Linebreeding , Inbreeding & Outcrossing



When breeding dogs, what matters is the quality and qualities of the dogs in question; not the "formula" by which they are bred. Line breeding is often touted as some sort of special way to get good dogs. Line breeding is simply weak inbreeding, so carries all the problems of both out crossing and inbreeding & simply gives people uncomfortable with the idea of inbreeding a way to comfortably inbreed to retain desired characteristics. The degree of relationship, in any case, does not necessarily indicate the amount of genetic material shared. Everyone has seen two "identical" cousins, as well as brother-sister pairs as unlike as night and day to illustrate this point. Again, sophisticated decisions, based on in depth knowledge of what those pedigrees mean, are needed. To breed two dogs together (wisely and for good results) you must have intimate knowledge of the dogs in their respective pedigrees & what characteristics they likely share.

Out crossing

used to be (still is?) the time honored way to deal with a genetic problem. When your line shows a problem, breed out to "get rid of it." Except you don't --it is still there, now just hidden--along with whatever the sire's family also contributed "in secret". It may be back to haunt you (and your puppy buyers) later on. Document what you got & what you are getting. Outcross when you need a "hybrid state" for best expression. Outcross to bring things into your line you cannot find within it & know some unseen "travelers" will accompany the traits you desire. The best outcrosses may not really be outcrosses at all, as two separate families with similar styles & traits are merged together; different names, but maybe the same 'good' genes for good heads are present, for example, in both families. These trait or type breedings (assortive/assortative matings) are a strategy to get the "good" genes for a trait without doubling up on a specific individual. They have the extra added advantage to the breed (if not your specific breeding) of possibly helping to preserve diversity in the population. Of course, many "out crossings" wouldn't be that if extended pedigrees were viewed: many breeds & many major & successful bloodlines in a breed go back to a handful of the same relatives (& this is not necessarily a bad thing, if the dogs were good). Again, information on the dogs in question is so necessary.


brings skeletons out of the closet. They were already there, but now you have to face them. It can be a great tool for finding out what you didn't know about your bloodlines, but it takes a steely heart to face up to what you find. It also takes great dogs to breed close as you are fixing traits fast and hard. The closer the breeding, the better the two dogs must be to make it worth it. Call weak inbreeding line breeding if you like, but breeding dogs closely related is technically inbreeding (although there is a good argument to separate the two), as the point is to double-up on desired family characteristics by doubling up on the desired genes. But most everything recessive in the family eventually pops up, good & bad, when line-breeding over generations, so eventually blind line-breeding leads to the same bottleneck as intense inbreeding; it just takes longer to get there. The bad news about inbreeding is that the homozygous sought may be found. In other words, you are trying to double up on genes for good heads or strong hearts, but also double up on the genes in the immune system & that can lead to inbreeding depression. So be careful what you wish for when inbreeding, especially repeatedly &/or tightly.

Brackett's Formula

 "Let the sire of the sire become the grandsire on the dam's side." Lloyd Brackett's prescription for line breeding has proven very effective WHEN the dog line bred on is a truly superior example of the breed_&_can correct the weaknesses in the bitch/pedigree in question. Pat Craige Trotter in her book "Born To Win" discusses some successful strategies & possible formulas for particular situations, but no "cookbook approach" to dogs will ever work: breeding dogs is an artful science or a scientific art and takes both talent and study to properly accomplish. Out crossing can be like sweeping problems under the rug (if it is really an outcross that is done). The pups from two such lines now carry some mishmash of what either or both parents brought down out of their families.


 All breeders have their favored characteristics and pet peeves. All are willing to sacrifice the perfection of certain traits to consistently achieve others they feel more important. This "worldview" on their chosen breed(s) leads to a style and the emphasis of certain traits within the correct type that breeder will be known for (e.g. size, head type, longevity etc.). That many breeders have deliberate styles of dogs is good for the breed; it preserves the variety & strength of the breed. But many breeders fall foul of their own likes & dislikes, especially at the beginning when they know little about the breed and later on, as the years pass and they achieve some success, having now looked at the style they chose to breed so long they think of it often as the breed itself. If this quality is combined with an intolerance for one's rivals and/or for the faults least liked and virtues most admired, a good line of dogs will dwindle down to be more memory & reputation than a still truly vital line producing excellent dogs. Kennel blindness is also an almost universal trait of the "Sour Grapes Society;" those "wannabees" in a breed who have a thousand excuses for why their dogs don't succeed, all of them to due with the faults of other people and other people's dogs. It is also a major trait in so-called "pet breeders" who tend to not self-educate about the breed at all, so don't really know much about the breed they may well adore. They generally let their love for their pets blind them to their breeding worth...or lack thereof.


 This usually means using a well-known dog on a poor quality bitch in the hopes her offspring will succeed where she failed. Stripped down to this raw definition it's obvious what a bad idea this is. Stud owners should not let themselves be talked into breeding to sub-standard bitches & novices shouldn't attempt to get better pups this way. However it happens all too often. But the outcome is nearly always the same: the proud owners of those new pups find they are not enough better than their mother to be competitive & the stud owner finds the reputation of the sire is damaged by those who see these poor quality pups as typical of what he produces. Stud owners shouldn't allow themselves to become this kennel blind. Worse is the idea of starting out with admitting "pet" animals & hoping (?) to breed something better somehow. This falls under the old saw about silk purses & sows' ears, but incredibly is still attempted _&_ defended as a way to start in dogs. You just cannot "get there from here." Surely there are more than enough dogs in this world without starting out deliberately to make mediocre litters. Enough said.


 Too many people breed "paper tigers:" they breed dogs who are relatives of a famous dog as if they were somehow magic or just as good, they breed to a dog's popularity, it's show record, it's fame, or even to their best friend's dog or the closest, most convenient dog. It's astounding as much as has been written in the last century about the perils of breeding "paper" that it is still done so often. A sire is only as good as his get & his get will equally reflect the bitches taken to him. It's no use to hope the one (or ten) good pup(s) you saw out of him will happen to you when your bitch isn't like the dams of those pups.

It's even worse to think that his fame will arise in his litters; one cannot take the parents' show records into the ring to convince the judge of the merits of their offspring. Nor can you honestly think that a dog having "famous" grandparents gives you a reason to breed. Further, when certain sires are overused in a breed, these popular sires become a potential danger to the breed. If their influence is too widespread, then it becomes hard to breed away from them. Diversity of style as well as genes is lost in a breed. If said popular sire turns out to have a damaging genetic flaw, the Popular Sire Syndrome has now spawned a Matador--a dog whose late-recognized fault is now widespread enough in the breed to "kill" it.

This is all bad practice. Selection is lost when a pedigree or fame is the deciding factor for the choice of breeding partner. It's ill-educated to breed to an ad or a reputation. It's a doomed effort (except for sales) to breed for convenience or to "see what happens." And terrible dogs are made by blind line-breeding: faults are fixed in & a good line is eroded over time. Each breeding musts be done seeing the sire and dam as crowded in by their respective families when it comes to flaws, but standing alone when it comes to what virtues they can even potentially offer. There is, again, no recipe for breeding dogs & no substitute for a well-trained eye.


 As Dr. Jerome Bell so succinctly put it: "It is the varied opinion of breeders as to what constitutes the ideal dog, and their selection of breeding stock that maintains breed diversity." The current problem of erupting genetic disease, as far as it applies to pedigrees & breeding, reflects two trends. One is a problem of the "Matador," that is the "Popular Sire Syndrome." When all run to breed to a winning dog, or some dog or bloodline, (for whatever reason, be it convenience, ignorance or perceived value), genetic diversity can be lost. But indiscriminate universal assortative matings is not the answer to this problem & can actually reduce genetic diversity in the breed by "homogenizing" gene pairs across the whole breed. Out crossing cannot solve the problem of genetic disease anymore than inbreeding is the cause of it. However "type" breeding, that is, the mating of two animals of similar looks, not similar pedigrees, CAN effect one particularly good thing which is the take-home message of "diversity breeding": since the number of genes involved
with creating a certain "look" are much less than the likely number doubled up with line breeding (esp. "blind" line breeding, time and again, on some "famous" relative), the loss to the breed of heterozygousity is slowed and the individual dogs are arguably more safe from various line defects...while still having "type."

The other major problems in dogs today as to disease has little to do with hobby ("show") breeders & is largely a problem of casual breeding. Casual breeding produces more than three-quarters of all registered dogs in the USA & assembly (nearly) 100% of mixed-breed litters. as a result of the low investment & high profitability (not just in money) that dog breeding brings to the average American household. There is a clear cultural support for anyone & everyone breeding their own pet, and this license runs counter to the serious study & self-education process necessary to breed dogs well enough to avoid bad temperaments and worse health problems. That so many pet buyers do not clearly see this means casual breeders are able to enjoy having litters, & be certain of sales, even if their only credentials are that they love their dogs.

These litters, despite the buying public's perception & causal breeder's claims, suffer often from major genetic problems they continue to pass along _and_ they are often indiscriminately inbred, as they are usually exclusively local (or narrowly regional) breeding programs, often with the whole breeding population sustained by a couple of friends. What is needed is educated, dedicated, honest breeders & scrupulous selection. Breeders need to know the dogs they are using in their breeding programs & need to know them intimately. Each needs to have a clear priority of what they cannot live with & what they cannot live without. (And ideally each would clearly announce this somehow so others are clear on their priorities before they buy or breed from them.) A variety of styles, of lines, of sub-populations, criss-crossing, separating & then, again, coming together in a wonderful breed mosaic, is the best recipe for maintaining type, health, temperament _ &_ diversity in any breed. And for all that "diversity" is a buzzword of fashion right now, it isn't at all a new idea, just a new term for the notion of having a variety of bloodlines within a breed. (Note also that diversity does not necessarily equal outcross.)

 What is needed in most all breeds is for more good dogs to be rooted out & recognized, despite their lack of glamour & dazzling ads. (That & for America to get serious about dog breeding & treat it with the gravity it deserves.) It would also help if more folks would work together to preserve bloodlines and create new ones by judicious crosses, so that variety would be preserved. For this more people will have to get educated about the history and styles of their breed; too many today simply breed to some current fashion )or market!), oblivious to the fact what they are seeing is simply fashion and not "the" standard for the breed.


does not generally produce good offspring. Sport is a term many breeders no longer use, but is a useful idea. A sport is the odd good dog in a litter that is otherwise uneven. It is traditionally the occasional decent dog found in a litter from an unlikely background and breeding. Usually such dogs are the fortuitous result of a mixed litter from a casual breeding, & the people who breed to the dog are the ones who pay the price for his mixed-up, casual pedigree & genetic background. But sports can come about from breeding "paper" not dogs; from trying to breed "up," from blind line-breeding, or any convenience or accidental breeding. A sport is a dog by definition, almost, who is unable to reproduce himself, for all his good looks. Very uneven litters & erratic littermate traits result and are certainly not helpful to a breeding program & make it hard to track both good and bad traits with any likely success. Sports can play another negative role in the breed if they become famous show dogs (or just popular sires for any reason). Not only are they breed despite the fact they are indifferent sires, their every mediocre relative is used with great enthusiasm as the family is all thought consistently "good" (instead of seen for the inconsistent lot they really are). Breeding "paper" instead of dogs has a consistently poor result, but breeding dogs who cannot reproduce themselves should be recognized as a poor practice as well.

Great & consistent bloodlines have been built on good, consistent dogs bred by knowledgeable breeders. Purebred domestic species are based on concentrating family traits, so like dogs must somehow be bred together. Knowledge is the key here; knowing in depth what you are breeding. Buyers shouldn't reward those who breed casually, indifferently, or for superficial traits. And please don't condemn breeders who have the courage to acknowledge the faults in their dogs & their bloodlines (or who try to elicit information & public discussion of the same). All bloodlines carry along faults, not just the ones where the faults are seen & reported. Again, the situation now is too often one where people breed without knowledge, producing affecters and carriers & just not knowing it, as they don't keep adequate records, do enough homework, etc. Just ask yourself how this can be preferable to accumulating information than can only benefit the breed? Who exactly benefits from all this ignorance? Surely not the dogs, the potential breeding partners left in ignorance, or the potential puppy buyers.

 For the breeds to benefit from the control of genetic disease we need to do what most Code of Ethics demand: keep up with news in genetics & have an in-depth knowledge of the dogs we are using. This means understanding the basics of inheritance & knowing how to apply them for good results in your breeding practices. This means marking pedigrees with more than color and titles. This means accepting that most diseases we now struggle with have a genetic component & treating such situations conservatively AND rationally. We need to educate ourselves, to stop reacting violently to the notion of genetic disease & start treating it with a more sophisticated and realistic view. We need to not just learn as we go, but read before we breed, & bone up on the basics before we start creating lives.

"Author Unknown"