EDIT: I realize now that the title makes it sound like I’m declaring this is how everyone should choose their whippet puppy. This, of course, isn’t true. This is how *I* would choose a pup for my lifestyle. Everyone’s needs and expectations are different.
Oh no, I’m not looking to add another dog, this just came up in a FB group and since I recently promised someone to write a post about it this sounds like a good time. Of course I only got to choose two puppies so far, but I have done a lot of thinking and researching these past five years, so I have some pretty strong opinions about it…
First and foremost I look for parents who have been tested and cleared for myostation mutation (in racing whippets), for heart and eye disease. I can hear you saying “But I thought Whippet was a healthy breed!” You are right, they are a pretty healthy breed, but:
The Kennel Club Survey of 2004 showed heart disease to be the most common cause of death in whippets after old age. The incidence across the whole breed is not really known but breeders are wisely beginning to test their dogs before breeding. – Whippet-Health.co.uk
This testing is much more common in USA, but I hope more breeders will start to look into it in Europe as well. I was very happy when I found Java’s litter and both parents had all three tests done!
Next I want parents who have solid temperaments (not spooky or aggressive) and have worked without major injuries (racing, coursing, agility, flyball…). I don’t care so much which sport they did (though sports with a handler are a plus for me 🙂 ), the thing that matters is that their structure was tested in the field and it held up to the rigors of training and competing. Yes, all whippets run and do crazy things and many get injured on walks even if they never compete in anything. If a dog competes for several years and doesn’t get injured this must count for something, right? For this reason I prefer older parents because they have been sound longer than young-and-upcoming hotshots. I also like for parents to be biddable (meaning they like to cooperate with people). Ruby turned out just fine even though he was the very opposite of biddable, but I would prefer to avoid all the hard work next time, thankyouverymuch (and yes, Java’s parents are biddable and so is she!).
I’m looking for good drive for food or toys in parents. Toy drive is difficult to asses in dogs who haven’t been played with as adults, so I prefer to get a dog from a breeder who does something with their dogs. I want them to have full range of motion in the rear when they run (some show dogs can have a problem here) and as much angle on the shoulder as possible.
Next I go to http://thewhippetarchives.net/testmating.php and I enter the parents in Testmating form. This will show me pedigree of the proposed litter. I check the grandparents and so on… then I click on Pedigree Analysis and it will show me the Coefficient of Inbreeding over 7 generations (I can choose up to 10). COI shows me how related the family lines are – the bigger the number, the more inbred is the litter (so lower numbers are better). For example, in Ruby’s pedigree (7 generations) many dogs appear several times. Nutshell of Nevedith appears 8 times, Pencloe Dutch Gold 9 times, Hillsdown Fergal 10 times and Siobhan of Hillsdown 11 times. His COI is 19%, which is a little less than it would be if we would breed brother and sister. Whoa, that’s quite inbred!
Here’s the COI we would get if breeding relatives:
Full sibling: 25%
Half sibling: 12.5%
Great grandparents/great grandchild: 6.25%
First cousin: 6.25%
Please read this about inbreeding, genetic diversity and health problems: http://www.dogbreedhealth.com/a-beginners-guide-to-coi/
For this reason I’m looking for very low COI – definitely less than 6%.
So let’s say I found a litter of two amazing parents who meet all of the above (I did! That was Java’s litter!). Then I choose (or let the breeder choose) a puppy of a balanced build and solid temperament. I like puppy testing, particularly watching puppies perform on visual and auditory startle tests – these tell us how resilient they are. I want a puppy who will show either great food or toy drive on the test. Java had a lot of food drive, but moderate toy drive which turned into amazing toy drive as she grew up (and she is still a foodie, too!). Also, the desire to be with humans.
It’s quite a list, I know! I wasn’t looking for a “black racing female” when I got Java. I was looking for a sound puppy from sound parents with lots of genetic diversity and lots of potential. She turned out to be a great choice, solid temperament, very driven and easy to train. While I would love to have my dream brindle-on-white whippet some day, color truly becomes immaterial when there are so many more important characteristics to look for.