Breeding Confusion

By F.P.A. Odenkirchen,

Gazette May 1994

    As Chowists we are all fanciers of our breed, but our 
priorities are as different as we are. Some of us prefer 
a close relationship with a single specimen, others 
travel the obedience route, while still others pursue 
recognition at dog shows.

    Breeding was rarely our initial motivation for 
purchasing our first Chow. We sort of backed into it for 
various and sometimes dubious reasons such as fame, 
fortune or even a straying bitch. Sometimes it appears 
to have been an afterthought deemed necessary to 
ease the financial burden of our hobby rather than a 
desire to improve the breed by creating a variety of 
consistently high quality specimens.

     The term "breeder" is merely description of a group 
of people unprotected by trademark registration, 
unlike MD, DVM, CPA, etc. No kennel club has sought 
trade name protection by demanding that the title
require successfully completing accredited courses 
on breed knowledge; kennel club bylaws, procedures
and rules; law; kennel theory, management and 
practice; advanced registry, kinesiology, nutrition, 
basic health care, etc.

     It is therefore no wonder that dog breeding is held 
in such low esteem by the educated public and their 
perception of dog breeders equates them with 
vendors at local farmers' markets. Upon examination, 
the main thrusts of kennel clubs are clearly registration (administration) and dog shows (promotion). 
Education is only now becoming compulsory for 
people who by and large have retired from
breeding (judges).

      This helps explain the destruction of so many 
traditional breeds and the widespread enthusiasm 
for rare new breeds that have not yet experienced
the privilege of our improvements.

     A case in point is the Eurasier. It was created rom 
three well established traditional breeds the
German Wolfspitz (Keeshond), Chow Chow 
and Samoyed--in an attempt to combine the 
favorable attributes of each while eliminating 
their less desirable characteristics.

    The component breeds were once functional 
and area specific. Now none has any function 
other than as a companion dog. To properly 
fit their current function each had to be modified
to meet today's requirements. For instance, 
viciousness, once functional to protect the 
homestead from intruders, is now unacceptable 
in modern society. Hereditary health problems,
once ruthlessly eliminated as being non-functional, 
are often excused or artificially controlled by today's 
breeders hut remain quite unacceptable to
the public at large. The failure of fanciers to recognize 
and address this reality has increasingly led to 
bastardization, either covert or through the creation 
of new breeds.

    The Eurasier has been recognized since 1973
Our interest is limited to its fanciers' motivation to 
include the Chow in its makeup and their 
rejection of some present Chow characteristics 
they deem undesirable. It suggests we may be 
out of touch with or insensitive to present public 
expectations, and should motivate us to 
consider all legitimate concerns. Failing
to regularly examine current values and rigidly 
sticking with a dogmatic approach will destroy 
our breed.

It was noted that the early Chows had longer 
skulls, a reference to the present excessively 
short, overly padded heads that have led to an
increase in breathing problems and reduced 
vision. Valued are the Chow's reservation 
toward strangers and its readiness to defend 
both home and territory. Unwanted are many 
health problems, low fertility, excessively 
straight stifles and their headstrong 

    The Keeshond contributed to the Eurasier its 
lack of degenerative traits, a guardian instinct, 
its devotion to family rather than a single 
person and its bitches' outstanding nursing 
qualities. The Samoyed contributed its robust 
health and easy maintenance.

      Upon reflection, these observations are 
legitimate and indicate that the Chow fancy is 
increasingly motivated by winning, often at the 
expense of type, functionality, health and the 
concern of the general public that makes
up merely 95 percent of our clientele.

From time to time we are confronted with 
extreme ideas on desirable breeding practices.
Either inbreeding is proposed as the sole route 
to success or rejected as highly destructive. 
A case can be made for either approach, but the 
blind pursuit of either extreme is disastrous.
The answer is a balanced, commonsense 
approach. To that end, we must once again go
back to basics before we spout off highly selective 
technical jargon. It is well known that unless
people can reduce complicated issues to basics 
and express them in ordinary, easily understood 
language, they generally have no idea what they 
are talking about.

Scientific research can be a tool, but selective 
presentation of test results can be very destructive.
Consider the following anecdote: A scientist takes 
a flea and tells it to jump. The flea jumps 10 feet, 
where upon the scientist rips off one of its legs 
and urges it to jump again. This time it manages 
only 9 feet. The experiment goes on with an ever-
decreasing number of legs and jump distances 
until the flea has no more legs. When the scientist 
repeatedly implores the legless flea to jump and
it doesn't move, he concludes that fleas that lose 
their legs become deaf. Scientific studies may be 
impressive, but their conclusions may vary from
common sense.

    Before I get into their specifics as applied to 
Chows, we should define line breeding, inbreeding, 
outcrossing and family breeding. Line breeding is
the mating of dogs closely related to a common 
ancestor but with little (or no) relation to each 
other through any other ancestor. If a dog is 
presented as being linebred, the question
is, linebred to which dog?

Inbreeding is a much closer relationship between 
the mating pair and is limited to only four 
relationships father to daughter, mother to son, 
brother to sister and half brother to half sister. 
It is simply a means of sorting out the virtues and 
faults inherent in a strain or family. It will fix both
good and bad points and expose any weakness 
or defect that may be dormant in the parents. 
The emergence of faults by combining recessive 
genes may, of course, occur in litters bred
from unrelated parents, but inbreeding certainly 
increases the risk.

     Outcrossing is the breeding of unrelated dogs 
and should only be done for a special purpose. 
The idea that a complete change of blood
should automatically be introduced after a few 
generations of inbreeding is a mistake. However, 
when a fault or weakness occurs repeatedly in a
strain, outcrossing may be the only answer 
provided the dog used brings in as few alien 
traits or genetic defects as possible. Once the 
purpose of the outcross has been achieved, 
the next step is to breed back strongly to the
original line to maintain the genetic purity 
previously established in valuable strain.

   Family breeding is the grey area not entirely 
covered by line breeding and inbreeding and 
is simply an extension of both.

    To totally dismiss inbreeding, line breeding 
and family breeding and strictly advocate 
outcrossing is to exhibit a total ignorance 
of the subject. Any characteristic can be bred
up or down, strengthened or weakened by 
inbreeding or line breeding. In nature the strong 
survive and the weak die, whereas in 
breeding dogs we mainly select for show, 
color, size or coat, ignoring vigor and fertility
until they have become commonly possessed 
characteristics and frequently show up, especially 
when inbreeding is practiced.

    The argument that inbreeding does not occur in 
nature is specious. All wolf packs have their 
dominant male that breeds each female in the pack
for several generations until replaced by a younger 
and stronger one, perhaps one of his sons. 
The same holds true for deer, foxes, rodents, 
horses and cattle

     In human terms, a scientist in Hawaii has been 
conducting extensive DNA testing on a great 
number of women of various racial backgrounds
over a number of years So far her test results 
suggest that all people, regardless of race or 
location, are descendants of one single 
African mother. If correct, it would blow any 
suggestion of the fatal influence of inbreeding 
and line breeding right out of the water.
Give it some thought.

Odenkirchen, PO Box 863, Waterdown
Ontario, Canada LOR 2HO 

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