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A recent thread got me thinking, and I realize many do not know how to 'read' a pedigree. For me, the pedigree is an important source of information many times.

 

If I know a line of dogs, I have a pretty good idea how they work. Additionally, many handlers like a certain type of worker and if I see their name I may either know something about the type of dog or I can find info about how the dog works(ed).

 

IMO pedigree is a wealth of information about a dog. I see many who only 'look' at a pedigree with regards to common ancestors, but do not 'know' the pedigree.

 

How do you use a pedigree?

 

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Since I am a former sports person, now pet person, the main thing I glean from pedigrees is if the dog looks truly working bred or if it is sports, conformation, backyard or puppy mill bred. Which is important, but nowhere near the wealth of knowledge you find.

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For me it is the same although admittedly much more with the horses. Specifically the reiners of course. Not just the bloodlines. But who, when, how and more.

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I like to watch the dog, or parents of the pup working in a variety of situations and on different stock. Then I look at pedigree. And also ask people who know more than me.

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Dear Doggers,

If you've seen - or maybe heard detailed reports of - the dogs in a pedigree it can help you "read" a pup or your dog's working peculiarities. I remember the first time Viv Billingham came over and at her clinic, before a dog started to work she'd say, "A little hard is he?" Or, "She'll be a widerunner" - because Viv knew the dog's immediate forebearers and was holding the brief pedigree Miss Ethel provided.

 

Unless you have sophisticated knowledge of a dog's ancestors - back, at least to the grandparents - a pedigree is completely useless and if you do have that knowledge it is minimally useful.

 

Dog pedigrees have always had more to do with human vanity "This dog isn't a biscuit eater, he's the won of National champions going back to Old Hemp!" than usefulness. That's why they are not required at open trials.

 

Donald McCaig

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If you think that Donald you do not "KNOW" pedigrees. I've always used them to understand more about the dogs I've had/worked with. But alas most people use it the way you speak of.

 

There can be a wealth of information from a lineage, IF you know the dogs or have (most importantly) information on how they worked, their health/temperament/structure etc. If you know this you can often forego certain problems in training or in general if you are training the dog yourself.

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Well, to silly old me, a pedigree is nothing but a written record (thank god as my brain would not be able to keep everything in the right order ;) especially when in the BC every second dog is named Don, Nell, etc.) of who is who.

Reading as in stringing letters together is easy. Putting personal knowledge and connections in, is another. ;)

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When I find a planned breeding I think I might want a pup out of I ask for the pedigrees. Then I look to see what health testing was done in the past 4 generations. I also check cousins, aunts, uncles, and siblings of dogs in the pedigree. Usually I find a trend of a few health issues that are "randomly" showing up repeatedly. Sometimes the pedigree indicates that my pup will probably be a carrier of those issues. So, now I know a bit more than I did before. Sometimes I may decide that I don't want to take a risk on that pup. Throughout the pup's life I will add health checks of relatives to my pup's file and continue building knowledge of what my dog may carry or be affected by. But, weird things can show up that may or may not be genetic and not everyone will tell you there is a health issue. So, researching a pedigree is never as useful as it could be in a perfect world. I'm sure that many breeders do something similar so they can make sure that they don't breed potential carriers of a condition to one another.

And, I must admit that I do also check to see what potential colors, coat types, and patterns that I would expect to see in the litter. Although I won't pick a litter based on color I do prefer reds and tri's to black/whites. Everyone has their own preference. ;)

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I just think they are cool, actually. Only one of my dogs has papers, but I have always enjoyed looking at it from time to time to see the names of his ancestors and where they were bred.

 

Maybe to some that would be meaningless, but to me it is a sort of connection to his past.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Ms Crawford wrote:"When I find a planned breeding I think I might want a pup out of I ask for the pedigrees. Then I look to see what health testing was done in the past 4 generations. I also check cousins, aunts, uncles, and siblings of dogs in the pedigree. Usually I find a trend of a few health issues that are "randomly" showing up repeatedly. Sometimes the pedigree indicates that my pup will probably be a carrier of those issues. . . ."

 

In my experience, the most promising sheepdog pups are spoken for often before the mating is determined. Perhaps in "herding" or rally, the potential puppy buyer has more time.

 

Donald McCaig

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Donald says that, "Perhaps in "herding" or rally, the potential puppy buyer has more time."

 

I'd like to think that Donald is not trying to purposefully belittle those that don't own a farm and sheep but it's pretty obvious that this is all the above post is about. Sadly, like most people I can only afford to feed a certain number of dogs and value my time quite highly. Therefore I find it takes me less time/money to do a small amount of research compared to the cost of feeding and paying the medical bills of a sickly dog. Yes, I am one of those weirdos that keeps each dog their entire life whether they work out or not.

And yes, I do find it quite useful to put down a deposit before I research. If I lose a deposit because the pup is not right then I have merely lost a little bit of money versus a lifetime of dealing with a problematic dog.

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I can't speak for Donald but I don't think that his point was belittling people who do not have stock or a farm in implying that they have much more time on their hands than a farmer/rancher. I think he was making the point that in "the most promising" breedings, the pups are normally spoken for well before the breeding is made, and that there is not necessarily the time to do such extensive research between finding out there is a breeding planned and having to make a decision to speak up for a pup. I think he's also saying that for someone looking for a pup for "hobby herding" or other non-working activities, a person might have more time to research things because pups might not be spoken for so far in advance.

 

I hope I'm not being confusing and I'm certainly not intending to belittle anyone.

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Dear Doggers,

Ms. Crawford thinks I may be belittling non-sheepdoggers when I say that "Perhaps in "herding" or rally, the potential puppy buyer has more time." Nope. If sheepdoggers hear about a desirable cross they must commit then, on the spot, or they won't get a pup. Possibilities exist for nanoseconds. Pay a deposit and back out? It isn't the money, it's your word. Unless you intend to be a giggle magnet you'd better have a better reason than "On further study I didn't like the great grandparents".

 

Like Ms. Crawford, I'll keep a dog for a lifetime and our present pack includes a hopeless sheepdog and a hapless one. Since a dog that doesn't suit my purposes may be ideal for someone else my practice is a moral quirk not a virtue.

 

 

The other day, however, I finally found a use for the pedigree when I was searching my dog files for an address. Every time I opened a pedigree for one of the grand dogs that rest on the hill, I grieved anew.

 

 

Donald McCaig

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And perhaps Crawford Dogs heard about the breeding before it took place and put in a reservation but wanted the information on the parents=even working people now want health testing. That is one way to know a pedigree, but IMO should take a backseat to the working abilities. If the dog is not up to par for working stock then it should not be bred pure and simple, no matter what the results of any health tests are. That is not to say these tests are not of value for a breeder and should not be done regardless of how great a potential cross may be. There are far too many health problems which affect working ability creeping into our genepool and people using the excuse "but he/she is a good worker" with no concern over the possibility of health concerns for puppy buyers

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Frequently, reserving a pup from a litter goes something like this......

 

"When you breed that dog I'd like a pup."

 

This occurs before a litter is even planned.

 

 

Many times when working dogs (started or pups) become available if you hesitate you loose.

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I think what Donald is forgetting is the advantage that people have who are immersed in the working/trial world. We know people's dogs and often know their pedigrees (we ask out of curiosity when we see a dog we like). It's not that we don't do our research, but that we have been doing it gradually over many years.

 

That was the case with a dog I purchased a few years ago. I knew the bloodlines going back many generations for both the sire and dam, so when I heard about the breeding and saw the pedigree I committed to a pup that same day. That's what knowing a pedigree means to me.

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Liz - What you said is what I was thinking but was not able to put into words.

 

Now, that said (and agreed on) you bring up the very good point that there are many people like myself who are not familiar with pedigrees, lines, etc. In my case, were I to be looking for another pup or a started or trained dog, I would rely on two things - familiarity with the particular dogs that interest me (in other words, dogs that I have seen at work and/or trialing) to the point that I would speak to their handlers. And, trust in certain trainers/handlers/breeders to the extent that I would feel comfortable asking them their opinion or recommendation.

 

People "in the know" stand in a place of information that many others don't. People "on the fringe" (that's where I'd put myself) do have people they can go to when they have questions. People who are new to this will be fortunate if they have resource people to go to, and many will have to make connections (that's one reason I recommend volunteering at trials, both to see dogs and handlers but also to make connections) so that they can develop resources for information and opinion.

 

It's not easy when you are not involved already to some degree or another.

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If pedigrees were accurate predictors, littermates would be equally talented.

 

Surely breeding to a standard (work in this case) raises the odds a little?

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Surely breeding to a standard (work in this case) raises the odds a little?

 

When it comes to equally talented littermates, not really. Spent a lot of time chatting with a very successful handler/trainer/breeder about selling a good one when you have the parents figuring you could just breed another. He warned that when you produce a good/great one or know where it came from to not get hung up on trying to breed for the good/great one again, there may never be another produced by those same parents. Basically a lot of time can be lost breeding for something that will never happen again.

 

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Knowledge of pedigrees can be used to predict what genes pups could carry; knowledge of pedigrees can not predict what genes will be expressed in each pup. Once expressed, knowledge of pedigrees could provide insites on how to manage the expressed genes.

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I don't think there's any disagreement with the statement of breeding for good work as the "standard". That's what good breeding is all about and consistency through generations contributes to that, all within the realm of natural variations.

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If pedigrees were useless, you would be just as likely to get a good stock dog from a litter of Labs. They do provide insight, they just aren't perfect.

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It all has to be used together, looking at the individual dog, seeing as many dogs that came before that dog and after, look at the pedigree and factor the information you see there into the equation. The pedigree can help fill in blanks if there is a group of dogs that you have not seen in person, maybe you know people owned dogs on that pedigree, know what they valued, what did they select for. Are there consistencies in the male and female you are looking at with what you know the breeders 2 generations before were looking for, what are the chances that the parents will produce with the same consistency.

Ultimately it all still comes down to work and the different styles. As we get more and more familiar with different lines and individual well known dogs we are beginning to see where dogs that get our attention based on working style and ability end up being decedents of the same lines. To the point of really liking two dogs from opposite ends of the country, to find out later that one is the uncle of the other once the pedigrees are examined. Recently we really liked a bitch close to us to find out that unknown to us she was a full sister to a male we like from the west coast, would never have thought that the two were related since they ended up with their current owners via totally different channels.

When you find yourself, without knowing, selecting individuals that are that closely related that pedigree becomes very valuable, without it you could concentrate undesirable traits that currently are suppressed in a carrier or recessive state that you would have absolutely no idea where in the lines of those dogs, or inbreeding so tight, we could have easily brought semen in from a full brother if it was not for being able to see the pedigree. You would think that you would be safe bringing pups in from different parts of the country and using them for outcrosses. But your not, because often times when you are selecting based on ability and working style alone you end up picking distant relatives of the same family lines.



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