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Friday, November 8, 2013

Introducing The "Duke" of Chatham Hill

To learn more about Diversity breeding concepts "Click Here"

Meet Duke.  Who..As per his owner... is often mistaken for an Irish Setter.  He's a Liver colored 3 year Old Flat Coated retriever.   What makes Duke so special for us.  Well his daddy is a yellow Flat Coated Retriever and he's the result of an intentional effort to produce an FCR with what we hope will be a stronger immune system than the given expectations we've seen thus far, by simply embracing the yellow variant into our breeding program.   So far we've been fortunate and haven't been met with what the majority of the FCR community has expected or wished for us.  Now it can be said that there is very little to no evidence that simply using a yellow FCR is going to provide a stronger immune system.  Maybe that is the case, but when no one has previously done this as a controlled experiment and used yellow FCR before then what baseline of measure do you have to compare this statement to?  Common sense tells us that if you are constantly removing the yellow factor from the breeding equation you therefore effectively lower the contributing population for an already diminished gene pool then by simply allowing this once forbidden yellow gene to again contribute to the overall equation... you are in fact putting more resources back where they're needed.  And for obvious reasons these genetic contributions are different resources from the current lot of Black and Liver only.  How so?  Well if you take it away for generations and simply hope it will just go away.... and the result over the long term shows an increase in health problems over where you started from....  How can it hurt to add back any variable that will increase diversity by any percentage?  The FCR population suffered all this time due to practices of the old school breeders basically exercising  a prejudice against color, but this also sort of just left them with a way to shuffle more ingredients back into the genetic mix without entirely looking towards other breeds.   Simply use the yellow dogs.

The mighty Duke
Oddly, Duke's owner was referred to us by another person who was initially on our waiting list for puppies but decided to back out because she had spoken to another FCR breeder who basically claimed she could expect nothing but bad things to happen from any puppy that was created using a yellow parent.  There was no reason given for this claim except...the parent was yellow.  Duke's owner is still in contact with this person and even though that person is a nurse and should have some understanding about population genetics and the negative effects of a closed population on the resulting immune systems within those isolated pockets.... she was convinced by a breeder that yellow FCR genes are inferior and unhealthy by comparison to Black and Liver FCR.  And so she bought her puppy from that other breeder, while Duke's owner, who had a grip on reality and a better understanding of the benefits of diversity....stuck with us.  They both got their puppies around the same time and the journey has been very interesting.  Here's what Duke's owner said about this misinformed friend...

"My friend who referred me to you and was going to get one of your Flat Coated Retrievers, still does not get it.  What surprises me is that this friend is also a nurse and very scientific…she is very good at what she does and does most things by the book, AND there is the problem with her mind set. She was totally set on getting one of your dogs until I spoke with you and we discussed the breeding of your liver Dam with your imported Yellow stud and she saw the yellow stud's photo. I personally, had no issues with the match! They are both healthy Beautiful dogs that would have healthy Beautiful offspring-MAKES SENSE. The health of my future puppy was important to me and continues to be, because we lost a GSD we adored from a "genetic" issue. He literally dropped dead in front of us at age 4 years. He was adopted and we knew nothing about his background prior to coming to our home. When we were ready to welcome our next dog into our home, it was important to me to know the lineage of the dog and it's health was of the utmost of importance. While my friend agreed with me on that, she could not get past the "yellow gene". The "yellow gene" conversation has caused some interesting debates between us…SHE WILL NEVER GET IT. She is going by the book. Someone decided in the "old boys club" at the AKC to have this "culling" of the yellow for no logical explanation that I can find to date, and the illogical mind set continues."

Puppy Duke
You see.  That other person now has an FCR that has been riddled with health problems from day one and a condition or two which were obviously inherited.  This is not the person's fault as it was entirely the selling pitch from the breeder to redirect them from our well thought out plan to their rather closely inbred one.  So according to Duke's owner that other person's FCR is visually not the text book standard of an FCR, maybe more like a Newfoundland from her description...but, not the stunning example you see in the picture of Duke.  The following are the words of Duke's owner about that other FCR...

"Too large for the breed- his weight ranges from 110-120 lbs, he has intestinal upset regularly, a benine growth on his paw that continues to grow back and cause issues, a hip issue that limits his activity and other various issues she mentions from time to time.  Also, if you look at the book the breeder put together for her, the parents ARE RELATED TWO GENERATIONS BACK! I pointed this out, but she didn't get it."

So here we have a person who was convinced by a supposedly reputable FCR breeder that we were irresponsible because we purposely bred with a yellow parent.  And yet her papers for her FCR clearly point to a close line breeding within the 4 generation pedigree that the AKC provides. Which produced a dog that by all accounts is well on its way to being overweight and becoming a text book example of either bad hips and/or diabetes.  In contrast, then there's Duke's owner who was provided with the supporting papers detailing Duke's pedigree going back 12 generations without a crossing in the lines. Again in her words...
Ummm..I wasn't going to eat it

"MY Chatham Hill Flat Coated Retriever is : a BEAUTIFUL HANDSOME boy with NO ISSUES…okay he got a minor eye infection(once), most likely of his own doing putting his nose where it didn't belong, but that is normal and expected! He is the perfect weight and is a HEALTHY boy. HIS PARENTS ARE NOT RELATED AT ALL!!!!!!!!!"

Being responsible as a breeder involves so much more than just breeding for the the color of a dog.  In fact who's to really say that our using yellow was not an honest effort to do something good for the breed.  If we were to weigh this against using related dogs within 2 generations then who's really irresponsible?  Being a responsible breeder should mean standing behind what you have introduced into the world and being willing to make tough decisions based on the experimental results that unfold before you.   And keeping tabs on those results relies heavily upon actually following up and taking an interest in the welfare and well being of every single puppy you produce.  Again as Duke's owner details.

"My friends breeder does not even answer her emails when my friend tells her the health status of her dog…THEY don't care. Meanwhile back at the RANCH-we have kept in touch for the past 3 years!!!!!! Why? I know you like to hear about your dogs offspring and will answer any questions I have even now! I also am passionate about diversity generally speaking…how else will we improve upon what we have? I have educated everyone that asks me about my dog-the conversation usually starts out with "is that an Irish Setter? He's so Beautiful! Soon he will wear a sign or t-shirt that says "NO I'M NOT IRISH!" My spiel includes the history of the flat coated retriever and the colors they come in YELLOW, LIVER & BLACK. I have no hesitation in explaining that his father is a very handsome YELLOW FLATTIE ! I feel that I have educated all of the state I live in by now…my boy is quite the conversation piece. Only a handful of people know of the Flat Coated Retrievers and they are usually only familiar with the black color…perfect opening for me! "

The Duke as a juvenile
What makes us proud about how Duke's owner steps up to inform and educate curious people who inquire about Duke, is the mere fact that she wants to educate others beyond just what type of dog Duke is and feels proud to do so.  She actually goes a little beyond the romantic version of the breed that the AKC and the FCR clubs present and explains about the true health situation and puts a fresh perspective on the FCR Club's dirty little secrets about color prejudice. Its part of the education process that we share and hope catches on.  Its a sign that the public does get it and only needs to be shown a better way.  And in doing so we've permanently raised the bar for them as far as their expectations for what to look for in a breeder and in a dog.  Perhaps when the wave of information and the benefits of the Internet close the gap on truth versus tradition in the dog fancy, then we'll begin to see the end of Puppy Mills, and Pet Stores that sell dogs and better breeding practices and possibly one day a public outcry for an open registry system that promotes and rewards genetic diversity planning.  There is merit in trying to diversify the genetic stock by using something outside the box, yet still a perfectly healthy example like the YELLOW FCR.  There is merit to researching the lines you use behind each parent and trying as much as possible to not cross relatives across the selective process going as far back as possible to maintain a 0% Coefficient of inbreeding for as long as possible.  And for the concept of "outcrossing" the same formula should still apply.

Speaking of "outcrossing" FCR...

There is a group rallying around an individual's opinion that seems to agree that going
Duke and his boy
 to the Labrador Retriever population and outcrossing to create an interbred retriever will fix things for the FCR.   And guess what stock of Labradors they are contemplating using  ... Yup, CHAMPION STOCK.  Which literally means line-bred and inbred examples.   I happen to think they are barking up the wrong tree since there are bad points about Labradors that many FCR breeders, if they think it through might not want to have as possible negative recessives mingling in the current gene pool.  The same can be said for any breed for that matter. But Labradors have a closer history with FCR and Goldens than this group cares to acknowledge.  And interbreeding has happened time and again between all the established retriever breeds.  With that said, and the rates of bad hips, poor eyes, along with various types of necrotic cancers among all retriever breeds its likely not going to do much to alleviate the current problems for FCR.  It would be easier and likely better to look at the yellow FCR to increase the numbers of usable dogs and then seek other options for an outcrossing.  Using Labradors could possibly introduce more problems down the line which may be dormant in both breeds since their histories are so intertwined already.   And if they do attempt to take this will likely be a long journey before they can say anything positive. The only positive you can say with certainty right out the gate is there are far more Labradors than FCR.  But, then again, maybe the proper sightline would be better served evaluating dogs that are from the pet population or just outside of the Champion breeding circles.  Or better yet... Maybe the Labrador can use their own fix first before being considered as the fix for the FCR?

I respect the person who put this idea of outcrossing to a Labrador out there, but her concept is based primarily on this groups desire for working ability not purely just about creating a better companion.  The idea that there is a small segment of the market demand (hunters) that requires a working dog which is driving the majority of these poor breeding decisions is just...  another major fail. Especially when you consider that the breeders who select for hunting prowess have the most inbred lines of dogs, more-so than the conformation show people.  In fact many of the people who are on board with this...seem to not even be hunters, but more like coat-tail riders who want to be a part of the popular trends, regardless of whether its not a well thought out plan. 

Duke's first day heading to new home
If an FCR was begat from a heinz 57 type mix then quite literally the logical approach would be to deconstruct the ingredients used in the initial creation and try to reformulate this again as best as possible.  The ingredients being....Setter type, Pointer type, Spaniel type, Collie type and St. Johns water dog type.  And according to some sources there was some intermingling of either Saluki type or Afghan type hounds.  Notice i say "type", because many of these breeds were still not established themselves.  They were a type of dog based on look and function, demographic origin, or regional landrace.  Knowing there is so much that went into the formulation and how intermingled the histories of the "Retrievers" is...Perhaps it would also be logical to take the next approach and try to recreate using a YELLOW FCR in the next phase which was begat from crossing a FCR with a Tweed water spaniel type, which resulted in the second most popular dog breed in the USA.  The Golden Retriever.   Yup...that's really how close the history of these breeds are intermingled. (Tweed referring to the founder and creator of that type of Spaniel And the region of origin)

In fact...keep in mind that early on in the history of these breeds the term Retriever was not a breed description, it was a job description given to any dog that could in fact retrieve.  

The funny part is many Golden/Labrador aficionados and even veteran breeders
Duke bonding with his boy
have no idea about this history.  Nor do they know of the times in history when a Labrador or Golden or FCR was occasionally thrown into the mix for any of these types.   Or for that matter .. Chessies, Curlies and yes even Tollers.  Again....thats how intermingled the history of these retriever breeds are.    So, if its basically more of the same when looking to any of these retriever breeds then wouldn't it be more logical to look at a different breed entirely?  To really shuffle the genetic deck rather than playing cards from the same pool with a different label on the front?  The analogy I see here... you can mix Rum between Brands... in the end you still have a bottle of rum made with all the same ingredients from different labels.   So YES, you can mix different Retrievers ... In the in end you still have a retriever from the same genetic resources you already used, just with different phenotypes.  Its really that simple.

Well, for the Chatham Hill Retriever we did use a different breed mixed with the FCR.  Spaniels types of the Cocker, Field and Springer phenotype.  Which sort of produces a dog similar to a Golden Retriever,  although a litter can also result in some pups that may favor a sort of Springer "look".  So if we are targeting the more FCR look then we select from these litters based on phenotype for an FCR, put this pup into the planning for future litters and SELECTIVELY choose based on phenotype, temperament and keep an eye on the lines we have so as not to cross anything.  We're also still contemplating adding Pointer types of the Long hair Weimaraner phenotype.  Thus far, as an experiment it is going very well.  

Handsome reflections
In the beginning we were still new and venturing into this with the entire community of different pure breed dogs basically wishing we would go straight to Hell for condemning their belief in the superiority of purity in bloodlines.  We now, more often, receive praise and  encouragement for actually doing what the founding FCR breeders did so well, which was mix different types of dogs to better serve a specific purpose.  Thus explains the often referred to saying of "purpose bred dog"  which was long before this eventually evolved into a dog Breed... long before being acknowledged by the established clicks ...which was long before these clicks became breed clubs... which which was before these clubs spawned registry services.... and before these Services closed the pool of dogs to just what was used in the foundation stock.  Forever locking our dogs into an inevitable genetic depletion through close line breeding and inbreeding and isolated populations. In stark contrast to how dogs are bred today, our founding dogs were created by mixing various breed types to achieve what they were back in history.  And back then they were a very diversified mix of what was considered the best of the best.  By doing something so simple in the beginning these early "Geneticist", albeit unbeknownst to them, were provided with dogs that were definitely longer living and healthier than what we see before us today.  Because they tried different mixes and a selection process that in the beginning promoted diversity.   Their stud books being open to accept contributions from different types if they felt there was a beneficial contribution to be gained from it.

Two peas in a pod
 A "purpose bred" dog today should really serve the demand from the larger audience.  The market segment that actually drives up the desire for more of these dogs.  And the purpose is no longer about the hunting or the retrieving or the pointing or the herding prowess... Its about the long term health and well being of these creatures that we Humans provided a GOD-like hand in creating.  The times have changed and in our modern thinking... more people with an education and common sense look for a dog as a companion.   Not for the romantic glorified historical "purpose" that is a part of their chosen Breed's story.  In our our modern times people desire a longer living companion with less problems due to Champion or Same sire syndrome, Or close line breeding to maintain champion lines from related stock.  Or worse, fully inbred dogs. 

Chatham Hill Dogs selection and diversity methods have more in common with the methods practiced by our long dead and buried foundation breeders of all purebred dogs than any other modern breeder can even begin to fathom.   And the results are speaking for themselves.   Therefore as exhibit "A" in our ongoing living experiment we present "Duke".  And again from Duke's owner Mrs. Peterson...

"I support your SAFE breeding endeavors! Long live the YELLOW FLAT COATED RETRIEVERS!"

The true purpose of a dog today = happiness
Our Appreciation goes out to "Duke" for his beauty, for being a healthy ambassador for his breed, for carrying the YELLOW gene in his DNA and the Peterson family for actually "getting it".


1 comment:

  1. Post from : Seekingmother

    This was an awesome article. I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks Michelle..I edited out your Phone number...;-)


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