OK, so here is the potential father to our little new arrival. My blog today is to give you some background on why I feel he is suitable, what’s involved in finding him a suitor and why there is and should be as much pressure on the stud dog owner to get this right as there is for the owner of the dam (mother).
Hugo will be 4 years old on the 1st April 2015, the perfect age of maturity to be capable of the role of a sire. He is loyal, loving and affectionate and his sociability with people and other dogs is second to none.
Living a rural life with free access to farmland, he loves nothing more than hanging out with the children in the family, ensuring adventures across the fields always result in all concerned returning covered in green smelly gunk. Pretty much normal for most Labradors I have met, but not necessarily everyone’s idea of fun!
Hugo is 50% working line and 50% show. The most obvious difference between the two is the level of energy they possess and physical appearance. Dogs from show lines tend to be a little calmer and shorter in height, as a rule. However, when considering any dogs values you have to always account for individuality and not expect each one to ‘fit into an idealistic box’, you could be extremely disappointed if you do.
So, the result of this 50% split, is a dog retaining all the stature and motivation of the working line, but possessing a slightly calmer outlook and ability to remain focused on what is expected of him. This means when provided with a respectable amount of physical and mental stimulation and social contact he is a really happy, laid back dog.
With ‘Marley-dog’ already resident in our house, another high energy dog wasn’t something I was striving to acquire. That said I am realistic, breeding is only one element affecting the physical appearance and personality of a puppy, albeit an important one.
Parents and Siblings
Hugo’s dad ‘Boyce’ is a yellow show Labrador and his mum ‘Decca’ is a black working Labrador.
He was part of a litter of 8, 5 boys and 3 girls. Here is his kennel Club litter registration certificate.
Hugo lives with his breeder, ‘Bryony’, her husband and two children. Along with an assortment of feathery and furry creatures.
Hugo is Bryony’s 3rd generation of Labrador. She is truly passionate about breeding good dogs and prides herself in being responsible as a breeder and stud dog owner, striving only to produce puppies she would want herself.
Bryony and her family are family friends and so I have also spent time with Hugo’s brother Jester, who is owned by Bryony’s brother and sister-in- law. Living a bit closer to Jester, I was also able to involve him in my Master’s project, this meant I could assess his temperament and spend valuable time getting to know him properly.
He too, is an intelligent, confident dog with exceptional social skills and calm demeanour.
Bryony continues to be in touch with all is other siblings, all of them thriving and healthy in family homes.
Bryony is conscious that having mixed show and working lines together she has come away from what would be considered ‘normal’ protocol for producing Labradors. I am not looking for a dog to fit into any breed specification as I will not be looking to conform to the ‘show’ world.
My primary focus is the dog’s health and temperament over breed guidelines, our dog will need to be physically able to lead an active life as an adult, running on weekends with the horse, playing with the kids and spending days out. It will also need to be self-assured and confident to be able to work with me on a daily basis. This side of the bargain will mostly be down to me through training and socialisation but an intelligent and sharp mind would be an advantage!
This sounds a bit like I am looking to manufacture the perfect dog! This is not the case, the opportunities exist to try and focus on getting a dog that will fit nicely within our family lifestyle, so why not take them.
Breeders have spent time examining breed predispositions, ability to work, physical appearance and understanding the type of dogs they are producing, Vets have studied the genetic characteristics of serious and debilitating hereditary conditions and we behaviourists understand the essential early learning that goes into ensuring a well-rounded and balanced dog.
I have to admit, I am a little scarred! I spent nearly 13 years battling serious food and environmental allergies with my previous dog ‘Merlin’. He was diagnosed at 6 months and the early years were a constant stream of vet visits, tests and expensive drugs. It never went away, both of us just learnt to manage his condition better. Watching him scratch and lick his skin while he came up in huge itchy lumps and subsequently contracted skin infections was distressing for both of us. This condition is called Atopy and is common within the labrador breed.
I will definitely be looking to try and tick as many boxes as I can to avoid watching my next dog suffer. As long as you are realistic that life is never perfect and you are prepared for bumps in the road then I don’t see a problem with doing your research and having your own ideals, it will help guide you through the process.
Let’s face it, if more people took the time to properly understand the dog they were inviting into their home and what’s involved in its care, then our rescue centres wouldn’t be full to bursting and there wouldn’t be as many reported serious dog attack incidents.
Family in Crisis
Last year was a really busy year for me having two small children, a business and in the thick of my Masters degree, although my puppy quest was thought about, I did little to commit to the idea as I knew I just didn’t have the time to spend integrating a puppy into our home.
I had also subtly decided to wait until Bryony was in a position to breed Hugo. Sadly, while I was running myself ragged in Hertfordshire, Bryony and her family were fighting a much larger struggle down in Somerset.
They were victims of the 2014 Moorland (Somerset) flooding and lost just about everything they had, this iconic photograph depicts the devastation that was left behind when they returned to their house. Hugo is pictured oblivious to his media stardom but standing very regal nonetheless!
Evacuation was essential, (not easy with a mini farm of animals large and small) while their home ‘dried’ out and awaited renovation. This process was to take a long year of fighting and battling builders and insurance companies.
Bryony became the media spokeswoman for Moorland, together with her husband and other residents they have tirelessly campaigned to ensure everything is done to prevent this happening again.
While his owners fought their own personal and financial battle, Hugo was unaware of the missed opportunity he had in not finding a mate. The plan had been to breed him in 2014. It occurred to me that if this had been the case I may well not be sitting here chatting about him now!
It is the responsibility of all Kennel Club registered breeders to ensure breeding programs are carefully considered.
It costs money to obtain the necessary documentation and also ensure all specified breed appropriate testing is carried out. She will be looking for a bitch who compliments Hugo’s personality and physical drive. Temperament is hugely important, overly nervous, aggressive or hyperactive dogs are likely to have a genetic predisposition to producing puppies of the same calibre.
Likewise it is important to ensure all prospective suitors have complied with kennel club rules for hip scoring and eye testing. Elbow scores are not compulsory but are recommended as there has also been a rise in this condition. The relevance of these tests will be discussed in my next blog.
As Bryony won’t be directly responsible for the care of the bitch or critical early weeks of the puppies lives, it is essential that any breeder has the same values, and standards as her if they are to work as a team. Some breeders have no further contact with the owner of the Sire (father) after the mating, but Bryony will be wanting one of the puppies for herself so it is an advantage for me that she will want close contact throughout.
So there you have it, we now arrive at the point where this journey requires some external input. My puppy quest is not progressing without the presence of a dam to take things to the next level.
Bryony is doing her bit with the media in Cornwall and he has a starring role in their regional newspaper. Let’s hope some internet dating works for this handsome chap.
With regards to my blog, well if you’re still with me and enjoying them then I’ll keep them coming.
My next bog will be focusing on the requirements for testing for hereditary conditions. Including hip and elbow dysplasia and eye testing. Understanding the procedures and the result when things go wrong.