Planned Breeding: Part VI
The response to this series of articles has been surprising to me and in many ways most gratifying. In at least one respect, however, it has been enlightening to the point discouragement. Literally hundreds of letters, and many conversations at dog shows and other gatherings of dog breeders, have shown an almost unbelievable lack of knowledge on the part of fanciers as to what constitutes a good specimen of their breed.
Better Not to Breed Without Knowledge
In earlier installments I have pointed out both the benefits and dangers inherent in linebreeding or inbreeding and dwelt at considerable length on the necessity for using only as near faultless stock as it is possible to obtain as one’s foundation animals. It is very evident to me now that I have presupposed a greater knowledge of what constitutes a good animal of any given breed than the majority of its fanciers possess. This being true, it seems to behoove me now again to warn some of today’s breeders NOT to attempt any kind of closed-up breedings; in fact, not to do ANY breeding until they have a better knowledge of WHAT they want to get FROM their matings.
Of course, the person who is interested only in the commercial aspect of the game, the breeding of dogs to sell and make money (if indeed that can be done), or because it is fun to have some cute puppies around, will have no interest in what I have written previously or in what I say now.
To the many, however, who seem sincerely interested in breeding better specimens, to the many who want to know HOW to do it, I want to stress as strongly as I can: YOU MUST FIRST KNOW WHAT IS A GOOD DOG OF YOUR BREED. In other words, know your breed before you try to breed it.
The manufacturer of any product must know what that article should be and look like before he starts to make it. The baker of a cake must know what a cake should look like and, in each instance, the manufacturer and the baker must know, and be able to recognize any and all faults or shortcomings in their products.
We Must Linebreed — But Wisely!
The subject of inbreeding and linebreeding might be summed up this way: Probably no great epoch or step forward in any breed has ever been achieved without the constant and unhesitating use of consanguinity; at the same time we must realize that its use is full of dangers and pitfalls for those novice breeders who fail to recognize the imperative need for using only stock which is sound in constitution, organs and structure — and which also possesses outstanding points of merit, with NO SINGLE FAULT COMMON TO THE TWO ORIGINAL PARENTS.
This means we must linebreed, but linebreed wisely, and not until we are able to recognize all the shortcomings, as well as the merits, of our dogs, and are informed about the same in their ancestors.
Need for the above advice, or warning if you will, has been impressed upon me more and more as breeders have contacted me. Some have asked if they should linebreed upon dogs whom I have found to be so “full of holes” — with so many faults — that they should not be used as breeders at all.
Then there are so very many, especially in German Shepherd Dogs, who state their intention to inbreed or linebreed upon imported animals. When asked, they admit to no knowledge whatever of the inheritance factors possessed by these dogs, the good as well as the warning blood in them. To breed to them in order to find out is one thing, but to plan the building of a strain, through inbreeding and linebreeding on them, is quite another matter.
Always Know What to Expect Through Inheritance
It should be made clear that I am not taking any stand against breeding to some of these imported dogs. On the contrary, I recognize that doing so has given the German Shepherd Dog breed in this country a boost and eventuated in some excellent specimens.
The point I am trying to get across is based upon what I have written above; i.e. that ONLY those breeders knowledgeable in what constitutes a near-perfect specimen of the breed, as well as those having information on what to hope for, and look out for, through inheritance factors, should even THINK of doing closed-up breeding on them. The same, of course, applies to our American-bred dogs.
While on this subject, I would indeed be remiss did I not again point out some of the traits which I find so very many of our German Shepherd Dog breeders of today are either not knowledgeable enough of their Standard to recognize, or which they ignore — traits that, should they be “set” through inbreeding or linebreeding, would put the breed back many years and be all but impossible to eradicate. I realize that these were listed in earlier installments, but because there seems to be few who know them, even amongst judges, I feel that attention should again be called to them.
Serious Faults in Some Imports
The most important faults in the imported German Shepherd Dogs, it seems to me, are these:
Lack of proper type as defined by the Standard of the breed. Where it calls for dogs to be longer than high, very many are practically square.
Proper angulation at BOTH ENDS is difficult to find. Rear angulation, in many instances, approximates that of Collies, while the forequarters have scapulars (shoulder blades) much too short and steep — pushed up into too-short necks.
Properly high-set withers, with strong backs, are all but non-existent in many of these imports.
The very idea of, even the giving of consideration to, inbreeding or linebreeding on such dogs, causes any real student and lover of this noble breed great concern.
As most of those either contemplating or engaging in such a breeding program are novices or formerly unsuccessful breeders, I can but hope that my “lone voice crying in the wilderness” will make them pause before irreparable harm is done to the breed.
(1) Through studying the breed’s Standard of Perfection, attending dog shows, talking with knowledgeable people in one’s breed, and owning good dogs, a breeder should learn what IS a good specimen of his breed before he starts ANY breeding operations, let alone the more or less involved types such as inbreeding and linebreeding.
(2) When either of the latter are attempted, make certain to select as near faultless foundation stock as it is possible to get, and cull relentlessly, never mating together two dogs with similar faults. I repeat for the umpteenth time in this series “Physical compensation is the foundation rock upon which all enduring worth must be built.”
Regrettably Little Information for True Breed Students
In some of the preceding installments I have pointed out that most of my experimenting with various breeding theories has been done with German Shepherd Dogs, but stated my sincere desire to be of all help possible to beginners in any breed. Resultant information obtained from the many contacts made since the appearance of the first article in this series has shown me how many dog breeders are deeply and seriously interested in obtaining knowledge which will enable them to produce better specimens of their particular breed.
It is indeed regrettable that, at least in the more popular breeds, with a consequent greater number of fanciers, there are not more sources of information available to such students, that there is not a printed compendium of knowledge about the various qualities of the leading sires in each breed.
It goes without saying that any such record should be compiled by very knowledgeable and experienced fanciers of a breed, and, of most importance, that it be fostered by its Parent Club. While such a program presents great advantages in theory, its practical application is all but impossible, especially if the compilers of such a record essay to give breeding advice.
Analysis of Breed Survey Systems
The above is written as a prelude to what I am about to write regarding the patently ill-advised organization termed “The American Breed Survey Society for German Shepherd Dogs, Inc.” Because I find such a large proportion of the readers of these articles are fanciers of that breed, I hope my inserting the following in what is, in the main, material for all breeds, and printed in an all-breed magazine, may be pardoned.
It may also result in second thoughts on the part of any personally ambitious fanciers of other breeds, or clubs contemplating the establishment of such an organization.
For the benefit and information of those in other breeds who may not know about this “Breed Survey” in Shepherds, or who have not read the challenging article concerning it written by Mrs. Leslev Kodner, together with the reply by Mr. Grant Mann, as these’ have been appearing in DOG WORLD, some explanation should be given.
In Germany, the “home” of this breed, and where it has been most highly developed throughout the almost three-quarters of a century of its history as a distinct breed, there is accessible to its fanciers a wealth of information. In all but inexhaustible detail records have been kept of every animal, especially of all those used as breeders.
Such breeding and show records have been published in book form and so are available to all German fanciers of the breed. Neither available space, nor the probable interest of many of my readers in this subject would warrant a full explanation of how this estimable program is conducted in that country. Neither is it necessary to relate all the reasons why it could not be, and never has been when previously tried, a success in America.
Suffice it to explain that over there they have “surveyors,” or breed wardens, who through many years of intensive training and practical experience, are worthy of being listened to when they give advice, or estimate the qualities of a dog. Also, such it seems is the typical German mind that they will submit to being regimented and, in the matter of mating their dogs, listen to, and obey, the advice of the appointed authorities.
Fortunately or unfortunately, according to the way one may look at it, such is NOT the case here in our country. Neither will most of us comply with, or heed, any advice given relative to breeding our dogs, nor do we have in this country many, if indeed any, who are sufficiently knowledgeable through experience, or sufficiently dedicated to have studied bloodline inheritance, to make a similar program valuable or workable.
It is regrettable that such is the situation because, as previously stated, in THEORY an organization supplying valuable data on physical structure, and reliable information on breeding worth, could be of inestimable advantage to ALL breeders and especially to those beginners who are so hungry for knowledge about their breed.
It would seem from the above, and it is true, that while I recognize the need for an accurate source of information, especially about dogs used for breeding, and which would be obtainable by the many fanciers of all breeds who are hungry for it, I do NOT look favorably upon, or in any way approve of, The American Breed Survey Society.
Previous Projects Have Proven Unworkable
For whatever my opinion may be worth to those either contemplating having their dogs “surveyed,” or who have already had it done and may assume the reports made on their dogs either completely accurate or, in the matter of breeding advice given, worthy of acceptance, it seems I should detail some of the reasons upon which my opinion is based. This I shall now do in the form of questions and answers.
Has such a project ever before been inaugurated in this country? Yes, on several occasions and under the sponsorship of the Parent Club of the breed.
Because of success in supplying unbiased, unprejudiced, accurate, and valuable information, were any of them deemed worthy of continuance? Quite the opposite. About the only result was to prove how unworkable (and for too many reasons to elaborate upon here) such a program must be in this country.
Who were those doing the examining of dogs and termed “surveyors” during these previous experiments? Selected German authorities of breed renown in their country, an brought over for the purpose of helping us establish a record of our American-owned dogs’ attributes such as is available in the country of its origin.
Are Survey Leaders Qualified?
Who is the originator and operator of the so-called “American Breed Survey” now currently functioning? Mr. Grant E. Mann of Detroit, Mich.
Does he have the experience and necessary attributes to evaluate the qualities of a dog? I feel, and the general consensus of opinion seems to be, that he has, since he is a long time breeder, erstwhile judge of the breed and producer of many top-quality specimens.
Who, other than Mr. Mann, are listed officers of his organization? A.D.M. Barton as “Gen. Counsel,” R.T. Lundquist, Treasurer and, as Secretary, a seemingly obscure man named Brotherton about whom nobody seems to have any information other than that he is the owner of one dog. To my knowledge, at least, there is evidently no record of Mr. Brotherton’s or Mr. Lundquist’s previous activity in the breed upon which to predicate a belief in their importance in such a venture.
Did the Board of Governors of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, when urged by Mr. Mann to accept and sponsor his “Breed Survey” idea, vote to do so? No. Having knowledge of the failures of previous attempts, and the basic reasons for their debacles, they wisely refused to participate in any way. They seemed to feel, however, that they had no authority to prohibit Mr. Mann from operating such a project “on his own.”
Are Survey Results Beneficial?
Are the purposes of the organization as altruistic in all its claims, including that of its being a non-profit venture, as are stated? Perhaps that should not be challenged, despite there having been no reports made, to anyone’s seeming knowledge, either privately or publicly, as to its income and disbursements. In the absence of any such accounting, one is of necessity left to draw his own conclusions.
What are the charges made for the examination or “surveying” of a customer’s dog? They seem to vary according to the number of dogs gathered at a pre-arranged surveying point and the distance the surveyors must travel, the minimum, I understand, being $10.00 a dog.
Are such charges reasonable? They would seem to be, providing the customer receives in exchange enough of actual, usable and dependable information to make the cost and the time consumed worthwhile — providing much more is received, we would say, than any knowledgeable judge of the breed could, and usually would, be willing and capable of supplying “for free” at any dog show.
Do the written reports, as furnished to those who submit their dogs for evaluation by the committee appointed by the Society, really supply enough more information than could be obtained, as above mentioned, to be worth the charge? Indeed, are many of them even accurate or detailed enough to warrant one’s serious consideration, even could they be obtained without ANY charge having been made for them?
Personal knowledge of many of the dogs surveyed, together with a familiarity with their ancestors, as delineated in their pedigrees, lead many of the cognoscente to strongly question it. In fact, so many of the reports I have seen are sufficiently inaccurate, and wrong in listing the surveyed dog’s physical characteristics (as many others, including capable judges, have found them to be), together with their ill-advised recommendations for its breeding use, as to raise the serious question:
May not the results of the organization’s work prove to be more harmful than beneficial to the breed, if its findings are accepted seriously by customers? Just one of many such misleading and very inaccurate survey reports to come to my attention is the one mentioned in Mrs. Kodner’s “Open Letter to Grant Mann,” which appeared in the November issue of DOG WORLD and the October issue of THE SHEPHERD DOG REVIEW.
Before me as I write is a photostatic copy of the Breed Survey’s report on her dog Ch. By Jiminey. I have had the experience not only of judging the dog at least three times, but also the opportunity of studying him outside the ring on numerous occasions. In addition, I have seen, and know, his immediate progenitors. A considerable knowledge of the ancestors, I might add, is a prerequisite to making ANY breeding recommendations. Unless it is known which traits are inherited and which may be acquired, as through feeding and disease, for instance, NO worthwhile or even reasonably accurate recommendations can possibly be made as to certain “warning blood,” or what type of mate is, or is not, suitable.
In the case of the above-mentioned dog, is it probable that there could have been any knowledge of his ancestry possessed by the surveyors? At least one of the three participants, the Herr Funk of Germany, could not possibly have known much, if indeed anything, about that. Considering the recommendations made, it is my belief that neither did the other two surveyors on the team. That opinion is based upon my above stated familiarity with the dog, his ancestors, and the offspring I have seen sired by him and out of different bitches.
If this article were appearing in a breed magazine, much more could and should be said about this sample case of improper and disillusioning “surveying.” However, any informed breeder and fancier, or student of the breed, can easily determine for himself, with a little effort, why there is so much dissatisfaction with, and criticism of, the American Breed Survey Society for German Shepherd Dogs, Inc. — decide for himself by checking the Survey report on Ch. By Jiminey, in conjunction with the dog himself, by SEEING the faults enumerated by his conscientious owner but NOT mentioned in his report — by comparing him with his inferior brother who was given a higher rating — by learning about his ancestors so as to determine the validity and worth of the “Breeding Warnings,” etc., etc.
Are the “Surveyors” Qualified?
Who, in addition to the operator of this Breed Survey Society, do “surveying” for it? Its letterhead lists eleven names as “Advisory Panel.” What are their qualifications? Mr. Mann has listed the names of several of the surveyors in his well-written reply to Mrs. Kodner’s “Open Letter,” this reply having been printed in the December and January issues of DOG WORLD, so the reader may judge for himself. Amongst those listed on the Society’s letterhead there are only three, it seems, who have obtained their judges’ licenses.
How many of the listed surveyors have a record as prominent or successful breeders? None, so far as I know. It would be difficult to remember and name any noteworthy number or top-quality dogs ever bred by any of them other than Grant Mann. A few either presently own, or in the past have bought, good dogs.
Human nature being what it is, breed Standards being as they are (subject to differing interpretations), and exhibitors’ opinions about judges varying as they do, who is to say that any judge, be he on the Society’s panel or not, is capable? That matter, as well as the qualifications possessed by them, and the non-judge surveyors, both as to their abilities to evaluate dogs and advise others about “Breeding Warnings,” etc., should, it would seem, be given thoughtful consideration by all potential users of the Society’s services.
Need Reliable Source of Information
There is probably no dog breeder or person interested in the “game” who does not wish there were a dependable source of information such as the present American Breed Survey Society for German Shepherd Dogs was organized to supply.
The sincerity and reasonableness evidenced in Grant Mann’s reply to Mrs. Kodner’s “Open Letter” is indeed commendable. His admittance that improvements in its operation are needed and planned for might create hope for such an eventually dependable source of information.
However, considering all the factors, some of which have been touched upon in this article, plus others more fully elaborated upon in Mrs. Kodner’s “Open Letter,” her short rebuttal, and more that some of my readers personally know about, is it reasonable to entertain expectations for such improvement as would insure the continued existence of this organization? Only the most naive of those whose opinions are based upon wishful thinking could possibly expect this to happen. Its comparatively early demise has been predicted by many since the announcement of its start of operations and the selection of its surveyors.
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