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Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Shorthaired wirehaired" dachshunds without beards - use them or lose them?

This is the comment under my post

I'm very suprised you don't breed for the DTK breeding policies. So you don't breed for the FCI breeding policies too. And as you know, dachshunds are an original germann breed and the DTK establishs the standard for this breed. If you don't breed for this rules, you don't breed dachshunds!

If you tell the people, that a wirehair that looks like a smooth would be a very good match for bitches with fuller, softer coat, you know nothing about genetics.

If it would be so easy, the wirehairs would have no problems with the hair. It would be interesting to see the result: Albert Einstein and Marylin Monroe, smile.

K.-H. K.

This is my response:

It has taken me a week to think about this comment, which has been awaiting my response. There are so many points that need to be made.

I usually don’t talk about my professional training and career, but in this case I have to bring it up. I do know something about genetics. Before I left Poland in 1981 I completed coursework and Ph. D (doctorate) research thesis with focus on plant genetics. I left before the thesis defense. This was done at the Institute of Genetics and Plant breeding at the Agricultural University in Warsaw. I came to Canada and enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the Horticultural Dept. of the University of Guelph, and four years later I got my Ph.D. there. Again the focus of my research was plant genetics and breeding. After that I worked as a research scientist at Biotechnica Canada, which was purchased by Pioneer Hi-Bred Inc. From 1990 to 1994 I worked as a manager of canola breeding station and was responsible for the Brassica rapa breeding program. Since genetic principles are universal (though breeding strategies might differ depending whether you deal with plants or animals), I think that I have some ideas about genetic basis of a dachshund breeding program.

I don’t follow all the DTK breeding policies, but use the FCI standard as a guide for our breeding. Following all of the DTK breeding policies here in the USA would do more harm to dachshund breeding than good. I am very familiar with the FCI standard and DTK breeding policies since, after all, I was a co-founder of the North American Teckel Club, which is a group of the DTK, and I was the NATC first president. However, when the DTK started to insist that American breeders who have their kennels registered with the DTK follow all the DTK breeding rules, I left the club. In clear conscience I could not stay in because it would mean that I would have to compromise our breeding program. Why?

There are many reasons why DTK breeding policies cannot be implemented successfully in the USA. The USA, in comparison to Germany, is a huge country, and what is possible in European countries is simply impossible here because of the vast distances. DTK regulations require that a dachshund to be used for breeding has to be inspected by a German judge at a Zuchtschau. Until last year, the NATC used to hold one show a year, in the PA/NJ/NY area. Yet, there are many dachshunds out of European hunting lines living in mid-west (I know because we sold many blood tracking dachshunds to hunters/handlers living there), and it is impossible or impractical for their owners to travel to the northeast to attend a Zuchtschau. So these dachshunds just because they are never inspected by a German judge get automatically eliminated from the DTK breeding pool. This situation is not going to change unless the club grows at a very rapid pace and establishes its presence in great numbers outside the northeast, which so far has not happened.

For the dachshund to be eligible for breeding in the DTK system, its conformation has to be rated at least “very good”. During evaluation a judge pays a great deal of emphasis on the dog’s size, topline, tail, dentition, gait etc. For example, if a dog misses one incisor, it gets disqualified, and according to the DTK breeding regulations is not eligible for breeding. In the country with many thousands of dachshunds such as Germany, the strict selection of the breeding stock and its purification might make sense (though I don’t share this opinion). In the USA, where we have just a handful of breeders of dachshunds out of European lines, this strict and severe selection would to be harmful in the long run, and prioritization of traits is a must. On the scale of importance, the smooth coat appearing in a population of wirehaired dachshunds is, in my opinion, a minor fault. I would say that the major faults are related to health and temperament, and only a breeder or owner is fully aware of this information. The dachshund’s biggest health problem is disc disease, which is partially controlled genetically, and removing affected dogs from a gene pool makes a great deal of sense. There are other issues related to health that are present in European wires, and should selected against. Temperament problems in their extreme forms such as severe shyness or aggressiveness have a genetic component and should be selected against as well.

But when it comes to the smooth coat showing up in the wirehaired dachshund breeding, this trait is not correlated with health, temperament or working aptitude. It is a recessive trait that is not that easy to eliminate. The FCI standard penalizes it heavily, and one would think that over many years the exclusion of the “smooth wires” from breeding would bring the frequency of the gene down. I have no hard data to say whether the policy has been effective or not (and the DTK probably does not have it either), but I have seen at German hunting tests many dachshunds with the short wild boar coat. I would say that 90% of wirehaired dachshunds we have imported from Germany carry the gene for short hair and absence of beard. We know because subsequently these dogs produced short-coated offspring when bred here. I suspect that when correct harsh and wiry coats are favored in breeding, the way they should be, automatically the presence of the smooth gene is selected for also. Maybe the gene for short coat is needed for the harsh and wiry coat, and selection for the correct coat is associated with selection for the gene for the short coat. This would explain why this gene is still present at a high frequency. While in Germany I heard an opinion from a long time breeder of wires that wires with softer coats should be used for breeding to avoid short coats in the offspring. But to me this situation does not make any sense at all – you have to use softer coats for breeding so you don’t get shorthair puppies, but it is a wiry and harsh coat (not the soft one) that is described as ideal according to the standard!

We put a premium on a correct wirehaired coat in our breeding stock, and I have never used for breeding an individual with a soft and longish coat (we used a smooth “wire” twice). Yet, in almost every litter we get a broad range of coats – on one extreme softer coats, on the other extreme short coats and no-beard, and everything in between, all in the same litter. This has happened in numerous litters over many years (I bred my first litter in 1991).

It was actually Einstein who said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So in the light of empirical evidence collected over many years, I choose to face reality and adjust my breeding practices. I am not saying that the short coats with no beard are favored by us over correct harsh and wiry coats, but I choose not to throw them out any more out of the breeding pool. If a smooth dachshund out of wire parents is healthy, friendly and outgoing, talented in the field, and complements a bitch on the basis of pedigree, conformation, working strengths and weaknesses, I am not going to exclude him from breeding just because he does not have beard! There are many more important issues that I am concerned about, like the small gene pool of wires.

These days the old way of breeding dogs through linebreeding and the purification of lines in favor of cosmetic trivial traits of purely esthetic value has a lot of critics. Many scientists have spoken against it and the literature on the issue is widely available. One can access some papers at  and  (go to canine health) like this one . The dachshund is already fragmented genetically enough according to the FCI standard – after all it compromises 9 different breeds (standard-, zwerg-, kaninchen-size multiplied by 3 coats), which are not allowed to be crossed. Why to exclude smooth wires just because they do not fit the coat description of the wirehaired dachshund? They can be useful in breeding. I am not the only one who thinks this way. At The Zuchtschau 2009 I talked to Mme Agnes de France, President of French Teckel Club. She has authority to approve smooth wires to be bred either with wires or with smooths, depending on an individual dog and his merits. This is exactly the way of thinking I applaud. The last time I checked, France is following the FCI standard as well. I also like the way VDD (Verein Deutsch Drahthaar) deals with beardless Drahthaars. They are not allowed to be shown as they are not true representatives of the breed, but some such individuals get approved for breeding.

If I am wrong in my thinking, I would like to see some data and good justification how the gene for short hair and no-beard hurts the breed of wirehaired dachshunds. What harm is done when occasionally, based on strengths and weaknesses of both parents, a shorthair dachshund out of wires is used for breeding? I am not saying that keeping these beardless dogs for breeding solves the issue of coats in wires, but it does not reduce the small gene pool even further. To me we just have to accept the fact that the correct wirehaired coat in dachshunds does not breed true and eliminating shorthaired beardless dogs is not going to change it. The way we choose to deal with the problem is different – the DTK eliminates the dogs from breeding, and I choose to use them in breeding, occasionally, when needed.

The NATC 2010 - three littermates demonstrate very well a range of coats in the litter produced by two parents with very correct wirehaired coats.

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Stan said...

I think Mr. KHK may have unknowingly walked into a hornet's nest!

Jola, thank you for the well thought-out, factual information.

Lindsay said...

Good post! We have a similar "problem" in danes. Ours is color based though. There are only six recognised colors, but a plethora of mismarks. When someone is just starting out in the breed it's a lot more logical to explain to them hard and fast rules. Those rules are that you stick to your color families and you ONLY breed dogs that have acceptable colors. Once people gain more experience and look at the genetics behind it, have a good mentor, and realize that the overall conformatin and temperament of the dog in a limited gene pool is the most important thing, then they're able to make better breeding decisions that can include mismarks. It's just something that shouldn't be taken on by the novice. Hard and fast "rules" are great to start out with. Once you gain more experience, you learn about the many shades of gray to these rules.

Anonymous said...

Excellent response Jolanta!
Good god, I'd never have the nerve to tell you that you don't know about genetics!!
You're my genetic guru!!!
We also all know that there are plenty of DTK dogs and bitches in Germany who are smooth (out of wire parents) approved for breeding by the DTK (politics plays some part in it I am sure, but I do believe,(and apparently so do they) that it can help, to keep the strong wire coat
Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Very well thought out reply Jolanta. As ususal I learned something, and I hope Mr K learned something too.

It looks like Bear got the job done on three legs and Scout is carrying four pups. I had her here on the farm for two days and found her to be charming with kids and strangers, should strike a nice balance with Bear.

I take it you have you met Scout? She has a harsh wire coat and not as much beard as Bear, and does not have as pronounced a short undercoat as Bear. It will be interesting to see the pups, even though from a practical point of view all that matters to me is a coat suitable for hunting.

Best Regards,


Jolanta Jeanneney said...

Thanks evrybody for your comments and support!
Lindsay, you have made an excellent point.
Henry, I am really impressed that Bear managed to breed Scout. No, I have not met Scout but I have seen pics of her. I loved her head. This is great news about upcoming puppies.

elevagedugaulois said...


très interressant, ici au Québec le Teckel standard a poil dur est une race asser nouvelle, le pool génétique est petit et Beaucoup de gens ne se fit qua l'apparence du chien avant c'est compétence (chasse /travail)
La robe du chien enlève rien a ces qualités de travail, c'est sur ces qualités que l'ont doit travailler et maintenir un standard conforme.
A mon avis le problème de la robe n'est pas le plus important, bien qu'il en soit un . . .


Jolanta Jeanneney said...

Merci beaucoup!