I have a vision of my perfect Belgian, one that fits the breed standard in structure, type and character. I have never had a Belgian that is perfect in all regards and probably never will, some have been close in many aspects or very close in some but not others.
That is part of the fascination of dog breeding for me. You use knowledge of lines, genetics and gut instinct to try and come closer each generation all using the existing gene pool of available dogs and avoiding the pitfalls of recessive health issues cropping up or infertility problems and just sheer bad luck. Genetic laws of inheritance do have probability issues, yes the probability of recessive problem X arising may be 1 in 100 but that does mean that is is possible and it can crop in a devastating manner in that promising puppy placed in a wonderful family home or the puppy I keep to carry on my lines. Yet just because there is a random element to problems showing up in any particular litter or puppy does NOT mean we don’t do our best with research and selection to reduce the both the likelihood of a problem arising in a litter and reduce the incidence in our breed. A responsible breeder will balance all factors into their breeding decisions.
I tend to breakdown breeding decisions first into four broad categories to try and optimize, as much as possible, all four:
- Health – In the individual, existing offspring, if any, and close relatives. You don’t want to breed to the only healthy dog in an unhealthy family.
- Character – This can be complicated, the ideal character traits of a family pet may not be the same of a top agility competition or ring sport dog.
- Structure – This is easier to define. Belgians have a typical structure for a dog that needs to trot for extended periods of time and maneuver quickly.
- Breed Type – Here we get some variation depending on how the breed standard is interpreted. How do you define “moderate”? I do want a Belgian that looks like a Belgian.
Sounds easy but you have to work with the existing gene pool of dogs available for breeding. Many top performance dogs in the US are spayed or neutered as the owners are not interested in breeding. For example: if my girl is lacking in structure but good in the other areas then I try and find a male with excellent structure and at least ‘good’ in the other areas. Some breeders focus on one area or the other in their breeding program. It is easier to be successful if you just try and optimize in one area rather than four! I have gone to Europe to breed my girls or imported frozen semen. I want to breed to the best male I can find for my girl and goals even it is is expensive or complicated. We have these puppies in our lives for 12 to 14 years and extra cost and effort to try and ensure they are healthy, of good character and high quality is worth it in the long run. There have been disappointments along the way, Mother Nature has the final say, but I’ve never regretted investing in my puppies futures.
Currently I am planning on breeding two parallel lines, a higher drive working focused line and a conformation/performance focused line with the eventual goal of judiciously incorporating traits from each to achieve a well built healthy Belgian with correct breed type and a resilient, yet biddable, character with the confidence and drive to excel in most performance areas on a consistent basis.
Lorra Acord Miller