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Being an AA Breeder...

Updated: Sep 27

I wanted to blog a little about the Dire Wolf Project Breeder's internship - the purpose, function and it's conclusion.

When an individual desires to become an American Alsatian Direwolf Dog breeder, he or she must apply to the National American Alsatian Breeder's Association. Once accepted, there's a few basic texts and lesson plans that introduce the person to the theory and practice of non-purebred breeding. One example is required reading from Dr. Leon Whitney - "How to breed dogs". I believe that "The Dog Merchants" by Kim Kavin is being added to the list as well. There's basic Mendelian genetics to be learned, kennel architecture to study, veterinary & business education, food and material costs and management, marketing and pet population studies. This initial phase had the dichotomy of being both exciting and extremely boring. Just when I thought I couldn't possibly take it anymore, the NAABA charged me with my next step in Level I internship: breeding something other than dogs.

The purpose of this project for DWP intern was to experience genetics and genetic modes of inheritance first hand, BEFORE investing time money and soul into canines. I chose mice. I had freedom to experiment with color, size, sex-linked and polygenetic inheritance. If you go back to the very beginnings of Direwolf Dogs of Fennario's FB page, you can see the work I did with them. With one black, one pink-eyed-white, and a parti-colored mouse, I was able to breed a Himalayan male coloration, almost guaranteed to develop cancerous tumors on the rear legs. I got to "see" and feel the heartache of creating something that would suffer. (Attained tested and monitored by Jackson Laboratories). It was a hard thing to do - I was glad when it was over.

There was so much more to that project than the animals themselves. First, I had to house, feed and care for over 15 different cages - in a one bedroom apartment. Then, I had to market the placement of the offspring, and place the offspring - at the time….I didn't have a car. I kept my project for 8 months, 6 litters, and achieved my goal within 6 generations. Successful with this - I was able to pass onto the next level of NAABA Internship, now I was ready for the dogs.

At level II of NAABA Internship, an American Alsatian stud dog is given to the intern to care for. The intern is started with a male for several reasons, first being that a male is less valuable. If the intern screws it up, the loss isn't as great. How can the intern screw it up? Sell the dog and run away. Neuter the stud or lose him by not containing the randy male. Let him breed indiscriminately. Alter the chromosomes by repeatedly exposing the dog to cancer causing substances. I could go on.

When Auggie (my stud) was one year old he came to Schwarz Kennels, Direwolf Project Site #1 with me for a four month stay. He fathered one litter with "Corona" (Storm x Rosie) and one later that fall here in Colorado with "Lady Igraine" (Huck x Sprinkle). Neither of these litters were mine. In the way that most folks do co-ownership, I would either get a puppy back or a stud fee. But this isn't a co-ownership. The Dire Wolf Project owned Auggie, and his offspring were mine to study. I had two litters to gain genetics information from, as well as watch them mature. The experience and the information I gleaned about my founding stud dog, was invaluable.

Then along came Toodles Mississippi Half-Step UpTown Toodle-oo, the 1st. AKA TOODLES.

Having gained a new perspective on the dog breeding world through education and first hand experience, my next rung of the Internship Ladder to Level III would be to select, raise and breed a bitch to the male the intern had been entrusted with at Level II.

Toodles' mom, "Pearl" had been born during our four month stay at Dire Wolf project site #1. "Boss" was a young adult at the time, and I had gotten to know him well. Their match produced Toodles, who had the right genetics I was looking for, and I had first hand knowledge of both parents.

Her third heat produced an average quality litter. Each one had a disqualifier from the Project health-wise (although none of the conditions were grave or life threatening). The temperaments ranged from 5-6's to 7-8's, in American Alsatian Temperament score standards. Only one hit a "9-10" for some scores, and he passed away in his fourth month from swallowing a hard toy. This was a bad litter. Certainly not worthy of founding lines.

On the business end of this venture, I was able to keep some of the money gained from the sale of the pups, with the intention of experiencing how to appropriately invest and manage my kennels' finances.

Shipping arrangements and costs, delivery of pups, registration fees and of course my donated Direwolf Guardian pup all had to be recorded and accounted for. Books kept and available to the NAABA for scrutiny.

The Intern is also responsible for fulfilling a contract with the Direwolf Project, in which the donatednbitch is to be bred with the donating breeder's male of choice, and the intern is responsible for the whelp, testing, sale and placement of that litter.

There is no financial gain to the intern, but the intern gets one or two (depending on litter size) puppies from that litter to begin their founding lines. The intention, was to have a dog from the previous litter to breed with, but that is where we honor God's Breeding Plan - not being of proper quality, I did not have a pup from the previous litter to work with.

On Toodles' fifth season, she went to stay with Dire Wolf Project site #1 to fulfill my contract and complete Level III, host the donating breeder's litter. She did sucessfully breed with Mulan, but a case of Pymetria early in gestation caused loss of that litter. Fennario was again without founders.

To fully understand the ramifications of not having founders after three years of starting my internship, the reader needs to know that The Dire Wolf Project is a broad, long term breeding plan that involves a network of breeders. The production from one breeder will affect the other breeder's work. In order to keep the generations stable enough to practice proper line breeding and eliminate genetically inherited conditions, all generations have to carry at the same rate. Nature has taught us that when one line lags behind in a wild breeding population, a bottleneck in genetic diversity of that population has potential to form. The entire network of genetic diversity in the program depends on this.

Luckily, my breeder's association is quick thinking and prepared for such obstacles.

To keep me within the generational scope of the Project, "Kluane" (YukonxAnna) and "Merida" (Bambi x Topper) were bred and passed onto me, again by Dire Wolf Project Site #1, have come to start my founding lines here in Colorado at Fennario Kennels. The conditions of internship are the same. I am to record and observe every little hair on their heads. Whelp, test, sell and place both litter for the donating breeder, and I get one or two pups (depending on litter size) from the litters to start my founding lines. I haven't delved very deep into the genetics work for them, but what I have learned so far of these dogs sounds very promising.

With the generational heritage offered from these two females in the Project as well as the individual make-up of the dogs themselves are EXACTLY what I would have needed if all of my little plans and designs had passed the Universe's scrutiny. Even better, Toodles will be going to stay at Dire Wolf Project site #2, to see if a different environment and different lines for a stud would help Toodles. Toodles leaving Fennario is not to indicate we have been found inappropriate for her, nor that I personally did something wrong . There is no way to know what is happening with Toodles' breeding cycle unless years and years of precise data is recorded and analyzed. What we will find, either way, will benefit the Project through stats and observations. Alternatively, if she DOES produce a spectacular litter, I have been promised one of her pups….so perhaps Toodles will be in our lines after all.