Keeping The Best & Selling The Rest
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“Keep The Best, Sell The Rest” has been a directing neon sign, flashing for breeders of all kinds of animals, be it equine, bovine, porcine and even canines! From the earliest of recorded history that man has been into animal husbandry it has been the mantra for selective breeding and consequently for keeping the best produce from those breedings. It is a nice and glorified jingle for the culling out process to bring about improvement to any breeding program regardless of the species used.
In Mary Roslin William’s (considered one of the most knowledgeable authorities of Labrador Retrievers) book “Advanced Labrador Breeding” (1988), (now re-titled) “Reaching for the Stars”) she expounds on the theory of only breeding for improvement and keeping the absolute best from those breedings. She further advocates, in her terms “running on with” with those selected individuals from each litter for an extended length of time until they either “show up or bust out!”
In other words you keep the best for a length of time and then go through the evaluation process once again, keeping those that indeed turned out great and then selling the ones that tanked!
Also from Mary Roslin William’s book, May MacPherson, renowned breeder once said “Sell always from the bottom, then if you get stuck with a puppy it will be one of your best”.
There is no contradiction by any of the other hallmark books written about Labrador Retrievers, each of those stellar Labrador breeder/authors validating that axiom as it is taken as pure gospel by all that have dabbled in breeding for the best and sharing their experiences with the masses. Each of those mentors of the past would provide good reading in the form of published books and each would advocate the theory of keeping the best, selling the rest in one form or another.
Some of those great reading books include Dorothy Howe’s The Labrador Retriever (with chapters by Anna Katherine Nicholas). Howe refers to “Keeping the cream and selling the milk”, just another way of saying keep the best and sell the rest.
One of the most prolific of writers of all breeds was Anna Katherine Nicholas, author of the “The Complete Labrador Retriever”, probably the best selling and biggest book ever written of our breed with over 352 pages. She was also an AKC judge extraordinaire, pulling in as many spectators to her judging assignments as exhibitors because of her exalted position of “who’s who” in the dog world.
I had the extreme honor of being among the thousands that exhibited dogs under her, plus in one of those “surreal, beyond reality moments” she took the time to pull a younger version of me aside to bestow some pearls of wisdom upon me.
That particular day in the 1990’s right here in Miami in our own backyard with one of the largest Labrador entries that Miami has ever had (it was a 4 point major for both sexes, missing a 5-point major by 2 dogs in males), we had also brought her a very nice number of dogs to show from our own breeding program.
Almost 2 decades later I remember almost word for word her passage to me: “You need to gather all the dogs in your kennel and ruthlessly pull out any dog that doesn’t look perfect to you. If when looking at a dog something doesn’t look right, then it is wrong! Cull that dog out without going any further! Breed your best to your best for several generations, keeping the best each time, then with great caution breed out to a well-known producing dog. In 5 generations you will be among the elite of breeders!”
“Keep the best and sell the rest” once again from one of the stalwarts of the breed!
So it follows that all of those breeding for show quality would also follow the drumming dictums of the greats of the breed! They have all read the same books, they probably listened intently as I did when one of these legends would grace our ears with valuable knowledge that they deemed was worthy of perpetuating. It is the unspoken law of the land with each of today’s Labrador breeders, they in good heart and sound mind practice what has been preached over and over again by all those that came before them and followed with great faith by everyone that has come afterwards.
Did I heed the words of wisdom opined by those heralded matriarchs of the breed?
Did I keep the best and sell the rest?
“Not exactly” (as a famous commercial states) more like “placing the best and selling the rest!”
Let me explain:
Ok, so I’m no dummy, I saw the wisdom in what they were elucidating. Of course you breed for the best from the best and then if you plan on improving, you keep the best and once again you take that and breed it to the best to get better with each generation!
Any simpleton can grasp on to that theory and with a bit of luck in obtaining some good stock, they could be well on their way to bettering their produce in several generations!
Even a non-Mensa member would be able to figure that out……………..well on second thought with so many out there that don’t even know the name of the Vice President of the USA, let’s say that those that can follow along with Mitch Miller’s bouncing ball can very well ascertain the wisdom and value to that time-honored slogan of “keeping the best and selling the rest”, so why would I be so contrary and go against the flow of conventional wisdom?
Why buck the way it has been forever, why go against the grain from what the great mentors of the breed have professed for over 3/4’s of a century?
So here comes my explanation:
Keeping the best from each litter would result in dozens of puppies being kept, raised, trained and ultimately exhibited each year!!! After a dozen years or so, there would be 100’s and that is not the way of today! That’s why!
That was the way of yesteryear where large kennels with excess of 100’s of dogs with gamekeepers to manage all the particulars of the enterprise would have the luxury of such an undertaking. The changing world around us has all but changed that as those large, big-named kennels are a mere memory of history or a footnote in most books about the breed in the past!
Accepting the changing times, not to mention all the new zoning laws aimed at regulating the numbers of pets allowed on any property and realizing that there may be a faster and more efficient way to the promised land, I envisioned a mentorship program where I could breed for the very best and then place those exceptional puppies with people that could appreciate the endeavor at hand and become part of a big picture. This “big picture” would be a program where all the best puppies from each succeeding generation would be available for consideration to perpetuate those great qualities to the next generation.
Instead of me keeping the best puppies, I would do my best to place those puppies with people that would join in and stay with the breeding program, in essence creating a large “community kennel” with multiple owners and eventual co-breeders for generations to come! Thus the Labrador Owners Community was born and has been successfully functioning for 18 years now.
So, what does all this mean to someone searching for a high quality puppy that they may obtain so that they too can get started into the world of show dogs?
It would mean “STARTING OUT WITH THE BEST” and “NOT THE REST” as has been the accustomed-to traditional, time honored way of doing things.
What are the chances of obtaining the best from a litter from the old school of doing things?
Extra Slim to None! The chances of any breeder parting with their best is akin to them giving away their first born child! You would probably have a better chance at hitting a hole in one in golf; bowl a 300 game in bowling or smacking a home run at Yankee stadium. It just is not done as it would be paradoxical to all that has been history with breeding dogs, counter to all the doctrines authored by the legendary grand dames, contrary to the incoming tide of concurrent opinions, against to what the flocking sheep have been heeding to!
It is just not done!
But wait………… it is with our program! It is the driving mechanism for Chambray Labradors and the Labrador Owners Community where……………………….
· WE BREED FOR THE BEST
· FROM THE VERY BEST
· TO PRODUCE THE BEST
· THEN WE PLACE THE BEST
· SO THAT WE CAN CONTINUE TO PRODUCE THE BEST
· FROM THE VERY BEST
Oh, by the way we also sell the rest, but not as the best, but as Pet Quality with the AKC Limited Registration.
Keeping The Best & Selling The Rest is Part 1 of a series of short and maybe not so short articles and essays that will follow shortly as time and thought permit.
If you derived some benefit from the preceding rendering, please check out the main train of thought article.