Rottweiler Breeder - Rottweiler Puppies - Rottweiler Stud Dog - Esmond Rottweilers | Mike Jackman & Ann Felske Jackman | Ontario Canada


How do you decide which Rottweilers to breed?

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How do you decide whether an individual dog is one you'll use in your program?

There are numerous criteria that help us to determine whether a dog or bitch will be bred, some of which are outlined in detail below.  We believe that the breeding of Rottweilers is first and foremost the breeding of working dogs.  However, it is also important that the Rottweiler has breed type which makes it easily identifiable, the physical soundness to do the job and the temperament that is true to the breed's heritage.

To determine these things, we must test the dogs.  This means proving each breeding prospect through various competitions that are set up to emulate working scenarios as well as seeking the opinion of others in the form of conformation showing.  It also means health testing for known genetic disorders.  Without doing these things, we have insufficient information about the dog to properly choose a mate.

Ultimately, we choose dogs that are an improvement over their ancestors and who give us reason to believe that they will bring further improvement in subsequent generations. 


Which is most important...Breed Type, Temperament, Working Ability or Health?

Neither is more important than the other.  Each of these items combined is what makes a Rottweiler.  A dog that is true to breed type is still not a Rottweiler if he cannot do the job he was bred to do.  A mutt can be a great working dog, but without breed type, he is obviously not a Rottweiler.  A great looking dog who also excels in the working venues must be physically sound in order to reach his full potential.  And above all else, the Rottweiler must have exceptional temperament in order to live in today's society.

Because the Rottweiler Breeder must take so many items into consideration, it is difficult to perfect any one portion without sacrificing another.  For this reason, many breeders have opted to focus solely on conformation aspects of the Rottweiler, or harp on health clearances while producing dogs with unstable temperaments...after all, it is far easier to perfect one thing than all four!  The problem with this can be seen in several other breeds....consider the German Shepherd dog or the Golden Retriever.  In both, the deviation between the show and working dogs has grown so great that they could almost be two different breeds, not only in type, but in temperament.  It is up to breeders to ensure that this doesn't happen to the Rottweiler. 


How important is an AKC or CKC Championship title?

The Championship title tells us several things.  First, that the dog does not deviate greatly from the Breed Standard.  Second, that it was deemed the best of the competition that day by more than one judge and third, that it had the type of temperament that allowed it to be exhibited in close proximity to other dogs and to submit to examination by a stranger.  Lastly, it tells us that the owner of the dog cared enough to spend some time and money proving their dog's quality prior to breeding. 

It is important for breeders to seek the evaluation of their dogs by outside parties.  Failure to do so can lead to Kennel Blindness.  It is also important for the breeder to personally attend large specialty shows so that the breeder can evaluate for themselves how their dogs compare to the best of what other breeders have produced.

While it is true that poor quality dogs can finish their Championships with the right handler, in general, it is a quality dog that wins on any given day.   However, it is worthwhile to personally assess the "value" of each Championship earned.... ie. what type of competition did the dog defeat?  For instance, in the case of the UKC or UCI International Championships, a dog can obtain the title without defeating others of the same breed.  Because of this, we do not consider either title as one that gives us sufficient information to make a breeding decision. 

It is also important to realize that a Championship alone does not make a dog worthy of being bred.  For this honor, the dog needs to prove himself in several other ways as one of the best the breed has to offer.


How about Sieger Show ratings?  Are these worth considering?

Yes.  There are several differences between a Championship (point) show and a Sieger Show rating.  By and large, the Sieger Shows in the US and Canada invite ADRK or FCI judges to officiate and judging is done according to the FCI Standard.  Evaluations by ADRK judges are highly sought after because, like most specialty judges, they are Rottweiler Breeders themselves. 

The Sieger Show is run differently than the AKC/CKC show.  The dog is shown European Style... free-baited (meaning that he has to show himself off) rather than handstacked.  Lack of time constraints also allow the dogs to be gaited further than in the traditional show ring, allowing us to better assess each dog's movement and stamina.  The judge also critiques the dog item by item, for all to hear, so that we have a better understanding of how he decided to award ratings and placements.

These shows are a great learning experience and are a nice compliment to the other show venues in that the dog will often see competition that it may not encounter at the AKC or CKC shows.  It is important to remember however that it is still a subjective rating and that a dog can be awarded V-1 without any competition.  Like any show venue, it is important to evaluate the competition before putting too much emphasis on any one win. 


How important are working titles?  Are some venues more important than others?

Working titles are of the utmost importance.  When a dog earns working titles, especially at the advanced level, he has proven, to some extent at least, that he is both physically and mentally sound.

The show ring was originally designed to ensure that each breed retained the physical characteristics that would enable it to do the job it was bred for.  The Rottweiler is classified in the Working Group...comprised of breeds whose foundation was based on carrying out a task.  In our breed, those tasks changed over centuries...from guarding the Roman armies, to working livestock, to pulling a bucher's cart to market, to police work to "sport" work.  The ability to adapt to these changes are a testament to the versatility of the Rottweiler.  To that end, it is important that breeders continue to prove that the Rottweiler has the physical and mental ability to perform any one of these tasks prior to being bred.

Indicators of working temperament are many and varied.  For this reason, competitions are set up to simulate real world situations.  Titles in these venues tell us that the dog could be trained to meet the minimum requirements for that sport.  Many will argue the advantage of one sport over another, however it is important to realize that, while every venue provides us with valuable insight into the dog's character, no one sport can provide us with every bit of information that we seek. 

For us, trialing the dogs in multiple venues has proven the most valuable, giving us insight that we may not have had if we'd focused solely on one venue.  For instance, a dog who excels on the Schutzhund field and is also a Champion with agility and herding titles tells us several things...that the dog is courageous, yet knows when to recognize when a person is not a threat.  It tells us that the he has enough prey drive to do protection work, yet can control those same drives when working livestock.  It tells us that he is willing to work carefully and closely with us in the obedience and protection phases, but still can think on his own during tracking and herding.  It also tells us that the dog stayed physically sound enough to hold up to the rigors of the agility field, that he was able to hold up mentally to the owner's stress level in competing and that, most importantly, he must have been enjoyable to work with if his owner chose to do so much with him.

Sometimes a dog's accomplishments will be limited by the preferences of his owner.  In these cases, we generally ask to show or work the dog ourselves so that we can better understand the dog, his fundamental temperament and drives.  Every Rottweiler must be able to prove to us that he is good at something before we will consider him for breeding.  Click here for a listing of Titles that can be earned.

As with the conformation Championship, it is important to bear in mind that proof of working ability is still only one facet of the complete Rottweiler.  Regardless of his working accomplishments, he still has other things to prove that make him worthy of being bred.


Which health clearances are the important ones?

Every Rottweiler should be screened for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia as well as for Cardiac and Eye Disorders.  These evaluations must be performed by specialists. When the dog has passed these evaluations, he will be assigned a number by the OFA (hips, elbows, heart) or CERF (eyes).  Use the following link to learn more about Interpreting Health Clearance Numbers.  Many breeders have also begun screening for Luxating Patellas and Thyroid Dysfunction.  Both can also be certified by the OFA.

You will notice that the ARC and MRC Code of Ethics require hip screening only.  Recently, the Rottweiler Club of Canada added cardiac screening to their requirements.  These are the recommended MINIMUMS.  A reputable breeder will do far more testing than the minimum.  In addition, responsible breeders will list both passing and failing results in the databases.  The reason for this is that all information is valuable when making breeding decisions.

In a nutshell, all health clearances are important.  That said, there are a number of health disorders that breeders must also take into consideration, any one of which can be heritable, but that we do not have genetic testing for.  These include, but are not limited to, early onset cancer, ACL/CCL ruptures, OCD of joints other than elbows, auto-immune disorders, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, degenerative spine disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, and bloat.

While we would like there to come a day when we could say that we only breed dogs who pass all of the "Big Four" (hips, elbows, heart and eyes), sometimes exceptions do end up being made in order to avoid far greater problems.  In these cases, each breeder will assign their own hierarchy to each trait...Meaning what one breeder will accept, another may absolutely avoid.  For instance, we will not breed dogs who have ruptured an ACL ligament, yet it is common practice in our breed.  However, another breeder will refuse to consider a dog who didn't pass elbows, yet we have produced generations of dogs who have stayed sound into old age with elbows that were rated DJDI with the OFA.  That hierarchy may also vary based on existing strengths and weaknesses in an individual pedigree and it can change based on where the breeder is in regard to achieving all of their goals.

There will always be health risks inherent in every breeding.  If a breeder tells you that a potential litter carries no risks, they are either being untruthful, or have not researched carefully enough.  Though we will always have to accept some risks, it is the breeder's responsibility to identify what they are and communicate them to you.  This means testing for ALL known genetic defects, sharing the restults of that testing, and proving the dog is indeed physically sound by way of working him. 

As repeatedly stated above, health clearances alone do not make a dog worthy of being bred.  OFA/CERF certifications are only proof of what the dog should be.  He still needs to prove what he actually is.

For more information about how health clearance information is used, please read:
Genetic Testing and Counseling ~ Jerold S. Bell (Tufts University)


How do you make the decision to breed a particular male to a particular female?

The short version is that we take all of the above into consideration!  However, once we determine that the dog and bitch complement each other in the obvious ways...type, temperament, health clearances and pedigree, we then break each of those categories down further to really assess whether they will be the right match.   

For instance, when we assess type, we consider approximately 40 different items from the obvious like heads, toplines, movement to the less obvious such as length of hock, rib spring or shoulder layback.  We evaluate each dog, piece by piece, with the goal being to find dogs who share attributes while also offsetting each other's faults.  When we do this, we always give priority to structural items, yet still must bear in mind that the fine points... pigment, markings, eye shape, cheek fill, ear set... are what give us breed type.

Next we consider each facet of each dog's temperament and working ability... items such as desire to interact, rate of learning, ability to generalize and retain, level of independence, distractibility, adaptability, quickness to engage, ability to settle, natural eye contact, food and toy motivation, ability to handle correction, willingness to retrieve, threat threshold, overall courage, tenacity, appropriateness with children, level of rank seeking, ability to redirect, dog aggression, sense of humor etc.  As you see, evaluation of temperament goes far deeper than simply asking "are they nice dogs?". 

The reason for so carefully matching qualities of temperament is that our breed calls for many conflicting personality traits.  The breeder's job is to always breed toward the middle of these traits, while holding true to our own interpretation of the breed standard.  Our personal goal is to produce a strong and courageous dog, who is eager to please and easy to who can take on any threat, yet still be gentle with children.  Sounds easy, right?  Imagine instead if we inadvertently combined the wrong traits and ended up with a strong and courageous dog who is also rank seeking and dog aggressive, too quick to engage, with little desire to please and who is not good with children?  The reality is that breeding Rottweilers without a serious dedication to proper temperament will result in our inability to continue to own them in the future.  We cannot take shortcuts or make mistakes in this regard.

In addition to phenotype (what we see), we also have to consider genotype (the genetic information that the dog carries).  Once we have determined that a dog and bitch are compatible, we then look one step further, researching how these lines have crossed in the past, and evaluating common ancestors to ensure that we are not setting ourselves up for unexpected surprises.  Researching the pedigree in this manner requires many breeders to work together with honesty and full disclosure.  Without this type of teamwork, we will have trouble finding success. 


I've heard terms like Inbreeding, Linebreeding, Outcrossing...which is best?

All have their place in a breeding program and each are valuable for different reasons.  While most Rottweiler breedings would be considered outcrosses (ie. no common ancestor in three generations), many are actually loose linebreedings when we consider that the dogs go back to related ancestors.  Rarely do Rottweiler breeders utilize inbreedings (Father/Daughter, Mother/Son, Brother/Sister).  An easy to understand explanation of these terms can be found HERE

Regardless of the path that the breeder chooses, they should be able to clearly walk you through the advantages of the pairing, as well as the risks that were taken.  Simply stated, the more closely related the parents, the more knowledgeable the breeder must be.


Is the sire or the dam more important to the type and temperament of the puppies?

The sire and the dam each contribute 50% of the puppy's genetic makeup.  It is a fallacy that the dam contributes more than the sire to the actual gene pool or that a top quality sire is able to compensate entirely for his mate’s lack of quality.

For this reason, both the sire and the dam need to be equally outstanding if we are going to utilize them in our breeding program.  It should be remembered that, once bred, a poor or mediocre Rottweiler remains in our pedigrees forever.

However, the dam is of particular importance because she will influence the puppies social interactions from day one.  Because of this, it is critical that breeders choose dams who are not only outstanding in quality and sound in temperament, but who possess good mothering skills.  


How important are the littermates of the sire & dam when considering a breeding?

Very important.  Breadth of pedigree is as important as depth of pedigree, if not moreso.  Gathering data on siblings will help us to form the "bigger picture" when it comes to making our final breeding choices.  Ideally, we will choose a dog that comes from a family of above average individuals.  We have found this far more successful than breeding to one outstanding dog that was produced by average ancestors. 

It is equally important to know the health clearance results for littermates.  For instance, we would consider an OFA Fair dog that has 8 siblings, all of whom are Good or Excellent, before an OFA Excellent dog who has 3 dysplastic littermates. 


How important are the grandparents/great grandparents when considering a breeding?

Very important, especially if they are still alive.  While a grandparent or great-grandparent won't contribute as much of their genetic makeup to the litter as the sire and dam will (unless they are being linebred upon), they can give us valuable insight into longevity, an item that we must be careful to pay attention to when making breeding choices. 


Is each breeding done with the same goals in mind?

While we will always strive to produce a dog that meets our vision of the Rottweiler in type and temperament, each litter is produced in an effort to take our breeding program in a particular direction.  What our breeding program needs at one point may be very different from what we need another time. 

For instance, there may be a physical trait that we have been inattentive to while we were focusing on working ability.  A particular breeding may be done to get that trait back in line.  Or there may be a strength that we already have but would like to solidify.  We also will have owners with varying needs.  Therefore, one litter will not necessarily suit them all.  Ultimately, we work hard not to deviate very far from our ideal while still making the breeding choices that take us in the direction that we need to go.

On the whole, we will have periods where we strive to bring in working traits, and other times our focus will be on maintaining conformation.  We have found that using dogs who are excellent in breed type for one breeding, then utilizing dogs who are outstanding in the work the next time gets us closer to our goals than trying to find a dog who is simply good in both areas.


Once you've chosen a sire and dam, will I be able to meet both of them?

It is not often that we own both the sire and the dam but, yes, if we do, you are welcome to come out to meet them.  More often than not we are utilizing an outside sire, as our one stud dog could not possibly be the right match for all of our girls.  In these cases, we will gladly put you in touch with the stud dog owner so that you can arrange to meet him if logistically possible.


I liked a litter that you produced in the past.  Will you repeat that breeding?

We rarely repeat breedings.  In general, we feel that if we got what we were anticipating in a breeding, we will have what we need to go forward with.  And if we did not get the qualities we were hoping for, we shouldn't expect to get them next time around.

Repeat breedings tighten up the gene pool, diminishing genetic diversity in the breed.  If we like a breeding very much, we may do a related pairing instead of a repeat.  That said, there are sometimes unexpected circumstances that will result in a repeat breeding.  If it is a specific pairing that you are wondering about, it is best to contact us directly to ask.

For more information on Genetic Diversity and what it means, please read:
Popular Sire Syndrome and concerns of Genetic Diversity ~ Jerold S. Bell (Tufts University)