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Phenotype or Genotype when breeding?


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I want to address those of you experienced in breeding.

 

I'm assuming that most of you will immediately say that phenotype is the basis of all your breeding decisions? "Breed to the dogs that do the best at their work."

 

But I have known dogs with top winning trial dogs solid in their pedigrees, that they themselves had very little interest in stock and were not strong herding dogs.

 

I have also known herding dogs with totally unknown dog's in their pedigree that are great stock dogs and highly successful trial dogs.

 

So hypothetically given the choice between a dog who is not the greatest worker but has a pedigree of great workers; and a dog that is a great worker but has "unproven" or unknown dogs in his pedigree, which would you give greater weight when considering a potential mate?

 

Why?

 

I'm looking forward to discussion and learning!

 

Thanks!

 

Bonnie

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Thanks, but that might have been too easy......:~)

 

What if the dog with the great pedigree is not a poor worker, but just average worker, but he has sired remarkable pups?

 

The other choice is a national level top competitior himself, but has totally unproven dogs in his pedigree, and has never sired a littler.....

 

Now what?

 

Bonnie

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I agree with what Karen has said. Proven producers have certainly been used to good effect in the past (and now, I'm sure), but I wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable breeding on that basis (but then I'm not someone who has been raising and using these dogs for decades, so I'd have to take someone else's word on the meaning of proven producer).

 

But really, you should select for good workers with every generation. There are lots of folks out there who breed to pedigree and sell pups from dogs "of excellent working lines." You certainly have a better chance of getting a decent working dog from a breeding of excellent working lines then a simple mish mash of stuff, but given the choice of a cross between two proven workers, no matter the pedigree, and a mediocre of non-proven worker with a stellar pedigree, I'd still pick the proven worker. The only exception to that would be lines that I know and like. But in that case, I'd know a bunch of the relatives and how they work, etc., so still would really be basing my choice on work rather than pedigree.

 

J.

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Thanks, but that might have been too easy......:~)

 

What if the dog with the great pedigree is not a poor worker, but just average worker, but he has sired remarkable pups?

 

The other choice is a national level top competitior himself, but has totally unproven dogs in his pedigree, and has never sired a littler.....

 

Now what?

 

Bonnie

 

I agree with preferring to breed to a proven worker - because if the working talent is expressed (phenotype), you know that the dog has the genotype. Yes, easy peasy -- BUT, as Journey pointed out above, the sire should compliment the bitch. Therefore that adds another layer to the decision-making.

 

For your first example above, there is a saying "The Proof is in the Progeny". If the ratio of remarkable pups produced is consistently high, then that sire would be a serious contender for stud service IMO. (again, if you felt he complimented the bitch.)

 

Never sired a litter? More risky. Maybe wait to see how he proves himself with his progeny.

 

Breeding is not an either/or. IMHO I would try to breed for the highest probability of producing the pup you want.

Jovi

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I want both. Knowing the pedigree is critical when making breeding decisions. To me, knowing the pedigree means knowing what the ancestors were like, and I want to see good working dogs in every single generation.

 

My newest pup's dam is an "unknown" on the trial field, but I know her and many of her relatives quite well. I've seen them worked and even worked the dam myself. My pup also happens to be from a repeat breeding, so I have seen her older siblings.

 

I would not buy a pup without knowing it's relatives, even if the pup's parents were big names on the trial field. With a stud dog I would (ideally) want to see a history of producing quality pups.

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I want both. Knowing the pedigree is critical when making breeding decisions. To me, knowing the pedigree means knowing what the ancestors were like, and I want to see good working dogs in every single generation.

 

Ditto

 

Often a pup will resemble a grandparent in style of work more so than a parent.

 

In addition to the working style/ability, I want to know major health concerns in the ancestors as well as the parents.

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Technically, speaking all that has been discussed so far has been phenotype.

 

 

You really want to know about selecting solely on the characteristics of the potential sire and dam vs. pedigrees. Without knowing the genotype for all desired characteristics of the potential sire and dam I think you need to go on both the phenotype of the individual dogs and the phenotypes that run in their lines.

 

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Mark:

Agreed, I think the term "pedigree' had many interpretations. To "know" a pedigree is to know how the ancestors worked, what they produced, in the way they worked, their health/temperament and structure/soundness and whatever else you may want to know about the lines behind a pup.

 

Without the working phenotype (and I prefer to see the untrained dog) and some understanding of the dog's trainability/biddability (which can be affected by the environment) being good solid worker with balance and confidence to give power ALL the pedigree information is irrelevant. If the dog is NOT a good worker, without the genetic attributes which make a very good worker, who cares about the pedigree (unless to avoid those lines)?

 

Now if a dog is a good worker and you are NOT interested in breeding, then pedigree information is moot.

 

Pedigree information is of great value in the breeding animal. Not simply as a record of the animal's lineage, but it can give help to give valuable information on how that animal may produce. In the case of Border Collies, what type of workers they may produce.

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Jovi and others,

 

Excellent points. But lets say that both potential sires are similar in size, conformation, health and temperament. Both having equal complimentary characteristics to my bitch.

 

One is an average worker but has produced many outstanding trials dogs with different dams.

 

One is an outstanding trial dog but has a pedigree of unknown and unproven dogs and has never been bred.

 

I love how you mentioned probability. If only there were a software program for that? :~)

 

I guess it's our in our heads and our gut instinct.

 

Bonnie

 

 

I agree with preferring to breed to a proven worker - because if the working talent is expressed (phenotype), you know that the dog has the genotype. Yes, easy peasy -- BUT, as Journey pointed out above, the sire should compliment the bitch. Therefore that adds another layer to the decision-making.

 

For your first example above, there is a saying "The Proof is in the Progeny". If the ratio of remarkable pups produced is consistently high, then that sire would be a serious contender for stud service IMO. (again, if you felt he complimented the bitch.)

 

Never sired a litter? More risky. Maybe wait to see how he proves himself with his progeny.

 

Breeding is not an either/or. IMHO I would try to breed for the highest probability of producing the pup you want.

Jovi

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Ask yourself, what style of working dog do you want (do you like).

 

Every dog has flaws/holes in their working ability. As a trainer/handler there are flaws that bug the hell out of us and we don't like to work on and there are flaws/holes we don't mind working on and are good at training and handling through. many of these holes are due to genetics and will be there forever; schooling will be required periodically to remind the dog the proper way to work.

 

There are different working styles and some styles we like and some we do not: for example strong eye, loose eye, wide running, etc.

 

These things run in lines; choose the sire that is more likely to give you the pup you want.

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^^ What Mark said. I know what lines I like and what working characteristics I like. Size and conformation (from the standpoint of the bench show conformation mindset) are of little importance to me. Health and temperament are important to me. But a healthy temperamentally sound dog who doesn't suit me WRT working style isn't a dog I'd want. But like Mark noted, there are things I am willing to work with and things I am not. For example, I want a dog who is naturally a good outrunner and has a good feel for sheep. I have no patience for putting an outrun on a dog, so any lines who are not natural outrunners (and by this I mean dogs who outrun and lift well--something I can evaluate easily as I set sheep at trials). I am willing to work to teach a dog to drive, if they are not natural driving dogs.

 

I had a conversation with an old timer once. I was trying to breed my bitch to his dog. He commented to me that since I was really more interested in the lines than the particular dog that if I wasn't successful with his dog, I should look at close relatives.

 

There is no simple answer to Dog A vs. Dog B. There are so many factors that can go into the decision to breed to one dog vs. another that it can't really be boiled down to this vs. that but rather these good traits, which come along with these not so great traits compared to those good traits, which come along with other not so great traits. And of course that's where the topic of complementing the bitch comes into question.

 

Your hypothetical average worker/great producer vs. great worker/unproven producer has no one correct answer because there are other factors that have to be entered into the equation, such as those mentioned here--which sire's traits best complement the bitch, which line's traits you prefer, and so on.

 

J.

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Whoops, both are trial dogs.

 

Bonnie

 

 

Jovi and others,

 

Excellent points. But lets say that both potential sires are similar in size, conformation, health and temperament. Both having equal complimentary characteristics to my bitch.

 

One is an average worker but has produced many outstanding trials dogs with different dams.

 

One is an outstanding trial dog but has a pedigree of unknown and unproven dogs and has never been bred.

 

I love how you mentioned probability. If only there were a software program for that? :~)

 

I guess it's our in our heads and our gut instinct.

 

Bonnie

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But lets say that both potential sires are similar in size, conformation, health and temperament. Both having equal complimentary characteristics to my bitch.

 

One is an average worker but has produced many outstanding trials dogs with different dams.

 

One is an outstanding trial dog but has a pedigree of unknown and unproven dogs and has never been bred.

 

 

The question I would have is about all the dogs working styles and traits, what enables them to be outstanding trial dogs, on that note when you say outstanding trial dogs or even just trial dog, at which venue are you talking, what type of livestock and what class, where was that work tested and to what degree. Did the dogs travel around the country or just trialed locally?

 

There are many qualities that can allow a dog to be considered more outstanding then another, it's all in the eye of the beholder. To base a breeding decision on pedigree and/or a record of trial performance can be very dangerous, very important to look at how the dog works, is the dog a good example of his parentage from a working standpoint, meaning does he/she possess the same traits and style that the line is known for, also did the dogs parents or grandparents?

 

Another thing I look at is what the vision was of the breeders before that dog. If they had no purpose for a working dog and just raised farm dogs, pets, sport dogs, conformation dogs, etc. then it is likely that they didn't put great care into selecting, actually making that pedigree less reliable as a tool as it would be if the breeder had really cherished the style of work that was represented by the names and accomplishments of the previous generations. So even if that male was exceptional he may actually not produce as strongly as he could have or produce as many high quality pups per litter as he could if his pedigree from start to finish had been stronger from the standpoint of who was selecting, what their purpose was and how much they understood.

 

And regardless of how well a dog performs, what type of style does it have and what are the dogs strengths and weaknesses, how much training did it take to overcome different weaknesses or to harness his strengths. There are some dogs that are very well accomplished in one trial venue or another, but they may have traits that a person really does not want more of so when selecting a mate one has to be extra aware of those traits to help reduce the frequency or the level of intensity of that trait manifesting in the dogs pups.

 

Then the final thing, how good is the bitch? If the bitch is not of equal or better quality to the stud dog you may find that you will produce pups more like her or even of lesser quality then she is from working quality standpoint. I see it all the time, people take a so-so bitch and breed it to what they consider a great stud dog, they end up with so-so or even lower quality pups then the bitch. There was no thought put into why that bitch was only so-so, and the stud could not overcome her short comings. Mind you, when I say so-so, these bitches do work, they can be very useful on the farm/ranch, even get around the trial field provided the owner put a lot of hard work into bringing them along.

 

There are some bitches that way out produce themselves, but if you look at their pedigrees you will likely find that there were great dogs real close up and the less then great bitch was a exception. Evaluate her entire litter and you may find that the great dog(s) she produced may also have been exceptions. Sometimes looking at the percentage of good/great dogs any dog has produced tells a different story too, some can produce a handful of good dogs in only a breeding or two, others need to breed many many bitches and produce many pups to get that same handful of good dogs. Many reasons, maybe took a while to find the right type of bitch or the dog only produces one or two good ones here and there regardless of who he is bred to.

 

Lots and lots to breeding, lots of risk, lots of luck, lots of things to consider and understand, most importantly what traits and how dogs use the traits we are selecting for so that they can be considered talented useful working dogs, which hinges on a understanding of the livestock and the work.

 

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Jovi and others,

 

Excellent points. But lets say that both potential sires are similar in size, conformation, health and temperament. Both having equal complimentary characteristics to my bitch.

 

One is an average worker but has produced many outstanding trials dogs with different dams.

 

One is an outstanding trial dog but has a pedigree of unknown and unproven dogs and has never been bred.

 

I love how you mentioned probability. If only there were a software program for that? :~)

 

I guess it's our in our heads and our gut instinct.

 

Bonnie

 

I'm not a breeder, but I teach genetics as a small section in my biological anthropology class. I think the key that some here might be circling is this....

 

First, you can't know the gene you're after with today's technology, you'd need some serious (read: federal) investment to even begin to look at the actual genes (probably several interacting sequences of genes) that have anything to do with the behavior you're interested in. So you can almost forget about the genotype. The phenotype is the only solid indication that the desired genotype is in the dog. And, since the desired phenotype might be the outcome of several possible sequences (different combinations leading to the same effect), you might have two perfect dogs with different gene sequences and the same phenotype.

 

Second, genotype can change from one generation to the next....in fact it has to (recombination)....and sometimes you get a new sequence in the new generation (f2) that has the result of suppressing the phenotype in the previous generation. It might not be gone, but it isn't coming out in the new generation. The subsequent generation (f3), however, might lack the suppressing element int he code and suddenly you get the phenotype again.

 

SO....Without knowing the genes though, and we don't, no one does, you can't be sure if the desired sequence is in that second gen (f2) dog. the third gen (f3), with the desired phenotype, might have it because 1) it was suppressed in f2 and not it f3, 2) the desired sequence came from the other parent, 3) breeding the f2 dog and its mate spontaneously generated a different sequence with the same phenotype as was seen in f1. This means, the only way you're sure you have a dog with the desired genotype, is that it exhibits the desired phenotype.

 

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First, you can't know the gene you're after with today's technology, you'd need some serious (read: federal) investment to even begin to look at the actual genes (probably several interacting sequences of genes) that have anything to do with the behavior you're interested in.

 

Federal dollars may not be needed to start looking for genes associated with certain behaviors that are part of herding instincts. We have the SNP data for 200+ dogs from another genome wide association study. We can collect the phenotypes of these dogs for anything and look at the SNP data for comosomal regions that are associated with these phenotypes, for example strong eye. The key will be developing the right characterization for the phenotypes of interest.

 

Mark Billadeau

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I'd be pretty amazed if that could be done with any reasonable measure of certainty....try to find the gene for long legs first and and then we can talk about the insane complexity of behavior. if I'm overly skeptical, please show me a source that demonstrates that the technology is there now. I'll use it for my class!

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This article (published in 2006) describes the roadmap for how it can be done. The author, Mark Neff, collected the SNP data for 200+ working Border Collies.

A Fetching Model Organism

 

Here is an overview article on this subject.

Canine Behavioral Genetics: Pointing Out the Phenotypes and Herding up the Genes

 

 

 

 

For more articles of genes asscoated with behaviors I give you the google.scholar search on:

+Gene +Behavior +SNP

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But the dog could be a less than average worker but genetically CARRY the attributes and pass them on to his get.

 

A good example in horses in Secretariat.........maybe the best running horse in history but not able to produce himself or anything close.

 

Likewise there are examples of horses that were average winners but TOP producers of top winning race horses.

 

So I guess their phenotype does not really express their genotype. The only way you can do that is through breeding and observing their produce?

 

Bonnie

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Mark:

the environment) being good solid worker with balance and confidence to give power ALL the pedigree information is irrelevant. If the dog is NOT a good worker, without the genetic attributes which make a very good worker, who cares about the pedigree (unless to avoid those lines)?

 

Now if a dog is a good worker and you are NOT interested in breeding, then pedigree information is moot.

 

Pedigree information is of great value in the breeding animal. Not simply as a record of the animal's lineage, but it can give help to give valuable information on how that animal may produce. In the case of Border Collies, what type of workers they may produce.

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Excellent point and great food for thought.

 

One dog I'm looking at has an untested (no trialing farm dog) pedigree but is a fantastic working dog and love his style.

 

The other is an average worker but has produced top winning trial dogs. But I personally prefer the way the working style of the other dog.

 

I guess this is how you see distinct working styles in some lines of dogs.

 

Bonnie

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Ask yourself, what style of working dog do you want (do you like).

 

Every dog has flaws/holes in their working ability. As a trainer/handler there are flaws that bug the hell out of us and we don't like to work on and there are flaws/holes we don't mind working on and are good at training and handling through. many of these holes are due to genetics and will be there forever; schooling will be required periodically to remind the dog the proper way to work.

 

There are different working styles and some styles we like and some we do not: for example strong eye, loose eye, wide running, etc.

 

These things run in lines; choose the sire that is more likely to give you the pup you want.

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Of course we can't truly know genotype, but the results of previous matings can give you some clues as to genotype based on the phenotypes that the dog produces (see windrunhr's comments).

 

When choosing a stud, I like to know that the dog has produced quality pups. That is key. The best dog in the world might not reproduce well.

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