PDT:  Ok, I would like everyone to introduce themselves please

Bill Shelton, Becky Williams, Steve Leyerly

PDT:  Excellent, and I am Laura Reeves and this is Pure Dog Talk. And today we’re talking to Mr. Bill Shelton about creating a family of purebred dogs.  And Beckie and Steve are going to share with Bill their experiences as they have built the Coventry Corgi’s, so Bill could you take that & run with it? And you guys chip in as you go, building a family of dogs.  Where did you start?  Why did you start?

BS:  Ok well everyone comes to dogs with a passion for dogs themselves whether their purebred or whether their mixed breed. And that uniqueness is what draws us to purebred dogs, is their individuality and all of their anatomy and differences in behaviors, differences & that, so in that I think what once you’re drawn to purebred dogs you’re interested in the reproduction of them, or where they come from and how you develop a family of dogs. So, you can talk any time.

BW:  I mean it’s the passion towards their history and then it becomes a passion towards their physical characteristics and then it becomes a passion towards preserving that, and keeping it special and building within your own.  I mean part of it is the whole showing thing, but a lot of it’s just their happily ever after, and that their your family members too.

BS:  You know earlier you mentioned the word, um

BW:  Curator

BS:  Curator, yes and so in that we keep the heritage or the genes of dogs for future generations.  We’re only the care takers of those genes, and we pass them on to the next generation, just as those before us did that for us. And it’s been going on for centuries as you well know, and depending on the breed, those things have developed. Creating a family of dogs means many things to many people, and so inside our purebred dog conservancy breeders, we have a different reflection or idea about what a family of dogs is.  So, stepping back to that and talking about that specifically, cuz most of the people listening would relate to this better in the sense of developing a family of purebred dogs.  So developing a family of purebred dogs, we hope to create them in an image that will reflect who the breed is, and who we would like them to represent us as breeders and individuals. And so, in that as purebred dog breeders, we have to select from our tool box you might say, to make these things happen.  And so, when we create a family of dogs, the things we that we what to identify of course is for type, soundness, soundness of mind, body, and health purposes.  Those health purposes as you well know are identified by our parent club, our parent club identifies breed anomalies, and we develop DNA genetic markers for those things to breed on from, and to select dogs for the purpose of them being healthier.  It’s not only for their purpose in what they originally bred for and why, because in many cases, and as we look in this new culture that we exist in, the purpose of dogs is to become a companion more than then they actually, like your breed as a hunting breed dog, gun dog had a purpose. But today’s world they’ve become more companion and they wear a certain style of clothes or suits.

PDT:  Right, right.  And I think that when you’re talking about the purpose, do you find that when you’re building your family of dogs, your creating your family of dogs, do you keep that part in your development?  Do you think about what were they intentionally bred to do? So, they should have herding drive, they should have the instinct to do this job, whether we ask them to do it or not.

BS:  Right and so we can go out and test them for these things.  We can go out, just like you can as with a gun dog, we can do the same thing in herding.  Take them to instinct test and that sort of thing, and we have done that with our dogs.  But as I mentioned, the fortunate or unfortunate thing in the 21st century is our preservation is making them sound in body and mind so they can ultimately do that job in that way. In preserving mentality, that’s a very different thing, and so if we tested all of our dogs for herding instinct and that sort of thing, we would probably have a better idea of which ones were good at it.  As most people in dogs today, we don’t, we’re just  primarily preserving the specific purebred breed, and in that we do preserve their mentality because mentality is inbred in them for generations, for that innate ability.  Just like someone says I would like to get a new dog, and they say well what breed to you want? Well I want a Beagle.  Well are you prepared for it to run and bark a lot because once it gets out the front door, you’ll be chasing it cuz that was what they were bred to do, bark and run.  Or what about a Siberian, what if I got a Siberian?  They don’t like to be confined, there loose, they run everywhere, they have a grand time.  So you need a breed that suits your purpose and your household and your life in general. But in creating a family of dogs for our own purpose, and for as we say in the realm that we as breeders do within this country and society, the main thing is that we’re preserving health as well as their presence of purpose and type.  So in that, we already spoke about DNA genetic markers, we select on general things like hips, elbows, eyes, hearts, all those things, we test all those things and breed towards healthier, happier dogs.

PDT:  Right.  And while your developing the healthy part, the sound part, the sound mind part, the looks part so as it has to look like a Corgi, has act like a Corgi, has to be long-lived like a Corgi.  What general breeding principles are you working on?  Are you doing the tail female line, are you starting with the foundation bitch?  Give people some ideas of your building blocks, your tool box, what is your tool box?

BS:  Ok so we’ll start off probably with a dog, so if it’s a bitch or a female we start off with that female and we decide we’re going to breed on from  it.  Many of us do, our dogs all ultimately came from our first female, and we bred off from that, and from that we have really morphed many things.  Over the evolution of our time in dogs, health has become a greater issue.  Where the farmer would have said, this dog limped really early at six years of age and didn’t get around very good, so they would automatically of course perhaps eliminate them from all breeding purposes, cuz they didn’t suit their purpose.   And that’s what I tell people when they first come to learn about dog judging or evaluating breeding stock for a family of dogs.   Which one of these dogs would you choose as a farmer to help you go about your daily chores, and which one can make it across the field the easiest, which one can make it back across the field the easiest, which one did it with delight and happiness and eagerness to please you as well.  So, it’s really simpler then we make it, but getting back, so you know we go really fast forward to the 21st century and now we have DNA genetic markers, we have so much testing that we can do to really evaluate our breeding stock and identify those dogs that we should breed from.  Where before, all we did was look at the like a Farmer, or like a Hunter and we would say that’s the best dog for this purpose, and so let’s breed on from those.  But know we can look at the same dogs and say wow that dog is the best dog for purpose and for what I want to breed on from, and show to other people as being the best example. But now we have these tools that we can actually see, well we can’t go on from that dog because that dog has a lethal gene that we shouldn’t go on from.  So we have these fabulous tools and this in the 21st century that we didn’t have previously, so in creating a family of dogs, you get to randomly select dogs, but you have to identify which ones that you can’t randomly include in your breeding program.

PDT:  Ok, so as you you’re looking at the science, and we’ve got a lot of great science that you’re talking about that will help improve, we’re looking at the science of what makes better family of dogs than just looking at them and say ya, this one can’t do it, we’re just gonna call that one, lets’ try this other one.  So with that science and with the tool box that the science gives you, what are you specifically looking for?  Give me three things that you’re looking for in each of your breeding’s that you what to improve on and move forward on each breeding.

BS: The first thing that I look at is I look at the overall dog, and you know breeding is more an art than it is a science, and you use as much science as possible to achieve that art form which is your ultimate creation of what you think the breed should look like.  So in saying that, the first thing that I do is I look at dogs as what I believe best as individuals. Female typically best represent the breed, and then genotype also. And when you’re a breeder and you’ve bred dogs for a long period of time, you automatically, and I tell everyone who comes to dog breeding, you have to be a good observer, you have to be a better observer than anything else. because you have to reflect about seven generations of dogs, and you have to be very honest.  What did that dog really look like?  What did he possess?  What did she possess?  What didn’t they possess?  And you have to think about those things and go along the trail of deciding if they would be good blending with these other dogs. And in that, you also then as we already talked about when you blend families of dogs together, also we’re also blending health results together.  And so, as any geneticist will tell you, when we select dogs to breed directly away from, we’re also directly breeding towards another possible lethal gene.  So breeding dogs is a balancing, not an absolute science.  And just like the other day when we went and spoke to the first year and second year veterinarian students at our local veterinarian school, we told them, if you health tested your spouse and yourself as we do our own dogs to breed together, most of you would never have children.  And even at that we have healthy children anyway, and we accept those few health anomalies that exist in their beings.  Just like we should in our own dogs, granted we should never throw the baby out with the bath water, but we should always breed towards dogs who will give us a better result, knowing that we won’t always have perfect results, but we’ll breed towards a better result.  Now the next thing would coefficient’s because coefficient’s at how closely line breeded dog is very important to different health anomalies and different things you’re trying to achieve. We do, in creating our family of dogs we do line breed, and on occasion we have inbred, but we do line breed because it gives you a consistency.  And you know this whole idea that if you, and it is true and once you speak to Carol Kushay and you get into all of that, she’ll show you how these things are fairly true, or possible true.  Or Carol’s idea, absolutely true.  So in that, recently we had litters that were completely out crossed, out crossed because we’re doing that to breed into some of our heavily lined bred dogs.  And we had less congenital problems in the heavily lined bred dogs than we did in these complete out crosses.

BW:  So two points, I always tell my clients if we could genetically test for every abnormality, we couldn’t breed with any dogs that we had.  So, you have to pick and choose with what you have in your line and what you’re dealing with.  Every year even in our breed, there’s a couple new genetic test, and in some breeds, there’s five or six at a time, and now they’re taking DNA and testing it for like, 20 things.  And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I also think that we can’t pick our dogs just based on that, because like I said if you could test every dog for everything we couldn’t breed any of them. The other thing is when you line breed, or family breed or breed closely, at least you’re doing a known to a known.  So you’re not pulling in something that you don’t know anything about, their genetic picture, I mean you may know about the dog you’re breeding too, but not his brothers, sisters, grandparents and everything else.  So when you take that risk and occasionally breed closely, which I think you have to do to establish your family of dogs in what you’re looking for, at least you’re doing a known to a known.  Good, bad, or ugly, or wonderful, still it’s something that you know about.

PDT:  My mother used to always say she’d rather have her own skeletons than somebody else’s.

BS:  That’s why for generations you have to know your dogs.  And that’s the thing we said to these veterinarian’s students the other day, is that we actually have created the healthiest canine colony known to exist in the world as breeders of The American Kennel Club for this reason, because we’re the only colony in the world who documents everything that we do.  And we do that through OFA and our own self-regulation, and we can go back for 20, 30 generations and document what the health risks were for bringing these families of dogs together, and breeding different families together and hopefully coming out with better outcomes.

PDT:  Ok great. Let’s talk about popular sires.

BS:  You only use stud dogs that are going to contribute to your family of dogs. Whether they’re obscure dogs, of breeding that you don’t know well, or if they’re well known dogs that you don’t know their breeding well.  Let’s say that we are looking for a dog to out cross our line bred bitch.  Well what you need to do is do your research and find another dog which has traits which will contribute to your family of dogs, and you need to find that dog that is line bred.  Because if they’re out crossed, and out crossed, and out crossed, they’re going to contribute nothing to your line, you’re not going to capture anything from that other family of dogs.  You’re only going to end up probably dominating the genes with your own pre-potent family dogs breeding to this anomaly of all kinds of genes.  So when you select a dog or a bitch to breed too, they should also be line bred to increase your coefficienctcy and to make them hopefully healthier, and to also improve them.  You know the only way, you know like we talked about that breeder’s tool box, and so when you reach a plateau and we do as breeders, and we’re rolling along and we’re like going wow, we’ve really done a good job and our dogs are doing well and their identified as being some of the best.  And then all the sudden your like saying but where do we go from here?  So we have to go off and find that other family of dogs, which will morph or bid our family of dogs in the right direction, in a better direction.

PDT:  I find that certainly in my breed and I expect that you would find in your, and I’d like you, maybe even Beckie could speak to this, the idea of a good nick, and a bad nick, could we talk to that?  The idea that certain lines cross well and certain lines just don’t.  Is that a thing in Corgi’s?  I mean I see it very strongly in my breed so I’m very curious to have you speak to that for other people and other breeds.

BS:  So as you well know, the world used to be a bigger place, now it’s a much smaller place and so many of the people that breed Corgi’s today, we have dogs in Australia, New Zealand and England, and they have our dogs, we have their dogs and so it’s become a much smaller world.  But in the beginning here in the States we had bloodlines that we’ll say that were plainer, and we jokingly in the West called them California Ranch Dogs, and so they were very sound but lacked a lot of beautiful breed type that we consider breed type, or that we bred towards.  Let’s face it, every breed changes.  40yrs ago, ago the soundness of a Corgi was more important than how beautiful it was in this Country, or maybe even 50yrs ago.  Then as we started bringing in and realizing their other details of dogs in other parts of the world that we thought were attractive and represented the breed as the standard described it, then we started bring those dogs here.  So we had great difficulty.  Every breeder in this Country, and we’re doing it better and better every year and it’s really exponentially moving faster now than ever, but in the beginning, we had a great deal of trouble crossing beautifully sound dogs with just beautifully type dogs.  Cuz a lot of times the dogs who came from other Countries in our perspective, weren’t as sound but were beautiful in type and ours were beautifully sound, and so every breeders goal today is to bring that incredibly sound Corgi that also has beautiful breed type, and we’re all doing it better and better every year.  But that was our hardest, crossing those lines that were in the beginning, not alike or they had no relationship to one another.  And so, those genes were stronger, so when you start mixing them you get either sound, or pretty.  So, we had to keep breeding them and breeding them until we started getting little glimpses of, oh wait a minute, that one combines it better than all the rest, wow let’s see.  And you know, you know as a breeder too, that we can select the dog that doesn’t represent what we want, but they can phenotypically catapult our breeding program ahead, quicker than the one who has all the traits that we do, because we don’t what the genetic traits are behind the two dogs until we breed them.  And so, that’s where when you have Carol Bushay talk, she’ll be very helpful too.

BW:  I think sometimes you get a breeding that’s a stepping stone.  So, you think that you’re gonna breed this super sound bitch to a beautiful dog and get somewhere in between, instead you get the right direction, but the next generation you can bring out more of what you’re looking for.  And I also think as you develop your family of dogs and get a little bit more consistent, or maybe a little bit more knowledgeable, and possibly a little more lucky in your breeding program.  Instead of having one great individual in a litter of six, you might have three or four, and I think that shows that your kind of least heading in the right direction.  Not that you’d ever be satisfied, because I think each generation, ok I lost some of my soundness and now I have to go back this direction or I have to look in this way.  In some breeding’s I think you’re just a constant, you produce a bitch and it may not be what you’re looked for but her next generation, or her puppies will be more what you’re looking for.  Allot of it is luck too.

BS:  Ok so this is really good point here, and John Buddy talks about this, he and I were discussing this once before, is that what we lack today are big kennels that can breed stepping stone litters, where you know that litter isn’t going to be the Best in Show Dog or Specialty winner, but genetically you know that they have something that you can breed on from.  So every dog contributes in some way.  In our family of dogs, we have dogs right now which represent our line bred family of dogs and that are very tightly bred.  We have then another family of dogs we selected that were going to out cross too, and we’re actually breeding that family of dogs to each other also, and then in the middle we’re bringing them together and cross breeding those.  All the old-time breeders used to do this. They used to have two families of dogs that they were raising to bring together and prove their lines themselves.  And this was a much better way, you know 40, 50yrs ago because  they weren’t able, necessarily, to fly across the Country and breed their dog.  Or as we can today, we can breed to any dog in the world with frozen semen, so we have a lot better means of accomplishing our task today than ever before.

PDT:  Two things, I want to go back and pick up this piece, because I’m not entirely sure that phenotype and genotype are word that are well defined for a lot of people in the audience.  So, I’d like you to specifically define what do you mean by phenotype, and what do you mean by genotype.  And then I would like to go back and maybe have Beckie talk about the good nick and the bad nick.  Not just do they not reproduce well, personally I’ve run into health problems.  Do you see that is that a consistent thing or is that an anomaly that not necessarily everyone’s going to run into?

BS:  Basically your phenotype is represented by your gene type, so your gene type is bringing about the phenotype.  So, phenotype is what the dog realistically looks like, this is how most people breed.  They go:  oh I’m going to breed my big dog to my little bitch and get medium type dogs. It doesn’t work that way.  So, what you have to know is the gene type behind that big dog and that little bitch because that little bitch’s mother and father could both be big.  And the big dog, both his parents could be small, so you have to know every generation and that’s a simple analogy of bringing it up.  But then the gene type is represented by the whole family of dogs behind that one individual and not only for breed type, but also for health type, so that’s why it’s so important to know.  And I think this is a more burgeoning thing that we’re all looking at more now, is that we’re looking at health type as much as we’re looking at breed type, and that’s an important aspect.

BW:  About the next area, if you were to breed certain lines together you can come up with certain genetic problems.  I can’t say that we’ve seen it that much but I see it with the client dogs that I work with all the time, where I didn’t have this problem until I brought into this dog, it must have come from this dog.  I always tell people it takes two to tango, so you probably had a pre-disposition in your line, you accidentally doubled up on it.  Also, I see people take risk and breed dogs that have health or physical characteristics we don’t like.  In the first generation, they get away with it, but when they breed back into that line two or three generations later, it can come back and kind of get after them.  So, part of that, I think you have to do it carefully cuz like I said we can’t select just on health testing or we’d eliminate our whole gene pool.  But the same token, I think when you do that out-cross or you breed back into those dogs, you’re running that risk but that’s also just being a breeder. So maybe when you get the bad, you’re also going to get the very good, so it’s hard to say.

PDT:  That’s what I was looking for on that.  Ok so we’re gonna wrap this up.  We’re talking about the family of dogs, we’re talking about the phenotype and genotype, we’re talking about really pulling together.  I love the idea of the two families of dogs, that you’re breeding your own two families of dogs, and bringing them together, I thing that is genius.  I don’ know that all of us have the capability and the facility to do that, so do you have recommendations?  I want some specific recommendations that you can give to this person over here with their Bishon Frise that they’re trying to really improve on what they have.  Go.

BS:  Well there’s two things, it’s information and education.  So, if they educated themselves and they search for the right information, and research the dogs that they’re interested in breeding to. It’s not just, you mentioned popular sires, well you know you go to National specialty and then there’s three dogs that went, and they all go, oh look it, they’re all sired by the same family, oh I love that.  I always told Beckie and Steve in the beginning what we should do is identify the three ugliest dogs, because the three ugliest ones might be sired by the same dog that the three most beautiful ones were sired by, and learn how to balance those things in character with our own dogs. So don’t fall into that rut of thinking just because a dog has produced a National Specialty winner, they may never produce another National Specialty winner. So be sure as Beckie mentioned early, is that you look at the consistency in the family of dogs and that’s most important, and that you know what you’re going to get from generation to generation. Not only phenotypically, but also gene typical in health and in representation of the phenotypes.

BW:  Also with the popular sires, cuz we’re going through that with our breed a little bit now, and he has produced some beautiful things, but he’s also probably been bred to 100 bitches of different types, so I hope somebody found the right one, so we’re seeing those representations.  But Bill’s right, what about the other 25 bitches he was breed to where there wasn’t anything that was the right directions of what they were looking for.

BS:  That clicked

BW:  That clicked, ya.  Because they get used so much, they get used across the board with all different types of types of lines and all different types of bitches.  Also, too, kind of the same thing, all little bit off subject but I think that as breeders we always have to learn how to pick the puppies out of our litters that we can go on from, because sometimes we make a lot of mistakes.  Not mistakes, I think we have to learn as we go, be open minded and listen to other people’s opinions, like: but wait I like this one better because, or I’m gonna pick this one cuz this is the direction I need to go in this breeding.

BS:  So that relates to every specific individual breed, and that’s why I said to be a great breeder you have to be a great observer first.  And to be that great observer, what you have to learn to do is when your breeding these two families of dogs is to look and say:  well when they looked like this at this age, then they looked like this at three months, they look like this at nine months.  So you have to reflect on that and say:  wait a minute, this is right on target, or this is completely off.  So you have to become a great observer for each of those families of dogs that you bring together, to predict what they’ll be, and that’s why so many people unfortunately, you can only breed one litter a year, have not the capabilities of doing that.  And may I say, and we’ll get more into that in the Preservation Breeding thing, is that we need people to breed dogs today because if we don’t, because we’re less than 3% that probably supplies the pet population, then where are people going to get their really healthy happy dogs from?  Because there’s lot of people breeding who just cross-breed, and they’re cross-breeding dogs that have no health test, and they have no idea about the dependency or the relevance of consistency in their phenotype based on their gene type.  And so, those area very unhealthy dogs in general, and as veterinarians, and just like we spoke to the veterinarian school the other day, is we told them you know, they were asking us about what is the AKC going to do about Bull Dogs?  Well, first of all you as a veterinarian are only going to see the unhealthy ones, you know that’s going to be your job.  You’re not going to see the ones that who are less than 3% who are actually AKC Breeders of American who are breeding healthy dogs with good balance, who can breathe and who can run and who can do agility and all those things.  So basically, buyer beware.  Do your research and educate yourself, whether you’re a breeder, a buyer or just a fancier.  Learn what you need to, that whole perspective of all that research and education is the most important part in anything you do in life.

PDT:  Education is the key, boom!


As always if you have any questions or input we’d love to hear from you.  The show notes and links to resources on today’s topic are available at puredogtalk.com  Drop us a note in the comments or email to Laura at puredogtalk.com.  Remember guys, this podcast is for you, so if you want to know something give me a holler, we’ll do a podcast for you.  If you wouldn’t mind you could help me out here.  Take a couple minutes to visit iTunes and give us a review.  This will help share the love with other out there in the sport.  This has been Pure Dog Talk with your host, Laura Reeves.  We hope you can join us next time as we continue the journey to success with your purebred dog.

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