A look into the past and future of one small breeding program

With the current situation in the world I thought it could be nice to pause, look back on my breeding and share some facts and thoughts with everyone. Originally, I was planning on writing something like this when I’m at full 10 years since my first litter, but what the hell, let’s do it now! We’re now at the point where the previous generation is fully “done” and the next step is to move on to generation 3 somewhere in 2021. I’m super excited for that generation, my females are promising and I can only hope I can match them with the right males.

I love spreadsheets. They are my life force. I have spreadsheets on EVERYTHING – my personal life, my studies, my dogs, my breeding plans etc. Before I started breeding, I made plans to evaluate and plan my work on three levels: individual litters, 3-year stretches and 15+ years-final goal level. I wrote up my general goals, and possible ways to reach them. I added motivational quotes and important phrases I wanted to always keep in mind. I tried not to set too many concrete limitations, but I can happily say I have had higher quality breeding dogs available to me than I expected to have. I’m now through the first three 3-year evaluations, and it’s been a wonder to see how much faster than expected things have moved towards the “final goal”. Naturally, perfection can never be achieved but the general type of dog I wanted to reach is not that far anymore.

2011-2013 I was happy to have females that had excellent vitality, above average workability (prey/food drive), excellent structures and movements. I felt that the weaknesses were the risks I had to take while picking males, since options were so limited and there was so little information available. At that time I felt I most wanted to improve nerves and get less soft/sensitive dogs.

2014-2016 I felt that I had fulfilled my first goals to improve on the individual females I had while keeping vitality as high as possible. This was achieved especially with the inter-variety litter in 2012. I was still happy with the vitality and structures, and I was happy with the play and prey drives I was getting, along with nice food drive and acceptable sociability. The biggest weakness was individual differences and variation, which at this point were large due to the new bloodlines and heterogeneity that was introduced. I realized that picking the right packages of qualities was even more critical than in a more uniform family.

2017-2019 after some bad luck, I was still in the progress of trying to continue with the daughters of both of my brood bitches. I really wanted to take my inter-variety cross back to longhair side and finally managed to do this, even if the manner was different from what was originally planned for. I’m a strong believer in failures creating opportunities for something better, so even if some of these years were demoralizing, I believe they were beneficial for my work in the end. I was still happy with vitality, health and structures of my breeding dogs. I felt that they had great strengths in having innate will to work with their handlers but simultaneously being great dogs at home. I felt the basic blocks were all in order on an individual level, but there were things I knew I could lose if I didn’t pick the males just right.

This “nervousness” is a defining trait for me as a breeder, since I am painfully aware how important every single choice I make is, and how easy it is to lose a good line. With a poor choice you can lose the good stuff you have in one generation. After two poor choices you have nothing left. But every generation closer to the ideal than the previous one should be considered a success. I’m super critical of my dogs, and sometimes writing things up and objectively evaluating and comparing them is the only way I can prove to myself I’m still on track.  It’s no wonder it took 9 years for 2 generations!

2020-2022 we’re at a point where my inter-variety cross is “done”, and I have a lot of options for the future. All of my options have the security I want socially, but there are definitely lots of different qualities and levels of “oomph” (professional dog breeding term ;)) in these dogs and thinking of males for them will be difficult. Some ideas are already forming, some are going to be difficult until the last moment. The goal will be to even out the differences, all of the girls are from the same dam line and the goal is for them to produce pretty uniform offspring assisted by the male choices. I feel that the overall health, structure and vitality are all great. The improvements in courage, sociability and workability have been insane since 2011.

Of all the females I had available to use, I used six, and gave up on seven (if you don’t count the ones I decided not to breed before 2011). I used seven males, and inquired and gave up on at least double or triple that. I might have many options for the future for now, but the fact remains that half of the time there is something in a dog that makes it not “make the cut”. Knowing this, my biggest hope for generation 3 is that I will be able to continue both of my “meta dam lines” with at least one good litter. Naturally, a dog that isn’t used in breeding isn’t necessarily a bad individual, but I really think being able to select from a bigger pool of potential candidates makes my breeding better. I thought this from the start, and I still believe in this. Sometimes I think past me was a bit naïve, but well-planned is half done and I do love my planning. 🙂

I’ve tried bringing in another dam line two times now by importing in 2011 and in 2016. Both of these times failed. In 2020 we’re trying yet again, and I really have big hopes for this plan. I love the dam line I have now, but there are very few maternal blood lines in the LH DS and getting another new one has been something I wanted to do from the start. When this works out, in the future I can see myself fusing my two original meta lines, and this is actually the goal once I get a completely new one introduced.

So far I have two large takeaways from my journey that I want to share:

– Introducing new blood is not improving the breed, it’s introducing new material and will give a wide variety of phenotypes, not all of them great. The real work happens with the selection of the next generation and generations. Even a good new line can end up bringing trouble if it’s not continued well.
– Good dogs don’t come from bad pedigrees. This should be a given, but it really only hits home once you see it live. Someone has an amazing dog from a done-nothing pedigree? Most likely not as amazing of a dog you as you think. It’s very easy to show “quality” in photos or videos just by making a high drive dog bite. But high drive is easy, it’s the other things that are hard. Really hard. And as soon as you stop focusing on them, you lose them.

Even if my writing might sound like the talk of someone who has a massive kennel and endless resources, it’s not. We live in a small home in the middle of nowhere, the dogs we have at home have nothing to do with how valuable they are as breeding animals, and my only carrying force is my passion for the breed (and spreadsheets). Maybe by saying this I can encourage others to realize you don’t need a big operation to make elaborate plans and do your best for the breed. Even the choices of small home breeders matter to everyone else.

The featured image of this post is my 1st and 2nd generation dogs: AC Tragedy In Black “Pants”, her sister AC The Five Far Stars “Brimi” (from my inter-variety cross), and her daughter AC Moon Sugar “Halla”. And below is a little family tree of the descendants from my breeding (click it to see it in full size), this will be later on the website itself once I renew some sections.

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