You may be wondering whether or not you should breed your
dog. Here is some information. The summary is that if you want to do it right,
and get healthy and happy puppies, it is very expensive and a lot of work. Many
people have written several treatises on this subject including Ms
Swedlow; this article compiles many similar points.
Remember that you are going to need a vet that is
familiar with whelping dogs. This will be your best resource, as well as any
long-time breeders that you know. Not all vets are knowledgeable about whelping
so be sure to ask around and especially look for recommendations from local
breeders that you may know.
Breeding, and doing it right, is an expensive undertaking.
By the time you've picked out a good bitch, waited for her to grow old enough
(minimum age: two years before breeding), picked out the best dog to mate her
with, gone through all the health checks she needs, ensured that the dog you
want to use also passes the same health checks, you've invested a lot of time
and effort. You still have to pay a stud fee (or give a puppy back), you have
potential extra expenses during pregnancy, you have the time and expense of
whelping (either you take time off from work or something goes wrong and you
have to take her in to the vets). You need to keep the puppies for a minimum of
8 weeks before sending them to their homes; you need to advertise and find good
homes for the puppies, you need to make sure they have had their shots before
going. You may have possible vet bills if the puppies require extra attention.
If some of the puppies die, or you have a smaller than usual litter, you may not
get as much money from the sale of the puppies as you had though. There are even
potential problems later on with dissastified customers! You are better off
consulting with a financial wizard about investing the money you would otherwise
spend and lose on breeding!
Breeders frequently count themselves lucky if
they break even.
What if the whelping goes wrong and dead puppies are born?
What if the bitch dies? These are all very real risks that you are undertaking.
Much better alternatives include videotapes that are available. If there are
local 4-H clubs, those provide alternatives for children.
Or, you could contact your local shelter and see if
there is a pregnant bitch about to whelp or a litter of puppies that need to be
raised and socialized before being adopted out. This would allow you to find out
just what this could entail, while helping the shelters rather than potentially
contributing to the problem.
If you want to breed your dog so as to get another dog
like yours, think about this for a moment. No matter how special your dog is to
you, a puppy out of it is not guaranteed to be just like or even similar to your
dog -- half its genes will be from another dog! You will have to find another
dog that also has the characteristics you want in your puppy; that dog will have
to be unneutered; and the owner of that dog will have to be willing to breed
her/his dog to yours. It is much easier, often less expensive, and certainly
less time consuming to pick out an existing dog that you like from the shelter
or another breeder. Best yet, go back to the same breeder of your dog, if
possible, and pick another puppy out of similar lines.
This is flat out wrong. Bitches are not improved by having
puppies. They may undergo temporary temperament changes, but once the
puppies are gone, she'll be back to her old self. Nor is it somehow good for her
physically. In fact, you will put her at risk of mammary cancer and pyometra.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with spaying a bitch without her having a
Well, yes, but that doesn't mean a whole lot. A
registered dog, be it AKC, UKC, CKC, etc., simply means that it's parents (and
their parents) are also registered with the same registry. This confers no merit
in of itself, it simply means that the dog's parentage is known.
Most registries do not make any assertions of quality
in the dogs they register (except for some limited breed-only registrations, but
these are uncommon). They do not restrict the breeding of their dogs and hence
there is no guarantee that a registered dog is a good specimen of its breed.
The AKC has just started a "limited
registration" program whereby puppies out of such dogs are ineligible for
registration. It remains to be seen what the overall impact on AKC dog breeds
will be. Other registries have used similar programs with good results.
The only reason you should be breeding is that you
honestly feel that you are improving your breed by doing so. There are far too
many dogs in the country to breed without good reason. A dog in a breeding
program must be one whose genetic history you or its breeder is intimately
familiar with. Such a dog must represent the best efforts of its breeder at that
point. Such a dog must have good points to contribute, whether that is in good
conformation, good performance or whatever. Such a dog must have some evidence
of external evaluation. That is, others besides the breeder or the owner must
also think that the dog is a good representive of its breed. That usually
translates into titles, whether for conformation, obedience, field, herding, or
whatever is appropriate for that breed. Such a dog must be tested as it matures
for any problems that tend to appear in its breed, whether that is hip dysplasia,
patellar luxation, von Willebrand's, cataracts, PRA, fanconi syndrome, subaortic
Every breed has a different set of potential problems for
it. I have listed common ones below, but this is not to say that all dogs must
be checked for everything listed. You need to do research in your breed to find
out what the common problems are. You will also need to research the particular
bloodlines you are using to see if they are prone to any additional problems you
want to know about and screen for as well.
Most breeds require eye checks of some sort, for a variety
of problems. These include, but are not limited to problems such as
The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) in the USA
registers dogs that are found to be clear of eye problems by a board certified (AVCO)
veterinarian. Dogs need to be cleared yearly as there are some types of eye
problems that show up later in life.
There are a variety of joint problems found in most
breeds. Toy breeds can have joint problems too; just because your breed is
smaller doesn't mean you can figure you are free of hip dysplasia and be done
with it. There are several problems that specifically affect smaller dogs!
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). This disease
eventually causes total blindness. In some breeds the onset is quick, before
the dog is two or three. In others, the onset is much later, when the dog is
four to eight years old (and may have already been bred). Irish Setters have
a test available that can detect carriers and affected dogs; other breeds do
not have this recourse. It appears to be a simple autosonomal recessive, but
the late onset complicates breeding programs. If a dog is affected, then
both parents are either carriers or also affected.
- Retinal Dysplasia. Causes eventual blindness. This
is believed to be hereditary. Some dogs can be detected with this condition
in puppy hood, but carriers cannot be identified until they produce such
- Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA). This affects the collie
breeds (bearded, border, rough, smooth) as well as some closely related
ones. This condition has varying degrees of severity from hardly affected to
blind; the problem is that this disease is inherited and two hardly affected
dogs may easily produce a severely affected dog.
- Cataracts. There are many forms and causes for
cataracts, but some forms, such as juvenile cataracts, are inherited and
such dogs should not be bred.
- Entropion, Ectropion: These are conditions in which
the eyelids turn in or out, causing various problems and often pain for the
There are a few other types of problems, affecting other
joints like the hocks, or affecting the spine, that you should be aware of in
some breeds. This is only an overview to give you an idea of what kinds of
problems are out there. Remember that joint problems, even if not hereditary,
may make it problematic for a bitch to be bred. Pregnancy is hard on the joints
and on the body in general and if she isn't in the best of physical health, it
is much kinder not to breed her.
- Hip dysplasia is probably the best known problem.
This is a malformation or deterioration of the hip joint, so that the socket
it sits in is too shallow to secure the head of the femur. As the condition
progresses, arthritic changes begin to destroy the protective cartilage and
the dog may experience severe pain if the condition is bad enough. Some dogs
are asymptomatic, but still should not be bred. This condition primarily
affects the medium-to-large breeds, but smaller breeds have been known to be
affected, for example Cocker Spaniels and Shetland Sheepdogs can have this
problem. To make sure your dog is free of hip dysplasia, you need to have
the hips radiographed and then obtain an expert analysis of the xrays. Your
vet isn't necessarily the one to do this! In the US, you would mail the
xrays to the Orthopedic Foundation of Animals and wait several weeks for
their evaluation. In Canada, Europe and Britain, there are equivalent
programs, but all differ in the type of certification and age at which they
will certify; some organizations certify after one year of age, others
certify after two years of age.
- Osteochondrosis Dessicans (OCD) is an elbow joint
problem. A bone spur or a flake wears away at the joint which becomes stiff
and painful. Xray evaluations of these joints are also needed. Many breeds
that are prone to hip dysplasia may also have OCD.
- Patellar Luxation is a problem affecting the
kneecaps. Smaller dogs are more prone to this problem than larger ones are.
The kneecap will slide out of place and lock the leg straight. Diagnosis is
fairly straightforward and surgery can correct the problem, but no dog with
patellar luxation should be bred as this is also an hereditary condition.
Finally, remember that not only the potential dam but
also the sire must be checked for all the things appropriate for their breed
and particular bloodlines.
- In some breeds, deafness is a potential problem.
Puppies at risk should be BAER tested and any that fail should be neutered.
- Heart conditions
in many breeds must be
checked for. Subaortic stenosis (SAS), other malformations of the heart or
- Hemophilia type of problems, e.g., von Willebrand's
disease and others.
- Malabsorptive syndromes, digestive problems.
- Incorrect temperament for breed.
You must make sure the bitch and the stud both are free
from brucellosis before breeding them. Brucellosis causes eventual sterility in
both sexes (sometimes non-obviously) and can cause a litter of puppies to be
aborted or die shortly after birth. In addition, brucellosis is on occasion
transmissible to humans via the urine or feces of an affected dog. Between dogs,
it is most commonly passed in sexual intercourse, although an entire kennel can
be infected through contact with secretions.
The sire should be in excellent general health. The dam
must be in good health, to withstand the stresses and rigors of a
pregnancy. They must both be up to date on their vaccinations.
Never breed any animal that has temperament problems. In
particular, this has been the cause of the degeneration of many breed's general
temperament: Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, and so on. If your animal is
untrustworthy around people, overly aggressive to people, excitable, or is a
fear-biter, do not breed it. If it is shy or submissive, don't breed it. Look
for happy, confident and obedient animals, and consider carefully the particular
temperament requirements for your dog's breed.
There are a variety of tests to indicate a dog's
temperament. Many of the working breeds have a temperament test (for example,
the Doberman's WAC test) for their breed. AKC has a Canine Good Citizen test
(open to all dogs) that gives some indication of the dog's temperament (and,
yes, training). Therapy Dogs International and other Therapy Dog clubs have
temperament testing that does try to separate out actual temperament from
training. Obedience titles can be (but are not necessarily) an indication of
You must carefully consider each dog's pedigree for
compatibility. Try to select strengths to offset weaknesses. Do not allow your
bitch to be bred to an unsuitable dog, and conversely, be picky about the
bitches you allow your dog to breed. This phase alone requires considerable
research to find a suitable candidate, and you should definitely work closely
with a knowledgeable person, ideally the breeder of your dog. Simply because two
dogs "look good" or even *are* good does not mean that they
necessarily complement each other: suppose they are both carriers for the same
disease? Suppose they both have a tendency to overbites or other disqualifying
Be honest with yourself. If your dog is not a good
representation of its breed, do not let it reproduce. It is much easier to
improve a few faults than to try and get excellent pups with a mediocre dog.
Check the breed standard for your dog and ask a knowledgeable person for their
evaluation of your dog.
We'll return the the importance of scrutinizing a
pedigree in the genetics section below.
Ideally, a bitch should only be bred every other year and
she should not be bred much before two years of age. The season closest to the
second birthday is a good one to start with; certainly no earlier than this. In
some breeds, you may need to wait one more season before beginning. By this
time, she is better prepared mentally for having puppies than she would have
been with her first few seasons. Her physical growth is complete and pregnancy
at this point won't endanger her health, provided that she is healthy to begin
In breeds with Hip Dysplasia, many people wait until
after two years of age so that the parents can be certified; however if you have
sent in xrays to OFA for preliminary evaluation and they came back as fine, many
breeders consider it safe enough to then breed on the season closest to the
second year, which can wind up being before the bitch is actually old enough to
be certified. (And when the bitch is old enough, she is, of course, duly
certified.) But the preliminary xrays must be examined by OFA, not by a
local veterinarian. There are many dysplastic dogs out there that had vets look
at their xrays and pronounce them "wonderful."
It's important, however, to keep the frequency of
breeding low. Even at maximum, you want to allow at least one unbred season
between breedings. This allows your bitch to rest and regain her strength. A
bitch that whelps too often will produce weaker puppies more likely to die, and
the repeated pregnancies are pretty rough on her, too.
For dogs, they should definitely have all their
certifications necessary. For many breeds this means that they should be over
two years old. Since a dog can be bred at any time, unlike bitches, waiting for
two years is not a problem, whereas a bitch often has a season just before two
years of age and then has to wait until 2.5 or three which sometimes presents
problems in trying to time her litters. But this does not apply to a stud dog,
so he should definitely have all of his checks and certifications before being
bred. Frequency is not generally a problem although some dogs have problems with
sperm production if they breed once a day for several days. They need
top-quality feeding and care if they are going to be bred often.
You should make sure the bitch is up-to-date on all her
vaccinations, medications, and shots before she is bred. She will require
supplementary food during the last three weeks or so of pregnancy. In general,
puppy food is formulated both for puppies and pregnant or nursing bitches.
She should be under the care of a vet for any related
problems. Dogs can have miscarriages. Illnesses, diseases, or infestations that
the bitch picks up during her pregnancy can affect the puppies. Difficulties
during whelping are entirely possible, and the rule for some breeds. You must be
prepared to get her to the vet quickly in an emergency.
There are instances of "mummy puppies" where
you have a puppy whose development went awry, but it was not aborted. Instead,
it dries and shrivels up, and when born, looks like a mummified puppy, blackened
and ready to rot. Overbreeding and inadequate care are usually the causes. It is
quite likely that the dam will come down with an infected uterus after such a
puppy. "Water puppies" are another type of problem in which the dead
puppy appears to have never properly developed a skeleton and appears to be full
of gelatin. This seems to be linked to a viral exposure.
Other congenital (but not genetic) defects can include:
no anus, cleft palates and hare lips. These conditions require corrective
surgery or the puppy will die.
While the bitch is nursing the puppies, she will
require about three times the amount of food she normally eats! It is also
common for nursing mothers to go out of coat at this time.
You should have a sturdy, clean, proper sized whelping box
for the litter. It MUST include a "pig rail" around the edge to
prevent the bitch from laying on or smashing her pups. It should be big enought
to allow the bitch to turn around but small enough to prevent the pups from
being "lost" in the unused portions. About six inches longer than she
is, fore and aft, when laying prone (as in suckling her puppies) and about a
foot on either side length wise.
To get the whelping box ready for your bitch, get a
sheet of plastic, such as you would use for painting a ceiling to protect the
floor. Cut it up into several pieces the size of the whelping box. Put one piece
of plastic down, several layers of newspaper, another piece of plastic, more
layers of newspaper and so on for four or five layers. Then when your bitch is
whelping puppies, you can roll off a layer when it gets messy -- and it will! --
and throw it away to instantly clean the whelping box.
After the puppies are born, there are many strategies for
lining the whelping box. Some people continue to use newspapers, but puppies get
pretty dirty from both newspaper print and feces. Other people have had success
with synthetic materials on top of absorbent materials: the synthetic material
provides secure footing, but the urine and other liquids pass through it to
leave it dry. Other people use pine shavings (about six inches deep). You will
do a lot of laundering to keep things clean no matter what you use. You will
also have to clean the feces out of the whelping box after your bitch decides
that's no longer her job.
Newborn puppies MUST be kept warm. The temperature in
the whelping box at birth should be 90 F. The temperature can then be decreased
2 degrees every other day. NEVER FEED A CHILLED PUPPY!!! If a puppy becomes
chilled it will cry continually and it will tuck its tail between its little
legs. A healthy, happy, litter will "purr" like a swarm of bees and
when feeding their tails will be straight out from their bodies. Warm any
chilled puppy by putting the puppy under your shirt and under your armpit. The
best method of warming a puppy is to use a special whelping box heating pad with
a towel over it to prevent soiling the pad. Make sure the temerature does not go
too high. Heating lamps are ok but puppies can become dehydrated. If the litter
clumps together and cries, they are too cold; if they separate and try to hide
under shade, they are too hot.
Large litters will require supplemental feedings if you
want all the puppies to survive. Your bitch may not be able to care for a very
large litter. You will need to get the pups rotating on shifts. For the first
two weeks you may have to supplement as much as every four hours. Use a good
prepared milk-supplement especially formulated for puppies. If you get in a bind
you can use a goat-milk reciepe avilable in most books about breeding and
whelping pups. You may have to tube feed those pups that will not suckle from a
Are you going to remove the dewclaws or dock a tail?
This must be done by 3 days old at the latest! Any later will not heal as nicely
If you have a purebred litter, you must record the date
of birth and all of the pups (including the dead ones) in your record book. Then
you will need to fill out and send in your litter registration form. You want to
do this as soon as possible, since many registries can take up to 6 weeks to
return the forms for individual registration to you (which you will want to give
to your puppy buyers later).
You will have to keep the whelping box clean. For the
first two weeks the bitch will keep the pups pretty clean, but the bedding
should be changed twice a day at minimum. Starting week three, the pups start to
eliminate some on their own.. then you will need to clean much more often!
At four weeks, the pups usually become very active and
it this time may require a larger area then the whelping box...you will need a
large ex-pen or some way of confining them safely. You do have a place to keep
them that they are safe in and can't destroy? Puppies at this stage can
devastate a room or garage in hours.
At week five you will probably want to introduce the
pups to weaning food. Usually you will have to mush up the dry puppy food for
the pups to be able to eat it. Use warm water and let the food stand in a bowl
for about 2 hours.
At week six you should vaccination and worm the pups,
and have them checked for heart murmers, hernias, males for testicles (yes you
should be able to feel them at 6 weeks!), deafness, and eye problems.
You should be socializing now too... And are you going
to do any puppy testing for temperaments? At seven weeks you should be calling
up those poeple with deposits on your pups and getting your paper work all
sorted out. Are your spay/neuter contracts ready? How about pictures of the pups
for your clients?
And this is just if everything goes perfectly! What
happens if one of the pups has a heart murmer, or a hernia? What about a deaf
puppy? What if your whole litter gets parvo or distemper? What happens if one of
the pups is affected with "swimmer-puppy" syndrome? What about
fading-puppy syndrome? What happens if your bitch gets an infection or mastitis?
What if she dies?
After the puppies are born, if not before, you must
consider placing your puppies. Time and time again, people breed a litter
because friends and family want one of their dog's puppies -- and then none of
them will take one.
At six weeks is when even seasoned breeders wonder why
they do this. A healthy active litter of six will run you ragged at this age.
They are so curious, they want to explore everywhere, and they are at the prime
age for socialization and exposure to many things that you, as a responsible
breeder, want to give them a head start on.
At eight weeks, you may begin placing those pups that
are ready to go to their new homes. Insecure pups may need more time, how are
those puppy tests coming? You can't place puppies earlier than 7.5 weeks or so
(no matter how much you may want to).
Are you prepared to do some legwork to find GOOD homes
for them, not just hand them off to the first person who comes by? You are aware
that you won't always be able to sell all of your puppies locally, aren't you?
What assurances do you have that the puppies will not wind up filling animal
shelters, facing death because their parents were thoughtlessly bred? Suppose
you wind up keeping more of the litter than you intended to? Suppose some of
your puppies are returned? Can you keep the extra puppies?
First, remember that it is extremely difficult to come up
with a top quality stud dog that people want to use. After all, they will look
around and pick out the best male they can find. So your dog has to be pretty
impressive to be noticed in the competition.
Your male should be in top condition. He should be
certified clear of joint problems (and in many cases that means he has to be at
least two years old). His eyes should be checked annually. He should be clear of
any abnormalities common to his breed. No heart problems, no seizures, no
thyroid problems, etc. He should be clear of brucellosis. His temperament should
be good, and appropriate for his breed. If you have such a dog, you will need to
get your dog well known. This generally involves showing your dog (in show,
field, or obedience) and doing other work with him. An unproven dog (that has no
previous puppies or only puppies too young to evaluate) will command a much
lower stud dog fee than a proven dog (with a record of puppies to examine).
You must be prepared to board the bitch. The common
procedure is for the bitch to be shipped out to stud, so you will need
facilities to board bitches in heat. These facilities should be adequate for up
to a week of boarding and to prevent any mismating. You might wind up with more
than one bitch at a time -- can you board them all safely?
You must monitor the mating and be ready to intervene
if necessary. Some breeds require intervention (such as Basset Hounds). Not all
dogs or bitches understand what to do, especially if it is the first time for
one or the other. It can be disastrous if two dogs are left alone to mate.
Additionally, if the mating doesn't take, are you prepared to go through the
whole thing again the next time the bitch comes into season? Typical contracts
call for free repeat breeding in the case two or less puppies occur or the
breeding doesn't take.
You need to be able to evaluate the bitch's pedigree for
compatibility with your dog's. Any good points or bad points of the litter are
(rightly or not) attributed to the sire, so your dog's reputation is at stake
with each litter he sires. You should be reasonably confident that the proposed
breeding will result in good puppies.
If the owner of the bitch is a novice, are you prepared
to assist with advice on whelping and puppy care? These people will expect you
to have the answers. Sometimes entire litters of puppies are dumped on the stud
dog owner when the bitch's owners can no longer cope with them because they
didn't realize what a responsibility caring for a litter involved. Are you ready
to take care of and place your dog's offspring if this should happen to you?
Are you prepared to deal with cases where you are
certain your dog is not the sire of the puppies but the bitch's owner insists
that he is? Or if the owner of the bitch insists that you must have allowed a
mismating to occur when she was boarded with you? Disputes of this sort can
become very ugly very quickly.
If a purebred dog of breed X mated with a purebred dog
of breed Y, both meeting health standards for their breed, is there a better
chance the offspring would be healthier than a same breed mating because the
gene pool is larger?
In terms of health alone the first answer would be that
in breeding two healthy dogs it shouldn't matter if they're the same of
different breeds, you're apt to get healthy pups. But this doesn't take into
account the question of recessives. Suppose you breed two dogs of different
breeds that both have the same incidence of a recessive health problem. The
pups would have the same odds of having that health problem as purebred pups
of either breed. On the other hand, suppose the two dogs were of breeds that
have no recessive health problems in common. This would reduce or eliminate
the odds of the puppies of having the health problems of either breed. This is
the classic explanation for the theory of first generation hybrid vigor. The
resulting pups should not be bred though, since they'd have a good chance of
having the recessives from BOTH breeds, so the grandpups would be inclined to
be worse off than the purebred offspring of their grandparents. An excellent
set of articles dealing with "hybrid vigor" can be found in DogWorld,
Jan 1997 by George Padgett DVM. Another very important point to keep in
mind is that when a purebred carrying a genetic defect is crossed with another
breed or mixed breed, the "bad" genes do NOT "go away"
even though they may not be expressed in the offspring. If crossed with
another dog carrying the same defect, the offspring of that breeding will
demonstrate the defect.
Purebred dogs have all these diseases, though! It
seems that you never hear about mixed breed dogs with problems.
Responsible breeders try to identify genetic diseases
their dogs might be carrying and to eliminate them by careful breeding. It is
ironic, though not surprising, that their efforts to identify and weed out
genetic problems have lead some to cry "look at all the genetic diseases
purebred dogs have!" A moment's careful thought will lead you to the
conclusion that mixed breeds carry the same harmful genes (their
parents, or their parents' parents, were purebreds, after all). The
When you breed two different breeds together, what
kind of variation can you expect?
Also, if you stop and think about it, many mixed breeds
are simply not tested for most problems. When they get older and limp, it's
just considered old age, although it could well be hip dysplasia. When they
get older and start to go blind, it could be PRA, but the owners are unlikely
to test for this. It's not that owners of mixed breeds are bad, by any means,
but they are not looking for possible inheritable problems, either.
- with some recessive disorders (though not all
genetic defects) the disease is less likely to be expressed (though
it can still be inherited by offspring)
- you have lesser likelihood of ever identifying or
eliminating any harmful genes your mixed breed may be carrying
Pfaffenberger's book has some interesting data on this.
He did some experiments with four different breeds. They were dogs of
approximately the same size, but very different physical appearance AND
behavior. The results he saw in the first and in subsequent mixed generations
are pretty interesting.
What is outcrossing?
Let's look at a common crossbreeding: "cockapoos"
(which are not purebred dogs, nor registered with any registry). These
are crosses between Cocker Spaniels and Minature or Toy Poodles. The dogs
actually vary quite a bit, some being more poodle like than others, and some
being more cocker like than others. However, they are generally all a small
sized, buff colored shaggy dog. If you breed two cockapoos together (not
generally done), you get an even wider variation of dogs -- some look like
Minature Poodles, others like Cocker Spaniels. The reason for this is the
recessive genes hidden in the first cross that came out in the second
generation. This is actually a visual example of why "hybrid vigor"
Outcrossing is where the sire and dam are totally
unrelated, preferably for three or four generations. The true form of an
outcross is between two entirely different breeds because in reality the
members of most registered breeds come from a common ancestor (althought it
may be many, many generations back). It is very rare for outcrossed puppies to
be uniform in appearance. Usually there are a very large ranges of sizes,
coats, colors, markings, and other distinctive characteristics. Outcrossed
litters are generally heterozygous, and do not reliably reproduce themselves,
so even the nicest puppy in the litter may not later produce the best puppies.
How about line breeding?
Outcrossing is generally used to introduce something
new to a line -- a better head, better colors, better front, etc. Usually the
puppies retained from these breedings are bred back into the breeder's
original line to standardize them back into the line's general characteristics
and reproducibility -- with the one desired characteristic. The tricky part is
that other characteristics may come along for the ride!
If you are dedicated enough, you can eventually
continue breeding by outcrossing alone (but don't expect instant or quick
results). You should pick dogs that complement each other well and are similar
in general appearance. This is a long hard road to eventually developing a
line. Through outcrossing, many health problems can quickly be eliminated (or
just as quickly added into your breeding), but usually you do sacrifice some
show quality and producibility.
You have to remember that dogs that appear totally
healthy may be carriers of genetic problems. To find this out, test mating is
done to a dog that is affected with the genetic problem (resulting usually in
puppies that are both affected and non-affected carriers) or by inbreeding to
a related dog that also doesn't show the signs of being affected (usually
littermates are used) this will usually result in some puppies free of the
problem, some puppies as carriers, and some puppies affected if both dogs
carry the problem gene (this is not as accurate as breeding to an affected
dog, but you are less likely to have to put all the puppies down).
There are variations on outcrossing. A
"true" outcross could be a dog that has totally unrelated dogs bred
together throughout the pedigree. This is very rare. On the other hand, "linecrossing"
is a form of outcrossing where dogs from unrelated lines are bred to produce a
new line. The sire and dam are usually very linebred from their prospective
lines and the resulting puppies are varied in apprearance, some looking like the
sire's line and some looking like the dam's line and some looking like
mixtures of both lines.
Line breeding is when the sire and the dam are distantly
related: e.g., grandsire to granddaughter, granddam to grandson, second
cousins, half cousins, uncle to niece, aunt to nephew..... The general
strategy is that there is a common ancestor that is being doubled up on both
sides. So the desired dog appears several times in the pedigree.
This is probably the most common strategy in breeding
purebred dogs (and in developing new breeds, for that matter). Though this
method, new genes are slowly introduced and unwanted genes are slowly
replaced. The actual rate varies by how strongly you line breed. It sacrifices
little overall quality in terms of show quality. Usually the puppies are
rather close in general conformation. The only problem with this method is
that it often takes several generations to get poor genes out, (or adding
desired genes in) resulting in many puppies that have the same genetic
problems (or virtues) that their parents have. And then because some breeders
are more interested in winning, they do not place the affected puppies on
spay/neuter contracts. This is both a blessing and a curse for the breed. If
the breeder is very careful, affected pups can be used wisely to prevent loss
of quality, but still remove the affected genes by only breeding the affected
pups to known non-carrier relatives. This way the breeder can again try to
"edit out" the bad genes. It takes longer this way but less show
quality is lost in the process. This process results in dogs that will often
reproduce their same level of quality. This is referred to as reaching
homozygous litters (more genes of the same kind apparent in the puppies).
Inbreeding and linebreeding really differ only in
degree. Linebreeding is less likely to cause harm than inbreeding. Inbreeding
is not for novices. Knowledge of genetics and the breed is required for
success. For good results it must be well-planned and breeders must be ready
for whatever problems it presents.
Inbreeding is where the sire and the dam are closely
related: mother to son, father to daughter, sister to brother, half sister to
half brother, cousin to cousin. People disagree about the exact point at which
inbreeding becomes linebreeding. Inbreeding is the quickest way to find out
what poor genes are in the line and what dominant characteristics are in the
OK, how do pedigrees figure into this?
Although many people are disgusted with the idea of
this family incest, it is an extremely useful tool for diagnosing what genes
are present. If the genes for bad eyes are present, but hidden or ressessive,
this will bring them out to their full extent. If there isn't any bad genes,
then the puppies will be of very close uniformity and very able to reproduce
themselves (theroretically). This is a homozygous breeding. The resulting
puppies will have a lot of genetic material that is the same as their parents
and grandparents and will be close genetically to each other.
Inbreeding doesn't introduce new genes and does not
eliminate bad genes that the line already has. It only shifts them around like
a rubix cube. This often results in litters with high show potential, if the
quality was high to begin with. It shows you what recessives you have lurking
in the dogs' backgrounds -- both good and bad. But there are drawbacks.
Besides the possibility of bad recessives, inbreeding exclusively will
eventually lead to infertility. It's like a xerox machine. After so many
copies, you have to renew the ink. The same with dogs, you have to introduce
new genes. No reputable breeder will use inbreeding exclusively, and many
breeders simply never use it. Usually, you will only find: very experienced
breeders, ignorant breeders, and puppy mills making use of this technique.
Inbreeding increases the chance that a gene obtained
from the sire will match one obtained from the dam, both stemming from the
common ancestor(s) on which the individual was inbred. Thus, inbreeding tends
to make animals homozygous rather than heterozygous. The inbreeding
coefficient measures the resulting increase in homozygousity. All breeds have
a given degree of homozygosity the mating of two dogs from the same breed
would not produce a recognizable specimen of the breed!
Inbreeding increases homozygosity and decrease
heterozygosity. So it can duplicate both desirable and harmful alleles, both
of which can be unsuspected in the line, and may appear. Inbreeding does NOT
create anomalies, it brings present anomalies to the surface. Even when the
anomalies are present, inbreeding might not reveal them. However, once
revealed, then the breeder can do something about them in the next generations
An increase in harmful recessives is undesirable but
it is not a major drawback if they are identified early. The effect of
inbreeding on major polygenic traits is greater. Generally, traits that are
highly inherited (ie largely additively controlled) are not adversely affected
by inbreeding but, traits under non-additive control, especially those tied to
dominance and thus not of high heritability, are often markedly harmed by
Remember that it is difficult to spot unaffected
carriers. When an affected dog shows up, its pedigree is often examined for
likely carriers. For example, PRA is a common problem in many breeds. There
are dogs that come down with PRA that have a certain ancestor in common. That
ancestor may then be considered a possible carrier and line breeding on him is
avoided. This is a simplistic picture, obviously, since it's possible for an
unaffected non-carrier of PRA to come from an unaffected carrier that came
from an affected dog (therefore the affected dog is in the unaffected dog's
pedigree). If a general blood test is ever developed that shows the presence
of the recessive in an unaffected dog, then much more accurate breedings may
be done; currently this is only possible for Irish Setters.
What are like-to-like matings and compensatory
There is rarely only a single problem a breeder is
trying to screen for. Suppose a suspected carrier of PRA is known for
producing excellent hips. A breeder might therefore introduce that bloodline
into theirs for the hips, and be willing to have the possibility of PRA show
up in the line. In screening out one problem you might have to accept the
possibility of another appearing.
Examining the pedigrees also lets you know what
percent of ancestry the dogs share (since the relationships are often much
more complex than simply cousins or aunt/uncle, the degree of common ancestry
is often given as a percentage instead) and decide whether or not it's
acceptable given your current goals.
Like to like mating implies the best to the best and the
worst to the worst where the worst is not used at all. For most breeders, like
to like matings are between dogs which resemble each other greatly and so
similar type dogs are bred. These dogs may or may not be closely related.
But this is all very vague and complicated!
The pups resemble their parents because of the genes
in common with them. If those parents resembled each other their progeny would
be even more like their parents. This tends to make the population look more
uniform, however there is little increase in prepotency from this technique.
Compensatory Mating: This unlike to unlike mating is
used by breeders to correct for a defect in an animal by mating it to another
animal that might correct for the defect. The system is basically simple but
the breeder must identify faults and virtues and it requires breed knowledge.
The pedigrees of both dogs should be examined carefully to try to identify the
ways in which the dogs differ and what the expected outcomes could be. A
correct dog and not one who errs in the opposite direction is required. That
is, if you want to improve structure, look for a dog with correct structure
and not an overbuilt dog. This technique often results in only one or two pups
with the combination desired.
Yes, it is. There are no easy answers, and there are
different things to consider in every breed. This uncertainty with respect to
genetic inheritance is exactly the reason that breeding is so difficult to do
right. It helps immensely to have a "mentor", someone who is
familiar not only with the breeds, but the lines your dog belongs to -- advice
from such a knowledgeable person is often extremely valuable.
If we knew everything about genetics, we wouldn't have
problems with our dogs any more. We'd eliminate Hip Dysplasia, PRA, heart
problems, thyroid problems, seizures, etc. within a few generations if we knew
everything. Unfortunately it's an art that few people are actually very good
"So you want to use your Dog At Stud?" From the
Literary Spot, the newsletter of the Central MD Dalmation Club 12/89 via
Retriever Believer, the newsletter of the Labrador Retriever Club of Southern
Tucker, Kathy. "Why are you Breeding?",
printed in various newsletters.
Whitney, Leon E (DVM). How to Breed Dogs 384 pg.
Many case studies on breeds, breed crosses for dominance studies, Myths and
fallacies about breeding dogs, inheritance of traits (such as temperament,
health, intelligence, and abilities).
Wilcox, Bonnie (DVM). "Things to Think about
Before Breeding Your Dog." DVM, printed in various newsletters.
Willis, Malcolm B. Practical Genetics for Dog
Breeders. Howell, 1992. 228 pgs with appendix for calculations -- several
graphs, charts, and pictures.
Willis, Malcolm B. Genetics of the Dog. 417 pgs
with breed specific information on many breeds -- plus several charts and