Let's take a look at how good Labrador Retriever Breeders set up their breeding program and how our Lab puppies are selected in order to improve and advance the breed. Of course, there are those who say they are simply going to look for the cheapest dog possible. If you take this same philosophy and apply it to say buying a car, then you are likely going to be in for many problems. Just Imagine going out to spend the least amount you can for a car and ask yourself, how much maintenance and repairs will cost you. I've seen driveable cars for $1,000 but I wouldn't buy one unless I was a mechanic.
Labrador Retrievers Puppies are much the same. I'm sure you've likely heard the saying "you get what you pay for." Well if you approach looking for a dog in this manner you will be taking an unimformed gamble. Professional Labrador Retriever breeders are all about keeping records, selecting dogs to breed in order to improve on any weaknesses, health clearances including x-ray and genetic screening, selecting even tempered and intelligent Labs and more. Below I will contrast how we choose our Purebred Retriever puppies to mate with choosing a Purebred Lab Puppy from a back yard breeder. For the purpose of this discussion let's define a back yard breeder as someone who may or may not be a member of the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) but simply breeds their dogs for the money with disregard for the most important issues I will outline below:
1. Our Labrador Retriever Puppies are chosen for their health clearances. Tests include screening for Centronuclear Myopathy, Degenerative Myelopathy, Exercise-Induced Collapse, Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Progressive Rod-Cone Degeneration, Retinal Dysplasia/Oculoskeletal Dysplasia 1, Skeletal Dysplasia 2, Retinal Dysplasia/Oculoskeletal Dysplasia 1, and X-Rays are done on bloodlines to rule out the likelyhood hip and elbow dysplaysia.
Backyard Breeders do not test.
2. Labrador Retriever Puppies are chosen at birth from outstanding parent lineage. At times we will keep a few puppies and observe them as they grow and develop a mating plan for them as their strengths and weaknesses are revealed. Once grown we will evaluate their temperament and intelligence and choose the best one to mate with. This does not always result in only one breeding. For example, if we keep three Labrador Retriever puppies one may have some strengths we want to blend with a specific male in order to cover his weaknesses. These traits can be different in more than one of the females so mating female A to male A and female B to male B may be productive if both pairs have complimentary weaknesses. On the other hand, mating female A to male B may produce improvements in the bloodline. So we are always working to mix dogs who can bring strengths to each other and help breed out any weaknesses in the bloodline. We have for example brought a male chocolate lab puppy in from as far away as Los Angeles California in order to introduce the required strengths into our Purebred blood line.
An understanding of Labrador Retriever genetics is important so that we are not only aware of the genetic diseases that affect our breed but we understand how they are expressed and inherited in the breeding pair's offspring. Diseases with dominant genes for example can show up in successive generations even if only one parent carries the gene. Diseases that follow recessive patterns occur in homozygous dogs which means they have two abnormal genes. Diseases that have one normal gene and one mutated gene are termed heterozygous and dogs carrying this single copy of the mutated gene are not affected by the disease rather they are carriers of it. In this case a particular Labrador Retriever may have outstanding characteristics of say temperament or intelligence and as long as the dog it mates with is not a carrier, then their offspring are not affected by the disease and lead normal healthy lives. Other disorders could be polygenetic or chromosomal abnormalities and could produce serious genetic defects in a Lab Retriever puppy.
Backyard Breeders simply mate with whatever dog they have and do so without regard for improving the Purebred Labrador Retriever line or consideration for passing on of genetic traits or diseases. These diseases often emerge after the puppy is 6-12 months old.
3. Being a Purebred Labrador Retriever Breeder we are able to trace the pedigree of the dogs we bring into our bloodline in order to ensure our breeding is solid. The CKC and AKC keep records of purebred matings.
Backyard Breeders will simply say the dogs who mated are not related with no proof. This is because they explain a purebred is just paperwork that you and they should avoid. But it is this paperwork (name, address, phone and signature) which ensures proper tracking of the pedigrees and genetics. Without it, you are buying a used car from a used car salesman and accepting their word (no proof).
4. Few breeders and even fewer people understand how mixing personality traits with a mating works. It is important to understand that a professional Labrador Breeder strives for consistency in their lines. Mixing a male with a female will result in a balanced mix of genes in the offspring from both parents. However, matings of siblings will not produce an equal spreading of genetics. A study of the Interaction of genes and temperament in dogs was studied by Jasper Rine of Berkley as part of a larger project called the Dog Genome Project. Jasper mated two very different dogs, a Border Collie and a Newfoundland. He did this because these two dogs have such different personalities he wanted to see how these personality traits played out in the pair's offspring. The puppies were predictable combinations of their parents. However, when the puppies grew and were mated to each other they ended up with magnified traits of one parent or the other. So grand kids's traits were unpredictable. When we mate a pair we take into account not only the parent's temperament, health, physical and intelligence traits, since we have been working with our bloodline for over 12 years at the time of writing this we are also able to consider grand parents and great grand parents' traits. What does this mean? It simply means the genetics of the dogs we breed are considered back 2, 3 or 4 generations because it is the strength in these genes that lend strength to the Labrador Retriever blood line.
This is not to say that we breed siblings to each other, rather we look for similar characteristics of males we bring into our bloodline that we have seen in our dogs from previous generations.
Backyard Breeders usually cannot do this because there is not normally a written pedigree and they are not interested in developing a bloodline, but they will say the dogs are great.
5. We utilize Dr. Battaglia's Early Neurological Stimulation program with our Purebred Lab puppies. This is a program which stimulates the puppy's nervous system and changes the puppy for the rest of their life to be more accepting of their situations around them. Purebred Labrador Retriever puppy socialization is more than simply touching and playing with the puppies there is a specific routine that our lab puppies are put through from ages 3 days to 16 days old. We apply this program to all of our puppies not just the ones we keep for mating or donate to become service dogs.
Backyard Breeders many times have not even heard of this program and will simply say their kids play with the puppies every day.
6. Evaluation of Lab puppies to be retained for breeding includes evaluation techniques of the puppies on various surfaces, locations and with various sounds in the environment. Having chosen puppies to serve as service dogs for those in need we have gained experience in what type of dog has a strong desire to please their owner. Each Lab Puppy we choose to keep for breeding is one that we would have chosen to serve as a service dog. Over time our bloodline continues to improve with respect to breeding a smart, obedient, healthy, sound looking chocolate Lab Retriever.
Backyard Breeders likely do not understand how to evaluate a puppy to select for breeding because they are not developing the Lab Retriever bloodline.
7. The pregnant mother's nutrition especially toward the end of pregnancy is important for her puppies brain and immune system to develop properly it is important for the mother to store enough minerals and energy for birth and to nurse her puppies thereafter. Balance of nutrition is key here as it can be counter productive to try to supplement. High quality balanced food with a proven track record to be superior is best.
Backyard Breeders will not understand balance of nutrition (and they may not care because they are not developing a bloodline) and I have seen them feeding a raw diet of meat scraps assuming it is better without regard for complete nutritional balance or big box store cheap kibble only.
As you can see there are numerous things a professional Labrador Breeder works with when developing their bloodline. This is quite beyond simply mating with the dog next door and scrambling for homes for the puppies. It is a work over the lifetime of the breeder and a work we are pleased to be passing on to our two sons to continue. Breeding smart, healthy, even tempered Labrador Retrievers contributes to the health and welfare of others by way of our service dog donation program and is something we will continue as long as we are able.