By Melissa D. Newman, longtime breeder of English Setters under the Setter Ridge banner and the 2002 Breeder of the Year Award Sporting Group recipient
Melissa D. Newman
Pedigree does make a difference, but deciding whom
to breed your bitch to can be a complex matter.
Genotype (genetic constitution), phenotype (observable
characteristics), ancestors and health clearances
all play a factor.
Consider how you use pedigrees to help you decide
to breed to a specific dog. In a pedigree, I look
at each dog to evaluate the good attributes as well
as the bad.
Line breeding is very important to stamp in type,
movement, temperament and genetic inheritance such
as hips, bites and hearing, as well as soundness,
style, drive and showmanship. Line breeding, mating
involving relatives other than parents and siblings,
on similar pedigree (dog or dogs) not only gives
you the best but can also give you the worst. So
it is incredibly important to know what faults,
weaknesses and strengths each dog typically produces.
Breeding on pedigree alone is like shooting an arrow
in the dark. It is very important to look at the
phenotype of the dog you are considering breeding
to as well as the phenotype of the parents and grandparents
of the sire and dams pedigrees. Also research what
each of those dogs have produced.
I have two stud dogs that are full brothers. They
genetically have the same exact pedigree, yet they
phenotypically look as different as they possibly
could. Both produce great dogs. Yet they don#8217;t
produce dogs that are at all alike. So, if you just
breed to pedigree, you might end up with something
totally different than you thought you were going
Temperament, movement, birdiness, health, balance
and drive are of utmost importance in our breeding
program as we hunt and field trial our dogs. You
must research the dogs in the pedigree to know what
you are dealing with.
I believe in line breeding; however, occasionally
we outcross to gain things that we need or to try
to alleviate things we don#8217;t want in our line.
I like breeding grandfather, granddaughter, half
brother/sister, uncle niece. However, if you do
this for too many generations, you will also double
and quadruple on your weaknesses and then you need
to outcross. Outcross to a dog that is strong where
your line is weak. While you#8217;re at it, try
not to pick up any new problems. This can be tricky
depending on how strong and broad the gene pool
is in your breed.
evaluating pedigrees, researching the good
is as important as researching the bad.
It takes three generations of line breeding on
good fronts to constantly get good fronts. So we
determine the dog or dogs in the pedigree that have
good fronts. Then we breed back to those dogs or
their progeny that can carry the good fronts. Also
a dog that has a good front may not necessarily
produce it. It is always important to look at what
each dog has produced in the past and to what type
of bitches he was bred to.
It is easier to gain good heads, bone and size than
it is to gain good front angulation. You may be
able to pick up bone in one generation of outcrossing
(the mating of unrelated individuals of the same
breed) if you breed to a dog that produces great
bone or comes from a line that consistently has
Evaluating pedigrees before breeding is important
in our breeding program. However, more importantly,
we look at what the dogs in the pedigrees phenotypically
look like and produce and what they genetically
may produce. Researching the good is as important
as researching the bad. We try to know as much as
possible about the pedigrees that we breed into
in order to get some idea as to what we will end
up with. We concentrate on balance, movement, temperaments,
birdiness, drive, type, the health of the dogs and
what health clearances they may or may not produce.
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Progeny reports listing all offspring of a selected
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