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Breeding World Class Gundogs

by Geoffrey English

Start with the best possible bloodlines you can afford and your days in the field will be more enjoyable.
Photo by: Author
I am often reminded of how much time and effort goes into building a successful breeding program when examining the pedigrees of the top performing dogs at local and national field trials. Field trials have been and will continue to be a place breeders turn to evaluate and prove their breeding program and bloodlines.

Competent breeders seeks to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all the dogs in a four-generation pedigree and carefully evaluate each dog in the pedigree of a potential mating. The goal of any breeding program should be to the continual improvement of the breed. Breeders have an ethical responsibility to do everything they can do to ensure that future progeny are free of both physical and performance faults. He or she must also be willing to eliminate breeding stock from his program that exhibits substandard traits.

Physical Traits and Genetic Testing

Responsible breeders check the genetics of all the dogs in a four-generation pedigree. He or she should have proof of hips being certified and eyes checked for congenital defects. Do not accept a puppy from a breeder who has not taken the necessary precautions to ensure at the minimum that both the sire and dam are genetically clean and can produce the documentation to back up this claim. Ask the breeder for a copy OFA and CERF certifications. If he or she cannot produce such documentation, look elsewhere. Some breeders will proclaim, “My dog’s hips are good” or “My bloodlines have no genetic problems” but cannot produce the certifications on their breeding stock to prove such claims.

Some breeders even breed generation after generation without checking either the hips or eyes of the sires and dames in their breeding program. This is simply irresponsible and can have ramifications that affect a client’s family for many years. Just imagine getting that gundog of a lifetime, which has become part of the family, just to find out that he/she has bad hips or eyes and his/her quality of life is significantly impacted. Don’t get me wrong, genetics are not foolproof, but taking proper precautions can dramatically reduce the risk of genetic problems in breeding programs.

Performance Traits and Field Trials

Identifying performance faults are considerably more difficult than identifying physical and genetic faults. The difficulty lies in the subjectivity of evaluating a dog’s performance. Field trials allow breeders to selectively breed based on performance traits, such as marking ability, desire, trainability, etc. Professional breeders spend countless hours researching potential mates for their dogs in their breeding program. Looking strictly at titles in a pedigree does little or nothing to help a breeder make a determination on a suitable mate. It is imperative that a breeder knows the strengths, weaknesses and dominant performance traits of a suitable mate before making a decision on whom to breed to.

A dominant trait is a trait that is thrown by a sire or dam no matter whom he/she is bred to. A field trial is a great place where breeders can determine dominant traits of a particular sire or dam. Carefully evaluating offspring of a particular dog (sire or dam) will reveal common physical and performance characteristics – these are the dominant traits that a dog throws when bred to.
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