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.