Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Heritability and Hip Dysplasia

Heritability of Hip Dysplasia
Breeders may assume most traits are completely genetic - but many are only partially determined by inheritance. Our ability to produce animals having the traits we desire depends on one critical thing - the traits must be "heritable" - that is, they must be genetic and influenced to some degree by the particular alleles of the dam and sire. Some traits are 100% genetic - if you have the gene, you have the trait (h2=1 is 100% and h2=0, no inheritability). Other traits are only modestly or even weakly genetic with environmental influences important in determining phenotype. The environmental influences include everything that is not genetic.
Understanding heritability is critical to success as a breeder - trying to improve traits that have very low heritability will be difficult, generating lots of puppies that won't meet high standards.
An example: in most studies, the heritability of hip dysplasia is about 0.2; so environmental influences are .80 or 80%. We can improve hips by trying to select for the underlying genes using phenotype (hip score), but success is very slow and many times, doubtful, so an emphasis on the environmental influences is extremely important. We know many of them: growth rate and food consumption, effecting weight as puppies, types of exercise, and so on. We would still want to select for better genes, but we shouldn't be fooled that certified normal hips is a ticket to hip healthy puppies.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The importance of bone structure in an upland hunting dog.

When you look at this photo, what is the first thing you notice? Most would say his color, which is an obvious eye catcher. But what I notice is his “substance” or the amount of bone. That is a good thing and I’ll try to explain why this is so. Some of you may be familiar with horses and horses have many venues of competition and use. One is the reining cow horse were the competition is intense for a few minutes, were speed and quickness is key to a good performance. Those horses tend to be lighter framed and consequently lighter boned. That’s good for their type of performance, but they will not hold up in a heavy work environment, and will quickly breakdown (orthopedic injuries). Now, take a look at the horses (we are talking about Quarter Horses) raised by the great ranches, like the Matador or the King Ranch. Those horses have bone, substance, because they are bred for work; hard riding for a half-day or more, and they must hold up over many working years. We can extrapolate this to working dogs, such as the herding, tracking and of coarse, upland hunting dogs.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Chapter in the Life of William Humphrey

A Chapter in the Life of William Humphrey
William Humphrey was described as the “doyen of field sports in the British Isles,” and was known for his breeding and handling of Llewellin Setters. He was also famous for his expertise in falconry, skills demonstrated before kings and heads of state both in Europe and America.
In 1922, a wealthy New York banker, Erastus Tefft, brought him and two of his sons, including Edward Chidley Humphrey called Ned, to manage Tefft’s Star Ridge Hunt in Brewster, New York, where fox hunting was taken very seriously, so seriously that William purchased and brought a pack of Welsh Foxhounds with him. They did very well in the different terrain, in part, because of the teenage Ned, who took on the role of “whipper-in”, watching over their movements whip in hand, during the chase. This was the time of economic boom, the roaring twenties, and there seemed an endless supply of money. Then came Black Tuesday, the crash of twenty-nine, and Tefft’s fortune was lost. William Humphrey returned to England, but his two sons decided to start lives afresh in the United States.
Ned moved westward to Salt Lake City, Utah, a place very different from his Shropshire home. In 1937 he married a local Mormon girl named Amy Clark. They had two children, Georgina and William, but in 1940 Amy was killed in an auto accident; she was just twenty-three years old. Ned put grief behind him and resumed making a living as a builder, it was 1941, and soon things changed. Ned Humphrey was drafted into the Army! It seems inconceivable because he was thirty-two years old, a widower with two children, and still a British citizen.
The Army eventually assigned him to the Corp of Engineers and he eventually found himself in England waiting with massive numbers of soldiers to invade France. Breaks in training came with 48 hour passes and Ned would rent a car and travel to his fathers home bringing goodies, such as chocolate, not available to British citizens.

Then two weeks after the invasion, Private Humphrey joined the 121st Engineer Combat Battalion of the 29th Infantry Division, a unit that had to be rebuilt from scratch after grievous losses on Omaha Beach.
After a full month of continuous combat, in an offensive toward St Lo, Ned won his first Silver Star; facing heavy enemy fire he placed charges that blew gaps for three bogged tanks to move forward from the German built tank traps.
Then, the 29th Division drove into Brittany, to seize the port of Brest.  Here, Ned, now a sergeant and squad leader would win a second Silver Star. This was an extraordinary accomplishment, because it came from a commander known for his stingy attitude toward awarding decorations and because Humphrey was an engineer not an infantryman. His actions brought the entire German garrison to surrender at the German held Fort Montbarey.
Back on the front lines Ned and his squad was assigned land mine clearing, a task far more dangerous than they could have imagined. The squad unsuspectingly moved straight into enemy lines where a German patrol caught Humphrey’s party by surprise. They didn’t stand a chance. All were listed as “Missing in Action” and for the next four months his comrades were convinced that they had been captured and held in a German war camp.
Back in Shropshire, Ned’s father, William Humphrey would learn of his son’s “missing” status and on January 26, 1945, he wrote a letter to Ned’s platoon leader asking for details of the action in which his son had disappeared.  In his reply Lt Doehler felt that Ned was captured and still alive. But by the time William Humphrey received Doehler’ s letter an official letter from the War Department had arrived informing him his son was dead. The Germans had buried Humphrey in a field near the Dutch-German border and he was reburied several months later at a US Military Cemetery.
Now, William Humphrey, himself a veteran of the Boer War and WWI would have to make a choice on Ned’s body: a permanent burial at a US Military cemetery in Europe or to have his remains sent home for reburial. Unfortunately those choices were sent in a letter to Ned’s seven-year-old son in Salt Lake City. It would be almost five years before William Humphrey would receive a Special Delivery letter informing him the remains of his son was resting in above ground storage pending his disposition instructions.
On June 10, 1949, William Humphrey replied: “It is the wish of my late son’s two orphaned children, Georgina C. Humphrey and William C. Humphrey, who are living with their aunt, Mrs. Thelma White in Salt Lake City, Utah, that their father be buried beside their mother in the cemetery in Salt Lake City.”
Ned was laid to rest in the Murray City Cemetery (south of Salt Lake) in a service conducted by a bishop of the Mormon Church. In a poignant photograph, Humphrey’s two children stand solemnly at the gravesite with young William clutching the folded American flag that had covered his father’s casket. So the story of a remarkable solider, with a remarkable father comes to a close. William Humphrey would continue to breed Dashing Bondhus and Wind’em Llewellin Setters until his death in 1963.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The correct use of a Bark Collar.

Many municipalities have nuisance laws that prohibit excessive barking. So problems can arise from this behavior besides the irritation to the owners. The barking may start with the recognizing of some object in the yard; it can be new, such as a plastic bag that has blown against the fence or something old as a tree stump that has been there for years! So removal of it solves the first problem and taking the dogs to and familiarizing them solves the second type problem. In addition, limiting visual stimulation with walls, shrubs and trees around the kennel is helpful.
Whenever a dog’s behavior is unacceptable it should be made known to the dog. Scolding, letting the dog know your disapproval can be an effective training method. Dogs understand angry voice tones and aggressive body motions, and startling always has a greater impression and is more effective in teaching (banging something or a high sudden yell). All training must be consistent and not sporadic.
That said there are times when a barking dog cannot be stopped and it is very disturbing. For example, having a visitor to the kennel. Putting a bark collar on a dog that is trained to it eliminates the problem, temporally. In large kennels, most of the noise can be attributed to two or three dogs. They have a genetic propensity to bark and training is going to have only a limited effect.
A bark collar is a legitimate tool in controlling this undesirable behavior. Used correctly it has the added benefit of calming the target dog’s behavior besides stopping the noise. But it should be viewed as a training tool and in other cases a temporary fix. It is undesirable, if not impossible to keep a tightly fitting collar on a dog 24-7. In hot weather the heat generated under the collar will slough off hair and skin, even leading to infection. So, placing the collar on the dogs for short periods of time, no longer than eight to ten hours, then removing for a good long duration is recommended.
Never start with a high setting of stimulation, but always with the lowest, moving to higher levels incrementally after a good length of time to evaluate each level for effectiveness. Like e-collars, the stimulation from bark collars gets different responses from each dog. So a low level will be adequate for one and a higher level necessary for another individual.
And finally, buy a good quality collar, one that lasts more than a few weeks (not Wal-Mart specials)!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Traits of an Outstanding Upland Bird Dog.

The Productive Field Setter.
“The dog should fully occupy his time and range to the capacity of his nose.” G.T. Teasdale-Buckell; 1907.
Upland hunting is a pleasurable, leisure time activity that has a strong ascetic dimension, but more importantly is the thrill of a productive shoot-game in the bag. So what is the chacteristics of a productive pointing dog? Is it one that makes 1000yard casts? Is it a dog that has only shotgun distance casts for its range and the docility similar to a Springer?
Let’s start with ground coverage; is a dog that makes a thousand yard cast covering more ground than one that casts 300 yards? If they are traveling at the same speed the shorter casting dog will make three casts to the other’s one cast. So in essence both dogs are covering the same distance if they have the same nose. An important point: the Llewellins that I raise, and I think is a true general statement for the breed, have extraordinary noses. So, the amount of country covered depends on speed (and maintaining speed, so stamina plays a role) and width of it’s cast that is determined by scenting ability. Two dogs traveling the same speed, one with a 40yard nose and the other with a 5yard nose are not covering the same amount of ground, although they appear to be equal.
Some other important points (pun intended) are sagacity and intelligence. Edward Laverack (1872) used the word sagacity, and it means efficiency in ground coverage; dogs not going over the same ground, not overlapping their nose coverage (notice the introduction quote from Llewellin’s kennel manager). This, with native intelligence that gives the ability to learn how to use any breeze, to work objectives (areas likely to hold birds), to even stop, “think”, listen and look for these areas and for wild birds. Dogs have high hearing abilities and although their sight has some shortcomings, as a predator they can pick up the slightest movement of prey. So why wouldn’t you want a dog that uses those senses also?
Old time writers use the word “courage” as a necessary attribute to a high performing gundog. I think this refers to hunting intensity which is somewhat measured by speed, but is also the aggressive pursuit of game through natural barriers such as heavy brush, steep and rocky terrain and bearing pain from spines, stickers, soreness and injury; They want tough dog and so do I, particularly important in the country we hunt. 
So most discussions are about distance of cast and speed, but bird finding is much more.
I'm easily satisfied with the very best." Winston Churchill

Saturday, June 15, 2013

How to pick a puppy?

How to pick a puppy?
..Or, so many breeders, so little time!

“No Matter what breed you decide upon, remember that it all starts with genetics. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Get the best genetics you can find and do not settle for a yard sale prodigy. It is easier to love a great dog.”
George Hickox

Many opinions are given on the correct way to pick a puppy. Some will say, just close your eyes, reach in and grab one! Others insist you should hunt behind the dam and sire, still others opine the analysis the pedigree and so forth and so on. And probably one is as good as the other, but none measure the most important aspect of a new hunting dog: that is his/her genetics. Until genetic research reaches a point of identifying important traits (and deleterious ones) from the DNA analysis of dam and sire, we have only one surefire way of determining what they produce-their progeny. Yes, what they produce is the bottom line.

“When you look at an animal’s pedigree it tells you what he ought to be.  When you look at an animal performing in the ring or in some other event, it tells you what he seems to be.  When you look at his offspring and producing record, it tells you what he is.”
Patricia Craige, “Born to Win” 1997.

Most breeders mate two unrelated individuals using a list of rationales for doing so, but the plain fact is this: they’re rolling the dice! And the outcome from the mating is always uncertain, not only is the general quality in doubt, but also the variance of the individuals within the litter will be great. And the risk of deleterious, harmful and crippling traits will be higher.

“I say to you that breeding with knowledge is a better way to proceed than the approach most breeders are currently taking….”
G.A. Padgett, DVM; Professor of Canine Genetics

There are important factors that substantially reduce the risk of buying a puppy. Here are some tips: Buy from a breeder who has a program of selection: selecting the dogs and bitches that will be used in the breeding program, a selection program that continues for generations, building on positive attributes and eliminating undesirable traits. Buy from a breeder that line-breeds with the selection, increasing uniformity of these desirable traits. And buy from a breeder who repeats favorable matings and as importantly, ask for references of people that have purchased puppies from these same match ups.

“In spite of how strong the gene pool is, if breeding is done promiscuously without selection, all breeds would eventually revert to their common ancestry. This is why selection is so essential.”
Robert Wehle

Millions of puppies are whelped each year from haphazard breeding (although they won’t admit it), many times by good intentioned individuals that start they’re sales pitch on their website: “we are a small kennel…”

Don’t be fooled, spending time and money in selecting the best puppy available will give you years of pleasure and satisfaction…and you’ll be dollars ahead.

“To some gunners, quality in shooting is embodied in fine guns; to  others-often the same individuals-quality is indentified with fine dogs…””
George Bird Evens

Sunday, February 10, 2013

That dog has a great nose!

That dog has a great nose!
We all have witnessed the amazing performance of our bird dogs and we also recognize differences in their abilities of scenting. What is occurring and how is this extraordinary feat accomplished?
Scenting starts with odorant molecules entering the nasal cavity were they are captured by olfactory receptors (ORs). If you peek in the nose of a dog, you would see two types of tissue, one is pink and thin and the other is black and thick. The dark is specialized epithelium containing neurons and the surface is covered with mucus. The surface size of this olfactory mucosa varies between breeds (and I suspect between individuals), with one study measuring 200 cm2 in German Shepherds and 67 cm2 in Cockers. So, the first distinction in scenting ability is the amount of olfactory mucosa in the nasal cavity.
Many upland hunters feel that scenting conditions are dependant on moisture and that the odor molecules travel with H2O molecules. I don’t think this is the case, but we all have witnessed poor scenting with our dogs and it is usually in dry conditions. I think what happens is the mucus covering of the olfactory mucosa is drying and this inhibits scenting, i.e. the capture and recognition of the odorant molecules. This why it is important to carry plenty of water when hunting in dry country, and keep your dog(s) hydrated- not a little squirt bottle shooting a dap occasionally.
In addition to nose structure, the olfactory genetic composition of canines is much different from humans. The dog has 1094 OR sequences (genes) in the genome, where humans have between 600 and 900 of which 50% are pseudogenes (mutated into an inactive form). For dogs only 20% of the 1094 genes are pseudogenes, in other words, the dog has 2.5-3.5 times more active genes then humans that relate to olfactory capabilities. This large gene repertoire reflects in their ability to detect a larger range of odorants and a higher power of detection of specific odorants.
But what happens in the nose is only one side of the story and what processes occurs in the brain might be even more important. The first area of future research has to do the treatment of the olfactory message and the recognition of the odorant perceived and corresponding interaction of a ligand with its receptor (a ligand is a signal triggering molecule, binding to a site on a target protein). Then, there is an additional level of complexity because odour is generally made of several independent chemical components, and perception of the odour is not necessarily the sum of the individual odorants, but something different-known in perfumery as the accord phenomenon (an “accord” refers to a single scent that captures a very specific smell). To what extent this phenomenon exists in the dog and to what extent it may affect all dogs similarly, or only some dogs are totally unknown.
The second problem in research concerns dog behavior, the willingness of the animal to cooperate and to tell its handler that it recognizes the odour, not being part of the olfaction process per se, this other level of complexity is prone to confuse the result obtained from research in dog olfactory performances. With pointing dogs the recognition is obvious and pointing genes must control this reaction, genes related to stalking as an ancient predator. These are yet to be identified by geneticists.
Thus measuring canine olfaction performance in bird dogs and why these breeds and specific individuals are so gifted is an area of interest to hunting enthusiasts and for geneticist a topic of future research.