Part 1 The Groundwork Of Pairing Two Dogs
How Does It Look On Paper?
by Sandy Herzon
Our bitches are targeted for breeding about a year, two or in some case three years in advance. There are numerous things to consider before actually performing a breeding of two dogs. Of utmost importance; consideration whether the bitch is of breeding quality. Does she conform to the breed standard for Labrador retrievers? If so, does she possess those features that we wish to perpetuate for the future? Those features would cover a lot of ground, including structural qualities, the correct temperament and of paramount importance, soundness. All the stud dogs in our breeding program have already been through this gauntlet of determining factors, so as females become mature and are eligible for breeding, they too will then go through all the criteria and factors that hopefully will place them as candidates for the breeding program.
All dogs in the breeding program must pass all clearances available, such as X-rays for hips, elbows and other orthopedic joints, eye examinations for Progressive Retina Atrophy, cataracts and other eye anomalies. As new tests become available, hopefully as breeders, we will be able to minimize some of the maladies afflicting our Labs. Now available, DNA testing for most of these condition promises great things to come.
Once a bitch has passed all the hurdles mentioned above, she then comes under the scrutiny of her pedigree. By delving back to her parents and grandparents, a picture emerges about her obvious (phenotype) qualities; conversely we can also surmise or conjure up about her not so obvious qualities (genotype). The study and understanding of the mechanics of a pedigree offers a breeder a mental picture of what the dogs in the background looked like. Of course, a deeper knowledge of the breed and of dogs in the past is a must, for a pedigree is only a family tree of names. From a name, very little is known about the actual physical attributes of that dog. A title on a dog tells very little about what that particular dog brings in to the breeding, other than he or she received a title.
A true blue purist-type breeder with quality and with the betterment of the breed in mind, will not pay too much attention to any titles earned by a dog. What are important are the genetic considerations. For instance a stud dog with a great hunting and field title bred to a show champion female will not necessarily produce puppies that will excel in both endeavors, or for that matter either activities. The actuality of that pairing will most likely be puppies that will do neither. To think otherwise is really wishful thinking. Keep in mind that this is my own personal opinion and I am sure that there are many out there that would differ from me.
So, in order to produce consistent quality generation after generation, a good understanding of genetics is a must. Knowledge about dogs in the pedigree is vital. Research into books, magazines, periodicals and other publications about the breed is essential. There are countless books on Labradors where information can be gleaned from each of the author's personal wealth of knowledge. Forming associations with breeders from other areas will enhance the exchanging of information for dogs from those areas that appear in the Labrador Quarterly, The International Labrador Digest and in the Directory To Labrador Retriever Pedigree by Julie Brown.
A good grasp of certain concepts of breeding will come in handy for breeders wishing to go beyond the basic pairing of dogs. The term "assortive breeding" describes the pairing of dogs without much consideration to genetic patterns. The breeder will take one of his great looking bitches and breed it to one of the top stud dogs in the country, in the hopes that some really good looking puppies will come of the breeding. The outcome of such pairings is very variable and inconsistant at best. The consistency of a certain look is as diverse as all the individuals in the background of both parents. There will be some puppies that will favor either of the parents, while most will show combinations of both. Perhaps the hardest thing to predict, is how they will look as full-grown dogs.
"Outcrossing", pairs dogs of unrelated backgrounds, however more genetic study went into the breeding then with the "assortive" technique. With outcrossing, the breeder has some knowledge of what the "outside " dog brings into the pairing. For instance, certain lines of dogs are known for carrying certain strong traits. A particular line, known as the "Receiver lines", founded on English/American Champion Receiver of Cranspire, is known to carry strong genes for head type. The strength of a trait is determined by how it dominates over another type. The higher percentage of puppies in a litter carrying one trait over another shows which trait type was stronger. We know that a dog displaying the "Receiver" type head will probably show a percentage dominance in breeding with another type head. In an outcross breeding, by going out to a dog that is from the "Receiver" type heads, you can expect most of the puppies to display that particular trait. Although we still are projecting a certain outcome or desire, the chances of getting what you intend are far better then just wishful thinking as in the assortive type breeding. Outcrossing brings in "new blood", some very desirable and some can be very surprising. As with any endeavor, an element of the unknown always persists, caution has to be used when introducing anything new to an existing environment. For just as great traits can be brought in, so too can major problems come hidden in recessive forms.
"Linebreeding", probably causes the most confusion for the novice breeder, however for the advanced and hopefully knowledgeable breeder, it provides an opportunity to produce a high degree of consistency not found with the previously mention techniques. By pairing individuals from similar lines, you are focusing on those same traits, enhancing your chances of producing a high percentage of puppies that will display those traits. Linebreeding uses dogs that are related back a couple of generations. For instance, first cousins are likely candidates for Linebreeding, so are nephews bred to aunts, also uncles bred to nieces. These are considered "close linebreedings". The further away the two dogs are, the less the consistent ratio for a particular trait is likely. Those linebreedings going back to the third and fourth generations are considered "distant linebreeding". Anything back to the 5th generation is not considered linebreeding, but is referred to as a "related breeding to the 5th generation". For all purposes it should be treated as an "outcross", unless the targeted individual shows up several times in that generation.
"Inbreeding", is seldom used by reputable breeders, not because of catastrophic results, but because of the public outcry of its use. The moral stigma attached to inbreeding in humans, carries over to the breeding of animals. Another factor against its use is the fact that if not done correctly and for specific gains, which is the case most of the time; the end results could indeed become dastardly.
The majority of "inbreedings" nowadays, are results of accidental breedings. Dogs have no qualm about breeding to their own offspring if left unsupervised during estrus. A bitch in heat is open season to any male old enough to successfully mount and "connect" with her. No questions are asked about age either, so that a male will mate a 6-month-old female that comes into season. No forethought goes into these pairings, so that if both individuals are carrying poor traits, those poor traits are going to be magnified a hundred fold in the offspring, therefore the "bad" connotation is deserved when people hear about an "inbreeding". Since "inbreeding" is something not used as much in the dogs, we will not go further with it in this essay.
A follow up technique to linebreeding and outcrossing, used by many knowledgeable breeders is known as "alternate generations breeding". Here a combination of "linebreeding" and "outcrossing" is used in alternate generation sequence. For instance if the first generation was a product of an outcross, those puppies will be "linebred" to either one side of the family or the other. Thus the second generation will be a product of "linebreeding". Those puppies will then be 'outcrossed' in the third generation, and so on. Using this technique ensures that new blood is coming in every other generation and that a high consistency ratio is guaranteed through the "linebreedings".
Once all the "paperwork" and "groundwork" has been taken care of, what's left is for the bitch to come into "heat" so that the next steps can be taken. See part 2
PART 2 THE ACTUAL BREEDING TAKES PLACE (Top)
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