What is a Stud Dog?
Posted on 03/18/2013 in Ringside Conversations.
Richard (Rick) Beauchamp
My longtime experience with purebred dogs, and the great good fortune of having had knowledgeable mentors, has given me the ability and opportunity to pass along the result of both in the form of educational articles and books. At times I have been totally amazed at just how far the printed word can reach.
It was just a few days ago that an e-mail arrived from a young gentleman in the Ukraine who is embarking upon a Black Russian Terrier breeding program. He wrote that he has obtained a copy of Dog Breeding for Dummies (a book I wrote a number of years back carrying a somewhat misleading title, but containing a wealth of information).
In his letter, the writer asks for my help as a breeding mentor in that there are few people to turn to in his immediate area. He explains his background as being a second-generation breeder (his late parents having bred and shown Standard Schnauzers, Lakeland Terriers and Greyhounds). He goes on to bemoan the fact the Russian is rapidly descending into a primped and pampered show dog far removed from the origin and purpose of the breed. The letter continues on to ask my advice in how to proceed now that he has obtained his breeding program foundation - a young male.
In just what I’ve related thus far it should be apparent that there’s easily hundreds of pages that could be written in response to just one of the several questions our writer has asked. I pondered on what to tackle first and decided one word would serve him best at the moment.
That word was, “Wait!” I wrote, “… my friend, you are putting on your shoes before you put on your socks!” You write that you are beginning with a very young male. I have not seen your dog, but even if he were the greatest male ever bred and sold by some naive breeder, you do not have a clue as to what this dog is capable of producing for you.
Should you be lucky enough to have purchased this puppy who is A+ in quality, that is also blessed with great producing ability, what makes you think that any and every bitch you purchase to mate to him, despite her own quality, will nick? How many bitches will you have to purchase and breed to him before you find the offspring that will then send you on your way?
Few, if any, outside breeders would jeopardize his own carefully laid foundation by breeding to a dog that has few or no producing credentials. The clever breeder is just as selective in stud dogs as he should have been in assembling the best bitch line possible.
This is where our writer should actually begin his breeding program - by purchasing the best possible bitch he can that comes from a line of quality producing bitches. And then his next project is to find, regardless of where in the world the dog resides, the right stud dog for her. I italicize the word stud dog because so few people really know the true meaning of the word.
What is a stud dog? As I’ve written many times in the past when I ask experienced breeders for their definition of a stud dog, they assume it is a trick question. It appears they believe the answer is so obvious and elementary no one would ask the question if there wasn’t a trick in it somewhere.
There’s really nothing tricky about the question at all. When I ask, I really want to know what they have to say. The reason I want to know is to learn why so many young fanciers take their magnificently bred bitches and breed them to what I call “just another dog”.
The only stud dog the hobby breeder should ever consider using is one which not only has proven his ability to produce quality, but has a good track record for producing quality in the area where the bitch needs help. A breed is extremely fortunate to have more than one or two prepotent sires of this kind at any given time. It’s only natural that one might ask is, “With so many male dogs available, why would there be so few stud dogs?”
The answer to that question is a stud dog has no less importance in breeding than a herd sire in horses or the stud bull in cattle. While many male horses and cattle are born, very few are used as herd sires. The role is far too important to be filled by any animal less than the very best.
I realize, of course, every stud dog was once young and unproven. There is no way possible to know if a young male will produce well unless he is test bred. But the young unproven dog is not a toy for the unsophisticated and inexperienced breeder to experiment with.
A stud dog is for the seasoned breeder who knows the background of the youngster to be used. If the hobby breeder is only going to have one or two litters a year why shouldn’t he stack the odds in his own favor and breed to the dog he knows is producing the qualities needed.
The established breeder usually has firm ground on which to anticipate the producing potential of a young male he has bred from his own line, and it would only be upon the recommendation of the experienced that any beginning breeder should attempt to use an “unproven” male.
To the novice the only difference between a “proven” and an “unproven” male is that one has produced puppies and the other has not. Allow me to be clear in what I’m talking about here. By unproven I mean the dog has not established his ability to produce the superior quality one should be seeking. The fact that a dog can produce puppies proves only one thing to me - the dog is fertile.
Show Dogs and Stud Dogs
A stud dog is not simply a male dog. Neither do show records or championships have anything to do with a dog’s producing ability. Winning in the show ring proves the dog has the quality necessary to win. Siring outstanding offspring is the only thing that proves a sire’s ability. These are two entirely different qualities.
A dog can be a truly great show dog and a poor sire. A dog can hate the show ring and never win a point and be an outstanding sire. It is just as simple as that.
The biggest mistake breeders, novice or veteran, can make is to confuse their show dogs with their breeding dogs. They can be the same. We hope they will be the same. Often they are not
There are those who say show wins are the indicator of a dog’s value to the breed. In other words, if many judges agree a particular dog is the current ideal in its breed, the dog should be bred to. I agree - but only to a degree.
You can get every judge in the country to agree that the dog of the hour is the dog of the hour, but that same dog can be a complete disappointment in the breeding department. If a dog’s quality is not realized in the whelping box, all we have is a box full of ribbons and nothing more.
This is not to say a winning dog cannot also be an outstanding producer. Records prove otherwise. But I cannot stress strongly enough that it is the producing ability that must be looked to and not the show record!
Even the outstanding sire can be misused. Most breeds have had those truly wonderful show dogs who develop records that become the envy of one and all. Unfortunately, they become the envy of too many who feel if a dog is good enough to win every award in sight, it must be good enough to breed every bitch in sight.
In a way, the popular stud dog that produces well only with certain bitch lines can be very destructive to a breed. A few excellent youngsters emerge from the right combination and the parade begins. Every bitch that can see lightning and hear thunder is bred to the dog, but the percentage of quality produced is minuscule. The breed takes a big step backward.
This is actually not the fault of the sire, but of the owners of the many bitches who follow the parade to the popular sire, regardless of the fact that he would in fact be the last choice for their particular bitch.
Truly great sires are really few and far between. There’s an old saying I heard somewhere along the way that goes something like, “You can breed that one to a fence post and you’ll still get good pups.” They are the rare ones, the ones that any breed is lucky to have, but it is highly doubtful that any breed will have such a dog any more than once in any breeder’s lifetime.
This no doubt all sounds perfectly logical, but I could write whole books on the excuses young breeders make for not breeding to the correct dog for their bitch: snow storms, rain storms, typhoons and earthquakes; the correct dog’s third cousin lives down the street; it’s just her first season and I’m “proving” her; etc., etc., etc.
There is only one breeding worth making - the right one. When it comes time to breed your quality bitch, stop and think, what if this turns out to be the only litter she will ever have!
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 February 2013 issue of BLOODLINES Dog Event News.