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Breeder objectives

Anyone can become a breeder – all they need is a bitch! However in order to become a GOOD, RESPONSIBLE, breeder, that takes a little more work and you should certainly have a clearly defined objective in mind and must breed towards that aim. Many dog breeds were created for a specific purpose, for example, herding, livestock protection, gundog, guard etc., and most specimens of that breed may no longer get an opportunity to function in their original task.

Whilst working dogs do still exist and the number of roles increases, the majority of pedigree dogs are kept as companion animals/pets. This has a bearing on breeder’s objectives. If one is seeking to produce a working gundog then the market will entail placing one’s stock ideally into working homes, otherwise those dogs bred to work and confined to homes where they cannot and do not work, may cause the dog to exhibit character problems.

A dog breeder has to try to fit round pegs into round holes not square ones. In contrast a breeder may breed for the show ring in the sense that he is aiming to produce animals that are in accordance with the breed standard. Provided the breeder seeks to conform to the whole standard, there should be no problem but if the breeder seeks beauty without regard to character and brains, the net result may be dogs that look attractive but are too full of “hang ups” to live in modern urban homes.

There is nothing wrong with having a beautiful dog (such a dog costs no more to feed that one that is not so easy on the eye), however if we accept that a high percentage of dogs bred in show kennels end up as companion animals (and the figure might be as high as 90 per cent) then it is essential that the breeder has objectives which will produce suitable animals for a companion role.

Chance occurrence

Breeders can and do produce genetics defects in their stock. But what needs to be understood is that we have two kinds of genetic defect.One of these is a chance occurrence which arises without any conscious or deliberate effort on the part of the breeder.In the main, such traits are relatively simple in their mode of inheritance and often they are recessive.This does not mean that they are simple recessives, (where a dog has to have two problem genes, one from each parent), to be affected), but simply that the defect is caused by genes that appear in duplicate from each parent for the condition to occur. Dominant conditions will tend to be rare, because a dominant problem is visible in the parent and can be readily culled and frequently is.

Inherited defect

The other kind of defect is that which is inherited but which is brought about by deliberate selection by man for a specific type of feature. These defects are likely to be complex in their mode of inheritance so that affected animals may or may not have affected parents and may or may not produce affected offspring – depending upon the breeding programme. A simple case of the latter type of problem is in the selection in some brachycephalic breeds for broad heads.  In some of these breeds there has been noted a measurable proportion of dogs with seven incisors and not the required six, in the upper jaw. Such a defect is rare in a breed like GSD. This may not appear to be a thing of much importance but there is a belief that if you start to accept such things as the norm in dentition terms, they you can get other skeletal problems.

Defective genes

If we are going to combat defects in a breed of dog then we have to first of all understand how a problem is caused. If the defect is selectional because the breed type being sought encourages it, then we have to alter the breed type.If we are dealing with an occasional type of defect, not brought about by selection but by a chance gene, then our action must be very different. We need to know the incidence of the condition and the mode of inheritance.

In man there are over 1,500 conditions which have a known form of simple inheritance. In the dog we have documented a smaller number of defects, but this is not because the dog has fewer defects but because fewer data are collected. True, there are health schemes which encourage the screening and selection and/or rejection of these canine problems, but such schemes are only as good as the number of people who use them and data interpreted/analysed. I don’t believe for one minute that newer breeds have fewer problems than the existing breeds, what they have are fewer dogs.

Breeder responsibility

Breeders will not get anywhere until they:

a) Admit they have problems,

b) Find out what problems are in genetic terms

c) Take drastic action against the problem if the situation warrants it.

You, the breeders, sell puppies; however the law considers that you sell goods. If you sell genetically defective goods then the buyer has a case against you and can bring it to the civil courts. As I have said earlier, anyone who breeds dogs of whatever breed can turn out defective stock; there is no crime in that. The crime lies in selling such stock to the unsuspecting public and not caring enough to try to prevent the problem occurring in the first place or recurring.

If you do not check eyes in a breed with eye trouble or examine hips in a breed with hip trouble etc., etc., they you do not merit being called a breeder and I do not care how many champions you have bred! You are a potential danger to the breed of dog you profess to love and you are thinking more of your pocket, or your prestige or your power and influence than your breed.

Some of your are deliberately breeding rubbish because you either don’t care or you do not understand enough to be doing the job properly in the first place. It is no good protesting that some of you are doing the right things, a chain is only as good as the weakest link and too many breeders who ought to know better are weak links and they are not all backyard breeders.You look around and say it is not so!

Used with permission from the author, Dr. Malcolm Willis