Dog Breeding Basics

I am thinking of taking up breeding but am not at present quite clear about the meaning of such terms as line breeding and inbreeding. What exactly are they, and what points generally should be kept in mind when choosing sire and dame for breeding?

If you are going to take up dog breeding seriously, you must read books on the subject; you must attend shows, and study heredity, breeding for certain qualities, line breeding, and in breeding. First of all, you must realize what you are aiming at. People imagine that if they buy a bitch with “Champion” written all over their pedigree, they are certain to have a perfect dam to start breeding with. All they have to do, they think is find the equally marvelous sire with “Champion” all over his pedigree, and the resulting litter will be perfect. How wrong they are! To get the perfect puppy, let alone the perfect litter, often takes experienced breeders a lifetime of trial and error, and will hardly ever be achieved at the first attempt.

We know the old saying “Like begets like,” but what we may not know is what characteristics past generations have passed on to dam and sire. Such characteristics may not be discernible in the parents-to-be, yet a mating could produce something vastly different from what we expected. Only by having litters can prove what that particular mating will produce. Always remember that dam and sire exert equal influence on the litter, and it may therefore be unfair to blame the sire for the faults of the offspring. Choose your bitch just as carefully as you choose your sire, and remember temperament. This is most important. However good the puppies, if they are nervous or fierce, they will not be welcomed either as pets or for show purposes. Both sides should be chosen for the greatest number of desirable qualities in each and for their ability to stamp these qualities on their offspring. Therefore, if possible, see stock that the sire has fathered, and note any good or bad points. The mating together of two animals with the same good or bad points tends to fix these points and, in the case of the bad ones, they are almost sure to be passed on by the offspring when they breed in turn.

This brings me to inbreeding which is of course the mating together of closely related dogs and is done in the hope of stamping certain good qualities in those dogs on their offspring. Line breeding is simply choosing dogs from the same line of descent to be mated together with the object of accumulating blood on both sides that you practically like in your breed of dog.

The most dangerous method to dabble in is inbreeding, as the mated dogs have practically the same ancestors and you may therefore again find that not only have the good points you hoped to stamp on the progeny become fixed but also some of the faults. This is often the case when the mating are arranges more on the basis of studying the pedigrees than the two dogs themselves. No dog with any bad feature at all should be mated with another bearing the same feature. Inbreeding fixes characteristics, and with sensible selection very superior progeny can be produced, though very often this improvement is only noted in one or two of the litter. Inbreeding is not a 100 percent method of getting what you want in all the puppies—very far from it—but it is the shortest known cut to stamping a family likeness on the litters you breed. Unfortunately it often leads to a deterioration of constitution, size and temperament, and what you gain upon the swings you may lose upon the roundabouts.

Inbreeding is not an unnatural phenomenon. Formerly, when dogs ran wild in packs, the most powerful male was the sire of all the puppies in the pack, and that of course led to intensive inbreeding. But what we are inclined to forget is that in those days the survival of the fittest was the rule, and the weaklings never survived. In these days of specialized dog-breeding, when puppies mean money, the weakest in the litter may be hand reared, which is of course a very bad thing for the race.

Not all inbreeding is harmful, or sure to make the strain lose vigor or produce bad temperament. These faults occur also with mating between completely unrelated animals, and one is far more likely to know what one is going to get as the result of inbreeding than by indiscriminate breeding from an unknown, unrelated sire. If the same constitutional weakness appears in both sides of the parents to be inbred, then undoubtedly the weakness will be stamped in a terrifying way on the progeny. If, however, the breeder inbreeds sensibly by choosing only vigorous, fertile parents, rejecting all signs of any weakness, the resulting puppies should have indelibly stamped on them the good qualities sought after. I do not feel it is wise for amateur breeders to indulge in this method of breeding. It depends entirely on the skill used in selecting the dogs to be mated.

Line breeding is an entirely different process, and some of the best dogs in the world owe their beauty, temperament, and vigor to being line bred for generations. This is of course done chiefly on pedigree as well as selection, but you do not stamp the particular quality you require on the progeny as you do with inbreeding.