AKC eNewsletter

Fall 2008
The Dual Breeder
Breeding for Both Conformation and Performance

By Arliss Paddock

Part Two: Challenges and Approaches

In Part One [our Summer 2008 issue], we looked at how critical it is for the breeder of purebred dogs to understand the breed’s origin. A commitment to preserving the breed’s ability to do the job it was bred for, in the particular conditions of its place of origin, is vital to preserving the breed’s essential character.

Noted breeder, judge, and dog trainer Pluis Davern articulates the responsibility of the breeder:

“The many different breeds that originated in small geographic areas around the world are unique in their ability to handle the terrain and conditions prevalent in their so-called backyards. As we breed and exhibit them today, we have the tremendous responsibility to nurture and preserve all the qualities that define each and every one of them-and that means putting them to the test in the field.”

Preserving  all the breed’s qualities thus ideally entails testing or proving somehow the working ability of animals whose superior conformation makes them breeding candidates. But as we touched upon in Part One, the practical realities of proving your dogs in separate realms of canine activity can be daunting. Following, a select group of successful dual breeders share their thoughts on why—and how—they persevere.

English Setter
Multiple specialty-winning English Setter Ch. Set’r Ridge’s Everlasting, MH (Sahara), bred by Melissa Newman.

Proving Grounds
Longtime German Shorthaired Pointer breeders Inge Clody and Leanne Farrell have achieved great success in both the field and the show ring with their Minado line. They convey their ongoing passion for the versatile dog:

“We want our breed to look like what they were conceived to look like, and act and function in the manner they were developed for. Shows preserve type, which includes breed character, head, expression, movement, coat, and silhouette. (You want to be able to see the silhouette of the dog and know without a doubt it is a German Shorthaired Pointer.) Field trials are proving grounds to test the function the breed was developed for. However, I take exception to the fact the one of the criteria a Shorthair is judged on in field trials is ‘run.’ The GSP breed was developed to be a close-working hunting dog, and should be judged as such.”

Indeed, the way some field-competition venues have evolved puts an added hitch in the dualbreeder’s mission to test their stock’s performance of original purpose. “Most of the sporting dogs were designed to hunt with a handler on foot,” explains Davern, “thereby moving at a reasonable pace and at a reasonable distance from the gun. Early trials used these parameters. Over the years, however, the tenor of competitions has changed, resulting in speed becoming one of the foremost criteria for successful trial dogs.”

This can be the case with events for retrievers as well as pointing breeds; retriever trials have evolved from proving grounds for the gentleman’s shooting dog into intense, training-based competitions. Some breeders have had to accept that maintaining breed type and integrity in their line may put them at a disadvantage in certain types of field event. Fortunately, the AKC Performance Test program has filled that gap, by providing the opportunity for breed-specific, noncompetitive testing of the inherent ability of breeding stock.

Breed Type, Breed Ability
Breeder Melissa Newman, of Setter Ridge English Setters, has bred many show champions and several dual champions, and was the 2002 AKC Sporting Group Breeder of the Year. Newman has a deep understanding of how her breed’s original purpose shaped its development:

“The dual English Setter is of utmost importance to me for many reasons. I have hunted upland game birds all my life, and I love to watch a beautiful pointing dog hunt birds. The breed originated in England as a moderate-sized dog with substance, balance, and beauty, and a great hunting instinct. These dogs had wonderful, calm temperaments, and were known as the gentleman’s gundog, yet had the stamina to hunt all day for days on end. It is incredibly important to keep this type of English Setter alive and well.

“The original gundog had good bone, moderate angles front and rear, and a tail that came straight off of the back. These traits were for endurance and for the way the dogs were hunted: When the dogs went on point, the hunters threw a net over both the dog and the game, thus could catch the prey without a gun. An Americanized field version of the breed was a dog crossbred to other breeds, resulting in a ‘twelve-o’clock’ tail, diamond-shaped head, lack of bone, and high energy level. Consequently we have some divergence in the breed.

“The breeder of the bench English Setter has a responsibility to the breed to produce a dog that exudes birdiness and drive to hunt, with great natural instinct. Many lines of bench English Setters still have great bird drive. Beyond instinct, structure is equally important—the dog must be able to withstand tough terrain and weather conditions, and hunt all day. It is incredibly important that judges put up dogs that are balanced and are effortless in their movement. The breed should never have body roll, or a gay or cycle tail.”

Jerry and Kathy Hogan, of Rainbow Ridge Brittanys, likewise have a commitment to dual purpose. “Brittanys have a fine heritage of dual dogs,” Jerry says, “and it is the responsibility of breeders to maintain that heritage. Proper conformation is necessary, not only for performance of the breed’s function but also so that the dog will withstand the pressures of the kinds of activities for which they were bred. We always breed well-conformed individuals, and generally the studs are either All-Age or Shooting Dog performers. We start pups on a wing at 5 weeks, and evaluate them at 8 weeks for conformation. We have used such traits as pointing ability, scenting ability, independence, and range to determine which pup to keep between equals conformationally.”

Challenges and Rewards
The commitment to prove your breeding stock in terms of both conformation and performance can take a heavy toll on your time, energy, and finances. “Time and money are the biggest challenges,” says Jerry Hogan. “It has become increasingly more and more costly to compete in both the ring and the field. In terms of time, you have to work with the dogs to help them develop their potential. And finding training grounds where you can run a dog for an hour and where you have an abundance of wild birds to train on is also a challenge. That is one reason for sending a dog to a professional. I love to work the dogs myself, but a pro gets more done in a shorter timeframe, and more effectively than I can.”

For all the obstacles and challenges faced by the dedicated dual breeder, the sense of satisfaction in helping to preserve both breed type and ability is ample reward. “I think that it is critical for the ‘whole dog’ to keep in mind the original purpose for which they were developed,” says longtime breeder Anne Witte, of Artisan Bearded Collies, home to many show- and herding-titled dogs, including two Dual Champions.

“As pleasing as it is for me to get that AKC certificate and display it on my wall,” says Witte, “in the long run it’s those times when my dog takes the hit intended for me from an attacking ram; when my 50-pound Beardie holds back a large flock of very hungry sheep while I put out feed in the midst of a blizzard; when I can send the dog to run some distance, to bring in the flock on his own; or when my dog snuggles up to me for affection—that is what makes it all worthwhile.”

Arliss Paddock breeds and shows English Cocker Spaniels and is former managing editor of the AKC Gazette.

Ronald N. Rella, Director, Breeder Services
Email: AKCbreeder@akc.org
Customer Service | Phone: 919-233-9767 | Email: info@akc.org

© The American Kennel Club 2008