Sunday, 14 April 2013

Jilly's Jolly Jaunt

Jilly walks off with the big one...

Last year's Crufts' winner was a Lhasa Apso called Elizabeth described by her owner as "far too precious to take for a walk" in case the dog damaged her extreme coat (as detailed here).

It was bad PR for the Kennel Club, trying desperately to convince everyone that purebred dogs were fit for function.

There must have been a sigh of relief when this year's Best in Show was won by a jaunty Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen called Jilly (Ch Soletrader Peek A Boo).  Little reported, however (other than on Karen Friesecke's Doggiestylish blog from where I've nicked with her permission the pedigree below) is that the dog represents the other main problem with purebred dogs: inbreeding.

Jilly is very inbred. According to the Kennel Club's Mate Select, she has a co-efficient of inbreeding (COI) of 20 per cent, not far off the equivalent of a mother-son mating.  She is more inbred than her mother (14%) and her father (6%) and her COI is almost double the breed average of 11%.

She was born 14 months after Pedigree Dogs Exposed raised the alarm about the level of inbreeding in pedigree dogs, so this mating must have been a conscious decision to ignore the warnings.

"Jilly is the spitting image of her mum Dizzy in looks, attitude and temperament," it says on her breeder's website.

Well yes, she would be.  

Her dam's parents are her sire's grandparents. 

Click to enlarge (with thanks to Karen Friesecke)
Also depressing is that there is no mention of the work this breed was developed for anywhere on the breeder's or the UK Club website.  The Club has a page on the breed's history where it neglects to mention that the dog is a hunting hound, bred to flush and track rabbits in the Vende region of France. Instead, it prefers to concentrate on the fact that the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen (PBGV) was once  interbred with the Grand Basset GriffonVendéen (GBGV) a practice that was banned by the French club in the late 1970s. That put a stop to that useful gene flow, then.

The US Club is better in detailing the breed's history and it even includes mention of hunt tests - although there isn't much evidence that they are wildly popular.

So let's not kid ourselves. Today, these dogs are simulacrums that look like the dogs of yesteryear. They are no longer worked. And the problem with that is where the dog will end up.

Now, the Robertsons clearly breed for moderate dogs.  Jilly is a low-rider, but not excessively so, and she really does move well. That tousled coat doesn't take much to maintain. And there's none of the haw or wrinkling or bonkers-long ears that have ruined her distant cousin, the show-bred Basset Hound. In an article on their website, her breeders do erroneously place way too much emphasis on a level topline - a trait that show breeders obsess about but which is unnatural and bears little relation to function (a blog to come about that...) but no one could accuse them of breeding freaks.

But without the work to keep them honest, all it will take is for one successful breeder to start pushing the limits and the road to exaggeration will begin. Do this within a perilously small gene pool that doesn't allow any ingress of new genes, not even from its bigger cousin any more, and you're headed for trouble. The average co-efficient of inbreeding for the PBGV in the UK is, at 11%,  already almost the equivalent of a grandfather/grand-daughter mating (12.5%).

I was also irritated to find that the Club keeps the results of any eye testing to itself - even warning that a booklet listing eye test results that is available (only to member of the Club) must not be reproduced.

Click to enlarge
As it's Jilly's breeder Gavin Robertson who appears to hold the reins on this one (he is Chairman of the Breed Club), perhaps he might persuade them to make the eye test results publicly available on the Club website - as indeed other forward-thinking Clubs do?  After all, Jilly's win is likely to increase demand for the breed among pet owners - who surely have a right to know their dogs' health pedigree?

It would also surely be a good idea, given that there is concern about several eye problems in the breed, for the Club to request mandatory eye tests for Assured Breeders (the scheme currently lists no tests at all for the breed) and, preferably, for the Kennel Club registration of any PBGV.

Here's hoping, too, that Mr and Mrs Robertson will set a better example when they breed Jilly, as is their intention this year, and choose a mate for her that will result in pups with a lower level of inbreeding.

But there's one thing I am happy to praise Jilly's breeders for - in June, the dog will be embarking on a 130 mile walk to raise money for three very worthy causes - Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, DogLost (the brilliant national database for lost and found dogs) and the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.

The walk is also designed to raise awareness of rare and "vulnerable" breeds such as Jilly.  Which is great, as it also allows me to point out that they're only "vulnerable" because a) they're not very popular so not many are bred and (b) they're stuck in tiny gene pools - an entirely human construct that has been foisted on them by breeders and outdated/unscientific kennel club breeding practices.

And although outcrossing is not an easy answer, more breeds are going to have to consider it if they want to survive long-term. But of course they won't consider it until the breed is a genetic wreck - at which point it will probably be too late.

But I applaud Jilly's owners for deciding to do the walk. It's a good idea - and constructive PR for purebred dogs.

Jilly will be walking from National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham - the venue of her Crufts win in March -  to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London between June 10th - 14th. More info on the Jilly's Jolly Jaunt Facebook page.


  1. The winner of this years Westminster is an inbred mess also, the result of a father/daughter mating.

  2. I would love to understand why show breeders are so against an outcross. I would like to get their side of the story, to see whether their fears are mostly genuine, partially so, or groundless. I think a lot of them are misguided. Popular genetics - not the science; the lay person's grasp of it - is awash with inaccuracies.

    Even breeders who genuinely have the health of the breed at heart, health test their stock and do their darndest to breed healthy dogs, seem to balk at the idea of an outcross to a similar, but unrelated, breed.

    I don't think the KC has done enough to convince breeders of the importance of genetic diversity, breeding for low COIs and the effect inbreeding depression can have on health. Genetics needs to be very simply explained - so that all breeders can understand and incorporate this knowledge into their breeding programs - and I don't think this has been done.

    Putting up a dog to win BIS with a COI almost the equivalent of a mother-son mating, just reinforces many breeders' belief that in order to win in the ring, the dog has to be heavily linebred.

    At the moment there is neither encouragement nor reward for breeding low COIs, nor even trying to reduce the breed average. This means those breeders who are desperately trying to improve the health and genetic diversity of their breed, are frequently either shouted down or seen as troublemakers.

    In the Crufts supplement, Elizabeth's breeder was quoted as saying she has no time for breeders who do outcrossing. The one time she did it, she was unhappy with the results. Again, this signals to other breeders that if you want to win, you have to heavily linebreed. Elizabeth bore a single pup last year - the sire was related to her and also owned by her breeder. Whilst I'm sure there are other reasons for very small litter sizes (e.g. length of the tie), they can also be due to high levels of inbreeding.

    The KC give the impression of taking action on improving health, whilst allowing the breeding practises underpinning poor health to continue unabated.

    1. The vast majority of my breedings are 5% or lower COI. . .I have one litter that is 12%, and will be outcrossing. . .I try and breed like to like, but I am breeding for running dogs not cookie cutter show dogs, tho we do do our winning in the ring, in fact, dog out of my first litter went BOB at a regional specialty from the Bred By Class, COI? A whopping 3.6.

      As for outcrossing to another breed. . it is not easy. .. if I had the choice, I'd outcross to a gorgeous, hardy, NGA greyhound, but the first Generation would look like Chart Polski's, and greyhounds temps are more terrier like, so I'd have to weed out for temperament. . .and it's hard enough placing pups now, and not every breeder can keep 8 Borzoi Xs, and would have to do something people abhorr to hear(Culling). .I can't 'cull' for health problems, let alone because of lack of homes.

  3. "The Club has a page on the breed's history where it neglects to mention that the dog is a hunting hound, bred to flush and track rabbits in the Vendee region of France."

    I'm trying to figure out how a fairly low slung dog would make an effective hunting dog? Unless the dogs were designed solely to flush to the gun, but the fact that they're not used anymore suggests their function is superfluous to requirements?

    By comparison, there are many working-bred lines of their show counterparts.

    1. Bassets (all types) were meant to be followed on foot. The dogs's shorter legs make them slower, and therefore possible to keep up with even when the dogs are at 'full tilt'. Hounds bred for mounted hunts have longer legs for obvious reasons. American hounds with long legs are also hunted on foot, but there the going is slower (a denser type of forest) and most quarry tends to go up a tree in fairly short order, thus preventing the hunters/handlers from getting too left behind. The American breed bred for a similar purpose as bassets, rabbit hunting on foot, is the beagle. It also has fairly short legs, they're just in proportion to the rest of the dog's body.

  4. Fair enough if she has a COI of 20%; the breed average is, as one would assume, an average of the highs and the lows - it's bound to happen.

    The question is, what health problems is she suffering from? None more than the average dog? To me she appears to be healthy, given she is from quality stock.

    I also think your opening lines are taken out of context. Look at the type of dog - she was merely implying her dog is a bit of a diva!

    1. According to the Daily Mail article (if they are to believed), the dog does not go for a walk. All she does is get access to the garden, which has been carefully adapted so her coat doesn't snag on anything and get damaged.

      She is also regularly crated when they're not there to watch her, to prevent any injuries. She leads a restricted life by even most show dogs' standards.

    2. The papers have to pad out a story somehow. As you said - it's not a matter of fact. Remember, she is a small dog and therefore her exercising needs are much lower than that of a Weim or Lab. A garden to run around in is sufficient and you'll find it's a lot more than most dogs kept in poor conditions get.

      There is also absolutely nothing wrong with crating a dog as I'm pretty sure you'll find many dog owners do the same. I'm pretty sure she is a much-loved pet when the owners are there to watch over her. The decision to crate a dog is a choice made by the owner. If you don't agree with it, then you're also entitled to your opinion.

      It's easy to criticise without knowing all the facts. If you or Jemima really care about dog welfare, there are plenty more important issues to tackle. I stumbled across this blog a few weeks ago and it seems to me that it's all talk, no action.

    3. If it is to be believed, it's pathetic. I mean really what sort of example is that to the average owner of how to look after a dog? Poor dog. The dog has a right to environmental enrichment, to enjoy exercise. Dogs will not enjoy all that grooming either. They need to smell like dogs! Roll in stuff etc. For sure, the dog will get conditioned and eventually habituated to all the malarkey, but that doesn't make it RIGHT! You may not be abusing or beating the animal, but i'd argue that there is a welfare issue at hand with these sort of unnecessary restrictions.

      Here come the showdoggers with their cries of indignance 'How DARE you!'...'My dog LOVES going to dog shows' blah, blah, blah.

    4. Anon 17:42
      Are you an expert in dog behaviour!? A garden is not generally sufficient for any dog to run around in regardless of size and breed. Stop making excuses as well - just because other dogs may be kept in worse conditions by equally ignorant owners who choose NOT to show their dogs doesn't justify this behaviour in any shape or form.

      All dogs benefit from regular walking and they simply don't get walked in the garden. A dog explores the world using it's nose - scent is it's primary sense and getting out and about, exploring the neighbourhood and new places is generally accepted by most canine behavioural experts ( those who have PhDs i.e. Scientists) that this outlet is necessary for mental and physical health. There are of course other very important socialisation issues at hand with restrictions to the garden and the crate...

    5. You miss the point. The whole reason to breed for a lower COI is to preserve the available genetic variations. A breeding with a higher than average COI or one that is higher than the parents does not preserve genes, it loses them, increasing homozygosity. Maintaining the available genetic diversity is especially important in a rare breed. Small populations are especially vulnerable to genetic drift.

      Within a closed system, you are not just breeding to get the next generation, or even the next five, you must consider where the breed will be a hundred years from now.

      Please see these articles, which explain things in easy to understand terms:

      Population Genetics in Practice

      Random Genetic Drift, the Breeders Enemy

      Exploitative versus Developmental Breeding Methods

    6. WOW! If this is how strongly you feel about pampered dogs, then you must be livid with the ones shipped in from Eastern Europe in tiny, dirty crates and being used as breeding machines to populate the country with poor examples of pedigrees or non-standard colours or, even worse, designer mongrels all being sold as healthy dogs. And, who knows, are these pups carrying rabies too (after entering the country on fake passports)?

    7. So you're an expert too? You're using newspaper articles to base a case for argument on!

      Why don't you use your time more profitably and campaign against REAL cruelty.

      I suppose you're also on PETA's side to ban racing pigeons too?

    8. @Jess

      Given recent events in Korea, I doubt for human-kind's existence, never mind canine.

    9. Don't you just love the way people try to deflect the issues at hand by referring to PETA and Puppy farming!?

      Let's not worry about children in this country suffering from neglect. Because after all, we should fix child poverty in Africa first....
      Hardly relevant is it?

      She also said to Clare Balding on national TV that she doesn't go for walks!

    10. @19.12

      It's not deflection. 'Dogs' is a far greater subject than just the content of this blog. To construct an argument you need to draw facts and cases from a spectrum of sources. This 'issue' is way down the priorities list when there's far bigger problems out there besides bashing the pedigree world. As usual, whatever the KC do, it's never enough.

      If you think what Elizabeth's owner is doing is wrong, report her to the RSPCA and see how far you get.

      The fact is, her dog is obviously treated well. It has other dogs to socialise with and it attends shows where it experiences all these sights and sounds the PHD-types say it should experience. The dog is fed on a far better diet than me by the sounds of it and is kept in clean and safe conditions. Above all, her owner obviously adores her. Does that sound irresponsible and cruel to you? If so, like I said, call the RSPCA.

    11. Anon 19:37

      The point is that THIS blog is about the welfare issues of Pedigree dogs bred for showing, primarily in the UK. Not the welfare and practices of the entire species that exists on the planet. And as far as reporting Elizabeth to the RSPCA, they are already well aware of the issues to do with breeding and the show ring. Let me remind you, Jemima's work was given high regard by that very organisation to do with the specific issues at hand here. No fool would take on every single issue to do wth canine welfare would they? Because they would fail. Jemima, on the other hand, has made some real progress with issues of breeding for form not function. You are deflecting away from the issues at hand by comparing show dogs to puppy farmed dogs. Both have their welfare issues.....

      The PHD types are the real experts. And if that dog is on a far better diet than you then, define better. You are full of statements without any empiricism to back up your claims. Only what you opine......

    12. @20.07

      You obviously don't have any sense of humour - the diet comment refers to the fact she buys her dog good quality food.

      And tackling canine welfare issues - they all go hand-in hand. The gene pool is being spoiled by, for example, poorly bred dogs leaking into the country because of the failings of the border agency and the greedy puppy farmers trying to make a quick buck. All these dogs are registered at the KC under their 'breed' and their health issues contribute to the statistics that her campaigning is based upon.

      So, yes, it is wise to consider the bigger picture.

    13. @20.07

      You said: "You are full of statements without any empiricism to back up your claims. Only what you opine......"

      On the other hand, Jemima is publicly bashing a single Lhasa Apso and her caring owner based on a tabloid article without even speaking to her personally and you have the front to challenge me on my lack of facts?

    14. I actually watched that woman get interviewed by Clare Balding and I came to my own conclusions at the time, Jemima's blog thread has merely reinforced it!
      And when was challenging somebody's 'professional practice' akin to public bashing? Lots of other professions are regulated and are held accountable. Are dog breeders an exception to this accountability, particularly when it comes to welfare concerns?

    15. Yes it IS wise to consider the bigger picture but this is not what this blog is about!

      Find a puppy farming blog and have a rant on there!

      The fact of the matter is this - pedigree dog breeders hold themselves up to set the standard for dog breeds. They practice according to breed standards which are written down and adhered to; upheld by an organisation that supposedly is an umbrella to good practice(KC)' and the reality is they are failing and selling a myth to the general public because they do not seem to understand the basics of genetics! Puppy farmers do not hold themselves up in the same light!

    16. As I said, you can't look at something in isolation. Puppy farmers and other issues are affecting the statistics that Jemima's research and claims are based upon. Tackle that problem and then come back with a reasonable argument that there's something wrong with pedigree dogs once those rogue entries are eliminated. It doesn't take a genius to work out how easily statistics are skewed.

    17. The flaw with this, Anon, is that, in the main, mortality data from breed club surveys ties in with data from other sources (i.e. veterinary and insurance company data). In other words, breed club surveys (such as the 2004 BSAVA/KC survey) do not show that their cohort of dogs live longer than the broader population.

      VetCompass is having a look at KC registered v non KC registered purebred dogs (part-funded by the Kennel Club) and the outcome of that will be interesting. But my guess is that there won't be much if any difference.

      While we're waiting for that, please endeavour to do just a bit of reading about the issues and why they exist rather than stick your fingers in your ears and sing la-la-la.


    18. Anon 20:19 says:

      "And tackling canine welfare issues - they all go hand-in hand. The gene pool is being spoiled by, for example, poorly bred dogs leaking into the country because of the failings of the border agency and the greedy puppy farmers trying to make a quick buck. All these dogs are registered at the KC under their 'breed' and their health issues contribute to the statistics that her campaigning is based upon."

      Well, now we have electronic registrations it would be very easy for the KC to refuse to registrations from puppy farmers. This would add substance to the KC's claim that it cares about healthy dogs and the pet-buying public would have the reassurance that if they bought a KC registered dog, it at least wouldn't be from a puppy farm.

      Now why haven't the KC implemented this I wonder? I'm sure they would get the backing from most others breeders, so lack of breeder support can't be the reason.

    19. >Well, now we have electronic registrations it would be very easy for the KC to refuse to registrations from puppy farmers.
      Unfortunately it's very easy to give put false names and addresses on ownership forms to disguise just how many dogs one individual might actually possess. Many large-scale breeders slip under the wire this way.

    20. So clearly there is a flaw in the system.

      That isn't an excuse really as surely ther is a way to verify this data? Authentication software? How do they audit and check the information for credibility?

    21. KC's can't say "nope, you're a puppymill, we won't register you" because they will get sued.

      Who's to create the definition of a puppymill or Backyard(BYB) breeder?

      I had a local twit tell a friend of mine I was a BYB. . .her reasoning? My dogs spend all day out in a two acre pasture, to run and play, and chase(and often catch!) birds, bunnies, etc. It's why my dogs are a mass of muscle, and do so well on the field. . .but to her, I'm a "Back yard Breeder" because I don't do it HER way. . my definition is someone who does nothing with their dogs except breed a litter to make money. . .which one is right?

  5. Anon 16:31

    Would you care to explain what you understand as representing 'quality stock'?

    The opening line is entirely in context surely! Talk about anthropomorphising ! dogs are not divas FFS!! They are canines who require regular exercise, access to explore the outside world and appropriate mental stimulation to remain healthy. Just because her owner is a shallow fruitcake who treats the dog like an effin' doll, don't fob that attitude off on the poor dog.


    1. Haha and so the immaturity level drops to the mental age of 12. Do you have to litter your responses with expletives?

      Dogs have personalities...don't they? Like kids, dogs are what you make of them. If the dog's happy...what's the issue? As I said, there are plenty dogs out there being kept in dreadful conditions. What about those dogs (most of them, mongrels...not much-loved pedigrees) kept in concrete kennels at rescue shelters and then put down if they're not sold within a week?

      And, 'quality stock'...well, let's face it, she won Crufts.

    2. Thank you, your last sentence was just beautiful.

      I rest my case....

    3. Horses for courses...and I rest mine

    4. So winning Crufts is a sign of 'quality stock' is it? Did you not read Jemima's blog post regarding the COI!?

    5. I did read it and, given that Jemima is not the font of all knowledge, I'm expressing my opinion.

      Regardless of COI, does Jilly suffer from any health problems attributable to supposed genetic disorders?

      The only reason people link genetic disorders to certain breeds is because it's something that can be measured and recorded.

      After all, how many crossbreeds and mongrels suffer ailments but are never reported or are incorrectly lumped into the breed they look closest to, therefore skewing the figures.

    6. The point, anon, is independent of whether or not Jilly suffers from any specific genetic issues. Although much of the dog world continues to wilfully ignore the science, the point is that inbreeding results in a loss of genetic diversity and that increases the risk of problems: reduced fertility; smaller litters; lowered immune function.


    7. Anon 19:29

      So where do you get your 'facts' from then? Can you qualify that last paragraph with evidence? There is evidence to suggest that mutts live on average 2 years longer than most pedigree dogs......but that doesn't mean they have no diseases burden. The nature of pedigree dog breeding goes against what science has taught us about evolutionary success.

    8. @20.14

      Was your evidence also sourced from a Daily Mail article?

    9. No - from book called Pukka's Promise by Ted Kerasote
      Read it and weep....

    10. And, of course, Ted's statements about mutt v purebred health/longevity are based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence.

      I list those references here:


    11. Oh anon 20:14, how I wish that were true in my case! We lost our lab x collie x NZ hunterway (dam lab x collie, sire lab x NZH, labs unrelated) on New Year's Eve, our Charlie was the once in a lifetime boy who has blessed and devastated my world, gone before his time :-(........ Just started reading Pukkas promise, hoping it will be a good read.

    12. Anon 18.16 says:

      "And, 'quality stock'...well, let's face it, she won Crufts."

      'Hungargunn Bear It'n Mind' the 2010 BIS winner was presumably also 'quality stock', or at least the breeders who used him at stud must have thought so, seeing as he sired 525 puppies, or 10% of the Vizla population!! However, he died aged nine, two weeks shy of his tenth birthday, so not such quality stock after all...

    13. @8.13

      given the average lifespan of a Vizsla is 9 years, what's the issue when he lived for almost an extra year on top of that?

    14. Um Fran perhaps you could tell use the cause of death of hungargunn bear it in mind, Vizla's are hunting dogs and not immune to accidents.......just wondering!?

    15. Yogi is reported to have died of cancer - splenic.

      He wasn't particularly young - and actually he appeared to be in good health other than the cancer and as far as I'm aware his many progeny are not dropping down dead of anything hideous.

      The point it that in his overuse the breed chucked out genetic diversity it could ill afford to lose.

      I'm afraid it will pay the price for that - although I have to say that this is one breed where there IS pretty good awareness of the problems of popular sires and that might help mitigate some of the problems.


    16. Anon 13:44:

      Excuse me if I'm the only one who thinks an average lifespan of 9 is shocking for a dog of that type. Especially when you consider that Weimaraners, very similar in shape and size, have an average lifespan of 11, a full 2-years longer! (2004 KC Breed Survey.)

    17. No you are not the only one Anon. I'd be deavastated if I lost my dog aged 9. I think the fact that it seems reasonable for the breed is another example of being de-sensitised to the fact that some breeds don't live very long. It doesn't make it right though.

      I'm hoping my 5 year old mutt still has another 10 years in her...

    18. Since when was the average lifespan of a Vizsla 9 years of age? It is generally considered to be 10-12 years of age (like most other medium sized breeds), however, it is not unusual for them to live as long as 15 years or older. I lost one who was 3 months short of her 16th birthday last year, I also have her daughter who will 13 years old at the beginning of September this year, maybe some people actually ought to check on their facts before making statements such as this!!

    19. Since the 2008 Vizsla Club of America Health Survey. 400 dogs, average 9.15 years.

      I don't understand why people feel the need to point out that dogs can live longer than the average. That's the nature of averages. Some will live longer, some will live shorter. Funny how nobody ever said something like "my breed average lifespan is 12-15 but it's not uncommon for them to die at 5-7.

  6. So what health problems is jilly suffering from?
    Or is this another attempt to get flow to your blog?

    1. I vote for the latter...

      PDE was so long ago it's been since forgotten. I see no active campaigning...just bashing and blogging and making more £££ as a result. Let's face it, journalists have to be controversial to get noticed (namecheck Liz Jones, Daily Mail) for the sake of selling papers or magazines.

    2. PDE has definitely not been forgotten....

      And placing Liz Jones in the same journalist category as Jemima!

      Tee hee!

    3. I had this out with a breed health rep, recently. She was utterly convinced that I make money out of the blog and that the more hits I get the more money I make - ergo, I am as controversial as possible.

      This, of course, is easier to believe than the fact that I do it for nothing because I care passionately about dog health and welfare and believe that in continuing to highlight issues it might just provoke some change. Like, you know, Pedigree Dogs Exposed did.


    4. I totally agree; it has caused changes. Take, for example, the rise of the designer dog - those puppy farmers have a lot to thank you for, so well done on that front.

      Many of these have inherited illnesses from both lines despite the fact they are falsely advertised as 'healthy alternatives'.

      With regard to the claim that dogs with a high COI have reduced fertility, why is it that these inbred, large dogs have such large litters? I believe the largest recorded litter of pups in the UK was 24 puppies to a Neopolitan Mastiff - one of your favourite breeds.

    5. It never fails to impress me the amount of reinforcement I get simply from reading the comments on this blog.

      Reinforcement in my view that pedigree dog breeders on the whole appear to be unprofessional, poorly educated, unregulated and stuck in the past.

      Rescue Mutts will always be the canine of choice. No guarantee of a health, temperament and hybrid vigour of course, but at least I'm not encouraging these people by purchasing a puppy from them.

    6. Rescue mutts weren't the canine of choice of their original owner(s) though, were they?

    7. Anon 20:13 writes... "With regard to the claim that dogs with a high COI have reduced fertility, why is it that these inbred, large dogs have such large litters? I believe the largest recorded litter of pups in the UK was 24 puppies to a Neopolitan Mastiff - one of your favourite breeds".

      Blimey. Please see:

      "Inbreeding arises in small, genetically isolated or closed populations, like pedigree breeds, because all members of the breed trace back to a small number of founders and over the generations they become more and more related to each other. Inbreeding thus accumulates over time and this is a natural, unavoidable, process in closed populations. Certain events such as genetic bottlenecks and selection can, however, accelerate the rate of inbreeding. Bottlenecks occur when a limited number of individuals contribute to future generations, for example, popular sires will have more offspring than other individuals and will consequently have a higher chance of contributing their genes to subsequent generations.

      "Selection can have a similar consequence because selected individuals are likely to come from a limited number of families. Inbreeding results in a decline in genetic diversity, both within and between individuals, due to increased homozygosity, and the rate of inbreeding (or diversity loss) in a population is proportional to the effective population size (the number of individuals making a genetic contribution to the population). If the effective population size falls below 100, then the fitness of the population will steadily decline, due to the effects of inbreeding depression (e.g. reduced fertility and increased disease susceptibility), and the population may become inviable in the long term.

      "This is why breeders have to start managing the rate of inbreeding to reduce the risk of these potentially deleterious events."

      Many Kennel Club breeds, as reported by the KC's own Dog Health Group, have an effective population size way below 100. The writing is on the wall.

    8. Anon 20:13
      Why do the puppy farmers of so called 'designer dogs' have a lot to thank Jemima for? I'd say the term and the demand merely reflects the materialistic and intrinsically warped value that some people place on their dogs, similar to other high end possessions such as cars and handbags, the latter which they will use to pop their Puggle or other poor unfortunate creature into. they are simply another accessory item to them. And as they are quite novel, it would appear that this can also be a driving factor for desirability.

      The pedigree dog world is to blame for that. Over priced dogs which have their desirability placed on looks. After all, if they are awfully expensive, they must be really high quality? That can make them desirable for some people. It is like showing off. Just like the show ring.

      Jemima, on the other hand, rescues mutts. Doesn't compute. People who really do understand about nature and dogs in general tend to opt for mutts.

    9. @21.31
      Because of PDE, it created the opportunity for the designer dog (mongrel) to raise its ugly head. Besides, the cost of a Cockapoo or Jackadach these days isn't far off, if not exceeding these 'overpriced' dogs. Check out epupz and other such sites if necessary. Is it right PDE opened the floodgates to this, especially when they're being incorrectly advertised as 'healthier'. Is there sufficient evidence to ensure this isn't in breach of ASA guidelines and rules?

      And, so, you're suggesting that those that care most typically opt for mutts? This statement is based on what?

      Another ridiculous statement - merely clutching at straws here.

    10. I'm in the States, where Jemima's show got very little attention, and designer dogs are huge here. Were already very big long before her show even was filmed. It's difficult for me to connect her show to designer dogs in any way.

    11. Anon 22:02
      I think it’s you who is clutching at straws now isn’t it?
      ‘Is it right PDE opened the floodgates to this, especially when they're being incorrectly advertised as 'healthier'.’

      Do you have evidence that there is a clear correlation to PDE and the amount of so called ‘designer dogs’ being bred and sold?

      No person who truly understands about the disastrous consequences of continuing to inbreed using a paradigm of closed gene pools would opt to buy a pedigree dog from a show breeder.

      Alexander Horowitz positively endorses and advises people to buy Mutts, in ‘Inside of a Dog’ – she is a scientist working in dog cognition and the book is well worth a read. She cites scientific references and has written an incredibly empathetic book.

      ‘Pukka’s Promise’ is a very important book in my opinion. I am looking forward to Jemima’s review. There are some aspects of it I don’t like (some of his training methods and also his anthropomorphising at times) but overall, if you think you really care about dogs and are breeding dogs for the right reasons then give this a read..

    12. @10.03
      It doesn't take a genius to work out that these designer dogs are increasingly common on the streets, being sold on puppy websites and living it up in rescue homes without the need for evidence. Given these aren't pedigrees and therefore, less likely or unlikely to be registered for the purposes of collecting such information as evidence, a bit of common sense therefore needs to be applied.

    13. Anon 13:49

      No, it doesn't take a genius to work that out. But how does that affect what pedigree dog breeders are continuing to practice in the light of current scientific understanding?

      Your post doesn't really make a lot of sense. What/where should common sense be applied exactly?

      As for'Living it up in rescue homes' - I don't think I've ever heard such nonsense. What a truly ignorant and callous statement. Do you actually care about canine welfare?

      Are you sure you are not simply jealous of the competition!?! You hardly sound like a professional....

  7. I guess I can't point fingers. I recently did some work on my family tree and discovered just this kind of thing, cousins marrying cousins, and then their children and grandchildren marrying cousins. Thank goodness that stopped a couple hundred years ago.

    1. How many fingers with all that inbreeding?! Sorry, frivolous comment on serious topic.

  8. JH
    You state COI of 20 percent. Is this from a 5 generation pedigree, or was mare select given data back 15 generations or so, as required to accurately calculate a COI? If 5 generations, the actual figure is likely to be much higher.
    Hope that someday well have more diversity evidence taken directly from homozygosity of DNA.

  9. Lacking genetic diversity, Isle Royale wolves failed to reproduce last year and their future is in doubt.

    Presumably, the founding population was healthy, but there were only a few (they crossed a temporary ice bridge that only forms in very severe winters) and they have been plagued by inbreeding ever since.

    One outcross male did arrive and successfully reproduce, but it was for whatever reason not enough to save the population.

    For more background,

    As far as show dogs... to be fair, very tight line breeding is also done among many working dogs, or at least dogs that are field-trialed. This is not a show dog problem, this is a purebred dog problem.

    I know genetic diversity is good, but I don't know enough to make judgements. For instance, I see that my own dogs have some linebreeding on the top and the bottom, but then the cross itself is a total outcross (at least as far back as the pedigree shows) with no signs of common ancestors. This is fairly common in dogdom. So then I have to ask, is it better to linebreed tightly for a generation or two and then do a total outcross, or is it better to have looser linebreeding going on all the time? With the small populations of some breeds, you are likely to have one or the other end up happening.

    And which breeds have enough genetic diversity WITHIN the breed to maintain genetic health, and which are already so troubled that they really should have dogs brought in from a different breed altogether?

    These are the things I don't know.

    1. If you mate first cousin to first cousin enough you will still get problems.

    2. Fran
      I am scientist in the medical field. I have witnessed first-hand the consequences of a family who have continued to inbreed with their frst cousins. It’s not pretty. Despite their access to amazing education, their tribal and cultural legacy has obliterated their capacity for critical thinking in this regard. Their insistence on keeping the family blood ‘pure’ has created a huge problem for them.

      Cancer, SLE, weird inborn errors of metabolism we can’t quite pin down….you name it, we have seen it. And it’s getting worse.

      But then it would wouldn’t it?

      The meme that is cancerous is the disregard to think critically and apply scientific understanding to practice.
      The mentality with some pedigree dog breeders appears to be the same IMHO.

    3. The Raasay voles are another example of extremely closely inbred animals (believed to be descended from a single female) found nowhere else in the world - to the extent where they are now a separate subspecies - being astonishingly (even to scientists!) healthy and flourishing.

    4. Mary, I don't mean to be rude, but was is your point? Are you implying that it's OK to inbreed dogs using the Raasay voles as an example of successful inbreeding?

    5. The point is that even scientists and geneticists agree that inbreeding, even very close inbreeding for generations, isn't always the disaster less qualified people believe. As VP below \/ says, a high CoI where both parents are genetically clear of a condition will produce offspring clear of that condition, whereas a low CoI where both parents suffer from the condition will produce affected offspring. Simply by going for a low CoI is no guarantee of health, and a high CoI is no guarantee of ill-health. Sorry if the point escaped you.

    6. Hi Mary, I'd really like to see some evidence quoted for your above paragraph please, out of interest more than anything. Any papers you could point me to?

    7. Mary, I would think that genetically speaking, since we are talking about dogs, wolves would be a better point of comparison that voles, don't you?

    8. You have to provide a framework and standards for breeders to uphold though. Having an academic debate on voles and inbreeding is all very interesting but are you implying that because some inbred animals have no evidnce of any residual disease burden that it is ok to keep inbreeding dogs? I think Professor Steve Jones may object. This guy has stuck his neck out on the effects of inbreeding in the Muslim community in Bradford as well Pedigree dogs. Of course, it doesn't make him Mr. Popular but I more inclined to pay attention to a professor of genetics than some clearly biased pedigree dog breeder.

    9. Amazing; someone comes up with a perfectly good argument and the bashers condemn it in any way possible. There are plenty of species of animals that thrive despite a small gene pool and there's plenty of scientific evidence to support this. Breeding healthy dogs with a degree of linebreeding is surely better than riddled ones that couldn't be the slightest bit related? The COI alone is no measure of health or what is right or wrong

    10. No one came up with a perfectly good argument, Anon. Mary threw out the fact that there are inbred populations that do OK. That's true. Mostly, they are those under strong natural selection, which doesn't apply to dogs. But even if it did, these are exceptions that don't prove the rule.

      And NO ONE ever said that high COIs always equals disaster and low COIs always equals good health or that COI is the only criteria that should be considered when breeding dogs.

      That dog breeders, driven by self-interest, continue to deny the enormous wealth of evidence that inbreeding is deleterious is beyond ridiculous.


    11. The bottom line is that while you can slow down the loss of genetic diversity in a closed gene pool, you cannot stop it. If you carefully reduce COI in your breeding programme over several generations, you get an artificial picture of reduced COI that leads to a false sense of security – it looks like you are improving things but you are still reducing the gene pool.

      Arguing about whether or not individuals with high or low COIs are healthy is missing the point: the population as a whole is at risk from inbreeding depression.

      Here’s a report on grey wolves in Sweden:

      And here’s a quotation:

      “The panel supports a short-term goal that consists of reducing inbreeding from the current ca. 30% to below 10% over a 20 year period. If the current population in Sweden and Norway is maintained at a maximum of 240 individuals, then 5-10 genetically effective immigrants are required per generation. At this low population size immigration must be continuous. If a larger population size is allowed, then in the longer term fewer immigrants would be required…

      … The pedigree established for wild Scandinavian wolves is available on request and is already used in practical management. The panel finds that this is a particularly important tool that should be used for identifying individuals of immigrant ancestry or individuals that in other ways represent particularly valuable portions of the founder genetic diversity. These individuals should subsequently be protected from hunting.”

      Note two assumptions:

      First, there is no concern that the immigrants will bring more genetic problems into the existing population and there is no recommendation that the migrants be health tested to prevent this. What is of paramount importance is their genetic diversity. The implied assumption is that what is required for survival is genetic diversity, not “purity” or a complete absence of deleterious genes.

      Second, even though the panel states that a higher population would require fewer immigrants, the assumption is that the larger population is the result of in influx of ‘genetically effective migrants’ at the higher rate required by the original low population and that some immigrants will still be required. In other words, increasing the population by simply allowing more individuals from a closed group to survive and reproduce will not solve the problem. You need more genes and there is only one way to get them.

      As long as you are “lowering” COI within a closed registry, you are fooling yourself that things are getting better. They are not. The problem of genetic loss is just slowed down. Sensible outcrosses must be part of the programme for there to be any real effect on loss of diversity and the onset of inbreeding depression.

    12. It is disturbing that the people challenging the misconceptions related to breeding practices and genetic diversity are called ‘bashers’…. Once a so called ‘basher’ then asks (usually) a dog breeder/shower for some scientific reference material or clarification into the appropriate context i.e. related to pedigree dog breeding, they head underground. Just like a vole….

      This behaviour, even on a blog, is disturbing and further reinforcement that a lot of people responsible for breeding still have their ‘vole – like’ heads in the dirt and can’t or won’t see the bigger picture.

      Sarah’s post is really nice as it clarifies that the focus should really be on outcrossing to ensure the health of future generations. Genetic diversity is the key to evolutionary success.

      There are examples in the human genome where potentially deleterious homozygous genes in their recessive form are said to be selectively advantageous – HbS being one. The gene for HbS is due to an amino acid substitution on I can’t remember which autosome but I think the AA is valine for glutamine and this single substitution produces a haemoglobin molecule that alters it’s shape under low oxygen tension. Now it’s a pretty devastating disease in its homozygous form (Sickle Cell Anaemia), but there is evidence to suggest that recessive carriers are actually a bit better acquired to deal with the malaria parasite (the parasite competes for oxygen in the red blood cell, the cell sickles and the parasite in that cell is then cleared by the immune system). Carriers of this mutation therefore tend to be in areas where malaria is endemic. There is a selective advantage in having this potentially devastating gene. Do we know of any in our dogs or wolves? Probably not, because we don't focus on health, only looks.

      Genetic diversity is no guarantee of a disease –free existence of course, but it certainly ensures that the genome doesn’t suffer from inbreeding depression and allows room for natural selection to do its thing, in its own time.

      My point is that our dogs (whom we all love and cherish right??) should be allowed to evolve more ‘naturally’ IF they are going to live longer and healthier lives in the future. We have no idea yet of the extent of the damage we have caused in terms of inbreeding with regards to immune function in particular. What we are seeing now, is just the tip of the ice berg. There needs to be less focus on breed/type and more on considering outcrossing for health and temperament. The myth that pedigree dogs are somehow superior due to their genetic ‘purity’ is astoundingly flawed and disastrous for our dogs. Outcrossing is not akin to heresy or impurity, it’s simply how nature works best.

      The major problem is hobby breeders who don’t understand the science, don’t want to understand it and still want to parade their mutants around a human stage for ribbons and trophies. They create the demand for these dogs. And you can bleat on about puppy farming all you like. That is more a symptom of the greed of human beings cashing in on an apparent gap in the ‘market’. They in no way purport to set any breeding standards, abhorrent though their practice is.

    13. Anon 11:25, I hesitate a bit when you say this: "There needs to be less focus on breed/type and more on considering outcrossing for health and temperament."

      As in many things, I think we need to find balance. In an ideal world, animals are allowed to breed with healthy levels of diversity and natural selection keeps them that way. BUT that also requires a large number of "unsuccessful" animals--- young that are born and don't survive to reproduction age. It also involves a certain level of harassment; animals that are born looking physically different--- even a little bit-- are often bullied out of the group until they die, or ignored by potential mates so they don't reproduce. We don't tolerate that with pets.

      To a less extreme argument, while health is vital, so is size/shape/appearance etc. Here in the States, the number of healthy mutts who are euthanized for lack of homes is high. Purebred dogs, with their more predictable size and temperament and coat and everything that goes along with that, don't suffer such a grim fate.

      If you breed for health and personality generally, but ignore size and shape and the like, you end up with a whole new set of problems.

      Really there is no reason why we can't focus on breed and type AND on health. We can't continue breeding only the winningest handful of dogs to a slightly larger pool of bitches, no. But in most breeds, we can still keep type and also greatly increase genetic diversity. In some breeds with severe problems, thoughtful outcrosses to other breeds may be necessary.

      But if you look at the natural world carefully, you will see that most wild animals have very little variation is size, or color, or "type." A cardinal is never born looking like a bluebird, yet cardinals continue to be successful despite the fact that they are all within a few centimeters of size, the males are red and the females are dusky and they all have combs on their head.

      We can keep the genes that control size and color and certain inborn behavior traits and still have genetic diversity if we are more careful in our breeding programs.

    14. Beth, could you give me some examples of wild animals born *looking a bit different* that are harassed/bullied "until they die"? This is news to me. As you say, there is actually rather little variation in wild animals. They breed true.

      And could you tell me how in most breeds we can "greatly increase genetic diversity" - breed-wide that is - without outcrossing? Gene loss is inexorable within a closed population. You can slow the gene loss by careful breeding, but you can't reverse it.


    15. Beth, why are so many mutts euthanized I wonder? Do you possible think that there could be something to do with the fact that pedigree dogs have been held up to be the type of dog that people should aspire too? Let’s face it – for some people, only a certain type of dog will do. There are also behavioural traits associated with certain types of dogs that people do go for of course and not just looks. I personally love seeing a cocker working for example – the tail whirling round; the nose to the ground; the incredible focus. But my mixed breed dog does that too – heaven knows her ancestry and she looks nothing like a cocker! But there are an awful lot of people who are attracted to a dog’s physical appearance and pedigree dog breeding taps into that part of the human psyche. After all, why does the Show Ring exist? Not for the dog’s health is it? It’s to satisfy the human ego – psychologists should have a field day with this.

      You do mention that size/shape and appearance is important. I agree, but why do you think it is important? Fair enough, you need a dog to herd sheep, a dog to retrieve game or a guard dog to roam a perimeter fence – these working animals still have their place and their size and strength is important to their function perhaps? But there is not the demand for working dogs as there used to be – we really need robust, healthy, temperamentally sound pets, and appearance should be something we shouldn’t attach too much importance too IMO. That focus on appearance is what causes the dog to suffer – either with his genetic health, or adversely, I would argue that mixed breed dogs often end up in rescue because they aren’t attractive enough for people to desire them. They simply don’t look like pedigree dogs or types. It makes them undesirable to a lot of people. Just ask the Dog’s Trust!

      Body size is a well-known polygenic trait, or not influenced by a single gene, as is behaviour, another extremely complex mechanism controlled by many, many genes that govern the endocrine system including receptors, uptake transmitters etc. Nothing is predictable about a purebred dog with regard to behaviour – that depends on both nature and nurture. Genetically, it’s extremely complex and Border Collies do not come with any guarantee that they will be fine herders. Within the same litter there can be dramatic differences between siblings - the predatory motor sequence may not be as sharply honed in one pup; one pup may have the eye – stalk- chase ; another pup may well follow through to the kill; another may be afraid of sheep. So your point about ‘unsuccessful’ animals in the wild could be applied today really amongst working dogs too I would reason. There are breeders of working dogs who simply advise to ‘get rid’ of the dogs who fail to meet their expectations (I read this recently on a working cocker breeder’s blog). I don’t think your observation that animals in nature looking physically different will get bullied is not an excuse not to out cross some lines of pedigree dogs, particularly those who are at the end of their line – the CKCS for example.

      Isn’t the health and temperament surely the most important thing to get right? I would perhaps say that appearance is important in regard to that it doesn’t allow the dog to suffer in any way – overly heavy coats; flat faces; long ears; skin folds – these sort of traits should be selected against so that the dog doesn’t have to suffer the indignity of the grooming parlour, having his ears ripped off while out exercising or being unable to breathe properly and cool down. But that is directly related tohealth of course. And yes – absolutely size IS important. We all know large dogs tend to live shorter lives; they are more difficult to manage if they kick into predatory drift or aggressive states (you try stopping an Akita in full pre drive mode compared to a Yorkshire Terrier!) But let’s select these things for ethically sound reasons.
      Sorry, essay – but fascinating discussion.

    16. There are many, many other reasons that dogs end up in rescue too. It’s important to acknowledge them too I think. People divorce, lose their jobs etc. – all sorts of personal reasons exist for mutts and other purebreds to end up in rescue, whether they were sourced from breeders or puppy farms. The other reason is that breeding certain types of dogs as pets can also create the so called ‘behavioural’ problems. The average dog owner is fairly under educated when it comes to understanding behaviour and how to manage predatory drives; how to train the dogs using kind science-based methods (Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning) and basically failing to understand the extremely important concept of environmental management, or not setting the dog up to fail. The Border Collie who DOES herd, chase and nip the children; the working cocker who is under stimulated and wrecks your shoes, furniture and the house; the GSD who is under socialised and attacks the visitors; the Bull Mastiffs who spend far too long in their cages and fail to have their prey drives adequately managed in stimulating environments. These types of dogs can also find themselves abandoned because they were too difficult for the owner to manage or they simply failed to meet owner expectations (often unrealistic).

      I’d be interested to learn if anyone has experience of dogs given up because they can’t afford the vet bills in pedigree dogs with health issues too? People may willingly take on a Bulldog but be staggered when they find themselves coughing up at the vet every other month….

      We need to breed dogs for the right reasons. The best shot at protecting breeds is to change the genes within the breeds, so that they’re not at a higher risk for premature death through genetic diseases caused by inbreeding. Outcrossing would be a way to achieve that. But you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

    17. Anon 10:13:

      Fascinating post. I can also appreciate the lure of the purebred dog. People like predictability - knowing how big their puppy will grow, biddability, grooming needs, daily exercise requirements and its general temperament. There are no guarantees of course, but if I wanted an affectionate, easy-care pet, then I'd likely pick a Whippet over another breed.

      I think when DNA testing becomes cheaper, rescues may be able to tell prospective owners what's 'in the mix'. Even with that consciously-bred mongrel, the lurcher, buyers still like to know which dogs have been used and what percentage, e.g. 1/4 Greyhound, 1/4 Border Collie, 1/2 Whippet. This then gives the owner an idea of temperament, biddability, exercise requirements and rough adult size.

      A similar example is crossing similar gundog breeds, which should provide predictability whilst increasing genetic diversity.

      The mutt which is a result of inconsiderate breeding, isn't really the point here, it's finding a way of breeding healthier dogs, whilst also maintaining the necessary predictability.

      Apart from the brachycepahlic breeds and others with conformation or severe health problems, I don't think people have to give-up their beloved breed, just their obsession with breed-purity. Health testing, conscientious breeding and regular injections of new genes are really all that's required to keep most breeds healthy.

    18. Outcrossing to another breed can also be used to rapidly improve poor breed traits. For example, racing Greyhounds have notoriously poor feet for any kind of terrain other than the soft racing track for which they are bred.

      If I was working my Greyhound in the field and I wanted to improve the breed's foot, I would outcross to a working-bred Bearded Collie, rather than look within the breed.

    19. Hi Fran – You nailed it with the breed- purity thing. Really like your attitude to looking at outcrossing as not being an act of heresy! Function is key, fit for purpose etc. Most dogs don’t need to work like they used to either so why do some people still dock spaniels tails if they are pets I wonder? Again, it’s a certain aesthetic appeal.

      Genetic purity is a myth that is also still sadly prevalent in some human cultures that place a cultural importance on tribe….It really is a human weakness in my opinion. Are our Royal Family superior to us by virtue of their blood? No – it’s a combination of wealth, power, history and influence. Not DNA.

      The Wisdom DNA Panel is available on Amazon for about 60 quid I think. There has just been an interesting discussion and analysis on the application of it on Patricia McConnell’s blog. Fascinating discussion which I am sure you will find interesting. For myself, having a mutt I take her as she is with no expectations to fulfil i.e. high drive, predatory, reactive, great with people, poor with dogs. Outdoors she generally hunts like a terrier and stalks and herds like a collie. She looks and behaves like a collie/terrier mix. However, from what I’ve read about this panel, she could well come back as that, or any other combination of breeds or she could be unclassifiable – i.e. too genetically diverse to categorise. Given my attitude towards breeds, types and health, I would be pleased if it was the latter! For owners and rescue organisations though this would indeed be a great tool to satisfy people who are indeed looking for some predictable traits with regard to dogs. As the database grows, I am sure there will be lots to learn from using this type of analysis.

    20. Jemima, my point about mate selection (sensory bias in natural selection) is easy enough to find and is a strong driver in evolution in some species (birds, fish). That is easy enough to find in the literature.

      While over the years I have read many examples of mutations in color, etc being detrimental to certain social animals, it is unfortunately a difficult thing to conduct a google search for. I will do my best to find examples. I recall reading something about the white lions being bigger targets for adolescent harrasment than their tawny cousins, for instance, but can't locate anything online.

      I agree with the importantce of outcrossing WITHIN a breed, but definitely do not agree that to maintain healthy animals we need to do away with the idea of closed stud books in all the breeds. In many breeds there are thousands of individuals. Surely this is enough to maintain a healthy gene pool, if we are careful. The natural life span of most purebred dogs is not noticeably shorter than that of captive wolves, to the best of my knowledge. While some breeds are in trouble, many are not.

    21. Beth remarked - "Here in the States, the number of healthy mutts who are euthanized for lack of homes is high."

      The stats show one and a half million dogs were killed last year in the shelter system, and many of those were not offered for adoption due to temperament/breed bans etc. The vast majority killed were bull breed mixes.

      Any number is sad, but this figure is remarkably low, not high, especially if (like me) you had involvement in the shelter system 30 years ago. We are making great strides.

      There are ~78 million dogs owned by American families. The number of dogs killed at shelters has diminished sharply from the 70s when ~35 million dogs were owned and 6-7 were killed at shelters annually. 21% euthanized down to less than 2%.

      That change is partially due to a change the cultural attitude that surrounds the 'value' of a dog in many communities. Some still have a way to go.

    22. Anon 13:52, was you left out as a kid and not made to feel special? You seem to have this real hang up about people liking this because of how they look. Yes there is charm in a scruffy cross but equally there is in a pretty pedigree like say a pom or a pap, for the few sick breeds there is plenty of healthy wonderful ones.

    23. But Beth, how is a mutation in colour detrimental to social animals? I know that Balyaev's work with foxes resulted in piebald foxes. This was thought to be due to L-Dopa, a melanin precursor resulting in white patches on the coat. L-Dopa is also an adrenaline precursor and the resulting tame foxes were low on anxiety and fearfulness and had higher levels of seratonin. By selectively breeding for tameness and therefore a different neurochemical profile, he also had modified other genes that switch on and off other morphological features - the foxes also had more pedomorphic faces. This wasn't detrimental to them though as they were selectively bred and looked after by human beings - like our dogs. Genes don't care what package they are in and lets face it, there are more Pug genes on the planet than African Prairie dogs. But would Pugs survive on the African plane? No. But, their genes probably have more of a chance of getting into the next generation than the majority of Prairie dogs thanks to us!

    24. Anon 17:37, you are correct and we have made huge strides. Many dogs who are surrendered in large swaths of the country are due to things like owner illness, dog wandering, etc. There are too many pit bull types in rescue, but that's a whole other debate. In the South there are still a lot of people who don't spay and neuter, but in most of the rest of the country things are much better than they were.

      My point is that if there is a push to move away from breeding for breed characteristic and type and just towards "health and temperament" there will be no buy-in from a large portion of the dog-owning public. I think we can do both. We don't want to breed the proverbial "medium brown dog" just because that's the healthiest. The malleability of the dog genome is a large part of what has made them our favorite companion animal.

    25. Beth said:

      “In many breeds there are thousands of individuals. Surely this is enough to maintain a healthy gene pool, if we are careful.”

      No, it isn’t. What you need to look at is not just the number of individuals (N) but also the inbreeding effective population (Ne). As a rule of thumb, a short-term Ne of 50 is considered the minimum necessary to avoid inbreeding depression. Calboli et al calculated that there were, for example, 44,521 (N) Boxers in the UK but this group had an Ne of 45. What that means is that the level of inbreeding in 44,521 individuals was the same as that you would expect in a population of 45 individuals. For comparison, Calboli et al calculated that the Akita Innu, with 2864 individuals, also had an Ne of 45. Two points need to be understood: first, both breeds are in trouble; second, you cannot make assumptions about genetic diversity and health based on the number of individuals (N).

      “While some breeds are in trouble, many are not.”

      Not yet – or maybe not noticeably yet. The time frame within which the different breeds exhibit the symptoms of inbreeding depression varies according to many factors, including luck, but they are all on the same path because you can only lose genetic diversity in a closed-registry population. You need continuous outcrossing.

    26. "As a rule of thumb, a short-term Ne of 50 is considered the minimum necessary to avoid inbreeding depression."

      As I understand it, an Ne of 50 is not the point at which inbreeding begins... it's the point at which the population is under threat of extinction because of inbreeding (Franklin 1980). Franklin suggested an Ne of 500 is needed long-term to ensure genetic survival. There is some controversy re this 50/500 rule (as it's known) as individual populations are just so different and there are so many variables.

      I suspect more useful would be PVA - population viability analysis - as modelled for many wild species.


    27. "You need continuous outcrossing."

      Sarah ...can you define what you mean by 'continuous outcrossing ' you mean to different lines within the same breed or to different breeds ? ...and at what frequency would you outcross i.e once every 3rd generation ?

    28. I like the idea of opening the studbooks (for good) through an appendix registry and after a few generations, when the offspring is 7/8 of the given breed, they are recognized as purebred and move to the main studbook. And, of course, the decision to crossbreed (outcross) should be at the discretion of every breeder.

      What's the problem with something like that?

      Joe Garp

    29. Jemima said:

      “As I understand it, an Ne of 50 is not the point at which inbreeding begins... it's the point at which the population is under threat of extinction because of inbreeding (Franklin 1980). Franklin suggested an Ne of 500 is needed long-term to ensure genetic survival. There is some controversy re this 50/500 rule (as it's known) as individual populations are just so different and there are so many variables.” 

      Yes, that is my understanding too and what I meant about a minimum short-term Ne of 50 being needed to avoid inbreeding depression, as opposed to simple inbreeding, and I said “rule of thumb” because I know it is not quite as simple as that. But the number serves the purpose of illustrating the seriousness of the problem, even with caveats.

      Hello, Bijou.

      "Sarah ...can you define what you mean by 'continuous outcrossing ' you mean to different lines within the same breed or to different breeds ? ...and at what frequency would you outcross i.e once every 3rd generation?"

      I mean outcrossing to different breeds. As I have said before, I think the best approach is for a breed club to run an outcross programme with advice from a geneticist or conservation biologist because the number of individuals brought in as outcrosses would depend on the size of the breed population as well as the level of inbreeding in that population. However, if you take the study of wolves that I quoted above as a guide, you would be looking at an outcross of .02 -.04% every generation across the breed.

      You might be interested in this article about why it is difficult to maintain diversity even with an outcross here and there and why an occasional outcross is not enough when dealing with highly inbred populations, as all closed-registry dogs are. It is about a particularly highly inbred population but it relates to all breeds kept in closed registries and I encourage you to read it through to the end:

      I know you are concerned with losing type through outcrossing. If you are not familiar with them, you might be interested in these dogs. They are from central, eastern and southern Germany and they are not Groenendaels. “Altdeutscher Hütehund” translates as “Old German Shepherd”. I'd be genuinely interested in whether or not you would consider outcrossing to these dogs and if not, why not?

    30. Hi Sarah - thanks for the link and yes some of the Old German Shepherds do look superficially ' Groenendael like' but a Groenendael is not simply a black prick eared Shepherd dog. It is an amalgamation of unique characteristics which differs it from the GSD, the Dutch Shepherd or any other European shepherding breed is that which which define it as a breed ( the obliquely set almond shaped eye, high set ears, square body shape and elegant movement ) ...and it's those breed defining details that would be lost if breeders continuously outcross to different breeds.

      ..and thats the stumbling block Sarah ...these details are irrelevant to you and others on this blog who truly believe that one black prick eared dog looks very much like any other ..but it is a whole different ball game for those of us who breed specific individual breeds -

      I believe that continuous outcrossing at the level you are suggesting would mean the amalgamation of many breeds into generic Shepherding, Terrier, Hound etc types.... in effect you are asking breeders to 'save ' their individual and unique breeds by destroying them !.

    31. Bijou, what is the importance of the breed defining characteristics for the function of the animal?

      The genes are not destroyed though - just expressed differently. And yet again, we retuen to people placing the importance of breeding dogs for how they look....

    32. Bijou, where is your evidence that regular outcrossing would result in the loss of the characterisitcs you talk about? Have you spoken about this to one of the geneticists at the AHT? Have they explained to you how often you would need to outcross in order for the breed to remain genetically healthy? They were at Crufts, I had quite a few chats with them, it would have been easy for you to get this information.

      Up until the 70s when the stud book was closed, Whippets were frequently crossed with Whippety-types that had Greyhound blood in them. This did not result in the loss of the Whippet. It's also probably a very good reason why Whippets aren't in dire straits as a breed.

    33. My money is on the fact Bijou has no evidence.

      I saw a lovely thing this evening walking home from work - a twenty year old dog, slowly ambling behind her owner. No specific breed, impossible to say. Healthwise - backend a bit stiff, deaf in left ear, early signs of cataracts. But she was still curious and lively enough to say hi. Her owner thought she was some sort of Staffy cross. I also regularly see an 18 year old Corgi/JRT mix. She is blind and deaf but still loves her cycle rides in the front basket! She looks like a fox. Such a unique looking dog. Old age is not a right, it's a privilege. When are some of these self obsessed dog breeders going to do what is right for the health of their so called beloved breeds. How can you claim to love something yet be so blind as to not do the right thing by them by prioritising their future health? Outcross!


    34. "... the obliquely set almond shaped eye, high set ears, square body shape and elegant movement... "

      You are only talking about appearance, breed traits are much more than just that and have more to do with functionality.

      "... in effect you are asking breeders to 'save ' their individual and unique breeds by destroying them !."

      Firstly, you are overreacting; secondly, breeds are what they are because of selective breeding, so as long as people is truly selecting for those unique characteristics, those will be there, worry when they don't select them anymore, but that is a problem with selection not outcrossing.

      Joe Garp

    35. yes but many different breeds perform the same function and yet are distinct breed based on physical differences - the BSD and the GSD were originally bred for the same purpose as were the Welsh and Lakeland Terrier, the PMD and the Maremma, the Estrela and the Leonberger and the Sussex and Field Spaniel all perform the same function yet are separate and distinct breeds - sometimes those physical differences are quite small such as the the ear carriage between the Norfolk and Norwich Terriers or the colour differences in the Irish and the Red and White say that these traits will not be lost as breeders can still select for them but what then would be the difference between the present status quo ? ..if breeders are "selecting for those unique characteristics" they would still be using a restricted gene pool just as they are doing now ...and in fact their choices could be made even more restricted with every cross breeding done as fewer and fewer pups retain those unique characteristics for us to choose frnm in the future

      Fran asks me for evidence and frankly I can give her none ...because I know of no-one that is REGULARLY cross breeding whilst at the same time retaining the subtleties of breed type...where is her evidence that it can be done ?

    36. Bijou, you forget that a closed gene cannot be viable forever. It's not a case of never having to do an outcross, it's a case of doing so before your breed is as screwed as the CKCS!

      Inbreeding depression WILL set-in. Eventually your dogs will have such a small gene pool as to be unable to reproduce, or be riddled with health problems due to the doubling-up of recessive genes. It's up to you what you place the importance on, your 'obliquely set almond eyes' or the long-term viability of your breed?

      How about you find out BEFORE your breed is in dire straits, how often you need to do an outcross and what this would involve (it certainly won't involve just one or two dogs)? Like I said, the AHT would be able to help you on this. That's what they're there for.

    37. "However, if you take the study of wolves that I quoted above as a guide, you would be looking at an outcross of .02 -.04% every generation across the breed."

      Sarah, thank you for this. I'll be looking into it more but it is nice to see someone proposing a baseline.

    38. “..and thats the stumbling block Sarah ...these details are irrelevant to you and others on this blog who truly believe that one black prick eared dog looks very much like any other ..but it is a whole different ball game for those of us who breed specific individual breeds - 


      Bijou, the stumbling block is not that you know and care about details and that I can’t tell my own breed from any other prick-eared black dog because I find details irrelevant. The difference between us is that while your definition of a breed is limited to a very narrow set of physical criteria, I am prepared to accept wider variety in physical traits and include behaviour and function in what defines a dog – just like the farmers who created the breed in the first place. How about our breed’s other name: Belgian *Shepherd*. Your definition of what makes the dog what it is does not relate to the name at all, yet the name originally reflected the essence of what the dog was.

      “Type” has altered significantly over the last century. If you look at photographs of Belgian Shepherds a hundred years ago, many of them look significantly different from each other and from modern BSDs. And what about behaviour? BSDs are farm dogs meant to herd and guard, and were in fact the first breed to be used by the police and military, yet you have made it very clear elsewhere that to suit your purposes you have no compunction about breeding away from the temperament described in the breed standard.

      Why do you think it is all right to change how a dog behaves but not all right to change how it looks? And given the changes in “type” over the last century, what “type” do you think you are preserving?

      “I know of no-one that is REGULARLY cross breeding whilst at the same time retaining the subtleties of breed type...where is her evidence that it can be done ?”

      You need look no further than your own breed. I suggest that you look at working-line Malinois, especially those produced for the KNPV and those that have KNPV bloodlines in them.

    39. @Anon 19:50

      My pleasure. I hope you enjoy reading the study on wolves and the article on Chinooks by Jeffrey Bragg. He has written some good stuff. There's more here if you are not familiar with him and his work:

    40. Ah yes the rise of the Maligator - the instant testosterone replacement for those who get their jollies from watching a dog hang off a padded sleeve !!..tell me in all honesty, do you believe that those breeders who are regularly crossing BSD with Pit bulls , or Bull Mastiffs are producing dogs that retain the subtleties of the original SHEPHERDING breed characteristics - hell no ! - ...and if they are not cross breeding I'd bet a pound to a penny their breeders will be working within JUST as restricted a gene pool as other BSD breeders ( the mere thought of using anything other than their 'high drive, awesome bite, sport lines' would send them running for the hills .)

      yep I breed dogs to suit my purpose - for me that means producing dogs that have the temperament to be used as Autism Therapy dogs ( my line of work )..BSD are ideal for this because of their innate sensitivity and ability to 'read' human emotions...they are in my opinion just as much 'working dogs' as any KNPV dog ...with the added bonus that what I produce also make fine active family pets.....this sensitivity is one of those subtleties of breed type that would be lost by your call for continuous cross breeding.

      Our breed rescue is picking up the pieces of those so called 'working line' BSD whose temperaments have been so altered that they are a liability in the average home ...and THIS is what you hold up as the way forward for my breed ? ...I think not !

    41. How can you breed dogs to be innately sensitive to read human emotions? What are you selecting for here?

      Breed is no guarantee for behaviour. The human guardian's influence here is paramount - training, socialisation and prey dive outlets has a huge influence on this. Nature and nature work together to express behaviour.

      The teenage girl who was mauled to death by 5 bully breeds here recently. Who was to blame there? The dogs? I would say having a pack of 5 high drive dogs who are inappropriately managed, under exercised, untrained under the care of an uneducated owner was the root cause there. Not the dogs. Even a very experienced owner would find that quite a task to keep those dogs arousal levels safe.

      Breeding dogs with the correct temperament and health as pets is so very important and sensible. But the reason any dog ends up as a liability is irresponsible ownership. Labelling types of dogs as family friendly and loving children is irresponsible too. No breed has this defining characteristic. just because it's a Golden Retriever does not mean that the dog will be good around children. You have to assess all dogs as individuals, regardless of breed.


      Importance for pet dog owners

      If Svartberg’s finding is correct, that modern purebred dogs have maintained no detectable aptitude for the specialized work of their forebears, pet dog selection should clearly be made based on the personality of the individual dog, rather than on expectations about his behavior, based on ancestry. And if traditional traits have been so diluted as to be indiscernible in purebred dogs, we should certainly not expect to be able to predict them at all in dogs of mixed breeds.

    43. "If Svartberg’s finding is correct, that modern purebred dogs have maintained no detectable apti-tude for the specialized work of their forebears..."

      Interesting, but my Whippet (show x working lines) knows how to catch rabbits with zero input from me. He knew instinctively how to grab one of my hens, despite her large size, and would easily have killed her had I not intervened. He'd beat most other breeds in a race too.

      Not traditional to his breed though, he's also great at scent work.

      I have heard of BCs that are afraid of sheep, but the International Sheepdog Society (ISDS) is certainly keen to preserve the breed's herding traits.

      Mnay gundog breeds are still worked, albeit it's usually the working lines, rather than the show lines.

      From what I could tell, he focused on testing several traits - playfulness, curiosity/fearlessness and sociability - rather than whether the dog is still capable of doing the function for which it was originally bred. What he tested for and the conclusions that he then drew, didn't seem to match-up. Am I missing something?

    44. I think the only conclusion is that breed and residual behaviour is never a guarantee. There are some BCs that don't read the manual, as there are some Labs who are afraid of the water....but at the same time, ignoring breed tendencies ( as in the case of your whippet example) would also be foolish. Behaviour is simply far too complex to be so predictable. Genes and environment produce the phenotype. I'd definitely question the research model - these seem more behavioural/temperament traits as opposed to flat out predatory behaviour testing? The latter may be difficult though and perhaps research ethics would be difficult to grant if it involved potentially dead prey!

    45. Bijou,

      You issued a challenge to provide evidence that there was someone outcrossing on a regular basis and still producing dogs that were recognizably of a certain breed. I provided you with an example. Some KNPV Malinois do display physical traits of other breeds; other KNPV Malinois look like, well… Malinois.

      I answered your question regarding evidence but you did not answer my questions. All I got was an off-topic tirade that evades the questions and does nothing to disprove my example either. Could you please give me straight answers to the following:

      1.“Type” has changed in the last century. Why is it unacceptable to have any further change in “type”?

      2.Why is it acceptable to change the behaviour that originally defined the dog but not acceptable to change the physical appearance that was a by-product of the selection for function?

    46. Could this twit ask what KNPV means and the context in which it is used??? Thanks

    47. Georgina, there’s no “twit” about it – there’s no reason the vast majority of people would know about the KNPV.

      KNPV is the (Dutch) acronym for the Royal Dutch Police Dog Association and they conduct police dog trials and certification. The dogs bred for this are largely unregistered dogs; because they are selecting for function only, there is no compunction about mixing breeds to get the working traits required. The work these dogs do is largely, though not exclusively, protection work; they are not competition dogs, though there are KNVP competitions. KNVP dogs are sold to police, military and other K9 handlers around the world, including the US Department of Defence’s Military Breeding Dog Programme in Lackland, TX.

    48. I'm sorry Sarah but simply pointing me in the direction of KNPV Malinois as 'proof' that continuous cross breeding produces dogs that look and behave like the breed they are supposed to be is counter productive.

      Those that are the product of CONTINUOUS outcrosing do not look like Malinois - those that stay within the Malinois gene pool do ! ...if you have proof that this is not so then show me

      1. BSD type within the Groenendael, Tervueren and Laekenois varieties has remained largely unaltered - this dog was born in 1919 and is behind my current lines

      click forward to the present day and you will see very little change in breed type

      2.the behaviour that originally defined the breed was one of watchfulness, sensitivity to change, agileness, trainability and intense loyalty - all of which I have retained within my breeding programme and are some of the most important characteristics of the breed, some lines were over nervous and it is this type of dog that I avoid breeding from - the physical appearance of the breed is directly linked into the job it was bred to perform - that of a moderately built unexaggerated shepherding breed - we have no right to change it in order to make it more successful in our hobby ..and that includes breeding 30lb 30 inch high prey drive versions that many of the 'Bite Sport' breeders are producing as a result of cross breeding .

      Georgina - KNPV is a sport which has raised the bite work element of Shutzhund to an extreme level, here is an excellent overwview

    49. Thanks Sarah, got it now. And Bijou. Less of a twit now!!

    50. Thank you for the response, Bijou.

      “Those that are the product of CONTINUOUS outcrosing do not look like Malinois - those that stay within the Malinois gene pool do ! ...if you have proof that this is not so then show me”

      Asking for proof is a fair point and I do wish I were technologically clever enough, or had time enough, to make up a “spot the mix” photo contest, but I’m not and I don’t.

      The dogs below are openly identified as KNVP mixes. Granted, they probably wouldn’t get very far in the show ring, but the same could be said of the majority of registered Malinois too. These dogs sure look like Malinois to my eyes - of course you may differ on that but I'd like to know what part of the breed standard they don't meet. And any subtle differences between them and “purebreds” would disappear pretty quickly in their descendents if they were mated with “pure” Malinois and selection criteria were in place for the desired Malinois traits. By “continuous” outcrossing, I don’t mean that every generation of every “family” would have to be outcrossed. My original guideline was .02% - .04% every generation *across the breed*.

      My apologies – I know how you feel about protection work and I’m not trying to force it on you but the videos are of dogs for sale to police departments and that is what a lot of them have to do. (Look at Racky)!!!!

      For comparison, here are some registered working-line Malinois. Again, there is some protection work but that is what many of them are bred for and tracking does not make very interesting video so you don’t get much of it:

      Thank you for the nice image of the 1919 dog. I agree that there are dogs in the past that look like modern dogs – I never said there weren’t. But there are also dogs that did not. You can go back a bit further in time if you go to this website, which I have given you before:

      Scroll down to the Groenendaels and ask yourself how much your dogs look like these dogs (I’ve selected dogs with photographs, not artists’ renditions that may or may not be accurate): Marquis, Dax, Pluton, Jules, and Ducon. They are recognizably Groenendaels to me, but my dogs look quite different from them, though the differences are subtle ☺.

      There’s this dog too:

      He’s in both my dogs’ lines and they don’t look much like him.

      Look at their proportions and the size of their heads. Look at the muzzles. Look at the stocky build of Dax and Jules. Look at the expression in Ducon and Jules’ eyes. Do these dogs meet the modern definition of “type” for show breeders? Would judges you know give these dogs championships?

    51. Continued

      You also have Tervs. While you’re at it, look at the Tervs too. How much do your Tervs look like Albert, Curlis, Baronnet and Rosa de Souverain? Again, how far do you think these dogs would get in the show ring with today’s judges?

      In my opinion, type has changed visibly if you pay attention to details. Why was this OK in the past, even after the breed standard had been set, but not now?

      The UK Breed Standard on temperament: “Wary, neither timid, nervous nor aggressive.”

      Your comment on another thread on this blog:
      “I'm deliberately breeding out the breeds reactivity and wariness towards srangers - this might make them less able to do the job they were originally created for but most certainly fits them for their new - (and more relevant role)”

      I’m glad that as a responsible breeder you are not including dogs with bad nerves in your breeding programme – that is not only sensible but also within the criteria of the breed standard. Wariness is not a sign of bad nerves, though there is a problem in BSDs, I admit, and in my opinion it is because too many show breeders don’t know or care about the difference. I’m glad you do. But you do breed away from it by your own admission. Again, why is it acceptable for you to deliberately breed away from the breed standard when it comes to temperament?

      Your dogs are very pretty and I’m sure I’d like them if I met them. That is not what I’m questioning. What I am questioning is your absolute commitment to preserving an artificial, very narrow concept of “type” at all expense, including genetic health, but your willingness to play around with temperament, another genetic breed characteristic, in order to turn them from working animals into pets.

      One last thing. I wasn’t going to respond to your tirade at all but have changed my mind because I’m getting really tired of your description of people who are involved in protection sports. Yes, there are people out there like those you describe. They don’t get very far because they are focussed on the wrong thing and clubs aren’t interested in them. If you look at the last two videos or registered dogs, what you will see is absolutely phenomenal obedience and control of the dogs combined with dogs that have to be trained to work independently and make the correct decisions. That’s what these sports are about, as well as selecting for dogs that do real and dangerous work. Do you have ANY idea the depth of understanding a dog’s temperament is required? Do you have ANY idea how many thousands of hours of slow, patient, utterly dedicated work it takes to get a dog to do high-level obedience, tracking AND protection work? Most people can’t cope with even one of these areas and do it well.

      Yes, like many, I admire the mental and physical soundness required of the dogs to do this work. I admire the commitment of their breeders and trainers. I also enjoy watching the HGH Championships (that’s herding) on the Leerburg site for the same reasons. Most people would compare it to watching paint dry with a strong preference for the paint. I know the incredible level of work this activity also requires and to me, watching a really good pair of GSDs moving a large flock of sheep around the German countryside is also a source of wonder and pleasure, even to the accompaniment of 1980's elevator music. Work is work and it is beautiful to watch physically sound dogs doing it.

  10. According to Mate Select: "The pedigree data used to calculate this result extended back as far as 15 generations with the first 6 generations being fully complete."


    1. "As many as" is one of the most deceptive phrases around. If the pedigree is incomplete from generations 6 to 15 it necessarily misses relationships to the omitted ancestors. A COI of 20 at six generations could easily mean a COI of 40 at 15 generations. See:

  11. COI is a rather complicated issue.
    First we havethe KC's incomplete data which makes it hard to compare like with like. Some breeds and breeders crow about low COI's when in fact they are only low as the KC system has to give a COI of 0 to any dog for which it doesn't have data. This can include some imported dogs.
    Next we have the variety of generations over which the KC data is generated. It would be easier to compare dogs if we could see the COI of 5, 10 and 15 generations for each dog with 'complete' or 'incomplete' for each of those figures.
    Next what does COI actually mean for health? It is accepted that higher COI's lead to higher RISK of health problems and lower fertility. But a high COI mating could be a healthy one and a low COI mating an unhealthy one. Health testing makes occasional higher COI matings less risky. For example I could mate a brother and sister ESS were tested clear for cord 1 PRA and know the pups wouldn't have cord 1 PRA (of course this would not be allowed, I wouldn't do it and I woudl be increasing my risk for unknown disease but you see the point). In contrast if I mated a dachshund and an ESS which were both affected for cord 1 PRA then the low COI would not stop these pups all being affected for cord 1 PRA.
    Breeds and breeders must watch COI trends and plan that if they feel a higher COI mating is essential for breed improvement (bearing in mind I have working ESS where function is key) this time they must be planning where the next lower COI mating will come from. I see dog breeding like a game of chess where we must plan many moves ahead. Sadly too many people are only planning one move ahead, for the short term win and not thinking about the future health of their breeds.

    1. Well it's a statistical game at the end of the day - and as you say a high or low COI mating is neither a guarantee of good or bad health. However, if breeders (work/show/pet) start to justify a high COI mating on the grounds that it will cement good/desired traits (as indeed they do all the time), then there's a problem with available choice. It should be possible to cement those traits using a less related mate. And if it isn't, then bigger questions need to be asked about the viability of the breed.


    2. A low COI is not a guarantee of good health, no, but from what I have gleaned, the higher the COI, the shorter the dog's lifespan. According to Armstrong's study on Standard Poodles, anything above 6.25% has a negative impact on longevity. Of course, these are averages, but I would want my pet dog to have the best chance of living a long and healthy life; by buying one with a high COI, the odds are already stacked against it.

      What is more worrying is how few breeders are able to breed dogs with COIs as low as this. It's not always that they don't want to; but due to the overuse of popular sires further down the pedigrees, it's hard to find dogs that are unrelated in some way.

    3. "Health testing makes occasional higher COI matings less risky."

      But, nevertheless, still risky, specially with closed populations that were founded by a small number of individuals (not to mention genetic bottlenecks and a selection criteria that tends to leave health in second place) as is the case of most breeds. While genetic testing is helpful, it only gives you a little bit more of information about what is lying in a dog's genotype. So basically, breeders have to make their decisions by just looking at the 'tip of the iceberg'. And that's why I don't get the whole "linebreeding should only be attempted by those very knowledgeable about their lines", firstly because, regardless of what is said, it (linebreeding) is a common practice; and secondly, because there is too much unknown about any dog's genotype for such claim to hold true.
      In the end, lowering the COI is a safer bet, after all, what makes a breed is the selection criteria not the genetic isolation.

      Joe Garp

    4. It shouldn't be too long before we can see more of the iceberg. Work on DLA/MHC is progressing. See, eg,

    5. Exactly what I think Joe, everyone claims to "know their lines" but as someone who liases with pet owners with ill health in their dogs as well as show dogs.....they dont !!!

    6. Of course breeders rely on the honesty of the puppy buyers to monitor their health and keep them informed, but so many never contact the breeder again. The new owners are the breeders' primary source of information. Some, if told bad news, will sadly go into denial, but others take the information on board and use it to improve their breeding programme. But if the breeders aren't told of problems then the breeder genuinely won't know and will assume all is well. Dog health is a two-way street.

    7. I have always found it extraordinary that breeders are not as proactive as many rescues on this front. My rescue rehomes between 40 and 60 dogs a year - more dogs than most breeders sell a year. There's always a lot of contact with adopters in the first few weeks/months and then I diary follow-ups to check that all is OK and to ask if there's anything we can help with. At the very least I contact them every year on the anniversary of the adoption for a catch-up/make sure contact details are up to date etc. Most are delighted to hear from you and happy to send pix etc. If there's no response, I will send the original home checker round to knock on the door. All for a rehoming fee of £150... far less than the cost of a puppy - and it includes vaccinations and, usually, neutering, too.

    8. Jemima, I think the difference is that rescues often retain an element of ownership in the dogs they rehome, which is why they call the new careers 'adopters' instead of 'owners'. In law, when a person has bought a puppy/dog the breeder has absolutely no say in what the new owner does (just as a boutique can't dictate how you care for that new dress!). Many breeders send Christmas cards and birthday cards to their 'puppies' but sadly often the consideration isn't return. Indeed, some owners get very angry at what they perceive as 'interference'; others never respond at all. The ones who are happy to keep in contact and send updates aren't a strong majority, but are most welcome and cherished.

      Some buyers just want to cut loose and not have any further contact with the breeder; it can be heartbreaking.

    9. Rehoming agreements sometimes stipulate that the rescue retains ownership but actually they would never win the fight in a court of law as ownership is 9/10ths of the law so in effect we have no say over what the new owner does, either. I don't think that element is the thing that keeps adopters in touch. People often have to wait quite a long time to rehome a dog through us as there's a waiting list. Part of our vetting process is to establish a good relationship; to build a sense of community, and we are proactive post-adoption. We email, we call, they remain on our mailing list, we ask previous adopters to homecheck for us and we maintain a Facebook page where they are invited to post pix and updates and there is a real community. When we've rehomed a litter, I send updates on the sibs to the others. Of course, there are some that prefer not to stay in contact, but it's a minority. Most people absolutely love to tell you how their dog is doing. You do need good social skills, but I am sure breeders could foster a relationship more like this.

    10. I think breeders could learn a lot from rescue organisations with regard to what you are doing Jemima.

      Interesting that Mary compares a puppy to a new dress! Mary, send the cards to the owners and not the puppies! :) Perhaps they'd be more inclined to reciprocate and comment on their dog's development?!
      I can't imagine why someone would get angry that you are enquiring after a dog's wellbeing? Perhaps it's not what you do, but the way that you do it...

    11. "Interesting that Mary compares a puppy to a new dress! "

      Anon, that's how the law views dogs. They have no greater status IN LAW than a dress or a fridge or a new car. Sad, but that's what we have to work within.

      You can't imagine why people would get angry? Nor can I, but they do. I'd be pleased that they weren't the 'hand over the money, take the pup and bugger off' brigade (not that I'd ever buy a pup from someone like that), but that's what some people like. :(

    12. I'd be interested to know how many of the commentators on here (who have dogs) send the dog's breeder regular updates on how they're doing and their health? Even a short note in an annual Christmas card will do. Or are you among the cut-and-run group of owners who leave the breeder in the dark?

    13. Mary, I think it should be the other way round.. I think it's the breeder's responsibility (as I consider it mine as a rescue to keep in touch with adopters).


    14. Mary – I agree with Jemima. It is your responsibility. ‘Cut and run’? You have sold the dogs and they are now no longer in your possession – that sounds a bit of a harsh way of looking at it surely? You have to provide an incentive for people to want to keep in touch with you, not for them to think it’s an obligation.
      Perhaps be a bit more proactive – set up an online database perhaps? A blog? Make it easy for people, not difficult. Hold an online birthday party for the litter? Email people with updates on the Dam? I don’t know, get creative and have fun. It’s certainly really easy to stay in touch with people these days.

      I’m not a breeder but I am passionate about dogs and their welfare, hence my choice to rescue and rehabilitate. If you are passionate and doing things for the right reasons it will show – people will be inspired.
      Jemima – good for you in keeping in touch, not an easy task practically but I would imagine you would feel an emotional pull to be there for people and share advice and support. I adopted from the Dog’s Trust – unfortunately, they have not been in touch post adoption – but they are a massive organisation and post adoption support is definitely something they could work on I think. Of course, it all depends on funds and prioritisation. I continue to support them financially as I think they do really important work.

      I felt isolated immediately post adoption of my dog though – she had some issues that I didn’t have the experience to deal with. My vet was useless, the local dog trainer worse – I ended up doing a couple of courses over the course of a year and educated myself in progressive behaviour and training. I sorted her out myself which was hugely rewarding and a steep learning curve. I did phone the Dog’s Trust to speak with a behavioural consultant – they were supportive over the phone, which was nice. My feeling is they could perhaps look at providing practical support too for some difficult dogs – Reactive Rover Classes; one to one training; socialisation classes for adoptees. Easier said than done though of course…it IS a charity.

      What a little star my dog is – she has taught me so much. THAT is why adopting a dog can be one of the best things you can ever do IMO. You grow and learn yourself while understanding that canine behavioural problems are usually human in origin!

    15. Maybe it's an American thing, but I can't fancy many people liking the idea of the breeder/rescue getting in touch with them every year in order to see how the dog is still doing. I know some buyers and rescues expect that, but then again buying or adopting an animal from someone does not mean I invited that person into my life for the next 15 years. I do send periodic updates to my breeder to let her know how the dogs are doing, but if it were expected of me to send an official report every year I'm not sure I'd like that.

    16. Trust me it doesnt happen over here, on the contrary jhs is quite the exception amd yes I have plenty of rescue experience to qualify that comment.

    17. Beth, I do think it's essential for puppy owners to keep the breeder up-to-date on the health of their dogs.

      If your dog comes down with an auto-immune disease and you don't tell the breeder, s/he could breed from a sibling and unwittingly pass the problem on. Ditto for any other disease where there's a genetic component and no reliable health-test. Quite often breeders can only be as good as the information they receive from purchasers of previous puppies.

      Yes, the unscrupulous breeders will turn a blind eye - and this isn't restricted to BYB or puppy farmers; there are plenty of show breeders who don't want to know when a health problem rears its ugly head. However, all because some breeders don't care, doesn't mean reporting health problems to the breeder isn't a priority.

      If your breeder abandons you when your dog is sick, then you know to go elsewhere next time.

      It's a shame there can't be a database of reputable and disreputable breeders, without concerns about dishonesty and libel.

    18. Fran, there is a huge difference between letting the breeder know of any health issues and being expected to check in with the breeder every year regardless. I am happy to do the former, but would feel put upon if the latter were required of me. My dogs are part of my family, and I don't expect to have to keep someone else updated on my family if nothing is going on. Illness that might be genetic? Yes. Everyday ordinary life? No.

    19. "Maybe it's an American thing, but I can't fancy many people liking the idea of the breeder/rescue getting in touch with them every year in order to see how the dog is still doing."

      Some of my puppy buyers contact me frequently, some do not. I contact them once a year regardless, on the dogs birthday, to enquire about ANY health or behavior issues the dog may have experienced in the previous year, no matter how trivial. Something which may seem fairly innocuous to the buyer (slightly goopy eyes every spring) may be indicative of a problem (like allergies), that I might want to take into consideration in deciding to breed from that dogs siblings. Things like when arthritis sets in, and where, as the dog ages will inform me in regards to how well built and durable the dog is. Injuries incurred during running, especially repetitive injuries, may be due to a construction fault. This will mean something to me, as the owner of this dogs siblings and parent(s), and if other puppies in the litter have issues this is yet another thing I will need to take into consideration in regards to future breedings. Needless to say, a breeder looks a dog in a totally different way from the pet buyer.

      It is written into my contract that the buyer must inform me of ANY health or behavioral issues the dog experiences within the previous year. Legally enforceable? Probably not. But it does let anyone who is considering buying a puppy from me know that I am deadly serious about the health of the puppies I produce.

      *I* brought these pups into the world. It is *my* duty to make sure that I do my best to keep from producing dogs with health issues that may have a genetic basis, and tracking the health of every puppy I produce is part of that duty. If anyone thinks that is overbearing or feels they would be 'put upon' by giving me information that may inform future breedings, they are free to buy a puppy elsewhere.

    20. Jemima and Anonymous17 April 2013 15:14; how is it the breeder's fault when they send greetings to the pups (and their new family) on their birthdays and Christmas and yet the new owner never responds? Keeping in contact and keeping the breeder informed is a two-way street.

      Fran and Jess agree with me; health information from the pet owners is vital to help the breeder avoid problems, and also keeping in contact often means the dog never ends up in rescue because the breeder is willing to help throughout the dog's life.

      Beth sadly demonstrates how some owners don't see this as part of the teamwork with the breeder, and would rather be left alone.

    21. To add:

      Beth, certainly your dogs are part of your family, but they're also part of their breeders' family too (if they were from a responsible breeder, that is, and why would you buy from any other sort?). Think of it in the same way as choosing your husband but still staying in contact with the rest of his family. Just because he lives with you doesn't wipe out his past. They still care for him just as much!

      I sincerely hope everyone will, this year, send their dog's breeder an update and reassurance that the puppy they (hopefully) brought lovingly into the world and raised to the best of their ability and then entrusted to you, is still a loved member of your family.

      The breeder can only do so much regards making contact without running the risk of being accused of stalking or harrassment. Please meet them halfway and send Christmas cards and a few words of an update.

    22. Re reporting health issues, I would always say that owners should report to the breeder and to the parent breed club (with veterinary evidence).

      This will avoid breeders sweeping things under the carpet, or thinking things irrelevant, but also provide statistics to the breed community as a whole so that an emerging issue (as opposed to a one off that can affect any living creature)can be monitored and steps taken to resolve the issue.

      Oh! as a breeder I do share updates with littermates, invite, keep in touch with emails and on social media etc. Some owners become lifelong friends/Penpals, others do not wish to stay in touch. Mind you I don't send Christmas cards anymore, not to anyone. How else does a breeder see the outcome of their breeding plans, if confined only to the dogs they keep themsleves.

      I do agree that a breeder does have to think several generations ahead, and know what other breeders are doing.

    23. Mary – why look for someone to blame? The mentality is worrying…

      You cannot make people do anything they do not wish to do,unless they have a legal obligation to do so or are sufficiently motivated out of personal interest or reinforcement in some way. This is a fact of life and generally speaking how most humans behave. As we know, there is no such regulation regarding reporting health issues in dog breeding. If you are actively doing all you can in the best interests of the health and welfare of the dogs you breed (including following up on health issues post sale), then you wouldn’t be having a gripe on here about this. Where is their incentive to follow up with you regularly? Obligation? No such obligation exists. If you want people to do something which are not in their own personal interests, make them responsible for it or motivate them appropriately to generate interest and enthusiasm.

      Anon 19:49 - sensible!

    24. Anon - why bring the concept of 'blame' into this descussion about the importance of owners keeping in occasional contact and routinely passing information back to their pet's breeder to enable them to better monitor the health of their line? After all, if they're not told they won't know, because I've never heard of a breeder who has a functional crystal ball!

      To use your own words: to consider this a blameworthy situation shows a worrying mentality ...

    25. Every puppy owner from every litter (max 6 litters Irish Setters over 40 yr period) kept in touch until the puppy reached old age and died. I wanted them to keep in touch, they wanted to keep in touch. One litter I bred (sire famous ch dog) had two entropian and 2 hip dysplasia puppies. I notified the owners of the 2 other puppies in the litter and asked them not to breed, they had no intention of doing so but were pleased that I had informed them. I never bred from the bitch again, told the sire's owner and was blanked. He went onto sire very many puppies, no control excercised by his owner at all, and the bitches he was put to were similar in breeding to my own. I bought two puppies to show, both had entropian, the breeder blanked me, first ones from different litters she had ever bred.... These instances are exactly why pedigree dogs in general are in danger, whatever the breed because money talks and these selfish, ignorant people, continue to breed and show today. It's why I can't understand how English Setters are suddenly ok again despite recently being on the endangered list. Somehow because a few kennels have bred a lot of litters (bearing in mind small sizes in ES) and registered all of the puppies the KC seems to think it is ok, but it isn't is it? Like someone commented above, it doesn't matter if there are 1000s of a breed if they are all bred along the same lines, it would be healthier to have 500 with a wider genetic diversity. I suspect that eventually there will just be groups, terriers, hounds, toys, gundogs etc with much diversity in type, but before long those types will become more unified and select and wham off we go again, gross reduction in genetic pools. Humans cannot resist interfering with another species. Someone made the comment that dogs should become more natural in their selection, does she mean just turn your bitch out onto the street, she gets mated by whatever, and that would be good??? Nuts, ridiculous. The only way pedigree dogs are bred is by human interference which results in today's dilema. I don't know what the answer is, there will have to be much more control, the KC should do what it is paid to do, safeguard the interests of dogs, and stop being the self interested political animal we are increasingly experiencing. Whilst ever money is the main driving force behind breeding dogs and the greed of the breeder runs unchecked by authorities, including KC, the dog is at their mercy, whatever the breed.

    26. Mary - Frankly, your communication on here is rather childish and lacks the integrity one would expect from someone who understands the concepts of improvement and progress. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. You spend time moaning at people who want to try to constructively discuss ways of improving the welfare of pedigree dogs. By all means, disagree and constructively criticise, but at least stop throwing your toys out of the pram if you wish your discussion threads to be taken seriously!

      Georgina- breeding dogs more like nature intended doesn't necessarily mean one turfs one's bitch onto the street. Genetic diversity and outcrossing can be achieved by selectively breeding too! and by all means, we should conginue to selectively breed pet dogs. But for reasons that are ethically and genetically sound. Not to satisfy the whims and ego of those people who are hung up on what a dog looks like.

    27. Anon; there's no need to become so aggressive (because you perhaps feel guilty that you haven't remained in contact with your dog's breeder)? That can be so easily rectified by you - all you have to do is write a letter, or an email, or pick up the phone.

      What can be more constructive than suggesting EVERYONE who owns a dog plays their part in increasing knowledge about the health of their pet's lines?

    28. Mary - I have no guilt because i never have and never will purchase a pedigree dog from a breeder. I adopt adult dogs mutts. Each to their own, but I do not wish to contribute to something that is in as much trouble as it is. Again, your assumptions reflect a troubling attitude.

    29. Mary, my dogs’ breeder tries to stay in touch with everyone who gets a dog from her and she’s done very well; she’s only lost track of one dog that she sent to the States. In my case, she has become a personal friend. We call her ‘Grandma’ to scribe her relationship with my dogs. Luckily, she lives 20 minutes away from us and she sees The Boys regularly. She owned both the sire and the dam of one of my dogs, but the sire of my other dog lived in another province. I’ve never met his owner but my breeder put me in touch with her by email; while I don’t send her regular updates, I do contact her when her Grandpup has done something wonderful and also when he was diagnosed with a health problem. Sometimes I just send her a particularly nice photo of my dog. I was also told when his sire developed a health problem.

      Good breeders deserve the support of people who buy puppies from them just as the substandard breeders deserve to be taken to task. Good breeders care very much about every puppy they bring into the world and no matter how much you value your privacy, it is a kindness and a courtesy to send the occasional update if you take a puppy from them. I confess I don’t often agree with you, Mary, but I do agree with you on this. It is a two way street and your suggestion is sensible and constructive.

    30. Thank you, Sarah. :)

  12. Hmmm….
    Dr Jessica Holm, commentator on Crufts, breeds these dogs. I wonder if she has any concerns given her science background in zoology?

    1. I thought she had the Grandes? But she seems to have interests in lots of breeds so I'll bounce it back to you!!

    2. Hi Georgina - just checked her website, she does indeed breed Grandes, you are absoultely right! However, with her background in zoology you would hope this would instill some applied scientific understanding with regard to dog breeding. She may very well be an exemplary breeder and I am certainly not implying that she isn't, but I wonder if the commentators and other experts at Crufts take the issues discussed on here seriously when approving judgments made at dog shows, such as Jilly winng Supreme Champion, but actually being extremely inbred?

    3. Hi Anon 09:59. One would hope so too. I very much doubt "if the commentators and other experts at Crufts etc" because they didn't did they, and they had the perfect public forum in which to do so.
      In this instance Jilly is such an adorable, delightful little character and on the face of it deserved her placing as a show dog. The television viewers of the programme would see that too, they wouldn't understand that her genetic make up could be a possible future problem and it would be horribly sad if it did. If Crufts BIS had been an inbred huffing puffing bulldog/peke/pug, limping Neapolitan mastiff etc and one of the commentators had expressed concern about the genetic make up then the Public would have been scandalised because they would see what "inbreeding" can lead to. However, it would have fallen on deaf ears if any of them had passed comment about Jilly because on the day she looked the epitomy of health and vitality, gorgeous.

  13. "She was born 14 months after Pedigree Dogs Exposed raised the alarm about the level of inbreeding in pedigree dogs, so this mating must have been a conscious decision to ignore the warnings."

    Really? What hubris. Did you ever think that perhaps that not everyone saw or even cared about your " documentary"?

    1. Well, only the breeders who couldn't give a damn i'm sure chose to turn a blind eye. These are exactly the same breeders that will one day be crying out for help from the other conscientious breeders within their breed who did take note about the problems their breed suffers with, and the breeders who chose to ignore the warnings will obviously expect the answers and help that they dismissed to begin with.

      Why would anyone in their right mind want to purchase a puppy or have any confidence in a breeder who doesn't care or want to acknowledge the problems within their breed? The breeders or people involved within certain breeds commenting on these articles by Jemima and coming across as nasty and dismissive are exactly the types of breeds who end up pushing innocent, prospective buyers to BYB's and puppy farms because there attitude stinks!


  14. You'd think at the very least, pedigree show dog breeders would have perhaps paid attention though eh?

  15. Well I'm sure many didn't care but, given the fall-out from the film, I don't think it was possible for anyone in the show world to be unaware of the charges it made.


    1. again maybe no one cares what 'charges" were made in the "documentary" but to say that the mating of the winner was done because "... this mating must have been a conscious decision to ignore the warnings." of your "film" is laughable..

    2. I jave to say alot of my friends from the big kennels in my breed have no clue about you or your program when I've mentioned it, I wpuld say really its only the breeds youve picked on would be particularly clued up on the whole affair.

    3. So how do they keep up to date? The KC?

    4. Anon 12:14

      'picked on' Really? Is that how you view it? Forgive me, but that's a rather narcissistic viewpoint. How can you imply that when this blog lays out the exact remit of PDE?? But then again, you probably don't even bother to read around the issues do you?

      Next you'll be implying that Jemima has single handedly managed to ruin entire breeds....

      You and your friends from the 'big kennels' perhaps need to get up to date and educate yourselves then.

      Jemima, you deserve a medal.

    5. Oh please do be quiet, we have one of the healthiest breeds around, I don't need to read someone's biased viewpoint to do that. We just carry on beavering away producing the best we can without needing a pat on the back from anyone.
      I can bet bulldog people definitely feel persecuted by this blog.

    6. Anon 08:12

      Where is your evidence ethat you have one of the healthiest breeds around? Because you and your friends in the 'big kennels' say so? That's alright then...
      The Bulldog people can choose their reactionary behaviour - it's their choice if they personally choose to feel persecuted. But then, that's getting back to narcissism, which a lot of sog breeders clearly seem to suffer from.

      I'll go and be quiet now. I'll be even quieter if you write anything resembling something encouraging that should even be allowed to breed dogs!

    7. Oh wow im so upset by a nobody on the net passing judgement, how will I sleep. The proof is all my healthy dogs that dont live at the vets that is all I need.

    8. Most dogs don't 'live' at the vets. They visit - some more than others. That attitude is troubling, irresposnible and definitley not progressive.

      Stuck in the past, unwilling to be challenged on your practices perhaps?

    9. It would be good to know which is "the healthiest breeds around". You are so proud of your dogs, come on let us know who you are, if we are in the same breed, perhaps we could buy one of your puppies and also be proud. "The big kennels' say so", please let us know who they are too, they have vital information that must be shared with us all so that their knowledge can save dogdom and those of us who thought that pedigree dogs were on their knees can be relieved of their mistaken belief. It would be wonderful to know that there is a breed who can be our saviour and put right all of the wrongs enacted upon the pedigree dog world. Don't be shy, substantiate your statements and reassure us all. Bulldog breeders don't need JH to point out the error of their ways, they just have to check their vets accounts and see how much money has to be spent on their dogs to give them a small modicom of relief because of the deformities perpetrated on them so that the owner can beat his own chest on how clever he is, oh and bank the money from the next litter, mustn't forget that. Money, god of all gods, not my dog of all dogs, and I love you and will do my best by you.

  16. Good article for sure overall. As usual there are the comments saying you're a drama maker and/or greedy person making profit off of hurting other people's reputation, but I think by now you've been desensitized to it (including my own posted opinions). Although I do think your degree of sensationalism is a bit out of line, that doesn't make any of the info you present as any less true or false, including your passion about dogs. True I do disagree on some points, but overall it seems to be going in the right direction in presenting the environment around any results, be they about breeding or showdog problems.

  17. Margaret Carter17 April 2013 at 14:51

    Mary 16 April 2013 22:25

    You say.........

    "Of course breeders rely on the honesty of the puppy buyers to monitor their health and keep them informed,"

    What about the honesty of other breeders? surely they should be the primary source of information about the problems they see arising in the breed?

    So many bitch owners claim to "know their lines" despite the fact that they regularly use stud dogs owned by other people. Even if health certificates are supplied for the stud dog, health issues in the extended family can, and often are, kept secret.

    Unfortunately some breeders still don't test for anything, despite all the claims made to the contrary.

    Cavaliers had a problem with hereditary cataract in the 1980s. We thought we had eradicated the problem, but it is now back in show lines.

    For thirty years the cavalier clubs codes of ethics ( as they were then called )strongly recommended eye testing but the KC website shows that top breeders now have generations of breeding bitches that have not been tested. Popular stud dogs may be eye checked but their dams and their daughters seldom are.

    There is a very recent case of an unfortunate buyer paying an unbelievably inflated £1000 for a pet cavalier puppy, from well known lines, which at eight months old needs an operation for cataract.
    Neither parent has any eye test results recorded on the Kennel Club website.

    1. Litigation will come into play here because there is a known condition and if the breeder has been irresponsible and bred from untested stock. The KC should not allow the litter to have been registered, they have a huge responsibility and should be seen to use it. The poor puppy is going to suffer and it is not their fault when it could have been prevented. My understanding is that the breeder should be made to pay for the operation and refund the cost of the puppy, it's the least they can do. I paid for my puppies entropian ops and refunded the money to all 4 owners, the 2 e's and the 2 hip dysplasia puppies all in the same litter. I was as sickened as the puppies owners because I had unwittingly bred something born to suffer. The stud dog took absolutely no responsibility. Needless to say I was not offered any of this when the two setter puppies I bought from the same breeder, different litters. Total denial. The case of Sam in Holland has set a precedent and the more pet owners learn about it, they will come to realise that they do, in fact, have redress to the breeder, who has denied them help or indeed kindness. It is a breeder's responsibility, they have a duty of care to the puppy and it's new owner, no question. It's immoral to suggest otherwise. They want the money, then they have to take the pain. It is time that all breeders are made to donate the cost of one or two puppies per litter to a health fund for care and research of an afflicted animal. After all, they aren't breeding for monetry gain are they, they are just breeding to keep a puppy to show on, but how some can justify breeding 5 litters a year (which I believe is acceptable to the KC, could be wrong) I'm not sure how physically possible it is to show 5 new puppies at the next show, but then what do I know? Anyway the health research would be able to move on dramatically if these funds were made available etc etc etc

  18. Beth, could you give me some examples of wild animals born *looking a bit different* that are harassed/bullied "until they die"? This is news to me. As you say, there is actually rather little variation in wild animals. They breed true."
    says the blogger..
    not so they do not "breed true'.. just coming back from South Africa where on safari I saw white springbok.. they are culled because they do not breed true and are the first to be killed in the wild as they are easily spotted without the camo that the others have.. they may not be harassed and bullied but they die first. ( hmm they do make good meat to eat though as i had springbok carrapacio several times.. yummy!)

  19. Bestuvall - I'm not sure what to make of that but anyway....
    Observing nature in the wild and pedigree dog breeding, artificially selected by human beings, is hardly the same thing is it?

    See the post above - Anonymous 17 April 2013 19:55

  20. I suppose something like an albino deer. If they were allowed to breed by the herd then one would expect to see very many more of them than one does. So maybe this is a point in question, it is recognised as not being usual, the colour white, definately makes it quick and easy to see and thus be pursued by a preditore, whilst the usual colour just fades away into the surroundings. I think a lot of the big cats also shun a different colour, again if they were allowed to breed then we would see more variations as in the domestic cat. The genes are obviously there and appear, but almost immediately "squashed" because of vulnerability to the herd/pack etc. Survival of the fittest? sort of thing...?

    1. Anything that increases the odds of an animal surviving for longer, ensures that animal passes its genes onto proportionally more offspring. Anything that decreases this chance, will ensure the animal dies before it's able to do so, or that it produces proportionally fewer offspring.

      This Wikipedia article describes the rise in numbers of the black-coloured Peppered Moth, as opposed to the normal greyish-white colour. During the Industrial Revolution the trees became covered in soot, meaning the black moths were now better camouflaged on the dark trees and thus less likely to be picked off by predators. As the air became cleaner and the trees' bark returned to its natural colour, the black moths lost their advantage and were again picked off by predators.

    2. Where I live, there are frequent sightings of spotted deer. Their markings resemble a paint horse, and some of them are really striking.

      The only "predator" around here is the automobile (deer hunting is popular in the state, but this is a very built-up area with townhouses and condos being the norm). The piebald deer actually have an advantage, as they're easier for drivers to see. Wonder if there'll be more and more pinto deer as time goes by?

  21. Margaret Carter21 April 2013 at 14:30

    At one time a pet owner would contact their breeder about their sick dog. They would usually be told that the breeder had never heard of the problem or that they were unlucky their dog had developed such a rare condition.

    They would be assured that the breeder had never seen it in their own animals, they had extremely healthy and long lived dogs.
    There would sometimes be a little hint that the problem had been caused by something the owner was doing wrong.

    Those were the good old days as far as breeders are concerned. Pet owners can no longer be fobbed off so easily. They now have forums and facebook pages where they can go for advice and support. They can compare notes with other owners and find their dogs have the same inherited health condition. They may then find they had bought from the same breeder, or their dogs have similar pedigrees.

    Someone will point out there were tests that should have been done on their dog's parents, but when they go back to the breeder there will be a lot of excuses but no health certificates available.

    I think we will be seeing more angry owners taking irresponsible breeders to court.

    1. I agree. Anyone who wants to find a good breeder should spend a year to 18-months beforehand on their chosen breed's forum. They will learn to distinguish which are the genuinely reputable breeders, i.e. those who do everything in their power to breed healthy puppies and whose breeding policies are in-line with the longterm health of the breed, and those who just pay lip service to health whilst carrying on regardless.

      Breeders give away so much on forums about their ethos and what's really important to them. Sadly, for most, it's still about being able to blithely linebreed, and they don't have to worry about the consequences, because as far as they're concerned, there aren't any!

    2. The simplest way of avoiding continuance of known health issues is that all breed clubs set up a health data base. Most, more likely all, BC have a code of ethics which imply that members have to uphold the health and welfare of the breed. This being the case then members should submit details of any health issues experienced, whether by them, or puppies sold on. For the database to have any effect, the information provided would have to be litigation free, it would have to include the dog's KC name/number, parentage, dob, number in litter, whether litter mates have been contacted and are affected, health checks undertaken with official vet confirmation, COI and any other relevant details. It is the only way that a pattern can be identified within a breed, it would have to be undertaken by an independent panel to avoid malicious inaccurate input.
      This is only a suggestion, others may have a much better idea, but something has to be done to allow a sick breed to get better. The other thing about it is that other breeders could use the information when planning a litter. Anyone knowingly use high risk stock, should be expelled from the club and the KC notified and they should refuse or retract registration of any resulting puppies.

    3. I refer once again to the BASCO database used by the farming industry, if you register your stock it's mandatory and is publicly available for all! I think it's clear to see why such a database is not in place but it should be set up immediately for dogs by the kennel club or its charitable trust and make testing mandatory like they do in the farming industry, the KC should also be using the charitable trust to subsidise testing for serious disease and expensive tests, then they really would be starting do the right thing

    4. Yippee, anon 09:38, contact the KC and draw their attention to BASCO database. They really must do something and your suggestion may start to tickle their ribs and whilst they are scratching, their brain may connect, think it is their idea, and off we go. However they arrive at the right conclusion is alright by me just so that Pedigree Dogs are given a fair chance to get better and improve.

  22. rather than target dogs whom are cared for, albeit 'some' whom are inbred or closely bred in line would you please publicise the Council whom has just authorised planning permission for 78 breeding dogs - no health tests, no decent breeding conditions and dogs whom are 'unhealthy' "run" by an elderly couple whom couldn't cope with a cattle farm............... this NEEDS big publicity NOW PLEASE

  23. Can I point in in this useful tools direction... It gives you all the current health tests that are available for the dogs breed. Surely this si what you are talking about?

  24. I disagree that one can simply look at Jilly's pedigree and make a blanket statement. Yes, there is linebreeding going on, but there are other things that need to be considered. Are her lines popular and widely available within the breed? If so and many people are all breeding along the same lines, then I agree it's a very bad thing because it further erodes genetic diversity and disproportionately skews the breed toward that line and any health issues they may be carrying. However, if it's an uncommon line, one that's not being over-bred and valuable for the breed's overall diversity, linebreeding can also be a way to concentrate rare pedigrees and their associated genes ensuring they move forward and aren't lost. While this may limit the number of ancestors in an individual pedigree, it might help conserve a breed's genetic diversity overall by preventing all of these alternative pedigrees from becoming too diluted or swamped out by lines being over-bred. I think this is important because it's possible that one of many relatively uncommon lines within a breed may some day be found important in breeding out health issues that have otherwise become widespread in a breed.

    1. If you want to talk about possibilities, maybe you should also talk about the chances of the dog or bitch used for linebreeding carrying some rare diseases.

  25. To anonymous above, yes, it's possible for a mutation to crop up in any line. This again leads to my point that the real problem is when certain kennel lines become over-popularized to the point where a majority of fanciers are breeding along the same lines. This is how genes become spread across an entire breed, not by having a maximum number of distinct lines within a breed which themselves each form only a small % of the total population.

  26. When the term 'Rescue' came into vogue a decade or so ago, it was immediately and proudly put in a way that hinted at more than a dog’s origins.

    It was a statement: I "adopted" a Rescue Dog. I care more. I’m more politically correct. I’m morally superior.

    Takeaway: I’m better, and a better person, than you are.

    As someone working clinically with dogs of all breeds/mixes for several decades, it's a fact that random-breds aren't typically any healthier than their poor blighted purebred relatives. Ask any vet. It's just that we know how the purebreds do because we have pretty comprehensive breed snapshots these days, and much of it voluntarily-contributed worldwide.

    A recent AVMA abstract:

    Shelter pets can be lovely. Just remember that it's a pretty fair bet that none of their ancestors were health-tested for anything and that feel-good "adoption" can be a mixed bag.

    There are plenty of breeders worldwide who are ethical and honestly trying to voluntarily do the right thing. And there are plenty of bad ones. Tarring everyone with the same brush or just dismissing an entire fancy out of righteous indignation doesn't do much to further the cause.

    Try as you might, you cannot legislate someone's morality.