Question of the Week
Oyster Bay Cove, New York
I was 14 years old and getting ready to breed my first champion bitch. The best breeding advice I received was from a non-dog-show person who had never even heard of the term linebreeding. That person was my dad, who asked two questions. First, who are the most successful Bulldog breeders in the country? Talk to them and ask for their advice. Second, what stud dogs are producing the best puppies in the country? This seemed like a sensible approach to me then, and nearly 60 years later, I know it was great advice.
Winifred Mee of Pekehuis in the U.K. told me when evaluating a dog to keep and incorporate into my breeding program, the first question to ask yourself is: "What can this dog do for my breeding program? Can it help me get to the next level?" And to be ruthless when choosing a dog to incorporate into my program, to be my own harshest critic. Final best advice from Winnie: When you sell a show dog, make sure it's one you'd take in the ring yourself. If it isn't, it's a pet. Almost 30 years later, it's the best advice I've ever been given.
Dr. Daniel W. Dowling
Make as few compromises as possible, understanding these are no perfect dogs ... in-depth research is critical, yet breeding is always a gamble!
J. Randall Tincher
Warner Robins, Georgia
The best breeding advice I ever received came from Doris Wear (Stoney Meadows Whippets). She said:
1. Know the flaws you need to correct.
2. Do not select a mate that has the same flaws. (No matter how much it has won.)
3. Try to find a dog from a high-quality litter. (Even if they were not shown, are the littermates good specimens?) If the dog is the only good one in the litter, you could be limiting your chances.
4. Research the pedigree and know as much about it as possible.
I was advised many years ago by one of my great mentors, Jerry Rigden, that I had neither the time or money to keep “finishable” dogs and to only keep the very best I could. That, and not to worry about what the competition was saying or doing!
Before I even had my first litter, I heard the words from my mentor, Tracey Kallas: "You need to decide if you are a breeder or a pet home." What that means may vary to everyone, but it never fails to have impact.
Margaret K. Mott
Livingston Manor, New York
Of all the tidbits of advice I received when beginning my breeding program, there are two pearls of wisdom that were passed on to me by two legendary Hound ladies. The first came via my mother’s limited breeding of Basset Hounds in the early ’60s after meeting the grande dame of the breed, Mrs. M. Lynwood Walton of Lyn-Mar fame, aka “Peg” (also known as “my other mother”). Her short but sage advice was “Feed Right, Breed Right and (above all) Weed Right”— the last edict meaning don’t feel you need keep anything if the right individual isn’t there who will elevate your program into the next generation.
The other tidbit came from across the pond from Mrs. Margaret (nee Lovell) Harper of the world-famous Ravenstone Elkhounds. She passed on her father’s words of wisdom from his days of breeding Sporting dogs, which were: “It costs no more to raise quality dogs than mediocre ones, so don’t waste your time, effort and money.”
Wise words all, but before departing for our new home in Wales next week, I’ll leave you with this verse, which has always held a prominent place here:
The Dog Breeder’s Code
Greatness is not in where we stand
but the direction in which we are moving
We must sail sometimes with the wind
and sometimes against it
But sail we must …
and not drift nor lie at anchor
Madeira Beach, Florida
My most valuable advice came from Poodle breeder Harriett Laws in Illinois.
She said when you start breeding, do the very best for our breed. Breed to keep our Poodles true to our standard, having good temperaments and health. Breed that Poodle as if you were going to buy it.
Many have followed her teachings.
Mark Francis Jaeger
I will go with the first person to give us the advice on which we built our breeding program — Julie Gasow of Salilyn English Springer Spaniel fame. Buy the best bitch that you can afford, then find a compatible stud dog (who may not be the one doing the most winning) with the characteristics she needs improved.
Brookville, New York
Not every puppy in a litter is winner. Always try to hold onto a good bitch, as you can usually find a good stud dog to breed to. Thereafter a breeding program develops as mine did through linebreeding.
The best advice I got was from Margaret Pruitt (Pruitt Dachshunds) through Jettie Hunt Kleinman (Shebryl). My first litter presented a top producer and second litter a multiple Best in Show-winning bitch. The advice was to linebreed until you needed to introduce hybrid vigor. The quality, type and health were extremely consistent and easily recognizable. I am forever grateful.
By far, Anne Bowes. She was kind and informative. If I suggested something, she might reply, “I wouldn’t do that” in a non-judgmental, generous manner.
She gave me my start with my beautiful Cora, and I will always admire her professionalism and expertise. Those she mentored are greatly blessed.
There is none better in our breed!
Cranford, New Jersey
Breeding advice was always welcomed from my association with my close friend and great mentor, Marianne Nixon of San Jo Lhasa Apsos. From my beginnings into the Lhasa Apso breed, whenever I asked about breeding to one of her dogs, her first question was always: What does your bitch need? Do you need to improve her head, her front, the rear, balance, size, gait etc.? My answer determined the stud dog chosen to sire the litter. This was a vital lesson for me, as back then people had a habit of just breeding to the dog of the hour — i.e., the top winner! With Marianne’s guidance, I learned so much about the breed and what it should look like and how it developed into maturity, knowledge that has never left me. She knew which dogs were prepotent for each of those traits, so the chances of getting a litter that improved your bitch was almost guaranteed. Fifty years later, I have always cherished our friendship, mentorship and our nightly hour-long phone calls that made my life in dogs so full. I miss her every day.
Dr. Lopate at Wilsonville Veterinary office is so good at what she does with reproductive services and is well educated with a degree in theriogenology. She has never missed with a breeding on my girls, even with 20-year-old frozen semen.
Youngsville, North Carolina
My main resource for breeding is the out-of-print book by Lloyd C. Brackett, “Planned Breeding.”
When I was a young teenager just starting out, my mentors were Betty Gay (Gayhaven Goldens) and Marcia Schlehr (Kyrie Goldens). My first Golden girl came from them, and when it came time for her to be bred, Betty and Marcia began to teach me about linebreeding and how to do it. That first litter of mine was a niece-to-uncle breeding, and produced my first homebred, owner-handled champion. He was born in 1968.
As the years have gone by, and I went from Golden Retrievers to English Springer Spaniels, their advice on linebreeding has always stayed with me, and I have used that advice to great advantage in my breeding program. Now 50 years into English Springer Spaniels, my family of dogs has been created by establishing a strong foundation and then continuing to linebreed on it. Grandparent to grandchild, uncle to niece, aunt to nephew. If I have a breeding combination that was extremely strong, or an individual dog that was an excellent producer, I will linebreed on that three or four times in four generations. It has served me well.
Mill Neck, New York
While not breed specific, Nigel Aubrey Jones had this great advice to become a great breeder … (Maybe it was more Bill Taylor sharing, but there were only a few times you got one without the other...) “If you want to be a great breeder ... buy the best dog you can from a top breeder ... and buy the best bitch from another top breeder .... THAT DON'T TALK TO EACH OTHER." Now go back in your breed about 50 years ago and see just how true that saying is: Many great lines were founded on that kind of link.
Port Orange, Florida
The best breeding advice I received was from Pat Trotter, way back in the ’70s. She stated to have confidence in breeding health, type, form and function, concentrate on having a strong "mother" line. She was correct.
Dr. Sophia Kaluzniacki, DVM
Green Valley, Arizona
My first purebred dog was a German Shepherd. His name was Bartek. I purchased him in 1957, and I went to my first dog show that same year. My puppy was from Grant Mann's Liebestraum Kennels. Mr. Mann was one of the foundation breeders of GSDs in the U.S. He became my mentor, and the best advice he gave me was as follows:
“Study and examine as many examples of the breed as possible, talk to as many successful breeders as you can, read as many books and articles about the breed as you can get your hands on, study genetics and get a feel for how traits of conformation as well as temperament are inherited and passed on through succeeding generations, and most of all keep learning and studying throughout your whole life with dogs as well as your horses. If you do this faithfully you will learn something new and useful throughout your career as a future veterinarian as well as a breeder."
He wrote me this in a letter the year before I was accepted into veterinary school.
Jodie and Tim Childers
It's important to research before and after your litter. Know why you are breeding, research pedigrees and health info on both parents, and have an idea on what you expect the outcome might be. Then know what you will do with the puppies you don't keep. Be a mentor to each new owner.
Constance Larrabee of King's Prevention Norwich and of course my mother, Patsy Wood, of Penllyn Sealyhams and Dandie Dinmont Terriers. She knew it all!
When I got my first Bloodhound breeding bitch, the late great (godmother of Bloodhounds), Miss Anne Legge, had a statement for me (and that many quote from her), which is you want “Bone, Substance and Breed Type”… Sooo, any Bloodhound I consider for breeding (male or female), I make sure they have BONE, SUBSTANCE and BREED TYPE.
My husband brought forward the most important thing we apply in our breeding program, and it was a statement to one of our past breeders: “Who cares if a dog is a great winning show dog, or a champion, top this or top that, if the dog has poor health and produces other dogs of poor health…”
So, the importance and focus on GOOD HEALTH when starting a breeding program tops our list of considerations for breeding!
My last comment is from the one and only Susan Hamil, of Quiet Creek Bloodhounds, who is a mentor of mine, and she reminds with each breeding and each puppy, “Do not decide on keeper puppies based on ear length and the abundance of wrinkles – focus on the BEST STRUCTURE.”
So, it’s a balance… 1. Health, 2. Best Structure, and of course 3. Bone, Substance and Breed Type! And as I work to mentor new breeders, these are the things I try to get them to embrace.
Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada
The greatest and most useful piece of advice that I received as a novice breeder was actually secondhand. My mentor, Mrs. Peggy Hulme of Hendell Kennels, the doyenne of the breed who had bred the record number of U.K. Dandie Dinmont champions (35!), received this advice from her own British mentor, Mr. Ware of the famous Ware Cocker Spaniels. “Never breed to a second-generation fault.” So simple, but so true. Those words have guided me throughout my years in Dandies.
My husband Henri Tuthill. From day one he emphasized you learn in the whelping box everything you want to know about your breeding program watching how your litters develop, and now over four decades later it still applies.
I am not a breeder. However, I appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that go into developing a breeding program and continuing to improve it.
Probably the best advice I ever heard came from Bonnie Pike of Silverhall Cocker Spaniels… Don’t be kennel blind or dog blind. There is no perfect dog; don’t kid yourself you have bred it. Continue to breed the very best-producing bitch lines. Continue to use dogs that bring breed type into your program. Generic dogs do not make your “heart sing”! Finally, and above all else, breed dogs that are mentally and structurally sound – the ones that get up and go for anyone, anytime.
Randolph (Randy) W. Frederiksen
New Braunfels, Texas
The breeding information contained in the book, “The New Art of Breeding Better Dogs” by Philip Onstott (adapter) and Kyle Onstott (author).
"Never outcross unless you cannot find what you need in your own bloodline." This was the advice given by David Kolwalski in his 1979 book "The Secrets of The Great Animal Breeders." I followed this rule and it proved to be very successful. Dogs I have bred have won 144 Bests in Show on six continents; 237 AKC championships, and 257 dogs with Alaskan Malamute working titles. All closely bred from my foundation sire, who is still the top-producing sire in the breed.
Allendale, New Jersey
The best breeding advice came from my friend, Claudia Pierro, who breeds Maltese and Yorkies. She has always helped me with her advice and I have been so thankful for her help. I also had attended a seminar with Myra Savant Harris, and purchased her booklet and other items that were most informative.
The best breeding advice came from Susan Vargus (McCoy) Westgate Whippets. She now breeds Toy Fox Terriers.
She was a master at rubbing dogs together. She went more by phenotype than genotype.
Susan shared some of her best dogs with me, and they stand behind every dog I bred from the ’70s on.
The best breeding advice I received was to limit the number of dogs I kept. I remember being told, "You can get too many dogs very easily. Keep only the quality you are proud to own." This advice went further: "A small breeder has no reason to have a stud dog. Pay a stud fee to exceptional studs in the breed." All this advice proved invaluable to me. I did not keep "Tootsie's" last puppy for no good reason. Seldom did I have more than three bitches in my possession. It is possible to limit numbers if you "keep your head screwed on correctly." My dogs were never a burden for me. I found peace and relaxation with my dogs after a busy day in my office.
Most breeding advice comes from hard knocks and experience, but one piece I cherish. The late Barbara Thompson of Barwood Shelties fame suggested that when you have a breeding program you determine what one piece you need to fix the most — i.e., missing teeth, high tail, etc. Then you go to the national and watch the puppy classes. You determine which puppies have the correct parts that you need, then you breed to their sire.
Acworth, New Hampshire
Well, it was several people — first and foremost, Miss Noble, who had bred and raised Ardkinglas Deerhounds, one a fine specimen, Am & Br Ch. Fitzroy, who was eventually bought by Dr. Franklin in California in the ’60s. Miss Noble bred as well Ch. Aurora of Ardkinglas and Justina of Ardkinglas, who was perhaps the best coursing Deerhound in modern times. As to what to look for in a working Deerhound, Miss Bell of Enterkine fame, who bred for practical “working" Deerhounds, offered what was practical in the field. My father-in-law provided some sage advice: “Look at the litter brother of the top winner. If good quality, often the stud fees are more reasonable.” Nonetheless, Miss Noble suggested that “…. never lease a bitch to another. ‘They’ can always buy a puppy.” Keeps things clean and square.
Monroe, New York
Laura R. Libner
Grand Rapids, Michigan
My mom gave me the best breeding advice when I started out in a different breed 25-plus years ago: Linebreed on the very best with a prepotent sire, and then every once in a while, go out, to dogs that have consistent qualities that stamp breed type on the dogs.
When selecting a dog to linebreed on, place him in the pedigree as the sire of the dam of the litter AND as the sire of the sire’s DAM. The strength of a linebred pedigree comes from the center two generations: Reading the pedigree horizontally from the top to the bottom puts four sections on the pedigree. The center two horizontally placed generations give the most influence to the puppies.
Tenafly, New Jersey
Although I’ve always bred AKC dogs, among my earliest mentors was Nancy Penn Smith Hannum, MFH, Master of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds. Mrs. Hannum helped me acquire just the right hounds from England with which to start a dual-purpose pack. As with all Foxhound packs, strong linebred bitches are the foundation, then, now and always. Although she didn’t show dogs herself (except at hound shows), she understood and was sympathetic to my AKC doings. Doris Wear knew a good EF when she saw it, and only much later did I learn that she was related to Mrs. Hannum and had hunted a bit herself. The mentoring included all things related to dogs and hunting, from social graces to hiring hunt staff. Nancy Hannum was immensely knowledgeable and immensely kind. Both the lessons learned and the teacher will stay with me forever.
Jane Chopson. She had a wonderful eye for a dog, and her photographic memory was a treasure trove of pedigrees. Her long-term involvement in the breed combined with "hands on" knowledge of many notable stud dogs was invaluable. I always remember her saying: "If you like the dog, breed to his father." That advice has served me well. She is missed.
I would breed with the devil himself if it meant breeding better dogs. Also, as a new breeder, do not keep male dogs. They are too convenient/easy to use, even though they may not be the right pairing for your bitch.
Watertown, New York
Simple: Treasure your girls!