Should I breed my dog?

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By Bobbe Carney
Castrion Kennel

I would like to preface this article by stating that the statements being made are strictly my opinion and another breeder my have a totally different opinion on the subject. Eight and a half years ago I purchased my first SM from Barb Krieger. The sum total of research I had done on purchasing an SM was having read about them in “Gun Dog” and sensing that this breed would fit my needs nicely. I went and visited Barb’s kennel, liked what I saw, and ordered my pup. Gus turned out to be an outstanding upland hunter with the ability to enter a field and just seem to know where the birds would be. Barb hunted over Gus in his first season and was equally amazed at his abilities. Since she had worked with several SMs I began to think perhaps Gus was of breeding quality. My next move was to acquire a quality bitch with which to breed him. I decided it appropriate to search for a bitch with similar bloodlines, and since Gus was a “Sengpiel” bred dog I moved in that direction. I acquired Britta whose mother, Aryan, carried similar genetics as Gus. Both of Britta’s parents were Prize I Utility dogs. As you can tell, my main emphasis at this time was performance. I share this story because I suspect I am not the only person who thinks they have the world’s greatest hunting dogs and are thus motivated to breed their dogs. As I look back, I realize I was only considering one aspect of what one should consider in determining the breeding quality of a dog. The education I have acquired in the ensuing years has created an awareness of my own earlier ignorance as a breeder.

The following are the issues I consider in determining the breeding quality of a given dog, in no particular order of importance. Since SMs are a hunting breed I look at its ability to perform its job. Does it love to hunt? Are the natural abilities of the breed strong in this particular dog i.e. pointing, tracking, swimming, and prey drive. If I can say “yes” to these items then the dog is a consideration. Next, I consider the temperament of the dog. A SM should be friendly towards people and other dogs. We allow for a level of territoriality, being somewhat protective of their home and family, but overall they should be stable in a social setting. A dog that is interested in pleasing his/her master will be more trainable. A biddable dog will function better in the training scenario, will train faster, and will be more willing to hunt to the gun. Item number three is the health and genetics of the dog. By about five years of age most serious health issues have surfaced. I would not consider breeding a dog with marginal hips, allergies, congenital thyroid problems, or other health issues which can affect hunting endurance, quality of life, or longevity of the pups being bred. A study of my dog’s pedigree and research into health issues of related dogs can yield information which will help to increase the odds of producing healthy pups. Fourth, I must consider the conformation of my dog. It is nearly impossible to breed a dog with perfect conformation and type, however we certainly should be striving for perfection. Does my dog have the physical characteristics of a SM? Are the physical faults of my dog fairly limited, and is it reasonable to expect to be able to improve on my dog’s conformation through the selection of a mate with strengths in the areas of my dog’s weaknesses. Finally, I ask myself very honestly, is my dog above average for a SM and will this dog be capable of producing above average pups. There are no guarantees in dog breeding but careful consideration of all the aspects that make a dog a great dog should help lead to the continued success of the SM. After all, it isn’t about making money or boosting egos, it is all about our dogs!

In my next article I will give you some thoughts about the challenges and considerations of rearing a litter of pups.