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John C. 01-19-2014 07:03 PM

Help School Me About Working Lines (moved to bloodlines and pedigrees)
I know this is too broad a topic to be thoroughly covered in a single thread, but I'm hoping some of the more knowledgeable breeders can at least give me a quick overview. You sometimes see discussions where a breeder will make comments about really liking this line or not liking that one. And there are a couple of well known stud dogs that even I've heard of - e.g Fero.

But I've never seen any real discussions of what are the major breeding lines - or how they are different. No one ever seems to say why they like x line, but not y line? So what qualities does Fero, or some other well known producer impart that makes there progeny so desireable? Having some knowledge of the breeding lines being used would be helpful in selecting a breeder. This is particularly tue since there seems to be a fairly limited range of adjectives all breeders use to describe temperments. When was the last time you saw a breeder who didn't breed "stable", "clear headed " and "solid" dogs?

Jax08 01-19-2014 07:25 PM

Prima 01-19-2014 07:42 PM

I am not a breeder. However, I think for the more conscientious breeders, using lines from progenitors that tended to throw certain qualities- are what they seek in molding the next generation.

For top tier sport dogs, it is as if you cannot get away from certain names not too far back in the pedigree. Is this blind luck? For lesser known working dogs, there are also qualities that tend to surface using particular lines, reliably.

I think perhaps breeders don't speak of this in any great detail because it is the art of what they do- like a working chef giving out the intricate details of his most beloved dish would be unlikely. I also think of breeding much like the artistry and science of winemaking, and we know not all wines are to everyone's tastes.

The interesting thing for enthusiasts of the German shepherd dog is that we have a solid history of documented quantitative and qualitative information on our beloved dogs to turn to.

RubyTuesday 01-20-2014 11:16 AM


When was the last time you saw a breeder who didn't breed "stable", "clear headed " and "solid" dogs?
Frankly, one sees it all the time. I've never seen a breeder claim to be breeding unhealthy, wonky, feeble minded dogs. Unfortunately, what breeders claim or admit & what they actually produce can be miles apart.

In many of the breeder discussion threads you'll see experienced, knowledgeable breeders expounding on what they seek to get or avoid from particular dogs & lines, ie so&so is known to improve hips...or one would expect to see good aggression with lower threshholds in such&such.

I don't breed & don't plan to, so while I find that info interesting, what is more important to me is what qualities a breeder seeks to produce or avoid. Personally, I'd never use a breeder that bred an unapproachable dog. Nor do I want one that's enamored of high reactivity, lower threshholds or over the top suspicion. Breeders who value judgment, confidence, reliability, a rapport with children & biddability resonate with me.

John C. 01-20-2014 03:28 PM

Ruby Tuesday, that's what I meant to say - every website I've visited, seems to make similar CLAIMS: all their breeding stock are clear headed and stable and produce wonder pups that can do it all. Sometimes you have to really read between the lines of their website (or know about the breeding lines they are using) to understand what drives and qualities they are trying to emphasize. I know in a perfect world you'd visit each breeder, observe his breeding stock, check out a few puppies, and speak to other people who own his dogs, but sometimes that's not practical.

martemchik 01-20-2014 04:10 PM

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The problem is that sometimes too much weight is put onto how big a factor the pedigree is. Truth be told, 99% of breeders have never seen many of the "big boys" work and have just heard/learned that this dog brings this or that dog brings that. If you've got Fero, 6 generations back, that means he's one of 126 dogs that had some genetic affect on that dog...what are the chanaces that the only reason that dog is X is because of that one dog?

Anytime you hear that kind of advice. Dog X brings Z. Dog Y brings W. It's a best guess. It has probably shown up some, and has a decent correlation, but its not 100% fact or guarantee. I think unless you're looking for one particular trait, no one can really cover everything that's possible because different dogs are in the pedigree. I think that as someone that is a novice in reading pedigrees, and possibly a novice in dog sport or dog work, the best we can do is meet the breeder and trust that they know what they're doing. Hopefully the breeder is doing what you want to do with your dogs and therefore you can see that the traits you're looking for are coming through in their lines.

RubyTuesday 01-20-2014 09:19 PM

Often it seems that pedigrees have a 'backwards' usefulness, ie a dog exhibits reactivity & fear aggression & people perusing the pedigree state that's probably coming from...Naturally, backwards usefulness is inheritantly limited.

In Irish Wolfhounds much of the dog aggression seen in the breed is 'credited' to a particular sire who was used extensively b/c he was an eyeful & had very nice movement. Even back when it was happening many old timers felt it was a mistake to overlook his aggression issues & breed to him so heavily.

RubyTuesday 01-20-2014 09:29 PM

John, one of the big things people need to know is exactly what they want & why. Too many people allow themselves to be spoonfed someone else's version of what they're looking for without really grasping what that even is. People with families, especially those with children, need to be uber careful to seek what will work best for their circumstances.

Martemchik, I agree. That's an excellent post. Thought provoking & well stated.

cliffson1 01-21-2014 07:41 AM

John, I know a lot of people who have gotten super dogs by trusting the judgement of some of the pedigree/training people, far more successful approach than a novice going to a breeder and assessing what they don't know.

John C. 01-21-2014 08:49 AM

Wow, great comments from everyone, thanks. To give you a little more info. about my background, I've owned dogs all my life and 3 GSD. One when I was a child and two as an adult.

My last dog passed away a couple of months ago at age 12 and was a fantastic dog with a really interesting mix of drives - but who also had some issues.

As far as my experience as a trainer - guess I know enough to realize how little I know. I trained in Schutzhund for about a year and a half with my last GSD and got a BH. We were working toward a Schutzhund 1 when my club kind of imploded and I became disillusioned with some of the political infighting and personality clashes that developed between some of our members. But I do think I learned a lot from our training director and some of our members, who were very experienced and knowledgeable about dogs in general and schutzhund in particular. Our club also had a number of K9 officers, so I got to see a wide variety of dogs with varying abilities and temperments.

As a result I do have a pretty clear idea of what I'm looking for in my next dog and think I will be able to articulate it pretty clearly to a breeder.

I also know what I want to do with the dog - no schutzhund this time, but a lot of obedience and possible SAR.

My concern is that even hobby breeders want to find good homes for their dogs and are proud of their breedings. I'm concerned about going to two different breeders, whose dogs possess very different qualities and being told by both breeders that of course my dogs would work for you.

At the same time, I recognize that there has to be some level of trust between me and the breeder, particularly since even within a specific litter the pups are likely to possess a wide range of temperments and to some extent I will rely on the breeder to match me up with the best puppy.

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