Every breeder makes his or her own choices. Most breeders look at the same things when selecting which animals to breed, but how they weigh these things is different for everyone.
Our definition of breeding is “making a compromise on the combination of 2 dogs in which you think the risk of negative things is as small as possible and the chance on positive things as big as possible”.
What do breeders look at?
These 3 pillars should be the base of every breeder’s program. A breeder who leaves any of these 3 out of his or her program, will sooner or later have problems. For us, all 3 of these aspects are equally important.
We are members of the Dutch Barbet Club and breed according to their Code of Ethics. The obligatory health tests are a hip-examination for HD and the ECVO-eye examination. In addition, every Dutch breeding dog needs a MyDogDNA or Embark-profile.
Aside from these tests, a breeder should also consider his breeding stock for other issues.
Things like allergies, bad immune system etc. are very important things to consider.
Only dogs who are mentally stable should be bred from. Socialisation and raising/training can not erase the character traits inherited from the ancestors. We know the Barbet as a stable, social and open dog which doesn’t scare easily and will bounce back quick if something has scared him.
A breeder who says he or she does not breed for breed specific conformation, is not a good breeder of purebred dogs. The breedstandard is made to represent the ideal dog for the breed. Every animal bred from should conform to it as much as it can. That does not mean only champions should be bred from, but a breedprospect should conform to the standard up to a point at least.
Aside from the amount of conformation to the standard, a breeder should also know what the positives and negatives are in his dogs build so you can try to improve. We feel that one or two shows are not enough to give enough information to a breeder about his dog’s conformation, especially if he or she hasn’t got a large amount of experience in assesing a dogs’ qualities in an objective way.
For our breed, very few Specialist Judges are available and only too often are we at the Allrounders’ mercy.
But when it comes to looking for an ideal partner for a dog, there’s much more than those 3 things. We feel everyone with a wish to breed from their dog, should first make sure they are educated about several things including genetics. By that I do not mean the basic lesson about Mendel’s Laws, but about what it means to breed and how much responsibility you take onto you shoulders.
They say ‘breeding is gambling’ but there are ways to make the risk as little as possible and one of them is to educate yourself as much as possible and to keep learning.
For a start, it is very important to know about the importance of genetic diversity in a breed.
In this article several aspects about this are explained in a simple and good way. It also shows why a breed is doomed if breeders won’t pay attention to the inbreeding coefficient.
A rising inbreeding coefficient will have very negative effects on a breed in the long term and will cause loss of vitality, natural instincts and fertility but most important: lowering of the immune system. Read more about the genetic immune system (MHC) here and DLA here.
When looking for a male we initially search for a dog that appeals to us in type and has not been used yet for dogs with a similar pedigree. We feel it’s important that a combination can actually bring something new to the population. We don’t see the use of repeat breedings or combining dogs of bloodlines that already have been combined before, unless for a valid reason.
The usual slogan ‘we breed to improve the breed’ is not something you will hear us say. We don’t see how someone could improve a whole breed unless they have a lot of breeding stock and breed often. Our goal is to preserve the positive traits from the parents we use for breeding and thus try to contribute to the breed.
In the end, we will go ahead with the combination we feel is the best possible and what we think will give us enough base to continue our goals.
When we started out researching a partner for Alba, we set ourselves some goals when it came to inbreeding.
One of those goals is, based on hours and hours of research and comparing, to put the maximum inbreeding coefficient (COI) on 5% at 5 generations for her offspring. Of course we also look further then these 5 generations but to be able to compare, we need complete pedigrees which sometimes isn’t the case in our breed.
Because we prefer type-to-type breedings over high inbreeding, we compared the COI of many possible combinations based on the pedigrees as they are known. There were options under 5%, so we decided to set that goal.
What is important in this, is from which dogs the COI comes in a possible combination. We prefer a higher COI coming from dogs/bloodlines we know and like over a lower COI based on dogs we’d rather not breed back on.
We prefer not to see any common ancestors in the first 3 generations.
With closed studbooks, doing an outcross is impossible but that would never be our goal anyway. What we hope to do is lower the COI with every generation because we believe that will keep our breed viable. The goal for coming generations is to put down the type we prefer while not raising the COI compared to the generation before.
To compare pedigrees and possible combinations, we use the Pawpeds Database. This database listst the data as they are officialy on the pedigree papers. It’s regretable that in the (recent) past of the breed, there have been inconsitencies and breeders have given incorrect information for official pedigrees. We try to keep this in mind, but because it’s impossible to discover what is the complete truth about the past, we go on what is known.
If a male scores well in combination with our female as far as inbreeding is concerned as well as on health, character and conformation, we will start investigating him more.
We want to know as much as possible about him but also about all his family members. A dog is more than it’s health tests, especially when it comes to polygenetic diseases which are also hugely influenced by the environment. A dog is more than his show results or build, just like having a nice temperament is only part of what we need. His family members are of equal importance. How is their health, how do they behave and are they also of a type we like?
Internet is a great help in finding information, but talking to people who know the dog is just as important.
Another thing we keep in mind, what all breeders should, is that we have to think ahead.
There is more than just the generation you are planning on paper. You could make the ideal combination but still end up with a dog for whom you can’t find a good partner. Íf any of the offspring will be used for breeding, is not what matters at this point. If any of the owners of the offspring should want to breed from them, there should be possibilities.
So, if we find a compatible partner for our dog, we also check if there are options for the offspring available in the population.
We want to make combinations with a relatively low inbreeding coefficient, based on breeding type to type as opposed to tight linebreeding, trying to put down the type we prefer while preserving the breed for the future.
Our goal is to have a comparable or lower inbreeding coefficient every generation further, so we can hope to say at some point in the future that we try to maintain an inbreeding coefficient of maximum 5% at 10 generations in all combinations made.