Preserving Quality & Genetic Diversity in a Breed.
As Dr. Jerome Bell so succinctly put it: "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 current problem of erupting genetic disease, as far as it applies to pedigrees & breeding, reflects two trends. One is a problem of the "Matador," that is the "Popular Sire Syndrome." When all run to breed to a winning dog, or some dog or bloodline, (for whatever reason, be it convenience, ignorance or perceived value), genetic diversity can be lost. But indiscriminate universal assortative matings is not the answer to this problem & can actually reduce genetic diversity in the breed by "homogenizing" gene pairs across the whole breed. Out crossing cannot solve the problem of genetic disease anymore than inbreeding is the cause of it. However "type" breeding, that is, the mating of two animals of similar looks, not similar pedigrees, CAN effect one particularly good thing which is the take-home message of "diversity breeding": since the number of genes involved with creating a certain "look" are much less than the likely number doubled up with line breeding (esp. "blind" line breeding, time and again, on some "famous" relative), the loss to the breed of heterozygousity is slowed and the individual dogs are arguably more safe from various line defects...while still having "type."

The other major problems in dogs today as to disease has little to do with hobby ("show") breeders & is largely a problem of casual breeding. Casual breeding produces more than three-quarters of all registered dogs in the USA & assembly (nearly) 100% of mixed-breed litters. as a result of the low investment & high profitability (not just in money) that dog breeding brings to the average American household. There is a clear cultural support for anyone & everyone breeding their own pet, and this license runs counter to the serious study & self-education process necessary to breed dogs well enough to avoid bad temperaments and worse health problems. That so many pet buyers do not clearly see this means casual breeders are able to enjoy having litters, & be certain of sales, even if their only credentials are that they love their dogs. These litters, despite the buying public's perception & causal breeder's claims, suffer often from major genetic problems they continue to pass along _and_ they are often indiscriminately inbred, as they are usually exclusively local (or narrowly regional) breeding programs, often with the whole breeding population sustained by a couple of friends. What is needed is educated, dedicated, honest breeders & scrupulous selection. Breeders need to know the dogs they are using in their breeding programs & need to know them intimately. Each needs to have a clear priority of what they cannot live with & what they cannot live without. (And ideally each would clearly announce this somehow so others are clear on their priorities before they buy or breed from them.) A variety of styles, of lines, of sub-populations, criss-crossing, separating & then, again, coming together in a wonderful breed mosaic, is the best recipe for maintaining type, health, temperament  & diversity in any breed. And for all that "diversity" is a buzzword of fashion right now, it isn't at all a new idea, just a new term for the notion of having a variety of bloodlines within a breed. (Note also that diversity does not necessarily equal outcross.) What is needed in most all breeds is for more good dogs to be rooted out & recognized, despite their lack of glamour & dazzling ads. (That & for America to get serious about dog breeding & treat it with the gravity it deserves.) It would also help if more folks would work together to preserve bloodlines and create new ones by judicious crosses, so that variety would be preserved. For this more people will have to get educated about the history and styles of their breed; too many today simply breed to some current fashion )or market!), oblivious to the fact what they are seeing is simply fashion and not "the" standard for the breed.

SPORTS do not generally produce good offspring.

Sport is a term many breeders no longer use, but is a useful idea. A sport is the odd good dog in a litter that is otherwise uneven. It is traditionally the occasional decent dog found in a litter from an unlikely background and breeding. Usually such dogs are the fortuitous result of a mixed litter from a casual breeding, & the people who breed to the dog are the ones who pay the price for his mixed-up, casual pedigree & genetic background. But sports can come about from breeding "paper" not dogs; from trying to breed "up," from blind line-breeding, or any convenience or accidental breeding. A sport is a dog by definition, almost, who is unable to reproduce himself, for all his good looks. Very uneven litters & erratic littermate traits result and are certainly not helpful to a breeding program & make it hard to track both good and bad traits with any likely success. Sports can play another negative role in the breed if they become famous show dogs (or just popular sires for any reason). Not only are they breed despite the fact they are indifferent sires, their every mediocre relative is used with great enthusiasm as the family is all thought consistently "good" (instead of seen for the inconsistent lot they really are). Breeding "paper" instead of dogs has a consistently poor result, but breeding dogs who cannot reproduce themselves should be recognized as a poor practice as well.

Great & consistent bloodlines have been built on good, consistent dogs bred by knowledgeable breeders.

Purebred domestic species are based on concentrating family traits, so like dogs must somehow be bred together. Knowledge is the key here; knowing in depth what you are breeding. Buyers shouldn't reward those who breed casually, indifferently, or for superficial traits. And please don't condemn breeders who have the courage to acknowledge the faults in their dogs & their bloodlines (or who try to elicit information & public discussion of the same). All bloodlines carry along faults, not just the ones where the faults are seen & reported. Again, the situation now is too often one where people breed without knowledge, producing affecters and carriers & just not knowing it, as they don't keep adequate records, do enough homework, etc. Just ask yourself how this can be preferable to accumulating information than can only benefit the breed? Who exactly benefits from all this ignorance? Surely not the dogs, the potential breeding partners left in ignorance, or the potential puppy buyers. For the breeds to benefit from the control of genetic disease we need to do what most Code of Ethics demand: keep up with news in genetics & have an in-depth knowledge of the dogs we are using. This means understanding the basics of inheritance & knowing how to apply them for good results in your breeding practices. This means marking pedigrees with more than color and titles. This means accepting that most diseases we now struggle with have a genetic component & treating such situations conservatively AND rationally. We need to educate ourselves, to stop reacting violently to the notion of genetic disease & start treating it with a more sophisticated and realistic view. We need to not just learn as we go, but read before we breed, & bone up on the basics before we start creating lives.

For more information on dog genetics, see:
"The Ins and Outs of Pedigree Analysis, Genetic Diversity, and Genetic Disease Control,"Jerold S. Bell. D.V.M.

Genetics of the Dog, Malcolm B. Willis
(Howell, 1989).

CONTROL OF CANINE GENETIC DISEASES, George A. Padgett, DVM, (Howell, 1998).


BORN TO WIN, Patricia Craige, (Doral Publishing, 1997).

BREEDING BETTER DOGS, C.L. Battaglia, Ph.D. (BEI Publishing, 4th Ed. 1986).

And a lovely synopsis of the overall topic for the academically inclined (with a multiplicity of references) is:
The Natural History of Inbreeding & Out breeding, edited by Nancy Wilsem Thornhill. U.Chicao Press, 1993.

This message was written & prepared by JP Yousha for educational purposes & may be reproduced to further that end. All copyrights remain with the author:
CHROMADANE/ Yousha.1999. Updated 2000.
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