Matadors, Paper Tigers, Kennel Blindness, Oh MY!

KENNEL BLINDNESS:  All breeders have their favored characteristics and pet peeves.  All are willing to sacrifice the perfection of certain traits to Yellow_dog_writes03consistently achieve others they feel more important. This "worldview" on their chosen breed(s) leads to a style and the emphasis of certain traits within the correct type that breeder will be known for (e.g. size, headtype, longevity etc.).  That many breeders have deliberate styles of dogs is good for the breed; it preserves the variety and strength of the breed.  But many breeders fall foul of their own likes & dislikes, especially at the beginning when they know little about the breed and later on, as the years pass and they achieve some success, having now looked at the style they chose to breed so long they think of it often as the breed itself.  If this quality is combined with an intolerance for one's rivals and/or for the faults least liked and virtues most admired, a good line of dogs will dwindle down to be more memory & reputation than a still truly vital line producing excellent dogs. Kennel blindness is also an almost universal trait of the "Sour Grapes Society”; those "wannabees" in a breed who have a thousand excuses for why their dogs don't succeed, all of them to do with the faults of other people and other people's dogs.  It is also a major trait in so-called "pet breeders" who tend to not self-educate about the breed at all, so don't really know much about the breed they may well adore.  They generally let their love for their pets blind them to their breeding worth...or lack thereof.

BREEDING "UP":  This usually means using a well-known dog on a poor quality bitch in the hopes her offspring will succeed where she failed.  Stripped down to this raw definition it's obvious what a bad idea this is.  Stud owners should not let themselves be talked into breeding to sub-standard bitches and novices shouldn't attempt to get better pups this way.  However it happens all too often.  But the outcome is nearly always the same: the proud owners of those new pups find they are not enough better than their mother to be competitive and the stud owner finds the reputation of the sire is damaged by those who see these poor quality pups as typical of what he produces.  Stud owners shouldn't allow themselves to become this kennel blind.  Worse is the idea of starting out with admitting "pet" animals & hoping to breed something better somehow.  This falls under the old saying about silk purses & sows' ears, but incredibly is still attempted and  defended as a way to start in dogs.  You just cannot "get there from here."  Surely there are more than enough dogs in this world without starting out deliberately to make mediocre litters. Enough said.

BREEDING PEDIGREES (& other records), POPULAR SIRE SYNDROME & MATADORS:   Too many people breed "paper tigers”:  they breed dogs who are relatives of a famous dog as if they were somehow magic or just as good, they breed to a dog's popularity, it's show record, it's fame, or even to their best friend's dog or the closest, most convenient dog.  It's astounding as much as has been written in the last century about the perils of breeding "paper" that it is still done so often.  A sire is only as good as his get and his get will equally reflect the bitches taken to him.  It's no use to hope the one (or ten) good pup(s) you saw out of him will happen to you when your bitch isn't like the dams of those pups.  It's even worse to think that his fame will arise in his litters; one cannot take the parents' show records into the ring to convince the judge of the merits of their offspring.  Nor can you honestly think that a dog having "famous" grandparents gives you a reason to breed.  Further, when certain sires are overused in a breed, these popular sires become a potential danger to the breed.  If their influence is too widespread, then it becomes hard to breed away from them.  Diversity of style as well as genes is lost in a breed. If said popular sire turns out to have a damaging genetic flaw, the Popular Sire Syndrome has now spawned a Matador--a dog whose late-recognised fault is now widespread enough in the breed to "kill" it.  This is all bad practice.  Selection is lost when a pedigree or fame is the deciding factor for the choice of breeding partner.  It is ill-educated to breed to an ad or a reputation.  It's a doomed effort (except for sales) to breed for convenience or to "see what happens”, and terrible dogs are made by blind line-breeding: faults are fixed in and a good line is eroded over time.  Each breeding must be done seeing the sire and dam as crowded in by their respective families when it comes to flaws, but standing alone when it comes to what virtues they can even potentially offer. There is, again, no recipe for breeding dogs & no substitute for a well-trained eye.

PRESERVING QUALITY & GENETIC DIVERSITY IN A BREED:  As Dr. Jerome Bell so succintly put it: "It is the varied opinion of breeders as to what constitutes the ideal dog, and their selection of breeding stock that maintains breed diversity."  The current problem of erupting genetic disease, as far as it applies to pedigrees & breeding, reflects two trends.  One is a problem of the "Matador," that is the "Popular Sire Syndrome."  When all run to breed to a winning dog, or some dog or bloodline, (for whatever reason, be it convenience, ignorance or perceived value), genetic diversity can be lost.  But indiscriminate universal assortative matings is not the answer to this problem and can actually reduce genetic diversity in the breed by "homogenizing" gene pairs across the whole breed.  Outcrossing cannot solve the problem of genetic disease anymore than inbreeding is the cause of it.  However "type" breeding, that is, the mating of two animals of similar looks, not similar pedigrees, CAN effect one particularly good thing which is the take-home message of "diversity breeding": since the number of genes involved with creating a certain "look" are much less than the likely number doubled up with linebreeding (esp. "blind" linebreeding, time and again, on some "famous" relative), the loss to the breed of heterozygousity is slowed and the individual dogs are arguably more safe from various line defects...while still having "type."

The other major problems in dogs today as to disease has little to do with hobby ("show") breeders and is largely a problem of casual breeding.  Casual breeding produces more than three-quarters of all registered dogs in the USA and assumably nearly 100% of mixed-breed litters as a result of the low investment and high profitability (not just in money) that dog breeding brings to the average American household.  There is a clear cultural support for anyone and everyone breeding their own pet, and this license runs counter to the serious study & self-education process necessary to breed dogs well enough to avoid bad temperaments and worse health problems.  That so many pet buyers do not clearly see this means casual breeders are able to enjoy having litters, and be certain of sales, even if their only credentials are that they love their dogs.  These litters, despite the buying public's perception and casual breeder's claims, suffer often from major genetic problems they continue to pass along and they are often indiscriminately inbred, as they are usually exclusively local (or narrowly regional) breeding programs, often with the whole breeding population sustained by a couple of friends.  What is needed is educated, dedicated, honest breeders and scrupulous selection. Breeders need to know the dogs they are using in their breeding programs and need to know them intimately.  Each needs to have a clear priority of what they cannot live with and what they cannot live without.  (And ideally each would clearly announce this somehow so others are clear on their priorities before they buy or breed from them.)  A variety of styles, of lines, of sub-populations, criss-crossing, separating and then, again, coming together in a wonderful breed mosaic, is the best recipe for maintaining type, health, temperament  and diversity in any breed.  And for all that "diversity" is a buzzword of fashion right now, it isn't at all a new idea, just a new term for the notion of having a variety of bloodlines within a breed.  (Note also that diversity does not necessarily equal outcross.) What is needed in most all breeds is for more good dogs to be rooted out & recognized, despite their lack of glamour & dazzling ads. (That and for America to get serious about dog breeding and treat it with the gravity it deserves.)  It would also help if more folks would work together to preserve bloodlines and create new ones by judicious crosses, so that variety would be preserved.  For this more people will have to get educated about the history and styles of their breed; too many today simply breed to some current fashion or market!), oblivious to the fact what they are seeing is simply fashion and not "the" standard for the breed.

SPORTS do not generally produce good offspring.  Sport is a term many breeders no longer use, but is a useful idea.   A sport is the odd good dog in a litter that is otherwise uneven.  It is traditionally the occasional decent dog found in a litter from an unlikely background and breeding.  Usually such dogs are the fortuitous result of a mixed litter from a casual breeding, and the people who breed to the dog are the ones who pay the price for his mixed-up, casual pedigree and genetic background.  But sports can come about from breeding "paper" not dogs; from trying to breed "up," from blind line-breeding, or any convenience or accidental breeding. A sport is a dog by definition, almost, who is unable to reproduce himself, for all his good looks.  Very uneven litters & erratic littermate traits result and are certainly not helpful to a breeding program & make it hard to track both good and bad traits with any likely success. Sports can play another negative role in the breed if they become famous show dogs (or just popular sires for any reason).  Not only are they bred despite the fact they are indifferent sires, their every mediocre relative is used with great enthusiasm as the family is all thought consistently "good" (instead of seen for the inconsistent lot they really are). Breeding "paper" instead of dogs has a consistently poor result, but breeding dogs who cannot reproduce themselves should be recognized as a poor practice as well.

Great & consistent bloodlines have been built on good, consistent dogs bred by knowledgeable breeders. Purebred domestic species are based on concentrating family traits, so like dogs must somehow be bred together.  Knowledge is the key here; knowing in depth what you are breeding.   Buyers shouldn't reward those who breed casually, indifferently, or for superficial traits.  And please don't condemn breeders who have the courage to acknowledge the faults in their dogs and their bloodlines (or who try to elicit information & public discussion of the same).  All bloodlines carry along faults, not just the ones where the faults are seen & reported.  Again, the situation now is too often one where people breed without knowledge, producing affecteds and carriers & just not knowing it, as they don't keep adequate records, do enough homework, etc.  Just ask yourself how this can be preferable to accumulating information than can only benefit the breed?  Who exactly benefits from all this ignorance?  Surely not the dogs, the potential breeding partners left in ignorance, or the potential puppy buyers.  For the breeds to benefit from the control of genetic disease we need to do what most Code of Ethics demand: keep up with news in genetics & have an in-depth knowledge of the dogs we are using.  This means understanding the basics of inheritance & knowing how to apply them for good results in your breeding practices.  This means marking pedigrees with more than color and titles. This means accepting that most diseases we now struggle with have a genetic component and treating such situations conservatively AND rationally.  We need to educate ourselves, to stop reacting violently to the notion of genetic disease and start treating it with a more sophisticated and realistic view.  We need to not just learn as we go, but read before we breed, and bone up on the basics before we start creating lives...

CHROMADANE/ Yousha.1999. Updated 2000.

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