Yarraman Australian Cattle Dogs


Go to content

Main menu:


Buying Yarraman

There are lots of websites out there that will tell you what to look for in a breeder.

This will include breeders that are:

a) there for you if you should encounter any difficulty with the puppy you had from them - whether that should be a training issue, a health issue or a lifestyle change for you that is making it hard for you to keep the dog.

b) prepared to take back a dog, of any age, that has been bred by them (and a very good breeder may even try to accommodate dogs sired by their studs, as they had an input into the production of those pups too!).

c) retain an interest in your dog throughout its lifetime and be available to offer help and support whenever required.

On the positive side the good breeder loves to get updates from owners who just want to say that 'Fred is fantastic and we just love him'!

However, one of the things that breeders often fail to explain to potential owners is their breeding programme. Maybe because it is a difficult concept to put across and possibly because potential owners don't feel they know enough about the breed to be able to evaluate whether the breeder has a solid breeding plan or not. However, breeding programmes should be, essentially, universal, irrespective of the breed of dog.

So, I would like to share our thinking when we plan a mating with you.

The first thing to understand is heritability. This is how strongly genes that dogs have inherited from their parents will affect their phenotype (the way they look). Though, it should be remembered that outside factors, for example good nutrition and environment, will also play a part.

Malcolm B Willis (Genetics for Dog Breeders) put forward the following guidelines (and it should be understood that these are just guidelines and are not set in stone) for gauging the percentage of the influence of genetics on particular traits.

Reproductive:

Fertility - heritability - 10 - 15%
Litter size - heritability - 10 - 20%

Conformational:

Features - heritability - 30-65%
Body length - heritability - 40%
Chest Depth- heritability - 50%
Hock Height - heritability - 50%
Wither Height - heritability - 40-60%

Behavioural:

Nervousness - heritability - 50%
Temperament - heritability - 30-50%

If we use litter size as an example. The figure of 10 - 20% heritability may seem low. The reason for this is that up to 80 - 90% of the influence will be determined by other factors such as environment and nutrition. So, if you have a bitch from a line of bitches that is known to produce an average of 6 puppies per litter and you don't worm her, you keep her tied up outside in all weathers, never exercise her and feed her sporadically on the cheapest of cheap food then environment and nutrition would dictate that she will not be as good a brood as her ancestors. A trait with low heritability is, therefore, more impacted upon by other factors.

Environmental and nutritional factors employed when rearing puppies once they have gone to their new homes (e.g. under- or over-feeding, lack of, or too much, exercise) can determine another range of conformational features in the fully grown dog, for example, height and weight.

On the other hand, a trait with high heritability, for example, coat colour, is dependent on the genes the dog possesses and will not be affected by nutrition or environment.

Nervousness and temperament are features that can be manipulated by environment (and, some say, nutrition). With a breed like Australian Cattle Dogs that can be windy and naturally suspicious around strangers a lot of socialisation with people, dogs and in a range of unfamiliar situations when they are young can ensure that their temperament is given every opportunity to develop as you would want. It is very easy to ruin a good temperament by giving inadequate time and attention to socialising a dog.

Here at Yarraman we keep selection for traits simple and concentrate on those that are high in heritability. We set minimum standards that we are prepared to accept for each trait that we feel is important for breed type. We have to carry out a balancing act. We begin by considering the areas where our bitches require to be strengthened. So, a dog that scores mid-range for all the traits we consider to be important may not be the best choice, instead our chosen stud may be a dog that is above average in features we want to improve through our breeding programme but may score lower in some minor areas that our bitches score highly in. We would not, however, double up on a similar area of weakness. This highlights the importance of DNA testing for PRA status plus hip and elbow scoring in breeding and potential breeding stock.

When we are planning a mating we look for the frequency of desired traits occurring in the ancestry of both dogs, usually over 3 generations. We know this can be difficult when you first come into a breed and don't know the dogs, or it may be that the ancestors you would love to check out are deceased. However, by talking to breeders, asking questions, looking at photographs and at relatives, particularly siblings and offspring, you should get a feel for what a dog has produced.

As well as health, conformation and behaviour, performance is another area we consider. Even though we do not breed dogs specifically to work, and few ACDs in the UK do, we acknowledge that an indication of the mental and physical prowess to do so is important. Hence our delight when our import, Rocky, achieved a Herding Instinct Certificate in the USA and the ability to work is definitely replicated in his progeny. We were delighted when Digger and Munyah gained the same certificate here in the UK under the same system at 8 years old!

We assess each of our bitches for their strengths and areas of weakness with a view to the traits we want in their offspring. It is important to us, also, that our bitches whelp freely, have sufficient milk for their litter and are careful and gentle with the babies.

Our breeding programme is long range. We know what goals we want to achieve in each mating and look to strongly establish these in future matings. We are not afraid to appreciate the qualities of other breeders' dogs. For us, dog breeding is a competition with ourselves to develop and improve our future bloodlines and knowledge of the breed, it is not about competing against or with others.

I should also add that we have come to believe in breeder's restrictions. There was a time when we sold puppies with no endorsements on their pedigrees, but, having been disappointed in decisions owners have made in the past, now this has changed. All Yarraman puppies are sold with an endorsement which states that their progeny is not eligible for registration with the Kennel Club. Basically, this means that if you allow someone to use a dog bred by us at stud or mate a bitch without any discussion and obtaining our agreement to lift the endorsement on the pedigree (by letter from us to the Kennel Club) then the Kennel Club will not register any resultant puppies.

We don't breed puppies just for ourselves, or even for the people who want puppies, but for the breed as well. We are not draconian about these endorsements nor do we put onerous demands on puppy buyers. We respect our puppy buyers' rights and desires to have their pups and to a greater or lesser degree do with them what they want, BUT we feel that we also deserve the opportunity to assess whether a puppy we bred is worthy of continuing our line and is in a situation where it will be responsibly bred. Restraint is no bad thing and restricting breeding to owners who will be responsible for the puppies they produce, will breed to ensure health, including genetic health, and overall soundness of mind and body is a major consideration for us. We would never condone breeding to or from a dog/bitch that has a serious health issue, a temperament problem or a severe conformational flaw affecting basic soundness.

There are breeder who will sell you a puppy with no restrictions whatsoever, so if you feel that we are being unreasonable in wanting to assess the quality of our grown up pups before lifting endorsements, please feel free to go elsewhere. However, we would like to point out that fair restrictions create a partnership between breeder and owner, which all responsible breeders should be striving for.



Back to content | Back to main menu