Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Happy 3rd Birthday to Journey and Pirate!

Three years and 4 months and some days ago, I was planning to do a breeding using frozen AI. At the same time, a female GSD I had been a fan of for a few years was scheduled for an AI with frozen semen. Over the years, I have tried for four litters from frozen semen, and only one has worked -- this one three years ago. And of course, this other female GSD got pregnant too!

And that is how I ended up with two lovely girls who couldn't be more different in looks or behavior or attitude, but just four days apart in age -- Journey and Pirate.

Journey turned 3 on Jan 13 and Pirate on Jan 17 (today!), and so I took a few portraits of them to share how they have grown up.

Journey is red sable, compact, small (about 58 pounds now), and lovely in temperament and looks. She has a streak of mischief to her, but her sweet personality and natural love and gentleness with children mean she's a heart stealer.

Pirate is intensely bonded, affectionate, intensely interested in pleasing me (as long as that doesn't mean she can't jump on me), often silly and joyous, yet with a serious side, and no hesitation to let me know what she wants. She's solid black, tall, square-built, about 68 pounds, most of the time. She's got her dad's sweetness and her mom's no-nonsense approach to the things she wants. She's taken a while to grow into her legs, but I think she's finally starting to fill out now that she's three.

Pirate was NOT at all happy with having to stand still for a stacked picture.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

November 2017 - IPO Trial

In late November, I trialed Hammer and Xan for their IPO2 and IPO1 titles. Hammer had some significant bobbles in obedience and didn't pass, but Xan got her IPO1 title! I got some fun pictures, though, so I thought I'd share! :)

Hammer, obedience

Hammer, obedience

Maintaining my poise during the critique. It was NOT our day!

It was Xan's day!

Xan and Armin

Xan and Armin

Xan and Armin

Xan and Armin

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


In German Shepherds, a "bicolor" is a tanpoint dog -- where the tan doesn't extend beyond the typical "points" that you see in many breeds. The masking gene and the black recessive are what make a tanpoint GSD be marked differently from, say, a tanpoint rottweiler or doberman or Manchester terrier or black-tan coonhound.
Blackthorn's Coal, BH
In GSDs, you can tell a bicolor dog from a dark black and tan (blanket back) by the following characteristics:

  • toemarks
  • tarheels
  • no tan around the barrel of the chest
Blackthorn's Jedi (full brother to Coal)
Some bicolor GSDs carry the black recessive, which causes heavier black coloring, some carry modifiers for heavier masking.

If a dog has fewer modifiers for masking, the tanpoint/bicolor dog might have tan eyebrows, tan points on the chest, or tan cheek marks.

In order to get the saddle pattern (seen in beagles as well as GSDs, for example), you need to have at least one copy of the "creeping tan" gene, a modifier gene that causes the tan areas of the dog to expand as the dog matures. The tan continues to "creep" throughout the dog's life, so that a 10 year old will have less black coverage than a 1 year old.
Blackthorn's Bright Heart, CDX, Sch3, CGC
A regular tanpoint GSD with 2 tanpoint genes (no black recessive) and no modifiers might look similar to Hunter. 

Blackthorn's Hunter, JHD
Note that Hunter has toemarks and tarheels and no tan around the barrel of her chest.


A tanpoint with 1 copy of the creeping tan gene with no black recessive might look like Nike. She had 1 copy of the modifier gene -- she produced saddles/blanket backs (Jubilee) and bicolors (Hunter, Coal, Jedi, among others) -- but never a solid black puppy.

Ike v Del U Haus, Sch2, and Hellequin v Eichenluft, Sch3

A tanpoint with 1 copy of the creeping tan gene with the black recessive will look like Xita or Jubilee or Xan. These are often called "blanket back" black and tans. Notice how all of these dogs have no tarheels or toemarks--and they all have some tan under the barrel of their chest. Other typical features are shaded-tan areas on their cheeks and tan behind and inside their ears.

V-Xita vom Ludwigseck, IPO1, Kk1a
Notice how Xita gained more brown/tan as she matured.

Blackthorn's Jubilee, CD, HS, RA, JHD
Blackthorn's Xanthippe

A tanpoint with 2 copies of the creeping tan gene will have a saddle pattern, even if the dog carries the black recessive. Usually, this will be a darker saddle--less than a blanket back, but more than the most common saddle pattern. It can be hard to tell the difference between bicolor and a "blanket back" black/tan dog when they are puppies.
Jubilee at 8 weeks old -- toemarks starting to fade.
A puppy with the black recessive may have toemarks as puppies and they won't always have much black on their face. The toemarks may remain until the dog is as much as a year old--but they will fade once the dog is an adult.

Bicolor and saddle-back pups at about 10 weeks
Here are some examples of bicolor and black/tan pups at about 7-10 weeks old.

This girl grew up to be a bicolor.

Both of these girls grew up to be bicolors.
Black-tan (blanket back)
This dark boy lost his toemarks and is a "blanket back" as an adult.
Baby Xan - "blanket back"
This girl looks like a "blanket back" at 2 years old,
but I think she will end up looking like her grandmother Nike.

The degree of masking will also play a big factor in how dark any of these dogs will be. Note that a tanpoint with 2 copies of creeping tan (so, your typical saddle-back dog, with a small saddle that doesn't cover the shoulders) will never produce bicolor because every one of his/her pups will carry at least a single copy of creeping tan.

I am pretty sure that a black dog or a sable dog can carry the creeping tan modifier. I have had sable dogs who produce no black dogs, but only bicolor when the pup inherits black from one parent and sable from the other. Danca produced sables and bicolors, never black pups when bred to my Coal (who was tanpoint with the black recessive).

Danca v Leibnitz, Sch1 - she had light tarheels and toemarks.
Dance produced my M and L litters out of Coal -- the pups were bicolors and sables.

Lynx and Musket
A sable who carries "saddle" tanpoint will have a saddle-like pattern and will not have toemarks.
Frostbite v. Pantara, Sch1, KK2

A homozygous sable (sable/sable) will usually have toemarks, but I haven't seen enough to know whether they always dog. These dogs will only produce sable pups (when breeding "standard" color GSDs).

Acky vd Neuen Lande, SchH3
homozygous sable, very richly pigmented.
I think he had very faint toemarks, but my pictures are of poor quality,
and it's hard to tell.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Go Xan, go! -- Joy in the Work

Blackthorn's Xanthippe
(Django vh Jurjim x Blackthorn's Jubilee)


Thank you to April Attai for these pictures from training at Schutzhund Village!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chasing Dreams - Blackthorn's Z Litter

A few months ago, I started trying to get puppies using frozen semen from Coal. I didn't try to collect him until he was an older dog, so I was only able to get about 2 breedings' worth stored before he became infertile.

I have seen more frozen AI breedings fail than survive, so I tried very, very hard not to get my hopes up, but inside my head, I was jumping up and down and crossing my fingers and feeling very superstitious. I didn't want to jinx it, anything could go wrong at any time.
Oda--"lightly" pregnant
I chose Oda for this attempt, a breeding I had planned since Oda was a young dog--only to find that Coal became infertile as he got older. The breeding of Coal's brother Jedi with Oda showed me that I had good reason to believe that I would get what I wanted from this combination--sound, drivey, intelligent, useful, beautiful dogs. Getting feedback from the owners of these puppies was invaluable in being able to make an informed decision.

First picture of the Coal x Oda pups!
But breeding via frozen (even with semen I own) is, in addition to being a very uncertain venture with a success rate generally lower than 80%, an expensive and time-consuming adventure. It involved three vets, multiple progesterone tests, 4 trips to Richmond over the course of 5 days, and a plethora of vet expenses over the course of the breeding and pregnancy--every step of the way cost money. Picking up the semen from the storage facility involved renting a container ($150), paying the "prep" fee for the storage facility to load the container ($75), and then a variety of expenses from progesterone testing (5 or 6 tests), semen quality analysis, surgical AI, DNA testing of the semen (to get Coal's DNA on record), and ultrasound (one more trip to Richmond) to check for the developing pups, and an xray (another trip to Richmond) to get a final count.

And, then, on January 17, Oda had four beautiful babies. Every cent and every second were suddenly worth it.