From a Breeder’s Notebook: Moving to Plan B

From the Siberian Huskies breed column in the AKC GazetteTo a longtime breeder, a setback can mean it’s time to take a step in a new direction. Successful dog breeding is part art, part science, and part good luck. Experienced breeders are well aware that even the best-laid plans do not guarantee a healthy litter. The longer a fancier has an active breeding program, the greater the chance of a setback—be it a minor one, or something more serious that will require in-depth rebuilding of a line. How a breeder handles a setback is critical. In moving from Plan A to Plan B, a breeder needs to once again become a student, studying pedigrees and updating knowledge on the latest-available scientific information. Advances in screening and testing continually increase the amount of research data available to breeders, who in turn must learn how to correctly interpret and implement valuable guidelines that provide the most accurate scientific insights into a breed’s genetics. Although it can be difficult, a breeder should avoid kennel-blindness that prevents taking a close look at other lines. Preserving desired traits of a particular line can be challenging when adding new genes to the mix, and those traits may become less evident for a generation or two. Keep in mind that good health is the ultimate goal, and sometimes a step in another direction is the best option. What can breeders do to improve the chances of a healthy litter? A number of strategies are key.

 

  • If a health issue presents itself, be honest about it. Share vital information with those individuals who have dogs with closely related pedigrees or are interested in stud service, leasing a bitch, or acquiring a puppy.

  • Be careful not to place blame on any one source. Data can be inconclusive or incomplete, and the science of genetics still holds many mysteries. False speculation can be damaging to reputations and hurtful to the entire breed. Understand and use the information that is provided by screenings and testing to make the best-possible decisions in a breeding program.

  • Study pedigrees more carefully, and pay greater attention to screening results of littermates and close relatives on both sides.

  • Be aware of all possible red flags and how they could potentially affect a litter.

  • Be diligent with screenings and specific tests recommended for the breed.

  • Support studies that examine the health issues known to exist in the breed. Research is a long-term and expensive process. When possible, contribute samples for studies. One never knows from where the next important breakthrough will come. In Siberian Huskies, Dr. Sheila Blanker, the Siberian Husky Club of America’s genetics chair, has information on many current studies and is a great source for such information regarding the breed.

  • Most important, don’t give up. If faced with a roadblock, tackle it head-on. Learn as much as possible about possible causes; what, if anything, could have been done differently; and whether there were additional screenings that might have detected the presence of a potential problem. Since test results may vary or produce false negatives or positives, retesting and a second opinion are always wise options.

 

The breed needs conscientious and experienced breeders to ensure its future. One is never too old to become a student again. The field of genetics is constantly changing and growing, with new insights to help all breeders produce healthier dogs. No one ever promised that breeding purebred dogs would be simple and easy or without trials and tribulations. We do it for the love of the breed and its future and try the very best to produce healthy Siberians. —Jane Steffen, klonaquay@fairpoint.net

Further information about Siberian Huskies can be found here and on the website of the breed's national parent club: Siberian Husky Club of America

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