A recent post on Facebook asked breeders to identify the one thing that they would like their breeding program to be known for. Many said “temperament”; a similar number said “health”. My own response was…
…”balance in structure and balance in decision-making with balanced emphasis given to breed type, movement, temperament and health”. Each of these elements is equally important in a well-bred dog and a well-designed breeding program.
Breed Type: When I was taught to judge horses and livestock in 4H, FFA, and in college, breed type was always emphasized as an important consideration when evaluating animals. You may have a class of Jersey Heifers but if the best animal in the class has a head like a Guernsey, you cannot put her up. It’s a class of Jersey Heifers and they must have correct breed type. Yes, their job in life is to produce cheese, and some might argue that the head is irrelevant in fulfilling that role, but we are evaluating animals for many aspects and maintaining breed type is an important consideration.
Movement: Correct, sound movement is crucial for a working hound to be able to do his job in the field. Effortlessness, freedom of movement, no wasted energy, sound coming and going – these are critical for the beagle to be able to last all day in the field.
Temperament: A confident, even-tempered beagle is able to do its job in the field and live peacefully in its pack. That same temperament makes them an ideal family pet as well. A beagle that is soft in temperament, or one that shows aggression, must be faulted.
Health: We all want healthy dogs. As a breeder, I don’t want to be dealing with health issues or spending a lot of time and money at the vet. I want the same for my pet owners and I want my reputation in the breed to be one that is known for making health a priority. Unfortunately, health issues are not something that are evident in the show ring. It’s up to the breeder to be knowledgeable about health issues and make sound decisions regarding health when breeding.
A balanced breeding program considers all of these aspects with each breeding. Each breeder has their own interpretation of the standard and personal knowledge of their own bloodline. Getting to know fellow breeders and the strengths and weaknesses of their bloodlines enables a breeder to both make sound breeding decisions and also, perhaps…reevaluate their own thoughts and priorities.
In the past, the Show Beagle Quarterly would include articles entitled “Meet the Breeder”. It was always interesting to learn what was important to long-time breeders with successful breeding programs. What do you LOVE to see in your dogs? Where do you draw the line? When the question about “what do you want to be known for?” came up for discussion on Facebook, I was reminded of the old “Meet the Breeder” articles and thought about what I would share about Talbot Hill…
Thoughts that are always on my mind:
I am breeding Beagles….not show dogs.
How important is this trait to the dog’s ability to do the work for which it was intended? Or, as an element of breed type?
How does this breeding decision bring me closer to the image of the ideal beagle that I have in my mind?
Focus on improving my own bloodline and not on what happens in the show ring.
The things that I LOVE to see in a beagle:
A beautiful, houndy head with soft expression
Sound, effortless, ground-covering movement
Bitches that easily free-whelp litters averaging six puppies
Where do I draw the line? What traits will eliminate a dog from my breeding program?:
Major health issues
Poor movement – unsound or lacking reach and drive
Bad bites, kinked tails, flanged ribs…and the dogs that produce them
Bitches that are unable to free-whelp and dogs that produce undescended testicles
This article mentions many topics that will be addressed in future articles. This is intended as a way for you to “Meet the Breeder”, summarizing my priorities and perhaps as a prompt future discussion.