The Magic And Miracles Of Turning A Retriever Into A Pointer



Founded in 1899 by L.E. Kellogg and Harold E. Kellogg, Kellogg’s kennels are believed to be responsible for bringing the first Labrador Retrievers west of the Mississippi River. Mayo Kellogg, the ‘founding father of the American pointing lab’ introduced the ‘pointing Lab’ in his South Dakota line as early as 1946 and set out, over the next 40 years, to show that a pointing retriever is superior to a retrieving pointer. Mayo passed away in 2003 leaving his kennel to his son Hugh who reported that 95% of his buyers ask for labs that point.

These people weren’t normal breeders, they were businessmen, always looking for new trends to introduce. They weren’t just breeding Labradors, they bred all kinds of dogs. It was a family business for many generations, and the American free spirit made them inventive. They knew every trick in the book to register a mixed breed as a purebred dog. Why wouldn’t they do what the early English Labrador breeders did in the 1800s, only more professional and scientific? Who would stop them? The first American Labrador was registered in the AKC in 1917, and in 1927 only 23 Labradors were registered. After a 1928 AKC article in the magazine American Kennel Gazette called “Meet the Labrador Retriever”, the Labrador became well known. Only then Kellogg’s kennels became involved in Labrador breeding, because it meant business.

Of course, when in the 1960s the chocolate Labrador became more popular, Kellogg’s kennels were amongst the first to introduce them in the U.S. on a broad scale. And now that chocolates were in fashion, why wouldn’t they have another go at the grays, and call them ‘silver’ Labradors?

Gundogs are traditionally divided into three classes: retrievers, flushing dogs, and pointing breeds. The name pointer comes from the dog’s instinct to point, by stopping and aiming its muzzle towards game. This demonstrates to the hunter the location of his or her quarry and allows them to move into gun range. Pointers were selectively bred from dogs who had abundant pointing and backing instinct.

From adolescence, a Weimaraner requires extensive exercise in keeping with an energetic hunting dog breed prized for their physical endurance and stamina. No walk is too far, and they will appreciate games and play in addition. An active owner is more likely to provide the vigorous exercising, games, or running that this breed requires. Weimaraners are high-energy and often wear out their owners, requiring appropriate training to learn how to calm them and to help them learn to control their behavior. Owners need patience and consistent, firm yet kind training, as this breed is particularly rambunctious during the first year and a half of its life. But, even after that year and a half of a rambunctious puppyhood, they still remain hyper as ever, even when they are settling into old age. According to the FCI, “the Weimaraner is likely to be the oldest German pointing breed, which has been pure bred for about a hundred years.”
Q.: So how did the Kelloggs turn the Labrador Retriever into a “Pointing Labrador”?

A.: Probably the same way you turn a Bull Terrier into a Newfoundlander. You breed excellent pointers, for instance Weimaraners, with working Labradors. From that moment on it’s a matter of selective breeding. You keep on breeding the dogs that are good pointers and look like Labradors, generation after generation. In this process it’s impossible NOT TO produce “silver” dogs. Also, you need to be good at fiddling the books, and/or to have a good relationship with the AKC representative in your area. After having produced several generations of “pointing Labs” — hyper, energetic hunting dogs which wear their owners out — the chocolate Labrador came into fashion, and the Kellogg family started to produce them. From then on it would have been easy to smuggle “silver pointing Labs” into chocolate litters, and have them registered as Labrador Retrievers.

Q.: Is it possible to turn a Labrador Retriever into a “pointing Lab”, without using pointing dogs?

A.: Yes, if you have at least one century of time, thousands of dogs to choose from, and hundreds of qualified people who are full-time training and testing the dogs for their pointing qualities. You would need to disqualify at least 95% of your litters.

The Kelloggs didn’t have at least one century. They were business men who wanted to bring new “products” on the market, like “pointing Labs” and “silver Labs”. The AKC treated their business associates well. They still do.

Jack Vanderwyk,
January, 2014


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About Jack Vanderwyk

Hey! What am I like! :-)
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