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I very often read, on this forum and on some other ones, that a good breeder is a breeder who aims at bettering his or her breed. I have to say I am always perplexed by it because to me, "bettering" sounds vague, not to mention that different people will have different conceptions of what is good for a breed: for example, I think certain breeds would benefit from outcrossing to increase their gene pools, but other people will disagree and argue that on the contrary, it should be avoided to preserve qualities.

So I guess my question is, what does bettering a/your breed mean to you?
 

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I think with a lot of breeds... if the health of the breed is just getting worse and worse as generations continue... there's a problem, and something needs to be done to stop it before the breed is killed.
 

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As you said, it is a bit vague. My experience has been that each breeder tends to have their own ideas of what "bettering the breed" means. Some focus on genetic diversity, some on reducing / eliminating specific health issues, some on improving work ability, and some on a specific structural aspect. For me, when I evaluate a breeder, I want to know that they have a goal in mind (and can show evidence that they are working towards that goal in a responsible, sensible way) and aren't simply breeding to make puppies.

After reading PacketsMom's comment, I should add, that the breeders I've spoken with take a big picture view of breeding. They consider health, pedigree, temperament, and structure when making decisions. In addition, they have specific area of interest like a structural aspect or health issue or color they try to improve. They aren't just breeding for a single issue. This makes sense in my head, but perhaps not in writing.
 

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My BMD breeder looks at her own dogs and tries to assess their strengths and weaknesses. She knows she has a good temperment in her dogs and that, health-wise, they and their pups have been doing well. She does know that they have a minor fault in that her bitch and her pups usually end up with not much of a white area on their tail and their coats are curlier than she'd like.

So, she takes that (and a whole lot more, I'm simplifying here because what she does is a lot more complicated than I want to deal with) into consideration when making breeding decisions. For her last litter, she chose a sire who had a strong white tip to his tail and straighter coat as well as the same sweet temperment. She also looked into his line for any genetic issues and compared that to her lines to try to make sure she was adding to the overall odds of health for the pups.

For Bernese Mountain Dogs, there is a concerted effort among most breeders to reduce the number of genetic health issues, with a database in place to help track these issues and help breeders and buyers make more informed decisions.

Most good breeders seem to have a long-term plan for how they want their dogs to develop, generation by generation. To me, that's what I mean when I think of "bettering the breed." Are they actively working and planning to help reduce known issues as well as increase the positives?
 

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It's okay that "bettering" means different things to different people, because what "bettering" really means is does the breeder have a plan? A breeder with a plan is careful, deliberate and making informed decisions in conformity with their plan. Other breeders, the puppy mills, the BYBs, the irresponsible, the unethical, have no plan. They either can't be bothered to prevent puppies, or they're just looking to make money or have cute puppies around. There's no care, no deliberation, just stick some dogs together and hope for the best, and if you happen to produce fearful puppies that all end up getting euthanized at the shelter, oh, well, there's always more puppies.
 

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It's okay that "bettering" means different things to different people, because what "bettering" really means is does the breeder have a plan? A breeder with a plan is careful, deliberate and making informed decisions in conformity with their plan. Other breeders, the puppy mills, the BYBs, the irresponsible, the unethical, have no plan. They either can't be bothered to prevent puppies, or they're just looking to make money or have cute puppies around. There's no care, no deliberation, just stick some dogs together and hope for the best, and if you happen to produce fearful puppies that all end up getting euthanized at the shelter, oh, well, there's always more puppies.
Yes. This, exactly. It means the breeder has a plan, and a goal, and is trying to achieve something particular with their dogs.


Both of these dogs are conformation titled. Son on the left, father on the right. (Dog on the left is blind in one eye due to injury, not genetic issue). Father is a GOOD dog, but his ears are wrong (those wavy edges) and he's right at the top of the height allowance. He was bred to a smaller bitch with better ears. Son is the result of that and, as a result, has a better head and is a little shorter and more solidly within the range of standard rat terrier height. His BUILD isn't exactly what the breeder wants, though, in that he's a little stocky and his ears are actually a (very tiny) little bit small. So he, with his better head, will be (and has been) bred back into a line with slightly lankier dogs. And better ears. There is a VERY specific type that the breeders involved (there are two) are going for. That requires some breeding and quite a few generations to get exactly right.

By which point, of course, they'll find something else to work on :p Getting that's just the stepping stone.

And, obviously, health testing at every step along the way.
 

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All of this being overly simplistic, since besides physical type there's also working ability. Some focus more on various aspects. One of the breeders is interested in type + hunting ability. The other one does earth dog trials (also working ability, but in a different way) and is super involved in weight pull.

Basically, they're breeding to refine and enhance characteristics. Could be more focused on health, on physical standard, on working abilities, on temperaments, whatever matters to them. It really does just mean having a plan.
 

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I wish I could find the website I happened upon once. It was a GSD breeder and with the description of every male and female was a listing of flaws* and what kind of dog would have to be bred to them to compensate for the flaws. (When I say "flaws", I couldn't even see them. Xeph probably could, but you'd have to be that into GSDs, not just a breed lover like myself.) None of the flaws were temperament, there was a note that no matter how perfect a dog was physically, if the temperament wasn't perfect, the dog was neutered.

It was really interesting, and it showed, to me, what an ethical breeder is. They have a perfect dog in mind, they work carefully to achieve that perfect dog. You and I may not exactly agree with that vision of perfection, but there is a vision.


*They also listed OFA scores, etc.
 

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For me, it's about improving on the health and temperament of the dogs that are currently out there. Different breeders might work towards different goals, and that's ok, but these are the things I find most important.

I'll use my breed for example, since I know more about it. There aren't a ton of health problems going around, but HD is there and most dogs are not getting excellent OFA scores. I would expect breeders to be attempting to improve those scores over generations, instead of just saying "well, a 'fair' score is passing". Not every dog has to be an "excellent" if they just aren't out there, but there needs to be an attempt to leave the breed healthier than you found it.

For temperament, Welshies tend to be reserved with strangers and this has gone as far as timidity and fear. My breeder has been in the breed for 30+ years and when she started, she saw tons of timid dogs who shied away from judges. One of her main goals has been to improve temperament and some of the dogs she has bred are sought out for breeding because of their great personalities. I'm not saying the breed can't still be reserved with strangers, but it's up to every breeder to take a hard look at their dogs and what can be improved. If their bitch is not really timid, but more standoffish than necessary, they should be looking to breed her with an outgoing male, and this does seem to be a trend in the breed right now.

Those are the main points to me. Conformation is important of course, as it impacts functionality of the dog, but I place health and temperament far above that. Most dogs bred by show breeders are not going to be show dogs - they are going to be loved family pets who need to be healthy and easy to live with.

Working or hunting ability are also important for many breeds, but I would still rank it third after health and basic sound stable temperaments, and above conformation.

ETA: After reading the other responses, I completely agree that the basic definition of "bettering the breed" is breeding with some sort of long term plan. it's less important what those goals are, than that they exist and are an attempt to refine some aspect of the breed.
 

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My BMD breeder looks at her own dogs and tries to assess their strengths and weaknesses. She knows she has a good temperment in her dogs and that, health-wise, they and their pups have been doing well. She does know that they have a minor fault in that her bitch and her pups usually end up with not much of a white area on their tail and their coats are curlier than she'd like.

So, she takes that (and a whole lot more, I'm simplifying here because what she does is a lot more complicated than I want to deal with) into consideration when making breeding decisions. For her last litter, she chose a sire who had a strong white tip to his tail and straighter coat as well as the same sweet temperment. She also looked into his line for any genetic issues and compared that to her lines to try to make sure she was adding to the overall odds of health for the pups.

For Bernese Mountain Dogs, there is a concerted effort among most breeders to reduce the number of genetic health issues, with a database in place to help track these issues and help breeders and buyers make more informed decisions.

Most good breeders seem to have a long-term plan for how they want their dogs to develop, generation by generation. To me, that's what I mean when I think of "bettering the breed." Are they actively working and planning to help reduce known issues as well as increase the positives?
Packetsmom,
I am no breeder thats for sure, but I think the Berner lines in the US are kinda concentrated (Even looking at the small circle of Greater Swiss Mt dogs in my area, I saw the same studs popping up)-- I kinda would like to see some outcrossing in the breed -- remember the foundation sire was the result of a Newfie outcrossing to "better the breed"-- I would like to see Breeders considering it-- there is just so much genetic disease in our lovely Berners... one of the (wild?) hopes I have for my completely random bred (oops litter) Berner boy is that-- since his parents were from really different lines-- dog was from WA mom from some small litter in Oklahoma (breeder actually died before they got the registration papers0.... I am hoping, that his health might stand a chance of being ok....He certainly is active and more agile than I see alot of the Berners being.....
There was that Special on PBS about how purebreed dogs are going to breed themselves into extinction(ok I am exagerating) d/t the small gene pool currently and breeding to the extreme of the breed ( I think everyone uses Bulldogs as an example)....
I know there was a Boxer breeder in Britain who outcrossed to Corgis to get the gene for bob tail in his lines, very interesting work.... I have idea where I read that but it was so interesting.....
I would like to see responsible outcrossing ..... I am not the expert, but thats what I would like to see....to reduce genetic diseases...
 

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I wish I could find the website I happened upon once. It was a GSD breeder and with the description of every male and female was a listing of flaws* and what kind of dog would have to be bred to them to compensate for the flaws. (When I say "flaws", I couldn't even see them. Xeph probably could, but you'd have to be that into GSDs, not just a breed lover like myself.) None of the flaws were temperament, there was a note that no matter how perfect a dog was physically, if the temperament wasn't perfect, the dog was neutered.

It was really interesting, and it showed, to me, what an ethical breeder is. They have a perfect dog in mind, they work carefully to achieve that perfect dog. You and I may not exactly agree with that vision of perfection, but there is a vision.


*They also listed OFA scores, etc.
I really like the bolded statement.

If you find the GSD web site I'd love to see it.
 

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I always loved reading all the red books (stud books) I guess they called them , that my mentor had collected every year, with the judges comments on each individual dog.. good bad indifferent about them, not sure who put them out if it was AKC or the parent breed...
 

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It doesn't mean anything to me. I think it's a platitude, like the phrases "reputable breeder" and "backyard breeder." (Sadly, I'm guilty of using such language because it provides a brief shorthand for "Well this breeder loves her dog, I guess, but breeds for money and doesn't health test," - BYB, and "this breeder focuses on health, structure, and temperament with XYZ being their long term goals" - reputable breeder.)

Now, breeding with a plan? Awesome. Breeding with specific goals? Perfect. And if those goals happen to line up with what I want in a dog, even better. But I'm cautious of such vague language, this catch phrase in particular.

If I ever breed dogs I won't be breeding to "better the breed." I'd really like to produce Cardigans that are a bit "retro" in type (longer legs, shorter backs, and with less bone), but with the sound angles of modern show dogs, and with enough drive to do dog sports. Many people would disagree that such goals would "better the breed," as they feel the AKC conformation ring is the best proving grounds for the breed, and such dogs would hardly be popular in that venue. That's ok.
 

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It doesn't mean anything to me. I think it's a platitude, like the phrases "reputable breeder" and "backyard breeder." (Sadly, I'm guilty of using such language because it provides a brief shorthand for "Well this breeder loves her dog, I guess, but breeds for money and doesn't health test," - BYB, and "this breeder focuses on health, structure, and temperament with XYZ being their long term goals" - reputable breeder.)

Now, breeding with a plan? Awesome. Breeding with specific goals? Perfect. And if those goals happen to line up with what I want in a dog, even better. But I'm cautious of such vague language, this catch phrase in particular.

If I ever breed dogs I won't be breeding to "better the breed." I'd really like to produce Cardigans that are a bit "retro" in type (longer legs, shorter backs, and with less bone), but with the sound angles of modern show dogs, and with enough drive to do dog sports. Many people would disagree that such goals would "better the breed," as they feel the AKC conformation ring is the best proving grounds for the breed, and such dogs would hardly be popular in that venue. That's ok.
Well said Emily, I agree that breeding just for the AKC conformation ring doesnt necessarily better the breed. I have a giant schnauzer, and I like that in Germany a dog cant be a champion until takes a schutzhund title! Dogs should be able to function as well as look good. And I like the retro look of alot of the breeds as well!
 

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Well said Emily, I agree that breeding just for the AKC conformation ring doesnt necessarily better the breed. I have a giant schnauzer, and I like that in Germany a dog cant be a champion until takes a schutzhund title! Dogs should be able to function as well as look good. And I like the retro look of alot of the breeds as well!
Same! It would be interesting to implement a similar system here, though difficult for some breeds.

For me, in the end, I just have to go to a breeder I feel good about, with dogs I feel good about. And if I ever breed dogs, the same goes.
 

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Bettering the breed is vague. I like a breeder to give concrete goals. Ie: I am focusing on a show dog, focusing on work to x level, breeding for more outgoing temperaments, etc. that way I know exactly what they are going for and if I agree that that is the right direction for the breed. The 'better' version of the breed depends on who is doing the looking.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
It doesn't mean anything to me. I think it's a platitude
It's the same thing for me, which is why I started this thread. I really wanted to know what it meant to other people. It's really interesting to read what everyone thinks!

Another thing that prompted me to ask this question is because sometimes I feel like better simply means more extreme: more fur, more wrinkles, even taller, even smaller, etc. even though it interferes with the dog's function.
 

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I don't care about "the breed". At all. I care about what's best for the individual dogs. So if they're breeding with the individual dogs' wellbeing in mind, I'm cool with that. In some cases I think what's good for "the breed" is bad for individual dogs, so I'm not cool with that.
 
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