The success of every dog-breeding project centres primarily around the brood bitch. It is desirable to breed strong healthy puppies but it is also necessary for those destined for exhibition to grow into sound animals and to conform with the requirements of an approved standard. Which would be strongly represented in the brood bitch.
It might be imagined by those who have little experience in dog breeding that all that would be necessary would be to mate a champion brood bitch with a champion dog of the same species in order to produce a champion litter.
Such is far from being the case, except by a lucky chance, since to produce puppies very like themselves the blood lines of sire and brood bitch have, as breeders say, to ‘nick’, which in other words means that each carries genes complementary to the other, a not very common occurrence.
It is true that some kennels contrive to turn out a champion each year, but they are usually those that contain a number of brood bitches often similarly bred, and their owners have been fortunate enough to discover a sire that ‘nicks’, and they are sensible enough to continue for so long as may appear advisable to use the same blood lines. Even then the proportion of puppies that grow into dogs and bitches capable of holding their own in championship shows is not very high and one might well need to produce a considerable number of litters each year to enjoy any prospect of breeding one specimen capable of winning challenge certificates.
Choosing your Brood Bitch
Regarding breeding, as it is carried out on general lines rather than by established breeders, brood bitches capable of producing puppies that grow well and conform with the standard are by no means always those that have been most successful in the ring, but they are
- Sound, Healthy, Happy
- Active, good muscle mass and smooth joints
- Intelligent, sharp and good temperament
A good brood bitch usually has good pedigrees behind her.
Many of those brood bitches possess some minor fault or faults, a small percentage of which will be passed on to their puppies, but certain good features, such as excellent necks and shoulders, good ribs and the right type of bone, are likely to be passed on also. They should be easy whelpers, good mothers, and possess excellent temperaments. It is true, of course, that the tendency today, now that shows are so plentiful, is to make greater use of winning dams, but in days gone by less attention was paid to the female side and far more to the sire. A winning sire, and particularly one with the requisite number of challenge certificates, will be unlikely to possess many undesirable features in conformation, but his intelligence may or may not be up to standard.
The urgent need to introduce or preserve show points may induce the breeder to overlook temperament and intelligence in the brood bitch and the sire and to produce certain litters that grow up with good conformation but possess a very low intelligence quotient, or nervous or untrustworthy dispositions. It is wise never to use such dogs as sires, and it is possible, when line breeding is aimed at, that they may have near relations not quite so close to the standard as regards conformation but with better temperaments and greater intelligence. One often produces better puppies from a near relative of the champion than from the champion himself.
Years ago it was regarded as essential to look for quality in the sire, for strength and soundness in the brood bitch, and for correct temperament in both. Today most breeders realise that these qualities should exist in both sexes, but many are apt to pay too little regard to temperament. One has always to bear in mind that one is not trying to produce a normal representative of a particular species when breeding dogs.
In no species throughout the animal kingdom are there several hundred breeds or varieties unrecognisable from their original ancestors, as there are in the dog family. Each separate breed of dog is different from all the others in a variety of characteristics, and each breed is an artificial, man-made and man-devised product that has to conform to an intricate standard entirely its own. The Chihuahua, the Great Dane, and the Alsatian have few features in common, and yet it is necessary for the breeder to retain a number of special characteristics peculiar to his own chosen breed; and when he has done this and produced a specimen typical of this created breed it is essential, if it is to win prizes, that certain combinations of artificial features shall be present in the same individual not such an easy.matter as one might imagine, but it constitutes a problem that intrigues the dedicated breeder and creates the Fancy as well as the fancier.
And where does the brood bitch come in? She contributes a half of the inheritance and, in addition, she comes in as the reservoir of all the breed features and as the factory and the milk-bar that can turn out and deliver the goods. The sire is of great importance, too, as the force that can put the operation of breeding into motion and supply an equal share of the genes that will modify the development of fractions of each member of the litter, with a hope that the combinations and permutations of genes presented by the two parents may produce a perfect specimen of the breed.
Breeding is always something of a gamble. The odds against the breeder may be reduced by a knowledge of form, the quality of the brood bitch, but there is no royal road to success. If there were, it would be the end of dog breeding.