Each breed has been developed for a specific purpose. For instance, the Dachshund’s peculiar sausage shape and short, strong legs were designed to enable it to dig into the ground and follow the badger down the hole; the Greyhound’s fine build helps it run to fast to hunt rabbits; and the German Shepherd’s easy, long stride gives it the power to cover ground effortlessly in its varied duties as a sheepdog or police dog.
It is not just a matter of chance that the several distinct breed as we know them today breed true to type. Over generations they have been systematically bred for the various characteristics for which we admire them. This is known as selective breeding.
You must breed for Improvement
Before anyone owning a bitch sets out to become a breeder he must carefully study the standard of the breed and define what the good and bad points should be to breed for improvement. A basic knowledge of genetics will help in breeding better stock. Reading and active association with breeders of repute are a good springboard for the beginner.
Unfortunately, everyone is not very selective about the dogs he breeds. Indiscriminate breeding is responsible for the majority of faults we see today, physical as well as temperamental. Yes, temperament has also to be bred for. Never breed a dog that is unaccountably vicious, unreliable, nervous or otherwise of unstable disposition.
At the opposite extreme are those who have just the right material for breeding, but say they “do not want to do business”. They do not seem to realize that if nobody “did business” – as they call it – they would not have been able to get the bitch they have.
Before we discuss the basic types of breeding, it must be pointed out that every individual – human or animal – is capable of passing down to his or her offspring two types of characteristics: dominant and recessive. The dominant character is what we can see outwardly in the person or animal. The recessive character is what will come to light only when it combines with another similar recessive of its partner. Hence, undesirable recessives are hard to eliminate.
Inbreeding is the breeding of close relations: brother/sister, father/daughter and mother/son. This fixes both the good and bad points in the strain. Recessive faults that are not visible in the parents may come to light; hence, this is not the type of breeding to be attempted by a novice. In experienced hands, with suitable stock, and a bit of luck, it can produce excellent results.
Sometimes, unfortunately, we only come to know about these recessive faults after a litter is born, since recessive faults may not show up for several generations, and only when a couple possessing the same recessive genes comes together – which is more likely in inbreeding – that these characteristics make their outward appearance.
On the brighter side, a dog or bitch born of an inbred mating has a greater chance of passing down its apparent characteristics. Such a dog or bitch can be prepotent for a certain character, as he or she possesses a double gene of the dominant character, and no matter to whom he or she is then mated, this character will be passed down to the progeny.
Line breeding is the mating of more distantly related animals: half-brother/sister, nephew/niece, grand-father/grand- daughter, etc. This is by far the safest method, if practiced correctly. Line breeding to a famous dog or bitch is a good bet.
Out-crossing is the mating of a completely unrelated pair, though of the same breed, of course. In this it is impossible to forecast the result. Necessary at times to infuse fresh blood into a highly inbred line, random out-crossing is of no use if you wish to establish certain features in the progeny.
A dog and a bitch perfect in themselves, mated to each other may produce mediocre offspring. This is all the more likely if the mating was an out-crossing. Champions do not necessarily beget champions; producers of champions oftener do.