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Breeding "lines"


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The thread about the Irish National got me thinking

 

The breeding program being discussed there, to me, is an interesting case study.

 

It looks to me like that kennel does as advertised and breeds from solid working lines. The breeder does not appear to be breeding for actual working ability (eg. selecting dogs to breed together because of the relative working complements of the dam and sire). Rather it looks like they are breeding "lines" on the assumption, I guess, that if bred from the lines, the working ability remains intact. They are breeding almost exclusively, it appears, for the pet market.

 

Breeding lines does seem at least marginally better (to me) than breeding for conformation to form or breeding for other activities, like agility, in terms of the preservation of the working border collie.

 

I don't really know how to compare this kind of practice to the practice of oops litters from unproven parents; studding proven working dogs to sport/pet bitches; breeding promising novice dogs; breeding two year old nursery dogs; breeding mediocre Open dogs, breeding a solid worker to a less stellar mate in order to get a pup off the solid worker, etc.

 

I have my own personal opinions, but I'm curious about what others think specifically for the preservation of working ability in border collies. Independently of the breeder being discussed in the other thread, do folks find the practice of breeding from "lines" more likely or less likely to aid in the preservation of working ability relative to other less than perfect breeding practices?

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I know very little about breeding of course, but it is seems like breeding working lines, regardless of working ability, is no better than oops litters. Any top handler I've heard talking about breeding has been pretty particular about which dog they'd breed to, with a concern for bringing out particular traits. My assumption has been that in breeding willy-nilly, even within working lines, one could even breed the eye out of the dog. Seems like a thoughtless approach, potentially destructive to the breed, but apparently retaining a cachet of "responsible" breeding.

 

Susan

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Just a couple of thoughts FWIW:

Breeding from working lines doesn't necessarily mean that you are breeding the best candidates from those lines.

 

In personal conversations with 2 Open handlers, they impressed on me that even if/when they breed 2 excellent working dogs together, they feel lucky if they get 1 or 2 acceptable (based on their strict criteria) pups from the litter (maybe a litter of 5-8). So the others that do not 'make the cut' have the same breeding lines as the 1 or 2 'best' pups, but are they the best candidates to continue breeding even if they do come from the same lines?

 

Also, how close are the breeding dogs to the actual top-level working dogs/lines that are being promoted? Are they full-siblings or daughters/sons or grandpups or etc? You get the idea. I am always mystified that in some livestock/pet industries, people promote their animals based on the famous relative - for example, people buying a horse because his grandfather was the famous Kentucky Derby winner. OK, they are buying a horse because he has 1/4 of his genes from this famous horse? Is that really enough? Not for me. One should also look at what the other parents are and what they would contribute to the progeny.

 

OK, enough rambling,

 

Jovi

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the practice of oops litters from unproven parents

 

Oops litters are accidents, so how can there be a "practice" of oops litters?

 

Jovi, would you mind asking these Open handlers what they mean by approximately 2 out of 6 making the grade? Are these two the only ones that are capable of working to a high standard? Or are they the only two worth breeding to continue the lines?

 

If I had bred a fair number of litters and only 1/3 of the resulting pups could make useful working dogs, I would be very concerned that I was making poor breeding decisions. In fact, I would quit breeding and just buy pups from people who knew what they were doing.

 

When you look at dogs produced by what I would consider successful breeders, more than 75% of the pups they sell are capable of going on be useful stock dogs. The elite breeders who have an almost supernatural ability to choose mates have a nearly 100% success rate.

 

Jovi, I agree that just because a dog is a littermate, it doesn't mean it has the same good qualities. That littermate might be the dud in the litter.

 

Going back to the original question. The only way to maintain a working breed is to test and prove every single generation. Breeding from working lines without testing the parents will result in a reduction in quality, perhaps even a total loss of ability within a few generations.

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I guess my question is not so much about breeding lines in general but more about how breeding lines *compares* to other practices such as those I noted: breeding mediocre open dogs, using one proven and one unproven dog, etc.

 

These don't seem to me all that infrequent as practices (judging from what I observe and hear under the handlers' tents at trials) and they are not generally willy-nilly, but my suspicion is also that they don't *necessarily* produce better working border collies than breeding lines does.

 

One big difference, as Jovi points out, is that people breeding lines are probably introducing a lot more random variation than those breeding specific dogs (like two mediocre Open dogs), so that probably does make more of a difference in terms of the overall population of dogs able to do the work to a high standard.

 

Are there other differences like that, though, that would tip the balance against breeding lines relative to individual dogs (here specifically not the perfect scenario of a dam and sire well matched and both proven--but the other types of breeding scenarios that occur from time to time)?

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I guess my question is not so much about breeding lines in general but more about how breeding lines *compares* to other practices such as those I noted: breeding mediocre open dogs, using one proven and one unproven dog, etc.

 

Breeding based on lines alone is no better than breeding for sport or show.

 

A proven dog bred to an unproven dog, both from solid working lines, is better than breeding 2 unproven dogs from solid working lines. But, for the highest rate of success you really need 2 proven parents.

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Oops means oops and is nothing planned about those. Some work well, some don't.

 

Breeding to sport or pet bitches is usually just for the money, and not really caring about the preservation of the breed as a whole.

 

Breeding promising novice dogs can be deciving. While a very experienced person with a good knowledge of potential and of dogs might have a good idea how that dog will turn out it does not mean the dog is that terrific for breeding. However this is better than the previous situation IMO. But a novice dog/bitch should only be bred to a proven mate if it is done. Additionally has said dog proven itself in farm/ranch work, but just isn't trained to a more advanced level? Too many factors to consider with this one to say one way or the other. Two year old nursery dogs falls into this cagtegory IMO.

 

Mediocre dogs can depend on many factors, breeding, handling and training come to mind. Is the dog mediocre due to training or handling or is it just not a 'good' dog?

 

Hopefully one would choose a mate that should improve the dogs being bred,I think the dartboard analogy falls into play here.

 

Lines can be meaningful. But there are many factors. Do those lines produce consistantly good workers? Do all of the pups work well and many above average? But in order to know the consistancy, all (or at least a majority) of the pups need to be worked to a higher level before considering a 'line' a good one. And today there are few 'lines' so there is often less consistancy than in the past.

 

Breeding is both an art and a science. It can be a crap shoot, at best an educated guess. Breeding on paper alone doesn't work. If it did then every "Lassie" collie and every Show Border Collie should have terrific working ability as most decended from good working dogs from the past.

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  • 3 months later...
One big difference, as Jovi points out, is that people breeding lines are probably introducing a lot more random variation than those breeding specific dogs (like two mediocre Open dogs), so that probably does make more of a difference in terms of the overall population of dogs able to do the work to a high standard.

That simply isn't true. If you're breeding from lines as opposed to individually good working dogs, you're shrinking the genetic material that you're working with.

 

There are plenty of great working dogs that come from relatively obscure breeding, therefore outside of established lines. Restricting a program to breeding from lines limits the amount of genetic material available, it doesn't enhance it.

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I think what Robin meant by randomness is that if you take a dog from line A and cross it with a dog from line B, without consideration given to any proven work or how well the two might cross or complement each other WRT work, then you are increasing randomness. Someone deliberately crossing two proven dogs, regardless of lineage, whom the breeder believes will "nick" should expect to get less variation across a litter than someone who, for example, imports semen from an International Supreme winner and uses that to breed their imported, unproven bitch who happens to be a littermate or closely related to a famous dog (I'm not sure how such a practice shrinks genetic material, except for perhaps the "popular sire" effect). I think Robin is saying that in the latter case, the person is breeding strictly based on lines, without any real idea of how those lines might cross, thereby introducing a certain amount of randomness into the outcome (the resulting litter). JMO of course.

 

J.

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Yep, that's what I was saying. "Random" in the sense of "unknown" (wrt working ability) rather than in the sense of genetic variation.

Ok. Though, if you're only increasing the randomness with respect to working ability, and shrinking the genetic material available (which line breeding does) it seems like the logical outcome would be creating more dogs that lack top level working ability while increasing the maladies that are inherent with a lack of diversity within the genetic makeup.

 

It seems like the goal of breeding should be the opposite; breeding from dogs with genetically diverse makeups to produce dogs that consistently express a high level of working ability.

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Well, yes, that should be the goal of any breeding program of working border collies. My original question was about comparing less than perfect (but fairly common) breeding practices and was an offshoot of another discussion going on in Feb. I'm not advocating line breeding by any means.

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Havenjm,

I think you're misunderstanding the way people are using "breeding from lines." I don't think anyone is talking about line breeding here; in such a case, I think it would be fair to say that you gain more predictability in the outcome of a cross, therefore less "randomness" with respect to how any individual pup in a litter may work. (Several of my dogs come from lines that have been line bred, and they and many of their relatives work very much the same, with some small variations--dogs from those lines are pretty predictable in their work.)

 

For the purposes of this thread, "breeding from lines" means breeding based on pedigree with no real thought to whether the actual dogs connected to the two pedigrees would make a good cross (complement each other) or actually improve on faults in either line being used. At least that's what I took the meaning to be within this discussion. That's why I used the example of someone breeding a bitch that is, say, littermate to Wisp using the semen from the most recent International Supreme winner. The person doing such a cross is doing so because the two lines being crossed are (or contain) recognizable names rather than based on any real knowledge of whether the cross could hope to produce dogs at least as good, if not better, than the parents' generation.

 

But maybe I've misunderstood the entire discussion.

 

As for a goal of breeding dogs of genetically diverse makeups, I think that can be something of a crap shoot as well. The goal should always be to try to produce pups that are as good as or better than their parents, however you go about it. I just don't think picking important names and crossing them is the best way to do so. A little knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of the two lines being crossed could go a long way to creating superior working dogs.

 

I suppose that breeding from well-known lines without consideration for the way a cross might "nick" is marginally better than just breeding any two border collies (even any two working border collies), but the problem that arises from Robin's original scenario is that if most pups from such a cross go to pet homes or the like then the breeder never knows if the cross produced dogs with good working ability (which means s/he can't judge whether it makes sense to do repeat breedings or not), and so while one could say that breeder A, who is crossing the Wisp sister with the Supreme winner has a greater likelihood of producing pups that should work compared to, say, the breeder who's breeding agility champ to agility champ, there's generally no way to know if that's the case if most of the pups never see or are trained on livestock. And my guess is that such breeders aren't interested in that anyway; they simply want to be able to say they've got X and Y bloodlines because at least some puppy purchasers will recognize those names and associate them with success in some venue; that is, it's a good marketing tool.

 

J.

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Thanks Julie. I think there you're right that there is terminological confusion--I probably should have used the term "pedigree breeding" in the scenario I was trying to set up. And it's true that in general it's moot since pedigree breeding doesn't tend to result in pups that are then tested on stock, unlike the situations I was comparing it to. I hadn't thought about that dimension in my original question.

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Havenjm,

I think you're misunderstanding the way people are using "breeding from lines." I don't think anyone is talking about line breeding here; in such a case, I think it would be fair to say that you gain more predictability in the outcome of a cross, therefore less "randomness" with respect to how any individual pup in a litter may work. (Several of my dogs come from lines that have been line bred, and they and many of their relatives work very much the same, with some small variations--dogs from those lines are pretty predictable in their work.)

 

For the purposes of this thread, "breeding from lines" means breeding based on pedigree with no real thought to whether the actual dogs connected to the two pedigrees would make a good cross (complement each other) or actually improve on faults in either line being used. At least that's what I took the meaning to be within this discussion. That's why I used the example of someone breeding a bitch that is, say, littermate to Wisp using the semen from the most recent International Supreme winner. The person doing such a cross is doing so because the two lines being crossed are (or contain) recognizable names rather than based on any real knowledge of whether the cross could hope to produce dogs at least as good, if not better, than the parents' generation.

Julie,

That does bring a little clarity to the discussion. I was working off a definition much more on the "line breeding" wavelength. "Breeding from pedigree" makes more sense in terms of this conversation.

But maybe I've misunderstood the entire discussion.

 

As for a goal of breeding dogs of genetically diverse makeups, I think that can be something of a crap shoot as well. The goal should always be to try to produce pups that are as good as or better than their parents, however you go about it. I just don't think picking important names and crossing them is the best way to do so. A little knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of the two lines being crossed could go a long way to creating superior working dogs.

 

I suppose that breeding from well-known lines without consideration for the way a cross might "nick" is marginally better than just breeding any two border collies (even any two working border collies), but the problem that arises from Robin's original scenario is that if most pups from such a cross go to pet homes or the like then the breeder never knows if the cross produced dogs with good working ability (which means s/he can't judge whether it makes sense to do repeat breedings or not), and so while one could say that breeder A, who is crossing the Wisp sister with the Supreme winner has a greater likelihood of producing pups that should work compared to, say, the breeder who's breeding agility champ to agility champ, there's generally no way to know if that's the case if most of the pups never see or are trained on livestock. And my guess is that such breeders aren't interested in that anyway; they simply want to be able to say they've got X and Y bloodlines because at least some puppy purchasers will recognize those names and associate them with success in some venue; that is, it's a good marketing tool.

 

J.

I would argue that any first time cross is pretty much a crap shoot, and that it's impossible to know how the cross will "nick" until you can actually work with the offspring. If youre hoping to improve upon the parents youre hoping that the traits combine in a way that, perhaps, adds a little biddability to the bitch's side and a little fire to the dog's side in order to get offspring that have a better blend of want to and biddability. But it's as likely that you may end up with offspring that aren't overly keen or very biddable. You only find that out from working with the offspring.

 

Which makes your point about pups going to sport and pet homes the real crux of the issue, IMO. If you can never assess the working ability of the offspring, then you can never have an accurate picture of how successful the cross was, and be able to determine whether the breeding should be repeated. I agree that the people who are interested in pedigree breeding for marketing purposes probably don't care whether the cross produces good working dogs, but only whether they can sell all the puppies. I dont think, however, that's a reason to condemn breeding from pedigree in general. In your Wisp littermate example, i would say theres a reasonable chance of getting some really nice working dogs. I think with well known dogs its pretty easy to gain some knowledge about how they might nick, and even more importantly about the typre of offspring they've already produced.

 

I think it ultimately comes down to whether the breeder is motivated by improving, or at least preserving, the stock working ability of the breed, or whether they're motivated by selling puppies

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"Pedigree breeding" is a great term!

 

Julie,

That does bring a little clarity to the discussion. I was working off a definition much more on the "line breeding" wavelength. "Breeding from pedigree" makes more sense in terms of this conversation.

I think an attentive (or even not-so attentive) reading of this thread and the "Irish Nationals" thread which prompted it would make it clear "line breeding" was not the topic. FWIW.

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I would argue that any first time cross is pretty much a crap shoot, and that it's impossible to know how the cross will "nick" until you can actually work with the offspring. If youre hoping to improve upon the parents youre hoping that the traits combine in a way that, perhaps, adds a little biddability to the bitch's side and a little fire to the dog's side in order to get offspring that have a better blend of want to and biddability. But it's as likely that you may end up with offspring that aren't overly keen or very biddable. You only find that out from working with the offspring.

 

Well of course. And no one has argued otherwise. Robin asked about the practice of breeding dogs based strictly on pedigrees:

It looks to me like that kennel does as advertised and breeds from solid working lines. The breeder does not appear to be breeding for actual working ability (eg. selecting dogs to breed together because of the relative working complements of the dam and sire). Rather it looks like they are breeding "lines" on the assumption, I guess, that if bred from the lines, the working ability remains intact. They are breeding almost exclusively, it appears, for the pet market.

 

In Robin's example, the breeder is trading on the names/fame of the parents and not on actual working ability of any offspring. If the first cross isn't tested, nor any subsequent crosses (or very few are put into working homes), then the only reasonable explanation is that the breeder is trading on the names with no real care for what the crosses are actually producing working-wise.

 

Heck, even MAH touted (maybe still touts) all the fancy imported lines she had (has). People recognized names and bought puppies. You can bet that some of those pups were subsequently bred, still trading on the important names in the pedigrees and not on any real proven ability in the offspring.

 

Which makes your point about pups going to sport and pet homes the real crux of the issue, IMO. If you can never assess the working ability of the offspring, then you can never have an accurate picture of how successful the cross was, and be able to determine whether the breeding should be repeated.

 

Which is exactly what I said (and what I've said many times in the regular mill discussions that occur on this forum).

 

 

I agree that the people who are interested in pedigree breeding for marketing purposes probably don't care whether the cross produces good working dogs, but only whether they can sell all the puppies. I dont think, however, that's a reason to condemn breeding from pedigree in general. In your Wisp littermate example, i would say theres a reasonable chance of getting some really nice working dogs. I think with well known dogs its pretty easy to gain some knowledge about how they might nick, and even more importantly about the typre of offspring they've already produced.

 

And the crux of that issue is whether people actually bother to gain the knowledge about the dogs in question. I don't think I've said breeding from a pedigree is a bad thing (I've done it, or attempted to anyway), but as you note, it really is even more of a crap shoot than it has to be if one doesn't bother to at least familiarize oneself with whether dogs closely related to Wisp (to go back to that example) have the potential to cross well with the latest international supreme champion. And that goes directly back to Robin's point about people breeding and marketing from pedigrees and then putting pups in nonworking homes. The only conclusion one can draw is that selling pups is the main goal.

 

I think it ultimately comes down to whether the breeder is motivated by improving, or at least preserving, the stock working ability of the breed, or whether they're motivated by selling puppies

 

Exactly. And I think the paragraph I quoted above from Robin's original post makes clear what sort of breeder she was talking about.

 

J.

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