Choosing a Stud Dog

CHOOSING A STUD DOG

 

Whilst there are plenty of male Labradors which may be potential mates for your bitch. In fact, choosing the right stud dog is a more complicated business than it may seem. Most serious breeders spend a long time researching and deciding on the most suitable dog for their bitch.

I will assume in this article that the bitch owner has already given close consideration as to why they want to breed a litter of puppies and whether their bitch is likely to be a suitable brood with the correct good Labrador temperament. Also, that her hips and if possible elbows have been X-rayed through the BVA/KC scheme and she processes a current BVA/KC eye pass certificate (see KC Web site for information on these tests). here In addition, consideration should have been given to the future of the puppies and whether they will be mainly bred for pets, workers, show animals or some combination of the three and that suitable homes are likely to be available. The possible and preferred colour of the puppies you would like to breed should also be considered.

Where possible it is always a good idea to speak to the breeder of your bitch as it is likely that the breeder will know what lines are likely to "knit well" with his/her breeding. At this point potential stud dogs may be suggested or you may be pointed in the direction of another experienced breeder who can help and advise.

The following list looks at the factors that must be taken into consideration when selecting a stud dog and they will be discussed in more detail. They are not necessarily in any order of preference although temperament is really a number one priority.

Factors to consider in choosing the stud dog.

Temperament.
Pedigree.
His conformation, strengths and weaknesses and how this compares with your bitch.
Hip Scores.
Elbow Scores.
DNA test results
Eye Certificates.
His colour and what colours are in his genetic make up.
Amount of success in the show ring, shooting field or other competitive work that he may be campaigned in.
How keen the owner is to give assistance with the practicalities of the mating.
What puppies the dog has sired previously and how they have turned out.
The stud fee payable or any other conditions attached to the mating.
Whether the stud dog owner can pass on puppy enquiries to you.
Have you actually seen the dog?

Temperament
Your bitch's temperament can quite normally range from quiet to rather more boisterous but still be classed as having a good temperament. It is usually sensible to ensure that the stud dog's temperament compliments your bitch. Two very quiet dogs might produce puppies that are overly dull or shy. This may be particularly important if you wish to compete with any of the puppies. Likewise, two adults on the boisterous range of normal might give rise to a proportion of the litter being rather too much for the average pet owner to handle.

Conformation and working ability
Just like temperament it is important to consider these factors. If your bitch has a conformation weakness, for example rather straight stifles, if would be silly to select a dog with the same weakness. This, and many other conformation faults, are not just beauty issues. Dogs with straight stifles or other conformation faults are much more likely to suffer injury or joint problems due to the extra stresses and strains put on ligaments and cartilage. If you wish to show any of the puppies' adherence to the "show" interpretation of the breed standard is also important. Likewise, if your bitch is rather excitable in the shooting field (and you do not think this is the result of poor training) it might be better to select a steadier worker as the sire. If you wish to produce a puppy to be successful in any particular competitive area e.g. field trials. You are more likely to be successful if one or both of the parents have been successful at this level.

Pedigree
Some breeders have great success using a dog completely unrelated to their bitch (out-breeding) but who shares some physical or temperamental characteristics which are similar to their bitch with the intention of enhancing these characteristics in the puppies (mating like to like). Of course to a greater or lesser extent all Labradors share some common ancestors as they all eventually go back to the same foundation stock which of course differentiates the Labrador from any other breed and therefore generally ensures that the puppies look and behave like Labradors rather than any other breed. The disadvantage of this type of mating is that at the genetic level the "similar" characteristics might actually be caused by completely different genes which may result in puppies not actually being similar, but all being very different to one another and not stamping in the positive characteristics of either parent. Unexpected faults may also arise.

An alternative method is line breeding. This is the mating of individuals that share some common ancestry and these "common" dogs possessed the desired characteristics. This might mean that the sire and dam may be 1st 2nd or 3rd cousins or even more distantly or closely related. The advantages are that the sire and dam's positive characterises are more likely to be the result of the same genes and these are therefore more likely to be passed on to the puppies. It is of course also possible that the sire and dam also both carry some hidden (or recessive) genes that may be responsible for some unexpected or less desirable characteristics.

In breeding actually takes place in any pure breed to a greater or lesser extent as all individuals within the breed share, at some point in their history, the same few ancestors. However, in practice the term is generally used to describe much closer matings for example father to daughter or granddaughter. Obviously, the same advantages and disadvantages of line breeding are possible but are likely to be more intensely represented in the puppies. Close in breeding, if practised at all, is best left to very experienced breeders who have a long standing and excellent first hand knowledge of all the dogs in the pedigree in order that recessive problems (which could be hereditary diseases) are avoided.

It would be fair to say that gentle line breeding is the most common type of breeding used for pedigree animals. Bearing in mind that all animals within a given breed share some common ancestry. In order to get an idea on how much line breeding should be carried out it is possible to work out the in-breeding coefficient of an individual and any puppies produced from a given mating. Test matings and their inbreeding co-efficients can be calculated on the KC mate selct web site. The breed average for Labradors is currently 6.4%. The Dog Breeding and Welfare Advisory Council reccomend that normally no higher than 12.5% in breeding co-efficient is used but this is only a guide. iIt should therefore be obvious that the precautions of using the KC/BVA schemes as screening measures in order to reduce the risk of passing on hereditary disease is extremely important. Where possible, speak to your bitch's breeder as they will generally help to guide you towards breed lines that, in their experience, tend to "knit" well with their stock and produce as fewer problems as possible.

Always bear in mind that the perfect pedigree animal has yet to be born and Labradors are no exception. Breeding is not an exact science and we can only use our best and honest judgement to try and do our best to produce good-tempered fit and healthy puppies that will grow into the same type of adults. No absolute guarantees can be made when breeding live stock. The best we can do, is to do all we can to reduce the risk of any severe problems occurring with puppies or adults. Always keep back at least the cost of one sold puppy in your savings account just in case you produce a problem and are ethically (or legally) obliged to make a refund to the purchaser. It is also strongly recommended that you sell puppies with a contract of sale to mitigate against possible legal action. Ask your local breed club or the Kennel club if they have a copy of one you can use.

Screening Certificates for the control of hereditary disease.
All Labrador stud dog owners should be able to provide you with a copy of the dog's KC/BVA hereditary disease screening certificates. Don't use the dog if they cannot or will not do this. The parents' results are printed on the puppies KC registration certificates. Below are the diseases currently covered.

Hip and elbow scores
X ray hip scores for each hip can range from 0 (free from disease and very rarely achieved) to 53 (very bad hip). The "recorded" breed average is a total (for both hips) of about 17. However, as many of the poorer x-ray plates are not sent for scoring the true average is more likely to be in the 20s. Certainly, dogs with a hip score of 20:20 are unlikely to go clinically lame and many dogs with much higher scores show no signs of lameness. However, it would be exceptional for dogs with scores this high to be used at general stud.

Hopefully, the dogs score will be a little lower or at least the same as your bitch's score. However, this is not always possible because the lowest scoring sires might be too closely related to your bitch or have other characteristics which you wish or need to avoid in your bitch. Providing the dog has a reasonably low score you will most likely be producing puppies which are in quite a low risk category for being affected with bad hip dysplasia. It is very unlikely that we will ever be able to totally breed out the condition as it is caused by a combination of genetic (about 33% due to genes) and environmental factors. The main aim, in my view, is to try to reduce the risk of producing severely dysplastic puppies which may go lame. In the main it does seem that we are being successful in the breed at doing this.

It is possible to get information for some older stud dogs on what the mean hip score, for the puppies they have produced to a variety of different bitches, has been (progeny testing). However, the stud dog usually has to be reasonably old for this information to be available, as he needs to have sired at least 10 scored puppies. Also the pups have to be at least a year old prior to scoring and then this is only generally done if the owners plan to breed on. However, if you are planning to use a dog of 4 or more years of age you can check the Labrador Club Annual Hip Score Records book to see if sufficient of the stud dog's puppies have been scored. This may be particularly helpful if your bitch's hip score is a little on the high side, as you may then be able to select a dog which, on average, seems to be "improving" the hip scores of his puppies rather than one who appears to have no effect or even a detrimental one.

(Continued on Chosing a Stud Dog 2)