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« Reality bites: Is " Greatest American Dog " good or bad for dogs? | Main | FDA to open offices in China »

22 August 2008

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slt

I absolutely would. The problem is finding that "best interest" dog AND an owner willing to go along. I dropped out of my national club years ago for the very reason that I didn't want to be held to their extreme limitations and did not agree with their pursuit of stated goals. So my name is already mud. Just have to find someone else willing to meet me in H-E-double-hockey-sticks, which is not all that popular of a meeting place for dog breeders. I don't know why, hehehe.

The OTHER Pat

To what extent could the mapping of the dog genome help with this? I mean, let's imagine for a moment that the breeders actually all got serious and started learning this stuff, and determined amongst themselves to improve the genetic diversity and genetic health of their respective breeds while maintaining breed type. Couldn't the Canine Genome be a very real and useful tool in this endeavor?



One link I found:



http://www.dogmap.ch/

Christie Keith

The mapping of the canine genome has been invaluable in the development of genetic tests. The existence of tightly bred dogs has also, ironically, helped narrow down such searches. And there are dozens of tests in the wings, all based on the map of the canine genome and the hard work of breed clubs and fanciers many of whom, contrary to the impression given by the BBC show, care very deeply about the genetic health of their breeds.



But the genome map doesn't directly help with this. It's just a map. We have to use it to go somewhere.

Bernard J. (Bernie) Starzewski

Ive posted on this before. While I dont consider myself an extremist and certainly dont accept the idea that Im using "junk science", genetics is as genetics does.



Certainly we select all the animals around us for certain traits. Scout and Trigger being my first real "purebred" dogs (I suspect Trig has a little coon hound in him somewhere) I can and do appreciate the very special skills they display in the field and their kind, gentle and playful nature that I have now come to know as Setters.



But Scoutie and Trig are easily recognized as DOGS and not some transporter accident on the Enterprise. While some breeds do better at running after rabbits or finding a duck in a cold pond or herding sheep these guys have birds on the brain and that is fine and just what I wanted.



Any time you deliberately select for a particular trait to the exclusion of all else you invite trouble either by loosing a good gene or enhancing a bad one. The more focused the selection becomes the more virulent the results can be.



Many of these traits themselves are decidedly revolting in and of themselves and serve no purpose (that I can see) other than developing a creator complex in the breeder.



I once saw a very positive documentary I think on PBS about man's relationship to dogs and it pointed out something very similar to the wolf phenotype clains here. It pointed to the dogs of India which are allowed to roam and breed freely. It went on to state that no matter where this happens the dogs always come back to the same general set of characteristics, short but floppy ears, a pointed nose and a colored body.



Both these dogs and the wolf is shaped not by inbreeding but by their environment for maximal survival. Wovles are dark with white bellies because it helps them go undetected and they are extremely wary. The Indian dogs however, are colored and less suspicious of man because they have found their niche in our close proximity.



Domesticated breeds have found smaller niches on farms and as guard dogs or as hunters or maybe just companions. But these traits, these ugly traits are a curse to the animals that possess them. They do not help them hunt, or fight or hear or herd. They are there for the visual gratification of those who care not for the animal but for themselves and their own vanity. The illness and pain and short life these dogs suffer for it is no less a cruelty than daily beatings or experimental surgery.

Anne T

FYI, the BBC show Pedigreed Dogs Exposed is available in segments thru YouTube.

http://tinyurl.com/6or4eb

I wouldn't be shocked to learn AR activists were behind the making of this 'documentary'. I doubt if the motives were purely in the best interests of purebred dogs, since the emphasis is mostly on how "flawed" pure bred dog breeding is.

Thank you Christie for your well articulated response.

Kim Campbell Thornton

One dog club that is requiring dogs to pass health tests before registering them is the Havana Silk Dog Association of America. It's a group of Havanese breeders who have formed their own registry in an attempt to improve the breed's health. I didn't see any of the letters, but there were screams of angry protest from the Havanese Club of America when I included mention of the HSDAA in a recent Havanese breed profile.

Luisa

Great post, Christie.



Both the American Border Collie Association and its parent registry, the ISDS in the UK, will register on merit a dog of unknown breeding, provided the dog can demonstrate the ability to work consistantly to an Open standard. Our mantra: the only standard is working ability.



By remarkable coincidence, the finest stockdog on earth [and the top agility dog, and obedience dog, not to mention the cover creature of NatGeo's issue on animal intelligence] is the working border collie.

slt

Certainly there is inbreeding in nature but there is also a tendency for defective animals to die off w/out contributing to the gene pool. So the defects are self-limiting in nature. In purebred dogs, we regularly choose for breeding those dogs which would never pass on their genes "in the wild" because, for example, they would never have been born (w/out a C-section). It was human intervention which created the many wonderful breeds we have today and it is human intervention which is on the path to grinding some of them into the ground. Breed clubs who follow AKC rules be damned - I'll do what I think is best unless and until PETA succeeds in making pet breeding/ownership illegal.

Christie Keith

slt, me too. But here's a question for you:



Would you breed to an unregistered dog, or a registered dog of another breed, if you thought that was "best" for your breed?

Christie Keith

Well, Luisa... I gave a shout-out to the Border Collie for a reason. And that was it. ;)

JenniferJ

"Would you breed to an unregistered dog, or a registered dog of another breed, if you thought that was “best” for your breed?"



I'll jump in here with a qualified answer of yes. Qualified because there would be not point in doing so unless it would actually benefit the breed as a whole. And it won't do that unless other breeders come on board and do the same or use the resulting offspring. And they won't do that unless the puppies can be registered at some point.



So yes, open registries are needed. At the very least, any dog from any well established foreign or domestic registry should be OKAY. But they are not. It would be easy to blame AKC for that but in truth the individual parent clubs dictate alot about the stud books for their breed. The Toy Fox Club for instance, asked that the stud book be closed soon after they became AKC registerable. That left a ton of UKC only registered dogs out there. The stud book did not need to close. It never needs to close to UKC dogs. The only hope in the short term to get those genes into AKC dogs is for UKC dogs to be exported to a country that recognizes the breegd and then have they or their puppies returned to the States.



Hopefully in a few years, the club"elders" will be persuaded to ask AKC to open the book again.



As for not letting first or second or what have you generations compete in shows or whatever events, as has been the case with some of AKC's outcross or open book registries, why?

If more breeds get the opportunity to breed out then let the results compete, if they have the talent or needed qualities, they'll win. If not, well then maybe next generation. But I think getting past the idea that the very act of being hybridized makes the dog and the 10 generations somehow inferior is going to take some getting used to.

JenniferJ

Sorry for the typos. And this is wrong



"It is possible to breed even some brachycephalic to be healthy..."



Take out the some, it should say



"It is possible to breed even brachycephalics to be healthy"

JenniferJ

And now I'm going to really stick my foot in it. :-)



I'm actually quite hesitant to do so. However I do love dogs and my two breeds especially so here it goes.



The bulldog pictured above is a great example of a really incorrect head. That short, pug type, round head is why alot of bulldogs have obstructive airways. And short heads crowd the eyes with skin folds to All breed judges love that head. And most people think that IS the bulldog head. It's not.



Dyed in the wool, hardcore bulldoggers want length, yes length of skull. We want a LONG head. Not a nosy head but a long head. The nose should NOT be up between the eyes, the distance from the nose to the stop should be one half the distance from the nose to the tip of the lower jaw. And the distance from the stop to the lower jaw tip should be close to half the total length of the skull.



Pugs have a downward oriented face, like a human, Bulldogs should have an "up" face. Think alligator.



It's important because long correct skulls don't crowd airways, don't force soft palates back into the throat, don't crimp and twist nasal passages. And in my experience, they generally have larger tracheal diameters too.



Big huge exaggerated round wrinkly heads and big bowed deformed looking front ends with skinny narrow hindquarters became all the rage in the 60-80s. Dogs which showed did not do other disciplines because they couldn't.



Things are better now. While you'll still see some extreme dogs doing alot of winning, more balance is returning. Crooked legs are less common, we want STRAIGHT legs in front and decent angles in the rear and dogs doing conformation are also starting to do well in agility again. They live longer too.



Dogs bred this way compare in appearance and proportion to most breeds at birth. They do not have the extreme blocky look as puppies everyone is used to in bulldogs. And yet I've done my fair share of winning with them.



Another benefit of LONG heads is my dogs don't snore.



Oh and neck, no short stumpy necks allowed in any breeding program of mine



It is possible to breed even some brachycephalics to be healthy and athletic but it requires breaking away from the mentality that it is just "in the breed". While we wait for open stud books, getting breeders to accept that at least some of the problems in their dogs are not excusable as "breed problems" would go a long way towards improving the overall health of their breeds.



Not rewarding puppies for being overly mature for their age would be good too. many countries do not give championships to dogs under a year old. Puppies that look like adults often become over done caricatures later in life. In bulldogs slow maturing dogs usually live a lot longer and suffer fewer orthopedic issues.



As for judging the genetic health of an animal from it's appearance, Christie is absolutely right. It's hogwash. I have seen dogs with almost identical conformation be night and day when it comes to health. One with a stenotic trachea, bad knees, no stamina, poor muscle tone etc... The other with a large, normal airway, and the ability to run leap and play and tolerate the heat as if no one ever told him he was a bulldog.

Lis

using photos of oddly-coiffed Chinese Cresteds or struggling-to-breathe pugs shown in the arms of a woman who exceeds the U.S. Government Approved Body Mass Index,



Amusingly enough, the Chinese Crested is a)a generally healthy breed, and b)healthier than it was thirty years ago.



Powerpuffs (the fully coated version) are now fully accepted, to the extent of taking Best in Show at CC specialty shows. In the hairless variety, there are degrees of hairlessness, and devotees of extreme hairlessness have been complaining for years that that extreme doesn't win in shows. It's the moderately hairless that win. True Hairless devotees claim it's because a shameful love of "flashy" furnishings; others say that the extreme hairless dogs rarely have good conformation, and point to True Hairless dogs with excellent conformation who do win.



In other words, there's a bias toward healthy, well-made dogs, and against the poorer bone structure and poorer dentition of the extreme varieties.



There are two distinct body types, both still recognizable as Cresteds but easily distinguished from each other, a cause of Scandal for some, but people persist in breeding and showing both body types. There's a "scandalous" degree of variation in size, too. And in the 1990s, the standard was rewritten to allow more variation, in that and some other traits.



It's an open secret that there was a lot of outcrossing with poodles, Westies, and papillons in the 20s and 30s, when the breed was being seriously established as part of the dog fancy, rather than just a weird-looking shipboard ratter. (And, to touch on another point made, that's where the version of the PRA gene that can be tested for came from. Oh, well, ya win some ya lose some.:( )



As appalling as Bernie and others may find the existence of my dog, the relative healthiness and diversity of her breed is one of the reasons I chose Cresteds rather than another breed, that Bernie might find more "dog-like" in appearance, and therefore obviously better--even though they are more inbred, and have both more numerous and more serious genetic health problems.

Christie Keith

Don’t you think when we became more interested in how they looked, that’s where the problems started?



Yes, I do.



It does seem to me that some of the specifics in some of our standards, particularly the older ones, arose, however, due to the association of certain points of how a dog looked with how a dog performed. "The gray dogs are faster," whatever. It wasn't that being gray made a dog faster, but just that some gray dog in the pedigree had passed on the genes for his color AND his speed.



And the next thing you know, tan dogs disappear because they're slow. Even if they're not.



Of course, the only reason this had any longterm effect on breeds is because we had conformation standards and dog shows.



Okay, I'm heading out soon to see a play, and so I won't be here. I can't believe this thread is still going like this!

The OTHER Pat

Comment by LauraS — August 23, 2008 @ 11:06 am



"S/N contracts are very unusual in the working dog world. Among working dog breeders, it’s more common to have contracts that forbid or restrict S/N."



"It’s in the best interests of the breed to have a large pool of potential breeding dogs to choose from. There’s no way to tell whether an 8 week old puppy or 6 month old puppy can do the work the breed was created to do. In order to maintain working abilities in dog populations, many (ideally nearly all) working bred dogs need to be kept intact until they are several years old and proven for work and health."

(end quote)



My concern here is very simple - what safeguards are taken to ensure that all the dogs produced in the service of ensuring this "large pool of potential breeding dogs to choose from" all have good lives in good homes?

Christie Keith

But this is the whole point of my argument, and why it's circular.



What makes a "breed" a "breed" if the "breed" definition isn't limited to the closed studbook breeding of two dogs of the same "breed"?



In addition to my mixed assortment of purebred Goldens, I can bring you a purebred Scottish Deerhound who should be an Irish Wolfhound, and a coursing champion Irish Wolfhound bitch that looks just like a deerhound. Those dogs are defined exclusively by pedigree, and still can fall outside the limits of "breed type."



What I'm getting at is that breeding for ability doesn't mean you automatically lose breed type, and my example is that working BCs virtually all look like BCs. As a group, they have as much "breed type" -- or more -- as many breeds bred solely around conformation and pedigree.



If you want to bring me some outlier working Border Collies to "prove me wrong," fine. If you want to pull up photos of "purebred" BCs (here comes the circular argument thing again) to show that they all don't look like that, fine also -- although I was never thinking of simply how a dog looks in a still photo when I raised this point. There is much more to "looks" than a photograph can show.



But none of that changes my view that we don't have to lose what we love about our dogs by breeding them for something more than their conformation. The vast majority of them will still be recognizable as their breed if we stop worshipping at the altar of conformation and include working and performance ability, and even temperament and genetic health, in our "standard of perfection" and breeding programs.



AND they're not all easily recognizable as their breed even now... as the person who told me I was the only one who had ever known her unbelievably Great Dane-esque ridgeless Ridgeback was a RR told me! Hence my point about the Goldens... at least five types of which I saw at my dog park this morning.



This whole "breed type" as defined by conformation thing is, IMO, a false god. We breed obsessively for conformation to preserve "breed type," then ignore the fact that we don't always get "breed type" any better that way than other breeds have done by breeding for performance.



Now, are some breeds much more uniform in appearance than others? Sure, although that's often just about coat and not really about conformation. All deerhounds are some shade of gray, but when I briefly showed my Borzoi, I found the variety of coats to be confusing my eye at first. It took a while to see through the flashy colors and the greater and lesser amounts of coat to the dog underneath, something I'm grateful I didn't have to do in deerhounds.



And I have a lot of friends with greyhounds, and seeing a dog conformed like my own breed, but without the coat, is another kind of eye-opener... as is seeing AKC and NGA greys together -- talk about divergence of "breed type"!



Personally, I had a deerhound once with flop ears like a RR. I didn't like them, and it really bugged me to see them. They were "wrong," but it was a stupid cosmetic detail. Ditto a bitch I had once with a ring tail. A cosmetic fault only, that had no bearing on her health, her fitness, or her lifespan -- in fact, she was very healthy and long-lived, and produced a very long-lived litter of both conformation and field champions. I suppose all things being equal, I'd prefer a proper ear and tail, but all things are never, ever equal, and I hope the day never comes I would worry about ears and tails when there are so many serious genetic problems afflicting the Scottish Deerhound.

C.L.H.

Dogs were originally selectively bred to do a particular job. They just wound up looking a certain way and having a certain coat and body build so they could (take your pick): chase rodents, fetch fowl, herd livestock, run down predators, guard the homestead. Don't you think when we became more interested in how they looked, that's where the problems started? A dog that was bred to do a job that couldn't do it because of illness and deformity was not bred again!

s kennedy

The BBC also produces most of Animal Planet,an undisputed AR Show, the ARs are nearly all from England. Most of the shows re wild animals feature English people in foreign countries. The ISAR calls the AKC "The Plague of Purebreds" and Bob Barker is or was an ISAR spokesperson. Don't think that they really care about proper breeding, because they don't; in fact ISAR advocates shutting down AKC as puppymill enablers. And ISAR loves to publish its model mandatory altering program or whatever they call it. The bottom line is they want to end breeding of all animals, in particular dogs/cats. Ths is just another red herring to make it look like they care. Another misleading piece of crap.

C.L.H.

Interesting. Any one of the blue merle border collies on the above website look remarkably like my blue merle aussie. (Except for the tail.) My last dog was an Aussie/border cross. This was the late 70's and she came off a working ranch. I think the rancher simply put two very good working dogs together because he wanted to see what he would get. (She was an amazing dog!) I'm relieved that the ability to work wins out over "show" appearance in the border collie crowd. I was dismayed to see "Miniature" and "Toy" Australian Shepherds advertised. What the &%## good is that? A perfectly good working breed is going to go down the tubes.

LauraS

I’m not saying there is no gray area in this discussion, but I can bring out a thousand Golden Retrievers who look as little alike as those dogs whose photos you showed me



Golden Retrievers with as much diversity of appearance as Border Collies? You're on, let's see them.



I've seen lots of field/hunt bred, pet bred, and show bred GRs. They didn't all look exactly alike, but they were much more similar in appearance than the very diverse Border Collie breed.

nancy freedman-smith

A circular discussion, I like the sound of that. We are not exactly disagreeing, but coming from two different places.

For instance, the dogs on this page...

http://www.gis.net/~shepdog/BC_Museum/Permanent/BC_ColorTicked.html -

if I was sent to a shelter for an eval...how many of these dogs would I pick out as PB's even when nearly all of them are in fact PB? Only a few. Even the 5 from the BC Ranch would have me scratching my head wondering if and or what they were mixed with. Even if I watched them play and herd other dogs in the yard..they could be Kelpie, Aussie, or Mcnab, or GSD's mixes or who knows what. All I meant was it is not the easy to tell. BUT the Barbie Collies, hands down we would guess right every time,because they have breed standards that thankfully most of the universe does not confirm to.

My BC mix Charlee who came from a BC rescue was thought to (maybe) be a PB until she turned about 1 1/2 and then looked more cattle dog. But the way she works...you can't tell .

As an aside about another breed, my other dog is a smooth collie (collie-collie). You could pick out a PB collie a mile away. Collies heads are very important in the breed ring and some say they current breeding practices don't leave room for the brains....

LauraS

Knowing Border Collies a fair amount, I had to chime in to say that I have to disagree that you could tell a BC by looks. As a long time member of a BC rescue, We never know which dogs are pure bred because their looks can be so diverse.



Likewise, those of us with English Shepherds frequently have our dogs confused for Border Collies. These breeds both descend from the same UK collie/shepherd landrace, and neither has been selected by the show ring to have a unique cookie cutter "type". So there's a lot of overlap in the outward appearance of these breeds.



Here's some photos of my English Shepherd, taken during a SAR mission last year in the Sierra Mountains.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/12275305@N04/



I have seen Border Collies that look like they could be littermates of my English Shepherd. Indeed, they look more like him than some of his actual littermates do.



I couldn't care less if my dog is confused for another breed. It doesn't matter.

LauraS

Overall, looking at working Border Collies (note that I qualified my mention of the breed that way), they all “look like” Border Collies. Things like coat and color are not an issue in this breed. It’s that thing called “breed type” I’m talking about, and I’ve never seen a working Border Collie who didn’t have it, no matter what color she was, or what kind of coat she had. Things like expression, movement, tail carriage, how they react… those things are all part of how they “look” too.



Donald McCaig has said that he's seen a number of dogs at sheepdog trials that weren't recognizable by appearance as Border Collies, yet that's what they were.

JenniferJ

""This diversity is reflected on the surface by a wide variety of physical “type” in working dog populations that show dog fanciers deplore. Show dog fanciers don’t understand that this diversity is a strength, not a fault, of working dog populations.""



To be fair, I, a "show fancier" do not deplore variation in physical type.

Breed "type" generally mirrors function and job (even if the job and function vanished long ago) . Even if there is considerable variation of type in a breed, the majority are still recognizable as the breed they are, or the combination of breeds that they are.

JenniferJ

"Dogs are bred more and more exaggerated, that is a simple fact. The photos of how the breeds used to look, comparing what they look now was excellent way to show people who were not aware. The incredible changes of skulls of bulldog and bull terrier in only 100 years are also frightening."



True in some cases, but please also remember that the film makers chose the specific pictures and examples used and were free to pick extremes on either end.

Dee Jay

What a good crtique of the Program.



I'm glad you qualified the fact the the Wolves shown CAN be inbred. In breeding in wolves is usually confined to contained packes(ie captive artifical packs & those who range is contained by man & not nature-inbreeding in truly wild packs is not the morm)



I have BCs & Cavliers & have had GSDs(German Bloodlines)Yes all my Cavaliers have/had Syringomyelia & yes the breeders were not concerned by in breeding to a known carrier-who ironically was 16 when he died from cancer & still had a clear heart. However I have found a breeder(well two actually)who only breeds from MRI scanned clear dogs & this is where our next puppy will be coming from(fingers crossed0



My BC's have had all the DNA tests currently available & have bloods stored for future tests as they arise. my dogs are all normal/clear except one who is a CEA carrier & is from 30 + years of breeding only clinically clear dogs together-he will never have the condition & if(a big if) bred to my bitch(who is clear)will never produce an affected puppy. They are due also to have all the clinical tests done(HD/ED & PRA)before I even consider breeding from any of them



The fact that one Beverley Cuddy was on the program rang alarm bells with me, she is an ex KC member of staff a breeder of Beardie Collies(all with a huge degree of inbreeding)as well as a KC championship judge. She is now so anti KC it is astounding that she now started showing a bearded collie again & still judging the breed. She champions the "Poo"breeders in her magazine &castigates pedigree dog breeders. in her magazine there are advisors for each breed, some of whom are puppy farmers who have always got puppies of their breed(s)available for sale & who do sell puppies via their inclusion in the magazine !!

trs

I have been breeding and showing dogs all my life and i am afraid too much of what was shown in the BBC program is only too right.



Judge of the GSD claiming that those pathgetic creatures with their hindquarters buckling under them, to be correct anatomically, while the working dogs are not, is just typical. The sad thing is that beauty should equal soundness and health. But it does not. Dogs are bred more and more exaggerated, that is a simple fact. The photos of how the breeds used to look, comparing what they look now was excellent way to show people who were not aware. The incredible changes of skulls of bulldog and bull terrier in only 100 years are also frightening.



The only criticism I would have was saying that crossbreeds are healthier than purebreds. Some may be some will have all the problems of the breeds they have in their genes. Some, if bred in puppy farms, may even be more inbred than most purebreds.

Lis

The BBC also produces most of Animal Planet,an undisputed AR Show, the ARs are nearly all from England. Most of the shows re wild animals feature English people in foreign countries.



Oh, my.



Oh, my, oh, my.



Animal Planet is a cable channel,not a show. Like most non-news cable channels, they buy an awful lot of their programming.



Animal Planet is so relentlessly opposed to the knowledgable breeding of purebred dogs taht I'm sitting here, as I type this, watching a repeat of the AKS national championship show in Houston.



Yes, a lot of the wild animal shows are in foreign countries, and, yes, shockingly, feature English naturalists--because, you know, lions and tigers and meerkats and chimpanzees and elephants are not found in the wild in the US. Many of the countries are former Biritish colonies; the naturalists working there are just as likely to be British as to be American. And many of the shows are produced by the BBC. What a shocker!



You may have no interest in animals outside the confines of the US, but that's not true of everyone.



A lot of their programmng, though, is American programming. In particular, the shows (other than ones featuring British naturalists) that I suspect are ticking you off the most, the Animals Cops shows, are American shows. They're animal welfare show, not animal rights shows. They rarely even distantly touch on the subject of breeding; when they do, yes, they're down on the kind of breeding that features in their work day: puppy millers and people breeding their pets for profit with zero understanding of the kind of care moms and pups need. I don't recall that I've ever heard more responsaible breeding discussed on the Animal Cops shows. The producers, or some or all of the on-air individuals may be opposed to all breeding, and bent on the extinction of domestic animals, but you can't determine that from the fact that they occasionally shut down the most egregious of puppy millers or pet stores.



I do not believe it makes sense to tar and feather Animal Planet for buying some of their programming from BBC, because the BBC also produces other stuff that's hysterical idiocy. And if you followed the link Christie provided, you know that people aren't seeing this particular BBC "documentary" on Animal Planet; they're seeing it on Youtube.

LauraS

The “investigator” for “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” said in dire tones, “Being very inbred in and of itself has a catastrophic effect on the immune system,” but that’s not true. There’s no magical threshold of inbreeding that in and of itself causes health problems or impaired vigor. Even if there is no genetic diversity in a breed pool — in other words, if every member of the breed has the same genes — unless those genes include those for a detrimental trait, there won’t be any negative effects.



The filmmaker's quote overstates the point but your correction isn't accurate either. You also conflate two different issues.



Inbreeding causes increased genetic homozygosity within the individual animal. Genetic diversity refers the number of unique genes within whole populations, not the individual. Populations can be genetically diverse even while the individuals within it are highly inbred. Modern show dog populations tend to be both inbred AND lacking in genetic diversity.



All individuals have genes that can cause detrimental traits. The mistaken notion that all bad genes can be purged out by inbreeding is part of what got us into this mess.



Even in the hypothetical case of an individual with no detrimental genes, the increased homozygosity of the MHC genes caused by inbreeding leads to a loss of immune system function. A high degree of heterozygosity of the MHC genes correlates positively with optimal immune system function.



Loss of genetic diversity within a population causes a loss of function within the population. Working dog genepools, even those much smaller in numbers than show dog populations, tend to be genetically diverse as this diversity is required to maintain high performance in these populations. This diversity is reflected on the surface by a wide variety of physical "type" in working dog populations that show dog fanciers deplore. Show dog fanciers don't understand that this diversity is a strength, not a fault, of working dog populations.



Loss of population genetic diversity also undermines the long term survival of the population. The population becomes more vulnerable to a range of novel threats when the genes required to fight off those threats are no longer present in the population. This is a cause of species extinction.

Christie Keith

Hi, Laura and Manda. Hmmm, I see what you mean. At that point, I was actually speaking of individual dogs, and my reference to an imaginary dog breed in which all dogs were homozygous for all gene pairs (by the way, if that's not imaginary, please don't tell me!) was just intended to convey that in a dramatic way. I've reworded it in a way that I think says what I wanted to say more concisely... thanks!



This is what I was getting at, just so it's here in the comments for anyone who wants the cite:

There is no specific level or percentage of inbreeding that causes impaired health or vigor. 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. There are pure-bred populations where smaller litter sizes, shorter life expectancies, increased immune-mediated disease, and breed-related genetic disease are plaguing the population. In these instances, prolific ancestors have passed on detrimental recessive genes that have increased in frequency and homozygosity. With this type of documented inbreeding depression, it is possible that an outbreeding scheme could stabilize the population. However, it is also probable that the breed will not thrive without an influx of new genes; either from a distantly related (imported) population, a natural landrace population, or crossbreeding. ("Pedigree Analysis, and How Breeding Decisions Affect Genes;" Tufts' Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference, 2003; Jerold S. Bell, DVM)




Again, thanks!

Gina Spadafori

>It was a documentary made for a mass audience. For that you need compelling images to keep people from changing the channel. The loss of genetic diversity was, however, brought up at least once.<



Is that supposed to be a defense of shoddy reporting? "Mass audience" = "too stoopid to understand the issues"?

icr

The problem is something you can’t see, the genetic code of dogs who were never bred, who left no offspring: the genes we left behind.



It was a documentary made for a mass audience. For that you need compelling images to keep people from changing the channel. The loss of genetic diversity was, however, brought up at least once.

Manda Scott

Hi



Good post, but factually incorrect in one point. Reducing genetic diversity does increase the incidence of immune system defects. It's a horribly complex area, but in effect, diverse genes allow a diversity of both cellular and humoral immunity. Reducing genetic diversity crushes this so that in the end, you have the laboratory rodent, which is probably as in-bred as it's possible to get, which has to be kept in isolation and fed specific foods because it's unable to cope with the normal environment.



In absolute terms, if you want something to google-search for, the reduction in Major Histocompatibility Complexes (MHCs) is well researched.



So reducing genetic diversity, in and of itself, will eventually lead to a whole host of immune-mediated and auto-immune diseases.

slt

Not speaking for the original commenter but perhaps what was meant by show people deploring variations in type might be illustrated by a field Setter being brought into the conformation ring. Or perhaps a "mismarked" coat on another breed - something like that. They are recognizable as the breed they are yes, but generally frowned upon by show breeders as unusable stock, regardless of health or temperament.

JenniferJ

Actually, many of dedicated breeders who primarily compete in the show ring use mismarked, over/under sized etc... dogs in breedng programs even if they never can be shown. This used to be more common in the days of large kennels. Now with many people limited to only a few dogs or lacking in experience or decent mentoring, many sound and wonderful dogs in all breeds are culled by being S/N and placed with no consideration that they might have a useful place in the future of a breed even if they themselves cannot be shown. That may be good for those individual dogs, but bad news for the bred as a whole.

Lisa

“So I suppose for now I’ll settle for suggesting we try something simple and achievable. Stop whining about doggie hair-dos and conformation extremes, and focus on the scientific and medical problems caused by closed studbooks. Stop perpetuating junk science about ‘poo dogs and their “hybrid vigor”… excuse me, “hybred” vigor… and try digging into the real science of inbreeding depression, genetic bottlenecks, and popular sire syndrome.”



How to accomplish this? Perhaps because my experience with pedigree dogs has been limited to pet ownership—and has included some amazingly bad experiences with individual dogs, individual breeders, and a breed club—my response to Jemima Harrison’s “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” was somewhat different. For starters, Carol Fowler, a pet Cavalier owner and breed health activist featured in the film, really rang a bell for me. My brief career as a breed health activist, although not as successful as Carol’s seems to have been, has many similarities to hers. In addition, although I agree that parts of the documentary are of the “60 Mintues” gottcha variety, I really am not sure how else to capture the public’s attention than with visual images, some—perhaps all—of which are intended to have both illustrative and symbolic value. I have tried on more than one occasion to engage the Scottish Terrier community in discussion of a research study published a few years ago (Frequency and distribution of alleles of canine MHC-II DLA-DQB1, DLA-DQA1 and DLA-DRB1 in 25 representative American Kennel Club breeds, Tissue Antigens. 2005 Sep;66(3):173-84), which demonstrates how inbreeding has harmed the major histocompatibility complex in our breed. No dice. I don’t say that people are stupid or incapable of considering hard science—I find it difficult—only that most are genetically predisposed to understand images better than abstract concepts. As to the complaint that the images chosen are too selective, I can only answer that it was a series of judges at Crufts who chose as best in show that exaggerated Peke—the one who had his soft palate surgically altered so that he could breathe, yet was still obliged to sit on an ice pack while his win was recorded for posterity in photographs.

Christie Keith

As to the complaint that the images chosen are too selective



You may be referring to something in the comments, but since you opened your comment with a quote from my post, I wanted to clarify: I didn't suggest or say the images were "too selective."



My problem with them is that they were given in a context I felt was unhelpful and inaccurate, and diverted people from a more productive consideration of the underlying issues. It isn't that things aren't as bad as suggested by the show; they are. In fact, they're worse. But it's also that they're OTHER. Which is my problem with it.



As to your bigger question, of what the hell to DO about all of this, well, all I can say is, good question! I've bashed my head against many brick walls in my time in purebred dogs, in my breed club, at AKC, and among other fanciers.



But I've also met a lot of people who wanted to do things in a different way, people who've tried to operate outside the conventional wisdom, people who have made me see that the emperor has no clothes at times when I thought he was wearing a really nice outfit. ;)



So I'm hoping that those of us who might disagree on the details but still agree on the overall issues will keep pushing at our clubs, at other fanciers and at the general public and see if we can't knock a few sections of those brick walls down, and let in some light.



Sometimes a really aggressive attack can make a great start at that, but often it has the opposite effect, of making people retreat to their well-defended fortresses and rattle their sabers at each other. My personal approach is to try to reason things out, and that's why this show, and the discourse it prompted, has aggravated me so much. Because I think there was a way to put this information out there in a more effective and accurate way -- and still be just as hard-hitting, without being quite so divisive.

slt

Agreed, for a large kennel who can breed a high number of litters each year to establish/maintain desired lines, breeding to a mismarked dog who possesses other desirable qualities is an option. But for your average show breeder who produces say, a litter a year, that breeder is unlikely to go to that dog. Furthermore, if that breeder did use some dog with a disqualifying aesthetic fault, he risks being branded all sorts of unpleasant names and depending on the breed club, having action taken against him for behavior "not in the best interest of the breed". Which is one of the reasons breeders sell most/all their pups on S/N contracts - they can't keep dogs intact in pet homes for possible future use in someone's breeding program for fear of being labeled "irresponsible" or violating someone's idea of "ethics".

LauraS

I wrote: Dog shoot the messenger.



That's an interesting Freudian slip. It should have read "don't shoot the messenger"



Actually, maybe I prefer it the other way ;-)

LauraS

I wouldn’t be shocked to learn AR activists were behind the making of this ‘documentary’. I doubt if the motives were purely in the best interests of purebred dogs, since the emphasis is mostly on how “flawed” pure bred dog breeding is.



AR activists didn't make the BBC documentary. Jemima Harrison who is is a contributing member of the canine-genetics discussion list made the documentary. It was made to highlight some of the serious problems that modern dog breeding practices have created, not to support the AR agenda. If the ARs exploit this issue, that is the fault of the dog fancy. Dog shoot the messenger.

JenniferJ

breed clubs which disqualify for using a dog with a cosmetic fault in a considered breeding program need to re-examine that. And pigs will fly too. I know how high school a lot of the organizations can be!



I also know a few folks who quit their local or national club for that reason. It has not stopped them from being very successful breeder/exhibitors. My own club is not to concerned with such things. If you bring a sound and attractive dog to the party, that is the primary concern.



That does not stop individual members from going on witch hunts. But in my case I've



A: made it clear that I don't care, and it's no fun to try to get a rise out of someone who ignores you



B:Developed skin like a rhino, so sling away folks



C: succeeded in breeding health tested and cleared top winning dogs so now I get copied by some of the people who were previously (or currently) snarking, which is funny.



The best way to expand breeding programs is to cultivate good pet homes willing to co-own and maintain intact dogs. It takes work and you are always on call for calls and issues and vat bills too but it can be worth. Developing partnerships with other breeders helps too.

LauraS

I found the BBC program to be very good overall, and disagree with the assertion that it is tabloid journalism or junk science. The film maker who produced the program is a contributing member of the canine-genetics discussion list, and is versed on the science and subject matter covered in the program.



The portion of the BBC program about one of my breeds, German Shepherd Dogs, was entirely accurate in portraying the extreme split within the breed between working and show dogs, as well as the delusions that cloud the judgment of show dog fanciers about what constitutes "correct". They cannot see what is plainly obvious to almost anyone, that show GSDs are structurally unsound by design. A similar form of blindness seems to affect show dog fanciers of many other breeds.



Open studbooks would have an insignificant impact in terms of correcting the problems highlighted in the BBC program. In their pursuit of "correct type", modern show dog breeding practices have eliminated the vast majority of genetic diversity that once existed WITHIN closed studbook dog populations. Most show dog fanciers view the more diverse appearing dogs within their own closed studbook population as having "incorrect type", so they won't breed to them. Show dog breeders breed heavily to a relatively small number of popular show dogs, and in doing so throw out most of the genetic diversity of their own breed That is, unless working dog breeders and/or the oft-criticized pet dog breeders maintain that genetic diversity.



A breeder of GSD show dogs who would never even consider breeding to a working line GSD sure as heck isn't going to breed to a Malinois if the GSD studbook was opened up. This is true of nearly all show dog breeding.



The veterinarian on the BBC program summed it up perfectly when he said that competitive show dog breeding is the problem.



I fully understand that the vast majority of show dog breeders are good, dedicated people with only the best of intentions for their breed. I am also acutely aware, now more than ever, that without them we could not defeat draconian measures like AB 1634. But the long term future of dogs looks grim to me if we do not find some way to eliminate beauty pageants for dogs and return to breeding dogs for function. As a first step, I hope the BBC stops televising Crufts as they've indicated might happen.

Grahund

The thing I found most telling was how the show breeders either could not see or would not admit how unsound and unhealthy their champion show dogs were, something that was obvious to everyone else. It's obvious to everyone that the floppy-hocked cripples in the GSD show ring are useless compared to the working dog and the old fashioned GSD. Obvious to everyone but the Crufts show judge.



A friend has entered her working line GSD bitch in GSDCA specialty shows, just for grins. She finishes dead last, but the non-show-GSD public thinks she is the best looking dog in the ring. The show breeders and judges may think their extreme dogs are the perfect specimens of breed type, but everyone else knows the emperor has no clothes. The show breeders are just fooling themselves. And hurting the dogs.



The Dalmation Backcross Project may be continuing, but because of show breeders, it has no impact on the health of AKC Dalmations. Dogs are suffering because the Dalmation show breeders value mythical "breed purity" over the dogs' health and well-being.

Christie Keith

Well, Laura, I have to disagree about this show. I watched it and as a journalist, I thought it was terrible. The juxtaposition of images with commentary, the use of loaded language, the manipulative nature of the commentary, all DETRACTED from an investigation into the very real problems of purebred dogs, the show world, and the institutions that "govern" it.



It shed heat but very little light. It was sensationalistic rather than thought-provoking. It invoked HITLER, for the love of everything! I mean, you go violating Godwin's Law, and you've really crossed a line that journalists should never cross.



I'm aware that there's a knee-jerk response to it that is all about the AR agenda and this type of objection, but I raised none of that.



You can say, "I know the filmmaker and she knows all about genetics and she's not a bad person and she's intelligent and thoughtful," and all that might be true, but most of us who watch the show don't know her, don't know that, don't have that context and background. All we have is the final product, its images and its words, and I think that final product did a disservice to the subject and was, yes, tabloid journalism.



I share your concern about the condition of today's dog breeds, the effect of dog shows, and trends like purse puppies. I frankly think things are WORSE than this program made them out to be, because it focused on sound-bite, photo-op issues rather than the more critical underlying problems, and that's what irritated me.



Other people may have other objections. I stand by mine.

LauraS

Furthermore, if that breeder did use some dog with a disqualifying aesthetic fault, he risks being branded all sorts of unpleasant names and depending on the breed club, having action taken against him for behavior “not in the best interest of the breed”. Which is one of the reasons breeders sell most/all their pups on S/N contracts - they can’t keep dogs intact in pet homes for possible future use in someone’s breeding program for fear of being labeled “irresponsible” or violating someone’s idea of “ethics”.



Not all ethical dog breeders are show dog breeders. S/N contracts are very unusual in the working dog world. Among working dog breeders, it's more common to have contracts that forbid or restrict S/N.



It's in the best interests of the breed to have a large pool of potential breeding dogs to choose from. There's no way to tell whether an 8 week old puppy or 6 month old puppy can do the work the breed was created to do. In order to maintain working abilities in dog populations, many (ideally nearly all) working bred dogs need to be kept intact until they are several years old and proven for work and health. Failure to do this will cause a gradual deterioration of population working abilities and health in future generations.

slt

Because I think there was a way to put this information out there in a more effective and accurate way — and still be just as hard-hitting, without being quite so divisive.



Comment by Christie Keith — August 23, 2008 @ 11:56 am



Make your own documentary! Only broadcast yours on US television so I can watch it. : )

Christie Keith

LOL... I write. This is my "documenatary." ;)



I watched the show on YouTube... it's all there!

nancy freedman-smith

Really interesting article Christie. I loved the comments from people who all know their breeds so well. Knowing Border Collies a fair amount, I had to chime in to say that I have to disagree that you could tell a BC by looks. As a long time member of a BC rescue, We never know which dogs are pure bred because their looks can be so diverse. Recently one of our volunteers had her dog genetically tested and Sally was proven to have not one stitch of BC in her and while she didn't act all BC we all thought she was 50 % or better. The mix was quite interesting to boot. Just last week I contacted a local shelter to let them know that the stray husky mix in kennel 7 with the ice blue eyes was most likely a pure bred smooth coat BC.

Check out Diversity is the Key Word at the on line BC Museum, and ask yourself how many of those different colored BC's you would have picked out as PB.

http://www.gis.net/~shepdog/BC_Museum/Permanent/BC_Looks_Health.html

BC's come in every color and lots of people don't know that, including the majority of shelter workers who mislabel the dogs. They come is all colors, ear shapes, and sizes petite (25) to large (65+), and several coat types.

The way they work is of course what counts.

Christie Keith

Nancy, I see all those dogs as being of the same "type," at least as far as I can judge from looking the photos.



Overall, looking at working Border Collies (note that I qualified my mention of the breed that way), they all "look like" Border Collies. Things like coat and color are not an issue in this breed. It's that thing called "breed type" I'm talking about, and I've never seen a working Border Collie who didn't have it, no matter what color she was, or what kind of coat she had. Things like expression, movement, tail carriage, how they react... those things are all part of how they "look" too.



Which in a way is what makes this whole argument kind of circular. You're saying, a dog who doesn't "look like" a Border Collie is still a Border Collie if... what? If she can do the work? I'd agree, as working Border Collies are defined by their ability to do the work, and as Donald McCaig once commented, if a Rottweiler could do the work, she could be registered as a Border Collie.



If her parents were registered as Border Collies with a given registry? Yes, but this is where the circular thing comes in, because that's the very issue I'm looking at here.



I'm not saying there is no gray area in this discussion, but I can bring out a thousand Golden Retrievers who look as little alike as those dogs whose photos you showed me, and while most of us might not be sure if every single one of them was purebred, we'd still be able to separate the BCs from the GRs.



Some of us could do it even if you brought out Aussies instead of Goldens. ;)



There's something about a Border Collie. And it has nothing to do with the stuff written in their AKC-approved breed standard.

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