Responsible Breeding Begins With Genetic Study

by Susan Kilgore

What truly separates any casual breeder from one more seriously involved and/or interested in breeding is the effort taken to study breed genetics. This is not an easy or quick task. However, it offers an opportunity to benefit the breed and breeder indefinitely. It’s very difficult to be ‘brutally honest’ about the dogs you own. The greatest challenge to any breeder is to have the ability to objectively evaluate how well their dog(s) conform to the breed’s official AKC standard, acknowledge any undesirable trait(s) and characteristics which can compromise physical health and desirable disposition, and compare their dogs to previous generations. Breeding decisions, or lack thereof, should be based on this data, plus as much educational information about your Shih Tzu as you can gather. It’s imperative to know the health of the dogs you own, especially those you would consider in a breeding program. This requires more than a veterinary office visit for a check up and most likely will include testing recommended in the ASTC Breeder Guidelines. There are many reasons not to breed a pet quality dog, some of which are detailed in an article elsewhere on this website facts before breeding.

Purchasing a Shih Tzu for show and/or breeding requires a good working knowledge of the breed, the specifics about breed excellence, and your dog’s heritage in terms of phenotype and genotype. What traits are genetically dominant and which are recessive? What are the distinct breed specific characteristics that make an excellent Shih Tzu? What do I need to know about my Shih Tzu to make the wisest choices? Please know that there is nothing to replace experience and education in the breed.

There are many resources available today which help those interested to learn more about responsible animal husbandry practices, and specifically about breeding practices related to Shih Tzu. Consult with your breeder for as much background information as can be obtained about your particular dog. You can easily find photographs of exquisite and exquisitely groomed Shih Tzu, pedigrees filled with champions and show wins on websites and in other material offered conveniently to the public. However, this information does not give the actual physical genetic makeup of such dogs, and show wins and pedigrees with many champions are not what necessarily determines the quality of their progeny. It requires more in depth study to acquire the information upon which to base better educated and advised decisions.

For those who are interested in studying the heritage of some of the best examples of Shih Tzu primarily found in the United States, the American Shih Tzu Club offers Historical Record Books, National Specialty videos and dvds, and the quarterly Shih Tzu Bulletin. There is a great deal of information to be found elsewhere on this website, including the AKC Breed Standard and Illustrated Guide to the Breed Standard. One highly recommended reference for anyone who is thinking about breeding is The ABC’s of Dog Breeding: What Every Breeder Should Know, written by Claudia Waller Orlandi, Ph.D.