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Border Collie Rescue - On Line - Breeding Methods

Breeding Methods

A short introduction to the recognised methods of breeding - and their likely results.

By Roy Goutté
This information sheet has been initiated by and for Border Collie Rescue to explain the methods behind the selective breeding of dogs

If you want to know why it is important to breed correctly, see our information sheet on The importance of good breedlines in the Border Collie.
Link in the left hand sliding menu.

Most of the following text and all the breeding information has been compiled by Roy Goutte, who has written many books on the subject and maintains a database of ISDS and KC registered bloodlines for research purposes.


Unless following a set breeding programme, I think it fair to say, that a great many people who breed Border Collies today, tend to lean more toward an outcrossing method of breeding than any other.
I have come to this conclusion based on the sheer number of pedigrees I compile for the I.S.D.S. dogs revealing this fact, and in my opinion, this is where a great many problems within the breed begin.

In broad terms, outcrossing means that neither of the breeding pair have near common ancestors; although it can be successfully argued that the majority of dogs today are related through a limited popular gene pool of the distant past.

Often the selection of breeding dogs using this method are chosen by the type of dog they are; or simply what you fancy, rather than an informed investigation of their bloodlines to determine whether they are compatible to, or with, each other.

Often you are working blind, and I feel that uninformed outcrossing is the main source of health, behavioural and ability problems in the Border Collie today.
The general result of this; as in all breeding, is that you get puppies that are a reflection of what has gone before.

Using this particular method however, there will be quite an assortment of what has gone before in the combined lineage. This can lead to a mixture of dogs where one or two could be a superb example of the breed, or, as is much more likely, a combination of varying abilities, size, temperaments and looks.

Unfortunately, if this method of breeding produces (as it has done on occasion) just the one superb dog that goes on to be a great achiever, then you often hear what a wonderful combination this was.

As for the remaining siblings; well they are often conveniently forgotten about! That one good dog is then bred from itself to other often unrelated dogs and the confusion is compounded even further.
Does this ring any bells or help explain why dogs from the same litters are very often so different to each other and vary in all departments?

If a particular dog has taken your eye and is what you consider to be the perfect example of the type of Border Collie that you like, then you should be looking at what he has derived from to hopefully reproduce his kind again, not outcross him.
You haven't got a snowballs chance in hell of purposely doing this if you outcross. It would rely purely on luck, or, a dog that was predisposed to always produce quality offspring; but they are as rare as hens teeth!

You are introducing alien blood into the melting pot and upsetting the balance. Yes I know it can and has happened; but it is extremely rare to do so on a regular basis and is really down to pure chance.


This is where both the stud dog and brood bitch carry closely related forebears, but fall short of being in-bred (see next category).

By adopting this method of breeding, you can influence the type of litter you have and within certain limitations, fix the type of dog you can expect.

I would say in confidence that this method is by far the one adopted by quality recognised show breeders of all animals who are reluctant to move too far away from their own proven and successful lines but dont care to get in too close.


This is more intense than line-breeding and brings family groups much closer together.
It involves the mating between father to daughter, brother to sister, or mother to son as the three main examples.
What you are doing effectively, is locking in the qualities that the line holds and excluding all outside influences.

This type of breeding is not so common today as it has been in the past. This is due no doubt to moral objections or problems occurring when not applied correctly (a strict culling regime or alternative is essential), or more likely because of foolishly in-breeding from health defective stock in the first instance no mater how good their working ability.

At this juncture it is important to point out that when line-breeding, or, and in particular, in-breeding is carried out, you must be totally convinced and sure that the breed lines carry no potentially harmful or dangerous hereditary faults.

The same has to be applied to all breeding of course, but when doubling-up on lines you literally have to be doubly sure...and I can't emphasise that enough! However, in contrast to what many breeders may believe, no faults will appear if there are no faults in the first place!

Line-breeding, and in particular in-breeding, carried out sensibly and correctly and after a thorough examination of the line has produced a clean bill of health, will almost certainly produce the type of dog you set your heart on and that inspired you in the first instance.

Confusion is not a word associated with correct in-breeding!

Writing in his book Practical In-breeding What it is and what it can achieve (Watmough Limited) ISBN 0 903775 08 5
W. Watmough states;
"To in-breed correctly demands experience and skill.
in-breeding does everything that in the course of this book I shall say it does. Incorrect in-breeding can be more damaging than outcrossing.
The good in-breeder works always in accordance with a set breeding plan, and he does not deviate from it unless circumstances, or his own foresight, indicate that he must do so; and then he exercises the utmost caution in making the deviation perchance he does more harm than good.
The great purpose of in-breeding is to fix the good points and eliminate the bad; to produce specimens all of one good type, and all bearing a family likeness."

And in his book
The Principles of Breeding, Eugene Davenport writes:
"An in-bred animal is of course enormously prepotent over everything else. Its half of the ancestry, being largely of identical blood, is almost certain to dominate the offspring.
In-breeding is therefore recognised as the strongest of all breeding, giving rise to the simplest of pedigrees; an advantage quickly recognised when we recall the law of ancestral heredity.
In this respect it is all that line-breeding is and more.
All things considered, no other known method of breeding equals this for intensifying blood lines, doubling up existing combinations, and making the most of exceptional individuals or of unusually valuable strains."

Outcrossed line-breeding:

This may sound a contradiction of terms, but it is a practical way of maintaining the qualities in a line-bred breeding programme when it is felt that new blood would be of added benefit as a way of adding a little something that time has decreed as necessary.
While both lines may have very little in common family wise, they have a common likeness in that they are both line-bred in their own right albeit to different recent ancestry.

The lines would both have constantly produced the identical type of dog as each other and carry all the other attributes that each breeder was breeding for individually, and of course would be free of all hereditary faults.

What wasn't there beforehand, wont be there afterwards!

Extended line-breeding:

In a way, as I have already mentioned, the majority of Border Collies are in fact line-bred to distant ancestors. This is a fact you cannot escape from, but it bears little resemblance to what is actually being produced today.

Just because; as an exaggerated example; those early dogs were rough coated, prick-eared and boxed faced, doesnt mean they are all going to look like that now, because a great deal of water has passed under the bridge since then.

The kind of extended line-breeding I am referring to is when you look back at, or beyond, the back line of a five-generation pedigree.

You may feel that the qualities displayed in your own dog at the present time reflect perfectly certain dogs of that era.

In simplistic terms, you would then find a dog that has descended from those same dogs, retained the same qualities as yours, but had taken a somewhat different route to yours to get where it is today.


The big temptation today it would seem, is to obtain a pup with as many champions in its pedigree as possible and of course because of modern breeding methods, this is more often than not achieved by multiple outcrossing.
It looks wonderful on paper and is almost seen as the guaranteed way to obtain a dog that is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

What a misbelief that is!

It can happen, and depending on who is handling the dog, appear to happen quite often, but it is not the way forward and leads up a blind alley.

Solid established breeding programs, based on certain proven dogs, will always win the day. All other avenues will just slow things down and throw spanners into the works
The history of the breed is testament to that and it will never change.

Outcrossed breeding has in a way almost been forced on us over the years as natural progression has taken us further away from those established renown breeding dogs of the past, which, because of their proven qualities, a great many dogs were line-bred back to.
Sadly, those dogs have now on the whole, and with few exceptions, been replaced by dogs who appear at the moment to be more achievers than proven breeders like their famous ancestors, so who do you line-breed to today in confidence?

For many breeders it is a huge problem, and a problem that has been intensified by faults often brought in by outcrossing.

It is to be hoped though, that through careful and judicious breeding with the dogs currently available, we will soon once again be in a position to redress the balance.

Footnote From Border Collie Rescue

The responsibilities of Breeders -

Each breeding method has its place in mans manipulation of the genetic pool of The Border Collie.
We can use a variety of these methods over generations to achieve the end results we require.
The initial responsibility lies in the determination of the end result and the application of the correct method or methods needed to achieve this.

There are problems and liabilities associated with each method.
These need to be understood and the consequences of anything going wrong researched and faced up to.

Correct record keeping, whatever method employed, is essential and to prevent inadvertent or deliberately misleading transfer of documents and identity of any dogs.

BCR would is pleased to see new laws calling for the compulsory microchipping of all dogs and particularly those used to breed from.
This task will fall directly on the breeder and will certainly push up the price of a pup as the breeder would be likely to wish to recover the extra outlay, but the price of life is too cheap these days and responsibility too easy to take on and shuck off.

From a rescue point of view, there is an argument that the breed would benefit by being less easy to obtain and more expensive to acquire.
People wishing to keep a dog should first demonstrate capability and pay and annual license fee.
From a rescue point of view, anyone wishing to breed should be a member of a regulated group that ensures standards are maintained and works to explore and exchange ideas. The group should work to a code of practice that, if in any way broken would result in the expulsion of the offending member.

From a rescue point of view, all members of any such group should be registered and licensed.

From a rescue point of view, unregistered breeders should be discouraged.

If you are interested in adopting a Border Collie from us,
please phone 0845 604 4941 during office hours.
(2 pm to 5 pm Tuesdays to Thursdays)

Please do not write to us or email us about adoption - we want to speak to you before we start the process.