Responsible Breeding

How to develop a new dog breed

Whenever we start talking about the fact that there’s a right way and a wrong way to breed dogs, there’s an immediate rebuttal: All breeds were originally developed by crossing existing dogs, so why is the option suddenly a bad one now?

The answer, though some dog fanciers will argue with me, is that it’s NOT a bad option. Dogs are happiest when they are working and doing a job. If there are new jobs for dogs, it’s entirely probable that there should be new breeds to fill those jobs. And it is already happening – I think that the “agility Border Collie” is now so separated from the rest of the gene pool that it could be called something different. And there are really good breeders creating sport specialist dogs for agility and flyball by crossing various breeds, and they’re doing a fantastic job at it.

However, before you just go proclaim the new revolution in dog breeds, get your story right and realize that there is only one way to develop a new breed – and what you’re picturing probably isn’t it.

First, everybody needs to STOP saying that all breeds were developed around the turn of the nineteenth century, which is when the Kennel Club and the AKC were really gathering steam. That’s when the breeds were REGISTERED, yes, but you’re ignoring something very important: No kennel club exists to let people create new breeds. All kennel clubs exist for the purpose of registering (and, arguably, protecting) breeds that ALREADY EXIST.

In other words, in 1890 nobody was sitting around saying “You know what we need? A long-haired red dog that points pheasant. I’m going to call it the LARRY HOUND! No? No support on that one? OK, the LARRY SETTER!! Still no? OK, FINE THEN, we’ll call it the Irish setter.” What they were doing was saying “We’ve been breeding Irish setters for generations, and now we’re going to start giving them numbers,” or “There’s a breed that’s disappearing up in the hills, only a few left. We’re going to go collect as many as we can find and try to re-start the breed. They’re called Cardiganshire Corgis.”

That is still the case in the modern AKC. You are not allowed to present a breed for recognition before the breed actually exists, in numbers, and with established pedigrees and a written standard. Most of the dog types that become “new” AKC breeds are actually hundreds if not thousands of years old.

Second, starting a “new breed” the right way is actually a heck of a lot harder than ANY tinkering with an existing breed. It’s like deciding to bake bread from scratch without a recipe instead of buying brown-n-serve rolls. Most people are going to fail, and fail, and fail, and fail before they come up with a loaf that looks even close to decent. And it will take them hundreds of repetitions before they perfect it. In dogs, that means you’ll spend your entire life – and I am serious about that, from age 20 to the day you die – getting your breed to the point that it even exists as a breed, and then you’ll hand it over to another generation.

Why is it so hard? Because developing a new dog breed can be done correctly only by following certain steps. And none of them is “I like your cute dog; can I breed to him?”

The Recipe for a New Breed

1) Find a vacuum

2) Design something that will fill that vacuum happily and without hurting itself

3) Learn about a huge number of breeds so you can understand what it’ll take to create your new breed without destroying the world in a hail of brimstone

4) Breed your first set of litters. Discard 19 out of 20 dogs, keeping only the ones that are the best at doing their job and are built so they have the least chance of hurting themselves.

5) Repeat, but don’t let your COI go above ten percent or so.

6) When your new breed is producing consistently and you no longer need to add any other breeds but can still keep your COI under ten percent, discard 9 out of 10 dogs.

Yeah, I can see how that is EXACTLY what the doodle breeders are doing. She said, so rich in sarcasm that it made her lips feel like she had just eaten raw pineapple.

It’s not a complicated recipe. But it’s a hard one, and people instinctively hate hard stuff. They want to pat themselves on the back for creating a new breed when all they’ve done is make some poorly bred mixes that have no job and are not built well.

So – do I have my nose in the air and a chip on my shoulder about “new breeds”? Actually, no – you should hear me squeal when I see a Podengo at the shows. I LOVE seeing something I’ve never seen before. But you’ve got to make it a BREED, not a crappy mix. Crappy mixes deserve all the nose-in-the-air and shoulder chips they can get.

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  • Reply Micaela P. November 27, 2013 at 4:40 am


  • Reply Ana November 28, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    As the first written description of the Portuguese Podengo dates back to 1199, it can hardly be considered a new breed. The Small Portuguese Podengo has been defined as a breed since the 15th century. They have been a landrace in the Iberian Peninsula for over 3000 years, and a recognised breed since the beginning of the Portuguese Kennel Club.

  • Reply Lynne Whitmire November 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    If you read the breeding rules and code of ethics that are written on the Goldendoodle Association of North America (GANA)website you will see the strict health testing and breeding rules. You will also read that no Goldendoodle may be bred with another dog that shares a common ancestor for four generations. If anyone knowingly breeds a dog and doesnt follow the rules they are barred from being a member of GANA for life. If AKC had adopted such strict rules we wouldn’t have the chronic health problems in the “pure” breeds that we have today. Is it not correct that it is accepted by AKC CKC to breed a father to a daughter, siblings in the same litter etc. There are good and bad breeders in every breed, and mixed breed. Mostly bad ones in my opinion.
    By by way, I love your articles and agree with most of what you say. Take a look at the GANA web site. It may give change your opinion of some of us goldendoodle breeders who are doing everything we can to breed healthy, well tempered family companions, service and therapy dogs.

    • Reply Kbj December 5, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      Linebreeding (breeding relatives) is the ONLY way we know of to set type by revealing all hidden recessive genes and creating a homogenous genotype in the population. Preventing related dogs from procreating means you are doing constant outcrossing and preventing type from being set at all – i.e., keeping the mongrels from actually becoming breeds.

      Breeding relatives does not cause any undesirable genetic mutation – it only reveals what is there. Once it has been revealed, a good breeder with a sound understanding of genetics will work to remove it from their lines. All the doodle people and doing is hiding the bad genetics, not eliminating them, and preventing type from actually being set.

      • Reply Sarah December 10, 2013 at 7:30 pm

        in reply to KBJ–

        Please educate yourself.

        • Reply Prsnofintrest May 15, 2014 at 6:12 pm

          Would it fair to say a person trying to creat a new breed would be uthanasing more dogs than creating. Therefor being more of a dog killer than a maker?

          • LaBella July 20, 2015 at 10:16 am

            No it would not be fair to say a person trying to create a new breed would be euthanize more dogs than creating. The responsible breeder trying to create a new breed would sterilize and pet home out the undesirable puppies, or require the puppies be sterilized by a certain age, the same as people breeding for show do with their non show quality puppies.
            Irresponsible breeders would just sell the puppies to whomever with no contract requiring sterilization.
            In either case, puppies would not be being killed for not fitting the vision of the breeder. Frankly though I take the question as being sincere, it just seems ludicrous to me that someone would even think that.

            I think the biggest problem in people “creating new breeds” is that most of them are not actually doing that, but breeding a fad “designer dog” cross, with no foundation for the future. Thus you have multi generational puggles (for example), that do not have the clean nearly uniform look of the F1 cross. That divergence in type is to be expected, and has been demonstrated time and time again, starting with Whitney’s crosses of foxhounds and bassets.
            The same thing is happening in most cross breeding programs after a couple generations, one breeder may end up woth beagled eared pugs, the other might get pug eared beagles (again as an example) when you have a group of people calling themselves creating a breed, but are actually breeding for the pet market, with no clear goal in sight.
            The only ones I can think of that has come close to “doing it right” whatever that means, is the Mi-Ki people who were truly breeding from scratch, Other recent cross bred into pure bred (Chinook, alaskan klee kai, black russian terrier come to mind) built off a certain dog or another breed and themselves were not that unique is style or type. The Mi-Kis though are weird little ewok looking things and quite cute if you like small furry dogs.
            Here is to hoping they continue to do well, and develop their breed into a healthy. viable breed that won’t run into a genetic wall 40 years from now.

  • Reply Roslyn April 12, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    I think it’s a good article and a good read, enjoy most of the stuff you write here, always refreshing. I own a newer breed that I have found a few people do frown upon because it was created almost exactly how you describe, not some ancient breed. It’s only about 70 years old at this point. Cesky Terrier, wonderful terrier and a breed I am growing rather fond of.

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