Saturday, May 19, 2012

We're Finally Home

It took a lot of research and ground pounding but we finally found a home.  Move in is Memorial Day weekend to Warrens, WI.  Our phone # is still the same but the email will again be changing.  Feel free to call.

Lacey loves the new place and runs around like a puppy when we are there.  4 plus acres plus many more acres of open woods behind us to roam.  Hopefully this summer we get some kennel runs in the 36'x63' shed and some heat before winter.  Looking forward to a good summer in the Land of the Long 'O' and another great fall in the Northwoods!  Sorry for the small pics but these changing Blog design requirementss utterly SUCK!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Basic Breeding Philosophy

Our litters are rare; we do not currently have the proper facilities and resources to operate a systematic breeding operation. Our breedings are meticulously researched, planned, and rationalized from before conception through hypothetical production of the subsequent generation. Therefore, when we do produce a litter it is only with the goal of producing the next generation that can advance what is in our kennel and the general course of the field quality English Setter. With each litter our hope is to produce at least one individual that can achieve the pinnacle of our goal. But rest assured the majority are quality field companions in the least.We steadfastly feel the bitch is the most important fraction of the equation. Consequently, we will not breed a bitch unless we feel she fits our vision, can win at the highest level, and is expected to advance our goal. With each litter we breed we do the best we can guided by the 18 breeding principals listed here (as adobpted from "20 Principles of Breeding Better Dogs" by Raymond H. Oppenheimer) and our vision of the high class, field trial, all-age grouse dog. These are our goals, not guarantees. It is not expected that every breeding, or likely even the majority, will achieve complete success. It is a difficult endeavor. But we will do the best we can, learn from the mistakes and failures as well as the successes that are achieved, and make better decisions with each experience. We are dealing with genetics, with Mother Nature. We can only attempt to influence the outcome, as we do not have complete control.
- Keystone Setters, May 2001

Keystone Setters’ Basic Breeding Principles

1. Remember that the animals you select for breeding today will have an impact on the breed and your program for many years to come. Keep that thought firmly in mind when you choose breeding stock.

2. You can choose only two individuals per generation. Choose only the best because you will have to wait for another generation to improve what you start with. Breed only if you can reasonably expect the progeny to be better than both parents and you would be satisfied if you could only reproduce both.

3. A pedigree is very important. But a pedigree is not a bible or an instruction booklet, rather one of the many tools at your disposal for guidance. It should simply assist in your evaluation of the good and bad attributes that your dog or breeding is likely to exhibit or reproduce. Do not get over indulged in paper. Always remember a pedigree is only as good as the dog it represents. The more names on that pedigree you know intimately the more likely you will be able to predict what it will reproduce. You’re personal observation of the individuals involved matters most.

4. Genetic theories and Statistics do not apply here. You cannot expect statistical predictions and genetic theory to hold true in a small sample size (as in one litter of puppies or one kennel operation). They only apply to large populations. We are of course concerned about improving the future of the breed. And our primary concern is the careful evaluation of what is needed to improve what is in our kennel, one breeding at a time. It is our thought that these two concerns go hand in hand. But genetic theories and statistics will not dictate our program. What will drive the course of action is the trust in our observations, goals, and knowledge of what we have, what is needed, and were it may come from added to the lessons of trial and error. Genetic theories and statistics are best left to the ‘experts’.

5. Breed for a total dog, not just one or two characteristics. The quality individual is a class individual. And class is an all-encompassing measure of style, form, and function! The latter being oft times ignored. Do not follow fads in your breed because they are usually meant to emphasize one or two features of the dog and often come at the expense of the soundness and function of the whole. Seek quality and keep in mind that quality is not merely the lack of faults, but the positive presence of virtues. It is the whole dog that counts!

6. Quantity does not equate to quality. Quality is produced by careful study. Having a good mental picture of what you are trying to achieve. Patience to wait until the right breeding stock is available and to evaluate what you have already produced. And above all, having a breeding plan that is dynamic yet envisioned at least three generations ahead of the breeding you do today.

7. Hereditary traits are inherited equally from both parents. Do not expect to solve all of your problems in one generation. Many traits you are seeking cannot be changed, fixed or “created” in a single generation.

8. Remember that breeding does not "create" anything. What you get is what was there to begin with. It may have been hidden for many generations, but it was there. If you get what you didn’t expect go back and study the dogs and their lineage to find out what you missed.

9. Line breeding and/or inbreeding are valuable tools, being the fastest method to set good characteristics and type. But it must be attempted with careful thought and comprehension. A side yield of our goal is to produce a uniform litter with relative field quality from the first pick to last. This is routinely achieved only with careful line breeding. Line breeding also serves to bring to light hidden traits that need to be eliminated from the breed. Therefore, much discrimination must be utilized when selecting individuals for a line breeding program. Only the most extraordinary should be used. The ordinary should be forgotten. Don’t be afraid to drop an individual or line from your program and start again if time proves it is fraught with perverse hidden traits.

10. Out crossing is key to long-term success and progress. However, use out-crosses very sparingly and with much thought. For each desirable characteristic you acquire, you may just as easily acquire many undesired traits that you will have to eliminate in succeeding generations. There are two goals of the outcross:
1) to add to the program in the area of identified weaknesses and/or,
2) to strengthen the desirable attributes of the program. Always while adding genetic variability. It is imperative that the outcross does not detract. It is our current thought that the mental and physical attributes that define the greatest performing individuals are an example of extreme genetic variability in relation to the population or family line norm. If you have a well designed and thought out program of line breeding that has established a high average type set of desirable genetic traits, out crossing will supply you the greatest amount of genetic variability in relation to the type set of your line bred family norm. And thus the greatest chance at producing the great individual that possesses the variability towards the positive. Some may say that this is genetic theory but we counter that this is theory based on careful observation. And with all theory and observation we are willing to learn and change.

11. Be astute in your selection of individuals for the program but don’t be a pedigree pedant when considering the outcross [see #3]. It is possible that a great individual with an unknown or untested pedigree performs and produces quality and could add to your program. Likewise an individual from any corner of the upland game bird world has the potential to contribute. As long as it is an English Setter it should be investigated as if a potential asset. Out crossing by nature involves the greatest risk/reward.

12. Remember that skeletal or physical defects are the most difficult to change. Physical form is entirely predicated by genetics. Behavioral characteristics can be greatly influenced by environment but the genetic tendency towards positive behavior and function is a long-term goal. A given adverse behavioral tendency(s) can be tolerated in an otherwise desirable individual [see #15]. But skeletal or physical defects are to be avoided.

13. Discard the old cliché about the littermate of that great producer being just as good to breed to. Littermates seldom have the same genetic make-up. Evaluate the individual on style, form, and function first (class). Ponder the pedigree second.

14. Do not bother with a good dog that cannot produce well. Enjoy him (or her) for the beauty that he represents but do not use him in a breeding program.

15. Be honest with yourself. There are no perfect dogs (or bitches) nor are there perfect producers. You cannot do a competent job of breeding if you cannot recognize the faults and virtues of the dogs you plan to breed. To be successful requires a cutthroat approach to evaluating prospects and your own program. Those that do not measure up must be eliminated from the kennel. Honest evaluations of what is yours and what belongs to others are required. Difficult decisions and set backs are par for the course.

16. Choose to breed individuals based on quality not conscience. Do not allow personal feelings to influence your choice of breeding stock or prevent you from incorporating a good dog into your program. The right dog for your breeding program is the right dog, whoever owns it. Don't ever decry a good dog; they are too rare and wonderful to be demeaned by pettiness. At the same time do not use a less than adequate dog because it belongs to your buddy or is your favorite companion.

17. Do not choose a breeding animal by either the best or the worst that he (or she) has produced. Evaluate the total get by the attributes of the majority. Remember that he (or she) was only half of the equation in that production.

18. Don't ever be satisfied with anything but the best. The second best is never good enough!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Summer Training

Summer is Training Time! Birds and field time for the pups. Here's Cliff and Roy (Go Phils!) at 16 weeks old getting some work at camp Foreman over the holiday. These two horses are out of our litter by Red Rage ex Beauty. Twelve more weeks until it's time for the North woods. God I hope they are short weeks!