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Canine Trauma




Evangelizing Canine Genetic Diversity


Hellmuth Wachtel


Excessive elite breeding" combines only the very best, but also reduces the genetic pool, leading to a rapid exhaustion of the genetic improvement margin. Appropriately combining first-rate with very good subjects makes better progress possible, and better conserves the gene pool. An example of a well-meant but too strict elite breeding regime is the German Shepherd Dog in Germany, overly shrinking the gene pool of the world's most popular and successful breed, with the ensuing inevitable consequences.

There are canine examples of 'bottleneck breeding," e.g. the German Kromfohrlaender, a "young" postwar breed originating from just two dogs; and the Cesky Terrier created by Dr. Horak using three founders. But survival of longtime inbreds most probably depends on few or no genetic defects in the founders, which seems to be extremely rare. Besides, the resulting genetic inflexibility is most undesirable for many reasons.

Here is my "evangelistic" message:

Seven Theses of Canine Genetic Diversity

  1. Inbreeding including incest, line and back breeding, popular sire breeding and exaggerated elite breeding are depleting the breeds genetic heritage, I call them "close breeding methods " though habitually this term is used for incest matings (an euphemism).

  2. As these methods increase the genetic defect risk they can be seen as a kind of animal experiment that should be reserved for scientific institutions and are only acceptable for an important purpose. They are not justified by the slightly better chance to produce a champion.

  3. All breed clubs used to solemnly state that their breed's health was their first and foremost concern. This lacks credibility as long as the above cited methods are not strictly banned in their code of ethics. Dog breeding should not be gambling with canine health. Even a breed's absolute purity, while rightly being a sacred principle, must be secondary in a genetic emergency situation.

  4. Inbreeding was once a valuable tool in shaping today's breeds. As these have now reached a high degree of homogeneity it has lost its importance and turned into a fatal and disastrous habit.

  5. In order to enjoy a life worth of living, dogs have the right to be provided with an adequate genetic diversity outfit, just as much as to good care, feeding, and freedom from abusive treatment.

  6. The very helpful discovery of genetic markers permitting the identification of carriers of specific genetic diseases should not be considered a warrant to continue in the old way as they will not cure the deterioration of the gene pool caused by the above practices.

  7. Incest matings are an abomination in dog breeding too, not for any moral reasons but for the disastrous consequences. overwhelming practical and scientific evidence, close breeding is abusive breeding. Overwhelming practical and scientific evidence HAS SHOWN THAT close breeding is abusive breeding, Highly inbred progeny is "genetically mutilated."

I tentatively would think if all close breeding stopped today, the hereditary defect rate would immediately shrink by 10 - 20%. What an enormous relief of suffering, vet expenditures, and emotional distress.... But every mating of relatives that could be dissuaded from may prevent one or more sick dogs and thus is worth the convincing effort.

More evangelism:

Evangelism means the spreading of a good message. But one of a breeder's foremost aims is producing a champion, and if he succeeds, to spread his (the dogs and his own) fame by offering him far and wide as a stud. If he is lucky, he even may make much money. In order to improve his chances, he best uses incestuous mating or at least line breeding. And now geneticists tell him to act against his interests by outcrossing and very restrictive use of his stud for the benefit of his breed, if under present show conditions he will ever be able to produce one doing so.

Canine (genetic) diversity attainment would need a total revolution of the dog and showing fancy hardly conceivable so far. A good example is in DOG WORLD MAGAZINE where the authors advocate the reopening of stud books by the AKC, while on page 19 you read "The breeding of closely related dogs can have fantastic results or it can produce four-legged tragedies in terms of health and temperament." As in almost anything written on dog breeding, there is a warning, but never a clear-cut dissuasion from inbreeding. It always is defined as a powerful tool for the knowledgeable breeder, so every breeder will like to prove his knowledgeability and not miss his chances....

So how to convert an apparent "bad message" to a promising one for the breeding community?




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