Mark Basics - why does this guy like to breed labs?
I grew up with great neighbors who had a farm
just near the mall in Auburn. I spent my childhood surrounded by life and
death and furry things that chased feathered things and some of the feathered
things chased me (damn geese; there was also a goat, but he was furry). I wanted my kids to be around life and
death and to learn to take care and give a damn about anything alive. I
wanted to be able to have the sex talk like it was second nature. I wanted
to never have to explain where babies came from. My daughter was five when
she first helped me rip open sacs and pinch chords. We never needed to
talk about where babies came from. The sex talk, well my wife said that
two dogs stuck together just wasn't good enough. Darn!
I have owned labs all my life and have began breeding labs because of family, and I finally have the resources, time and will to do it right. Right means my dogs are as healthy and as happy as I can possibly make them. A puppy from me will be a healthy well socialized dog. Socialized with litter mates and adults. Socialized with people. I spent twenty years planning and thinking about what kind of dogs I wanted to breed. Less important to me is pedigree and more important is the dog's personality and their genetic history as it pertains to the dog's health. A great deal of variability will exist in any litter of puppies. Some traits are significantly determined by nature, i.e. they are genetic inclinations. Others are solely nurture, i.e. the environment a dog is raised in determines that characteristic. My dogs are all OFA certified or from a line that is, and they will be certified when they are old enough. All you have to do is have one dog in your life that you have to put to sleep at the age of two and OFA certification becomes the most significant factor in a dog's pedigree. The second trait I focus on is personality. Labradors genetically have a certain personality. Because of their parents, they might be inclined to a certain shade of personality. However, more subtle personality traits are all about nurturing the dog. I chose dogs that don't have that hyperactivity that labs can have (not talking about acting like a puppy or just acting like a lab), though how much that trait is inherited is hard to tell. I chose partners that compliment each other in their behaviors. I give the puppies stimulating environments and new experiences. Finally, I and my family spend time with them. They are puppies after all. I can't count the number of friends and extended family that "volunteer" to come play with the puppies.
The ball-drive of a dog is significantly genetic. One should look for a dog that has parents that are extremely trainable. For a lab, that means ball drive. They want to fetch and hit the water! One outlet for that kind of training is a dog that is trained to hunt. I don't hunt. Cooper is the parent of Chinook and was a hunter. I have many examples of hunters from puppies I have sold. One is a second level field champion and is Apache's brother. Another outlet is for a dog to be put through a rigorous training program of any kind. Aztec, my old male, is a trained detector dog. He is deceased now, but was the father of Sierra and grandfather to Chinook. He was used for research purposes at Auburn Vet School, and I actually was paid to train and do research on my own dog (best job I ever had). Humorously, he was trained to detect when a cow was in heat and was trained in the lab off of mucus secretions. The idea was to then reverse engineer the chemical that he cued in on synthetically, so that border collies could be trained to detect that "heat" chemical, go out in the field, and round up any cows that were in heat. It is estimated that over half the cows in heat in the USA are missed and not bred. So Aztec has proven himself in the arena of training and ball drive. It did always worry me though, how far a cow might kick my dog if they wanted him to do some real field testing.
I consider myself a reasonable expert on what I do because of my educational background and interest in dogs all my life. I teach 7th grade science, and am the proud head coach of the Auburn Middle School Science Olympiad team (16 state championships). My undergraduate was in Zoology pre-vet, and I received a master's degree in zoology and specialized my class-load on reproductive physiology. I focused on animal reproductive behavior (I studied squirrel sex, but that is a different story, my squirrelly sex story). I later got a PhD in Science Education. All this education, and the fact that I am a teacher leads to one quality I am known for. If I say I know, its based on experience or evidence. If I don't know, I'll say so (and I can throw in an educated guess if you like - I am good at that, but I will tell you if I am just guessing). There is a great deal of superstition and misconception out there in the world and that is especially true of dog breeders and owners. For example, can you believe that some people thought that if a female mated with the wrong male, you had to wait through the next heat so that she wouldn't give you a throw-back puppy? The idea that a mammal can store sperm is ridiculous (reptiles on the other hand can - pretty cool huh?). Yet, the AKC has a policy of non-breeding if a female is mated with a mistake male (don't know if its still in affect or not but some idiot bowed to popular pressure rather than knowledge). My procedures and decisions are all based on evidence, experience and/or scientific research. So if you need to know, then ask. One service I offer anyone is if you have questions, ask me. Even if you are not going to buy a dog from me, I will be glad to chat about any questions you might have. After all, I am a teacher, my first chosen career is education and that means a lot of gab.
Funny picture - the essence of ball drive - this isn't one of mine, but the next one is Copper who is a male I used.
Cooper trying a back flip