HOW TO BECOME A TOP DOG BREEDER
The $20 billion sport of purebred dogs is full of experts who spew canine genetic information instead of using this simple genetic formula to become a top breeder.
The Genetic X Factor
by Barbara "BJ" Andrews, AKC Master Breeder
The real secret to becoming a top breeder of top winning, top producing AKC champion dogs or any other domestic species is the super-simple genetic "X" factor revealed here...
Since the mid-80s, I have explained in breeding seminars, my Akita video, and in numerous magazine articles “The strength of the sire is the power of the dam.” The genetic truth is in that simple sentence but you won't get it until you know why and how it works.
If this were a genetics textbook, it would lead you with boring, lengthy step-by-step lessons but student or master, here's a shortcut to an amazing genetic discovery.
You could try all the fancy genetic breeding methods but unless you understand and apply the X factor you might as well go back to knitting or whatever creative thing you previously enjoyed. If you study until you are conversant with terms like genotype, phenotype, and homozygous, you'll be convinced that you know all there is to know about breeding great dogs. Trust me, most serious dog breeders have read a lot of books on genetics and may use all the right terms but before you get too impressed, check on how many great dogs they have actually bred.
Hopefully, you already know that a great male brings a breeder glory but it is the bitch that sustains a breeding program. "The strength of the sire is the power of the dam." I'm regularly quoted on that but not enough dog breeders know why it is true.
I used the phrase on our Akita “demo tape” during the eighties and some said it helped them realize where the famous Akita sires actually came from. Once they had viewed legendary champion dogs like Sachmo, BigSon, and Widow-Maker (pictured above, courtesy Moretto film company), they replayed the tape and thought about the message. It was repeated in my books and I'm flattered that it has been so widely quoted. After judging the Top Twenty at the 2010 Akita National, it was especially gratifying to see that so many great breeders really "got it"!!! I didn't have to look at pedigrees to know who understood where the power was.
Proving Genetics Statistically
I know the X-factor premise seems too simple. For those who rely on statistical data; Bill and I are owner-handlers who don’t “network,” have no dogs at public stud and keep fewer than four breeding age bitches. Yet we’ve had over half of the Akita Hall Of Fame Producers including the All-Time #1 and #2 Sires, and two of our bitches are tied for the #1 Dam All Time. Many of our Top Ten Producers broke existing show records and a several O'BJ dogs set new ones which still stand over two decades later.
The "power of the dam" has also enabled us to produce top winners and/or producers in three other breeds so it is not just a trite saying; we know where the power is and how to use it. You can do likewise.
The Real Genetic X Factor
Now from the Thoroughbred Industry comes a genetic revelation. It is soon to be proven that the female passes on intelligence and physical attributes through something I nicknamed the “X Factor” because as a lay person, I can make up simple terms. It seemed right though since the X chromosome is actually much larger than the Y (male) chromosome. X carries a heavy genetic load. The female chromosome is responsible for most of the highly desirable characteristics for which breeders strive. If a mare gets the magic double X, she is even more empowered to reliably produce outstanding progeny, including great sires. What we dog breeders have learned from each other, geneticists are finally confirming.
So knowing that, how does one reach the pinnacle of success in dogs? There are two roads. The shortest route is buying and campaigning a great male. The other is buying a great bitch out of a great bitch, and using her wisely. It depends on whether one wants instant or long term gratification. Both goals are equally important, especially when it takes a sizeable budget to mount a successful campaign. A person may have to choose which goal is most satisfying because rarely can you do both.
The sport will remain healthy because if dedicated fanciers who campaign outstanding breed specimens created by the most talented of breeders. It is a wonderful partnership.
If you have discovered that your forte’ is study, nurturing, and creativity, then put your money and time into a great bitch that comes from a line of great bitches. She should become a ring star herself before being bred. You will have to think carefully if she is of a late maturing breed. The question of whether to breed or show her first is always a tough one. But one thing is as certain as anything ever is when it comes to genetic formula, if she is from a line of powerful bitches, she’ll give you males that not only win, but with a little luck and planning, those sires can pass on her qualities to your next generation.
That is why “The Strength Of The Sire Is The Power Of The Dam.” Shucks, we always knew that, we just needed the geneticists to confirm it.
reprinted from Mrs. Andrews' 2002 ShowSight Column
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If you found this information helpful, be sure to see What Is A Breeder? (reprint rights freely given) and be sure to visit Akita Information & Reference if you have Akitas or need information on Akita judging seminars.