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Breeding Question - different aspect.


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Okay, here's a different twist on things. My now retired Moss is rated an OFA good. In fact, at 12 1/2 years of age he's completely sound and doesn't even have the slightest touch of arthritis anywhere. When I trialed him, he always had this slow, weird loping gait on his outrun. He didn't look smooth at all to me, kind of reminded me of a rocking horse. Also, he has quite a large chest compared to his back end. I'm just not sure visually speaking, he would be the picture of perfection in terms of structure.

Renee

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With respect to structure "experts" I would have to seriously consider what credentials that expert has before accepting any pronouncements made by him/her. For example if Dr. Robert Gillette, who is the director of the Sports Medicine Program at the vet school at Auburn U., looked at my dog and announced it to be a structural mess and likely to break down at a young age, then I would probably heed him and maybe even change what I did with that dog. If Regina Schwabe looked at my dog and shook her head sadly, I would accept that my dog's problems were likely the result of its structure. BUT, even so, I think both of the people I have mentioned here would then be able to advise me on how to best use my dog within the limitations they see, or even how to minimize the effects of those limitations to use the dog to its fullest potential. They might even be able to make an educated guess about whether that structure is heritable (since this is a breeding discussion...) to the point that the dog is unbreedable.

 

I hate to bring up another horse example, but let's look at the racing industry. Lots of money involved in choosing a youngster that is going to be a winner, and those choices are made largely on structure/movement (once the foal is on the ground anyway). But then you hear about the odd little horse like Seabiscuit, poorly built but still a winner, even over his better-made contemporaries. A rhetorical question: Was Seabiscuit truly an anamoly or is it just that most horses built that way are discarded because of their build, when in fact they might actually be great runners? And the flip side to that coin is that even with great structure being selected for racehorse break down, quite a lot. Do people go back and look at those horses and say, "Well, now in retrospect, maybe her front legs were a little too light in the bone" or "You know, now that I think about it, perhaps his hocks are a bit sickled..."?

 

What I think it all boils down to is that people are looking for magic bullets when it comes to competing and winning (no matter what the venue). And they are willing to buy advice from people who will tell them if their dog adds up in the structure department (the most extreme example being the conformation shows). But I still think that if an animal has been bred for generations to do a job and in general most of the dogs from that population (at least before the increase in popularity led to indiscriminate breeding) are capable of doing that job, then the dog ain't broke and don't need fixin'.

 

I wish I had some good working pics of Kat. I was watching both her and Twist yesterday. Kat is a bit high in the rear (dear doG, are her back legs too long?!?!?) and appears pigeon-toed in front. I guess structure aficianados would discount her with one glance, but as Eileen said about one of her dogs, Kat is a damn good worker and is quite sound to boot! And I don't look at her and worry about how she'll fare out there in the pasture, the pens, or on the trial field considering how she's built--I simply use her for what she was meant to do, and gee, despite her funny structure, she does what she's meant to do quite well, and she's faster than a speeding bullet!

 

So, while I won't outright pooh pooh biomechanical experts, I also wouldn't take them as the ONLY source of input as to whether a dog is a keeper for the job at hand. There's a reason the cliche states: "the proof of the pudding is in the tasting" rather than "...is in how the pudding looks."

 

J.

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Oh, and since Rachel asked about temperament, I think that it's a classic nature vs. nurture thing, as in how do you know which has a greater influence? I have a sample of only one, Twist, because she is the only dog I've raised from puppyhood, and I know both her sire and dam (and one littermate) well. Interestingly, a lot of personality traits that Twist has are extremely reminiscent of her dam. If I visit Twist's breeder and Twist's mother is in the house, I see a lot of behaviors, expressions, etc., that are just like Twist. But Twist's littermate brother has quite a different personality. In the sweetness factor, he is a lot like his sire. But he has earned the label of "Eddie Haskell" dog because behind that sweet exterior hides an evil critter.... Anyway, some of his character traits don't seem to be attributable to *either* parent.

 

This is a very small sample, of course, but I think some traits do carry through from parent to offspring, but I also believe that the environment in which a dog is raised plays a pretty big role too. The advantage to knowing the parents is you can perhaps expect some temperament similarities and then if there's something undesirable in the parent (nature), you can work to mitigate it in the offspring through the way you raise and train (nurture).

 

But as I said, my experience is limited in this area. I think you can take temperament into account when breeding, but like many things, there's no guarantee you'll get what you expect, even with the most careful consideration.

 

J.

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Julie, I agree with you and I still believe that there is a fairly wide range of structure possibilites that work but there are some that just don't too which is why we don't see BCs as a breed moving like poodles of any variety but since BCs are bred for function, outside of ruling out disease (as you stated earlier) I don't think structure and its science needs much more thought. If it was deemed by some expert that your dog had wierd structural problem (Say was built like a GSD or a hyena sp?), but your dog was great otherwise and she was the only means you had to get the dogs you need to work your farm they could probably tell you how to breed that out. (boy what a "if grasshoppers had machine guns?" scenario :rolleyes: )

 

Or with some good common sense about what doesn't work in your dog and what works better in others, given that the others are just as keen to work as your dog, you could choose the sire of the your litter on your own.

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I have several examples of littermates growing up in different homes and turning out very differently, even though they showed the same tendencies. For example, Dog A would react a certain way when trained poorly ... Owner of Dog B, whose dog was very similar in temperment/attitude/work ethic/etc.., had no such problems until she did an experiment in poor training. Dog B then started reacting/behaving poorly just like Dog A (ever so briefly, as the experiment was ended quickly!).

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OK - another "poor comparison" to Thoroughbred racehorses, a breed that has been bred specifically for "performance" from day one. Look at Secretariat (and I did see him upclose and personal in 1980 while he was at stud in KY). To me, and many others he epitomized Thoroughbred structure, heart and ability - and he attained the highest achievements of any TB in history. Think how many hundreds of mares (of all types, abilities and structures) were bred to him over the years. Did he ever reproduce himself? Nope. Had some decent babies, but never anything as good as himself. Which leads me to think that "breeding the best to the best and hoping for the best" ain't such a bad way to go, but it also is certainly not a guarantee.

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Did a little reading, apparently the enlarged heart that Secretariat possessed is actually inherited. It's because of Secretariat that more research was done on this "large heart" gene. An interesting fact is that the dam passes on the large heart gene, not the sire, which explains why Secretariat's progeny were never as good as he was.

 

Just until recently it was thought that the sire was the one responsible for his offspring's success. The racing industry has judged a sire by his male offspring for hundreds of years. Great Thoroughbreds were thought to be busts because their sons never produced winners. But the large heart is passed to the foals by the dam. The TB Weekend Surprise is the daughter of Secretariat. Weekend Surprises' dam was Lassie Dear. She produced all winners, including her daughter who produced Horse of the Year A.P.Indy and Summer Squall. The exception to this however was ManO'War, who was fortunate enough to be bred to a mare whos heart was actually larger than his own. The mare was Brushup and she produced War Admiral. Seattle Slew, Cigar, and Silver Charm all have that heart line.Therefore ManO'War was considered a great sire, although it was his dam that passed on the large heart gene.

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Originally posted by rtphokie:

I have several examples of littermates growing up in different homes and turning out very differently, even though they showed the same tendencies. For example, Dog A would react a certain way when trained poorly ... Owner of Dog B, whose dog was very similar in temperment/attitude/work ethic/etc.., had no such problems until she did an experiment in poor training. Dog B then started reacting/behaving poorly just like Dog A (ever so briefly, as the experiment was ended quickly!).

We have an example in our house of two littermates that grew up with each other and have different temperaments (outgoing vs. shy and scared). Renee noted a drastic difference at birth (still wet) towards being held.

 

Mark

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Laura,

Interesting about the large heart gene (another reason to mourn the loss of a great mare like Ruffian--it's a shame we will never know if *she* carried a large heart gene), because I think at times we tend to do the same thing with border collies. That is, we think long and hard about what stud to cross our bitch with, but I don't see a whole lot of discussion in the other direction (that is, the owners of sires being really concerned about which bitches their dogs are bred to). Or even owners of bitches really considering the dam's dam's line and the potential sire's dam's line....

 

I wonder if this is because the dam's owner is the one who actually deals with the results of a breeding (whether horse of dog)? A stud's owner may choose to breed his/her dog to a particular bitch for personal reasons (to get a pup) and so might then really consider which bitch, but in general, it's the dam's owner who chooses a sire and asks to breed to it.

 

J.

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I think a lot of times if the owner of a sire really wants a pup from a particular cross for his or her stud, the bitch will be bought into his or her kennel. I have this sense that it's declasse for a stud owner to approach a bitch owner unless they are very good friends or partners? I have no idea since I've never owned nor do I aspire at present to own a potential stud. :rolleyes:

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I think Julie's idea about the who does the "propositioning" is a valid one but I think there is an additional factor - the reproductive value represented by an individual mating.

 

A working brood bitch may whelp 3 or 4 litters in her lifetime (or fewer), so each mating represents a large percentage of her reproductive capacity. The stud has a much more limited investment in each mating because he can mate multiple females per season, year after year, potentially siring dozens of litters.

 

To return to the Thoroughbred horse model, a brood mare can produce a foal every 1 to 2 years for her reproductive life while a stud may cover 40 mares a year. Any single mating represents a much smaller percentage of the male's reproductive capacity than the female's.

 

Lisa

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We have an example in our house of two littermates that grew up with each other and have different temperaments (outgoing vs. shy and scared).
Same here. My goofy, gangly "hound" is the friendly one, which seems logical for some reason. (When she's at work, I think she looks gorgeous---that whole "stalking cheetah" thing, speaking of cheetahs.) Where temperament is concerned, I've always read that there can be greater variation between littermates than one might expect between dogs of different breeds.

 

016.jpg

 

Years ago I went with a friend to a Chris Zink sport dog seminar, and the first slide Dr. Zink showed us was a photo of a wolf. Slightly cow-hocked, maybe an inch of space between its forelegs, toed-out... and able to trot for hours, cover a hundred miles a day, and bring down an elk. Here's a photo of the wolf's wily (and indestructible) little cousin:

 

WWcoyote1.JPG

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Yes, but the whole concept of "broodmare sire" is problematic because it's highly dependent on the quality of the mares available to a stud -- a stud who gets excellent mares is more likely to become a "good broodmare sire" whether or not he is actually higher quality as a stud than another stallion whose track record may not have been as sterling and therefore does not get booked by owners of very excellent mares.

 

For endlessly fascinating reading about Thoroughbred breeding, see this site:

 

http://www.reines-de-course.com

 

(Make sure you have several hours to kill -- I'm not kidding about endlessly fascinating.)

 

A page about Ruffian:

 

http://www.reines-de-course.com/ruffian.htm

 

The author believes that Ruffian was a disaster waiting to happen, and after reading this, I'm convinced of the argument.

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I totally agree that the quality of a sire's offspring can be affected by the quality of the dam, but I think this is part of what was taken into consideration when determining Secretariat's overall value in contributing to the breed.

 

It is very specifically taken into consideration in Friesian horse breeding, for example. Friesian stallions must pass a performance test to be given a temporary (5-season) permit to breed. At the end of that time, his offspring are inspected, and the percentage of "star" (higher-quality) mares that the stallion has been bred to can actually impact whether the stallion is considered to have made a positive contribution to the breed. If he seems to show a positive contribution (the quality of the broodmares being a factor), he gains a lifetime breeding approval. If not, he is no longer allowed to breed.

 

Much like "breeding for work" is a concept hard for people to understand if they are coming from the AKC point of view, the concept of controlling or licensing a sire for breeding is difficult for most people to understand and accept, but IMO I think it is actually a very good policy. The process of passing the initial approval is very difficult; 440 stallions were presented at the first round last November, 83 passed that first round. Just TWO stallions were granted approval at the final test in March (some stallions will be tested this fall).

 

For those of you who understand Friesian breeding, I know I have simplified the process to an extreme, but further detail gets too far from the point I am hoping to make...and certainly from the topic...I'll try to stop talking about Friesians now...

 

I'm really looking forward to checking out the sites you posted, thanks!

 

Megan Q.

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The debate on how to use science is raging within the working dog community, and will probably rage for as long as people are breeding working dogs and as long as there is science to be used.

 

Terms like "irresponsible" and "loss to the breed" get thrown around. Friendships are strained, and in some cases, broken. Passions run deep.

 

Reading what Denise Wall has written here reminds me that even though we may disagree with on some tactical aspects of breeding we generally agree about the overall strategy. It's wonderful to read these words and make that realization.

 

Breeding working border collies is an art form. But science does enter the equation as well. Just a painter or potter uses a certain level of science to predict the outcome of the blending of certain paints or glazes, so does the breeder when deciding what pairings will do well. At the same time, that science is tempered by experience in both cases.

 

Unlike mixing pigments, breeding dogs is unpredictable. Even repeat breedings of the same pair can produce unexpected (good or bad) results.

 

How a dog is put together might be a very minor consideration, and some breeders might believe that a certain type of tail or head is linked to certain types of ability or talent.

 

The question is not whether a dog will herd, whether it is running in open, working long days on the farm or ranch, or riding in the pickup truck. The question is whether the dog, taken as a totality, is a good match for the bitch, taken as a totality.

 

Where those of us who care deeply about working Border collies get knotted up is over the question of where to draw lines. Should we ban breedings that could produce CEA, which is 100 percent heritable? How much consideration should we give to CHD, which is substantially less heritable? What's included in the gene pool; what's ruled out?

 

I'm coming to think that there may not ever be general agreement on those exact boundaries, but it seems that there is general agreement on the big picture. The problem is that the big picture includes a lot of the art, and doesn't lend itself readily to codification.

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Bill,

 

You make your point very nicely. I'm beginning to think that breeding, developing, and maintaining BCs as a breed is a bit like our still developing nation. It takes all kinds (liberals, conservatives, moderates), lending themselves to the big picture (our constitution) to make something truly great. If any one group had their way totally then the resulting product might not be the same great thing.

 

Since breeding BCs is more of an art then it's imperative that the artists pass their art down to apprentices or like many great arts, it may become lost. It's a large responsibility you individuals who breed carry. Consider: if only people of a certain frame of mind are passing on their art then the BC will inevitably change in 30 years and maybe not to your (collective you) liking.

 

Facinating discussion guys. I'm learning quite a bit here. Thanks.

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