At Fernweh Schnauzers, we consider health and functionality to be the most important aspect of breeding. That’s why we want to explain what it means when we say we breed for health, and how we are working for healthy Schnauzers.
While the destination of our breeding program is a big focus for us, we consider how we get there to be just as if not more important.
Genetics are never simple. Having two healthy parents doesn’t necessarily mean the puppies will be healthy as well.
We test all of our dogs for health issues, but recessive genes, environmental factors, and the variable expressivity of a gene will control whether or not a puppy has dangerous genetic traits. That’s why we use a vertical pedigree instead of a traditional pedigree to make sure our puppies are as healthy as possible.
What’s a traditional pedigree?
A traditional pedigree lays out a dog’s family tree horizontally from left to right. It puts the grandparents on the right and the parents on the left. The closer a dog is to the right, the more impact it will have on a new puppy’s genetics.
Writing down a pedigree like this allows breeders to compare the health of a puppy’s parents and grandparents to determine if the puppy will be healthy.
The problem with a traditional pedigree is that it only allows you to compare the health of six dogs. That’s not a large enough sample size to draw conclusions. If you add more dogs to the sample size, you’ll have to include great grandparents or great great grandparents. Because those dogs are farther back in the family tree, their information is less likely to affect the final puppy.
The solution we found is a vertical pedigree.
What’s a vertical pedigree?
Instead of starting with the parents, and moving directly backward, a vertical pedigree includes siblings. Siblings are just as similar to each other as they are to their parents.
That allows for a much larger sample size, without sacrificing relevant information. Using a vertical pedigree, we can be much more accurate in our predictions. There are a lot of issues that may not show up when you use a traditional pedigree, that become blatantly obvious in a vertical pedigree.
How does that help us breed healthy Schnauzers?
For one thing, it means that we are very interested in the ongoing health of the offspring of our breeding program. We will often contact families who have adopted our puppies to see how they’re doing in the long term.
All the health information we collect about our puppies gets saved and informs every breeding decision we make moving forward.
We use that information to decide which schnauzers we hold back as parents. It also helps us to more accurately predict if a litter will be healthy. The vertical pedigree gives us more data than other breeders have to work with, and we believe that it is allowing us to breed healthy Schnauzers.