The Zenfro Breeding Philosophy
(by Bruce Roberts - Founder of Zenfro Kennels)
1) BREEDING IS THE ART OF COMPROMISE.
We do not live in an ideal world where absolute perfection
is obtainable. Therefore, when breeding dogs, we must exercise
selective judgment, common-sense, a wealth of practical
knowledge based on years of experience and research, be
able to prioritize all the information we have at hand when
planning a particular breeding, and last, but definitely
not least, a good dose of LUCK ! In practical terms, the
knowledgeable and pragmatic breeder stacks his/her hand
with breeding aces (pedigree and excellent quality dogs)
and hopes for the best.
Breeding is not just a question of indiscriminately mating
two animals together without any rhyme or reason, but it
encompasses both the science of genetics and the art of
the breeders creative flair. Breeding dogs could well be
described as GENETIC SCULPTING. It is both an awesome responsibility
and one of the greatest joys known to mankind.
2) UNDERSTANDING THE BREED STANDARD.
The standard for the Alaskan Malamute is not an easy one
to understand. There is no way any of us can have first
hand experience of the environment in which the Alaskan
Malamute evolved in, over thousands of years, therefore
all we really have to go on is the breed standard and what
it means in practice. Herein lies the problem. The standard
is not a standard for perfection as for some breeds (e.g.
German Shepherd) but was written as a COMPROMISE between
the different strains that make up the modern day Alaskan
Malamute. These strains were quite different from each other
and because of this factor the standard allows for a fair
amount of latitude and flexibility. This is not to say the
standard is not a good one, but simply, that it allows the
breeder flexibility to produce their own style of Malamute.
The only guideline is to intelligently interpret the standard
and measure our malamutes against it without personal prejudice.
For example, we may prefer a 27 in dog or a 26 in bitch
but as responsible guardians of the breed we must put our
prejudice aside and aim for the ideal.
First of all I want a malamute of strength and sound structure.
When I watch a malamute move I want to get the impression
of unusual strength and tremendous propelling power. To
achieve this I want a dog where all the different parts
are integrated to produce a completely balanced symmetry.
I like heavy coat, bone and substance with good "snowshoe"
feet. I want a broad head with well placed dark eyes and
small ears. I believe bad temperament is a no go area and
no matter how nice the dog is, if it is temperamentally
unsound then it should be euthanized..
3) GENETIC DEFECTS.
CHECKS FOR GENETIC DEFECTS ARE TOOLS, NOT ABSOLUTES.
No sane person sets out to breed dogs with genetic defects.
In an ideal world we would breed Malamutes that are free
from all genetic problems. But the knowledgeable and pragmatic
breeder realizes this is not possible and that all living
organisms carry lethal genes. The art of breeding is to
limit the physical and mental effects of these genetic glitches.
When we are breeding dogs that are closely related genetically
there is obviously a greater possibility of these defects
surfacing. However, if we wish to establish a line of dogs
that are similar in type this is our only option. It really
is a catch 22, damned if you do, damned if you don't. Therefore
the knowledgeable and pragmatic breeder must be aware of
these defects in their lines and be careful not to perpetuate
these problems. This is where it is vital to select only
the best dogs for breeding.
THE KNOWLEDGEABLE AND PRAGMATIC BREEDER ASSESSES THE WHOLE
If we eliminate a dog from our breeding program based on
just one problem, then we are "throwing out the baby
with the bath water". This is where the knowledgeable
and pragmatic breeder must exercise good sense and judgment.
They must prioritize limits and what is acceptable. For
example if a top quality bitch has a hip score or rating
that we consider marginal do we not breed her or do we use
this knowledge and select a stud for her that has apart
from all the strengths that she requires, excellent hips
from a line of dogs with excellent hips? I prefer the latter
option. Or if she has cataracts does this necessarily eliminate
her from our breeding program? I don't think so. If we eliminated
every dog with a genetic defect from breeding then there
would be no dogs left to breed. Unfortunately there are
literally dozens of genetic diseases affecting the Malamute
including for example, thyroid, coat funk, immune deficiencies
- and the list goes on. The trick is to prioritize these
problems based on how they affect the quality of life of
the dog. For example, I regard hip dysplasia as a far more
serious problem than cataracts, as a blind or partially
blind dog can still have a good quality of life, as the
hearing and smell senses are as important to a dog, if not
more so, than sight, whereas degenerative joint disease
means the dog is in constant pain and discomfort. The dog
with degenerative joint disease has an infinitely lower
quality of life than the dog with cataracts.
My breeding stock are all scored for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia,
and although the results are not used as a determining factor,
they are part of the assessment of the overall picture pertaining
to the suitability of the dog as a breeding animal.
My dogs do not have probability numbers for the genetic
condition of Chondrodysplasia, because of exactly the fact
that they are only a probability and not as some would have
us believe a clearance for this condition. In fact dogs
with a rating certificate have produced Chondrodysplastic
pups! When the proposed DNA test is available I will then
test my dogs.
SOME BREEDING PRINCIPLES.
1) BREED ON YOUR BITCHES.
GOOD BITCHES PRODUCE GOOD DOGS.
When I breed my stud dogs to my brood bitches, they produce
better puppies than bitches bred outside my kennel who are
put to these same dogs. Why? Simply because my bitches are
superior and their pedigrees match with the dogs. These
people generally would be better advised to purchase a bitch
puppy and start again.
2) BREED FOR SOUNDNESS.
THE FOUNDATION OF SELECTIVE BREEDING
Type features such as head, coat, tail-set, pigment, etc.,
can be bred in more easily than sound structure and movement.
Movement is the most important factor of sound conformation
(If a dog can move with a steady balanced gait then it follows
that it possesses sound structure).
3) KNOW YOUR PEDIGREES.
THE DOGS ABILITY TO PRODUCE (GENOTYPE) IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT
THAN THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE (PHENOTYPE)
Knowing your pedigree doesn't mean just being able to reel
off a bunch of names, you must know the dogs in the pedigree
and what those dogs have produced.
For example, my pedigrees are based on the famous stud dog
Am Ch Uyak Buffalo Bill. Among the many outstanding progeny
he produced his most famous producing son was a dog called
Am Ch Karohonta Skymaster, who in turn produced the stunning
Am Ch Kiwalik's Snobear of Kipnuk. All of these outstanding
dogs more importantly produced outstanding dogs of the same
type. These lines have consistently produced the top winning
and producing dogs, such as the current number one malamutes,
Am Ch Kinik's Rough Rider (Teddy) and
Am Ch Snoklassic Above The Rim (AJ).
4) GRANDPARENTS NEED RESPECT.
The influence of the grandparent generation cannot be overestimated.
It is my belief that the progeny more often than not resemble
a grandparent more closely than either the sire or the dam.
When planning a breeding do not just consider the suitability
of the parents for one another, but also try to imagine
each parent being bred to the opposite grandparent and also
the opposite grandparents being bred together. This may
give you a more accurate picture of how the progeny is likely
to turn out.
5) KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING.
Always keep an open mind. None of us know it all. As you
gain experience and knowledge, your understanding of the
breed will deepen and evolve, and your dogs with it.
I am aiming to breed Alaskan Malamutes who primarily could
fulfill their working heritage as freighting dogs in the
arctic. There is much talk about the "show dog"
versus the "working dog". My observation is that
here in Australasia a successful working malamute is one
that can run the fastest and win races which is in fact
contrary to the original purpose of the breed enshrined
in the breed standard. The Malamute is NOT a racing dog.
However the 'racing' malamute more often than not is a poor
example of the breed and if it can't win in the show ring,
because of this, then, suddenly it becomes deified with
the title of "Working Dog" which miraculously
turns it into a "Proper" malamute.
6) ASSESS THE WHOLE DOG.
THE FOUNDATION OF SELECTION.
Being blind to the faults of your breeding stock is known
as being "kennel blind" and is just as detrimental
as being over critical and being blind to their strengths.
When you are breeding two animals together you must select
one with the strengths to compensate for the weaknesses
of the other. Don't breed to a dog just because he is a
winner or an expensive import. Choose a mate that best complements
7) ALTERNATE BREEDING STRATEGIES.
THE K & P BREEDER IS CREATIVE AND FLEXIBLE.
The k & p breeder always has alternate options to their
main breeding plan in case of failure either through bad
luck or an unintentional mistake. It seems sometimes that
"Mr Murphy and his law" is running the breeding
program instead of the breeder. It is prudent to have at
least two other options "up your sleeve" besides
the first choice. A dose of lateral thinking certainly stands
the breeder in good stead. The old saying about "Mohammed
going to the mountain" is certainly applicable in this
The k & p breeder needs plenty of intestinal fortitude
to withstand the heart-break and disappointment that may
beset them at any time and the intelligence and flexibility
to overcome these obstacles. This is the hall-mark of a
8) DON'T BELIEVE YOUR OWN PUBLICITY.
If you rely solely on your wins in the show ring to evaluate
the quality of your dogs then you are in trouble.
9) MOST OF ALL - GOOD LUCK !!!!!!