On breeding, exercising, and handling (1971)


A transcript of the comments of Mrs. Florence Nagle at an Irish Wolfhound breed seminar from 1971.

Mrs. Florence Nagle

Florence Nagle, 1894 - 1988, was one of those remarkable dog people. She bred superb Irish Wolfhounds, judged all the hound breeds including Afghan hounds, she challenged the English Jockey Club and beat them, forcing them to allow female trainers, she challenged the English Kennel Club and forced them to allow female members. She has written on breeding, exercising, handling, etc. She bred IWs for 65 years at her Sulhamstead kennels. Below is a transcript of her comments at an IW breed seminar from 1971.

"I try to breed a dog that could still do the job he was meant to do. Quality, not quantity. I've only bred in all of my life from about eight or nine or ten bitches and never more than three times to the same bitch.

I only have about fourteen dogs; I never have more, and I keep my old ones. But you mustn't be sentimental about it. The thing is to look at your puppies and see if you've got one that's special. Keep that one, and then let the others go at fourteen weeks of age or so.

I've had to start over three times - we couldn't feed dogs during the wars - and I've always started from the back end, the rear end is more important than the front end, of course -- its the engine. A dog can propel himself with good hindquarters and a bad front but he can't drag himself along with bad hind legs.

Every dog probably has three faults. But some faults are much more important than others. A bad conformation is a shocking fault. The dog is going to pass that on to its puppies. An ear held a bit wrong, or a tooth out is not a shocking fault. Other important things, the jawbone is more important than one or two broken teeth. Coat isn't the most important thing either.

You must breed for temperament, and don't let anyone tell you that inbreeding causes bad temperament. If you inbreed to a good temperament, you'll have even better temperament, but if you breed to a bad temperament, you'll have a dog that you can do absolutely nothing with. Should you have a dog with bad temperaments, you have no business selling it.

My bitches are very closely line bred, inbred if you like. But you see, I have one advantage over you all. I'm very old and I know the ancestors all back. Apart from their pedigree, I know their faces and conformation and I've always inbred heavily.

People should not inbreed if they don't know everything way back. It's not a job for anybody who does not know what he's doing because you can stamp in as much as you can stamp out.

If you are a good breeder - a breeder who really means something to the breed - you don't produce a whole lot of duds. I've told this story often before; somebody said to me "Poor Mrs Nagle - how dull it is for her - all her puppies are exactly the same. She must be so bored with them." Well, that's what I've spent fifty years trying to get.

I bred so few bitches because I believe in breeding only from the very best. You want your bitch right all the way back and I think you get a lot of your conformation from her. I think she's 80% of your puppies. A great stud dog can uplift but you don't get a great stud dog very often, but you can see that your bitches are all right. It's not right to say "Oh that bitch, she's not very good but she'll do to breed from."

Some of the stock that is being bred today is from animals that shouldn't have been bred from at all. When you have mass breeding, that is what occurs. The best breeders are the ones who only breed from the very best, and it pays in good quality.

Believe me, you are not going to make money breeding good dogs. In fact, they're rather an expensive luxury. You can't mass produce quality. You're lucky to get a very good dog once or twice in your lifetime, even if you're being very careful. If you have more puppies than you can handle properly, they will get faults - not faults that they inherited necessarily - but faults from lack of attention. Even if they started good, they'd end up bad. You can't have quantity and quality.

Exercise - you've got to use your common sense and not tire puppies. Exercise must be free. You must never drag them or a dog of any age behind a car or bicycle. There's nothing worse.

Slow walking develops muscle, but there's nothing that develops muscle like a gallop. I take puppies out to a nearby field and let them run around. At about four months they begin to be interested in things and they go right around the field. As they get older, you see their gallop improving.

It's so important to do this when your dogs are young because you'll never have them as well muscled if you try to do it later. Take them out and let them go with another and gallop round once or twice - that's enough. Then you develop hindquarters and the second thigh.

Do you know what the second thigh is? It's between the knee and the hock. If you muscle that up, you won't have cow-hocked dogs. Otherwise, there's no muscle to keep the hocks straight when the dog is growing up.

You also want muscle on the shoulder. Don't get the silly idea that this is a loaded shoulder. If the shoulder is properly laid back it can't be a loaded shoulder.

Handling - a good dog, well made, rarely stands badly. Just let it stand and it will place itself beautifully.

No hackney action, please. You never want hackney action in a galloping dog. The show crowd thinks it's lovely to see a dog prance along. It isn't, it's all wrong. In England we always make the dog walk as well as trot in the show ring. If he can walk well slowly it means his hocks are all beautiful as they should be.

If you have a first-class dog, you still want presence. What is this? It's the dog that comes into the ring, holds his own head up, and then moves off, not strung up with an ewe neck.

Take your dog into the ring, let it stand on its own, and run on its own, and then you have that valuable quality called presence, which will always carry you. If you have conformation as well. It will take you right to the top."

Florence Nagle, 1971

From Afghan Hound Times