If you are looking to learn about dog breeding techniques, then you are in the right place. Our complete guide will let you learn the advantages, disadvantages and best uses of the top techniques such as pure breeding, selective breeding, and hybrid breeding. This information is essential if you plan to become a breeder.
Before we dive in into dog breeding techniques and methods, we recommend you to read our glossary, because it contains important terms that we will use throughout the page.
A strain of dogs bred for specific purposes such as hunting, herding, ratting, etc. They share standardized similarities, and therefore, they have specific standards to meet, which top institutions such as the AKC define. To call a dog a purebred, it needs to meet all the appearance standards of the breed. Furthermore, they also share the same temperament and potential health issues.
Breed Type or Category
A term used to classify related breeds, for example, hunting dogs. For instance, the Beagle and the Vizsla would fall under the same breed category. We can also place toy breeds into this category, and if we check some examples such as the Maltese and the Chihuahua, they tend to suffer from the same health issues such as patellar luxation.
A bloodline is the tale of the lineage of a dog, which defines its ancestors. It is specified in the pedigree certificate and puts special focus on the top qualities bred into the dog. A bloodline is a critical factor for breeders because it allows them to define which dogs are the most suitable for their purposes. Ideally, breeders look for bloodlines that show favorable temperament and features, and of course, the performance of its ancestors in specific tasks and shows.
Type of Dogs
It is the term used to classify a group of dogs with similar characteristics but that have not been standardized yet. In a sense, it resembles a normal breed of dogs, but they do not have standards of appearance, and therefore, no institution has defined them.
A purebred dog is a dog that was born from two parents of the same breed, generally with a traceable lineage documented in a studbook or breed registry (e.g. the American Kennel Club). Purebred dogs adhere to the standard of the breed they belong to.
Pure breeding is tricky as many dogs could be purebred but do not have the paperwork for whatever reasons (ideological or to cut on costs). Such specimens would generally not be considered purebred and will be “of type”. A paperless German Shepherd is not purebred but would be referred to as a dog “of German Shepherd type”.
When you mix two purebred dogs such as the Poodle and the Labrador Retriever, you get a cross. This dog breeding technique is widely used to combine different characteristics from each breed (appearance, temperament and abilities), which allows breeders to create unique dogs such as the Cockapoo (Poodle + Cocker Spaniel), the Puggle (Beagle + Pug), the Bernedoodle (Bernese Mountain Dog + Poodle) and the Shepherd Chow (Chow Chow + German Shepherd Crossbreed)
Hybrids are the first generation of crossbreeding two different purebred dogs. In consequence, they do not have a specific breed. They are a mix of different qualities and abilities. Furthermore, it is important to know that hybrids often suffer fewer health issues than purebreds. For example, they have fewer possibilities of presenting congenital diseases such as hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy.
Hybrid dogs have a nomenclature known as F1, F1b, F2, F3 to describe the generation of a given dog.
When a mixed-breed dog does not have a recognizable lineage, it is classified as a mutt. In consequence, it also means that the parents of the puppy were not registered. Unfortunately, the term has obtained a negative connotation. The problem with mutts is that, as there is no clear lineage, it is impossible to predict their temperament or health condition, as well as other important qualities. Therefore, it is much harder to use mutts to breed dogs for specific tasks. They may also be referred to as mongrels.
Unfortunately, random breeding is the most common type of breeding because it happens by accident and inattention. It can happen with another dog at home or if you let your dog go outside on its own because when it is heat season, anything can happen.
Females release powerful pheromones during their heat, and they can attract males from several kilometers away. When you combine this powerful effect along with the inattention that many owners are guilty of, then we get the ideal scenario for random breeding.
As it happens by accident, there is no planning nor the meticulous selection of the partner. Therefore, it can give origin to all sort of crosses and mixes, resulting in mutts, crosses, and hybrids, depending on the situation. Furthermore, it is also a common cause of inbreeding.
When the breeder is involved in selecting the possible best partner for its dog, then it receives the term of selective breeding. Most dog breeding techniques fall under this category, because it involves choosing a specific kind of stud/bitch to breed certain characteristics, be they certain temperament traits, physical features or functional abilities such as herding or hunting.
Therefore, it requires specialized knowledge of breeding and canine genetics to obtain desirable results. It involves analyzing the bloodline and ancestors of the dog, health certificates that ensure it does not have any congenital disease
We have been doing it for centuries, which has helped us to create breeds for specific purposes. This process has yielded noticeable changes, for example, in the size, structure, and shape of canine brains. According to research, it varies depending on the purpose of the breed.
We will discuss each type of selective breeding below.
True or Purebreeding
To produce high-quality purebred dogs, this is the breeding technique to use. It involves breeding two purebred dogs to give birth to a puppy that shares the same characteristics as their parents. It is because each breed contains a unique set of genes.
This dog breeding technique also allows breeders to predict certain traits of the temperament of the dog and its possible behaviors, which is excellent when you want a dog that will help you with specific tasks.
Therefore, it involves a serious and complete analysis of the pedigrees of both dogs to determine their purity and evaluate if they are ideal for breeding purposes. The objective of true breeding is to mix two bloodlines of excellent qualities, to produce puppies that come as close as possible to the ideal standards of the breed. Hence, both the bitch and the stud must comply with such requirements.
In consequence, the breeder must evaluate the good and bad aspects of the bloodline, such as possible health issues and genetic defects, because the purpose of true breeding is to eradicate them, to maintain and improve the breed.
Under certain circumstances, true-breeding can also be a form of inbreeding when two siblings mate. The proof can be found in several breeds such as the Smaland Hound and the Swedish Lapphund because they represent rapid inbreeding and a subsequent loss of genetic diversity.
Inbreeding happens when two genetically related dogs mate. It can involve mating siblings or cousins, for example. Therefore, both dogs share very similar genetic material. Therefore, it can include close and distant relatives. As we are going in the next sections, there are different types of inbreeding such as grading up and back breeding.
Because both dogs are closely related to each other genetically, the breeder can predict with more certainty the traits and features of the litter. Therefore, the principal advantage of inbreeding is that it makes predictions more accurate.
The dark side of inbreeding is that it has increased the coefficient of inbreeding for several breeds, which provokes problems for male and female fertility, as well as litter size and composition. For example, in this study, they found out that inbred studs produce lower quality ejaculates than outbred studs.
Although such advantage is important, inbreeding also presents risks that can destroy the quality of the litter, especially when it is at high degrees. In such a case, it will reduce the litter size and affect the health of the puppies by shortening their lifespan and making them more vulnerable to inherited diseases. The more close the dogs are, the higher the risks of experiencing these issues.
Even though DNA testing can reduce the risk of congenital diseases and genetic defects, it is not a total guarantee because these tests are available for only a small number of autosomal recessive conditions. In consequence, your dogs will be still at risk of developing unknown autosomal recessive conditions.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that inbreeding has provoked several issues such as the loss of genetic diversity. Several breeds have lost more than 90% of singleton variants in only six generations.
Linebreeding also falls within the realm of inbreeding, but unlike close inbreeding, it aims to preserve the best genes of a bloodline while maintaining enough genetic diversity. It accomplishes it by mating dogs that are first or second cousins and uncle to niece, for example.
Nonetheless, to give it a better definition, we need to cite the words of the man who introduced genetics to animal breeding, Jay Lush: “Linebreeding pairs animals that are related to a specific ancestor, but which are little if at all related to each other”.
Therefore, it is more complex than other types of inbreeding. To illustrate it properly, below you will find a proper example.
Line Breeding in Action
- The parents of the dog “X” are double first cousins that share the same four grandparents
- Then we have the dog “Y” whose parents are half-sister and brother
- We also have the dog “Z”, which is the result of mating the stud to his granddaughter
- The dog “W” is the result of mating the stud to his daughter
Now, let us examine each case independently, to determine which ones are examples of Linebreeding and which ones are not. You should refer to the image that explains each pedigree graphically.
- X: It is not a case of linebreeding because the stud and the bitch are related through four different ancestors, which presents the risk of belonging to four different unrelated strains
- Y: The dog “Y” is linebred to the dog “M” because they share the same level of closeness of their parents. Therefore, it is a valid example
- Z: It is the best example of line breeding, because unlike the dog “Y”, the dog “Z” shares a more close relationship to the dog “Y”, while keeping the levels of inbreeding within the acceptable range
- W: Due to the high levels of inbreeding, it is not an example of line breeding
Risks to Consider
Because there is more genetic diversity, it helps you to reduce the incidence of common genetic mutations and health issues related to inbreeding. Nonetheless, it still puts dogs at risk of homozygosity, which fixes undesirable genes.
By definition, backbreeding falls under the category of inbreeding, because it involves mating two dogs that are closely related to each other genetically. It consists in mating one dog, generally a high-quality stud, with another partner, to then mate it with the strongest puppy from the litter. Then, breeders will repeat the process again, breeding the original stud with the strongest specimen from the second-generation litter.
It is an excellent choice when you want to perfect the genetic traits of a dog with an excellent bloodline and quality, for example, a proven stud from a champion bloodline with excellent show quality and outstanding features for its breed.
Nonetheless, because it falls within the realm of inbreeding, it can present risks such as genetic mutations, congenital health issues and decreased quality of the litters. Therefore, it requires plenty of monitoring and careful analysis with the help of DNA tests and health checks.
Our advice is to use back breeding for the first generation and then use line breeding. It reduces the risk of genetic mutations and helps you to accomplish the same result, which is to homogenize future litters and pass the excellent genes of the original stud.
Grading up is a selective dog breeding technique that consists of mating a dog from an exceptional bloodline and outstanding features with an average dog. Which, as a result, allows the breeder to obtain a litter of higher quality. Then, the breeder chooses the best dog from the litter to mate with the original dog, to produce an even better litter.
It is important to note that the selection of the high-quality stud is essential, and therefore, you should look for a bloodline that contains the traits and characteristics you would like to transmit to the new specimens.
This process is repeated multiple times to upgrade each new generation and make them as purebred as possible. Grading up also falls within the realm of inbreeding, because it involves mating two dogs that are very close genetically.
The main advantage and use of grading up breeding is to produce higher quality puppies at a lower cost. Since you only have to invest in a high-quality stud, you will save plenty of money. You will not have to spend thousands of dollars to mate your dogs with a dog from a champion bloodline.
When managed properly – which includes multiple DNA tests and health checks to determine the best possible partner from each litter – it will help you to stabilize the new bloodline, and in consequence, make it.
Even though it is not as dangerous as close inbreeding, it still puts your litters at risk of developing genetic mutations, autosomal recessive conditions, and other health issues, on top of decreasing the number of the litter.
Outcrossing is a frequent practice when a breeder wants to increase the levels of genetic diversity of a dog bloodline because it involves mating two unrelated dogs from the same breed. Therefore, it is a popular method to reduce inbreeding levels and even reset them.
Breeders also do it when they want to introduce desirable traits from another bloodline into the bloodline of their dog. Therefore, breeders need to analyze each bloodline carefully to obtain the following vital information:
- Characteristics of the ancestors
- No common ancestors (a minimum of a 4-generation gap)
- Detect possible congenital health issues and problems
- Evaluate show quality
Because it helps to add genetic diversity and reduces the levels of inbreeding, it is a healthy practice to introduce it in methods such as line breeding, to reduce the risks as much as possible.
Crossbreeding is a dog breeding strategy that involves mixing two dogs from two recognized breeds, for example, a Poodle with a Maltese dog. It gives a cross as a result, and as some people prefer to call them, a designer dog. The mixes that result from this type of breeding cannot be recognized as breeds on their own right. Therefore, they call under the term cross.
This type of breeding has been present in the canine world since the 14th century because it was an efficient way to integrate desirable traits from different dogs into one pup. Examples of this are the Longdog and the Lurcher.
Nowadays, crossbreeding has become even more popular because it allows buyers to choose from a wide myriad of interesting mixes such as the Aussiedor (Australian Shepherd + Labrador) and the Boxador (Boxer + Labrador), which combines the positive temperament traits of both breeds, making it an ideal family dog.
Therefore, it has been used for several centuries to breed dogs that combine desirable traits from different breeds. In consequences, it involves a careful analysis of the bloodline of each dog, to determine the possible outcomes in terms of appearance, functions, and temperament.
Interestingly, it has even been used to mate dogs with wild wolves, which has left an important genetic mark on the wolf gene pool. It only shows how popular cross-breeding is. Many breeders have also tried this to breed dogs with coyotes and jackals, which has resulted in healthy and fertile offspring.
In fact, several studies, like this one, suggest that the acceptance of registration of dogs with distant ancestors from another breed, recognition the benefits of crossbreeding and imposing offspring limits on studs in Kennel Clubs would contribute to improving the health of any breed without undermining the standards.
In conclusion, crossbreeding offers several benefits that would improve the quality of future generations of any breed.
As we have seen, a hybrid dog belongs to the first generation offspring that results from mating two purebred dogs. They have a bigger gene pool, which brings them a unique trait known as hybrid vigor, which makes them healthier than purebred dogs, especially when they have a high coefficient of inbreeding.
Hybrids, designer dogs and crossbred dogs are the same for the most part; the unique difference is that the term hybrid is only used for the first generation litter.
Hybrid breeding helps to create dogs with unique features such as being hypoallergenic and smaller, allowing breeders to cater to a unique segment in the market because they can create dogs that have highly sought after features.
As we have seen, crossbreeding has been widely used for centuries. Therefore, we can find many examples of hybrids throughout history:
- Doberman Pinschers: The result of mixing Beaucerons, Greyhounds, Rottweilers and Great Danes. The responsibility of designing this dog was Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann during the late 19th century
- Australian Cattle Dogs: The result of mixing Collies, Black, Tan Kelpies and Dingos. It responded to the needs of farmers, who needed a dog with a strong character, the firm will and enough roughness to handle cattle
In consequence, it also involves the careful analysis of each breed and bloodline, to obtain the most desirable results.
Now that you have been properly introduced to the different dog breeding techniques, you have a solid background to get started as a breeder. Nonetheless, remember that there is not a single best dog breeding technique, because each one is more useful under specific circumstances and depending on your goal. You are aware of the advantages and the risks, and therefore, now you can decide which one will fit your purposes the best.