The Trax Weimaraner breeding program is a North America wide network of like-minded competitors and breeders under the guidance of head coach Shirley Nilsson. The Trax breeding program’s goals can be pretty accurately summed up by the Trax motto ‘Home of Beautiful Working Dogs’. Trax breeder strive together to produce and acquire confident, healthy pups with good conformation, genetic diversity, natural field ability and great aptitude for success in performance events, with a particular emphasis on producing Dual Champion Weimaraners.
From Shirley: I was very fortunate to have had a Dual Champion early on in my time with Weimaraners. However, even as that dog was completing her Dual Championship and then eventually Triple Championship 20 years ago, it was readily apparent that the days of a fully show bred Weimaraner finishing a Field Championship, or of a fully field bred Weimaraner finishing a bench Championship, were numbered due to the ever-improving quality required to finish a Championship in either venue.
Identifying the problems was easy – in the field even the most talented of the fully show bred dogs generally lacked the independence and range required to win more than occasionally, especially on the wide open grounds of the west or in all-breed competition. Even amongst the group of Weimaraners holding advanced hunt test titles, show bred dogs were, and still are, typically found lacking in groundspeed, range, prey drive, style, independence and/or desire to hunt. On the other hand, in the show ring the fully field bred dogs almost universally lacked the necessary substance and frequently also had several significant conformation flaws as a result of breeding selection characterized by a more or less complete disregard for conformation ring attributes in favor of selection for performance traits.
Was there a solution? I didn’t know for sure but about that time I was involved in arranging a couple of breedings of talented show-bred dogs that should have produced dual potential dogs if any show breedings could have – in one both parents were Duals as well as one of the grandparents, in the other one of the parents was a Dual plus 3 of the 4 grandparents. All of the Dual Champions in these pedigrees had placed or won at regional and national level field trial competition so were capable field trial dogs in their day. However while these dual-stacked pedigrees produced lots of dogs with talent — Champions, Master Hunters, Champion/Master Hunters, perfect-scoring NAVHDA dogs and the like and in fact dogs that may well have been Field Champion contenders in an earlier era, they did not produce Field Champion prospects. And so began a personal venture to determine if middle ground could instead be found by systematically crossing show and field lines.
Then, as now, there existed a significant show/field split in the Weimaraner breed and the old adage was that if you crossed show to field you would end up wit a dog that wouldn’t excel at either. While there may well have been some truth in that old saw I preferred to think of it another way, namely that while those show/field cross puppies might not become Show or Field Champions, I predicted that they would grow up to be more successful in field trials than the average show bred dog and likewise, that they would grow up to be better built than their fully field bred cousins. Furthermore, I had a hunch that breeders trying a show/field cross breeding for the first time probably had far too high of expectations from that first generation of pups and that probably what was required was to persevere with the show/field cross experiment for a few additional generations and also to mark success in much smaller increments, for instance, at first being satisfied with producing pups that were able to earn both show and field points, then maybe a Championship in one venue and points or a major in the other, and so forth onward to a veritable Dual Champion factory. And so I embarked on a systematic program of crossing the better working of the show bred dogs with the better looking of the field bred dogs and from there continuing onward with the better overall of the offspring.
Keeping in mind that the initial show bred dogs used in the field/show cross breedings were very capable in the field it was still a happy surprise to discover that the best of the initial generation of field/show crosses were consistently full equals to fully field bred dogs in field trial performance and a few were also able to earn conformation points or Championships and one of these early breedings did indeed produce a Dual Champion. Not surprisingly, they almost invariably fell short in several conformation attributes but in each litter I was able to identify one to three puppies that I felt were worthy of moving forward with and the list of things that needed fixing in the subsequent generation was substantially reduced.
By systematically continuing to blend show and field lines and for the purpose of enhancing genetic diversity also incorporating foreign bred dogs and occasionally using a fully field or fully show bred dog as a mate steady progress was made and the list of things that needed to be fixed with any given dog could now easily be counted on one hand.
In my search for sires or quality puppies to add to the Trax breeding program I was often able to capitalize on the efforts of other dual-oriented breeders. In planning each breeding, I endeavoured to match sires and dams in such a way as to correct major flaws in either field or show traits and in all other aspects to ‘breed to the middle’ that is, to breed hunters to runners, bolder dogs to less confident dogs, dock divers to average swimmers and so forth. This breeding strategy within 10 years produced the first Weimaraner to attain Dual Championships in many years and three Dual Champions in the span of a single year, with many other Trax Weimaraners well on their way to Dual Championships.