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The Purpose of Breeding

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136 – April, 2016

By William Given

It is believed that there are hundreds more purebreds that are breeding true across the planet’s 196 counties, 61 dependent areas and six disputed territories. A few breeds have origins dating back hundreds, even thousands of years. A 2004 study found that nine breeds (including the Saluki, Canaan Dog, Basenji, Chow Chow and Samoyed) have ancient geneses and are genetically divergent and distinct from modern breeds.

Dogs have made themselves useful in many ways so humans have fed and sheltered them, and we breed them to meet our needs. Due to practical needs, man has bred dogs for guarding, herding, hunting and tracking. We learned early on that if we bred dogs that were highly successful at their assigned roles, they would produce puppies that would also mature to be proficient in their work.

Most dogs do not do the work they used to do and most people do not need their dogs for the purpose of accomplishing work. So, what exactly, is the purpose of breeding? And, why are some breeders so much more successful at it than others? Well-established and highly successful breeders always have very specific goals in mind when contemplating their next litter. Newcomers and some not-so-new breeders are commonly not so concrete in their beliefs or in their approach to breeding. This laissez-faire approach gives no credit to the welfare of the breed and the resulting puppies will have little chance of making any real or lasting contribution to the breed.

Perhaps I should begin by taking a step back and asking, “why do we show our dogs?” There is certainly a very small percentage for whom it is nothing more than an “ego stroke,” whereby they are able to say that they are the owner of record of one or more champion showdogs. Also, there exists a small group who find some achievement in the acquisition of ribbons and garnering of titles. The true purpose, however, of showing our dogs is not in seizing the opportunity to collect ribbons or build egos, but rather to use shows and the judges’ selections as confirmation of breeding quality and the potential betterment of the breed.

The importance of quality

Let us consider the importance of quality by first looking at my definition of quality. “Quality,” is the degree to which a set of inherited traits and characteristics contributes to the conformation of a dog in fulfilling the requirements of the breed standard. Producing quality puppies goes far beyond providing the breeder with a record of success. The sheer costs (in time, money and energy) associated with operating a successful breeding program often prevents a breeder from keeping all of their puppies. So, breeders must sell some of their puppies. Quality puppies help maintain customer satisfaction and foster loyalty to both the breeder and the line. A breeder’s reputation is built on quality.

So, you purchased a show quality puppy or young dog from a breeder and successfully showed the dog through the completion of his or her championship. This is done to prove (to yourself) that the dog or bitch is worthy of being bred. I would submit that it more precisely suggests that it is proof of the dog’s right to be given placement in a breeding program.

It is a hard fact, but the simple truth, that not every dog worthy of a championship by virtue of its conformation, movement and temperament is agreeably worthy of being bred. There is also the sad reality that very few dogs (dog or bitch) are destined to make a significant contribution to the breed in all areas. Some dogs, truly superior showdogs, are just not able to pass their fine qualities on to the next generation. It does not matter how much time, effort and money the breeder has put into their breeding program.

Some would argue that the opposite is also true, and that not every dog need see the inside of a show ring in order to be a great producer and make a worthwhile contribution to the breed. This premise is true and accurate, however, it must also be realized that said dog would be an exception rather than the rule. It must also be remembered that the genes for faults carried by the dog, if not exhibited in the first or second generation offspring will, by the third generation, show evidence of the undesirable traits which may have precluded the dog’s antecedents being shown in the first place.

What is needed in a breeding pair

Pedigree: My grandfather had a saying, “Nothing bred to nothing will produce nothing. The Moral: Quality begets quality. Do not use a satisfactory bitch as your foundation, nor a satisfactory dog as the sire. Purchase a bitch and select a stud dog that are bred for success. There is real power in pedigrees. The right pedigree combined with the right breeder should give you the confidence to purchase a puppy from the right breeder, sight unseen.

Temperament: Temperament is as inheritable as any other trait you will breed for in a litter. Temperament is critical in a foundation bitch. A solid temperament helps to ensure she will be a good mother who will enjoy her puppies. A bitch that is a natural mother will certainly make your job much easier.

Few Dominant Faults: From time to time you will see or hear of a bitch possessing some particular fault that was passed to all of her puppies, no matter what stud dog to which she was bred. Such a bitch is difficult to use in a breeding program because no matter what sire you use, you simply will never overcome her faults. That will lock you into a vicious cycle from which you cannot ever escape.

Youth: Not all that important for the sire, but for the bitch youth has its own advantages. Most of the advantages of youth are physical in nature. The physical aspects of whelping, nursing and caring for a litter are demanding, and the younger bitch will naturally handle the ordeal easier and recover noticeably quicker. A bitch of two years of age, whether finished or almost finished, is good. A finished bitch that is three or four years is great. Obviously, the younger a really beautiful bitch is, the more years you will have ahead of you to work with her.

The purpose of breeding

The truly outstanding dogs that are exhibited at our shows do not happen by accident. These dogs are very often the result of years of planning and dedicated effort on the part of devoted breeders. Okay then, “what is the purpose of breeding our dogs?” Obviously, it is the quest to improve and the desire to promote the breed. But to what extent and in what manner, remain very valid questions.

As a contributor to this magazine, I have been most fortunate in being able to meet and speak with a great many purebred dog enthusiasts with diverse interests from many different parts of the county. A main topic of conversation, of course, centers around our dogs and breeding programs. At times, I have been absolutely amazed and equally dismayed, and at times very gratified by the approach taken towards breeding by breeders and fanciers during our discussions.

I was amazed and dismayed by those who took, what seemed to me to be, a much too relaxed approach to breeding. It is not my intention to suggest that this could be called indiscriminate breeding, but these breedings certainly are not receiving the careful consideration that most planned breedings receive. Most of these breeders expressed their belief that the established guidelines used by most to protect the breed should be followed, they were nevertheless doing the breed only a minor disservice by engaging in breeding without seriously considering their other options or the consequences. One of these breeders proudly boasted of once having four litters on the ground at the same time. These puppies were in various stages of development, from recently whelped to an age at which the puppies should have been placed in the right homes and at a more optimum age weeks earlier. Undaunted, a few of these breeders were blissfully contemplating more breedings with little regard to the consequences of their breeding.

The single question coming so quickly to my mind in these situations was, “How can you give all of these ‘finely bred’ puppies the individual care and human socialization that they require to mature into the well-adjusted (temperamentally sound) dogs that we desire and the Standard demands?” The answer, so sadly, is that the puppies, coming from “prolific breeders” must, by the breeders’ time demands, be socially neglected.

I was gratified by those breeders who, while taking the time to praise the strengths of their individual breeding programs, also made it quite clear that I understand that they bred very few litters and initiated each breeding with a real purpose in mind. It was easy to see that these breeders always consider the future welfare of the breed throughout the entire process. A few of these breeders were planning multiple breedings for the coming year, but most stated that they had only one litter every couple of years. And, all wanted me to know that they had the time necessary to devote to a litter of puppies thereby ensuring they got the proper care and socialization. This is also a very important part of being a highly successful breeder.

A proper home for the right puppy

These breeders were also keen in following through on their puppy placements. They stressed the fact that they took the time to fully interview prospective puppy purchasers. Whether conducted by phone, email or personal visits, it does take considerable time to make certain that each puppy is getting the very best placement possible taking into account his conformation quality, personality and temperament. Just because there are six puppies in a litter does not mean they will all have the same opportunities to achieve their full potential in any of six different homes. The placement of each puppy into the proper home ensures his individual needs will have a greater chance of being met. This is of paramount importance.

The follow-through care also extends to the new owners of the puppies. And, the follow-through continues from the time the puppies go to their new homes throughout the course of their development into adults and readily display all of the individual characteristics that set them apart from their littermates. This is what being a dedicated breeder is all about. It is also what sets the successful breeder apart from those who are not.

The purpose, therefore, of breeding is not strictly the production of puppies. Nor is it in the accumulation of ribbons and championship titles through the offspring of the parents. The purpose of breeding is to bring into the fancy those dogs which will prove to be a real credit to the breed. The show wins and resulting titles should simply be considered as the “frosting on the cake.” This is, certainly, most gratifying to any breeder, but should not be the sole reason or end result sought when engaging in a breeding program.

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Posted by on Apr 13 2016. Filed under Current Articles, Editorial, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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