For some time now I’ve stated that I believed that the activity of Animal Rights groups to promote the adoption of shelter dogs has been a leading cause in the decline of the purebred dog. This month the AKC has published a report and introduced action that we, as purebred lovers and breeders need to be aware of. If the purebred dog is to survive, if pet ownership is to survive, support for this AKC effort, from us as individuals and as well as our parent clubs will be needed.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
September Chairman’s Report
New York, NY – Last Thursday we posted a charming photograph of three Golden Retriever puppies on the American Kennel Club Facebook page. The caption was “I love my breeder” with a request to “share your love for your dog’s breeder.” The image was shared 2,500 times, received 11,000 likes and almost 500 comments. We posted this because we love responsible breeders, but also because we wanted to see the reaction it would elicit.
The post sparked a lengthy conversation about the merits of finding your new dog at a breeder vs. adopting a dog. That passionate debate proved two important issues. There are ardent, articulate, and knowledgeable supporters of responsible breeding who possess facts and are capable of persuasively educating the public about the truth of responsible breeding. However, it also proved that there is a great deal of misinformation about responsible breeding that result in significant prejudice against breeders. There is no doubt that prejudice against breeders has impacted our breeders, our sport, and the public’s ability to enjoy the unique experience of a purebred dog in their lives.
Just 20 years ago, a purebred dog was the dog to have in your life. Twenty years ago, a responsible breeder was viewed as a respected resource. Twenty years ago there were virtually no important legislative efforts aimed at eradicating all dog breeding.
What changed in those 20 years? The noble quest to give every dog a “forever” home was co-opted by the animal rights organizations as a method to raise funds for their mission to completely eliminate pet ownership. Under the guise of supporting adoption, they have been raising a significant war chest – over $200 million last year alone – to fuel a campaign aimed squarely at destroying our ability to preserve breeds for future generations.
As told by AR groups, responsible breeders have been dishonestly accused of being the sole cause of dogs in shelters – not irresponsible owners.
As told by AR groups, purebred dog breeders have been maliciously portrayed as evil people only interested in money and winning at events, at the expense of their dogs’ health and well-being.
As told by AR groups, purebred dogs have been wrongly defined as being plagued with genetic health and temperament problems caused by breeders.
After 20 years of this propaganda – mostly unchallenged by those who know better – a portion of the public has accepted this fiction as reality.
AKC Staff led by Chris Walker along with Bob Amen and I have been working with Edelman, our new public outreach partner, on the plan that will change the current conversation, as demonstrated in that Facebook post, by confronting the prejudice and telling the truth about purebred dogs and their responsible breeders.
We will focus our efforts on two key audiences – families with kids 8-12 and empty nesters. These groups represent the critical inflection points for dog ownership and hold our best opportunities to correctly educate the public about purebred dogs and responsible dog breeding.
An additional audience will be federal and local legislators. Our experience makes it clear that once legislators know the truth, the legislative outcome is positive.
We will expand our voice to include breeders, dog owners, AKC thought leaders, veterinarians, and AKC’s over 700,000 grassroots followers.
We will relentlessly focus on these foundational story themes: the unique qualities of purebred dogs, the desirability of purebred dogs as family pets, the truth about the health of purebred dogs, and the truth about responsible breeders.
We will use every outreach channel to relentlessly tell our story in a shareable and searchable way, including national and local media, hybrid media, AKC’s own media, and social media.
By focusing on these key audiences with expanded, credible voices centered on our core narratives we will get better stories in the media, more often.
In addition, we will immediately and aggressively respond to any attack utilizing our partners, our supporters, and our full media assets.
There are three things you can do to help regain control of our destiny.
Tell us what you are hearing from your community, what the toughest questions are that you face. We’ll compile the answers and get you a toolkit to respond from a position of knowledge, strength, and pride.
Tell us your story – how you picked your breed, why you became a breeder and what has changed about the health of your breed due to the efforts of your Parent Club.
Tell us who you know who can help tell the truth – supportive officials in parent, children’s, or seniors’ organizations either locally or nationally; a veterinarian who is actively involved in a professional organization either locally or nationally; or an informed and outspoken government official.
You can share all of this information with Chris Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-696-8232.
As an avid Bullmastiff breeder, I am reminded of the description of that great protector of the family and property – fearless and confident, yet docile. I believe the AKC is a great protector of our rights to responsibly breed dogs. We too are fearless and confident, but it is time to stop being docile regarding the lies and propaganda that defile purebred dogs and responsible breeders.
We will communicate the truth about purebred dogs and their responsible breeders, emotionally and memorably.
We will increase the desire to own a purebred dog.
We will de-stigmatize responsible breeders.
We will change the conversation.
We will change the future.
As always, your comments are most welcome at email@example.com.
Short URL: http://caninechronicle.com/?p=32967
Over twenty years ago a I co-bred a litter with good friend of mine who handled the whelping of our eight Gordon Setter puppies . Everything went smoothly at the birth and they were all plugging along, doing great and gaining weight when out of the blue, four days after giving birth, the dam became critically ill. An emergency call and wild ride to the vet revealed that Eclampsia had struck, and in addition to being life threatening for our bitch it created the need to completely take over the feeding of those eight newborn puppies, the dam could no longer nurse due to this condition. Without tube feeding, this litter’s chances of surviving and thriving would have been fairly slim. Bottle feeding eight puppies around the clock and all by oneself was not an option. Tube feeding only means by which my dear friend could save those babies.
And that brings us to to thanking Barbara Manson for sharing this excerpt on tube feeding and for bringing this topic to my attention, it’s something I hadn’t thought of in awhile, but it certainly should be given space here, so here we go!
Tube Feeding Puppies
The following is an excerpt from the book, Feeding Dogs and Cats by Mark L. Morris Jr. DVM, Ph D and Lon D. Lewis, DVM, Ph D. Copyright 1984, Mark Morris Associates, Topeka, Kansas.
Tube feeding, for most people, is the easiest, cleanest, fastest, safest and most preferred way to feed orphans, An infant feeding tube (available from many hospitals, pharmacies or pediatricians), number 8-10 French, or a small male urethral catheter can be used. Once weekly, mark the tube 75% of the distance from the nose to the last rib. This is the length necessary to just reach the stomach. If more is inserted, when withdrawn it will frequently come back doubled, possibly damaging the esophagus. Attach the tube to a syringe, aspirated the amount of formula needed and expel any air aspirated. Open the mouth slightly, and with the head held in the normal position (not flexed upward or downward) gently pass the tube to the mark. If an obstruction is felt before you reach the mark the tube is in the trachea. If this is not the case, slowly administer the formula over a two minute period to allow for gastric dilation. If resistance is felt, stop. It probably indicates the stomach is full. With these precautions, regurgitation rarely occurs. If it does, withdraw the tube and do not feed any more until the next scheduled feeding. For the first few weeks of life after each feeding, burp the animal (just like an infant) and swab the genital area with moistened cotton to stimulate deification and urination.
Below you’ll find more resources, including websites with photos to help guide you, simply click the colored links to go to there. This is also where I ask other breeders if they have techniques or advice about tube feeding that can be shared with others to help round out this information? Please use the comment section to add your thoughts or if you’ve got more detail to add than can be shared in comments feel free to send me your notes or an article at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get it published on here.
Many thanks to talented photographer Susan Roy Nelson for the peek-a-boo photo!
Many thinks to Jill Pauline for sharing this article with me, so I could in turn, share it with you. There are many pearls of wisdom for all breeders found in this piece written by Kathy Lorentzen, whether new at this game or at it for decades.
Thanks also to Ben Perez for sharing these photos from the 2016 GSCA National Specialty.
Photographs are included here for your viewing pleasure and are not intended to illustrate any material contained in this article.
I smiled as I read Kathy’s words regarding picking puppies, as what she said reminded me of Loree Ragano. I never saw Loree stack a puppy when we evaluated litters together. We always put them down to play, sometimes separating male from female, and occasionally then sorting them down to the 2 or 3 that we liked the most, but I don’t recall ever putting them on a table. Loree always told me she picked them on the ground and believed this to be the best way to do it.This article certainly brought that lesson back to mind as Kathy said “Don’t just put your puppies up on a table, shove them into a stack, look at them in the mirror and convince yourself that you have a keeper. Let others look at them and most importantly watch them on the ground. Have you heard the old adage, “Sell them on the table, pick them on the ground”? Do I believe picking puppies on the ground is sound advice – bet your bottom dollar! This is good advice that I still follow today.
So, on to Kathy’s article. I hope you enjoy!
That old saying, “My momma didn’t raise no fools,” doesn’t necessarily apply to all of us in the sport of purebred dogs. We all get foolish, full of ourselves and kennel-blind at one time or another in our careers as dog breeders. Regardless of someone’s early success as a breeder, I’ve long felt that you have to get at least 15 years down the road in a breeding program in order to have enough wisdom to look back and see just how many mistakes you have made and realize that you are going to make many more.
I had early success with my English Springer Spaniels. Goodness, my first dog, whelped in 1972, was a multiple BIS and Specialty BOB winner, and a top-producing sire. Boy, didn’t I start out with the world by the tail, and wasn’t I just so smart? As I learned later, not so much. I got extremely lucky with that first dog. He was a natural-born show dog, and I just held on to the end of his lead and let him do his thing. And great, he was an outstanding sire, but I didn’t have anything to do with that, either. He had the genes that clicked with a lot of differently bred bitches. Lucky me, again.
Getting a Wake-Up Call
When you start with a dog like that, time shows you that you probably have nowhere to go but down. I didn’t have a beginning breeding program at all. I had this dog, one of his full sisters and one of his half-sisters. I bred the sister to a top-producing dog in the breed, and though there was one champion in the litter, there were also a myriad of problems that I didn’t see coming. I didn’t see them because I didn’t know nearly enough about the genetics and the history of the pedigrees I was working with. I hadn’t been honest with myself about admitting that there was so much more I needed to learn before I started having litters. The problems that showed up (and fairly early) in that first litter were the beginning of my wake-up call. Oh and I got more wake-up calls, and shortly.
I very stupidly bred the half-sister to a dog on the opposite coast that I had never seen. But his ads were great, and his photos were quite lovely. His pedigree was mostly West Coast dogs that I had virtually no experience with. (I said I was starting to get a wake-up call, but I didn’t say I was totally awake yet.) Those puppies, though healthy and with good temperaments, were pretty poor quality. They didn’t look much like their mom, and they sure didn’t look like the photos of their sire! How could this be? Here’s how. About six months after that litter was born, my then-husband was in California on business and went to visit the sire of the litter. To say he was a bit taken aback by the actual dog might be an understatement. He really didn’t resemble his photographs at all. Serious dog-breeding lesson number one: Don’t breed to a photograph! Even back then, creative photography existed. This dog had been retouched and photographed at specific angles to make him look much different. When we put all this newly acquired knowledge together, it made perfect sense that the puppies looked as they did. Since that time, I have never bred to a dog that I or my breeding partner (my daughter) have not personally seen, touched and spent time with.
Yet over and over again I see people breeding to dogs that they have never seen in person. One dog in my breed a few years ago was used quite extensively and mostly by people who had not only never seen the dog but had never even seen a photo of him! After being finished by a handler, he went home to the kennel and was never seen again until he was of a fairly advanced age and taken to one Specialty as a Veteran. I actually saw a post on a public forum where someone who had bred to the dog was looking for a photo of him because she had never seen him; and shortly after another person chimed in that she had bred to the dog too and would love to see what he looked like. I almost fell off my chair.
Choosing a Good Stud Dog
Just because a dog has produced a few offspring that you find attractive does not automatically qualify that dog to be the right one for every bitch out there. And if you think it does, then you are not being honest with yourself about what you are doing. Do you really think that your bitch is so perfect that she can be bred to any dog to give you more just like her? Maybe you should step back and take a long look at your bitch. And be brutally honest with yourself about how she stacks up to the breed standard. Maybe you don’t want more just like her. It might be better if you admitted to yourself that there is room for improvement. If you are so blind to your bitch’s faults and failings (and they all have some!), then go to someone who has a long and successful background in the breed and ask for help and advice. In fact, seek out two or three long-time dog breeders, as each will have a different perspective.
People who truly love your breed want to see more good-quality, healthy dogs produced. They know how to think outside the box when breeding. If you run into someone who only wants to talk to you about their own stud dogs, move on. That person doesn’t want to help you do anything but line their own pockets. You do not have to let somebody else tell you what to do, but you should let someone else tell you what they see. They might know far more than you do about the pedigree that you are working with. They may be able to offer up suggestions about what you should be looking to strengthen in your bitch and where you might be able to find the dog or dogs that can do it. If you are just breeding to a dog because some other people bred to it, then you are wearing blinders and not being honest with yourself at all. And guess what, your dogs won’t get better. But you probably won’t realize it. You cannot live on a secluded island in your own mind and be a knowledgeable, successful dog breeder. It takes a village, and there are many people out there who want to help you be part of that community.
Letting Them Go
Back to that second litter of puppies of mine sired by the West Coast dog. Not a single one of those puppies ever hit the show ring. Not only was this a lesson learned about not breeding to an unknown dog, it was also a lesson learned in realizing and admitting that the entire litter needed to go to pet homes. This is a mistake that I’ve seen happen over and over again in our sport. People plan a breeding, have a litter and convince themselves that because the puppies exist, there must be some really good ones to keep and show and go on with. Just because you have a litter of puppies doesn’t mean that there will be one or more in the litter that will be useful to you in moving forward as a breeder. We all breed with the hope that there will be something good enough to keep. But we have to recognize if we are going backward instead of forward. It’s difficult to look at a litter that grew up under your feet and admit to yourself that there really isn’t one in there to move you further ahead.
Be honest with yourself about the quality of your puppies. And if you can’t be, have a puppy party and invite those same breeders that you talked with before when searching for a stud dog. Invite them to look at and watch your puppies and discuss them with you. Get the right people together and you will have a wonderful learning experience. Don’t just put your puppies up on a table, shove them into a stack, look at them in the mirror and convince yourself that you have a keeper. Let others look at them and most importantly watch them on the ground. Have you heard the old adage, “Sell them on the table, pick them on the ground”? Well, it is so true. You can make almost any puppy look good enough on the table to “sell” it. But the honesty in the situation comes when you put that puppy on the ground and stand back and just watch it. Can it carry a correct profile? Does it move freely and easily at a trot with coordination and balance? Does it maintain its proportion on the ground? Eight-week-old puppies should stand and move correctly for their breed. If they don’t at 8 weeks, please don’t try to convince yourself that they will “grow into it.” You will be in for a disappointment.
“If you are dragging a dog to show after show with poor results, take a step back. Perhaps the dog just isn’t good enough. In that case, let it go to a loving pet home.”
I am fortunate because I have a breeding partner who happens to be my daughter. I was raised in the sport by wonderful mentors who taught me to be realistic about my dogs above all. I raised my daughter the same way. We are so lucky that we can bounce ideas off one another, discuss plans, look at puppies, make choices and most importantly disagree with one another! We spend hours and hours driving to dog shows discussing our dogs, where we are in our program, what we need to improve and how to go about getting it. We have a very similar eye but some differing priorities, which makes for lively conversation and more learning for both of us.
Realize that even a promising puppy can go wrong at some point during its growth and may not make the grade. Even the best, most well-made puppies can disappoint. Of course, you have to differentiate between a growth spurt and a puppy really losing its early promise. Know the difference and know when to place that dog. Don’t get so invested in it that you convince yourself that it is a great one! I see this again and again too. Bred it, kept it, grew it up, and it has to be a champion even if it goes to 50 dog shows to finish that title. Oh, gosh yes, then by all means breed it because it’s a champion! Any well-trained dog that is in good condition and properly shown that takes more than about 15 to 20 shows to finish is probably not a very good one.
If you are dragging a dog to show after show with poor results, take a step back. Perhaps the dog just isn’t good enough. In that case, let it go to a loving pet home. Try again and keep trying, and keep learning until you have gained the knowledge that will allow you to have confidence in your breeding program and the ability to discuss in breed-specific terms what you are doing and why you are doing it. Recognize that just because a dog has a champion title and its health clearances, it is not necessarily a good breeding prospect. If it took 30 shows to finish a dog in a breed where it only takes six to make a major, and your dog had a very hard time winning those majors, maybe you should step back and honestly assess the quality of the animal that you are considering breeding. Do you want another one that will take so many shows to finish? If not, if you really want to improve the quality of the dogs that you will go forward with, it might be wisest to place that dog with the hard-earned champion title in a pet home and go in a different direction. Disappointing? Yes, but it is absolutely the best thing you could do for yourself and the future of the breed.
We all know that dog breeding is fraught with heartache and setbacks. The only real road to success is the one where you force yourself to be honest about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Make those difficult decisions as a breeder who truly has the best interests of the breed at heart, not as an owner who loves a dog too much to let it go to a wonderful home. Or keep it and love it but don’t breed it. Long, long ago I told my husband something that he has never forgotten. “It’s just as easy to love the great ones as it is to love the mediocre ones.” What I meant was, love them all, but be aware that many dogs will move through our household and few will stay their entire lives. Enjoy them while they are here, but be willing to let them go to make room for progress and improvement. We have lived by that rule for 36 years, and it has served our breeding program very well.
As the Gordon Setter Expert audience has grown tremendously, so has the amount of email that I get from people who are searching for quality Gordon Setters from responsible breeders.
To simplify the process where I connect those who are searching for Gordon Setters, with those who are searching for good homes, I’ve created this FREE listing – that’s right, you may advertise to sell your Gordon Setters for free, right here on this site! If you have a puppy, a litter, an adult or are planning a breeding this free service is the perfect value! I’ll be happy to include your photos and pedigree too.
I’ve set a few parameters to ensure I am working with responsible breeders who are invested in the preservation and promotion of the Gordon Setter breed, and you’ll find the rules and restrictions regarding this listing service by visiting the pages below.
Don’t worry about losing this message, just remember that you can go to the Gordon Setter Expert “Home” page any day and simply click the header at the top of the page that reads “Place an Ad – Puppy, Adult, Planned breeding”.
Want to see what your ad might look like? Click here
Gordon Setter Future Litter (Planned Breeding)
- To place a free ad on this site for a future litter of AKC (or foreign) registered Gordon Setters click here.
Gordon Setter Puppies
- To place a free ad on this site for an AKC (or foreign) registered Gordon Setter puppies click here.
Gordon Setter Adult
I’m certainly hoping Gordon Setter breeders and owners will find this service helpful, that’s all I’m here for, to help!
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Photograph by Laurie Ward
GSCA Breeder Education – 2016 GSCA National Specialty
By Sally Gift
To begin let’s start with excerpts from
Positive and clearly explained judging can only be good for both judges and breeders, and for our breeds as well.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is for people to look at a dog and immediately point out what they don’t like about that dog? I think most often the first comments made by many people about a dog are negative. We hear an awful lot of “I don’t like” in conversations about dogs.
Probably we are all guilty of falling into the trap of finding fault, both as breeders and as judges, because finding fault is easier than finding virtue. Common faults are easily seen and identified by almost everyone, while breed-specific virtues can only be seen and appreciated by those who truly understand the breed they are looking at…Even judges (sic Breeders) with years of experience were tongue tied when forced to discuss their placements by pointing out only the virtues of each dog. They all wanted to fall back into the “I don’t like” syndrome.
…The positive mindset is not only important for judges but for breeders as well. How many times have I asked a fellow breeder, “What do you think of that dog?” only to have the first sentence come back starting with, “Well, I don’t like…” After my years of learning about positive judging and critiquing, my immediate reaction is to say, “But I want to know what you do like about that dog.” The look I get is generally priceless, but my question usually results in a thoughtful discussion of the virtue of the dog and a learning experience for both of us.
Not everyone will see the exact same virtues in every dog, and not everyone will place the same priorities on those virtues. That is why different dogs win on different days, and when the judging is positive and can be clearly explained, then no one is wrong. But regardless of differing viewpoints and priorities, striving to see dogs in a positive light can only be good for both judges and breeders, and for our breeds as well.
In forming our concept of the Hands On experience, and in addition to focusing on judging dogs positively, we also wanted to encourage breeders and exhibitors to take the time to put their hands on dogs owned and bred by others; to learn how to feel breed specific qualities to recognize correct structure (breed type), to learn a variety of ideas and concepts from others, and to learn how to see good qualities in all dogs, our own as well as those owned by others – to learn how to develop an unbiased eye.
Now let’s move on to highlights from the Hands On experience!
I can’t possibly write about all the topics we covered, nor all the positives of the dogs presented for exam. But if I haven’t covered a topic or a point that you want to see shared here please offer that in the comment section of this article.
The Hands On experience was open forum, and participants were encouraged to come and go at will, so the group size and the participants fluctuated throughout the program. Some brought dogs who were stacked in front of the group while other participants went over those dogs, the Hands On part. Then, those who examined were asked to share their view of the positive qualities they found on the dog they examined. Discussion about the positives followed with the group at large joining the talk. While committee members, Barb Manson, Peggy Nowak and I moderated to keep things on track, the teachers here were actually the participants, the many breeders and exhibitors who shared their dogs, views, and experience. The Hands On experience lead to many various, thought provoking and enlightening discussions. The participants and their dogs were the shining stars of the experience, and we thank each and every one of you for making this one of the best GSCA Breeder Education events. We have heard a magnitude of positive feedback, and what we heard most often was indeed “best Breeder Education program ever” and “let’s do it again”!
Topics that were covered during the experience
Esther Joseph (Australia) shared many interesting points about length of body and the length and structure of the rib cage. She noted that when compared to other countries, the American Kennel Club (AKC) Gordon Setter Standard, is the only standard to to call for a length approximately to equal height, interpreted by many to mean we seek a “a square dog”.
- AKC Standard – Proportion: The distance from the forechest to the back of the thigh is approximately equal the height from the ground to the withers.
- Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) Standard – Body: Moderate length.
One of the key takeaways that I would mention is the wording in the AKC standard, wording that says approximately equal, as this wording gives the Gordon room for sufficient length of body to allow for the driving stride he will exhibit if properly angled front and rear. A dog whose body is too short for the angulation of his rear can not move properly. If we were to breed for a completely square Gordon we would need to breed that dog with less angulation in the rear, so his rear stride does not interfere with his front. Perhaps we need to focus on the standard saying approximately equal and eliminate the word square from our lingo?
The AKC standard says Gordon Setter movement should be: A bold, strong, driving free swinging gait…The hindquarters reach well forward and stretch far back, enabling the stride to be long and the drive powerful. If, for example, a Gordon moves wide in the rear, or perhaps he crabs, we might consider that one of the causes could be that Gordon has too much rear angulation for the length of the body. Is this dog then too short in length (too square)?
(NOTE – as a question was raised, I did confirm the information I gave you regarding how to measure the dog’s length. I was correct, it is measured from the point of the forechest and never from the point on the shoulder joint)
Another discussion ensued on proper length, depth, and spring of rib. Here again Esther opened the chat and spoke in detail about the length of the rib cage and it’s importance for the protection of the Gordon’s vital organs (heart and lungs) when hunting in dense brush and brambles. To completely shield those organs the ribcage must be long from front to back, and we should measure this not simply by looking at the length from the side view of the dog, but also by reaching down under the dog to note how how far back the sternum extends. (The sternum being the floor of the chest, where the ribs meet underneath the dog.) The Gordon Setter needs not only his prominent forechest (for proper muscle attachment to provide reach) but also good length of the ribcage; a sternum whose length extends it’s boney protection to completely cover sensitive organs. A ribcage and which allows for the lung capacity he needs by it’s spring as well as depth for working in harsh terrain.
Barbara Manson began a discussion about short hocks by demonstrating that good quality on her dog. This led into a more in depth conversation among the group about the complete rear assembly, angulation, length of hock and sickle hocks. When viewing rear angulation we’d start at the highest point, the femur (think upper thigh) which has always been considered as the longest bone in the dog’s anatomy. The tibia and fibula (second thigh) should be second in length to the femur, and are attached to the hock which should be the shortest in this group of leg bones that contribute to rear angulation. Simple so far, right?
Standing around at rest (as opposed to lusting after a hot smelling bitch which brings every hot blooded dog up on his toes) a well built dog will naturally stand with the rear foot in a somewhat perpendicular line on the ground, right under the boney protuberance that ends at the point of the buttocks. Just like humans, dogs stand around with their feet almost directly under their butts. Why? Because that’s the dog’s column of support. So, if the second thigh (tibia and fibula) is longer than the upper thigh (femur), opposite the normal length of these bones, the only way the dog can reach his column of support is if the hock is long enough to get the foot where it needs to be – underneath the dogs butt. Proper ratio of length between upper thigh and lower thigh gives us the shorter hock we expect on our Gordon Setter. To sum it, a Gordon needs to have an upper thigh (femur) that is longer than the lower thigh (tibia and fibula), ending with a hock that is shorter than both of those bones. As a general rule, the genes that control the length of one bone are often linked to the genes that control the length of the corresponding bones so Mother Nature provides compensation when the ratio in the length of these bones gets out of whack, grow a lower thigh that’s too long for the upper thigh and Mother Nature will give you a longer hock to compensate.
Standing around ringside, looking at dogs standing in a relaxed state, the well put together dogs will be standing with their rear feet underneath the back half of the pelvis and their hocks slightly sloping – we should be able to see light between the ground and the entire length of dog’s hock. If a dog is standing with his hocks nearly flat to the ground, odds are excellent that we are looking at excessive angulation (a lower thigh that is longer than the femur).
Sickle hocks are a result of these over angulated rears. For me, sickle hocks are easily seen on the backward swing of the rear leg during movement. Instead of the joint between the lower thigh and the hock opening up into a nearly straight extended line, where the pads on the bottom of the foot end in a position that is nearly straight up (or reaching toward the sky), the sickle hock, due to the imbalanced length of the bones, at fullest rearward extension ends in a shape resembling a sickle – slightly curved instead of fully extended. No glimpse of the sky for the pads on these feet. The rear movement on the sickle hocked dog looks like the swinging of an old fashioned sickle when viewing the sickle from the side.
Our group also spent a bit of time discussing feet. We’re not going to cover all of that discussion here as this article has grown quite long. I did want to mention that I remember a brief conversation around the use of the term “cat foot”. Perhaps I remember wrong but I thought I heard someone say that “cat foot” no longer appeared in our standard. You were right, cat foot isn’t exactly right, but a reference to cat does appear. The standard says “Feet catlike in shape”.
I’m splitting this report into sections as it’s growing long, keep an eye out for Part II – The 2016 National Specialty Hands On experience in a future issue. In Part II I’ll share other discussions we held on topics like the width of jaw, angle of croup, block on block heads and vitiglio.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ GSCA Breeder Education Committee Chair
Photos by Ben Perez
A slide show of random photos from the BOB class at the ’16 GSCA National Specialty courtesy of Ben Perez. We’ll be sharing more of these in future articles. Thanks Ben!
By Jerold M Bell DVM
(This article is reprinted with permission of the Jerold M Bell DVM
IT’S ALL IN THE GENES
As dog breeders, we engage in genetic “experiments” each time we plan a mating. The type of mating selected should coincide with your goals. To some breeders, determining which traits will appear in the offspring of a mating is like rolling the dice – a combination of luck and chance. For others, producing certain traits involves more skill than luck – the result of careful study and planning. As breeders, we must understand how we manipulate genes within our breeding stock to produce the kinds of dogs we want. We have to first understand dogs as a species, then dogs as genetic individuals.
The species, Canis familiaris, includes all breeds of the domestic dog. Although we can argue that there is little similarity between a Chihuahua and a Saint Bernard, or that established breeds are separate entities among themselves, they all are genetically the same species. While a mating within a breed may be considered outbred, it still must be viewed as part of the whole genetic picture: a mating within an isolated, closely related, interbred population. Each breed was developed by close breeding and inbreeding among a small group of founding canine ancestors, either through a long period of genetic selection or by intensely inbreeding a smaller number of generations. The process established the breed’s characteristics and made the dogs in it breed true.
When evaluating your breeding program, remember that most traits you’re seeking cannot be changed, fixed or created in a single generation. The more information you can obtain on how certain traits have been transmitted by your dog’s ancestors, the better you can prioritize your breeding goals. Tens of thousands of genes interact to produce a single dog. All genes are inherited in pairs, one pair from the father and one from the mother. If the pair of inherited genes from both parents is identical, the pair is called homozygous. If the genes in the pair are not alike, the pair is called heterozygous. Fortunately, the gene pairs that make a dog a dog and not a cat are always homozygous. Similarly, the gene pairs that make a certain breed always breed true are also homozygous. Therefore, a large proportion of homozygous non-variable pairs – those that give a breed its specific standard – exist within each breed. It is the variable gene pairs, like those that control color, size and angulation, that produce variations within a breed.
BREEDING BY PEDIGREE
Outbreeding brings together two dogs less related than the average for the breed. This promotes more heterozygosity, and gene diversity within each dog by matching pairs of unrelated genes from different ancestors. Outbreeding can also mask the expression of recessive genes, and allow their propagation in the carrier state.
Most outbreeding tends to produce more variation within a litter. An exception would be if the parents are so dissimilar that they create a uniformity of heterozygosity. This is what usually occurs in a mismating between two breeds. The resultant litter tends to be uniform, but demonstrates “half-way points” between the dissimilar traits of the parents. Such litters may be phenotypically uniform, but will rarely breed true due to the mix of dissimilar genes.
A reason to outbreed would be to bring in new traits that your breeding stock does not possess. While the parents may be genetically dissimilar, you should choose a mate that corrects your dog’s faults but phenotypically complements your dog’s good traits.
It is not unusual to produce an excellent quality dog from an outbred litter. The abundance of genetic variability can place all the right pieces in one individual. Many top-winning show dogs are outbred. Consequently, however, they may have low inbreeding coefficients and may lack the ability to uniformly pass on their good traits to their offspring. After an outbreeding, breeders may want to breed back to dogs related to their original stock, to increase homozygosity and attempt to solidify newly acquired traits.
Linebreeding attempts to concentrate the genes of a specific ancestor or ancestors through their appearance multiple times in a pedigree. The ancestor should appear behind more than one offspring. If an ancestor always appears behind the same offspring, you are only linebreeding on the approximately 50 percent of the genes passed to the offspring and not the ancestor itself.
It is better for linebred ancestors to appear on both the sire’s and the dam’s sides of the pedigree. That way their genes have a better chance of pairing back up in the resultant pups. Genes from common ancestors have a greater chance of expression when paired with each other than when paired with genes from other individuals, which may mask or alter their effects.
A linebreeding may produce a puppy with magnificent qualities, but if those qualities are not present in any of the ancestors the pup has been linebred on, it may not breed true. Therefore, careful selection of mates is important, but careful selection of puppies from the resultant litter is also important to fulfill your genetic goals. Without this, you are reducing your chances of concentrating the genes of the linebred ancestor.
Increasing an individual’s homozygosity through linebreeding may not, however, reproduce an outbred ancestor. If an ancestor is outbred and generally heterozygous (Aa), increasing homozygosity will produce more AA and aa. The way to reproduce an outbred ancestor is to mate two individuals that mimic the appearance and pedigree of the ancestor’s parents.
Inbreeding significantly increases homozygosity, and therefore uniformity in litters. Inbreeding can increase the expression of both beneficial and detrimental recessive genes through pairing up. If a recessive gene (a) is rare in the population, it will almost always be masked by a dominant gene (A). Through inbreeding, a rare recessive gene (a) can be passed from a heterozygous (Aa) common ancestor through both the sire and dam, creating a homozygous recessive (aa) offspring. Inbreeding does not create undesirable genes, it simply increases the expression of those that are already present in a heterozygous state.
Inbreeding can exacerbate a tendency toward disorders controlled by multiple genes, such as hip dysplasia and congenital heart anomalies. Unless you have prior knowledge of what milder linebreedings on the common ancestors have produced, inbreeding may expose your puppies (and puppy buyers) to extraordinary risk of genetic defects. Research has shown that inbreeding depression, or diminished health and viability through inbreeding is directly related to the amount of detrimental recessive genes present. Some lines thrive with inbreeding, and some do not.
Geneticists’ and breeders’ definitions of inbreeding vary. A geneticist views inbreeding as a measurable number that goes up whenever there is a common ancestor between the sire’s and dam’s sides of the pedigree; a breeder considers inbreeding to be close inbreeding, such as father-to-daughter or brother-to-sister matings. A common ancestor, even in the eighth generation, will increase the measurable amount of inbreeding in the pedigree.
The Inbreeding Coefficient (or Wright’s coefficient) is an estimate of the percentage of all the variable gene pairs that are homozygous due to inheritance from common ancestors. It is also the average chance that any single gene pair is homozygous due to inheritance from a common ancestor. In order to determine whether a particular mating is an outbreeding or inbreeding relative to your breed, you must determine the breed’s average inbreeding coefficient. The average inbreeding coefficient of a breed will vary depending on the breed’s popularity or the age of its breeding population. A mating with an inbreeding coefficient of 14 percent based on a ten generation pedigree, would be considered moderate inbreeding for a Labrador Retriever (a popular breed with a low average inbreeding coefficient), but would be considered outbred for an Irish Water Spaniel (a rare breed with a higher average inbreeding coefficient).
For the calculated inbreeding coefficient of a pedigree to be accurate, it must be based on several generations. Inbreeding in the fifth and later generations (background inbreeding) often has a profound effect on the genetic makeup of the offspring represented by the pedigree. In studies conducted on dog breeds, the difference in inbreeding coefficients based on four versus eight generation pedigrees varied immensely. A four generation pedigree containing 28 unique ancestors for 30 positions in the pedigree could generate a low inbreeding coefficient, while eight generations of the same pedigree, which contained 212 unique ancestors out of 510 possible positions, had a considerably higher inbreeding coefficient. What seemed like an outbred mix of genes in a couple of generations, appeared as a linebred concentration of genes from influential ancestors in extended generations.
The process of calculating coefficients is too complex to present here. Several books that include how to compute coefficients are indicated at the end of this article; some computerized canine pedigree programs also compute coefficients. The analyses in this article were performed using CompuPed, by RCI Software.
[RCI Note: CompuPed computes Wright’s Inbreeding Coefficient faster and more accurately than any other PC program available. ]
Pedigree of: “Laurel Hill Braxfield Bilye”
( a spayed female Gordon Setter owned by Dr. Jerold and Mrs. Candice Bell, and co-bred by Mary Poos and Laura Bedford.)
To visualize some of these concepts, please refer to the above pedigree. Linebred ancestors in this pedigree are in color, to help visualize their contribution. The paternal grandsire, CH Loch Adair Foxfire, and the maternal grandam, CH Loch Adair Firefly WD, are full siblings, making this a first-cousin mating. The inbreeding coefficient for a first cousin mating is 6.25%, which is considered a mild level of inbreeding. Lists of inbreeding coefficients based on different types of matings are shown in the table below.
In Bilye’s pedigree, an inbreeding coefficient based on four generations computes to 7.81%. This is not significantly different from the estimate based on the first-cousin mating alone. Inbreeding coefficients based on increasing numbers of generations are as follows: five generations, 13.34%; six generations, 18.19%; seven generations, 22.78%; eight generations, 24.01%; ten generations, 28.63%; and twelve generations, 30.81%. The inbreeding coefficient of 30.81 percent is more than what you would find in a parent-to-offspring mating (25%). As you can see, the background inbreeding has far more influence on the total inbreeding coefficient than the first-cousin mating, which only appears to be its strongest influence.
Knowledge of the degree of inbreeding in a pedigree does not necessarily help you unless you know whose genes are being concentrated. The percent blood coefficient measures the relatedness between an ancestor and the individual represented by the pedigree. It estimates the probable percentage of genes passed down from a common ancestor. We know that a parent passes on an average of 50% of its genes, while a grandparent passes on 25%, a great-grandparent 12.5%, and so on. For every time the ancestor appears in the pedigree, its percentage of passed-on genes can be added up and its “percentage of blood” estimated.
In many breeds, an influential individual may not appear until later generations, but then will appear so many times that it necessarily contributes a large proportion of genes to the pedigree. This can occur in breeds, due to either prolific ancestors (usually stud dogs), or with a small population of dogs originating the breed. Based on a twenty-five generation pedigree of Bilye, there are only 852 unique ancestors who appear a total of over twenty-million times.
Pedigree Analysis of Laurel Hill Braxfield Bilye
(computed to 25 generations)
Percentage of blood
Appearance in pedigree
# times in pedigree
|CH Afternod Drambuie||33.20%||6||33|
|CH Afternod Sue||27.05%||7||61|
|CH Afternod Callant||26.56%||5||13|
|CH Sutherland Gallant||25.00%||3||2|
|CH Sutherland MacDuff||25.00%||3||3|
|CH Sutherland Lass of Shambray||25.00%||3||2|
|CH Wilson’s Corrie, CD||22.30%||7||200|
|CH Afternod Buchanon||20.22%||7||48|
|Loch Adair Diana of Redchic||17.97%||5||12|
|CH EEG’s Scotia Nodrog Rettes||17.76%||8||181|
|Afternod Ember of Gordon Hill||17.14%||8||76|
|CH Afternod Hickory||16.21%||6||27|
|CH Black Rogue of Serlway||15.72%||9||480|
|CH Afternod Woodbine||14.45%||6||15|
|CH Fast’s Falcon of Windy Hill||13.82%||8||66|
|CH Page’s MacDonegal II||13.43%||7||56|
|CH Downside Bonnie of Serlway||12.90%||10||708|
|Peter of Crombie||12.76%||11||3,887|
|CH Afternod Amber||12.50%||5||5|
|Ben of Crombie||11.83%||11||7,584|
|CH Afternod Kate||10.74%||6||17|
The above analysis shows the ancestral contribution of the linebred ancestors in Bilye’s pedigree. Those dogs in color were present in the five-generation pedigree. CH Afternod Drambuie has the highest genetic contribution of all of the linebred ancestors. He appears 33 times between the sixth and eighth generations. One appearance in the sixth generation contributes 1.56% of the genes to the pedigree. His total contribution is 33.2% of Bilye’s genes, second only to the parents. Therefore, in this pedigree, the most influential ancestor doesn’t even appear in the five-generation pedigree. His dam, CH Afternod Sue, appears 61 times between the seventh and tenth generations, and contributes more genes to the pedigree than a grandparent.
Foundation dogs that formed the Gordon Setter breed also play a great role in the genetic makeup of today’s dogs. Heather Grouse appears over one million times between the sixteenth and twenty-fifth generations, and almost doubles those appearances beyond the twenty-fifth generation. He contributes over ten percent of the genes to Bilye’s pedigree. This example shows that the depth of the pedigree is very important in estimating the genetic makeup of an individual. Any detrimental recessive genes carried by Heather Grouse or other founding dogs, would be expected to be widespread in the breed.
BREEDING BY APPEARANCE
Many breeders plan matings solely on the appearance of a dog and not on its pedigree or the relatedness of the prospective parents. This is called assortative mating. Breeders use positive assortative matings (like-to-like) to solidify traits, and negative assortative matings (like-to-unlike) when they wish to correct traits or bring in traits their breeding stock may lack.
Some individuals may share desirable characteristics, but they inherit them differently. This is especially true of polygenic traits, such as ear set, bite, or length of forearm. Breeding two phenotypically similar but genotypically unrelated dogs together would not necessarily reproduce these traits. Conversely, each individual with the same pedigree will not necessarily look or breed alike.
Breedings should not be planned solely on the basis of the pedigree or appearance alone. Matings should be based on a combination of appearance and ancestry. If you are trying to solidify a certain trait – like topline – and it is one you can observe in the parents and the linebred ancestors of two related dogs, then you can be more confident that you will attain your goal.
Some breed clubs advocate codes of ethics that discourage linebreeding or inbreeding, as an attempt to increase breed genetic diversity. This position is based on a false premise. Inbreeding or linebreeding does not cause the loss of genes from a breed gene pool. It occurs through selection; the use and non-use of offspring. If some breeders linebreed to certain dogs that they favor, and others linebreed to other dogs that they favor, then breed-wide genetic diversity is maintained.
In a theoretical mating with four offspring, we are dealing with four gene pairs. The sire is homozygous at 50% of his gene pairs (two out of four), while the dam is homozygous at 75% of her gene pairs. It is reasonable to assume that she is more inbred than the sire.
A basic tenet of population genetics is that gene frequencies do not change from the parental generation to the offspring. This will occur regardless of the homozygosity or heterozygosity of the parents, or whether the mating is an outbreeding, linebreeding, or inbreeding. This is the nature of genetic recombination.
There is a lack of gene diversity at the first (olive) gene pair, so that only one type of gene combination can be produced: homozygous olive. As the sire is homozygous lime at the third gene pair, and the dam is homozygous blue, all offspring will be heterozygous at the third gene pair. Depending on the dominant or recessive nature of the blue or lime genes, all offspring will appear the same for this trait due to a uniformity of heterozygosity.
If offspring D is used as a prolific breeder, and none of the other offspring are bred to a great extent, gene frequencies in the breed will change. As dog D lacks the orange gene in the second pair and the purple gene in the fourth pair, the frequencies of these genes will diminish in the breed. They will be replaced by higher frequencies of the red and pink genes. This shifts the gene pool, and the breed’s genetic diversity. Of course, dogs have more than four gene pairs, and the overuse of dog D to the exception of others can affect the gene frequency of thousands of genes. Again, it is selection (for example of dog D to the exception of others), and not the types of matings he is involved in that alters gene frequencies.
Breeders should select the best individuals from all kennel lines, so as to not create new genetic bottlenecks. There is a tendency for many breeders to breed to a male; who produced no epileptics in matings to several epileptic dams, to an OFA excellent stud, or to the top winning dog in the show ring. Regardless of the popularity of the breed, if everyone is breeding to a single studdog, (the popular sire syndrome) the gene pool will drift in that dog’s direction and there will be a loss of genetic diversity. Too much breeding to one dog will give the gene pool an extraordinary dose of his genes, and also whatever detrimental recessives he may carry, to be uncovered in later generations. This can cause future breed related genetic disease through the founders effect.
Dogs who are poor examples of the breed should not be used simply to maintain diversity. Related dogs with desirable qualities will maintain diversity, and improve the breed. Breeders should concentrate on selecting toward a breed standard, based on the ideal temperament, performance, and conformation, and should select against the significant breed related health issues. Using progeny and sib-based information to select against both polygenic disorders and those without a known mode of inheritance will allow greater control.
Rare breeds with small gene pools have concerns about genetic diversity. What constitutes acceptable diversity versus too restricted diversity? The problems with genetic diversity in purebred populations concern the fixing of deleterious recessive genes, which when homozygous cause impaired health. Lethal recessives place a drain on the gene pool either prenatally, or before reproductive age. They can manifest themselves through smaller litter size, or neonatal death. Other deleterious recessives cause disease, while not affecting reproduction.
Problems with a lack of genetic diversity arise at the gene locus level. There is no specific level or percentage of inbreeding that causes impaired health or vigor. It has been shown that some inbred strains of animals thrive generation after generation, while others fail to thrive. If there is no diversity (non-variable gene pairs for a breed) but the homozygote is not detrimental, there is no effect on breed health. The characteristics that make a breed reproduce true to its standard are based on non-variable gene pairs. A genetic health problem arises for a breed when a detrimental allele increases in frequency and homozygosity.
The perceived problem of a limited gene pool has caused some breeds to advocate outbreeding of all dogs. Studies in genetic conservation and rare breeds have shown that this practice actually contributes to the loss of genetic diversity. By uniformly crossing all “lines” in a breed, you eliminate the differences between them, and therefore the diversity between individuals. This practice in livestock breeding has significantly reduced diversity, and caused the loss of unique rare breeds. The process of maintaining healthy “lines” or families of dogs, with many breeders crossing between lines and breeding back as they see fit maintains diversity in the gene pool. It is the varied opinion of breeders as to what constitutes the ideal dog, and their selection of breeding stock that maintains breed diversity.
The Doberman Pincher breed is large, and genetically diverse. The breed has a problem with vonWillibrands disease, an autosomal recessive bleeding disorder. Some researchers estimate that up to 60% of the breed may be homozygous recessive for the defective gene, and the majority of the remaining dogs are heterozygous. Therefore, there is diminished genetic diversity in this breed at the vonWillibrands locus. A genetic test and screening program now exists for Doberman Pincher breeders. They can identify carrier and affected dogs, and decrease the defective gene frequency through selection of normal testing offspring for breeding. By not just eliminating carriers, but replacing them with normal testing offspring, genetic diversity will be conserved.
Dalmatians have a high frequency defective autosomal recessive gene controlling purine metabolism. Homozygous recessive individuals can have urinary problems due to urate bladder stones and crystals, and an associated skin condition (Dalmatian Bronzing Syndrome). At one time, the breed and the AKC approved a crossbreeding program to a few Pointers, to bring normal purine metabolism genes into the gene pool. The program was abandoned for several reasons, but it was accepted that the number of individual Dalmatians with two normal purine metabolism genes far exceeded the few Pointers that were being used in the program. The impact of other Pointer genes foreign to the Dalmatian gene pool could have had a greater detrimental effect than the few normal purine metabolism genes being imported through the program.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Decisions to linebreed, inbreed or outbreed should be made based on the knowledge of an individual dog’s traits and those of its ancestors. Inbreeding will quickly identify the good and bad recessive genes the parents share in the offspring. Unless you have prior knowledge of what the pups of milder linebreedings on the common ancestors were like, you may be exposing your puppies (and puppy buyers) to extraordinary risk of genetic defects. In your matings, the inbreeding coefficient should only increase because you are specifically linebreeding (increasing the percentage of blood) to selected ancestors.
Don’t set too many goals in each generation, or your selective pressure for each goal will necessarily become weaker. Genetically complex or dominant traits should be addressed early in a long-range breeding plan, as they may take several generations to fix. Traits with major dominant genes become fixed more slowly, as the heterozygous (Aa) individuals in a breed will not be readily differentiated from the homozygous-dominant (AA) individuals. Desirable recessive traits can be fixed in one generation because individuals that show such characteristics are homozygous for the recessive genes. Dogs that breed true for numerous matings and generations should be preferentially selected for breeding stock. This prepotency is due to homozygosity of dominant (AA) and recessive (aa) genes.
If you linebreed and are not happy with what you have produced, breeding to a less related line immediately creates an outbred line and brings in new traits. Repeated outbreeding to attempt to dilute detrimental recessive genes is not a desirable method of genetic disease control. Recessive genes cannot be diluted; they are either present or not. Outbreeding carriers multiplies and further spreads the defective gene(s) in the gene pool. If a dog is a known carrier or has high carrier risk through pedigree analysis, it can be retired from breeding, and replaced with one or two quality offspring. Those offspring should be bred, and replaced with quality offspring of their own, with the hope of losing the defective gene.
Trying to develop your breeding program scientifically can be an arduous, but rewarding, endeavor. By taking the time to understand the types of breeding schemes available, you can concentrate on your goals towards producing a better dog.
If you are interested in learning more about these subjects, consult the following books:
- Abnormalities of Companion Animals: Analysis of Heritability
C.W. Foley, J.F. Lasley, and G.D. Osweiler, Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa. 1979.
- Genetics for Dog Breeders
F.B. Hutt, W.H. Freeman Co, San Francisco, California. 1979.
- Veterinary Genetics
F. W. Nicholas, Clarendon Press, Oxford England. 1987.
- Genetics for Dog Breeders
R. Robinson, Pergamon Press, Oxford England. 1990.
- Genetics of the Dog (equally applicable to cats & other animals)
M.B. Willis, Howell Book House, New York, New York. 1989.
By Jerold s Bell DVM, Clinical Associate Professor of Genetics, Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Reprinted by permission of the author.
(This article was originally published in the March 2007 AKC Perspectives Delegates Newsletter.)
Issues of genetic diversity are a concern to dog breeders, and this can be especially so for breeds with small populations. The concern is whether there is enough genetic variation within a breed’s gene pool to maintain health and vitality. Breeders should be concerned about genetic diversity, because there are examples where damage has been done to a breed due to breeding practices. Restriction of genetic diversity can also occur in large population breeds.
All genes come in pairs: one from the sire and one from the dam. Each gene in the pair is called an allele. If both alleles in a pair are of the same type, the gene pair is homozygous. If the two alleles are different, the gene pair is heterozygous. While each dog can have a maximum of two different alleles at a gene pair, many different alleles are potentially available to be part of the gene pair. The greater the number of alleles that are available at each gene pair (called genetic polymorphism), the greater the genetic diversity of the breed.
If there is no breed diversity in a gene pair, but the particular homozygous gene that is present is not detrimental, there is no negative effect on breed health. The characteristics that make a breed reproduce true to its standard are, in fact, based on non-variable (that is, homozygous) gene pairs.
The origins of the breeds have a lot to do with genetic diversity. A breed established with a working phenotype tends to have diverse founder origins, and significant diversity. Even with substantial population bottlenecks, the breed can maintain considerable amounts of genetic diversity. This was shown in a molecular genetic study of the Chinook breed, which was reduced to 11 modern founders in 1981. Breeds established by inbreeding on a limited number of related founder individuals could have a reduced diversity. Many breeds have also gone through diversity reducing bottlenecks; such as occurred during World War II. For most of these breeds, their gene pools have expanded through breeding for many generations, resulting in a stable population of healthy dogs.
There are two factors that must be considered when evaluating genetic diversity and health issues in a breed; the average level of inbreeding, and detrimental recessive genes. With a small population, there is a tendency to find higher average inbreeding coefficients due to the relatedness between dogs from common ancestors. There is, however, no specific level or percentage of inbreeding that causes impaired health or vigor. The problems that inbreeding depression cause in purebred populations stem from the effects of deleterious recessive genes. If the founding population of a breed produces a high frequency of a deleterious recessive gene, then the breed will have issues with that disorder. This can be seen as smaller litter size, increased neonatal death, high frequency genetic disease, or impaired immunity. If these issues are present then the breed needs to seriously consider limited genetic diversity.
The issue of high average inbreeding coefficients is one that all breeds go through during their foundation. As the population increases and the average relatedness of dogs goes down (based on a fixed number of generations), the average inbreeding coefficient for the breed will go down. The effect of initially higher inbreeding coefficients in small population breeds will depend on the presence of deleterious recessive genes that will be expressed when homozygous.
Some breeders discourage linebreeding and promote outbreeding in an attempt to protect genetic diversity in their breed. It is not the type of matings utilized (linebreeding or outbreeding) that causes the loss of genes from a breed gene pool. Rather, loss of genes occurs through selection: the use and non-use of offspring. If a breed starts limiting their focus to breeding stock from a limited number of lines, then a loss of genetic diversity will occur.
The process of maintaining healthy lines, with many breeders crossing between lines and breeding back as they see fit, maintains diversity in the gene pool. If some breeders outbreed, and some linebreed to certain dogs that they favor while others linebreed to other dogs that they favor, then breedwide genetic diversity is maintained. It is the varied opinion of breeders as to what constitutes the ideal dog, and their selection of breeeding stock based on their opinions, that maintains breed diversity.
The most important factor for diminished genetic diversity in dog breeds is the popular sire syndrome. The overuse of a popular sire beyond a reasonable contribution through frequent breedings significantly skews the gene pool in this direction, and reduces the diversity of the gene pool. Any genes that he possesses – whether positive or negative – will increase in frequency. Through this founder’s effect, breed related genetic disease can occur. Another insidious effect of the popular sire syndrome is the loss of genetic contribution from quality, unrelated males who are not used for breeding. There is a finite number of quality bitches bred each year. If one male is used in an inordinate amount of matings, there will be fewer females left for these quality males that should be contributing to the gene pool. The popular sire syndrome is a significant factor in both populous breeds and breeds with small populations.
The best methods for ensuring the health and diversity of a breed’s gene pool are to:
- Avoid the popular sire syndrome.
- Utilize quality dogs from the breadth of your population to expand the gene pool.
- Monitor genetic health issues through regular health surveys.
- Do genetic testing for breed-related disorders.
- Participate in open health registries, such as CHIC (www.caninehealthinfo.org) to manage genetic disorders.
(This article can be reprinted with the written permission from the author: email@example.com)
Related article – Outcrossing Does Not Equal Gene Pool Diversity
Photograph courtesy of Susan Roy Nelson is not intended to illustrate any point in the article, it is presented for your viewing pleasure only.
In 2015 the number of AKC registered Gordon Setters continued it’s 20 year drop, down by another sixty dogs. Is there any end in sight to this trend, and are we seeing the first signs of extinction for some purebreds, including our own breed? In the last 20 years the Gordon Setter population has dropped by 71%. What is the impact to a breed like ours when 71% of their population is no longer available for breeding?
In the U.K., The Kennel Club considers the Gordon Setter as a “vulnerable” breed at only 234 registrations in 2015. I’m wondering how we should label the Gordon here in the states, considering that the population of the U.S., 319 million, is nearly five times that of the U.K. at 64 million, but the U.S. Gordon Setter at 381 new registrations is only about one and a half times the 234 registrations in the U.K., a significantly smaller per capita number.
Could this mean that the breed is in an even more precarious and vulnerable position in the U.S.?
With this alarming decline in the breed’s population, if you’re breeding Gordon Setters there are a few things to consider as you go about planning new litters, and one of those considerations includes the need to develop a good understanding the of the gene pool and how your choices will impact preservation of the breed.
Your next litter is like a big fish in a small pond. As there fewer and fewer Gordon Setters whelped each year, the overall number of Gordon Setters available for breeding is dropping to an all time low, so litters that are born now will have a bigger impact on the future and preservation of the breed than the many litters that were born 20 years ago. Is it possible that we are losing genetic diversity in our breed population due to the decline in the overall number of new litters produced, and that our gene pool might also be shrinking? Unfortunately that answer may be Yes.
As breeders then, we need to ensure we have a basic understanding of genetic concepts and what it means to maintain genetic diversity. As our pool of fertile dogs continues to decline in number, the chance of finding unrelated genetically diverse dogs has fallen dramatically, which becomes especially relevant if we later find we need those dogs to help resolve a health issue from a newly recognized gene mutation.
Just as we pay attention to the need for health clearances when preparing for a litter, so too must we pay similar attention to understanding and analyzing the pedigrees of the resulting litter. Now is the time when we need to embrace the concept of preserving offspring from the bloodlines of many various kennels and engage in preserving semen from healthy dogs of good quality, preserving many dogs of good quality from both show and field, not only those who are our top winners. Should we be doing more and more blending of the typical show and the field lines, or importing semen or dogs from other countries? These tactics and many more, now more than ever before need our attention, as breeders work to preserve the best qualities of our gorgeous breed, along with the diversity in our gene pool needed to safely continue the Gordon Setter in a healthy state.
With all that said, the following is an excellent article to get you started from The Institute of Canine Biology. It is a basic discussion about the gene pool. Today’s “Required Reading” for every Gordon Setter breeder I do believe!
The founding of the breed – the Gene Pool
Let’s pretend these 11 dogs are the “founders” of your breed – they are the first dogs entered into the studbook. All subsequent members of the breed are descended from these dogs only. The breed has a closed gene pool.
All of the genetic variability that will ever exist in your new breed is present in these dogs. Mutations probably won’t add new, useful genetic variation because most mutations are detrimental. If the mutated gene is dominant and detrimental, it will likely be weeded out very quickly. If the mutation is recessive, it is not expressed unless an animal is homozygous for the allele by inheriting a copy from each of its parents. In the heterozygote condition, a mutated recessive allele can lurk in the genome for generations without ever causing a problem. So, unless additional “founders” are added to the population at a later date, all of the genes you will ever have to work with in your breeding program are present in these dogs.
In each of these dogs there are at least a few (and perhaps many) recessive genes that could cause genetic disorders. But these disorders will only expressed if a dog is homozygous for the disease allele – it must have TWO copies, one from each parent. As long as the disease genes are rare in the population, very few animals will ever display the illness.
Can the gene pool get bigger? (No!)
Okay, starting with your 11 founder dogs, let’s let them reproduce. To keep it simple, we will let them produce only identical copies of themselves – clones.
Now we have 27 dogs, all of which are exact copies of one of the founders. What has happened to the size of the gene pool?
You now have more dogs, and you now have more copies of the genes found in the dogs that had more offspring, like that busy gray dog with the red tongue. So, the frequency of particular alleles is different in this population than in the founders, but the number of different alleles in the population is exactly the same. (We’re ignoring the possibility of a mutation for now.)
What if the dogs reproduce normally instead of producing clones? In sexual reproduction, each puppy receives one set of genes from each parent. And, each puppy receives a different mix of parental genes, so each one is a bit different. Also, each parent dog has a different number of offspring and might mate multiple times with different dogs. So the frequency of the various alleles in the population could be very different in this new population than in the founders.
But again, even though there are now more dogs in the population, the gene pool does not get bigger.
In fact, it doesn’t matter how large this breed gets – it might someday grow to thousands of dogs – but as long as the stud book is closed, the gene pool will never be larger than it was when the breed is founded.
Can the gene pool get smaller? (Yes!)
The gene pool of a closed breed can never get bigger. But it can get smaller.
What if dogs with black ears were less fertile, or had higher puppy mortality, or had some other biological problem? The frequency in the population of the genes causing the black ears would be reduced by natural selection – black-eared dogs would contribute fewer copies of their genes to the next generation. Eventually, by genetic drift (chance) or natural selection, the genes in black-eared dogs would become rarer and rarer, and might eventually be eliminated from the population entirely.
What if breeders didn’t like black ears, so all the puppies with black ears were spayed or neutered and sent to pet homes? Those alleles will become less frequent in the population, and they might be eliminated completely because of artificial selection courtesy of the breeder.
The gene pool gets smaller when genes are completely eliminated from the population. It is unlikely that a gene will be restored by chance mutation, and the only other way it can be restored is if an animal is introduced into the breeding population that carries that gene and who reproduces successfully.
In purebred dogs, when the stud book is closed, no new alleles can be introduced into the breed. The loss of an allele is permanent and reduces the heterozygosity in the genome for that gene.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Why We Need Purebred Dog Breeders published by Huffpost Impact, The Blog
By Carlotta Cooper – Writer, DogFood.guru; Author, ‘The Dog Adoption Bible’
With the Westminster Kennel Club dog show recently on TV, it inevitably stirs debate about purebred dogs. These days, a vocal segment of the population detests purebred dogs and their breeders. Whether this is a class issue, a generational issue, politics, or something else, it’s hard to say, but it goes far beyond the facts about breeders and their dogs.
Today there are over 400 recognized breeds of dogs in the world. Many of them have historical origins dating back hundreds, even thousands of years. Wherever humans have lived, dogs have been alongside them performing various tasks. One of the reasons dogs have been such a successful species is because they are so adaptable. They have made themselves useful in countless ways to humans so we kept feeding them, providing shelter for them, and, yes, breeding them. It’s no accident that we have dogs able to hunt, herd, guard, track, and do so many other things at an expert level. Humans figured out early on that if you bred dogs that were good at these things, you would get offspring that were also good at doing them. All of these jobs performed by dogs were necessary for our own species to survive. It’s no secret that we owe a lot to dogs, just as we do to other animals.
Today some of these jobs are performed in other ways and dogs don’t do the work they used to do. Hunting is a sport today and most of us don’t have to hunt with dogs to put food on the table. English Cocker Spaniels and Irish Setters are more popular as family pets than as hunting dogs. Dogs aren’t commonly used to kill rats today and it’s been a long time since the adorable Yorkshire Terrier, originally bred to kill vermin in textile mills, was used for this kind of work. Dogs still have some specialized uses for search and rescue, narcotics detection and other kinds of detection, along with other specialized skills such as therapy dog work, but most people don’t need to use dogs for work. Nevertheless, breeds still have their admirers. Some people love a dog’s appearance. Some people love a breed because they are from the same tiny corner of the world and they feel a kinship with the dogs of their ancestors. Some people love the temperament of a certain breed or its athletic ability. There are all kinds of reasons why people love a particular breed.
What you may not know is that many breeds today have very small populations. If some breeds were any other kind of animal they would be considered endangered. You may find it hard to believe, but breeds can become extinct. If you read any histories about dog breeds, you will find lots of references to breeds that are gone now. Countless breeds have become extinct over the centuries. In some cases we have some of their descendants because they contributed to newer breeds, but not always. Some people might not care if particular breeds become extinct, but if you are a fan of a breed, then this might matter to you. From a genetic viewpoint, it’s always good to have a wide selection of dogs that contributed to a breed’s foundation. You never know when it might be necessary to reintroduce some of the genes from an older breed for health reasons. If those breeds are extinct, that’s no longer a possibility.
In Great Britain the Kennel Club maintains a list of “vulnerable native breeds.” This refers to breeds that were developed in the UK which register fewer than 300 individual dogs per year. There are currently about 29 breeds on this list, with more breeds on the Watch list, meaning they are close to Vulnerable status. Although the Kennel Club in Britain registers fewer dogs than we do in the U.S., the situation with purebred dogs in the U.S. is similar. While the Labrador Retriever – the top dog registered by the AKC for over 20 years – has tens of thousands of individual registrations every year, other breeds have far fewer numbers. Beyond a few popular breeds, most breeds have relatively small numbers of dogs registered each year. We have many breeds in the United States which register only a few hundred individual dogs per year.
That’s why we need breeders of purebred dogs today. People who breed to preserve dog breeds are usually hobbyists. They may participate in dog shows or companion/performance events with their dogs. The dogs that they can’t keep are usually placed in pet homes. Yet cities and state legislatures are passing laws that can make it virtually impossible for smaller breeders to continue this important work.
For example, a bill currently under consideration in New Jersey would ban breeders from selling dogs outside the state unless the sale was made face-to-face. If you are a breeder in New Jersey and a potential buyer in say, California, is interested in one of your dogs, this buyer would have to come to New Jersey to see and buy the dog. Or the breeder would have to take the dog to California. This is obviously onerous and unnecessary. It also adds a tremendous expense to the cost of the dog. This kind of legislation is proposed in the name of “consumer protection” but it is actually meant to punish and discourage dog breeding.
Before you say that the person in California could find another dog closer to home, what if the New Jersey breeder is one of the few people in the country breeding that particular breed? In many cases we are talking about breeds that may only register a few litters per year. That’s why this kind of legislation is so dangerous. In some cases it could literally cause the extinction of breeds. Breeders give up breeding rather than face these kinds of legislative problems.
Other breeding bills lump small breeders in with large commercial breeders. Small breeders are in no any way able to meet some of the kennel requirements written for large commercial establishments because they typically keep their dogs in their home as pets.
No one is suggesting that people should not get a dog from a shelter or rescue if that’s what they want to do. Many breed clubs were among the first dog rescue groups in the U.S. Breeders love dogs and believe in rescue. But people should also have the option to purchase a purebred dog from a dedicated breeder without harassment or guilt. And breeders should be able to breed their dogs without punitive laws.
The wonderful dogs that appeared at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show do not happen by accident. They take years of planning and loving work on the part of dedicated breeders. We can’t let those breeders – or the breeds so many people love – become the victims of short-sighted anti-purebred legislation.
Carlotta Cooper is a vice president of the Sportsmen’s and Animal Owners’ Voting Alliance (SAOVA) and an AKC Legislative Liaison. She writes for Pawster.com and Dogfood.guru and she’s a breed columnist for the AKC Gazette. She’s also a contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She is the author of several books about dogs and other animals.