Breeding Top Dogs
Posted on 04/09/2014 in Ringside Conversations.
Richard (Rick) Beauchamp
How fortunate is any breeder who has a top quality bitch to carry on his breeding program. It doesn’t happen all that frequently, so those thus blessed should feel obligated to do the very best possible for her when selecting a mate.
It seems as though that should stand to reason, but it is amazing that how many believe breeding one top bitch to one top dog = top puppies. How far from reality that can be? I’m not saying top puppies can’t result from that kind of thinking, but disappointment is far more apt to be the result than a litter full of Best In Show winners.
What about “like begets like”? Well, that stands, but only to a point. Breed two Poodles together and you are more than likely to get Poodles; the same for Bulldogs, or Great Danes, or Chihuahuas. But when it comes to reproducing the nuances called for in breed standards, the picture changes radically. Here you deal with countless pairs of genes, each parent contributing just one of their own that will unite with that of the parent of the opposite sex. The end game is just that - practically endless.
Rather than get into a lot of complicated genetics, let’s follows three bitch owners on their ways to their respective national specialties in search of a suitable mate for their quality bitch. There are many ways to approach the task, let’s see how each might go about it.
Bitch Owner A
Owner A has a good quality bitch he bought from a well-known breeder. A top handler showed her to her championship. Bitch under arm, Owner A trudges off to the National Specialty to go stud shopping. He dutifully sits through the entire show to watch the breed’s current Top Dog take Best at the National. Owner A plunks his champion bitch up on the crate and asks Top Dog’s handler if she thinks the two dogs were meant for each other. Handler says, “Without a doubt.” Arrangements are made to have Owner A’s bitch bred to handler’s dog at her next season.
Bitch Owner B
Owner B has been around long enough to know the good ones from the bad ones. He has bred a few champions, and one of his dogs has a number of Group Placements. He too is at the National looking for the right stud for his bitch at home. He makes careful note of the class and point winners to see if there is a consistent sire among them. One dog has sired Winners Dog, and three different offspring that placed high in the Dog Classes. The same dog sired the Reserve Winners Bitch and a Puppy Class winner. All big classes. “That’s the boy for me,” he says. “I’ll try all my bitches with him and I am sure to get at least a couple flyers.” He makes arrangements to do so.
Bitch Owner C
Owner C is also at the National shopping for the right dog to breed his champion bitch to. She is tightly bred within his line and is of overall very good quality. She stands over an exceptionally well-made front. She is very sound and of good type, perhaps a little less glamorous than she could be for those who crave flash. The line she comes from is noted for exceptional fronts and coat texture, qualities almost hard to come by in the breed. Owner C feels it may be time to look outside his line for a dog that might add some pretty to his more workmanlike dogs. As the class dogs and bitches pass by, he notes those that are reasonably close to his own line in respect to soundness and quality, but who also have those finishing touches that give a dog that extra look in the ring.
Bitch Owner C checks to see who the sire or sires of the dogs has noted may be. He finds a common denominator, one particular dog or sons of that dog sire most of the dogs that place in the ribbons over the weekend.
While Owners A and B are off tripping the light fantastic at the National Specialty Sock Hop, Owner C is making the rounds, looking up the owners of the bitches who produced the dogs he has liked in the classes. He is asking questions about how the dams of those dogs are bred and what they look like. He is very interested in why their breeders chose the particular studs they did.
When Owner C returns home, he has a lot of notes and information on the dams of the dogs he liked and notes on where to get more information on their backgrounds. By the time his bitch is ready he will know where the qualities he is after actually came from and if his bitch is of the kind that might do well in a similar breeding.
As time passes, Breeder C realizes he is probably headed in the right direction. He also figures it may take two or more breedings out to the other line he likes before he will have produced the animals in his own kennel that can be brought together to combine the fine qualities that both lines have.
Breeder A has had his litter and is keeping everything he got from the breeding. “They’re all top show quality for sure,” he says. “Probably a couple Best In Show winners in there as well.” Have never seen such hot-looking eight-week-old pups!
Breeder B can’t figure out why he didn’t get puppies by the dog he bred to that are as good as those he saw at the National. His bitches were good ones. “Strange the dog didn’t produce anything for me,” he thinks.
Knowing what one’s bitch or bitches are really all about; what they have to offer and what they need is the most important part of breeding and creating a producing line. Once this is clearly understood, then and only then will it be possible to select the proper mate.
Now Harder Than Ever
If so much as the mere thought of breeding a litter had crossed your mind for over a minute, you’ve undoubtedly already been cautioned about making sure the stock you start with is “well bred”. Even if your peers hadn’t impressed that upon you by now, I’m sure you would have taken that message just from what has been written here so far in this series.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in genetics to understand that junk in isn’t going to give you anything more than junk out when all is said and done; however, the term well-bred may not be as clear as it needs to be. There’s a bit more involved than what appears on the surface of the words, particularly if you intend to become a longtime breeder of quality.
Well-bred, as it’s used in today’s dog vernacular, can lead the potential breeder off into directions that can prove to be dead-end streets. The line that once stood between a topnotch dog and a topnotch winner has been blurred. We always have and continue to hope that the terms describe one and the same dog but this doesn’t always hold true.
We’ve so lionized qualities that serve the show dog that a charismatic temperament (required or not - correct or not) will often override the hard to come by but perhaps less extroverted dog of great type. Reach and drive, required in some breeds, have become a hallmark of good movement in all breeds in spite of the fact they may contradict proper construction and purpose.
Long necks, short backs, extreme angulation; qualities for some breeds, faults in others. Unfortunately “modern” breeding (and judging!) wants to superimpose those qualities on too many breeds.
Inappropriately assigning qualities of one breed to another (“that Bulldog can fly around the ring like a German Shepherd!”) can lead a breed along the path to disaster. Therefore, it becomes extremely important for the beginner to fully understand what is critical to defining type in his breed before awarding “well-bred” status on a famous dog or bloodline.
Fame is incredibly seductive. We attach all kinds of qualities to it that have little or nothing to do with the status. For instance, among humans there are people who are famous for their outstanding talent or accomplishments and there are people who are famous for no other reason than the fact that they are, quite simply, famous. In dogs in the right hands a well-planned advertising campaign can make a major star of practically any halfway decent dog.
Madison Avenue and the advertising industry capitalize on our fascination with fame and create tremendous ballyhoo around individuals and products whose talent or value is minuscule. We the gullible public buy into the clever merchandising and rush out to buy products or tickets to performances thereby creating box office and sales records that in turn make the individual or the product just that much more famous. In dogs it becomes the breeders’ responsibility; to know whether or not today’s show records and notoriety are attached to dogs or bloodlines of quality.
The well-bred dog (and I use the word dog here as a member of the species not as gender) is the dog whose correct type is backed up by three very important characteristics:
• An ancestry that has well above average scores in all the elements of breed type.
• Ancestors whose genotype consistently produces a recognizable phenotype.
• A pedigree that by merit of its thought out combinations intensifies the line’s desirable characteristics.
Next time: observing results and predicting producing potential.
Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp has been successfully involved in practically every facet of purebred dogs: breeding, exhibiting, publishing, writing. He is the author of numerous breed and all breed books including the best-selling Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type and Breeding Dogs for Dummies. He has judged all breeds throughout the world and was one of the United Kennel Club’s first all breed judges.
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of BLOODLINES Dog Event News.