“One of the most bandied about terms among … breeders today seems to be linebreeding. Despite it’s widespread use, however, linebreeding is frequently misunderstood and miscommunicated; in fact, it is not altogether uncommon for an outcrossed pedigree to be mistakenly viewed as linebreeding by the novice. The present discussion defines linebreeding and how we can more accurately define our linebred litters.”
From – “Let’s Talk Linebreeding” written by Claudia Waller Orlandi, Ph.D. published in ‘Tally Ho’ the Basset Club of America Newsletter (July-August ’97). The online article may be found by clicking here.
(While this article was written with the Basset Hound breeder in mind, one can change the name to Gordon Setter, or any breed for that matter, as the material is “one size fits all” when it comes to the topic of breeding.)
Linebreeding and Inbreeding: A Family Affair
Inbreeding and Linebreeding involve the mating of animals within the same family. Breeding relatives is used to cement traits, the goal being to make the offspring homozygous (pure) for desirable characteristics. Homozygous dogs tend to be prepotent and produce offspring that look like themselves (Walkowicz & Wilcox 1994)
Willis (1989) defines Inbreeding as the mating of animals “more closely related to one another than the average relationship within the breed.” Inbred pairings would include brother/sister (the closest form) father/daughter, mother/son, and half-brother/half-sister. Linebreeding involves breeding relatives other than the individual parents or brother and sisters. Typical linebred matings are grandfather/granddaughter, grandmother/grandson, grandson/granddaughter, great-grandmother/great-grandson, uncle/niece, aunt/nephew and cousin crosses. Linebreeding is a less intense form of inbreeding. Because of their focus on a dog’s potential genetic contribution, inbreeding and line breeding are termed genetic breeding systems.
Definition: For a dog to be linebred there must be an ancestor in the pedigree that is common to both the sire and the dam. Figure 2 illustrates this concept. Kelly is linebred because the dog, Brahms, appears twice in the sire’s side and once in the dam’s side of the pedigree.Common Misconception: A pedigree may show either the sire and/or the dam to be linebred but no ancestor common to both the sire and dam. This is outcrossing, not linebreeding (see figure 3). Similarly, because the same kennel prefixes (Windy, Hill, Castle) are common to both the sire’s and dam’s ancestors, the newcomer may mistakenly view the pedigree as linebreeding.Where to draw the “Line”?
Breeders do not always agree on what constitutes linebreeding, with some feeling that common ancestors within the first five or six generations is linebreeding. Willis (1989) indicates that the farther back linebreeding is in a pedigree the less intensive it will be, pointing out that a dog appearing 12 times (out of a possible 32) in the 6th generation of a pedigree would have a Coefficient of Inbreeding (CI) of only 1.8% (by comparison, a sire to a granddaughter cross has a CI of 12.5%). The CI tell us the proportion of genes for which the inbred ancestor is likely to be homozygous, that is carrying the same genes from each parent. (Remember that homozygous animals have a higher potential for reproducing themselves.) In Willis’s (1992) view, a common ancestor farther back than the 2nd or 3rd generation will have little influence on the litter. Linebreeding beyond the fourth generation has even less genetic impact.
How much bang will we get for our buck (or Basset!)
Several modern writers (Walkowitz & Wilcox 1994; Willis 1992, 1989; Onstott 1962) view linebreeding and inbreeding as essentially the same and differing only in degree of intensity. Whether one considers inbreeding and linebreeding to be the same or feels they are two distinct breeding systems, quantifying the degree to which an animal is linebred (or inbred) provides important information regarding its potential genetic contribution. As Willis (1989) states: “When describing inbreeding [or linebreeding] breeders often say their dog is inbred or linebred without further qualification. This is a very inadequate description. We need to know which dog the animal is inbred [linebred] to and the degree of inbreeding [linebreeding].” Put another way, how much “bang” will we get from our linebreeding?
Describing your Basset’s linebred pedigree: reading, writing and a little arithmetic!
Willis (1992) suggests that a concise yet meaningful way to express the extent of linebreeding (inbreeding) is to number the generations of the animal in question. The common ancestor(s) is assigned the generation number as he/she appears in the pedigree. The parents are the first generation (1), the grandparents are the second (2), great grandparents are the third (3), great-great-grandparents are the fourth (4) and so on.
As previously stated, Kelly’s pedigree (Figure 2) is an example of linebreeding, with Brahms appearing on both the sire’s and dam’s side. On the sire’s side Brahms appears twice in the third generation (3). We can write this as 3.3. On the dam’s side, Brahms appears once in the second generation (2) and this is written simply as 2. Willis has suggested the following written and verbal formats for expressing the extent of line breeding in a pedigree:
We would write: “Kelly is linebred on Brahms 3.3/2”
We would say: “Kelly is linebred on Brahms three, three TO two.”
In the Written Format notice we separate the sire’s and dam’s side of the pedigree by using a slash mark (think of a pencil making a slash mark); in the Verbal Format the word “TO” is used to separate the sire’s and dam’s side (think of talking “to” someone). This verbal and written format tells us the dog on which Kelly is linebred and the extent of the linebreeding. Smaller numbers indicate that a dog is more closely linebred; larger numbers of 4 and above (Willis 1989) indicate a lesser extent.
Linebreeding and pedigrees: a final caveat
Linebreeding and inbreeding are essentially the same, differing only in the degree of intensity. (In Willis’s view, the common ancestors beyond the 2nd and 3rd generations will not greatly influence the resulting litter.) We have described the ease with which an animal’s extent of linebreeding may be expressed by means of written and verbal models. Perhaps this format will be “adopted” by those Basset Hound breeders whose interest lies in linebreeding. In addition to facilitating the description of a linebred pedigree over the phone, it certainly provides important information regarding the potential outcome of a breeding. In this regard, two things bear repeating: (1) linebreeding (and inbreeding) are only as viable as a breeder’s knowledge of basic genetics (a topic which will be addressed in future columns) and (2) a linebred pedigree is only as valuable as a person’s ability to determine the virtues and faults of the dogs it contains. When we add the final ingredient of rigorous selection hopefully we are on the way to producing better Basset Hounds!
Onstott, K. 1980. The New Art of Breeding Better Dogs. Howell, New York.
Walkowicz, C. and Wilcox, B. 1994 Successful Dog Breeding. Howell, New York.
Will, M.B. 1968 A simple method for calculating Wright’s coefficient of inbreeding. Rev. Cubana Cienc.Agric. (Eng.Ed.) 2: 171-4
Willis, M.B. 1989 Genetics of the Dog. Howell, New York
Willis, M.B. 1992. Practical Genetics for Dog Breeders. Howell, New York
For more articles about breeding by Claudia follow the link below.
Thank you to Barbara Manson, WI for sharing this link with us.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Photography by Susan Roy Nelson
The Dog Lover takes a hard, inside look at the agenda of animal rights groups and will leave you questioning the tactics used to achieve their goals. Based on a true story, The Dog Lover tells the story of a young woman who goes undercover for an animal advocacy group to collect evidence against a breeder (played James Remar) the group believes is neglecting his dogs.
Many thinks to Jill Pauline for sharing this article with me, so I could in turn, share it with you. There are many pearls of wisdom for all breeders found in this piece written by Kathy Lorentzen, whether new at this game or at it for decades.
Thanks also to Ben Perez for sharing these photos from the 2016 GSCA National Specialty.
Photographs are included here for your viewing pleasure and are not intended to illustrate any material contained in this article.
I smiled as I read Kathy’s words regarding picking puppies, as what she said reminded me of Loree Ragano. I never saw Loree stack a puppy when we evaluated litters together. We always put them down to play, sometimes separating male from female, and occasionally then sorting them down to the 2 or 3 that we liked the most, but I don’t recall ever putting them on a table. Loree always told me she picked them on the ground and believed this to be the best way to do it.This article certainly brought that lesson back to mind as Kathy said “Don’t just put your puppies up on a table, shove them into a stack, look at them in the mirror and convince yourself that you have a keeper. Let others look at them and most importantly watch them on the ground. Have you heard the old adage, “Sell them on the table, pick them on the ground”? Do I believe picking puppies on the ground is sound advice – bet your bottom dollar! This is good advice that I still follow today.
So, on to Kathy’s article. I hope you enjoy!
That old saying, “My momma didn’t raise no fools,” doesn’t necessarily apply to all of us in the sport of purebred dogs. We all get foolish, full of ourselves and kennel-blind at one time or another in our careers as dog breeders. Regardless of someone’s early success as a breeder, I’ve long felt that you have to get at least 15 years down the road in a breeding program in order to have enough wisdom to look back and see just how many mistakes you have made and realize that you are going to make many more.
I had early success with my English Springer Spaniels. Goodness, my first dog, whelped in 1972, was a multiple BIS and Specialty BOB winner, and a top-producing sire. Boy, didn’t I start out with the world by the tail, and wasn’t I just so smart? As I learned later, not so much. I got extremely lucky with that first dog. He was a natural-born show dog, and I just held on to the end of his lead and let him do his thing. And great, he was an outstanding sire, but I didn’t have anything to do with that, either. He had the genes that clicked with a lot of differently bred bitches. Lucky me, again.
Getting a Wake-Up Call
When you start with a dog like that, time shows you that you probably have nowhere to go but down. I didn’t have a beginning breeding program at all. I had this dog, one of his full sisters and one of his half-sisters. I bred the sister to a top-producing dog in the breed, and though there was one champion in the litter, there were also a myriad of problems that I didn’t see coming. I didn’t see them because I didn’t know nearly enough about the genetics and the history of the pedigrees I was working with. I hadn’t been honest with myself about admitting that there was so much more I needed to learn before I started having litters. The problems that showed up (and fairly early) in that first litter were the beginning of my wake-up call. Oh and I got more wake-up calls, and shortly.
I very stupidly bred the half-sister to a dog on the opposite coast that I had never seen. But his ads were great, and his photos were quite lovely. His pedigree was mostly West Coast dogs that I had virtually no experience with. (I said I was starting to get a wake-up call, but I didn’t say I was totally awake yet.) Those puppies, though healthy and with good temperaments, were pretty poor quality. They didn’t look much like their mom, and they sure didn’t look like the photos of their sire! How could this be? Here’s how. About six months after that litter was born, my then-husband was in California on business and went to visit the sire of the litter. To say he was a bit taken aback by the actual dog might be an understatement. He really didn’t resemble his photographs at all. Serious dog-breeding lesson number one: Don’t breed to a photograph! Even back then, creative photography existed. This dog had been retouched and photographed at specific angles to make him look much different. When we put all this newly acquired knowledge together, it made perfect sense that the puppies looked as they did. Since that time, I have never bred to a dog that I or my breeding partner (my daughter) have not personally seen, touched and spent time with.
Yet over and over again I see people breeding to dogs that they have never seen in person. One dog in my breed a few years ago was used quite extensively and mostly by people who had not only never seen the dog but had never even seen a photo of him! After being finished by a handler, he went home to the kennel and was never seen again until he was of a fairly advanced age and taken to one Specialty as a Veteran. I actually saw a post on a public forum where someone who had bred to the dog was looking for a photo of him because she had never seen him; and shortly after another person chimed in that she had bred to the dog too and would love to see what he looked like. I almost fell off my chair.
Choosing a Good Stud Dog
Just because a dog has produced a few offspring that you find attractive does not automatically qualify that dog to be the right one for every bitch out there. And if you think it does, then you are not being honest with yourself about what you are doing. Do you really think that your bitch is so perfect that she can be bred to any dog to give you more just like her? Maybe you should step back and take a long look at your bitch. And be brutally honest with yourself about how she stacks up to the breed standard. Maybe you don’t want more just like her. It might be better if you admitted to yourself that there is room for improvement. If you are so blind to your bitch’s faults and failings (and they all have some!), then go to someone who has a long and successful background in the breed and ask for help and advice. In fact, seek out two or three long-time dog breeders, as each will have a different perspective.
People who truly love your breed want to see more good-quality, healthy dogs produced. They know how to think outside the box when breeding. If you run into someone who only wants to talk to you about their own stud dogs, move on. That person doesn’t want to help you do anything but line their own pockets. You do not have to let somebody else tell you what to do, but you should let someone else tell you what they see. They might know far more than you do about the pedigree that you are working with. They may be able to offer up suggestions about what you should be looking to strengthen in your bitch and where you might be able to find the dog or dogs that can do it. If you are just breeding to a dog because some other people bred to it, then you are wearing blinders and not being honest with yourself at all. And guess what, your dogs won’t get better. But you probably won’t realize it. You cannot live on a secluded island in your own mind and be a knowledgeable, successful dog breeder. It takes a village, and there are many people out there who want to help you be part of that community.
Letting Them Go
Back to that second litter of puppies of mine sired by the West Coast dog. Not a single one of those puppies ever hit the show ring. Not only was this a lesson learned about not breeding to an unknown dog, it was also a lesson learned in realizing and admitting that the entire litter needed to go to pet homes. This is a mistake that I’ve seen happen over and over again in our sport. People plan a breeding, have a litter and convince themselves that because the puppies exist, there must be some really good ones to keep and show and go on with. Just because you have a litter of puppies doesn’t mean that there will be one or more in the litter that will be useful to you in moving forward as a breeder. We all breed with the hope that there will be something good enough to keep. But we have to recognize if we are going backward instead of forward. It’s difficult to look at a litter that grew up under your feet and admit to yourself that there really isn’t one in there to move you further ahead.
Be honest with yourself about the quality of your puppies. And if you can’t be, have a puppy party and invite those same breeders that you talked with before when searching for a stud dog. Invite them to look at and watch your puppies and discuss them with you. Get the right people together and you will have a wonderful learning experience. Don’t just put your puppies up on a table, shove them into a stack, look at them in the mirror and convince yourself that you have a keeper. Let others look at them and most importantly watch them on the ground. Have you heard the old adage, “Sell them on the table, pick them on the ground”? Well, it is so true. You can make almost any puppy look good enough on the table to “sell” it. But the honesty in the situation comes when you put that puppy on the ground and stand back and just watch it. Can it carry a correct profile? Does it move freely and easily at a trot with coordination and balance? Does it maintain its proportion on the ground? Eight-week-old puppies should stand and move correctly for their breed. If they don’t at 8 weeks, please don’t try to convince yourself that they will “grow into it.” You will be in for a disappointment.
“If you are dragging a dog to show after show with poor results, take a step back. Perhaps the dog just isn’t good enough. In that case, let it go to a loving pet home.”
I am fortunate because I have a breeding partner who happens to be my daughter. I was raised in the sport by wonderful mentors who taught me to be realistic about my dogs above all. I raised my daughter the same way. We are so lucky that we can bounce ideas off one another, discuss plans, look at puppies, make choices and most importantly disagree with one another! We spend hours and hours driving to dog shows discussing our dogs, where we are in our program, what we need to improve and how to go about getting it. We have a very similar eye but some differing priorities, which makes for lively conversation and more learning for both of us.
Realize that even a promising puppy can go wrong at some point during its growth and may not make the grade. Even the best, most well-made puppies can disappoint. Of course, you have to differentiate between a growth spurt and a puppy really losing its early promise. Know the difference and know when to place that dog. Don’t get so invested in it that you convince yourself that it is a great one! I see this again and again too. Bred it, kept it, grew it up, and it has to be a champion even if it goes to 50 dog shows to finish that title. Oh, gosh yes, then by all means breed it because it’s a champion! Any well-trained dog that is in good condition and properly shown that takes more than about 15 to 20 shows to finish is probably not a very good one.
If you are dragging a dog to show after show with poor results, take a step back. Perhaps the dog just isn’t good enough. In that case, let it go to a loving pet home. Try again and keep trying, and keep learning until you have gained the knowledge that will allow you to have confidence in your breeding program and the ability to discuss in breed-specific terms what you are doing and why you are doing it. Recognize that just because a dog has a champion title and its health clearances, it is not necessarily a good breeding prospect. If it took 30 shows to finish a dog in a breed where it only takes six to make a major, and your dog had a very hard time winning those majors, maybe you should step back and honestly assess the quality of the animal that you are considering breeding. Do you want another one that will take so many shows to finish? If not, if you really want to improve the quality of the dogs that you will go forward with, it might be wisest to place that dog with the hard-earned champion title in a pet home and go in a different direction. Disappointing? Yes, but it is absolutely the best thing you could do for yourself and the future of the breed.
We all know that dog breeding is fraught with heartache and setbacks. The only real road to success is the one where you force yourself to be honest about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Make those difficult decisions as a breeder who truly has the best interests of the breed at heart, not as an owner who loves a dog too much to let it go to a wonderful home. Or keep it and love it but don’t breed it. Long, long ago I told my husband something that he has never forgotten. “It’s just as easy to love the great ones as it is to love the mediocre ones.” What I meant was, love them all, but be aware that many dogs will move through our household and few will stay their entire lives. Enjoy them while they are here, but be willing to let them go to make room for progress and improvement. We have lived by that rule for 36 years, and it has served our breeding program very well.
Food for thought is always a good thing, at least in my world, it keeps my mind open to new ideas. As I’ve aged I’ve found it’s ever more important not to get stuck in my ways and thinking about what other people have to say on a topic keeps me out of ruts. So when I read the article I’m sharing with you today about health testing, I found myself thinking. Now, a word of warning, some of my close friends would tell you, “Sally’s thinking takes some rather weird detours now and again, so when she says “I was thinking” you might wanna run for cover!”
We all talk about being a responsible breeder, and of course, we consider a part of that responsibility to be health testing of the parents. Now mind you, I’m getting to that place where I’m almost old as dirt, so I’m one of those breeders who started in the game long before the majority of the health tests of today were available. While I’m all for health testing to gain knowledge of what is in the genes I’m about to mix together, I’m also one of those breeders who will tell you to use a good ole dose of common sense when breeding. While I’d never throw health testing to the side, I am also realizing that as the population of Gordon Setters declines, so follows our number of breeding options. This is a big conundrum we face folks, and it will take dedication, smart decisions and some good old common sense to preserve the best of our breed.
Sally Gift, AZ Photograph by Susan Roy Nelson, WY
With that said, I don’t know as I agree with everything in this article, but I do know it will give you some food for thought so I’m sharing, for your reading and thinking pleasure. If you’d like to share your thoughts after reading this feel free to use the comment section!
AUTHOR: A dedicated hobby breeder in a terminally rare breed, Amanda Kelly perpetually finds herself on the edge of everything from ecstasy to bankruptcy, quitting and insanity.
I had a really interesting conversation with a geneticist the other day that got me thinking: science is offering us more and more great ways to evaluate the health of our dogs…but when does enough turn into too much? When do we cross the threshold from helpful information to complete paralysis? Or outright bankruptcy? How do we avoid both?
The test we were discussing is quite a new one in my breed (Toy Manchester Terriers). It is for a condition called Xanthinuria that causes dogs to form a very rare form of kidney stone. There have only been three clinically affected dogs that I am aware of (full disclosure: we bred one). After encountering the issue, a fellow breeder did a little digging and discovered that a marker associated with the condition in humans worked for our breed as well. Kudos to her for being proactive and finding out more! The American and Canadian breed clubs helped proof the test and voila, it is now available commercially at quite a reasonable cost.
When I looked at dogs in my own breeding program that came up as carriers however, I was surprised as I would have expected more of our puppies to have or be forming stones than was the case. So, what does that say about the disease? Do all affected puppies form stones? If not, what is the rate? I found the answers to those Qs simultaneously helpful and troubling.
Apparently, current thinking is that approximately 50% of males with two copies of the mutation form stones or have associated kidney issues, while very few females with the same status have a problem (likely because they do a better job of emptying their bladders). Now, these are just rough estimates because the disease as a whole is rare and hasn’t been extensively studied, but it does raise an important question: what are we as breeders to do with this information and associated results of the genetic test?
The simple fact is that the more tests we have, the more pieces of info we have to try and reconcile when planning a breeding. At present, Toy Manchester breeders as a group are variously clearing things like hips, patellas, eyes, thyroid, and hearts plus DNA testing for von Willebrand’s Disease, and, now, potentially xanthinuria. That’s 7 tests, some with questionable value based on anecdotal and surveillance evidence, if we’re being honest. We’re also actively working to identify a test for juvenile cardiomyopathy.
The end result of all of that testing is a ton of information, which is great from the perspective of evaluating the health of individual dogs but also creates a number of very real problems for breeders in areas like liability, reputation and cost.
In the past, these factors were certainly in play but their effects were somewhat muted. Breeders worked for years to learn about their breed and their lines so they could make informed decisions and minimize the risk of producing issues. Health tests initially concentrated on measuring phenotype as an indicator and we worked with what we had. The important thing was that we could confidently tell puppy buyers we had done everything possible to produce healthy, happy puppies and if a problem appeared we were solid in the knowledge we had used all available tools to their best advantage.
Enter the genetic test. In my breed, the first one was for von Willebrand’s Disease (a blood clotting disorder). For years this disease was monitored by assay testing that measured the actual amount of the specific type of clotting factor in the blood and projected genetic status based on corresponding ranges. It was a pain to do but everyone muddled through as it was one of the few standard health tests most breeders did in the 1980s and 90s. When the genetic marker was identified, some breeders lost their ever loving minds. Dozens of valuable dogs were promptly spayed and neutered while breeders across North America began making pronunciations about “never” breeding a carrier even to a clear.
There’s no question, needless damage was done to the gene pool — especially when you consider there had never been a documented case of a Manchester actually bleeding out because it was vWD affected (at least not one I am aware of). Eventually breeders learned how to work with the DNA results and things calmed down. Our new test allowed us to easily avoid producing “affected” puppies (i.e., a dog with two copies of the gene, not necessarily clinically affected) and, regardless of the actual effects of the condition itself, doing so quickly became “right” and “just”. It was an approach we ourselves endorsed and followed because, after all, “responsible breeders” test.
And thus, the line in the sand was drawn. It’s a line we in the dog community drew ourselves and it’s one most of us dare not cross.
The scientific advancements that brought us more genetic tests took place against an active backdrop that included the rise of animal rights, increasing anthropomorphization of pets, emergence of puppy lemon laws, and the advent of social media. Now, it may seem odd to bring those factors into a discussion of genetic testing, but they each play a very important role in describing the environment within which we are working. An environment that values reputation above all else and that pits breeding decisions against financial liability in a way many breeders don’t consider.
Any breeder with two licks of sense knows that when it comes to breeding dogs, the most important possession you have — more important than any ribbon you may ever win — is your reputation. Your reputation affects everything you do, from access to stud dogs and puppies to demand for same. In a subjective sport like ours, it can even affect your ability to succeed in the show ring.
Protecting, fostering and growing a reputation can become all-consuming. Let’s cut to the chase here: We’re operating in an environment that can make a competition out of anything — which is why sometimes reputation management, and by extension health testing, becomes as much about one upmanship and moral superiority as it is the well-being of the dogs in question. That probably explains why many of the tests done in my breed are done by rote…because they are available, not because we have objectively identified a need for them. Not because we have established that rates of thyroid problems or eye issues, for example, are any higher in our breed than in the general dog population. No, we do them because we can and because we feel (tell one another?) that we should. And why is that? It’s because we have established as fact within our community that good breeders test and bad breeders don’t. So, we all work extra hard to make sure our conduct is above reproach.
That core belief is just as strong outside of the dog community, where we have worked hard to battle animal rights messaging by establishing health testing as a key feature differentiating responsible breeders from backyard breeders. And it’s a great message — easy to understand and easy for the public to actively measure when they are talking to breeders. The trouble is, that message comes pre-loaded with expectations we can never live up to. Expectations that if you buy from a good breeder your dog will never ever have health issues. That health tested parents won’t produce problems. That responsible breeders can be God.
And therein lies the problem. The more health testing we do, the bigger the gap grows between public expectations and the reality of what we can deliver…and with it, our financial liability. Because hey, don’t forget, in addition to health testing, responsible breeders also guarantee their puppies. Whether through provision of a replacement puppy or return of purchase funds, those guarantees do carry financial risk and can’t be dismissed at the best of times and even less so as puppy lemon laws increasingly make puppy health a legal matter. So, tell me…how do you think small claims court would view a breeder that knowingly produces a problem? Or one that unknowingly produces one because they failed to use the tests available? It’s a perfect catch 22 in the making.
It’s a simple axiom that the more health testing available, the less we talk about what we’re trying to avoid producing and the more we talk about what we are willing to risk producing. There isn’t a perfect dog out there and every biological organism possesses deleterious genes for something, regardless of whether we can test for it or not. The more tests available, the more complicated planning breedings becomes because we all naturally want to avoid the chances of producing any problem at all. But is that a realistic goal?
What did I say we were up to in my breed – seven tests? Eight? Heck, even I lose track sometimes. And all of these tests in an era when the number of puppies being produced continues to drop at an alarming rate. Under 200 Toy and Standard Manchester Terriers “combined” were produced in North America last year, so I’m sure you can image how difficult it might be to match test results for potential breedings (particularly if we’re testing for everything under the sun). Or what the costs of doing those breedings might be as we look further and further afield, let alone the relative cost of doing the health screening to begin with in a breed with relatively small litter sizes and low purchase prices. The financials would rock your world and have you questioning my sanity, so we won’t go there other than to say red is a better quality in a new coat than a ledger (but I digress…).
I asked a few researchers and vets what they felt breeders should do with test results when there are many to consider. The consistent response was that we need to prioritize — and that’s a completely reasonable thing for a scientist to say…and a very difficult thing for a devoted dog breeder to actually do.
Never mind the costs, appearance or liability — I genuinely don’t want to be responsible through conscious decision for producing a sick puppy. It is one thing to employ testing, tools and techniques to theoretically reduce disease and quite another to look at a plethora of results and say “This one I can live with.”
And what happens once the die is cast? If we use Xanthinuria as an example, I could choose to breed two carriers together and test all of the puppies…but then what? Sure, knowing a puppy has two copies of the gene and is at higher risk of forming stones will be helpful to an owner who could keep the dog on a low purine diet and perhaps avoid issues altogether…but could I sell a puppy like that? For how much? Would anyone take it if I was giving it away? What level of financial responsibility do I hold if it does develop an issue two, five or 10 years down the road? What if there are multiple puppies with two copies of the gene in the litter?
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the ethical dilemma of the future. Perhaps we in smaller, rarer breeds are dealing with it sooner, but it is a dilemma I truly believe every breed and breeder will face at some point. It has the potential to be absolutely paralyzing as we seek to do the right thing in a world where that is increasingly less black and white than it seemed a few short years ago.
I don’t know exactly how we can or should approach it — perhaps I’m hoping you’ll be able to tell me. I suspect that monitoring of actual breed health through health surveys and breeders sharing information on what they are seeing will be increasingly important if we wish to prioritize according to real information. And I do know that one of the things we absolutely must do is change how we discuss health testing. The way we talk about each other (oh Lordy, put a star next to that one!) and to each other as well as how we portray ourselves to the public. Just as important, we have to think about health tests and results holistically in the context of our breed and gene pool. In our rush to erase problems through testing, we are shown again and again that the devil we don’t know is often worse than the devil we can test for.
What To Do?
This article isn’t intended to form the cornerstone of a campaign against health testing. Far from it. I truly believe we need to use the tools available to us, particularly if they are able to help us avoid devastating issues facing our dogs and puppies. In fact, I and others in my breed have worked hard for more than a decade to see a genetic test developed for juvenile cardiomyopathy because it is a brutal, deadly disease and I want all of us to have a tool that will allow us to make informed choices and stop guessing at how to avoid it.
But I’m also a realist. Health management is a tough nut to crack even for trained geneticists let alone the average breeder doing their best to navigate an increasingly complex and technical landscape. Giving us the test results is the easy part, it seems — figuring out what to do with them is our next great challenge.
As the Gordon Setter Expert audience has grown tremendously, so has the amount of email that I get from people who are searching for quality Gordon Setters from responsible breeders.
To simplify the process where I connect those who are searching for Gordon Setters, with those who are searching for good homes, I’ve created this FREE listing – that’s right, you may advertise to sell your Gordon Setters for free, right here on this site! If you have a puppy, a litter, an adult or are planning a breeding this free service is the perfect value! I’ll be happy to include your photos and pedigree too.
I’ve set a few parameters to ensure I am working with responsible breeders who are invested in the preservation and promotion of the Gordon Setter breed, and you’ll find the rules and restrictions regarding this listing service by visiting the pages below.
Don’t worry about losing this message, just remember that you can go to the Gordon Setter Expert “Home” page any day and simply click the header at the top of the page that reads “Place an Ad – Puppy, Adult, Planned breeding”.
Want to see what your ad might look like? Click here
Gordon Setter Future Litter (Planned Breeding)
- To place a free ad on this site for a future litter of AKC (or foreign) registered Gordon Setters click here.
Gordon Setter Puppies
- To place a free ad on this site for an AKC (or foreign) registered Gordon Setter puppies click here.
Gordon Setter Adult
I’m certainly hoping Gordon Setter breeders and owners will find this service helpful, that’s all I’m here for, to help!
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Photograph by Laurie Ward
GSCA Breeder Education – 2016 GSCA National Specialty
By Sally Gift
To begin let’s start with excerpts from
Positive and clearly explained judging can only be good for both judges and breeders, and for our breeds as well.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is for people to look at a dog and immediately point out what they don’t like about that dog? I think most often the first comments made by many people about a dog are negative. We hear an awful lot of “I don’t like” in conversations about dogs.
Probably we are all guilty of falling into the trap of finding fault, both as breeders and as judges, because finding fault is easier than finding virtue. Common faults are easily seen and identified by almost everyone, while breed-specific virtues can only be seen and appreciated by those who truly understand the breed they are looking at…Even judges (sic Breeders) with years of experience were tongue tied when forced to discuss their placements by pointing out only the virtues of each dog. They all wanted to fall back into the “I don’t like” syndrome.
…The positive mindset is not only important for judges but for breeders as well. How many times have I asked a fellow breeder, “What do you think of that dog?” only to have the first sentence come back starting with, “Well, I don’t like…” After my years of learning about positive judging and critiquing, my immediate reaction is to say, “But I want to know what you do like about that dog.” The look I get is generally priceless, but my question usually results in a thoughtful discussion of the virtue of the dog and a learning experience for both of us.
Not everyone will see the exact same virtues in every dog, and not everyone will place the same priorities on those virtues. That is why different dogs win on different days, and when the judging is positive and can be clearly explained, then no one is wrong. But regardless of differing viewpoints and priorities, striving to see dogs in a positive light can only be good for both judges and breeders, and for our breeds as well.
In forming our concept of the Hands On experience, and in addition to focusing on judging dogs positively, we also wanted to encourage breeders and exhibitors to take the time to put their hands on dogs owned and bred by others; to learn how to feel breed specific qualities to recognize correct structure (breed type), to learn a variety of ideas and concepts from others, and to learn how to see good qualities in all dogs, our own as well as those owned by others – to learn how to develop an unbiased eye.
Now let’s move on to highlights from the Hands On experience!
I can’t possibly write about all the topics we covered, nor all the positives of the dogs presented for exam. But if I haven’t covered a topic or a point that you want to see shared here please offer that in the comment section of this article.
The Hands On experience was open forum, and participants were encouraged to come and go at will, so the group size and the participants fluctuated throughout the program. Some brought dogs who were stacked in front of the group while other participants went over those dogs, the Hands On part. Then, those who examined were asked to share their view of the positive qualities they found on the dog they examined. Discussion about the positives followed with the group at large joining the talk. While committee members, Barb Manson, Peggy Nowak and I moderated to keep things on track, the teachers here were actually the participants, the many breeders and exhibitors who shared their dogs, views, and experience. The Hands On experience lead to many various, thought provoking and enlightening discussions. The participants and their dogs were the shining stars of the experience, and we thank each and every one of you for making this one of the best GSCA Breeder Education events. We have heard a magnitude of positive feedback, and what we heard most often was indeed “best Breeder Education program ever” and “let’s do it again”!
Topics that were covered during the experience
Esther Joseph (Australia) shared many interesting points about length of body and the length and structure of the rib cage. She noted that when compared to other countries, the American Kennel Club (AKC) Gordon Setter Standard, is the only standard to to call for a length approximately to equal height, interpreted by many to mean we seek a “a square dog”.
- AKC Standard – Proportion: The distance from the forechest to the back of the thigh is approximately equal the height from the ground to the withers.
- Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) Standard – Body: Moderate length.
One of the key takeaways that I would mention is the wording in the AKC standard, wording that says approximately equal, as this wording gives the Gordon room for sufficient length of body to allow for the driving stride he will exhibit if properly angled front and rear. A dog whose body is too short for the angulation of his rear can not move properly. If we were to breed for a completely square Gordon we would need to breed that dog with less angulation in the rear, so his rear stride does not interfere with his front. Perhaps we need to focus on the standard saying approximately equal and eliminate the word square from our lingo?
The AKC standard says Gordon Setter movement should be: A bold, strong, driving free swinging gait…The hindquarters reach well forward and stretch far back, enabling the stride to be long and the drive powerful. If, for example, a Gordon moves wide in the rear, or perhaps he crabs, we might consider that one of the causes could be that Gordon has too much rear angulation for the length of the body. Is this dog then too short in length (too square)?
(NOTE – as a question was raised, I did confirm the information I gave you regarding how to measure the dog’s length. I was correct, it is measured from the point of the forechest and never from the point on the shoulder joint)
Another discussion ensued on proper length, depth, and spring of rib. Here again Esther opened the chat and spoke in detail about the length of the rib cage and it’s importance for the protection of the Gordon’s vital organs (heart and lungs) when hunting in dense brush and brambles. To completely shield those organs the ribcage must be long from front to back, and we should measure this not simply by looking at the length from the side view of the dog, but also by reaching down under the dog to note how how far back the sternum extends. (The sternum being the floor of the chest, where the ribs meet underneath the dog.) The Gordon Setter needs not only his prominent forechest (for proper muscle attachment to provide reach) but also good length of the ribcage; a sternum whose length extends it’s boney protection to completely cover sensitive organs. A ribcage and which allows for the lung capacity he needs by it’s spring as well as depth for working in harsh terrain.
Barbara Manson began a discussion about short hocks by demonstrating that good quality on her dog. This led into a more in depth conversation among the group about the complete rear assembly, angulation, length of hock and sickle hocks. When viewing rear angulation we’d start at the highest point, the femur (think upper thigh) which has always been considered as the longest bone in the dog’s anatomy. The tibia and fibula (second thigh) should be second in length to the femur, and are attached to the hock which should be the shortest in this group of leg bones that contribute to rear angulation. Simple so far, right?
Standing around at rest (as opposed to lusting after a hot smelling bitch which brings every hot blooded dog up on his toes) a well built dog will naturally stand with the rear foot in a somewhat perpendicular line on the ground, right under the boney protuberance that ends at the point of the buttocks. Just like humans, dogs stand around with their feet almost directly under their butts. Why? Because that’s the dog’s column of support. So, if the second thigh (tibia and fibula) is longer than the upper thigh (femur), opposite the normal length of these bones, the only way the dog can reach his column of support is if the hock is long enough to get the foot where it needs to be – underneath the dogs butt. Proper ratio of length between upper thigh and lower thigh gives us the shorter hock we expect on our Gordon Setter. To sum it, a Gordon needs to have an upper thigh (femur) that is longer than the lower thigh (tibia and fibula), ending with a hock that is shorter than both of those bones. As a general rule, the genes that control the length of one bone are often linked to the genes that control the length of the corresponding bones so Mother Nature provides compensation when the ratio in the length of these bones gets out of whack, grow a lower thigh that’s too long for the upper thigh and Mother Nature will give you a longer hock to compensate.
Standing around ringside, looking at dogs standing in a relaxed state, the well put together dogs will be standing with their rear feet underneath the back half of the pelvis and their hocks slightly sloping – we should be able to see light between the ground and the entire length of dog’s hock. If a dog is standing with his hocks nearly flat to the ground, odds are excellent that we are looking at excessive angulation (a lower thigh that is longer than the femur).
Sickle hocks are a result of these over angulated rears. For me, sickle hocks are easily seen on the backward swing of the rear leg during movement. Instead of the joint between the lower thigh and the hock opening up into a nearly straight extended line, where the pads on the bottom of the foot end in a position that is nearly straight up (or reaching toward the sky), the sickle hock, due to the imbalanced length of the bones, at fullest rearward extension ends in a shape resembling a sickle – slightly curved instead of fully extended. No glimpse of the sky for the pads on these feet. The rear movement on the sickle hocked dog looks like the swinging of an old fashioned sickle when viewing the sickle from the side.
Our group also spent a bit of time discussing feet. We’re not going to cover all of that discussion here as this article has grown quite long. I did want to mention that I remember a brief conversation around the use of the term “cat foot”. Perhaps I remember wrong but I thought I heard someone say that “cat foot” no longer appeared in our standard. You were right, cat foot isn’t exactly right, but a reference to cat does appear. The standard says “Feet catlike in shape”.
I’m splitting this report into sections as it’s growing long, keep an eye out for Part II – The 2016 National Specialty Hands On experience in a future issue. In Part II I’ll share other discussions we held on topics like the width of jaw, angle of croup, block on block heads and vitiglio.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ GSCA Breeder Education Committee Chair
Photos by Ben Perez
A slide show of random photos from the BOB class at the ’16 GSCA National Specialty courtesy of Ben Perez. We’ll be sharing more of these in future articles. Thanks Ben!
Well I’ll be! Here’s a new (at least to me it’s new) old trick from the breeders of yesteryear and I’m simply tripping over myself wanting to try it. I’ve never heard this one before, it sounds nifty and I’m wondering if any of you have ever tried (or heard of) this pregnancy predictor? Arlene Czech writes about the “Gum Check” in her article for this month’s column in ShowSight Magazine.
How to perform the test: exactly 21 days after the FIRST tie mating start looking at the gums on your bitch by lifting her lips as though you are checking her bite. If she is pregnant the gum will appear very white, much whiter than their normal red color. (see photo below) This color change will occur between the 21 to 24 days after that first mating. It would be ideal for you to begin checking the gums earlier than the 21 days so you have a good picture in your mind of her normal gum color. If she is not pregnant the gum tissue will not change color.
Why it works: According to Arlene’s article, this is the time when the fetus implants itself on the uterine walls. During this process a good deal of the blood flow is redirected from the body of the bitch and focused on her uterus instead.
We’d sure like to hear back from those of you who may have already been aware of this trick and have used it, as well as those who give it a try on your next breeding. Simply send us an email at email@example.com or leave a comment at the end of this article.
Thank you to our reader Carol Wilson for sending the following email and photos:
These photos were shared from one of our readers (thank you Shelley Ellison) who reported …my images of my Labrador Retriever girl Katy when I bred her last year. The darker image was taken on day 21 after ovulation, and the brighter gum color was taken on day 24 after ovulation. I did progesterone timing for shipped chilled semen and she had 9 beautiful puppies.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Gordon Puppy Photograph courtesy of Debbie Bjerkestrand
(Read Arlene Czech’s article by clicking the blue link below). I’ve included a brief excerpt and photos from the article here.
This is what he told me, and I would like to pass it on to others. No need for a visit to the vet, just a simple check. He demonstrated with his dog as to how to tell if a bitch is pregnant. He simply held her head while he lifted her lip, as if checking the bite when judging. He said the gums will be very white at this time. The time? Exactly 21 days from the first tie in breeding. Actually, you need to start a few days before to become used to the gum color. Just a quick look is all you need. The only problem is that it does not stay white forever. Why it is white is that this is the time that the little fetus/egg implants itself on the uterus? In doing so, blood is drained from the bitches’ body and goes to the uterus. You need to check for several days after since some aren’t ready to implant. Recently I have taken pictures of my recent bitch on her 21st day had white gums, and then several days later I took another picture showing her red gums. Breeders do not believe me until they try it themselves and then say “they did turn white!” And if it is not a success then the gums stay red.
In all the intervening years, I have had success with this over 55 times. I missed once because I didn’t catch her on the 21-24th day. Then I take my bitch to my vet to palpate on the 28th day to see how many.
I understand from several breeders of farm animals that they too check the same way to see if the breeding took. I didn’t ask how many days they use, but the method was white gums.
by Arlene Czech
or…the Mating Game with a digital kick!
*Jerold M Bell DVM (Professor, Clinical Genetic, Tufts University) wrote: It is not the type of matings utilized (linebreeding or outbreeding) that causes the loss of genes from a breed gene pool. Rather, loss of genes occurs through selection: the use and non-use of offspring. If a breed starts limiting their focus to breeding stock from a limited number of lines, then a loss of genetic diversity will occur.
As breeders we have discussed the declining population of Gordon Setters and along with that we’ve shared ideas and tactics to preserve and protect the best of our breed’s genetic makeup through responsible breeding. As Dr. Bell recommends, one of the ways to do that is to encourage and participate in the use of a diverse selection of stud dogs. We understand the need to select dogs and bitches from the breadth of our gene pool.
With preserving and protecting the Beauty, Brains and Birdsense of our breed as an objective, you (our readers) have suggested that we needed another resource to broaden the means by which we locate the right stud dogs for our bitches, one that will help us find those diverse dogs. Time and time again you’ve suggested an easy to find, easy to use stud dog list to help in your search for quality dogs from sources beyond the scope of the winners listing of those currently being exhibited, trialed or campaigned. You asked for a place where you could find dogs that are available for natural, frozen and fresh chilled breeding, in the US and abroad, on a web based platform. Today we make that resource, a Gordon Setter Stud Dog List, available to you.
Please join me in sending a sincere Thank You to Donnah Brngner and Kristin Majercik for all of their hard work and support to help create this listing page and by providing assistance to maintain it moving forward.
Over 8,800 visits were made to the Gordon Setter Expert site just last week alone. They were people like you and me, many of them breeders, the majority of them Gordon Setter fanciers. So you, the Gordon Setter lover, you are indeed using this site regularly as a resource for information about our breed. If we list them, our stud dogs, if we build “it” (the stud dog list) “they” will come and together we will build another tool to aid in the preservation, promotion and protection of the Gordon Setter though responsible, quality breeding practices.
There is no fee to use this listing, I’ll continue to cover the expense to keep the site and this stud dog list running. Could this change at some point because we outgrow my current space and I need to purchase more? Possibly, but as I’m not in this to make a profit, any expense that you might be asked to help offset in that distant future, would be very, very slight..
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Photograph by Susan Roy Nelson
*About – Jerold S. Bell DVM
Adjunct Professor, Clinical Genetics, Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
WSAVA Hereditary Diseases Committee, Member
OFA (US), Board of Directors
AKC Health & Welfare Advisory Panel, Member