AKC Gazette breed column, Chihuahuas—Don’t be in a hurry for that great one. It is far better for a breeder to move slowly toward an eventual goal by tackling one problem at a time, collecting virtues into the genotype and breeding away from faults through careful selection.
We all start at the same place, but it doesn’t take long before we think we know everything. Eventually we admit to ourselves this is probably not the case, and we begin again. It is at this point that we really start learning, and hopefully we continue learning for the rest of our lives.
People tend to learn only their immediate interest. As breeders, we need to broaden our horizons beyond our immediate boundaries. A championship title does not guarantee perfection. Knowing and understanding your breed standard is all important. With that, you also need to know canine anatomy, animal husbandry, and the understanding of genetics, health screening, and DNA testing. Once all these puzzle pieces are gathered, we put them together to begin a breeding program.
It is always good to make it a habit to look at virtues first, and faults last. If you are a “fault-finder,” the faults will override the total perspective and leave a lingering impression.
Always weigh the faults against the virtues. Do the qualities outweigh the faults? Because of the complexities of genetics and the many variables of inherited characteristics, a breeder must be willing to gamble with nature, taking the worst along with the best. With conviction and courage, triumph will eventually emerge, and a great dog will be born.
A breeder must realize that every puppy, in reality, is two different beings and therefore cannot be bred with any degree of certainty. Phenotype is what the animal looks like on the outside. Certain genes have come together to create his physical appearance. What a dog looks like on the inside is his genotype, a blueprint of inherited traits from his ancestors.
If you like jigsaw puzzles, you will enjoy putting your genetic knowledge to work—but remember, 75 percent is luck, and 25 percent is skill.
Now that we know so much of the dog is determined by what he has inherited, even such things as his show spirit or ability to perform tricks, we can make better choices. Many faults can be eliminated from a bloodline, and superior qualities introduced, through selection and understanding of the laws of heredity. Therefore, a dog’s true qualities are not necessarily evidenced in his physical appearance but are also concealed in his genetic framework.
As breeders, we all understand that there is no perfect dog. Don’t be in a hurry for that great one. It is far better for a breeder to move slowly toward an eventual goal by tackling one problem at a time, collecting virtues into the genotype and breeding away from faults through careful selection, and including health screening. The overall dog must be kept in mind. For success in the show ring, not only does this require a quality dog but also a dog who is properly raised, conditioned, trained, groomed, and handled. This is hard work, and there are no shortcuts.
Understanding of the pedigree should never be ignored. What a dog transmits to his progeny depends on the genetics and actually has little to do with the number of champions we see in the pedigree. The idea that an inferior dog will produce something greater than himself because he has an impressive pedigree is a fallacy. Unless he carries in his genetic makeup a combination for a desired quality, he cannot pass it to his progeny.
Probably one rule stands out above any other, and that is “breed only the best to the best, and don’t be satisfied with anything less.” —Virginia (Jenny) Hauber, [email protected]
Further information about Chihuahuas can be found here and here and on the website of the breed’s national parent club, the Chihuahua Club of America.
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