Bill Shelton, chapter 3: Genetic bottlenecks, marketing, adaptability
Renowned breeder and judge Bill Shelton and host Laura Reeves finish up their wide-ranging conversation on dog breeding and marketing in the 21st century.
“How do we move the bar from healthier to typier to sounder? We have to breed,” Shelton said. “We have to be accountable for what we produce. But we have to breed. And we have to get the message out about how what we’re doing is producing healthier and happier dogs. How our ‘commodity’ is predictable.”
Bottlenecks are something we may all have to deal with at some point, Shelton noted. He references the Dalmation outcross project in which Pointers were incorporated to eliminate a deadly disease. He also talks about the Basenji project, in which native dogs from Africa are incorporated in the gene pool, again to eliminate a heritable disease. Listen to my interview with Damara Bolte on this topic here.
“It’s a heretic idea to many people, but it’s going to be something we all have to do at some point, because our dogs exist in closed gene pools,” Shelton said. “It goes back to the weaving of genes. You don’t eliminate bad genes, you introduce new good genes.”
Doodles offer a lesson
“How many people dislike labradoodles. Think back in the ‘70s when there were those dogs called Australian shepherds,” Shelton noted wryly. “People get upset because doodle breeders can sell their cross-bred dogs, when they (show breeders) can hardly sell dogs. Why? Because (show breeders) exist in a vacuum. They don’t advertise, they don’t promote their breeds, they don’t promote themselves, they don’t know how to do it. And then they say how bad AKC marketplace is. We want to show our dogs. But we don’t want to share them or market them.”
No dog left behind
Shelton espoused several outstanding marketing concepts, including making a dog’s microchip number its registration number. The public finds more value in the microchip than the registration number, he said. This plan would enable AKC to sell both more registrations and microchips and promote a campaign of “no dog left behind” because all purebred dogs would be registered and microchipped.
The entire series
If you missed the first two installments of this series, you can find them here and here.
Carmen Battaglia’s Recipe for Breeding SUPER Dogs
Dr. Carmen Battaglia, AKC Board member, judge and author joined Pure Dog Talk host Laura Reeves for a LIVE seminar sponsored by Del Monte Kennel Club. Battaglia shared information about his SUPER dog breeding program featuring pedigree research, supplements, early stimulation and socialization.
“I can’t teach everything you need to know on this subject in an hour,” Battaglia chuckled. “Do your homework!” His deep and resource-rich website, Breeding Better Dogs, is an impressive place to start.
Battaglia’s SUPER dog program is designed to produce dogs which are mentally and physiologically superior to their competitors, with great stress tolerance and disease resistance.
“Anybody who’s willing to do the work can breed these dogs,” Battaglia said.
Breeding these outstanding dogs starts with selecting the right sire and dam. The 28 ancestors shown on a typical three generation pedigree tell us nothing heritable, Battaglia observed.
“You need to understand the strengths and weaknesses in a pedigree,” Battaglia said. “The conformation, health and behavior traits we want don’t show up in names, titles and certifications.”
He recommended incorporating the stick dog and symbols pedigree systems in order to identify conformation, health and specific behavioral traits to make an ideal pairing. The symbols pedigree, Battaglia said, is designed to enable breeders to manage the “dreaded diseases” – those that kill, cripple, cause early death or blindness.
Breeding systems such as line-breeding, formula breeding and “breeding up” are all useful tools for producing superior dogs, Battaglia said.
Once the pedigree plan is established and the breeder is ready to move forward, Battaglia offers an extended program to build on the pedigree.
Supplement, stimulate, socialize
He recommends supplementing the dam with DHA from the first day she is bred to the day she weans the puppies. And supplementing the puppies from the day they are weaned until 14 weeks old. DHA supplement enhances the brain of the fetus, he added, noting that by 14 weeks old the puppy’s brain is 90 percent developed. Research shows these puppies will test 50 percent smarter than puppies fed a lower amount or not supplemented at all.
The next step in the SUPER dog program is early neurological stimulation. This program involves touching the puppies toes, rotating their body positions and placing them on a cold surface daily from the third to the 16th days of life. This system produces notable improvement in cardiovascular development, but Battaglia strongly cautions that too much of a good thing is a fatal error.
As the puppies grow in these carefully designed and developed litters, other important steps include allowing the puppy to watch its dam perform a specific desired task; socializing them to new places, sounds and smells; and, “enrichment” exercises to teach the dog to focus in a new environment.
The SUPER dogs program is being used to help breeders in the US produce the explosives detection dogs at home that are in demand for protecting our military and civilian installations. AKC is hosting a conference to bring together stakeholders, Battaglia said, to advance this important project.
Enjoy this tremendous opportunity from one of the legends in our purebred dog community.
Andrew Brace on Pedigrees, Critiques and Skillful Handlers
In the third and final installment of my interview with international dogman Andrew Brace, he shared his knowledge on reading pedigrees, writing judge’s critiques and the definition of expert presentation in a wide-ranging and brutally honest discussion.
Our conversation also touched on the influence of animal rights extremism on the UK’s “high profile breeds” vet checks. Brace additionally noted the correlation between health issues in our breeds and the increasing tendency for breeders to “take Mother Nature’s job from her.”
Breed the best to the best to get the best
“Dedicated breeders are constantly aiming to improve their stock,” Brace said. “Those breeders who think breeding a winner is simply a matter of mating a winning bitch to a winning dog fail to realize the value and implications of the pedigree and do not understand what a valuable breeding tool this is.
“You need to be able to read a pedigree. This is where the truly great breeders score. The pedigree supplies valuable information – provided the reader has researched the dogs who appear in it. (Master) breeders study a pedigree of at least five generations. If they don’t know all the dogs in it personally, they’ll research them by seeking out photographs or simply asking older breeders who are still around exactly where these dogs scored and failed.
“In this way they build up a comprehensive picture of their dog’s ancestry. They will, over a period of time, be able to assess what faults and virtues lie behind their breeding stock. And, perhaps more importantly, establish which dogs were responsible for producing them,” Brace said.
“Correct is not produced by mating two extremes,” Brace added. “A potential parent who lacks in one area should be mated to a dog that excels in that failing. A dog that’s slightly straight behind will not produce perfect rear angulation by mating it to a dog that is hopelessly over angulated. Its chosen mate should have correct angulation.”
“Winning” dog is not always the same as “best” dog
“We have focused on show dogs,” Brace said. “In many breeds, this has meant that dogs that are perhaps a little exaggerated in one way or another have taken the eye of the judge over the dogs who are maybe more correctly balanced or constructed because they have a little sense of drama about them.
“It is our responsibility as judges to reward the correct dog over those dogs that have probably won a ton of best in shows by virtue of the fact that they fly around the ring with their long necks, gay tails and dripping in hair.”
Useful written critiques
“When writing critiques, I think it’s essential to detail the dog’s outstanding virtues but also mention any obvious shortcomings, which can always be done tactfully,” Brace said. “For example, ‘Head like a bucket’ and ‘prefer a cleaner backskull’ – they mean the same thing, but one is more palatable. It isn’t necessary to describe the dog from head to tail but, concentrate major pluses and minuses.”
Listen to renowned judge Ginny Lyne on this topic.
Merge into the background
“It is little wonder that some of your most successful handlers go on to become outstanding judges,” Brace noted. “The thought process is exactly the same. Handling is the art of emphasizing a dog’s virtues whilst disguising its faults. Judging is all about recognizing the virtues yet getting the faults into perspective.
“Some countries, unfortunately, have produced some so-called professional handlers who have clearly watched a lot of American videos, bought some flashy jackets and race around the ring with dogs of indeterminate quality. They often carry too many dogs to do justice to and its obvious they aren’t kept in the best of conditions. These are the guys that are just doing it to make a buck. They aren’t handlers as I understand the word.
“The best handlers are those who are so skillfully unobtrusive that they just seem to merge into the background. These experts have the ability to project the dog to the judge at first sight,” Brace added.
Ghosts of the Past and Breeding for the Future
Legendary breeder, handler and dog man, Michael Canalizo is most associated with the Afghan Hounds of Grandeur. He handled the iconic Afghan bitch, Ch. Tryst of Grandeur, to the pinnacle of all-time top winning hound. He spoke with PureDogTalk about breeding, handling, history and the wave of the future.
“You’ll See the World”
His mother is Lee Canalizo, also now an AKC judge. When Michael was young, his self-described middle-class family wanted a companion dog. They sought out Sunny Shay, who had just won Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Club with Ch. Shirkhan of Grandeur in 1957.
When Michael’s father asked which puppy Shay recommended they buy, her response was, “Honey, take the show dog, you’ll see the world.” And, Canalizo said, they have.
They first attended match shows with their dog, which Canalizo noted, were significantly different events in that era.
“Match shows were huge in the ‘60s,” Canalizo said. “They’d have 1,000 dogs on a weekend.”
The very focused and determined young Canalizo was given the nickname “Kid Vicious,” not because he was mean, he noted, but due to his intense concentration. “I was this little guy in a suit and tie.” His handling career started early, winning his first regular group with a class bitch when he was about 13 years old.
The Canalizos maintained a life-long relationship with Shay, becoming close friends. When she formed a business partnership with successful real estate developer Roger Rechler, Michael was hired to show the Grandeur Afghans.
This flourishing partnership was haunted by devastation. On the 20th anniversary of Shirkhan’s WKC win, while Shay and friends attended a gala party at Rechler’s home, her kennel was burned down. Many dogs died in the arson fire, started, according to Canalizo, by neighbors who objected to the kennel in what had become a residential area.
Fortunately, many of the best of the Grandeur hounds were at the Rechler home to be showcased during the party. Shay eventually died in the ring, showing Ch. Boy Blu of Grandeur. Lee Canalizo was with Shay at the show that day. In those pre-cel phone days, Canalizo of course had no idea what had happened. He said he came home from a match judging assignment to the phone ringing off the hook.
“She brought me 40 years in the dog sport in the five years I was with her,” Canalizo said. “Sunny didn’t do anything by the book. She was haphazard. When Shirkhan died, at 17, she went scrambling to breed to his sons.”
After Shay died, Rechler closed the kennel to public stud. Shay was proud to have developed what she called, “A pure strain within the breed.” Canalizo noted that Shay’s first litter, born in 1941, went back to the breed’s first imports to this country.
Breeding Better Dogs
The Grandeur breeding program followed closely the “thoroughbred” formula described by Lloyd Brackett in a series of articles published in book form by Dog World Magazine in 1961. In this principle, Canalizo said, you breed a bitch to a male whose sire is the same as the mother’s sire.
Canalizo strongly advocates this line breeding theory, but he adds that breeders today have significant advantages.
“Frozen semen,” Canalizo said. “We’re in position to rewrite the probability of how to breed dogs. In those days we inbred because we couldn’t breed to a dog 20 years after it was viable. You bred to what was alive, viable and accessible. You had a very short shelf life. I’m not so sure we aren’t on the cusp of creating a new way to breed dogs.”
Ghosts and Magic
Canalizo’s “Dream BIS Lineup” came with fabulous, intimate stories about each of the dogs he selected — from eye contact across the Morris & Essex ring with Mick, the Kerry Blue Terrier, to a flash of sun on a gloomy day that spotlit his own dog in a Best In Show lineup of all black dogs near Sunny Shay’s final resting place.
Listen to Canalizo’s descriptions of these amazing dogs of the past, and which one wins Best in Show in his mind. And why!
For more insight and conversation with Canalizo, read this excellent interview with Bo Bengston.
For additional information about “Brackett’s Formula”, read this detailed article from Carmen Battaglia.