Do you breed for temperament?

As some of you may have noticed, we’ve started a new rescue. French Bulldog Last Chance Rescue is primarily devoted to the idea that every dog, even those with a history of being very bad Frenchies, indeed, deserve to get one last chance at rehabilitation.

This is an essential point, since many rescue now have closed their doors to French Bulldogs with a bite history. Some of this is simple logistics – it’s hard to find foster homes willing to take on a Frenchie who might try to quite literally bite the hand that feeds it. Some of it is likely liability related.  At any rate, Last Chance Rescue aims to give all French Bulldogs on last chance at a new life, but it does make me consider the issue of temperament in our breed.

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French Bulldog Coat Color Genetics, In Depth

Brindle, Cream, Pale Cream, Fawn Pied - Four French Bulldogs, Four different colors

Brindle, Cream, Pale Cream, Fawn Pied - Four French Bulldogs, Four different colors

I’m about to begin a series of posts about French Bulldog coat colors. This can be taken as a warning, for those of whose eyes glaze over whenever this topic comes up. I’m most definitely a layperson, and not a geneticist, so bear that in mind when reading.

It will be broken down into the following sections:

Brindle (which is a coat pattern, not color)
Pied (see above, with pied being a marking, not a color or a pattern)
Black Masked dogs
Fawn and creams (an attempt to decipher the mysteries of the ‘e’ allele)
“Mystery Alleles” – everything else, and then some, from ticking to agouti to Dilute Colors

I’m basing a lot of this on the new, updated coat color genetic information research being done around the world, but in large part on the work of Dr. Schmutz, of the University of Saskatchewan. She writes that DNA and breeding research has identified the following alleles definitively

Alleles known to exist at the 8 genes mapped in dogs, using DNA.

* A (agouti) = agouti signalling protein (ASIP) Examples with photos
o ay = fawn (cream to yellow to red with darker tips)
o sable (some solid black hairs intermingled amongst reddish hiars) aw = wild color of sable (black tips on cream to red hairs)
o at = black-and-tan or brown-and-tan
o a = recessive black
* B (brown) = tyrosinase related protein 1 (TYRP1) Examples with photos
o B = black eumelanin
o b, including (bs,b d,bc) = brown eumelanin
* E (extension) = melanocortin receptor 1 (MC1R) Examples with photos
o EM = melanistic mask Examples with photos
o E = eumelanin or phaeomelanin can be produced in hair
o e = only phaeomelanin produced in hair
* D (dilutes or pales eumelanin pigment to blue, and phaeomelanin subtly) = (MLPH) Examples with photos
o D = not diluted
o d = diluted pigmentation
* K (from black, “dominant black”) = Beta-defensin 103 Examples with photos
o KB = solid black, brown or blue (eumelanin pigmentation only)
o kbr = brindle (on body region that would be phaeomelanin pigmented otherwise)
o ky = expression of agouti alleles that express phaeomelanin possible
* M (Merle) = (SILV) Examples with photos
o M = Merle apparent on dogs that are not e/e
o m = wild type, no merle
* S (Spotting) = (MITF) Examples with photos
Note that this gene is certainly involved in piebald spotting, but may or may not be involved in Irish spotting
o S = Solid, or more correctly, minimal to no white markings
o s = piebald or randmon spotting, also called particolor
* H (Harlequin) = (gene not yet identified, but trait mapped to chromosome 9) Examples with photos
Note that for the Harlequin pattern to occur, at least one H allele and one M allele must be present.
o H = Harlequin pattern of Great Danes
o h = wild type, no Harlequin pattern

Additional alleles postulated to exist based on breeding data

* G (Progressive Greying) = (gene not yet identified) Examples with photos
This gene causes gradual greying of black or brown hair and paling of red hair, prior to geriatric age.
o G = Progressive greying
o g = wild type, no premature greying
* I (Intense) = (gene not yet identified) Affects only phaeomelanin pigment
o I = intense red, not diluted
o i = co-dominant, so i/i dogs are paler than I/i dogs
* C (Colored) = (gene not yet identified)
o C = full pigmentation
o ca = albino
* T (Ticked) = (gene not yet identified) Ticks are small pigmented flecks of color in white spots. Ticking is not visible on a solid colored dog. It is possible that there is a second gene causing Roaning, but that is not clear at this time.
o T = ticked
o t = not ticked

Love is in the air….

French Bulldog romeo

So, according to the progesterone results, and the fact that Tula has been sluttishly jamming her girly bits into the face of every dog who comes close to her, today was her first breeding day.

I tossed Tula, wearing a stylish pair of skull and cross bones printed season panties, and Elliott (who was wearing a slightly poopy butt and non matching camo print color) into the Element, and headed for the vet’s office. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, boy Frenchies are pretty much inept when it comes to breeding. They might be willing, but they most definitely are not able, so veterinary assistance is usually required. Barb, of course, handles this herself, but since I’m both more squeamish and much more clumsy, I prefer to leave things like this to the professionals. It’s well worth the hundred bucks and change per breeding to not have the after images lingering in my head for days.

Elliott, who is one of the best tempered intact male Frenchies I’ve ever met, was so thrilled to meet everyone at the vet clinic that he sort of forgot all about Tula and the reason for his visit.

Tula, who had done just about everything short of donning hot pants and crooning “me love you long time” into Elliott’s ear in an attempt to get his attention, finally smacked him against the wall with her rear and commanded him to just get on with it, thank you.

That did the trick. Elliott woke up, realized “Oh hey, that’s what I’m here for”, and proceeded to woo his new lady love – or rather, he wooed the vet, but since the end result was what matters, we’ll leave that alone. Elliott, in fact, was so happy to be reminded of his purpose on life that he was ready for another go, so we tossed the newly nicknamed ‘McLovin’ into a crate, and helped Tula onto the path towards motherhood.

Monday we’ll repeat the entire sordid procedure. Who says dog breeding isn’t glamorous?

A Sucker's Game

I have, from time to time, decided that breeding dogs is a sucker’s game, and that I’m personally not going to play it any more. Usually, this takes the form of my ignoring all email, and just recently I added in “and I’m not blogging anymore, either”, for good measure.

Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when you learn that a dog you love has died, without you there to hold her in her final moments. When you arrive home too late to even go with her on that final trip to the vet’s office. When you cry tears of frustration and anger at your own ineffectualness at doing anything to save her life, to keep her safe, to make her better.

Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when the emails start to trickle in, with stories of how the ten and twelve and thirteen year olds you’ve bred are dead, or dying. Old age is never old enough, and the pain you feel for yourself, and the people who’ve lost their companions just doesn’t seem justified. Words fail you – what words are there when someone tells you “And then I told the vet it was time to let him go”?

Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when you learn that the bitch you’d been waiting on isn’t actually pregnant. Haha, seems those ultrasounds aren’t so reliable, and I guess she was just fat. All that extra protein and those mid morning scrambled egg snacks sure can pack the weight on a gal. I guess there’s always next time. Or not, since this is the fourth time you’ve tried to breed her.

Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when it all hits you at once, and you have to pull off the highway to cry it all out, because you can’t see clearly enough to drive at the moment. It’s a combination of frustration and anger and disappointment and a sense of overwhelming failure that can culminate in your throwing your hands up and saying “This is a sucker’s game, and I quit”.

Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when you have to inform all of those people who’ve been waiting patiently for puppies that there aren’t any – no puppies, no idea what went wrong, and no idea when there will be another attempt. Politely referring them on to other breeders, and still getting angry, irate emails from people asking why you’ve ‘wasted their time’ with waiting can be enough to make anyone decide to quit.

Breeding dogs is a sucker’s game when you get email asking how does one, exactly, know when a dog is about to go into labor? Because, you see, they threw their dogs together into the yard, and now she’s really big and she’s making a nest in the closet, and she’s leaking milk, and what do I do now? And what’s a c section? And can you help me sell them? And you’re polite, and helpful, because it’s really all about the dog, at this moment, and not about giving in to your urge to scream in frustration and lecture about uterine inertia and why breeders have homes lined up before they whelp a litter. And then you realize you’d have to explain what ‘whelp’ means.

So, you contemplate quitting, because really – who needs it? You could raise orchids, or maybe Koi. Perhaps get into goats (cheese making might be fun). Dog breeding, after all, is a sucker’s game.

Until you get an email with photos of a girl, who goes back to your girl, who is out of your favorite girl, and did you want her? Then you get another email, and it’s that puppy you sold, and he’s playing with his soccer ball, and they sure do love him. There’s that other email, from those people who lost their dog to old age, and they think they’re ready now for another one, and do you have one, will you soon?

And you realize you miss puppy breath, and that a litter now would mean puppies playing in the grass, and there’s that play center you wanted to build for them, and then it hits you – it’s a sucker’s game, but it’s also your life, and it’s been a pretty good one.

Canine Pregnancy in Thirteen Steps

Just for fun (a statement which cries out for the writer to get a real life, or at least some better hobbies), I thought I’d do a thorough break down on the steps involved in going from point ‘A’ (Bitch in Season) to point ‘B’ (litter of puppies).

It’s more complicated than you’d think.

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