Aine (Kellaney Boxers): How would you choose a puppy for breeding, which points have to be present in the puppy without making compromises?

Monique Hodgkinson (Tanyati Boxers): I think you always have to make a compromise when choosing a puppy! No dog is perfect, so a compromise will have to be made. Deciding what is an acceptable compromise for you is where the challenge comes. My choice is made primarily for type, very closely followed by temperament. While temperament is extremely important, it does not come before type. Any mongrel can have good temperament – we are breeding Boxers so type must come first. Then you have to decide what it is you are trying to achieve.

Are bites a problem in your lines? Then choose the puppy with the best bite possible, even if that means you need to compromise on eye colour, for example. Are toplines a problem? Choose the puppy with the best topline, even if it means you need to compromise on some other aspect. Some of us have some characteristics that we are just not willing to compromise on. I will never keep a puppy whose bite is not symmetrical between upper and lower jaw, regardless of how good the rest of the puppy is, but I will compromise on cosmetic faults, like light eyes or uneven white markings.

A breeder needs to decide upfront which are the things that they will compromise on and which are the things that they won’t. It also depends on your reasons for keeping a puppy, as to what you base your decision on.

Have you some valuable frozen semen that you do not want to risk producing white puppies from? Then you’ll want to keep a plain puppy. Do you want a puppy for the show ring where white markings are a pre-requisite in your breed ring? Then you’ll want to keep a puppy with attractive, symmetrical white markings.

It is also important to know what the universal problems are in the breed. Are hindquarters very weak, with weak hock joints and cow hocks prevalent everywhere you look? Keep the puppy that is as close as possible to perfect in hindquarter, with a pelvis of correct length and lay, correct angle of stifle, a very strong hock joint, short rear pasterns and no sign of cow hocks anywhere. But possibly the most important thing to have at your disposal when choosing a puppy is a complete absence of kennel blindness!

Know and recognise the faults in your lines – we all have them, even if we think we don’t. Be brave enough to admit to them and work at eradicating them. You may not do it in one generation, or even two, but as long as you can recognise where the problems are and be firm in your resolve to get rid of them you will achieve your goal.