Breeding Working Dogs

Discussion in 'Working and Companion Animals' started by GrannyCarol, Jul 15, 2010.

  1. GrannyCarol

    GrannyCarol Well-Known Member Supporter

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    So, we want to debate reasons and methods of breeding good working dogs, perhaps we can start a thread for that, which can be easily locked when we get out of hand... :)

    So - begin!
     
  2. tailwagging

    tailwagging Well-Known Member

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    This is a good thread. Maybe we can get a look at what and why people believe what they do.
    I myself am shocked to see some AG people, who understand the meaning of breeding and keeping breeds alive, despise companion animal breeders.
    What makes a good beef cow or a dairy goat or a calm draft horse is the same thing that makes a good pet. GENES and knowing how to work with them.

    I can't handle a working dog. The same way I can't handle having a game cock.
    both are chickens but..........
     

  3. Pops2

    Pops2 Well-Known Member

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    a dog is only as good as the breeder. if the breeder doesn't care then the dogs they produce will be less than the dogs of a breeder that does. it may not be quality at an individual level that suffers but the quantity of there quality. that is their good dogs may be just as good but they will produce a larger volume of culls. but if they don't care eventually they will cease to produce good dogs. caring about the quality you produce simply can't be legislated.
     
  4. GrannyCarol

    GrannyCarol Well-Known Member Supporter

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    One thing to keep in mind is that working dogs have a LOT of different jobs and needs for build, temperament, etc. The original thread was about a Great Pyrenees, which is quite different from the German Shepherd thread it was turning into.

    For myself, what I've seen over decades of observing the breeding of dogs is that working dogs, such as the German Shepherd, MUST have a different temperament here than their origin. If you have a pet, or even guard dog, as a US citizen, you are expected that the dog not go biting everyone and need a dog that has a calm, stable temperament, one that is very controllable or even more useful as a deterrent than a threat. People really can't afford to have their dog biting, the law suits would be a huge problem, as well as insurance. So, right off the bat we have a different need than the original breed temperament (for police work).

    I have an acquaintance in Sweden that is interested in raising and training dogs for police work. He had a lovely white Shepherd (forget the name of the breed atm, sorry) that he was training for Shtz - she was too sharp for him and he let her go to the police department and raised a German Shepherd for that work. I believe it turned out to be dysplastic and he's got a Malinois now. I haven't heard how that pup is. This is a rather limited sample, but in it, I see pretty much the same problems that we have over here with similar breeds - appropriate temperament and soundness.

    In my decades of breeding, I found that you can improve the percentage of sound hips in your litters, but you cannot be sure that ALL of your pups will be sound. I also found that hip dysplasia was NOT the most important factor in a good functional dog. I had English Setters when I started out and they had terrible hip problems (35-40 years ago). This was addressed by careful breeding for sound hips. A lovely dog was found that passed that trait on and was quite birdy. He was used until he was in nearly every pedigree, often multiple times. However, in his immediate pedigree was a nasty, crazy bitch. Now the breed temperament is not what it was when I started breeding. For a long time we didn't use him because it just didn't work out, when I saw what the trend was in the breed, I didn't use him because I felt people needed a choice, a bloodline that was a balance to that temperament issue. Many more dogs are abandoned to shelters because of temperament than hips. Many of the ES with iffy or even poor hips were asymptomatic and never lame or perhaps a bit arthritic as they aged (which doesn't have to be from bad hips). I would much rather risk hip problems than have an English Setter with a nasty temperament. That was my choice. Others still use the line I was involved with to improve the temperament of their ES.

    I came to dislike the "breed by numbers" mindset. There is a lot more to a dog than its health records. Temperament and character are very hereditary and should be primary when evaluating a breeding animal. Over all vigor is important. Instinct for its purpose and general structure matter a lot. We field tested our show dogs and sold some good personal gun dogs out of our litters. I like to look for overall harmony and balance, for strong movement and breed type as well as soundness. An OFA dog that lacks the breed look, character, temperament, instinct might as well be a pound puppy.

    Also, a breeder ought to consider that the majority of their pups will be companion or working animals and breed accordingly. Although I showed and bred some top winning dogs, I never could fully buy into that as being the most important aspect, I was raised by old fashioned dog breeders - my mother and her father both expected a dog to work and perform its function as well as look good. If you have to trade off too many of those things, you need better breeding stock or you are working with a breed that has some real overall problems.
     
  5. Wolf Flower

    Wolf Flower Married, not dead! Supporter

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    Well, it depends on what you mean by "companion". ALL dogs should be good companions, even (especially?) working dogs. Some dogs were bred ONLY to be companions, like the toys, but they should still be bred to standard and for proper health.

    But even in breeding the best to the best, you will always get pet quality animals, which I why I don't think we need people exclusively breeding pet quality animals. There are too many dogs in shelters to justify it, IMO. Dogs are not an endangered species.
     
  6. Wolf Flower

    Wolf Flower Married, not dead! Supporter

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    Also... I wish everyone could be as wise as GrannyCarol and get a dog based on what they can handle, not on whatever is cute or fashionable at the moment.
     
  7. tailwagging

    tailwagging Well-Known Member

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    I am not talking about breeding pet quality but breeds that where always breed to be a pet. A good and worthy job for a dog.
    Any breed of dog is only 5 to 10 years from extinction
    Sure there are Chihuahuas in the shelter but who bred them? who put them there and if they are good tempered how long will a small dog stay there?

    It seems that some can't understand that it takes the same care and knowledge to breed a good sound toy breed as it does for a good milk goat. sure a scrub can be milked and it maybe a good one but the odds are more in your favor if there was a breeding plain. Lets stop breeding more pure milk goats and end up milking boars. heck we don't need to be drinking milk anyways! hand me over that gross watery rice milk. =)
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  8. tailwagging

    tailwagging Well-Known Member

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    OH I agree!! =)
    you would not believe some of the homes I have turned down! Even though I tried to talk them out of the breed I am sure someone will sell them one.
     
  9. Wolf Flower

    Wolf Flower Married, not dead! Supporter

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    Indeed it is! The toy breeds and some others were developed as pet dogs, and were always meant to be pets. Nothing wrong with breeding for a "pet" temperament in that case!

    I just don't like seeing working breeds dumbed down into "pet" temperaments. Show breeders are a big reason for this, though at least they do health testing and don't generally crank dogs out in huge quantities.

    Working breeds should remain working breeds, IMO. Like you said tailwagging, if someone can't handle a working breed, don't get a working breed! But people want a GSD or a Rottweiler because they look cool, or they think it's a status symbol, or whatever... so BYB's and puppy mills crank them out and hawk them to the general public.

    I don't like it, but the cow's out of the barn.
     
  10. Otter

    Otter Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have to second tailwagging here. Some breeds you have it (relatively ) easy. If your (working bred) beagle won't run a rabbit, if your border collie wont herd, if your fiest won't go to ground, you're doing it wrong.

    But the breeds that are meant as companions...
    Lordy how I LOVE a well-bred mini poodle! What awesome, fun little dogs! I'd have one in a heartbeat no matter what DH said if I could find one -but finding one is looking for a needle in a hay stack. The rheumy eyes, the elbow dysplasia, the allergies, the TEETH! I have seen show champions who have the worst mouths by age 5. Even some show breeders, that dog better get it's title young because it is going to fall apart.
    And there's actually a name for the syndrome that escapes me, you have a lovely little dog until it matures and then it goes mental.

    And then there are other working breeds. How many have posted on here how hard it is to find an ES that was bred from parents that actually lived on a farm. I mean, most well raised pound mutts are good with kids, don't kill the chickens and will bark at coons. It should take more then that to call them a "working farm collie"

    And LGDs, most people who have them and breed them have no real need for them and not enough acreage and make too much of a pet out of it anyway. Just cause the miserable beast is barking all night, doesn't mean it's working. Maybe it's just barking. Dogs do that. Ask any pound, or a city dweller.
    And to say it MUST be working because we haven't lost whatever in a while ... well, in that case, my beagle keeps away lions. It must be true because I haven't seen any lions.
    If you live in an area of 5 to 10 acre lots, your main predator is other people's dogs. Probably, your LGD is not working, because there isn't work for it. Because 99 out of a hundred dogs will bark at another dog, and 95 out of a hundred trespassing dogs will then trespass elsewhere.

    Now show me a picture of your LGD taking down a coyote, chasing off a bear, etc, that's different.

    I guess what I'm saying is if you're going to call yourself a "working dog breeder" then the beast should not only work, but do it well.
    And if you're going to call yourself a "companion dog breeder" health and temperament have to be your mantra, your holy grail.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  11. WstTxLady

    WstTxLady Well-Known Member

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    best quote i heard in a while:clap:
     
  12. tailwagging

    tailwagging Well-Known Member

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    I see what you saying now LOL I am a bit touchy and passionate about my breeding and my right too do so.
    Would I bring a cow in the house? *sigh* most likely I would if it would save it's life.
    I have ridden my horse in the house when I was a teenager, does that count?
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  13. Willowynd

    Willowynd Well-Known Member

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    I agree, it is not a numbers game. It is a quality game...trying to concentrate the genes you desire and bring in the ones you desire without bringing in the undesireable genes. A working dog needs to have the same qualities that appeal to pet owners...a stable temperament and sound body. I will not go much into soundness as that is plain logic...need good hips, elbows, eye sight, etc to do thier job- plus a working dog that has other health issues that will cost is not going to last long on a farm. The difference between the dog suited for working and the companion quality is a matter of degrees. The pup that is not sharp enough to herd the sheep may do fine in the pet home, but it is not the ideal temperament for the breed and should not be bred. The pup with a poor temperament is not suited for companion or working. Yes, someone may take it and make it into a pet, but most likely its life will be cut short when its temperament causes issues and it goes to a shelter or at the very least is kenneled for the rest of its existance. A pet home may tolerate health issues, but that should not be a reason for breeding dogs with them. People want a healthy dog- pet or partner.
    When breeding- it is the responsibility of the breeder to assess temperment of breeding dogs and especially puppies. The wrong placement can mean a terrible experience for all...pup, new owner and breeder...and the public. I do temperament testing on my pups for that reason. I will not place a pup that tends to be more dominant or independant into an inexperienced home....I will keep it until the right home comes along. The breeder is responsible for screening homes (and asking the right questions to see through the people who think they are knowledgeable/good trainers, etc when they are actually not prepared for that much dog or would be overbearing to a softer temperamented dog) to be sure the puppy is a good fit. Breeders need to breed for a purpose...companions are not a purpose- there is companions in every litter and at every shelter or on CL. I bred initially for confirmation quality...but realized with my first litter that the number of pups sold for that is few....that is a very small niche. I also wanted a dog that could do what it was intended to do- and my first foundation was not it..so that is what I started working towards and bred it in. But still in each litter, I find dogs that do not have the inate desire to herd...yes, they can be taught....but if taught- that will not trickle down to the following generations. The ones that do have the inate desire are the ones that I would not send to an inexpereinced pet home. They look for direction and need an alpha who will give them that. Yes, I take these dogs out in public and people visit and say- I want a dog just like that. But what they don't know is that dog would not have been what it is if it was developed by the owner and given a job to do. The dog would have been a handful...destructive, annoying and running the house. I refer to my dogs that are good workers with just a look or a word as brats when they are young- they are. They try to outsmart you, they try to do what they want and test you often, they pout or backtalk if they can't have thier way, they are high energy...and many times I have said I will give that dog to the first good home that comes along...until they reach mental maturity and everything comes together- then it would take a good chunk of money to buy them from me- if I would even part with the dog. Good working dogs are 50% breeding (health and desireable temperament), 25% knowledgeable owner and 25% training/working.
     
  14. tailwagging

    tailwagging Well-Known Member

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    "companions are not a purpose"
    would that be for traditional working breeding or are you including toy breeds as well?
     
  15. RiverPines

    RiverPines Well-Known Member

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    A friend of mine used to breed coon hounds for hunting.
    Their clientele purchased young dogs, 6-12 months and sometimes older not freshly weaned pups.
    They didn't sell puppies as they had to get the dogs started in the field of work they were bred for.
    They also gave continued training after purchase and quarantines.
    It wasn't a puppy mill. It was a breeding and training facility.

    Their dogs were absolutely fantastic animals too!
     
  16. Willowynd

    Willowynd Well-Known Member

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    I thought the thread was about working dogs :) I won't get into the toy breeds that were not bred to work (for instance ratting) as they are breeds that are raised for companions and was not the subject of this thread.

     
  17. tailwagging

    tailwagging Well-Known Member

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    aaaahhhhh not fair! not fair! lol
    *TW mumbles "my dogs work too, they can lick your makeup off"*
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  18. Willowynd

    Willowynd Well-Known Member

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    LOL So can my cat...so is she a working cat...even though she doesn't catch mice?
     
  19. tailwagging

    tailwagging Well-Known Member

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    lol You know I make that sound really bad? not family like. With the change of just one word
     
  20. Wolf Flower

    Wolf Flower Married, not dead! Supporter

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    Actually you could argue that toys are "working" breeds, and their job is to be companions! Just like with working breeds, toys should be selected for the best temperament for the job. :)

    Seriously, though, a little lap dog can be a godsend for an elderly person living alone, who cannot handle a bigger dog (let alone a working breed). Sometimes the dog is the only thing that keeps them going. In that sense, being a companion is a very important job.