuable characteristics possessed by your breeders, the while you work to eliminate the three special faults we have listed as needing correction.
This sounds simple, but I must warn you that it “ain’t!”
Well, while we have digressed above, we shall take it for granted that our young bitch has matured to breeding age. The answer as to how we should mate her, from own experience and in my best judgment, as well as in accordance with genetic knowledge, has been given above. It occurs to me that we have not as yet named our young bitch, the product of a mating of BB and AA — so, being a 50-50 combination of the two, she is named BA.
We have presupposed that BA received from her sire BB his good fore-assembly and topline but no improvement over the rear angulation of her dam AA. We therefore want to hold and “set” the good characteristics obtained from BB, the while we acquire the proper and needed rear angulation.
Our greatest chance for success in this endeavor lies in returning to either the sire himself, breeding his daughter back to him, or in using one of his sons who not only possesses BB’s front and topline but, because of blood from his maternal side of the family, has a strong dominance of proper rear angulation. In other words, BB having been bred to a good bitch, herself possessing proper rear angulation (and if possible others in her ancestry), BB’s son out of such a bitch should carry extra strength in this characteristic.
Here again we would be doing “paper breeding” had we not stressed the importance of physical compensation in the mating pair.
Space permitting, I might go on with outlines of suggested future use of the progeny of bitch BA from the litter by her sire BB, or one of his sons, but reference to earlier installments in this series will supply much if not all which would be needed.
Strict Selection Must Be Made!
It should be recognized that the recommendations made in this article are not always possible of exact fulfillment. For instance, no such stud as BB, with a pedigree in which “the sire of the sire is the grandsire of the dam on the dam’s side” may be found and, if located, his sire and dam’s grandsire might not be at all the type of animal one would want to line-breed on.
It should be understood that, in its widest application, the recommendation made as to a mate for the foundation bitch AA would be a stud who not only himself but, more importantly, his immediate ancestors, possess as nearly as possible the proper structural attributes demanded by the breed’s Standard.
Stressing the importance of the above, we must remember that inbreeding and linebreeding serve to accentuate not only the GOOD but the BAD points and, again, that when such breeding is used, STRICT SELECTION must be made.
Given a foundation bitch who herself is of superior quality as compared to the average of her breed, and who has a pedigree in which some top-quality dogs appear one or more times, the procedure recommended herein, of course, would have been different Advice would have been given to breed back on one or more of those “toppers.”
However, this series of articles, as was announced at the beginning, was written for, and in a hope that it might be of some help to novices and beginner breeders — so I purposely selected the bitch AA, they type all too commonly owned by them, with which to start breeding.
In conclusion, a “Thank You!” to the many readers who, both by letter and verbally, have expressed their appreciation for these articles and the help received from them.