About top breeding in ”Keys to Top Breeding”
by Pekka Hanula
I have been myself a breeder and handler. A succesful one. But I could have done breeding even better I wish I had written books earlier. I have made mistakes like not keeping the best puppies myself in order to create a long and lasting bitch line. I have also trusted too much to pedigrees. Sometimes they lie. I have also used many young studs and hoped for the best instead of knowing abou their offsprings.
I got the idea for the book when writing a book about a famous Finnish judge Hasse Lehtinen. He was ready to share his knowledge to breeders. But no one came to ask. I’m happy and proud that people in 56 countries have got ideas and experiences of 22 different Top Breeders. We all are grateful to them and Marjo Nygård for an excellent translation. I think that this repsents the best what the dog world needs most – sharing and learning.
Below text from some breeders of the book and my own experieces of breeding.
What made you an active breeder? Terry Miller, Déjá Vu (USA)
It was probably similar to a lot of other people, a natural progression from being into dogs: you show, you become passionate, you learn more, you talk to people, and then after a number of years you want to do it yourself. You want to try and create the kind of dogs you want to see, and of course you’re thinking that you can do it better than anybody else, so you set out to find out if that is true!
The more you do different kind of things with dogs, the more you learn about their mentality, structure… The better chances you have to succeed as a breeder!
Why is breeding so difficult? Dan Ericsson, Raglan (Sweden)
It’s difficult because you have to face the result of your own breeding objectively and honestly – and that’s not so easy for the subjective human mind. Breeding is not a science, it’s more of an art and a lifestyle. First, however, you must be able to evaluate the dog you want to improve on and you must learn how to select your next generation of puppies.
Breeding is a learning process. That makes it so interesting! Even if you know a lot, there still will be surprises. We all know that from our own life!
What makes some breeding dog better than some other? Zena Thorn-Andrews, Drakesleat (UK)
What makes you think that a dog is a good breeding dog, better than some other? I don’t think there’s any way of knowing until you have tried it. You don’t know whether or not a dog is going to be prepotent until you use him, and obviously the same goes for bitches. Of course a line-bred dog has more chance of throwing to what he or she looks like, and with a total outcross you might not know what’s going to happen, but you can never be sure.
For some reason many breeders discriminate older studs. Maybe because people normally speak about faults rather than the good sides of a stud. And yet – we know that all dogs inherit also faults.
How did you became active as a breeder? José Homem de Mello, dos Sete Moinhos (Portugal)
I then bought a bitch from an English breeder living in Portugal and later, in 1983, I imported a male from England that became Portuguese and Spanish Champion. In February 1984 I bred my first litter of 8 puppies: 5 dogs and 3 bitches. But I wasn’t happy with the puppies that were born, they were not what I was looking for, so I stopped breeding with those dogs and went on with completely different new lines, with a foundation bitch that I bought from France.
A breeder must be honest to oneself. If you don’t get results you want, hope doesn’t help! It’s like banging the head on the wall wishing that next time it doesn’t hurt as much!
On different breeders and goals… Pat Trotter, Vin-Melca’s (USA)
Why does someone breed dogs even though it takes time and money and may easily result in disappointment? Because they love dogs? Because they want to have puppies to look after? Because they want to improve the breed? Or because they want to grow into top breeders who want to learn more about dogs in general and their own breed in particular, and eventually to develop their own breeding lines that everyone knows and recognizes? All of these are acceptable and ethically sound reasons for breeding, provided that the dogs have a good life both with their breeder and with their new owners. Whatever the chosen method and reasons behind it, a breeder must set goals that suit their method. Random matings may result in dogs that are ill, timid or aggressive in temperament, or so poor in construction that they have difficulty moving. Having your own goals is also good because then there’s no need to be jealous to those who breed with different goals in mind.
Set a goal and do the best you can to achieve it. You owe it to your dogs, owners and – to yourself!
What would be the faults that you are ready to accept or not accept in your breeding material? Patsy Hollings, Gunalt (UK)
We would never breed from stock whose temperament is not sound. Nervous dogs are the worst kind, they are like dangerous weapons. We’d never breed from a nervous dog. Our line has been developed from 1976, so we’ve been there a long time and have got some strong lines so we can afford to use a dog that might need improving in some details, for example head or feet, as long as it’s nicely constructed and has good temperament.
A breeder must see the result also from the dog’s point of view. How is it to be afraid (timid of aggressive) the whole life? Think!
How do you start to plan a combination? Espen Engh, Jet’s (Norway)
I always start out with the bitch. The bitch line is the most important aspect, that’s what separates a great pedigree from a very good one. In some countries you can actually hire bitches to breed with your males, but in Scandinavia we have a tradition that you breed from the bitches. For me that makes sense. A breeder has to analyze the bitch thoroughly and focus on those traits of hers that are so outstanding that you want puppies from her in the first place. Those are the traits you don’t want to lose. Then you have to find a male who is not too bad where your bitch is good but who can improve on traits where your bitch is not so good. That way you get something new but don’t lose those traits you already have in your line. Don’t even try to look for the perfect male, he does not exist, so you will always have to make some compromises. All dogs have imperfections – maybe not any desperate faults, but there is always something to improve on. You have to decide which traits you want to improve, and you will have to put them in an order of priority.
This you should read carefully! It’s the key!
When there is not a perfect dog, so what are you ready to accept/not acceptin your breeding material? Wendye & Stuart Slatyer, Calahorra (Australia)
We will never compromise on what we believe is the correct type in order to have a generic show dog. Having said that, we protect, respect and cherish the strong family lines that both of these sighthound breeds demonstrate, and always do our best to preserve and maintain their individual variations, so our dogs do not look like they were stamped out with a cookie cutter. Type in both our breeds has many acceptable variations and each has a contribution to make, and we conscientiously recognize and appreciate these.
Type is the cake on which you can build your breeding on. Cherries are the details, which make a ”perfect” dog. But without the cake, the cherry doesn’t look much of anything.
Looking back at your career now, what have you learned along the way? Eija Wegelius, Bar-Waxan (Finland)
Breeding GSDs has been wonderful, inspiring – and terribly difficult. No matter how much you want it, producing the “full package” is just so hard. The German Shepherd is a difficult breed to work with because of the very high requirements in every one of the three main points: health, temperament, construction. Focusing on just one of these in your breeding and forgetting about the other two just won’t work, you cannot breed like that.
If you don’t know the core of the breeding, every breed is difficult. But GSD is truly difficult! Demands are very high and the breed has taken serious hits because of the money issue.