How do you decide whether an
individual dog is one you'll use in your program?
There are numerous criteria
that help us to determine whether a dog or
bitch will be bred, some of which are outlined in detail below.
We believe that the breeding of Rottweilers is first and foremost
the breeding of working dogs. However, it is also important
that the Rottweiler has breed type which makes it easily
identifiable, the physical soundness to do the job and the
temperament that is true to the breed's heritage.
these things, we must test the dogs. This means proving each
breeding prospect through various competitions that are set up to
emulate working scenarios as well as seeking the opinion of others in
the form of conformation showing. It also means health testing
for known genetic disorders. Without doing these things, we
have insufficient information about the dog to properly choose a mate.
we choose dogs that are an improvement over their ancestors and who
give us reason to believe that they will bring further improvement in
Which is most
important...Breed Type, Temperament, Working Ability or Health?
more important than the other. Each of these items combined is
what makes a Rottweiler. A dog that is true to breed type is
still not a Rottweiler if he cannot do the job he was bred to
do. A mutt can be a great working dog, but without breed type,
he is obviously not a Rottweiler. A great looking dog who also
excels in the working venues must be physically sound in order to
reach his full potential. And above all else, the Rottweiler
must have exceptional temperament in order to live in today's society.
Rottweiler Breeder must take so many items into consideration, it is
difficult to perfect any one portion without sacrificing
another. For this reason, many breeders have opted to focus
solely on conformation aspects of the Rottweiler, or harp on health
clearances while producing dogs with unstable temperaments...after
all, it is far easier to perfect one thing than all four! The
problem with this can be seen in several other breeds....consider the
German Shepherd dog or the Golden Retriever. In both, the
deviation between the show and working dogs has grown so great that
they could almost be two different breeds, not only in type, but in
temperament. It is up to breeders to ensure that this doesn't
happen to the Rottweiler.
How important is an AKC or CKC
Championship title tells us several things. First, that the dog
does not deviate greatly from the Breed
Standard. Second, that it was deemed the best of the
competition that day by more than one judge and third, that it had
the type of temperament that allowed it to be exhibited in close
proximity to other dogs and to submit to examination by a
stranger. Lastly, it tells us that the owner of the dog cared
enough to spend some time and money proving their dog's quality prior
important for breeders to seek the evaluation of their dogs by
outside parties. Failure to do so can lead to Kennel
Blindness. It is also important for the breeder to
personally attend large specialty shows so that the breeder can
evaluate for themselves how their dogs compare to the best of what
other breeders have produced.
While it is
true that poor quality dogs can finish their Championships with the
right handler, in general, it is a quality dog that wins on any given
day. However, it is worthwhile to personally assess the
"value" of each Championship earned.... ie. what type of
competition did the dog defeat? For instance, in the case of
the UKC or UCI International Championships, a dog can obtain the
title without defeating others of the same breed. Because of
this, we do not consider either title as one that gives us sufficient
information to make a breeding decision.
It is also
important to realize that a Championship alone does not make a dog
worthy of being bred. For this honor, the dog needs to prove
himself in several other ways as one of the best the breed has to offer.
How about Sieger Show
ratings? Are these worth considering?
There are several differences between a Championship (point) show and
a Sieger Show rating. By and large, the Sieger Shows in the US
and Canada invite ADRK or FCI judges to officiate and judging is done
according to the FCI Standard. Evaluations by ADRK judges are
highly sought after because, like most specialty judges, they are
Rottweiler Breeders themselves.
Show is run differently than the AKC/CKC show. The dog is shown
European Style... free-baited (meaning that he has to show himself
off) rather than handstacked. Lack of time constraints also
allow the dogs to be gaited further than in the traditional show
ring, allowing us to better assess each dog's movement and
stamina. The judge also critiques the dog item by item, for all
to hear, so that we have a better understanding of how he decided to
award ratings and placements.
are a great learning experience and are a nice compliment to the
other show venues in that the dog will often see competition that it
may not encounter at the AKC or CKC shows. It is important to
remember however that it is still a subjective rating and that a dog
can be awarded V-1 without any competition. Like any show
venue, it is important to evaluate the competition before putting too
much emphasis on any one win.
How important are working
titles? Are some venues more important than others?
titles are of the utmost importance. When a dog earns working
titles, especially at the advanced level, he has proven, to some
extent at least, that he is both physically and mentally sound.
ring was originally designed to ensure that each breed retained the
physical characteristics that would enable it to do the job it was
bred for. The Rottweiler is classified in the Working
Group...comprised of breeds whose foundation was based on carrying
out a task. In our breed, those tasks changed over
centuries...from guarding the Roman armies, to working livestock, to
pulling a bucher's cart to market, to police work to "sport"
work. The ability to adapt to these changes are a testament to
the versatility of the Rottweiler. To that end, it is important
that breeders continue to prove that the Rottweiler has the physical
and mental ability to perform any one of these tasks prior to being bred.
of working temperament are many and varied. For this reason,
competitions are set up to simulate real world situations.
Titles in these venues tell us that the dog could be trained to meet
the minimum requirements for that sport. Many will argue the
advantage of one sport over another, however it is important to
realize that, while every venue provides us with valuable insight
into the dog's character, no one sport can provide us with every bit
of information that we seek.
trialing the dogs in multiple venues has proven the most valuable,
giving us insight that we may not have had if we'd focused solely on
one venue. For instance, a dog who excels on the Schutzhund
field and is also a Champion with agility and herding titles tells us
several things...that the dog is courageous, yet knows when to
recognize when a person is not a threat. It tells us that the
he has enough prey drive to do protection work, yet can control those
same drives when working livestock. It tells us that he is
willing to work carefully and closely with us in the obedience and
protection phases, but still can think on his own during tracking and
herding. It also tells us that the dog stayed physically sound
enough to hold up to the rigors of the agility field, that he was
able to hold up mentally to the owner's stress level in competing and
that, most importantly, he must have been enjoyable to work with if
his owner chose to do so much with him.
dog's accomplishments will be limited by the preferences of his
owner. In these cases, we generally ask to show or work the dog
ourselves so that we can better understand the dog, his fundamental
temperament and drives. Every Rottweiler must be able to prove
to us that he is good at something before we will consider him for
breeding. Click here for a listing of Titles
that can be earned.
As with the
conformation Championship, it is important to bear in mind that proof
of working ability is still only one facet of the complete
Rottweiler. Regardless of his working accomplishments, he still
has other things to prove that make him worthy of being bred.
clearances are the important ones?
Rottweiler should be screened for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia as well as
for Cardiac and Eye Disorders. These evaluations must be
performed by specialists. When the dog has passed these evaluations,
he will be assigned a number by the OFA
(hips, elbows, heart) or CERF
(eyes). Use the following link to learn more about Interpreting
Health Clearance Numbers. Many breeders have also
begun screening for Luxating Patellas and Thyroid Dysfunction.
Both can also be certified by the OFA.
notice that the ARC and MRC Code of Ethics require hip screening
only. Recently, the Rottweiler Club of Canada added cardiac
screening to their requirements. These are the recommended
MINIMUMS. A reputable breeder will do far more testing than the
minimum. In addition, responsible breeders will list both
passing and failing results in the databases. The reason for
this is that all information is valuable when making breeding decisions.
nutshell, all health clearances are important. That said, there
are a number of health disorders that breeders must also take into
consideration, any one of which can be heritable, but that we do not
have genetic testing for. These include, but are not limited
to, early onset cancer, ACL/CCL ruptures, OCD of joints other than
elbows, auto-immune disorders, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy,
degenerative spine disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, and bloat.
would like there to come a day when we could say that we only breed
dogs who pass all of the "Big Four" (hips, elbows, heart
and eyes), sometimes exceptions do end up being made in order to
avoid far greater problems. In these cases, each breeder will
assign their own hierarchy to each trait...Meaning what one breeder
will accept, another may absolutely avoid. For instance, we
will not breed dogs who have ruptured an ACL ligament, yet it is
common practice in our breed. However, another breeder will
refuse to consider a dog who didn't pass elbows, yet we have produced
generations of dogs who have stayed sound into old age with elbows
that were rated DJDI with the OFA. That hierarchy may also vary
based on existing strengths and weaknesses in an individual pedigree
and it can change based on where the breeder is in regard to
achieving all of their goals.
always be health risks inherent in every breeding. If a breeder
tells you that a potential litter carries no risks, they are either
being untruthful, or have not researched carefully enough.
Though we will always have to accept some risks, it is the breeder's
responsibility to identify what they are and communicate them to
you. This means testing for ALL known genetic defects, sharing
the restults of that testing, and proving the dog is indeed
physically sound by way of working him.
repeatedly stated above, health clearances alone do not make a dog
worthy of being bred. OFA/CERF certifications are only proof of
what the dog should be. He still needs to prove what he
information about how health clearance information is used, please read:
Testing and Counseling ~ Jerold S. Bell (Tufts University)
How do you make the decision
to breed a particular male to a particular female?
version is that we take all of the above into consideration!
However, once we determine that the dog and bitch complement each
other in the obvious ways...type, temperament, health clearances and
pedigree, we then break each of those categories down further to
really assess whether they will be the right match.
instance, when we assess type, we consider approximately 40 different
items from the obvious like heads, toplines, movement to the less
obvious such as length of hock, rib spring or shoulder layback.
We evaluate each dog, piece by piece, with the goal being to find
dogs who share attributes while also offsetting each other's
faults. When we do this, we always give priority to structural
items, yet still must bear in mind that the fine points... pigment,
markings, eye shape, cheek fill, ear set... are what give us breed type.
consider each facet of each dog's temperament and working ability...
items such as desire
to interact, rate of learning, ability to generalize
and retain, level of independence, distractibility, adaptability,
quickness to engage, ability to settle, natural eye contact, food and
toy motivation, ability to handle correction, willingness to
retrieve, threat threshold, overall courage, tenacity,
appropriateness with children, level of rank seeking, ability to
redirect, dog aggression, sense of humor etc. As you see,
evaluation of temperament goes far deeper than simply asking "are
they nice dogs?".
for so carefully matching qualities of temperament is that our breed
calls for many conflicting personality traits. The breeder's
job is to always breed toward the middle of these traits, while
holding true to our own interpretation of the breed standard.
Our personal goal is to produce a strong and courageous dog, who is
eager to please and easy to manage...one who can take on any threat,
yet still be gentle with children. Sounds easy, right?
Imagine instead if we inadvertently combined the wrong traits and
ended up with a strong and courageous dog who is also rank seeking
and dog aggressive, too quick to engage, with little desire to please
and who is not good with children? The reality is that breeding
Rottweilers without a serious dedication to proper temperament will
result in our inability to continue to own them in the future.
We cannot take shortcuts or make mistakes in this regard.
to phenotype (what we see), we also have to consider genotype (the
genetic information that the dog carries). Once we have
determined that a dog and bitch are compatible, we then look one step
further, researching how these lines have crossed in the past, and
evaluating common ancestors to ensure that we are not setting
ourselves up for unexpected surprises. Researching the pedigree
in this manner requires many breeders to work together with honesty
and full disclosure. Without this type of teamwork, we will
have trouble finding success.
I've heard terms like
Inbreeding, Linebreeding, Outcrossing...which is best?
their place in a breeding program and each are valuable for different
reasons. While most Rottweiler breedings would be considered
outcrosses (ie. no common ancestor in three generations), many are
actually loose linebreedings when we consider that the dogs go back
to related ancestors. Rarely do Rottweiler breeders utilize
inbreedings (Father/Daughter, Mother/Son, Brother/Sister). An
easy to understand explanation of these terms can be found HERE.
of the path that the breeder chooses, they should be able to clearly
walk you through the advantages of the pairing, as well as the risks
that were taken. Simply stated, the more closely related the
parents, the more knowledgeable the breeder must be.
Is the sire or the dam more
important to the type and temperament of the puppies?
The sire and
the dam each contribute 50% of the puppy's genetic makeup. It
is a fallacy that the dam contributes more than the sire to the
actual gene pool or that a top quality sire is able to compensate
entirely for his mates lack of quality.
reason, both the sire and the dam need to be equally outstanding if
we are going to utilize them in our breeding program. It should
be remembered that, once bred, a poor or mediocre Rottweiler remains
in our pedigrees forever.
dam is of particular importance because she will influence the
puppies social interactions from day one. Because of this, it
is critical that breeders choose dams who are not only outstanding in
quality and sound in temperament, but who possess good mothering skills.
How important are the
littermates of the sire & dam when considering a breeding?
important. Breadth of pedigree is as important as depth of
pedigree, if not moreso. Gathering data on siblings will help
us to form the "bigger picture" when it comes to making our
final breeding choices. Ideally, we will choose a dog that
comes from a family of above average individuals. We have found
this far more successful than breeding to one outstanding dog that
was produced by average ancestors.
equally important to know the health clearance results for
littermates. For instance, we would consider an OFA Fair dog
that has 8 siblings, all of whom are Good or Excellent, before an OFA
Excellent dog who has 3 dysplastic littermates.
How important are the
grandparents/great grandparents when considering a breeding?
important, especially if they are still alive. While a
grandparent or great-grandparent won't contribute as much of their
genetic makeup to the litter as the sire and dam will (unless they
are being linebred upon), they can give us valuable insight into
longevity, an item that we must be careful to pay attention to when
making breeding choices.
Is each breeding done with the
same goals in mind?
will always strive to produce a dog that meets our vision of the
Rottweiler in type and temperament, each litter is produced in an
effort to take our breeding program in a particular direction.
What our breeding program needs at one point may be very different
from what we need another time.
instance, there may be a physical trait that we have been inattentive
to while we were focusing on working ability. A particular
breeding may be done to get that trait back in line. Or there
may be a strength that we already have but would like to
solidify. We also will have owners with varying needs.
Therefore, one litter will not necessarily suit them all.
Ultimately, we work hard not to deviate very far from our ideal while
still making the breeding choices that take us in the direction that
we need to go.
whole, we will have periods where we strive to bring in working
traits, and other times our focus will be on maintaining
conformation. We have found that using dogs who are excellent
in breed type for one breeding, then utilizing dogs who are
outstanding in the work the next time gets us closer to our goals
than trying to find a dog who is simply good in both areas.
Once you've chosen a sire and
dam, will I be able to meet both of them?
It is not
often that we own both the sire and the dam but, yes, if we do, you
are welcome to come out to meet them. More often than not we
are utilizing an outside sire, as our one stud dog could not possibly
be the right match for all of our girls. In these cases, we
will gladly put you in touch with the stud dog owner so that you can
arrange to meet him if logistically possible.
I liked a litter that you
produced in the past. Will you repeat that breeding?
repeat breedings. In general, we feel that if we got what we
were anticipating in a breeding, we will have what we need to go
forward with. And if we did not get the qualities we were
hoping for, we shouldn't expect to get them next time around.
breedings tighten up the gene pool, diminishing genetic diversity in
the breed. If we like a breeding very much, we may do a related
pairing instead of a repeat. That said, there are sometimes
unexpected circumstances that will result in a repeat breeding.
If it is a specific pairing that you are wondering about, it is best
to contact us directly to ask.
information on Genetic Diversity and what it means, please read:
Sire Syndrome and concerns of Genetic Diversity ~ Jerold S. Bell