Why would you want a pedigree dog?
When you breed a pedigree dog, you are deliberately choosing to mate one particular dog, with another. You examine their breed lines and consider their individual characteristics. I am going to write about choosing a stud dog separately, as this is a whole challenge in itself. But basically, the breeder decides what kind of dog they want to create.
Personally, I started out by wanting a red and white border collie – Sunny. Then I wanted to have more red and white dogs, so I found a stud dog who was also red and white (actually Sunny is a chocolate and white, as she is so dark, so that led me down an even more specific path). The choices I have made since then have created puppies with very particular characteristics.
I can show you many examples of my puppies and dogs and how alike they look. I can also give you many examples of how alike my puppies are in their temperament. Because I have so much contact with my puppies, I know that they continue to bear a strong likeness to their parents. Here is just one for you:
I like this particular example because Oz has such distinctive ears! And this is a trait he has clearly passed on to his daughter(s)! If you met these dogs in passing you would struggle to tell them apart, wouldn’t you? When my friend Jane and I put Luna and her sister Nell together, even we struggle to tell them apart!
If anyone has ever told you that you look just like your parent(s), or that your children are the spitting image of you, then you can go some way towards understanding pedigree dog breeding.
What is a pedigree dog?
Let’s look at a definition:
“A pedigree dog is the offspring of two dogs of the same breed, which is eligible for registration with a recognised club or society that maintain a register for dogs of that description. There are a number of pedigree dog registration schemes, of which the Kennel Club is the most well known.”
The Kennel Club is the organisation responsible for managing the registration of all pedigree dogs in the UK and they also register all dogs whose owners want to take part in dog activities, such as obedience or agility competitions – these dogs can included crossbreeds and dog of unspecified origin.
The Kennel Club start off by setting a breed standard for each pedigree. The KC website defines a breed standard as follows: “A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.”
In other words, the very definition of a pedigree dog is that it is fit and healthy, with a good temperament and being fit for purpose. Breed standards then go on to define aspects of each breed in more detail, which for a border collie includes:
Tenacious, hard-working sheep dog, of great tractability.
Keen, alert, responsive and intelligent. Neither nervous nor aggressive.
After this, various aspects of their physical appearance are detailed, including such details as:
Moderately long, the bone reaching at least to hock, set on low, well furnished and with an upward swirl towards the end, completing graceful contour and balance of dog. Tail may be raised in excitement, never carried over back.
In other words, a ‘pug tail’ would be defined as a fault – that is not what a border collie should look like. Once these characteristics are defined, breeders can select dogs that they feel are good examples of the breed and put these forward for showing.
You can see from the few details I have given here, that it is not just about looks. And if you look at the full breed standard, you will see that for Border Collie at any rate, there is a fair amount of variability. Having said that, of course judges looking at a selection of border collies in a show ring, will always choose:
- the one they personally like
- the one closest to ‘the classic look’
- the one best presented (shiny coat, bright eye, lively gait etc)
- the one that the public will want to buy
This final point is the heart of it. What the public want to buy is what drives us to create a pedigree dog in the first place and what drives us to create variability within the breeds. That is what pedigree breeding is about – creating a dog that suits the owner.
Predictability is the key
When I put Busy to Sox, I was able to look up on a database – Anadune and see what mix of colours I was likely to get. This turned out to be pretty accurate; I got my rainbow litter!I also got what I was expecting with regards temperament; Busy and Sox are both pretty chilled, gentle natures, so Ounce (and her siblings) are proving to be just the same, which is what I wanted.
What about crossbreeds?
“A crossbreed generally has known, usually purebred parents of two distinct breeds or varieties.”
In theory then, we are still putting two clearly identified dogs together. However, we are then introducing far more variability. If I want all red (or chocolate) puppies, I must use a red and white stud dog. If I don’t mind other colours, I can use a dog of a different colour. (And if I want all black and white dogs, I use a black and white stud dog who doesn’t carry colour, which can be tested for.)
If you put a poodle to a labrador, the resulting puppies will have a mix of poodle and labrador. They will have the brains of the poodle and the curly, non-shedding coat, with the gentle nature of the labrador.
They will have the boisterous, simple nature of the labrador, with its shedding coat and bulky body, together with the sharp wits and yappy barking of the poodle! It depends which bits get passed on. Hmm, but that wasn’t what I wanted! That is what can happen though. Of course all the variation can be lovely, but if you want something specific, you want a pedigree. After all, you don’t look exactly like your siblings do you? Not unless you are an identical twin. It’s the same for dogs – the more different the parents, the more varied the pups will be.
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