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So I was reading an old post: lack of working temperament (Lack of Working Character). It was super interesting, so I decided to open a new thread on two questions that came to my mind while reading it. Here they go:

Non-working Dobermann lines in general and even some working lines, lack nerves and biddability. But how much of these characteristics are modifiable or redirected by the owner/handler in order to improve the dog's ability to work? For example, I've heard SAR trainers to say that if you make your dog work and make an effort to get whatever she wants (food for example) from the moment she is separated from the mother, you will have a dog with more willingness to work and please (so she can get the reward), like make the dog used to work for it's food. Other interesting things I've heard is that, besides the socialization and get them used to sounds, people, different surfaces, etc... rough play contributes in shaping and improving the nerves, so when you play rough the dog becomes a little harder. But up to what point? Could a regular Doberman puppy with an expected steady temperament, regular level of prey drive (not super intense), moderate protection instinct, low to moderately sharp and a good trainer, build such a good nerves and work ethics to perform at least decently
in a biting sport (or other work that puts pressure on the dog) if raised this way?

Another thing discussed in that thread was if protection sports are the best way to evaluate the correct temperament of a Dobermann. But for example, Doberman is in the list of breeds that require a working test in order to be eligible for an FCI international beauty title (along with other breeds from the pinscher, schnauzer and molosoid group (2), herding group (1) and terrier group (3)). However, said working test is not limited to IGP, there are 4 working tests that can be used to give a working title and be ellegible for the international beauty championship: IGP, tracking, mondioring and Rescue. So, since mondio also is protection work, you hay 2 other tests that prove working ability (at least for FCI). Do you agree with this? Do you think those other types of works are not a good measure of the temperament of a Doberman? At the end of the day, this dog was used not only in protection but in many other jobs in law enforcement, the military etc. Plus other working breeds do other jobs different to their original job (all shepherds for example)....I do, however, believe that being primarily a protection breed, protection work might be like a gold standard?

Greetings to everyone
 

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Interesting--I don't have a comment; I just don't know enough. But I'm waiting eagerly for someone else to chime in.
 

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I re-read that old thread when you bumped it up. It's unfortunate that some of those posters aren't active anymore. I miss those types of threads.

Having participated in that thread, and now being quite a few more years into the breed and now active in sports, my thoughts have changed somewhat. I don't think you can significantly "change" inherited temperament. I think it's fairly old school to hear about trainers who withhold food in the way you seem to describe to make a puppy "work" to get all their needs met. Yes, good trainers use rewards (food and toy), but most trainers I know wouldn't describe it in that way, exactly. You might use a dog's meal ration while training but it's not "making" them work for it...

In any case, the thing that I think is a big problem is that many people confuse "drive" and "energy/activity level." A dog's drive to work is not the same as a dog that is simply energetic or "busy." Too often I see a dog described as having "drive" when it is simply a dog that has a lot of energy. The two are not the same.

I still stand by my belief that bite sports are not the only way to assess a "working" temperament. The Doberman is supposed to excel as an "all around" dog. Our breed standard calls for: Energetic, watchful, determined alert, fearless, loyal and obedient. If our WAE is properly evaluated and our dogs excel in the huge variety of sports offered, I still believe we are doing a reasonable job assessing temperament. The commitment to sports like IGP, Mondio, etc, is simply a huge time and money commitment that many people cannot make.

That said, I would like to see more "cross-breeding" between working/show lines, for a variety of reasons.

Not sure I've answered what you're asking.
 

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-I think you can build ON food drive by making a puppy work for their food, but a dog either has food drive or doesn't.

-I can tell you from my 2 examples of show line American dogs doing bitework, that what seems to be a common drive between them is possessiveness and the drive to protect whatever it is they want to or already possess.

-Also, when both of my dogs are in protection mode, you can throw food or their favorite toy (chuck-it balls, which they are out of their mind crazy about. I literally played fetch the day my bitch gave birth DURING whelping lol) and they couldn't care less. Which for me signifies that defensive/aggression drives are higher than prey or food drives.

-I think you can build on what a dog has (to a degree) but I don't think you can create it. I also think if a dog is too nervy or not nervy enough, you can't really change that part about a dog. Nervy is a reaction, it's not really a drive IMO. I've seen MANY nervy dogs that couldn't do bitework. Too much nerve and the dog is a liability due to biting before thinking. I think my dogs lack a bit of nerves and personally and I'm ok with that. They are thinkers and they think before they bite. A true police dog bites without thinking, from what I've heard and seen anyways.

-My dog that has been called "mostly likely to become a shepherd" is basically a couch potato. If she's not working in agility, IGP or playing fetch, she'd be happy sleeping in late and cuddling with me most of the day. So I don't believe high energy is a requirement, although we lead a pretty high energy lifestyle in general.

-You don't shape nerve by allowing rough play. You shape confidence. Your dog sees you more as an equal and therefore all humans more as equals, because it can jump all over you and bite at you and play with you.... A true "alpha" wouldn't allow that, so you are closer to it's equal. My friend who only shows her dogs gets on me because I give very few corrections to my puppies, until they are well over a year old. My current puppy jumps on me, walks all over me, we play tug and wrestle... anything and everything I can possibly do to build confidence. When I start to see that confident adult in the making then I will slowly apply more rules.

This is all just my interpretation based on what I know and have learned over the past 5 years. As Meadowcat stated, if we revisited this in 10 or 20 years I could feel completely different with different knowledge.
 

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I re-read that old thread when you bumped it up. It's unfortunate that some of those posters aren't active anymore. I miss those types of threads.

Having participated in that thread, and now being quite a few more years into the breed and now active in sports, my thoughts have changed somewhat. I don't think you can significantly "change" inherited temperament. I think it's fairly old school to hear about trainers who withhold food in the way you seem to describe to make a puppy "work" to get all their needs met. Yes, good trainers use rewards (food and toy), but most trainers I know wouldn't describe it in that way, exactly. You might use a dog's meal ration while training but it's not "making" them work for it...

In any case, the thing that I think is a big problem is that many people confuse "drive" and "energy/activity level." A dog's drive to work is not the same as a dog that is simply energetic or "busy." Too often I see a dog described as having "drive" when it is simply a dog that has a lot of energy. The two are not the same.

I still stand by my belief that bite sports are not the only way to assess a "working" temperament. The Doberman is supposed to excel as an "all around" dog. Our breed standard calls for: Energetic, watchful, determined alert, fearless, loyal and obedient. If our WAE is properly evaluated and our dogs excel in the huge variety of sports offered, I still believe we are doing a reasonable job assessing temperament. The commitment to sports like IGP, Mondio, etc, is simply a huge time and money commitment that many people cannot make.

That said, I would like to see more "cross-breeding" between working/show lines, for a variety of reasons.

Not sure I've answered what you're asking.
Yes you have, thank you!
May be I over think everything but, for example, we know that we can change the temperament of a puppy for worst, but don't you think It can work all the way around, change it for better? I don't know, I have in my my mind that It may work within some limits, because it is not changing the temperament but something like redirect it towards doing a job. Who knows this may be a good research subject.

The part of making a dog work for its food I mean like making her go through obstacles or to make her do some obedience exercise (sit or stay for example) so she can get her food plate. This way it's said to make the pup more eager to please, because she will be expecting a big reward every time she does something hard or the right way.

And yeah that was just what I thought! a good temperament test and do whatever job you want your Dobe to do should be a good indicative of good temperament.
Do you think outbreeding working/show lines and selection will improve doberman temperament towards a more working suitable breed?
 

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-I think you can build ON food drive by making a puppy work for their food, but a dog either has food drive or doesn't.

-I can tell you from my 2 examples of show line American dogs doing bitework, that what seems to be a common drive between them is possessiveness and the drive to protect whatever it is they want to or already possess.

-Also, when both of my dogs are in protection mode, you can throw food or their favorite toy (chuck-it balls, which they are out of their mind crazy about. I literally played fetch the day my bitch gave birth DURING whelping lol) and they couldn't care less. Which for me signifies that defensive/aggression drives are higher than prey or food drives.

-I think you can build on what a dog has (to a degree) but I don't think you can create it. I also think if a dog is too nervy or not nervy enough, you can't really change that part about a dog. Nervy is a reaction, it's not really a drive IMO. I've seen MANY nervy dogs that couldn't do bitework. Too much nerve and the dog is a liability due to biting before thinking. I think my dogs lack a bit of nerves and personally and I'm ok with that. They are thinkers and they think before they bite. A true police dog bites without thinking, from what I've heard and seen anyways.

-My dog that has been called "mostly likely to become a shepherd" is basically a couch potato. If she's not working in agility, IGP or playing fetch, she'd be happy sleeping in late and cuddling with me most of the day. So I don't believe high energy is a requirement, although we lead a pretty high energy lifestyle in general.

-You don't shape nerve by allowing rough play. You shape confidence. Your dog sees you more as an equal and therefore all humans more as equals, because it can jump all over you and bite at you and play with you.... A true "alpha" wouldn't allow that, so you are closer to it's equal. My friend who only shows her dogs gets on me because I give very few corrections to my puppies, until they are well over a year old. My current puppy jumps on me, walks all over me, we play tug and wrestle... anything and everything I can possibly do to build confidence. When I start to see that confident adult in the making then I will slowly apply more rules.

This is all just my interpretation based on what I know and have learned over the past 5 years. As Meadowcat stated, if we revisited this in 10 or 20 years I could feel completely different with different knowledge.
Interesting! I understand, so one can basically work with the individual drives of the dog (for example the "working for food" technique would work only if the dog has food drive no matter what you do), and confidence building. But the dog still needs any characteristic that can be used to detonate a protective reaction, if the dog don't have it, don't have it. Right?
 

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Yes you have, thank you!
May be I over think everything but, for example, we know that we can change the temperament of a puppy for worst, but don't you think It can work all the way around, change it for better? I don't know, I have in my my mind that It may work within some limits, because it is not changing the temperament but something like redirect it towards doing a job. Who knows this may be a good research subject.

The part of making a dog work for its food I mean like making her go through obstacles or to make her do some obedience exercise (sit or stay for example) so she can get her food plate. This way it's said to make the pup more eager to please, because she will be expecting a big reward every time she does something hard or the right way.

And yeah that was just what I thought! a good temperament test and do whatever job you want your Dobe to do should be a good indicative of good temperament.
Do you think outbreeding working/show lines and selection will improve doberman temperament towards a more working suitable breed?
The effect we can have on a dog's genetic potential through training is an interesting topic, and there's a lot of interesting research out there, too. It's an area of ongoing study, but essentially, there's a continuum that you can "plot" a dog in a range from bold to shy....they have a certain potential "range" they could be, based on genetics. Our training can only "move" a dog within their pre-determined range.

Here's some good reading that summarizes some of the research that has already been done: Patricia McConnell Seminar: The Interplay of Environment and Genetics on Behavior


So the short answer, is...both yes, and no. You can influence a dog's temperament, but only within the range they are already capable of having, which is pre-determined by their genetics. This is a subject that is important to me, and something I follow the research on. It's quite fascinating to study how genetics and behavior intersect. The science of epigenetics, for example, is incredibly interesting. The experiences a bitch has when pregnant can actually cause changes to puppies in utero...very important for breeders to understand. But I'm off topic now.

I don't think crossing working/show lines can strictly be called outbreeding - we're still within our breed. However, that kind of cross can create a lower COI/more diversity in pedigrees, which this breed badly needs. The breeders that I know doing this well are creating some very nice performance and working pups with great character, who are structurally correct dogs.
 

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First, I want to say that the desire to work has very little to do with food drive. We do not feed the dogs on the track or on the field. In fact, it is counter productive. We find that if the dog is hungry and you are feeding them as a reward, they are hectic and lack focus.

I see that you have also bought into one of the biggest handicaps of the Doberman breed. "Working dogs can't be pretty and pretty dogs can't work." You do not say that expressly, but you divide the bred into "working line" and "non-working line." Nerves and a true desire to work and bred in and con only be slightly modified. Even then, is it really worth it? I have seen many dogs and heard from their owners that, "He really doesn't enjoy the work. He just does it to please me." Eventually, this is not fun for either the you or the dog. This question of whether a ZTP or an IGP title are the only way to evaluate correct temperament comes down to what you consider "correct temperament". Yes, I do think that protection sports are "the gold standard" for evaluating temperament. Maybe not the only way, but the "gold standard." Most Dobermans with a moderate amount of drive and desire to work can perform adequately at some level in obedience and agility if the owner/handler has a good rapport with their dog. However, it seems there is a divide with the dogs that enjoy protection work vs the ones that want no part of it vs the ones that will sort of do it just to please you.

I also would like to mention that I think that Gretchen was her definition of "nerve" backward. Dogs that are quick to react are labeled as "thin nerved" and dogs that are more stable and slower to react, but more serious when they do are considered as "thick nerved."

I also agree with MC in that we have been combining show dogs and working dogs for many years. You will notice that I do not say "show line" and "working line" as this just clouds the issue since they are all Dobermans.
 

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The effect we can have on a dog's genetic potential through training is an interesting topic, and there's a lot of interesting research out there, too. It's an area of ongoing study, but essentially, there's a continuum that you can "plot" a dog in a range from bold to shy....they have a certain potential "range" they could be, based on genetics. Our training can only "move" a dog within their pre-determined range.

Here's some good reading that summarizes some of the research that has already been done: Patricia McConnell Seminar: The Interplay of Environment and Genetics on Behavior


So the short answer, is...both yes, and no. You can influence a dog's temperament, but only within the range they are already capable of having, which is pre-determined by their genetics. This is a subject that is important to me, and something I follow the research on. It's quite fascinating to study how genetics and behavior intersect. The science of epigenetics, for example, is incredibly interesting. The experiences a bitch has when pregnant can actually cause changes to puppies in utero...very important for breeders to understand. But I'm off topic now.

I don't think crossing working/show lines can strictly be called outbreeding - we're still within our breed. However, that kind of cross can create a lower COI/more diversity in pedigrees, which this breed badly needs. The breeders that I know doing this well are creating some very nice performance and working pups with great character, who are structurally correct dogs.
Thank you for your response, I'll read that article as soon as I can. I have thought a lot in the importance of the temperament of the mother. Fingers crossed this year is the good one to get a puppy (It's like the third year in a row I say this, hopefuly is the one) and I will pay attention to the mother's temperament because -at least in my country- everybody looks at the sire and overlook the vital role of the mother. Epigenetics in in utero development is a super interesting topic, super complex, and yes, experiences lived by the mother can modify genetic expression in the embryo (human or animal), but also the importance of what the mother can transmit to her puppies after they are born is essential for what I've read.
I have talked with a breeder for a while about a working/show breeding (my mistake with the "outbreeding" word) and its possible genetic and temperament benefits, so I wanted to bring a puppy but it will be impossible both economically and logistically.
 

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Thank you for your response, I'll read that article as soon as I can. I have thought a lot in the importance of the temperament of the mother. Fingers crossed this year is the good one to get a puppy (It's like the third year in a row I say this, hopefuly is the one) and I will pay attention to the mother's temperament because -at least in my country- everybody looks at the sire and overlook the vital role of the mother. Epigenetics in in utero development is a super interesting topic, super complex, and yes, experiences lived by the mother can modify genetic expression in the embryo (human or animal), but also the importance of what the mother can transmit to her puppies after they are born is essential for what I've read.
I have talked with a breeder for a while about a working/show breeding (my mistake with the "outbreeding" word) and its possible genetic and temperament benefits, so I wanted to bring a puppy but it will be impossible both economically and logistically.
There should be two linked articles there for you in my earlier post - both are very good at explaining in general terms genetics and training/socialization.

I absolutely agree with you that temperament comes from both parents. In fact, it is inherited from generations - parents, grandparents, great-grandparents...a good breeder understands that. It is affected by the mother's experiences during pregnancy and whelping (epigenetics). Additionally, though, early experiences of puppies can and do shape their temperament and potential for learning and, more importantly, their resilience. That's why I place a lot of priority on finding a breeder who gives their puppies a lot of experiences. Puppies who have appropriate early-learning experiences go on to become a much more resilient adult. Experiences with strange surfaces, a variety of people, mild challenges to overcome...all kinds of things will really shape that puppy's potential as a learner and as a dog.

So much goes into temperament, adaptability, etc.
 

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First, I want to say that the desire to work has very little to do with food drive. We do not feed the dogs on the track or on the field. In fact, it is counter productive. We find that if the dog is hungry and you are feeding them as a reward, they are hectic and lack focus.
Actually, that's exactly what happens to me when I work hungry 😁
I've seen this training only with some of SAR dogs in training and yes with a couple of them, which laked drive, and it didn't work, one ended up learning to play and train with a toy and the other just didn't like working at all, he was good on obedience though. With other dogs it worked very well, but they were very focused and eager to work, however that was just an occasional training method. So I guess in a puppy works the same way.

I see that you have also bought into one of the biggest handicaps of the Doberman breed. "Working dogs can't be pretty and pretty dogs can't work." You do not say that expressly, but you divide the bred into "working line" and "non-working line." Nerves and a true desire to work and bred in and con only be slightly modified. Even then, is it really worth it? I have seen many dogs and heard from their owners that, "He really doesn't enjoy the work. He just does it to please me." Eventually, this is not fun for either the you or the dog. This question of whether a ZTP or an IGP title are the only way to evaluate correct temperament comes down to what you consider "correct temperament". Yes, I do think that protection sports are "the gold standard" for evaluating temperament. Maybe not the only way, but the "gold standard." Most Dobermans with a moderate amount of drive and desire to work can perform adequately at some level in obedience and agility if the owner/handler has a good rapport with their dog. However, it seems there is a divide with the dogs that enjoy protection work vs the ones that want no part of it vs the ones that will sort of do it just to please you.
How about this idea of passing a careful temperament test and working a non biting sport like SAR, tracking, agility, etc.

I also agree with MC in that we have been combining show dogs and working dogs for many years. You will notice that I do not say "show line" and "working line" as this just clouds the issue since they are all Dobermans.
Ok but the differentiation does exist, right? but some breeders (like your self?) have done this "mixing" for some years with the goal -If I may- of having dogs no longer classified as working or showing, did I get it right?. But the general of the breeders still have "show" or "working", "American" or "euro", "show" or "pet". But could it be a tendency? that in a while, breeders cross "show" with "working", "American" with "euro"? and we ended with a Doberman, period.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'd also like to ask you people that takes the time to answer, from what kennels are the Dobermans you work with, may be I can find related dogs in my country.

Thank you again
 

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I have a question for you Pro's , So where does determination come in at ? Does it fit under Drive ? Our little girl has been a hand full - Full of Energy ! Like the energizer bunny , LOL I have had some say that it sounds like she is hard headed , Which I reply No , She is determined , She figures things out and won't quit till she does .

I have watched many of Meadowcats videos on nose work , Is Sypha working or is she determined to find the sent ? She is giving a task to do , one that she is trained for and won't quit till she finds it , is that drive ? These dogs are so smart and I find it hard sometimes to figure out just what is what .

OH I do agree so much in the genetics playing a big roll , I have called our breeder and the gal that whelped them asking questions are how they were and acted as a baby puppy Or how there Sire was or Dam , with that info I can TRY and figure out is there something I'm doing wrong or is there mom or dad showing a hand in them .

Lots of very good advise on this tread from some very knowledgeable Dober people !

Thanks to all !
 

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ECIN, I consider "determination" an important part of drive. That desire to "do" the thing they are doing, to work a task to completion despite obstacles in their way...that's really critical. In my sport, for example (Nosework), you are going to encounter a lot of obstacles that make it hard for a dog to follow odor to its source. It might be literal objects in the way, it might be that the odor "puzzle" is hard, it might be that it is hard to physically get to the source of the odor. The dog should have a desire to finish that job, not simply because they are trained to do it, but really because there is innate desire in them to do the work. If you don't have that, you won't succeed at high levels, in my opinion. And I think that's going to be true of all sports. It's that "won't quit" attitude. I think Denise Fenzi wrote a really excellent, succinct summary of what "high drive" is, in general terms, in this blog post (and, pointing out, again, that drive is not to be confused with energy). She basically says that it's the "won't quit" attitude, Ken: Drive ~ Denise Fenzi's Blog

But, of course, we can speak of "drive" generically...a desire to work, but there is also much more specific drives. There is a long article on the DPCA page on drives: Definition Of Drives | Doberman Pinscher Club of America
 

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Thanks MC for your reply and the links - I read the one from Denise and will reread it again a couple more times -- Yes , I ma be slow and picking up what she is putting down : )))

As far as Mr. Business - we were contacted by a trainer that I had taken him to a few years ago and asked if I would consider training him in search and rescue - She was very high on him and said he is only the second dog she thought would excel in that .

Now little girl - she is super high energy and very determined , As she has got older ,matured , I am able to channel that energy into something positive , but it has taken time and lots of patients , But I am seeing the change in her , I will say that I personally think she is a nature nose work - search and rescue type Doberman - maybe agility also , she is very athletic , more so than any of the others in my book . Her Obedient's is just now coming into better things , I just don't see her as a Rally girl LG is to -- as you called Sypha -- to spicy , lol
 

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I agree with a lot of what MC stated above. I do think that determination is a large component of drive, but it needs to be coupled with the desire to please you. Determination to complete the task you have focused her on is great. If she decides she doesn't care what you want and her determination is focused only on her desires is hard headedness.
 

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I'd also like to ask you people that takes the time to answer, from what kennels are the Dobermans you work with, may be I can find related dogs in my country.

Thank you again
We have bred our own dogs rather than buying from another. In recent years, as working dogs, we have bred to (among others):
FCI INT/VDH, DV CH Index vom Hellerwald IPO III FH2
FCI INT/Belg CH Nostra van de Donauhoeve IPO III AD Körung ZVA 1A
Multi (Numerous Countries) CH Destiny's Phoenix Highway To Hell IPO III ZTP V1A
 

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ECIN, I consider "determination" an important part of drive. That desire to "do" the thing they are doing, to work a task to completion despite obstacles in their way...that's really critical. In my sport, for example (Nosework), you are going to encounter a lot of obstacles that make it hard for a dog to follow odor to its source. It might be literal objects in the way, it might be that the odor "puzzle" is hard, it might be that it is hard to physically get to the source of the odor. The dog should have a desire to finish that job, not simply because they are trained to do it, but really because there is innate desire in them to do the work. If you don't have that, you won't succeed at high levels, in my opinion. And I think that's going to be true of all sports. It's that "won't quit" attitude. I think Denise Fenzi wrote a really excellent, succinct summary of what "high drive" is, in general terms, in this blog post (and, pointing out, again, that drive is not to be confused with energy). She basically says that it's the "won't quit" attitude, Ken: Drive ~ Denise Fenzi's Blog

But, of course, we can speak of "drive" generically...a desire to work, but there is also much more specific drives. There is a long article on the DPCA page on drives: Definition Of Drives | Doberman Pinscher Club of America
MedowCat, thank you for the articles including the ones you posted on Ecin reply. I'll have to make some time to read them, and I will. I read "Patricia McConnell Seminar: The Interplay of Environment and Genetics on Behavior" and it answered a lot of questions and I understood better what you told me. The links to the other two articles, one doesn't work and the other takes to the website of a research group with a list of very interesting research articles, some available in pubmed, that I will look at soon. Thanks to this I found one about temperament of cloned working dogs published in the journal of veterinary science, I'm reading it...it's so cool!


We have bred our own dogs rather than buying from another. In recent years, as working dogs, we have bred to (among others):
FCI INT/VDH, DV CH Index vom Hellerwald IPO III FH2
FCI INT/Belg CH Nostra van de Donauhoeve IPO III AD Körung ZVA 1A
Multi (Numerous Countries) CH Destiny's Phoenix Highway To Hell IPO III ZTP V1A
For what I've read, those are pretty well known dogs (show/working dogs right?). In Mexico there are no breeders of working lines, except one that I know of, but I think he is in the US now. Some breeders cross Euro with American but I don't know how well thought are those breedings. However I know about a dog (really nice dog) from Cambria lines that used to train IGP -I don't think he was titled though- and there is another American titled in IGP2, with American and SA ancestry.
 

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Hmm, not sure why the links aren't working for you. Everything I posted opens for me, and nothing was a pubmed link...? If you are on a laptop or desktop you should be able to hover your mouse over the highlighted name of what the link name is and it will show the actual URL of the link. The new forum software automatically formats these now into clickable links instead of typing out the URL.
 
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