This section of our web site is designed to stimulate discussion and correspondence among Airedale breeders about breeding issues that we regard as key to the future protection of our breed. We consider the breed to be generally in good shape with a good supply of intelligent and responsible breeders.
Breeding issues periodically arise that we are in the position to address and that is the purpose of this section. We welcome contact from breeders for ongoing dialogue on these and other issues. David Post, DVM, MS and Laura Post, Ph.D.
By David Post, DVM,MS 2007 Texterterriers.com
All breeds of purebred animals are the product of inbreeding. That is how breeds are created. An outstanding individual is identified and a breed is created around him or her. Most breeds of purebred dogs are less than 150 years old. During the late 1800s is when the concepts of “purebred” began to develop and the advent of dog shows started. Some breeds have older heritages, but the concept of “pure” existed only rarely. As purebreds were developed and breed registers were closed, the pools of genetic material available was automatically limited. Usually, early in breed creation, an outstanding individual dog becomes a “foundation sire” and most, if not all, ancestral lines in any current example of the breed will trace to that dog. With Airedales, most ancestral lines trace to Airedale Jerry, a dog from the 1890s. So we created a breed, what now?
As breed development continues, other outstanding individuals are identified, often they are big show winners. They also are widely used at stud and they improve the breed. Lower quality genes are reduced or eliminated. But the gene pool shrinks. As time passes, these dogs end up in most ancestral lines of current dogs. Then another generation of dogs comes along, with more big winners. The big winning stud is widely used. The gene pool narrows. The pattern continues. This gives rise to two fundamental problems with purebred dogs.
The obvious problem is the reduction in the gene pool making the frequency of all genes more concentrated. This is good for genes with no detrimental consequences. However, there are no perfect dogs and all dogs carry some genes for detrimental traits. These genes increase as a percent of the gene pool and problems begin to appear in the breed that had not previously been common. Since most breeders these days have small breeding programs that produce only one litter a year or less, the ability to identify carriers and remove them from breeding programs is both difficult and heart wrenching.
The less obvious problem of the “popular sire effect”, is the genetic impact and change that a single stud can have on a breed. If a particular big winning dog has some extraordinary trait, it becomes widespread in a breed, to the point that it changes the breed. An example would be a lot of coat in Cocker Spaniels. This characteristic might make beautiful grooming more spectacular and make for big wins at dog shows. But such a trait would not be correct in a field dog. Yet the impact of the big winner changes the breed. Cocker spaniels now routinely need to be shaved, including their heads and faces and have hair that drags the ground. None of this was characteristic of the original breed. The breed has changed. In German Shepherds, the low slunk appearance of the rear end became a winning dog show fashion in the breed and the breed changed. Turns out this trait is associated with increased hip dysplasia in the breed and the breed has now been replaced by other breeds for most working functions. There were original big winners that were widely used in both breeds that introduced these changes.
So how to address these problems? Population geneticists sometimes suggest always attempting to breed dogs that are as little related as possible to maintain maximum diversity. The problem with this approach is that the phenotypes (appearances) of these maximally unrelated individuals is often quite diverse also. This makes breeding a consistent type difficult, if not impossible. A more practical solution, is to have a number of independent, linebred breeding programs in the breed. With several of these genetically independent, but quality programs operating the genetic diversity of the breed can be maintained, yet consistent quality can be produced. This approach requires that strong willed breeders avoid breeding to the current big winners from other programs, even when the fashion trend at dog shows moves toward the current spectacular dog. This protects the breed from both detrimental effects of popular sires, reduction in the gene pool and changing the breed type in detrimental ways of current fads and fashions at dogs shows.
Unfortunately, few breeders operate breeding programs big enough to maintain genetic independence. This requires that co-operative groups form with related dogs that interbreed within their programs, only out-crossing to outside dogs when it is genetically necessary to maintain vitality and type. Co-operative programs are difficult to maintain over time and unfortunately few exist.
Another difficulty is that few small scale breeders are strong willed enough stay away from the big winners. Breeding to these dogs makes pedigrees “prettier” and pups easier to sell. It also enhances opportunities at upcoming shows since your pups are likely to resemble their recent big winning sire. Most breeders will fall into pursuit of breeding to the big winners or their winning offspring, which has the same genetic effect on diversity. This is why the independent programs need to be identified and encouraged for the well being of the breed.
Judge education is key to successfully protecting a breed. Big winners, with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to promote show careers, often have exaggerated traits that make them stand out from the crowd. These exaggerations are often incorrect, even if they are exciting to observe. Think Cocker coats and German Shepherd hips. Judges are incorrectly influenced to pick these heavily promoted dogs and worse, dogs that look like them in the exaggerated trait, but who lack the overall quality.
In Airedales, there are very few independent breeding programs. Most top programs have lots of recent big winners in their pedigrees, including Texter. The traditional way for American breeders to maintain diversity is with the importation of dogs from England. Until recently, England restricted the importation of dogs into their country with 6 month rabies quarantine laws. This meant that they had little American Airedale genetics and their dogs were great out-crosses for us. Recently, their restrictions have changed and they now have American bloodlines. The same is true of Australia. This “shrinking of the Airedale world” has very positive aspects, but it tends to reduce the overall breed diversity. Breeders must become more aware of this issue. Breeders need to be more cautious in the promotion of top dogs and more cognizant of population genetics and popular sire effects. Bravo True Grit, an outstanding winner of the early 1980s is in the pedigree, multiple times, of almost all current winning dogs all across the country just 25 years later. It is difficult to find any Airedales that have not been influenced by his genetics. It would also be easy to argue that his style changed the breed. The appearance of dogs since that time is markedly different from dogs of the 50s and 60s. Since Grit, there have been a couple of other big winners that are already in the majority of pedigrees of current winners. And the gene pool shrinks. And the breed changes? We need to be careful! We need to encourage those independent programs and encourage them to stay independent. We need to encourage the development of new, independent, cooperative breeding programs that don't chase the latest big winner.
By David Post, DVM,MS 2007 Texterterriers.com
Certain facts are important considerations for Airedale breeders regarding hip dysplasia. The first is that Airedales are a medium sized breed. Therefore, dysplastic dogs may exhibit no, or only mild symptoms. This is good, in that many dysplastic Airedales will not suffer. However, it is bad, because the disease in more difficult to detect in our breed.
The next item for consideration is the frequency of the disease in our breed. It is unknown. An educated guess would put the prevalence somewhere between 25% and 33%. I base this number on the reported incidence of the disease by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). They report the incidence of hip dysplasia as greater than 50% for many common large breeds and state the overall incidence of the disease in various breeds ranges from 10% to greater than 80%. Note that one large breed, Greyhounds has almost no hip dysplasia. This is consistent with the purpose of the breed, where harsh selection for efficient movement (racing) is the primary goal.
The next consideration is the heritability of the condition. This, loosely defined, is the percent of the trait that is associated with an animals genetic heritage. Highly heritable traits have scores of 0.4 (40%)or more, poorly heritable traits would have scores below 0.2 (20%). Estimates on the heritability of hip dysplasia varies widely in the scientific literature, but reasonable numbers have been in the 0.26 to 0.4 range. This means that simply relying on genetic selection to eradicate the disease will be only moderately successful. This has proven to be the case. Controlled, intensive breeding programs, like the Seeing Eye Foundation, (using both OFA and PennHip techniques) have been able to improve the ratio of dysplastic dogs, but they still report about a 5% dysplasia rate. They estimate that greater than 60% of the general population of German Shepherds (their breed) are dysplastic. They further note, that with their selection the conformation of their dogs has diverged from the current conformation (phenotype) of German Shepherds in the general population.
The OFA reported in an American Veterinary Medical Association research article in 2000, that if you bred an OFA “good” (middle OFA positive rating) to an OFA “good”, you would still get about 13% dysplastic offspring. An OFA “excellent” to OFA “excellent” would get about 2% dysplastic, and and OFA “fair” (a positive rating) to an OFA “good” would get a 15% dysplastic rate. Making matters more difficult for breeders to understand, a “mildly dysplastic” rated dog bred to a “mildly dysplastic” rated dog gets a 25% dysplastic ratio. In other words, 75% would NOT be dysplastic! The study also indicated that the genetic contribution from both the sire and the dam were equally important. The breeds in the study were English Setters, Portugese Water Dogs, Shar peis, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. If it is not just genetics, what else could be going on?
The most common breeds submitted for OFA evaluations are German Shepherd, Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers. Based on the AKC registration numbers for these breeds, the OFA estimates that only 5% of the dogs used in breeding are submitted for OFA evaluation.
In 1992, Purina published an article on the effect of nutrition on dysplasia rates. Half the dogs were fed ad libitum (all they wanted/free fed), the other half was fed only 75% of the first group (limit feeding). Labrador Retrievers were used in the study. The dysplasia rate in the limit fed group was ONE HALF the dysplasia rate in the free fed dogs. Overfeeding will increase the incidence of dysplasia. A continuation of the same study showed that the free fed dogs lived shorter lives as well.
The 2001 National Breed Health Survey showed an association between dogs that were overweight and the development of hip dysplasia. There is an experimental study on Great Danes reported that dogs fed 20 to 30% less than littermates had a lower incidence and severity of joint disease as adults, although they eventually reached the same adult height.
Excessive exercise during boney development has also be implicated in degenerative joint diseases like hip dysplasia. Exercise should be moderate only, until dogs are eighteen months old.
All breeders that breed in any significant numbers and who track their offspring will see dysplasia. Texter Airedales have experienced a 2-3% dysplasia rate based on health surveys and owner contacts with our puppy owners. Breeders that report “no hip dysplasia in their line” are likely either not breeding much or are not monitoring their breeding program carefully enough. Since Airedales are medium-sized, they are less likely to exhibit symptoms than larger breeds, so dysplastic dogs can easily go undiscovered. Luckily, none of our dogs discovered to be dysplastic to date have been affected in a manner severe enough to significantly affect their lifestyle.
By David Post, DVM,MS 2007 Texterterriers.com
This is a controversial topic among Airedale breeders. One camp of breeders maintain that if you “just breed to the standard, performance will follow.” Another camp believes that if you don't deliberately select for specific performance traits, you will lose them in your gene pool. The second theory is more consistent with dog fancier experiences in other breeds. The selection for performance vs conformation controversy has split many breeds into two types, a field type and a show type and generally the two types have widely different conformational and temperamental traits. In Airedales, their use for performance functions has become increasingly less common over the decades and the show type Airedale is far more common. There are a handful of well established breeders, that do emphasize hunting traits in their selection process, and they pay less attention to conformational traits. Some of these breeders started with oversized “Oorang” or “Mountain” type Airedales and others started with show bred Airedales. This handful of breeders have continued the tradition of highly hunting oriented Airedales.
Another group of Airedale breeders has attempted a more difficult task. They have tried to breed dogs that are both conformation and performance oriented. This group is active with the ATCA (Airedale Terrier Club of America) and its hunting/working committee. They have seen varying degrees of success with their hunting and show activities. Some of their dogs really do seem to “have it all”.
On the subject of performance breeding there is a growing body of scientific research on the topic. The demand for performance dogs (for working purposes rather than hunting) has grown exponentially in recent years. The training success rate of these dogs has been unfortunately poor with dogs from the general population of working breeds, for their training as search and rescue dogs, bomb and drug dogs, military and police dogs, and seeing eye and service dogs. This has led to “purpose bred” breeding programs, often with government contracts, to breed dogs that have much greater odds of successfully completing training and having long productive service careers. Very large breeding programs, involving hundreds of dogs in closed breeding systems with tight selection and rigorous standards has produced working dogs that vary greatly from the breeds that they originate. Often working traits are not compatible with livability as pets. Working dogs (for many tasks) require a great deal of drive, boldness, courage, and intelligence. These traits are essential for heavily worked service dogs, but are often less suitable for typical pet dogs that live most of their lives on the sofa. For the typical pet owner, a more calm, even bashful pet is more handleable and more suitable.
These purpose bred breeding programs have used rigorous scientific approaches for health selection, performance selection and breeding selection. This is creating a growing wealth of information for breeders of show and pet dogs. Breeders that begin to study this information will be able to improve their breeding programs significantly.
What is the significance of this for Airedale breeders? Airedales are historically represented as multi-functional and multi-talented dogs. Yet it is clear that you must select for traits in order to retain them. All breeders can occasionally get an outstanding individual dog that “has it all”, but how are breeders going to be able to consistently produce outstanding multi-functional dogs, that still fit the standard of the breed (avoiding show fads and fashions)? It is a huge and difficult task. The breeder has to also consider the livability of the dog as a pet as they progress through the selection and breeding process. Then the specific performance traits that the breeder wants to retain have to be identified and selected. Are the traits-of-interest hunting (nose, trailing, fight, retrieving, independence), obedience and agility training (drive, attentiveness, speed, dependence) or service work (involving a huge variety of tasks depending on purpose). These traits are not always compatible.
So how does a multi-purpose breeder proceed? What specific traits are selected? Few breeders have consistently produced multi-purpose dogs. Identifying the temperamental traits for selection is one of the goals of Texter Airedales.
Our approach at Texter Airedales is evolving. We claim no special expertise in the functional temperament area of breeding selection and look forward to learning more. We are trying to incorporate the successful selection techniques that are becoming widely appreciated in the scientific dog breeding community within the temperamental goals of our own breeding program. We do not hunt, so our goals does not include selection for hunting traits. Further, we are not interested in dogs that are people aggressive, so military and police selection criteria are not suitable for our breeding program. Our dogs are primarily pets, so livability traits are essential. We believe that our program can produce dogs consistently above average in suitability for obedience, agility, tracking, scent detection, and search and rescue while still maintaining typical Airedale personalities. Our evolving selection criteria are consistent with these goals. Time and testing will determine if our approaches will be successful.
The following is our temperament scoring technique and selection traits. The scoring system is somewhat arbitrary and is intended only as a guideline for our selection. For example, dogs that scored well overall, but were particularly aggressive or particularly shy or had traits inconsistent with livability would be unlikely to remain in our breeding program.
Selection traits for young dogs
Trainability – This is the fundamental trait for selection. It is evaluated by actual training dogs on simple tasks, like “sit” and stand for examination on a grooming table. Dogs are scored from one to five and the score is tripled for emphasis on importance.
Fetching and toys Toy and fetch orientation has been strongly associated with success in training for multiple purposes. Dogs are scored from 1 to 5 and scores are doubled for emphasis. If a dog naturally fetches repeatedly, returning the toy to the thrower, and obviously enjoys carrying toys, it scores high.
Confidence and drive- This is a temperament trait that has to be carefully assessed. Dogs with extraordinary drive are often hard to live with, if they are not positively directed. (Think Border Collie). We see Airedales like this occasionally, and don't find the personalities to be very livable. Confidence is another matter. Airedales should be bold personalities that are not intimidated by circumstances. Further, they should handle correction without sulking or ducking. This trait is the counterpart to shyness and is scored from one to five. Four and five are for dogs that are confident and bold regardless of circumstances and are given as bonus points to emphasize this positive trait.
Calmness- Airedales are active dogs. It is expected that they investigate any stimulation in their environment. However, hyperexcitability negatively impacts trainability. Bonus points are awarded to dogs that exhibit willingness to investigate, but don't persistently “stick their nose” into all activities. Up to five points are awarded to more laid back personalities.
Nose- We don't hunt and don't plan to start hunting. However, nose is a characteristic useful in a number of performance venues, including tracking, drug and bomb detection, and search and rescue. This is evaluated on a 1 to 5 scale as pups seek hidden treats. We hope to discover a better, repeatable test for this trait.
Anxiety, fearfulness, and shyness- Research has strongly indicated that these traits are not consistent with performance oriented training in any field. Texter assigns a negative score for this trait in temperament evaluation. Minus points are assigned for dogs that occassionally exhibit situational shyness, more, if situational shyness does not resolve with pup/dog investigation of noise or situation.
Livability- These are negative scores assigned for certain traits associated with how suitable the dog is as a pet. Traits for deduction would include escapism, drinking with head submerged in the bucket, and other obnoxiousness personality traits. We have found many of these traits to be highly heritable. This subjective score would range up to negative five depending on severity.
Aggressiveness- Any aggressiveness toward humans results in immediate removal of the dog from the breeding program. The only exception would be in an obvious protective situation. Aggressiveness toward other dogs is scored as a negative. Few Airedales will back down from a fight, so only excessive aggressiveness is penalized. Puppies that bite other pups and hold, and that draw blood are given negative scores. All pups are expected to co-exist without separation. Adult dogs that seek fights with other dogs, consistently fence fight, or that must be isolated from other dogs are given negative scores.
These criteria are evolving and we expect them to change as we gain experience with more quantitative, systematic, repeatable, and rigorous temperament evaluation techniques. We have the good fortune of having a large enough breeding program to permit rigorous selection for temperament, conformation, and health issues.
By David Post, DVM,MS 2007 Texterterriers.com
From September 2004 to August 2005, the AKC registered roughly 2700 Airedales and 750 litters. If the average litter size for the breed is 8 pups, that means that approximately 6000 AKC registration eligible puppies were produced, but less than half were registered. In the 1970s there were approximately 10,000 Airedale registrations, but their rank in breed popularity (around 40th) was similar to today. Is this a reflection on the AKC crackdown on puppy mills and the subsequent advent of alternate registries and the general reduction in AKC registrations or a reduction in the population of the breed? I am unaware of any quality breeders of Airedales that do not register dogs with the AKC.
If we use their recent numbers, we can make some population estimates about Airedales in the US. If we say that 6000 pups were born and the average life expectancy (including early deaths from accidents, etc) is 10 years, the US population is around 60,000 Airedales. This also assumes that “alternate registry” numbers are not significant in Airedales. If we use ATCA breeder listings to quantify quality breeders, there are about 750 ATCA members, of which about 400 list breeding as an activity. Many are not active breeders or breed quite infrequently, once every few years. If on average the 400 breeders, produce a little less than one litter a year, ATCA breeders are responsible for less than half the Airedales in the US.
The AKC reports that about 120 Airedales attain an AKC championship each year, which is about 2% of the Airedale population. Roughly 20 Airedales obtain a CD obedience title, 8 get a CDX, and 3 get a UD each year. Roughly, two get tracking titles, and 10 get novice agility titles. If we compare these statistics to other terriers, the numbers are similar to American Staffordshire Terriers, but behind Miniature Schnauzers and Jack Russell Terriers. The ratio of obedience titles to conformation titles is much higher in working breeds like Dobes and Rottweilers and popular obedience breeds like Border Collies, Labs, and Golden Retrievers.
By David Post, DVM,MS 2007 Texterterriers.com
The Airedale Terrier Club of America (ATCA) had the good fortune of participating with the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine in a breed health survey. The results give some insights into the breed and confirm many positive characteristics of the breed that have been previously believed.
The nature of the project was an epidemiology survey. This kind of research is very subject to error and over interpretation. However, it can provide insight and direction for further investigation. The errors of this kind of study is it's intrinsic bias, since participants self select and the information provided relies on the memory and accuracy of information from the participants. The ability of participants to understand (in a similar manner to other participants) the questions also becomes an issue. In the case of this survey, the survey participants were weighted heavily toward breeders and owners who tend to be more intensive, who are likely to have healthier and higher quality dogs than average, so some of the reported disease frequency may be low. Since few dogs actually get necropsied to find the actual cause of death, some inaccuracy can occur since death causes are the best bets of the veterinarians involved, but proof may not have been available. All this said, the results are far superior to any previous information on our breed.
The major conclusion is that the breed is in great shape! Temperament evaluations were consistent with the expected and the breed has fewer behavioral issues than average for dogs in general. Airedales are active, excitable dogs that are happy and generally confident. Cancer, renal failure, and heart disease were the three most commonly identified causes of death, almost always in senior animals. In the survey, average lifespan was reported to be slightly less than 12 years of age. Natural breeding was reported as producing the largest litters, followed by chilled semen artificial insemination, then frozen semen AI. This is consistent with reports in the literature for all breeds. Ninety six percent of the dogs in the survey were fed dry dog food, most commonly premium brands. There was no identified association between specific diets and longevity or health. There was an association identified between the weight of the dogs and the development of hip dysplasia, implying a role of overfeeding in the development of hip dysplasia.
There was no identified association between lawn chemicals and most disease in the survey. There was an association between flea dips, lawn chemicals and other flea products with hot spots. However, an obvious explanation exists for this relationship. Dogs with fleas are likely to both get hot spots and to be exposed to a variety of flea treatment products.
Survey findings were consistent with a breed in good shape health wise and with regard temperament. Good news for the breed across the board!
By David Post, DVM,MS 2007 Texterterriers.com
One of the frequent discussions in show breeding circles is the discussion of type (typical breed characteristics) verses soundness (desirable traits of conformation, health, and temperament fundamental to all dogs). Those that argue that type is more important will say that without type, you cannot tell what breed the dog is. In the establishment of a breed, this is clearly true. You have to select for specific characteristics that identify the breed, sometimes (in theory) sacrificing soundness characteristics, until type is established. However, when breeds are established, for many breeds including Airedales, the desired characteristics are specific performance traits of foundation stock. These outstanding original individuals were considered outstanding because of their fundamental qualities of health, temperament, and appearance. They were fundamentally sound dogs. Airedales have been an established breed for over a hundred years. Do we now need to still be breeding unsound dogs in order to have type? After 100 years, is there not sufficient type in sound dogs? The argument in favor of type is UNSOUND!
Today's breeders should absolutely insist that judges are trained to pick sound dogs. The standard states that the fundamental test of conformation is movement. Unsound dogs cannot move well. The standard also states that the breed is a moderate breed. No extreme characteristics. When show fads start driving the breed to “type”, it is often extreme type. Really long, narrow heads, long necks, ultrashort backs, very upright shoulders, none of these things are in the breed standard. And many of these characteristics lead to fundamental unsoundnesses. Some individuals with these characteristics can move, some even have some mental acuity. Their descendants have those extreme characteristics, but often don't have the soundness traits. Unique individuals with extreme characteristics become big show winners. The breed moves in a new direction, characterized by unsoundness. In a breed that is a hundred years old, established breeders should should only breed fundamentally sound dogs, with stable temperaments, that move well.
The Excuse Trap All breeders fall into the excuse trap from time to time. The very promising youngster fails to live up to hopes. Often these short falls are issues of soundness. The dog unexpected becomes shy or aggressive, or starts moving poorly, or develops dysplasia. You have so much hope built up in these dogs, that it is hard to let go. So you make excuses. “His bad behavior is because of event or accident X.” “He is shy because of poor socialization”. “She is aggressive because a handler at a dog show mishandled her.” “He is dysplastic because he was hurt as a pup.” “He is an outstanding specimen, the parts just don't quite go together quite right, so he moves a little funny in front.”
There are no perfect dogs. They all have genetic flaws that can be seen, and some that can't be seen. But be honest, at least with yourself, about the flaws. And then pick your poison. Do you really want the dysplastic dog in your breeding program? The aggressive dog? Those shy dogs are easier for the typical pet owner to handle, right? Just another excuse? How much movement are you willing to sacrifice for “type”? For how many generations?
By David Post, DVM,MS 2007 Texterterriers.com
We in the dog "fanatic" world of dog shows and dog clubs think a breeder is the hobbyist that we are or that we know. This person carefully plans litters between carefully selected dogs that are of proven quality as demonstrated by dog show or performance event competition. Often, this breeder only breeds one litter every two or three years…….and might be known to criticize their dog show friends that breed more than one litter a year as being "in it for money" or a "puppy mill".
Real world dog breeders? Let me give you four examples that I have known as a veterinarian.
1) This gentleman is a professor at a university. He owns a female boxer of no particular quality or pedigree that he breeds once a year. "It is an easy $2000-3000!", he says with a grin.
2) This lady has two springer spaniels. The female, about 5 or 6 years old has obviously had litters. "How many litters has she had?", I ask. "I don't know, ten or twelve, she gets bred every time she has come into heat.", she says.
3) I meet this guy at rural, discount vet clinic that I was doing a day of relief work at. This guy has 50 schnauzers. He had a bad week last week, two of his dogs had to have c-sections. Like many local breeders, he loves this discount clinic, the middle of the night c-sections cost him only $200. (Don't ask the corners that have to be cut to do c-sections for $200!) He has a bachelor's degree in biology. He has bred and even shown Rottweilers as well, but is getting out of them because the Rottweiler fad is passing. He is not keen on showing anymore, doesn't like the politics. He considers himself a professional dog breeder, is proud of it, and makes a decent living with these fifty dogs. He is aware of the market, and quite expert in canine reproduction. He is happy to be on the forefront of of what he thinks are two trends in his breed, "toy" miniature schnauzers and white miniature schnauzers, in addition to his usual salt/pepper and blacks. He sells them through newspapers, flea markets, and the Internet.
4) This farmer discovered that puppies were more profitable than hogs when his wife had a litter from their pet in the kitchen. They now have 30 breeds, all small breeds (more economical to raise). They keep them in pairs on fenced quarter acre lots with a dog house/whelping box in each lot. They vaccinate and deworm all pups before sale, and believe they sell healthy pets. They wholesale their products to pet stores and make $150 to $300 per pup, about ten times the revenue that weanling hogs produced. Their son became a veterinarian (not me).
The reality of the purebred dog industry is quite different than dog "fanatics" think it is. The above examples of how dogs are actually produced is much closer to typical than dog club members and quality breeders tend to realize. These four examples of breeders represent the kind of breeders that produce far more dogs than show and performance breeders! Don't believe it? Add up the number of ATCA breeders, estimate the number of pups each produces in a year, total it. Compare that number to the litter and puppy registration numbers that the AKC publishes. Even in an uncommon breed like Airedales, we "quality, hobby breeders", produce the minority of the dogs. However, we produce the future of the breed.
The relationship between the general public and puppy mills is interesting and I get the opportunity to observe it frequently as a vet. The majority of the puppies I see (like most vets) are produced by backyard breeders and puppy mills. This has been true regardless of where I practiced geographically. The public seems to know that puppy mills are the wrong place to get dogs, but they get them there anyway. Dogs frequently are spontaneous purchases and even when they are not, few are patient enough to wait for months on a buyers list for a quality puppy. The public generally does not seem to distinguish between AKC papers and pedigrees and “papers” from other registries. With the AKC crackdowns on puppy mills, a number of alternate registries have formed that seem to be willing to “register” anything. At this point, over half the pups I see are “registered” with non-AKC organizations. The public does not seem to care. Often the cost of puppy mill pups is the same or more than the cost of well bred dogs. This is particularly true of those sold through pet shops. The public is often fooled by claims of “rare” traits. I had a client that had paid over a thousand dollars for a “rare” tri-colored Dachshund from a pet store. On examination, the dog was clearly a mix of Dachshund and Beagle. Variations of this theme are common in many “breeds”.
The current fad of “mixed breeds”, (like Labradoodles, puggles, schnockers, yorkidors, chiweanies, etc), has become a successful marketing scheme based on the “fool is born every day” principle with the mixed pups selling for far more than purebreds.
Another interesting point is that most of the pups I see, regardless of source (puppy mill or otherwise) are free from contagious and congenital diseases. The puppy mill dogs are recognizable as their breeds usually, but they generally lack conformational quality and sometimes temperamental quality. The public is unaware on this point. The analogy that I use is wine. The difference between Mogan David and and expensive bottle of wine is lost to me, I don't drink wine. However, I am a connoisseur of dogs, and subtle differences in quality stand out to me. The public is often satisfied with Mogan David wine and puppy mill dogs.
Quality breeders seek puppy buyers that can distinguish the differences.
Heritability of Litter Size in Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds- This 2006 article in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior estimated the heritability of litter size and survivability of pups to be moderately high. The heritability range was between 0.19 and 0.31 for these kinds of reproductive traits. This study was conducted by the Seeing Eye, Inc of Morristown, NJ.
Success Rates of Purpose Bred Training for Guide Dogs/Breed Suitability
(Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 2006)
Interesting data in the article on the success rates of purpose bred dogs to complete training. Dogs are sent to volunteer puppy raisers for their first year for socialization and basic obedience training. Most return (90-95%) for to the Seeing Eye for actual training at 14 to 18 months of age. Those that are rejected leave for various health and behavior related reasons. During the first month after return to the training facility, health and suitability evaluations eliminate another 5 to 10% of the dogs, then the formal 4 month training process begins. Ultimately, 59% of LabX golden crosses complete training, 54% of Goldens, 51% of Labs, and 46% of German Shepherds complete training. This success rate of purpose bred dogs is substantially higher than dogs used from the general population, but is low enough that behavioral and genetic selection techniques are a major area of research. Overall, 53% of dogs that entered training (which was 85 to 90% of the total population bred by the Seeing Eye) were successful as guide dogs.
Methods for Breed Associations (Genetics and the Social Behavior of Dogs, Scott and Fuller, 1965)
“The breed associations were founded in order to overcome the limitations imposed upon the individual breeders, and it is possible for them to accomplish much more through long continued selection programs. In the future, the breed associations can accomplish more than they have in the past by modifying their objectives and making use of newer genetic theories and techniques. First of all it should be realized that a breed is a population of individuals showing a limited but still important degree of genetic variability. If selection is confined to one narrowly defined type, the result will almost inevitably be the accidental selection of various undesirable characteristics. Breed standards should include regulations relating to health, behavior, vigor, and fertility as well as body form. These can perhaps best be accomplished by introducing tests of performance and emotional reactions as well as appearance. Obedience trials and field trials are a valuable step in this direction.
The desirability of multiple standards makes the practice of breeding a champion to a large number of females within a breed a questionable one. Almost every animal carries some sort of injurious recessive genes, and this practice insures that they will be spread throughout the whole breed, with resulting disappointment as the descendants of these champions are eventually bred together and the recessive traits begin to show up in large numbers. The breed objectives should not be the development of a single, fixed type----something only possible by strict inbreeding----but rather for the development of a population varying within desirable limits and with which new and more valuable combinations of genes will always be possible.” See the associated articles on “Population Genetics” and “Breeding for Performance”.
Genetic Selection Against Hip Dysplasia
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The effectiveness of genetic selection against hip dysplasia is discussed by the following three articles:
Article one, by the OFA demonstrates a reduction in HD in submitted radiographs, but the abstract does not address the fact the many dysplastic radiographs are not submitted for OFA evaluation.
Article two, from Finland also questions the effectiveness of genetic selection against HD, in a system independent of OFA.
Article three, also by the OFA shows the prevalence of HD is similar in purebred and mix breed populations. This implies that the years of breeder selection against HD has not significantly improved the rate of HD in purebred dogs. The overall dysplasia rate for purebred and mixbreed dogs was around 19%. Note that there is conflicting scientific data on this topic and ideal solutions do not exist at this point. I would encourage that this data not be over interpreted and would strongly encourage continued selection against dysplastic dogs. However, this implies that there are very significant factors leading to dysplasia that are NOT genetic. See the above article on overfeeding and longevity and dysplasia rates.
Trends in hip dysplasia control: analysis of radiographs submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, 1974 to 1984. Corley EA, Hogan PM. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1985 Oct 15;187(8):805-9.
From 1974 through 1984, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals evaluated 143,218 radiographic submissions representing 151 breeds of dogs. All breeds from which there were 35 or more evaluations had some frequency of dysplasia. Seventy breeds, each with over 100 submissions, were tabulated and ranked according to frequency of hip dysplasia. Frequency of dysplasia varied from 0.6% in the Borzoi to 46.9% in the Saint Bernard. These data were compared with data obtained earlier (1966 to 1973) on evaluations in 38 breeds for changes in frequency. There was significant (P less than 0.05) reduction in frequency of dysplasia in 27 breeds, a significant (P less than 0.05) increase in frequency in only 1 breed (German Shorthaired Pointer), and no significant change in frequency in 10 breeds. The median significant decrease was 22.4%, and the range was from 3.1% in the Chesapeake Bay Retriever to 48.7% in the Keeshond. The reduction in frequency of hip dysplasia demonstrated the value of a control program. There were 5 breeds with a significant (P less than 0.05) decrease in frequency of dysplasia that had over 5,000 evaluations from 1974 to 1984. The decreases in frequency were independent of changes in American Kennel Club registrations for these breeds (a dramatic decline in registrations for the German Shepherd Dog and Old English Sheepdog, and a dramatic increase for the Rottweiler, Golden Retriever, and Labrador Retriever). Frequency regressed linearly in the German Shepherd Dog and Old English Sheepdog, but regressed nonlinearly in the other 3 breeds. The percentage reduction in frequency from the base frequency (1966 to 1973) for these breeds was 17.5% for the German Shepherd Dog, 23.1% for the Old English Sheepdog, 9.1% for the Rottweiler, 10.1% for the Golden Retriever, and 6.8% for the Labrador Retriever.
Finnish Study on Hip Dysplasia with Data from pre 1988
Disease frequency. A clear between-breed variation of dysplasia frequency was observed: from 2% (Smooth Collie) to 80% (Long-haired Saint Bernhard). In every breed, annual variations of frequency were noticed. Only in nine of the 22 breeds included in this study, were significant changes in hip dysplasia frequency detected. However in four breeds the disease frequency increased, and only in five breeds was a decrease noted. In other breeds the observed changes were so slight that they were thought to be caused by random variation. The frequency of severe HD in each breed followed very closely each breed's overall changes in HD frequency.
Economic effectiveness. As already discussed, numerous calculation models can be created for economic estimation. However, no benefit/cost -ratio over 1 could be shown for any breed or calculation model that were used. In some breeds dysplasia frequency had also increased during the study period, so in these breeds the benefit/cost -ratio was found to be negative. The best benefit/cost ratio (0.82) was achieved in the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever when calculation Model no 1 was used. This calculation model was the one which assumed the cost of hip dysplasia to be the highest. All calculation models have numerous sources of bias: especially the cost of treating hip dysplasia is very difficult to estimate.
Heritability in German Shepherds. When the hip dysplasia scores from A to E were coded as numbers from 1 to 5, respectively, the mean value of the subjectively recorded hip dysplasia score was 2.42 with a standard deviation of 1.20. This corresponds average hip scorings between B (normal hips with slight changes) to C (mild dysplasia). The coefficient of the variation was 49.9%. The heritability estimates for hip dysplasia were moderate, varying from 0.31 to 0.35.
Environmental factors affecting hip dysplasia in German Shepherds. Environmental effects: birth year and month, panelist screening, age of the dog, as well as the effect of the genetic group of offspring from imported versus non-imported sires had significant effects on hip dysplasia. The litter and the breeder had only very small effects.
Phenotypic and genetic change and breeding values in German Shepherds. No phenotypic progress could be shown, the disease prevalence had, instead, increased. As expected, also no clear genetic improvement could be shown in either males or females according to breeding value averages per year of births. Also, breeding values of parent animals were very similar to those of the whole population, which gives reason to suspect the effectiveness of selection.
Prevalence of canine hip dysplasia in a veterinary teaching hospital population.
Rettenmaier JL, Keller GG, Lattimer JC, Corley EA, Ellersieck MR. Veterinary Services, Columbia, MO 65201, USA. Vet Radiol Ultrasound. 2002 Jul-Aug;43(4):313-8.
The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of canine HD in a population in which there was minimal or no prior screening of radiographs for the disorder. Patient information was obtained from the radiographic database at the University of Missouri-Columbia Veterinary Teaching Hospital during the five-year period of 1991-1995. The coxofemoral joints on ventrodorsal radiographs of the pelvis were independently evaluated by three veterinary radiologists. A consensus evaluation of normal, borderline, or dysplastic was compiled. There were 2885 dogs identified representing 116 breeds and the mixbreds. There were 2236 purebred dogs (1071 males and 1165 females) and the prevalence of HD was 19.7%. There were 649 mixbred dogs (340 males and 309 females) and the prevalence of HD was 17.7%. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of HD between sexes or between purebred and mixbred dogs (P = 0.16; P = 0.29). Degenerative joint disease (DJD) was the most common radiographic manifestation of HD and there appeared to be a threshold at 12 months of age after which the presence of DJD was the primary diagnostic criteria.
Temperament Selection in Pups
(Don Turnipseed, Hunting Airedale breeder)
“I don't handle the pups until they are four weeks old and getting their legs under them. By not conditioning them from day one, I can tell, in order, the most confident to the least confident. Conditioning is of little benefit to a confident pup. It is everything to less confident pups. After I have figured out which are which, I spend my time with the less confident ones. Mind you, they will “always” be less confident. Actually, it is these pups that work the best in 95% of the home situations. Most homes have something of a routine. After a very short time, a pup is familiar with the home and yard and can appear very confident. In an unfamiliar place, such as a dog park, it just takes them more time to feel comfortable again. They make great pets. They are far less likely to want to roam the neighborhood and will stay at home. We just don't want to confuse less confident with spooky. Spooky can be in a class of it's own. The ultra confident pup that come right to me and enjoy being with me (more dependent) at 4 weeks are the ones that go to things like protection, retrieving, and other heavily trained activities. The ultra confident ones that come up to me, say hi, and are off and running (more independent) are the true fur hunters that will range out on their own and get the job done because there is little training involved. These independent dogs are great for things where little or no training is the key........but they are not likely to stay home without an electric fence!”
Working Selection Simplified, Old School Approach
(Al Kranbul, hunting Airedale breeder)
Airedale performance breeder selection summary:
Overly aggressive toward other dogs, OUT!
Overly aggressive toward people, any tendency to bite a person, OUT!
Scatter-brained, mentally retarded, can’t sit still for a minute, too hard-wired, OUT!
Shy, skittish, afraid of their own shadow, OUT!
The Hump. When it comes to a hunting dog, I will assume nothing. They will have to show me! I have seen far too many dogs with supposedly can’t miss pedigrees that ended up being sorry. First I introduce to game and check for bred instincts needed by a hunting dog and to see if there is enough potential to mess with. I look for a desire to hunt, good nose, tracking, locating and treeing, grit, etc.
Ability. For the ones that get over the hump, I get them in the woods on wild game and hunt them hard. I let them have a chance to show what they are made of. You then can separate the pretenders who want to be and think they are a hunting dog, from those that ARE hunting dogs and do good work on a consistent basis by putting game in the bag. The ones that show they can get it done, are the ones that get bred. Nothing revolutionary here, old school stuff that I learned through experience and from picking the brains of old timers that produced winners. The key is sticking with it. Evaluating pups is not a heck of a lot different that a little league coach looking over a bunch of 10 year old boys playing ball for the first time. If you know what to look for, it’s easily seen. The talent will rise to the top with time and it will be apparent who can throw, hit and run and stand out doing it. I evaluate pups much the same, I will take them afield at ten to twelve weeks old and set them up to show me what they were born with. I always use real animals to test dogs, either fresh intact dead, or live in roll cages. I will lay simple short scent trails, put out live animals, put them up in trees to check treeing, etc. I will walk the pups through these setups without doing or showing them a thing myself. I am looking at how they react naturally. After doing these types of drills for many years and watching hundreds of young dogs, I know what kind of reactions I am looking for. Like the young ball players, there will be those that will stand out and you know with the right kind of experience and work, they will be good. By the same token, there will be some that all the coaching and training in the world is not going to help a whole lot.”
When I contacted Al to get permission to quote him here, he mentioned a poll of dog oriented hunters (all breeds) that he had conducted on the Internet regarding the one worst fault a hunting dog could have. Of the responses, 1973 listed aggressiveness as the worst, 1528 listed shyness/timidness, 688 listed poor nose/inability to track, and all other responses 598.
On soundness selection
(David Post, Texter Terriers) One of my pet peeves as a breeder is the apparent lack of understanding by some breeders of the genetic nature of fundamental characteristics. “Lack of understanding” is a better explanation than “win at all costs” which is the other potential explanation for the decisions of some show breeders. When a dog has an obvious fault, one that a complete novice can identify from across the room(!), and yet it is routinely “fixed” or hidden in order to compete at dog shows, breeders do the breed a great disservice by using such dogs for breeding. Gay tails, bad ears, bad bites are now routinely “fixed”. Yet, the next generation has those same problems. And worse, when one of the next generation becomes a big winner, he is widely used at stud, and the whole breed has the same problem, again, one that the complete novice can identify without help. “Fixing” hurts the breeding program and the breed. A corollary to this is the direct selection for characteristics that are fundamentally unsound or that lead to such characteristics. Show- bred Scotties, like Bulldogs and many other breeds, now routinely require c-sections for pup delivery. Breeders haven't seemed to have discovered that uterine inertia is a genetic trait. So is too big heads, too small hips, and males that require help to copulate, and lack of milk, and small litter size. Breeders should be selecting based on reproductive and other soundnesses, not just conformational traits. Puppy mill breeders select for reproductive soundness, do you? (See “Methods for Breed Associations”, above).
Twenty Basic Breeding Principles By Raymond H. Oppenheimer
(Ray Oppenheimer was a widely respected and outstanding breeder of Bull Terriers. His list of 20 breeding principles has been widely reprinted due to its fundamental wisdom. This version is reprinted from Ernest Eberhard's The New Complete Bull Terrier, 1971,1959)
“There are a vast number of different breeding methods, some good, some bad. I should never presume to try to tell fanciers what is the right method because there is no such thing. Outstanding success can be achieved and has been achieved in a variety of different ways, so all I am going to do is to make some suggestions which I think helpful and to warn against certain pitfalls which trap too many of the unwary.
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