A pedigree is a history and it has a story to tell. Titles simply prove that story. I have always believed one needs to analyze the pedigree. If unable, look up some dog breeding if it is not possible to see them in person.

The study of the pedigree is flavored with an intuitive sense that this pair of dogs would result in a new generation incorporating desired characteristics of the parents. The breeder should see the dogs in the pedigree when possible, even if through pictures or videos. The research is fun, but the Inbreeding Coefficient and the Ancestor Loss Coefficient are important to the study as well.

What is Coefficient of Inbreeding?

The Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI) is simply a measure of the likelihood of genetic effects from inbreeding on a pedigree. It expresses the expected percentage of homozygosity arising from a given system of breeding. We like to see COI percentages below approximately 13%. As this number grows higher, the more the likelihood of recessive traits being passed to the offspring.

A Few Thoughts on Dog Breeding. A pedigree is a history and it has a story to tell. Titles simply prove that story.

The Ancestor Loss Coefficient (ALC) is the estimate of the degree to which recessive traits from ancestral generations are lost; this correlates to the number of unduplicated ancestors in the pedigree.

If there are no duplicate ancestors, then no ancestors are lost and the ALC is 0%. When duplicate ancestors replace unique ancestors on the pedigree, some ancestors are lost and the ALC % rises. It is generally better to have an ALC of about 10% in a dog breeding.

Here is an example

In a male, we will simply call Joe, the 5 generation COI is 12.5% and the ALC is 25.8%. COI% is not a concern, but the Ancestor loss tells us this male should be outcrossed. Joe and his breeding performance has always been better if he is bred to unrelated females or females with few related ancestors.

Another dog we shall name Heidi, a female, has a COI% of 0.0% and an ALC of 14.5%, but those lost ancestors are no closer than the fourth generation. She would be a great cross with Joe and should produce well.

What is a good Pedigree?

A good pedigree database will allow us to see COI% and ALC%. It will also put together trial breedings to view these percentages. Plus the Coefficient of Relationship (COR) between the planned parents. The COR is the likely genetic proportion that the parents have in common. The higher this number, the more genes the puppies will have in common to produced shared ancestral traits. Again, we do not want this number to be too high in a prospective pedigree.

If we were to consider breeding Joe and Heidi, we would use the GSP Ancestry website to search one parent. Add the second parent as a trial mating. Look at the pedigree and the breeding numbers calculated by the program. In the case of our Joe and Heidi, those numbers would be as follows:

  • COI% = .2%   (no risk here, it is essentially an outcrossed mating)
  • ALC% = 12.9%  (in the author’s opinion, not too bad because the lost ancestors are several generations back)
  • COR% = .4%  (great! Let’s do it!)

But, there is something else to consider, and it is equally as important!  We must consider the conformation and the temperament and trainability of the dogs as well as the pedigree.  This requires some knowledge of the dogs we plan to mate. Breeding your dog to a titled mate is only one part for making a good decision.

Confirmation is important.

Study of the breed standard and choosing parents that adhere to the requirements of the breed, is our first consideration. This means no serious faults or disqualifying faults when looking at both parents. The temperament of both prospective parents is also a serious consideration.

Are they:

  • shy and fearful?
  • suspicious of strangers?
  • happy and well adjusted?

Here are important considerations when it comes to breeding because personality traits can be passed from parents as well.

Are you going to hunt your dog?  

If looking at more than a pet, you want a dog breeding that is talented and adapts well in the field. Titles often tell us about the talents of a particular dog. We can find some real gems with people who “just hunt” their dogs. Go into the field if you can. Look at how the dog works, and allow this evaluation to become part of your criteria for planning successful breeding. Allow the owner of the other dog to evaluate and “test” your dog as well.

It’s the owner’s decision to breed may affect not only the breeding pair and the litter of puppies. Evaluation is important whether the potential breeding pair for field or show. Also for life as a potential pet with training for agility, obedience, etc.

Breeding paper to paper is interesting… but that is not the entire answer.

We would like to know the dog breeding back to the third and fourth generation if possible. You research with pictures and conversations with others who have even seen those dogs work in the field.

Without firsthand knowledge of the dogs in a pedigree, it will be harder to make a good pairing. On paper, mating looks exactly like what we are attempting to produce. Without knowledge of the dogs themselves, we may find that our “paper” plans produce less of the positive traits desired from the breeding pair.

Even a tightly controlled heritage, from trusted bloodlines, might begin to produce less quality, drive and even confirmation of future generations.

Parents potentially give the puppies 50% of their genetic qualities. In the second generation, those very important grandparents share 25% each of their genetic qualities, and in the third generation, the great-grandparents share 12.5% each.  

Some have said that the grandparents are very important.  I, personally, believe this to be a true statement. The Grandparents can significantly influence the puppies, especially if one of them appears on both the top and bottom of a pedigree. We can study the animals in the pedigree and look for qualities for which this breeding is planned. A top show or field animal for competition, a weekend hunter, a pet; all of these dogs require knowledge of the dogs as well as the pedigrees of their ancestors.

Julia Heidbrink

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