Responsible Breeding vs. Backyard Breeding

Responsible Breeding vs. Backyard Breeding

Avoid the Pitfalls Resulting from Backyard Breeding!

The term "Backyard Breeder" has nothing to do with the geographical location where the breeding takes place. Wikipedia gives a pretty good definition for this term:

"Backyard breeder is a term used to describe amateur animal breeders whose breeding is considered substandard, with little or misguided effort towards ethical, selective breeding."

The motto of the responsible breeder of purebred dogs is "Breed to Improve." Responsible breeders do not breed to make money-because they know they won't. Responsible breeders do not breed to show their kids the marvels of reproduction and birth-because they know that breeding can be a difficult, and sometimes heart-breaking, process. Responsible breeders do not breed their dog just to produce some cute puppies - because they know that each of those cute puppies will require many hours of care, and must be placed with a responsible owner who will continue that care even when the cuteness of puppyhood is over.

Responsible breeders do not breed unless they are convinced that their knowledge, experience, and devotion to their favorite breed will result in a mating that will produce an exceptional litter of puppies, with qualities that are as near as possible to the ideal for that breed. They breed to preserve and to enhance the characteristics that make their breed unique. In short, they breed to improve.

Every dog is the best dog in the world to its owner. Responsible breeders, however, know to avoid "kennel blindness"-- in other words, they take a step back and honestly evaluate the good and bad points of their own dogs before making the decision to breed them. The goal of breeding, after all, is to produce a better dog.

Examine your dog carefully. Recognize its flaws. If you decide to continue with the breeding process, look for a mate that will eliminate or balance those flaws.

The best way to get an objective opinion of your dog is to test it against others. Enter dog shows to determine how your dog measures up against the best specimens of its breeds. If you want to breed a great obedience dog or a great hunter, enter obedience trials or hunting tests. If your dog is a success at these events, you will be more confident that breeding it will make a contribution to the breed.

There is a simple principle to bear in mind in selecting breeding partners: Mate animals that complement one another. Choose a dog whose bloodlines will strengthen your dog's weaknesses and emphasize her good qualities. For example, if your dog's coat is not as good as it might be, then find a partner with a good coat, from a line of dogs with good coats. Of course, practicing this common sense maxim can be very complex, because you must weigh all the factors that contribute to the dogs' traits and appearances. This is an area where research and the advice and experience of other breeders are invaluable.

Two vital factors to keep in mind as you make your selection are temperament and health. Temperament is a hereditary trait in dogs, although it can be influenced by other external factors. Selection over many generations eventually produced breeds with the correct temperament to pull sleds, follow scent on trails or retrieve game. The inheritance factors of temperament are complex. However, you should never consider breeding a dog with a questionable temperament. You impose a major disservice on both human and canine communities if you produce another generation of skittish or bad-tempered animals.

As far as health goes, you must be aware that dogs are subject to many hereditary defects, some of which are potentially crippling or fatal. If you breed, you carry the responsibility of ensuring that the dogs you produce are not affected by the major known hereditary diseases occurring in your breed. Do not take this warning lightly. Consider how devastated you would feel if the beautiful eight-week-old puppy you place in a loving home develops a crippling hip problem at one year of age. Ignorance is no excuse for having contributed to this tragic situation.

A good breeder will have a basic understanding of the science of genetics. Everything about your prospective puppies-health, soundness, looks, temperament-will be determined by the genes passed on by their parents, and by their parents before them. Therefore, the selection of a mating pair should not be made on the basis of the dog's or bitch's looks (or temperament, or soundness, and so forth) alone, but should be based on an understanding of how the animal's genes contributed to its looks, and of how those genes are passed on and expressed. That is why it is essential to study the pedigrees of your mating pair. The more knowledge you have as you make your selection, the more likely you are to produce a litter with the qualities you desire.

You must also be well-versed in the genetic problems that affect your breed. Genetic defects can occur in any breed and can affect any system in the body. Some genetic diseases may occur in many breeds, others occur in only one or a few breeds. The following is a brief explanation of how genetic defects may be inherited and expressed.

Diseases that follow a dominant pattern of inheritance need only one abnormal gene. That is, if only one parent is affected, the condition will show up in each successive generation. Some individuals may be only mildly affected with the condition, making it difficult to detect. In such cases, the condition can mistakenly be thought to skip generations.

Diseases that follow a recessive pattern of inheritance occur in homozygous individuals, meaning dogs with two abnormal genes. Dogs with one mutant and one normal gene are heterozygous, and they are carriers of the condition. They appear normal but can pass the abnormal gene to their offspring. Recessive mutant genes can be passed through many generations before emerging in the offspring of two dogs that carry the same genetic mutation.

Polygenic disorders result from the cumulative action of a number of different genes. The exact number of genes involved and their individual functions are difficult to determine, and the pattern of inheritance tends to vary from family to family. Polygenic inheritance can sometimes mimic either dominant or recessive inheritance, and this feature may lead to erroneous conclusions regarding the type of underlying genetic abnormality.

Chromosomal anomalies -- defects in chromosome number and structure-can also cause genetic diseases. Dogs normally have 39 pairs of chromosomes on which genes are located. Major abnormalities in chromosome number and structure can produce serious defects.

Whether you inbreed, linebreed, or outcross may have an effect on the incidence of genetic disease in the offspring. Inbreeding is the mating of two individuals that are related through one or more common ancestors. The closest form of inbreeding involves parent-child and brother-sister matings. Linebreeding, a form of inbreeding, usually involves mating more distantly related dogs. The rate of polygenic and recessively inherited diseases tends to increase with inbreeding, because the chance that the two animals carry the same mutation is greater when the dogs are related. Outcrossing is the mating of two dogs of the same breed that are otherwise virtually unrelated.