The Dog Breeder’s Manual by Eric F. Daglish
Literary Dog • Written by Anne Tureen
Published in Best in Show Summer 2016
Eric Fitch Daglish’s life (1892-1966) spanned the incredibly progressive time frame from the close of the Edwardian age to the modern era ushered in by two world wars. Mr. Daglish’s professional pursuits united two related disciplines, so similar and so opposite: Art and Science. He was an accomplished engraver, and his works are housed at the British Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other important institutions. He was also a professional naturalist specializing in zoology and published studies on rivers, birds, and flowers. More pertinent to this magazine, he was also a dog show judge whose assignments included Crufts.
The Dog Breeder’s Manual (138 pages) was among his last efforts, and benefits from the maturity of a well developed, well informed mind. Published in 1951, his era was not very far removed from the nineteenth century, during which most of the breeds recognized in his native Britain were developed within a working context of hunting, herding, dog fighting, illegal bull baiting, etc. Paradoxically, this was for the most part, the ‘dark ages’ of Reproductive Science, before the development of modern genetic research. Most breeding practice was based upon supposition, superstition and guesswork. These methods proved fruitful in that of the 51 breeds listed as British (developed in Britain, according to Wikipedia), all but 14 of them were developed durng the 1800’s. Interestingly, of these, 10 breeds predated this era including the Bloodhound, Bulldog, King Charles Spaniel, Foxhound, English Water Spaniel (extinct), Sussex Spaniel, North Country Beagle (extinct) Smooth Fox Terrier, Tweed Water Spaniel (extinct) and Whippet. The Lancashire Heeler, Lucas Terrier, and Norfolk Terrier, were turn of the century dogs, while the Northern Inuit Dog was the final addition in the 1980’s, the only Wikipedia listed breed developed in Britain after the publication of The Breeding Manual. Therefore the Golden Age of dogs in Britain was one in which breeders relied on tradition rather than Science.
However Mr. Daglish felt the importance of proven facts in breeding and his text was among the first books on this subject to present detailed and complete information regarding breeding and selection of dogs solidly based on genetics. The first section of the book is the most interesting from an historic point of view for the author addresses the ‘Rise and Growth of Dog Breeding’, and ‘Some Old Theories and Beliefs’. These two chapters allow us to briefly visit the pre Kennel Club world of dogs and is thus a valuable perspective. The advent of the Kennel Club in 1873 is viewed by Mr. Daglish as a positive advancement; it marks the dawn of a new era in which methods of selection based on success in the field will be replaced with selection based on physical attributes.
He makes the point that structural virtues will lead to functional success, a position which has been the subject of ongoing debate, continuing even today, over 140 years into the experiment. Can the functional ability of a dog be determined in a show ring, or is it necessary to work the dog in the field to ascertain his worth in that particular task for which he was developed? Recent discussion of this question can be viewed in various articles published in our best journals, including Best in Show Magazine when The Literary Dog interviewed Mario Canton (Spring 2015). Also, please see: Dr. John Burchard On Breed Standards, 2010, http://stephenbodio.blogspot.it/2010/07/dr-john-burchard-on-breed-standards.html, or 100 Years of Breed Improvement by Caen Elegans, 2012, https://dogbehaviorscience.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/100-years-of-breed-improvement/).
The initial chapters of The Breeder’s Manual share with us the thoughts of the founding members of the Kennel Club. Could they have surmised the Colossus that would result from this initiative, imitated in nearly every country around the world? “By 1870 the more far-sighted of these enthusiasts began to realize that if the showing of dogs was to emerge from sordid obscurity into which it showed unmistakable signs of sinking, it must be placed under the control of a central governing body, powerful enough to enforce its authority in all matters pertaining to show promotion and management.” Similar considerations are expressed later in the chapter when speaking about the progress made in the appreciation of dogs in Britain: “This sensational growth in interest is due in large measure to the autocratic but beneficent control exercised by the Kennel Club, first brought into being, as has been shown, through dissatisfaction with the conditions ruling in the dog world some eighty years ago.” Optimism is the hallmark of beinnings and this sentiment ushering in the KC as the dawn of a new and better order is no exception, and it reminds us of the noble purpose of this great institution.
The second part of the book attempts to demonstrate how Science has brought a new age to dog breeding. Ironically, his observation: “It is curious that dog breeders alone have been so slow to profit by the great accumulation of data which the geneticist has made available to them.” resounds freshly in the 21st century in journals, blogs and facebook sites. How many active breeders have a solid grounding in genetics, and/or update their knowledge with the constant advances in this field? A few of the beliefs presented by Mr. Daglish as ridiculous in 1951, continue to circulate. One such question is whether a bitch is ruined for future breeding by having made a ‘misalliance’ outside of the pedigree world. I received affirmation of this very belief from a number of individuals when my bitch arranged a clandestine meeting with the neighbor’s dog during her heat cycle. Fortunately no one suggested I destroy her, but I was told without a shadow of a doubt that any future puppies would be tainted, and alien traits such as short legs and fluffy blond fur would crop up in any future litters from that Irish Terrier bitch. The absolute conviction of these individuals who pitied my inexperienced attempts to refute their belief, helps me to understand the frustration of someone like Mr. Daglish who hoped to convince breeders that certain convictions held as truths by his contemporaries are not founded on facts. For example that it is not by adhering speckled patterns to the side of a whlepig box, that a breeder can obtain a speckled litter of dachsunds.
The explanation of heredity and genetics provided in The Dog Breeder’s Manual is elegantly and efficiently covered in less than 100 pages with the help of a few diagrams and tables. His style is straightforward but colorful and personal, which distinguishes it from the sanitized textbook approach generally adopted today. His explicitness in describing physical details and advice is astonishing in view of the social mores concerning anything sexual which were prevalent in the 1950’s, a stifiling atmosphere well illustrated in the Showtime television series Masters of Sex, describing the social resistance that existed towards any open discussion of sexuality. There are a few cries in the wilderness of dog breeding today echoing the voice of this long dead author in his out of print book, but most of his facts are still only vaguely understood by a large number of breeders who prefer the traditional, if simplistic: ‘Breed the best to the best’.
In some cases the author’s opinions are directly opposed to official trends today. The very Kennel Clubs celebrated by Mr. Daglish might be horrified at his insistence that: “A breeder who wishes to found a strain of animals which will breed true to their own type must not be afraid to inbreed”. If there were space enough, it would be worthwhile to reproduce here the entire text from the chapters entitled ‘Dog Breeding and Genetics’ and ‘Inbreeding and Out-Crossing’. The author rationally and in detail supports his views in favor of a prolonged intelligent application of inbreeding of good stock. He brings forth and demonstrates the fallacy of most of the same objections to inbreeding that we find presented at conferences and elaborated in many articles today. He admits no gray area to the logical and scientifically proven conclusion: “The idea that while inbreeding is dangerous line breeding is safe and wise is wrong from every point of view”.
The author admonishes breeders to resist the fashion of breeding widely from the latest and greatest prizewinning dog, a view which science is still pummelling into show circles with limited success. “Before arranging a mating the breeder should keep firmly in mind the fact that the characters shown by the puppies will depend on the manner in which the genes contributed by the parents are combined in the fertilized egg cells from which the pups develop. This may appear so self-evident as to be hardly worth reiterating. Yet is is no exaggeration to say that nine-tenths of the disappointments which arise in dog breeding are due to this axiom being overlooked or ignored.
In his selection of a stud dog the breeder must be guided by the genetic make-up of his bitch, so far as this is known or can be discovered from her appearance and pedigree. Because a certain dog has sired a champion from one bitch there is no reason to take it for granted that he will be equally successful with other mates. Nearly all available sires are impure (DR) for some desired points. The most outstanding champion dog in any breed is likely to be genetically impure for many of the qualities or points which have brought him fame in the show ring or trial ground.” Does this imply that a good dog cannot bring desired qualities to our line? For the answer to that and for unexpectedly simple advice to better breeding I recommend you get your hands on a copy of The Dog Breeder’s Manual.
Warning: be prepared for a ride with Dr. Who into territory that is as controversial today as it was in 1951. The Literary Dog has spoken with two experts, the first, a Veterinarian specialized in Reproduction, and the second, an expert breeder and judge to examine the basic material of Mr. Daglish’s text in light of today’s knowledge and practice.
Maria Carmela Pisu
Breeding Expert: Maria Carmela Pisu has her degree in Vetrinary medicine from the University of Sassari where she specialized in reproductive medicine, and later completed training at the European College of Animal Reproduction based in Belgium. As of 2011 she is President of the SIRVAC (Italian Society for the Reproduction of Companion Animals) and her most recent involvement in an FCI event was an invitation to speak at the 2015 WDS in Milan.
LD: As you have seen, this text is from 1951, light years away from today’s world, not only in genetics, but in what we might consider to be good breeding pratice. Is any of the scientific information from this book still relevant?
MCP: Let me just state to begin with that the Mendhelian prinicpals presented in The Breeder’s Manual are the starting point even today for anyone interested in this subject. They are the basis upon which everything else rests. They did not know then about incompelete penetration or alteration of different alele, many other things that modern science has revealed, however this book presents genetic principals which we consider to be the cornerstone of today’s laboratories.
LD: What about his advice on breeding, has much changed over the decades?
MCP: The breeding practices that Mr. Daglish describes are at times quite right, but some of his advice is amusingly archaic. For example he suggests that repeat breedings should be very close so as to avoid puppies at different stages of development at whelping time. However puppies are all in one ‘batch’ as we might say since ovulation occurs only at one time, and the eggs mature and detach all together with a time difference margin of 18-20 hours at the very most, usually much closer. So the eggs are all fertilized together with the sperm that is present within 24 hours. Moreover the embrios move toward the uterin tubes and implant only 13 days after their fertilization, so in a way they are waiting for each other, and move on together. One embrio may have 6 cells, another 8, but we cannot say that they are at different stages of development.
Today we advise that repeat mounts take place after 48 hours because the bitch will accept a male for an extended period, but she will ovulate at a specific time, and we need to introduce the sperm as close as possible to that time. When we are practicing artificial insemination we know exactly when to introduce the sperm because we have been measuring the progesterin levels and we know within a window of 24 hours when ovulation will occur.
LD: Mr. Daglish overthrows some of the current breeding practice of his time, which of his ‘modern’ theories would we overthrow today?
MCP: A serious mistake would be to follow Mr. Daglish’s advice of giving plenty of milk or other calcium based nutrients to the pregnant bitch. Firstly, milk is not well digested by an adult animal which no longer produces latimasi after the weaning period. More importantly, if we give a calcium charged diet to a pregnant bitch, the Parotid glands which harvest calcium from the bones when it is needed become inactive, and fail to carry the calcium needed for lactation when the time comes, putting the bitch at risk of enclampsia. Therefore a quality, balanced diet is the best option for pregnancy with no specific increase in calcium, especially milk which may cause digestive problems. Those breeders who use commercial products would be certain of a proper diet if they use puppy food in increasing proportions starting at the time of diagnosis, which is usually about twenty five days after the mount, and to continue this during lactation. I am a fan of these new ‘start up’ prepared food products for puppies. On the whole they are excellent for weaning and a good choice for the Mother as well.
One of the central concerns of proper nutrition of both the pregnant bitch and the puppy in weaning, is to concentrate sufficient energy in a small amount of food that is also perfectly digestible to provide maximum nutrition in the small quantities consumed. Those who prefer to prepare a fresh meal for their dogs, must be sure to balance the calcium and phosphorous, the noble proteins and carbohydrates, and many people add vitamins to the pregnant bitch’s fresh food to be sure everything is in there. It is quite complex.
LD: Nutrition is such a vast and highly debated issue, one that breeders and owners become deeply passionate about. There are so many options that one wonders how dogs managed to survive in the past, before science brought us the detailed studies that we now have concerning a dog’s diet.
MCP: A wild wolf finds nutrients in a carcass, with bones, intestines, even grass in the stomach and digestive tract, and that is balanced.This isn’t possible to replicate; not only do most of us have difficulty obtaining a fresh carcass, but also consider that the modern dog is not exactly a carnivore, it is an omnivore, so we need to have a little bit of everything. Some of the prepared foods today are deeply researched, and can be a good choice. In the past people didn’t have this kind of quality available, but then again dogs were not expected to live to 12 -14- 16 years of age with the sort of quality of life we frequently see today. This explains another point made in the Daglish book. He suggests that a numerous brood be divided with lactating bitches who have fewer pups, keeping no more than 6 with one Mother. This is something that modern nutrition and care renders uneccessary. Today there is no problem if the litter is a large one.
LD: Is there any point in reading an out of date book on breeding?
MCP: It is nice to have a window into a moment in our history. There are some charming notions mentioned in the book that would be nice if they were true. That a spring litter would have more females, for example! Naturally many animals reproduce in the spring when conditions favor this delicate process. Biotechnology can deterimne the sex of a new animal when we use it on cows or horses, but I know of no other way to influence the outcome. Interestingly y chromosome sperm swim more quickly in gel dishes than the double x, but not in the fluids of the uterus. So there is mixture of basic truths and fantasy in this book, but in this respect little has changed. We still believe in absurd things today, in fact we continue inventing them. I have heard that one trend taking hold in the USA now is to breed a young bitch 3 times in a row, each time she goes into heat. This is proposed as best for the bitch, but quite the oposite is true. Her nutrients, her muscle tone, the uterus itelf must have time to return to their original condition. At least one heat cycle is a necessary rest period.
So I suppose one very important thing we can learn from this book is humility, let’s not take everything we hear and embrace it as absolute truth. Social media and hearsay are not necessarily a reliable font of information. A scientific approach is best, gather information from authoritve sources, consult the general concesnsus, reason out whether something sounds plausible based on the axioms we have acquired. Let’s all continue to educate ourselves.
Espen Engh has been breeding Greyhounds in Norway since 1975, and Jet’s are considered the top winning Greyhounds of all times. He is an all breeds FCI judge with appointments in over 90 FCI countries, he has been invited to judge the World Dog show 13 times, including 2016 in Moscow.
LD: You make a point in the excellent interview in Keys to Top Breeding with Pekka Hannula and Marjo Nygard, 2011, that it is getting more and more difficult to find a good male to introduce new qualities to your lines because other breeders are not working in close line breeding, they move horizontally, mixing all the dogs from various countries together. What you seem to be saying here is that in reality to get genetic diveristy, what we need are more instances of close line breeding which would result in markedly different ‘pockets’ of genetic groups from place to place in the various countries?
EE: Exactly. From a larger prospective these two concepts: close breeding and genetic diversity are not necessarily in conflict, the one may in fact generate the other. Genetic diversity cannot be left up to the individual breeder who will naturally strive for uniformity within his/her own strain. But if I create a group of tightly bred Greyhounds, and someone in another area has their closely knit group, the genetics will be further and further apart. On the other hand if the handful of Greyhound breeders of the world all interchange dogs on a regular basis, we will have an increasingly uniform gene base. Close line breeding represents an advantage to the breed in general, and an immediate advantage to individual breeders. If I need to improve one quality, say a better ear, a line bred dog with that asset will improve my line, whereas a dog who posesses the good ear, but who is loosely bred may not pass that quality on to his descendants in a consistent way.
LD: The Greyhound has been around since the 1700’s, the lineage of the dogs can be traced back for centuries. This is not the case with many breeds however, some are two hundred years old, most less, it is difficult to identify clear strains or lines in many breeds, so none of the dogs can be relied on to reproduce in a ‘true’ fashion.
EE: Well, do not underestimate the most important tool that a breeder has, which is selection. If you start with quality dogs, and carefully breed type to type you will begin to get somewhere fairly quickly. I do about one litter per year, and I have already seen changes in my family group. I see increasing consistency in my litters, and some of my goals are consolidated. By way of example I’d say I have eliminated frailty in my own line. I see almost all of my dogs maturing into strong solid dogs. My point is that I have set some goals, identified faults I wanted to eliminate, and I see major improvement in those traits over these 40 + years. I have obtained quite a consistent kennel type. If you pair Aunt to Nephew, half siblings or I have even taken the Son to the Mother, in early times, you will learn a lot about those dogs, and your surprises will begin to disappear. I have never done full siblings because I do not see any point in that. I am interested in increasing the influence of one of the parents, never both, but close line breeding is extremely useful in creating a line. I know of one instance in which two breeders started out with littermates, and after just a few generations the two groups of dogs being bred looked completely different, that’s what can be accomplished with selection.
LD: You have a very interesting breeding method, you keep on two bitches the Alpha and the Beta, and from this selection you are able to breed your own bitch line and your own males as well.
EE: I actually keep on all the best bitch pups from a single dam. When she has had her three or four litters, I then go ahead and basically keep the two best of that entire generation. They mature to a year or more before I make the final decision as to which ones to keep. 6 week or 8 week old puppies is far from the ideal age to make the selection of future breeding stock; I need the dogs to be from 12 to 18 months. I allow the young dogs to go into good families when I am sure, and not before.
LD: Our own columnist Juha Kares has a very interesting proposal of enlarging his breedership to his families. He cultivates the knowledge of people interested in his breeds, he entrusts them with good dogs and they make a sort of breeding team.
EE: I am familiar with this enlightened idea, and I love seeing how well it works in some cases. But I have a different approach. If I raise my own dogs, I eliminate variations in their environmental conditions. Greyhounds are dogs with a large frame, and such oversights as slippery floors, irregular or suboptimal diet or inappropriate exercise will affect the outcome seen in the adult animal. When I am comparing a generation of dogs to see which one will carry on the line, all I want to see is pure genetics. I need to limit the effect environmental factors by standardizing their conditions.
LD: With all of those beautiful young animals in the house you must have a number of junior championship titles!
EE: Ironically I do not. While I appreciate the recognition I have received from knowledgeable judges, this is not at all my priority. I am fascinated with breeding and my goal is not to have something to show, but to have something with which to continue breeding. To see what is coming up next, to close in on my goals is what is most fulfilling for me, it’s totally absorbing. The puppies that I do not select for further breeding are sold as youngsters. In this way I do not have to keep that many dogs, usually we have 12 to 15 dogs in the house, which is mangeable even without kennel help.
Moreover I spend time working my dogs. The Grey is a hunting breed, and I need to know that this ability is alive in each generation. I don’t think the breed standard makes any sense unless it is interpreted from an historical and functional viewpoint. I would love to be able to hunt because that is the only real trial, but for a number of reasons, primarily the legal basis on which the prey is killed, this is no longer possible. I do the next best thing- lure coursing, and many of my dogs are lure coursing champions. The first two of my dogs who were dog of the year (Int.Ch. Jet’s Once Upon A Dream, 2001 and Int.Ch. Jet’s Something in the Way U Smile, 2003) were both coursing champions. Something in the Way U Smile was also runner up BIS at the World Show in Dortmund 2003. In pursuing beauty, you can never forget the purpose of the breed, in the case of Greyhounds a day’s hunting. If the first rabbit gets around the corner, another one goes to ground, and you come home with perhaps one lousy rabbit, you and your family will starve. A Greyhound will need to fire again and again during a day’s work in tihe field to bring home a full dinner. The original working Grey had endurance and stamina. Dogs bred just for show may be called Show Greyhounds. I call my dogs Standard Greyhounds as they are bred to the standard which calls for functional abilities which are much more than just a pretty face.
LD: Mr. Daglish was a keen supporter of the Kennel club. How can our breed clubs and the kennel clubs best support breeders?
EE: I think they can be instrumental in creating an atmosphere of knowledge, openess and honesty. These organizations can offer opportunities for increasing our knowledge by offering educational material, lectures and courses for all of us, breeders, judges, owners, even the general public. Theirs should be a positive role, continually enlarging our opportunities. It isn’t a good trend when there is a move toward establishing limits, say to regulate breeder’s activities or choices in any way. The breeding must be left to the breeders, I don’t believe in collective breeding. If the breeder is taking responsibility for the litter, health, temperament, conformation, abilities, not to mention the future of the dogs and their well being in good families, as well as paying all the bills, then how I choose to produce the dogs should also be my responsibility. I believe this is the only way forward.
I use genetic tests that are available, especially for Greyhound Neuropathy, a fatal disease which exists in my breed. I support that the KC refuses to register puppies of two carrier parents, though I would hope that all breeders are responsible enough to avail themselves of this tool of their own initiative. Bans and restrictions are generally going to have negative effects, a club cannot put themselves in the role of the police force, they need to use their resources to create an ethical environment of shared knowledge. The weighty burden of a good breeding is on the shoulders of the breeder!