Searching for the Perfect Genes

This article appeared in the Bagpipes in July 2008.

In April of 2007, I attended the AKC Canine Health Foundation Breeders’ Symposium held at Michigan State University (MSU), and would highly recommend that you attend this event if you have the opportunity. The AKC/CHF has announced that the next canine Breeders Symposium will be hosted by Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, on August 2 and August 3, 2008. A fall session is scheduled for September in Oklahoma City. The written educational material provided is well worth the fee for the program which is $135.00 for both days.

One of the speakers is Claudia Waller Orlandi Ph.D, author of the book, ABC’s of Dog Breeding (What Every Breeder Should Know). I received a copy of the book (which includes a home study program) at the seminar I attended last year. I finally found the time to complete the sixty page test earlier this year and have received my certificate from the AKC. The book explains many genetic principles in simple terms and provides an easy-to-understand approach to the art and science of breeding dogs. Dr. Orlandi also dispels some of the myths, misconceptions, and old wives tales about breeding. I thought this information was valuable enough to share. Below are a few of the topics that are covered in greater detail in her book. Dr. Orlandi has graciously given permission to reprint the following excerpts from her book.

Searching for the perfect genes or trying to build a better Beardie is not a simple task. In fact, genetics can be a very complicated topic. The phenotype (the outward appearance of a dog) depends on so much more than dominant and recessive genes or even an outstanding pedigree. Some traits, called threshold traits, need a critical number of genes to be expressed. Other genes may improve one trait, while bringing another unwanted trait to the surface. There are polygenic traits, additive traits, sex-linked traits, sex-limited traits and sex-controlled traits. If you want to be a conscientious breeder, you should make yourself familiar with all these terms and more. Finally, remember that with dog breeding, you’re getting involved with the lives of animals (and their owners).  A reputable breeder is not a person who is in it to make money, but one who has a genuine concern for the breed and the new puppies’ families.

This is just a snippet of the wealth of information you will be provided at the breeders’ seminar. It’s never too late to learn! For more information about upcoming AKC/CHF symposiums, visit the AKC website:

If you cannot attend the Breeders’ Symposium, copies of Dr. Orlandi’s book may be purchased on line. Please visit for information on how to place an order.