This article first appeared in the 1985 Kerry Blue Terrier Handbook
Ideally, a breeding program starts after you have studied the breed by attending many point shows, watched the preparation of the breed under the grooming tent and learned the scientific wherefore of inheritance.
The more you bring to your planning, the more you will understand and enjoy the results. It can be compared to the difference between playing checkers or chess.
If shows are not numerous where you live, go to areas where they are and study gait and construction of several breeds that are not very different from Kerries in their requirements. There are many breeds whose trotting, reach gait is quite the same. More can be learned at ringside than by reading a book.
When you have decided what you like, try to buy a good quality bitch. A top one is not likely to be available since breeders usually keep them- a second choice in a well bred litter is a good start.
When time comes to breed, do not make the "50-50 mistake", the reasoning we hear too often, "my bitch is too small, so I chose a large dog. " You may get some small and some large and no inbetween. Had you bred to a right sized dog, you are more likely to get a larger percentage of the correct size since you may have reduced the chances of large.
Heads are very difficult to "stamp", that is to maintain in length and shape as described in the breed standard.
Whatever traits you breed you will get some of, probably 50%. Therefore, try to find a mate for your bitch who is 75-25, meaning one who has some of the good points of your bitch, plus some better points and hopefully none worse. In that way you may upgrade the failure to have started with an exceptionally good bitch. Outstanding male dogs are usually available for breeding to your starter bitch and should carry some of her bloodlines.
Upgrading is a gradual process. It may take two generations to see the improvement you are after. You should keep at it if the first generation is not downward in results. If you get one cracker-jack in a litter, you are doing fine. If you are impatient and notice that occasionally a "flyer" appears on the scene and you wish to gamble, then realize that is all you are doing if you breed to him without seeing the get of the chosen sire or his relatives.
There is no reason at all to breed to an inferior dog. Preferably, both the bitch and dog will already be champions when a breeding is made. Kerry listings in the American Kennel Club Stud Book abound in champion titles which is a credit to the breeders. The more numerous breeds do not reflect the same care.
In order to stamp or imprint the qualities you find desirable, a line breeding should be your first choice. That is, a close relative to one or both parents of your Kerry. And, if available, a dog who himself is already line bred. Outcrossing can be like breeding two different breeds when the gene pool is not similar. It is done when a line does not have a quality you seek. but that comes later.
It you have purchased your started Kerry from a breeder who has already practiced the above general rules, seek out advice and ask a lot of questions. A serious breeder will be pleased to share knowledge and history with you. If you are not that lucky. you should breed a first litter very closely just to see what is in your gene pool. It may be that you will not wish to go further and you could save yourself some bigger disappointment later. You may get too many squirrel tails, albeit some straighten up, which can be a chancy fault you will wish to avoid. You may get eyes too light in color and you may be able to then have the information to choose your next stud carefully for generations of dark eyes behind him. If no undesirable results come from an inbred litter, then a more solid line can be developed when you go forward by breeding closely in your line. It may be that other breeds have had some serious inherited faults and poor temperament from inbreeding, which might influence those who advise you to avoid inbreeding. However, Kerries are still a tough and healthy breed, and with proper care, close breeding will give you no trouble. It is common in dogs to breed a bitch to her sire provided they complement each other, and if they do not, you probably should not have bought the bitch in the first place.
Kerries are lovable, wonderful pets regardless of their looks. The comments here are only directed at those who are trying to improve the breed in appearance. Although temperament is definitely inherited, and shy or aggressive dogs are to be eliminated from the breeding ranks, many lovable pets will not make the championship ranks, but bring the people they own much pleasure.
Kerries are long lived and are very rarely sick. Veterinarians would go broke if they depended on Kerries for income. In old age th develop the same geriatric problems as humans: arthritis, growths, cancer, heart disease, as well as, hearing, sigh
t and tooth loss. Because they come along with no horror list of sicknesses common to them, the breeders
should feel a greater responsibility to preserve superior qualities by breeding the genetically better dogs. There are e
nough Kerries with good hip sockets to insure that those with hip dysplasia will not be bred. Unless breeders pay attention the breed could find itself with fewer sound hips. Now is the time to care, when we have at our disposal more sophisticated diagnostic services than ever before. No superior show dog along carries the future of the breed. In fact, it is often advised that if you admire a dog you should breed your bitch to his sire, for clearly his sire had some part in making the beautiful dog and might do the same for your bitch.
Other inherited problems are: monorchidism, inverted umbilicus, missing molars. These genetically recessive traits may be minimized by careful breeding. If you breed a carrier of any poor trait to a healthy bitch, you may get, out of four puppies, an average of two who carry the trait, even if it is not evident. Obviously, it is hardly worth breeding one carrier when the result is two more. While we have a sound breed, one of the tenets of breeding should be to safeguard it.
Therefore, look on line breeding as a guide for the future of the breed, a way to sort out the bad from the good, and to emphasize the good where you can do so. Two pretty heads with flat stops will probably give you like puppies. Two early turning dogs will probably produce some early turners, and will have less chance of producing one or more which are late turning to the proper mature blue color. Two dogs with correct ear size, with dark eyes, with well angulated hind legs, etc. will provide more of the same. While these good traits abound, you should find choosing a mate for your bitch no dull 50-50 proposition.
They are a higher form of life, My dog, my daughter, and my wife, Inhabitants of a fourth dimension too mystic for my comprehension.