Thursday, 3 September 2015

Sometimes just impossible to resist

A new paper, just out, highlights the role of inbreeding in the Poodle's immune-mediated issues.  It's published in a journal that the KC helps fund, but there is no mention of this important research anywhere on the KC's social media - including on the Discover Dogs link they give above.

As the paper says: 

"Standard Poodles suffer from a long list of autoimmune diseases including immune mediated hemolytic anemia, immune mediated thrombocytopenia, Evan’s syndrome, immune pancytopenia, chronic thyroiditis, temporal-mandibular myositis, and chronic active hepatitis. However, the two most vexing autoimmune disorders are sebaceous adenitis (SA) and Addison’s disease (AD)." 

Read the whole thing in Canine Genetics + Epidemiology here

Still want a Poodle? Well, this is a fab, rather under-rated breed - and it's a proper dog outside of the silly show-grooming.

And, if you read the paper, you'll see that there's a new canine diversity test on the block - offered by UC Davis - that has the potential to improve the genetic lot of Poodles and other breeds. (More on that another time.)

But, at the moment, a well-bred Poodle cross - perhaps even a not-so-well-bred Poodle x - is almost certainly a better bet health-wise.


  1. Jemima wrote:
    "But a well-bred Poodle cross is almost certainly a better bet health-wise."

    That's true, as it is of most domestic animals; keeping populations isolated is so 19th Century. Take a look at the research coming out of Adam Boyko's lab at Cornell University. Dogs experienced a genetic bottleneck when they diverged from wild wolves some 30,000 years ago. However, village and landrace (pre-pure breeding) dogs still have a respectable amount of genetic diversity and health. Mixing breeds can bring back heterozygosity, too, although it takes a surprising number of generations to do so. Nevertheless, a simple cross of two pure breeds still does a world of good in masking harmful recessive alleles, which of course is one of the major reasons we all need genetic diversity in the first place.

  2. Natalie Green Tessier3 September 2015 at 22:31

    Jemima!! As a journalist, you know better than simply to cherry pick the quotes that support your pre-formed opinion! I'm so disappointed!

    Here are a few more from just a few sentences later.

    "Although Standard Poodles still possess considerable total diversity, 70% of this diversity resides in only 30% of the population."

    "It may be possible to re-distribute the genetic diversity in the breed with judicious mate selection based on genetic testing over a number of generations. Such an undertaking should reduce the incidence of deleterious simple recessive traits and complex genetic disorders such as autoimmune disease."

    "This study also documented the current use of Miniature Poodles as outcrosses, which are genetically distinct and relatively free of SA and AD."

    These are FACT BASED statements, just as the one you used.

    What you don't mention is that this research was largely driven by diversity-minded breeders, and was funded mostly by the Poodle Club of America Foundation, but also the Poodle Club of Canada, and many individual breeders and owners. Why throw the breeders under the proverbial bus who are doing just the kind of thing you have advocated? Why are you suggesting puppy buyers buy poodle crosses instead of carefully bred poodles - especially when the great majority, though not all, poodle cross breeders are simply breeding whatever they've got to whatever they've got to make as much money as they can? Moreover, the potential gains seen in crossing poodles to some other breed are usually lost on the back cross to poodles, which happens often to re-establish hypoallergenic coats. This is quite often done in precisely the way all purebred breeds are created, which is hardly a consistent endorsement on your part.

    Why not instead suggest people look for diversity minded breeders, tell them to ask for the diversity testing on the parents, at the very least, and use your pulpit to encourage this kind of breeding? Suggesting that everyone simply go buy a cross breed is a little like saying a 200 year old building is just not working anymore and we should rip out its guts indiscriminately and modernize everything. Historical breeds are worth preserving - they have helped us survive and lived alongside us - as long as there's a way to do that, and there certainly is in Standard poodles.

    Finally I'd also like to point out that purebred dogs are part of a continuum, not merely the hapless victims of draconian breeders. Here's a last quote from the paper you may want to consider more often:

    "Further non-random and human driven selection can be attributed to the Neolithic period when people settled into an agricultural and pastoral lifestyle and dogs integrated with village life [42]. Dogs from this Neolithic expansion became the village dogs and landraces of the world, and individuals from these populations were selected for their abilities to perform specific tasks, including hunting in various forms, guardian of home or flock, and simple companionship. The effect of this gradual inbreeding over thousands of years on the health of Canis familiaris has gone largely unappreciated. However, it is evidenced by the wide range of heritable disorders that plague modern dogs, regardless of whether they are random-, mixed-, or pure-bred."

    1. Thanks for the extra info Natalie. I've joined the UC Davis Canine Diversity Test Facebook page where I will loiter for a while/soak up more info so I can do a more considered post on it/poodles when I am a little less busy with the day-job.

    2. What a frustrating example of failing science journalism. JH quotes the first paragraph of the lay public summary. Natalie quotes the second paragraph. Neither gets so far as to note the incredibly important hypothesis of the article. Natalie begins to appreciate the fact that it rests on support by poodle clubs (as noted in Acknowledgements) but fails to not the amazing compilation of pedigrees and preliminary genetic analysis by Anderson and others in the Standard Poodle Project. Where else are you going to find a breed-specific study of genetic diseases that looks rests on systematic compilation of 200,000+ pedigrees going back to the 1950s?
      Please try harder to do justice to scientific work!!!!

    3. p.s. Facebook is not generally a reliable source for scientific information. Why not read the full article and make an attempt to understand it?

  3. Genescoper also test a dogs genetic diversity as part of their MyDog DNA test panel

  4. I will read the full article myself, as I care about the Standard poodle. But the sample quotes from Natalie really don't alter the idea that the poodle, as of right NOW, is in trouble. And it got that way for a reason.

    Case in point. "Although Standard Poodles still possess considerable total diversity, 70% of this diversity resides in only 30% of the population."

    That most of the diversity is in less than half the population doesn't exactly make me feel better about the situation for the Standard poodle.

    So, I wouldn't jump on JH too quickly.

    1. The standard poodle's problems are apparent due to extensive and meticulous research by poodle fanciers . . . most notably Armstrong. I expect dozens of other breeds went through similar bottlenecks. And some were born in a bottleneck ... .eg., the Neopolitan Mastiff ( and the CKCS.

      For me the most important take home messages here are:
      1) as suspected, inbreeding causes immune disorders. No surprise, in the standard poodle that is the ultimate 'cat walk' cosmeticized dog breed, these are concentrated in lines that have had great success in the show ring.

      2) that COI(5) is meaningless . . . to get at the effects of inbreeding you need to look at the genetic history of the breed and follow the pedigree back to bottlenecks.

      3) It is unfortunate that other breeds haven't been as studied as the standard poodle

      4) there is more hope for the standard poodle than many breeds because the genetic history of the breed is well mapped, and because, unlike most breeds, interbreeding between the different sub-populations (standard and miniature . . . maybe even toy???) is permitted.

      PLEASE do read the full article. It includes wonderful literature review on the subject of inbreeding, homozygosity, and autoimmune disorders.

    2. Jennifer, I was unaware that the KC permit the crossing of the different Poodle breeds or the different Poodle breed clubs encourage this practice. Could you point me to the literature where the KC permits this for Poodles.

    3. Jennifer, I don't know where you got this idea from "because, unlike most breeds, interbreeding between the different sub-populations (standard and miniature . . . maybe even toy???) is permitted."
      I rang the KC this morning and they confirmed that they will not breed register Poodles that are crossed with a Poodle that is not their breed standard e.g, Miniature with Toy, or Standard with Miniature.

    4. The Kennel Club up to about 30 years ago did allow breeders to cross bred miniature and toy poodles and then allow them to register the puppies under the size they thought they might be.

  5. Sorry folks, it's clear in the paper that it is the American Kennel Club that considers the breed a single breed, with three varieties. Crossing varieties is not permitted by kennel clubs in FCI countries or the UK.

    Jennifer, it's a 40+ page paper (depending where you read it) and I am one of its authors. I was addressing the points Jemima made in her blog post, and didn't reiterate the main points of the paper, since the paper does that quite well on its own. I had, mistakenly, thought that Jemima had actually read the whole paper, rather than just the summary. She has assured me she would read the whole thing when she has time and perhaps follow up.

  6. There is no part of the dog fanciers world that is not in trouble.

    Trying to understand and treat the problems, I believe is useless until you can stop looking at just types of dogs ie: pedigree Vs cross vs designer, vs working,
    Look at the species .

    DOMESTIC dogs are in trouble. Of one kind or another, or headed that way.

    In evolutionary terms.

    As far as their place as a utilitarian companion to man,
    Their fitness for the task,
    And their value to man as incentive to hang on to the species.

    The same natural laws govern the success of domestic dogs as any other species.

    Observing and studying domestic dogs from that perspective of biophysics gives some urgent and valuable lessons for science, physics and humanities direction as well.

  7. There is no breeding known to wo/man that 100% guarantees healthy pups: any judgement on a breed's health has to be relative, and relative judgement without a standard of comparison is meaningless. JH merely drops a casual remark that you're better off with e.g. a labradoodle. I hear from people involved with that "breed" that most are now 75% or more SP, after some nasty accidents with asthma sufferers and pups not meeting their non-shedding claim. You still get a chance of poodle ailments plus hip and elbow dysplasia from the lab.
    FAIK no other breed has been studied as intensively as the SP, and there's the Poodle Health Registry database to facilitate studies. Like-for-like data isn't there to make valid comparisons with other breeds or mongrels, all we have here is JH's impression. This deservedly popular breed deserves better.

    1. Blah, blah, blah!

      'relative' to what exactly? A standard made up by people with no knowledge of population genetics and canine evolutionary biology?

      This deservedly popular breed deserves better indeed. It deserves an understanding that is based on science, rationality and welfare.

      Oh, and looks like the SP is headed to extinction doom in the UK according to the latest data....

      Nobody is looking for 100% guarantee - they are not objects. They are living, sentient beings. We just want to stop people being deliberately stupid by continuing to inbreed because they blindly follow a breed standard.

    2. Well Anon, SP's are doomed to extinction? Not before most other breeds. True that's just a general impression, because the data have not been gathered to compare scientifically with other breeds or mongrels. That's my relative point which you seem determined to miss.

      You want science, rationality, concern for welfare? I suggest you read Natalie's comment above. As author of the paper that prompted JH's outburst, she has all those, in spades.Her data say that with "judicious mate selection" it's perfectly possible to pure-breed SP's with health prospects as good as any other breed or cross. And my general impression comes from knowing several breeders who do just that.

      As Pipedream farm points out, people don't want to exercise the judicious breeder selection that gives them the best chance of buying a healthy pup, whatever breed, cross or mongrel pup they seek.That's as much the problem as slavish adherence to breed standard.

    3. I want a well bred mutt! Where do I find one please?

      I'd like a collie crossed with a gundog mix. I want the parents to be low on the anxious reactive scale, tolerant of strange dogs and people, no evidence of SA and want them to have been health tested and I would like to ensure that the COI is as low as possible, I don't want a pedigree dog. I want a well bred dog please.

      Does anyone actually bother with this?

  8. Clearly, breeders are forcing buyers to take their pups.

    While "nobody is looking for a 100% guarantee" they just don't want to have to think and research before they select a breed, a breeder, or a pup.

    1. Nail on the head alas, puppy buyers won't do their homework. Indiscriminate demand leads to indiscriminate supply: breeders good, bad, indifferent, in-breeders, puppy factories, all can sell their pups. While that remains true JH will not persuade money-driven breeders to change their ways and make less loot.
      The best judges of breeding are not those in the show-ring, nor 'market forces', but the resulting dogs. If only all buyers would meet pups' mum first, ask how she likes her life, read her body-language. Pipedream indeed!

  9. Its grossly unfair to blame buyer of these pups.

    Most modern families are miles from any understanding of basic biological processes, or breeding practices beyond those commonly taught and understood in human reproduction.
    It simply does not occurr to people not already very familiar with the breeding of dogs or other species. These basics are no longer part of our cultural understanding.

    The push to "leave it to the experts" ensures this trend will only continue and is a side effect of the specialisation and exclusivity of pedigree dogs, That the environment outside of the K.Cs will be erroded while their rules state dog breeding should only be undertaken under their own tutilage.

    An environment is space you occupy . You can't share space in exclusivity.

    You can occupy a niche in your environment, but in ruling that whats outside that niche is unacceptable, you do more than occupy- you alter the space to suit only your own goals of speciality and exclusivity. Attack the environment as an antagonist. Shrink it to support ONLY your niche .

    You can NOT share space in exclusivity with out setting up antagonism. One side must always impose on the other Organism/organization Vs environment.

    Environment will always win, but may be unrecognizable from what you started with. Carried to its logical conclusion, it will no longer support that organism/organization.There is no room for responsibility between the subject and the environment.
    Antagonism is written into the relationship . Any infringement on space either way can only be viewed as antagonistic.

    So as part of the environment for dogs, but unaffiliated with The K.Cs, our demands can only be seen as antagonistic, victimizing the K.Cs. In failing to meet our needs, The K.Cs can only be seen as antagonistic, costing the environment for than its willing to pay. With out mutual responsibility, the species looses value to the environment.

    For Dogs to remain a valued part of their environment, The environment must have input into results. It ( we) can not be responsible for them otherwise.

    The members of any Kennel club or council must be permitted to breed out side of the proscribed protocols or boundaries to restore viability of the species domestic dog. Its the only way to open communication between the species and the environment. By demonstrating and teaching value in what they do, driven by environmental, not K.C demands.

    1. Anon, you are right to say that if we disrespect nature - dog nature in this case - and hack it around at whim, we create nothing sustainable and miss the point. Those who want entirely man-made creations should forget dogs and buy motorbikes.

      Are pup buyers to blame? Absolutely they are! Dog ownership like marriage is, or should be, a (dog's) lifetime relationship. If a child of yours were going to marry someone they'd only met on the internet, would you have nothing to say? You can get a pretty good idea how your pup will grow up by meeting at least one parent. It doesn't need a genetics PhD to tell a happy dog from a hang-dog. Buyers who won't do their homework are the ones keeping the pounds and rescue shelters busy. In the words of the Dogs Trust rescue organisation "A dog is for life, not just for Christmas".

    2. So, puppy buyers are to blame for the genetic train wrecks we see before us. How very convenient....and how very unfair.

      I agree with Anon - you can not expect the average person to expect to even be remotely interested in population genetics and even to understand what their responsibility even is in all this...Do we get taught how to do this stuff in school? no! If we had grass root education in companion animal biology things would be different

      Look at VW and the emissions scandal. How many cars does the average UK household own? One or two? How many people who own a car understands how they work? DO you think that they would possibly even had the slightest clue that their trustworthy Golf diesel was in fact 'defective'? How could they possibly be expected to know? I also use a computer every day. I have no idea how they work. So, when I look to buy one I am interested in the following information - will they do what I want them to do, are they good value for money (can I get one that I like cheaper elsewhere) and does it look quite nice. If it goes wrong, what am I going to do - send it back or try to get it fixed.

      Whether you like it or not, people think the same way about buying sentient beings, such as dogs - rightly or wrongly. You seem to have an innate lack of understanding about human behavior and live in some idealized unrealistic bubble that 'everyone should think the same way as I do and should be as interested in dogs as I am'.

      Get real and develop some empathy. Only then can we solve this problem. Breeders are producing dogs - we have to also understand that rightly or wrongly, people are motivated by money and if people are wanting to part with cash for defective dogs then some breeders who are motivated financially will continue to breed sick animals.

      This is a multifactorial problem and has to be tackled from all ends. Education for the public and animal breeders. People have to look at the motivation behind why people are doing all of their behaviour in relation to dogs.

    3. Yep, buyers who don't do their home work do help keep pounds full.

      The ones who feel no sense of responsibility to the benefits of keeping dogs.

      No,I don't believe they are to blame.
      I think it will be found that breeders, to survive in their environment , have 1st responsibility to teach a value for what they do. Their environment is a space. They can't survive with out it. They must show a value to their presence for it to support them. The environment has to be taught to recognize the value.
      A purpose.

      Only when the environment can recognize a value can it take responsibility for its integrity. The environment can affect evolution, but a fixed genetic blue print may be unable to adapt. The K.Cs constitution is their genetic blue print. It is not adapted to, nor can it recognize the needs of its environment.There is a break down of messages between the organization and its environment.

      The K.Cs do not cater to the environment- They cater to the K.Cs . The K.Cs purpose is showing dogs to select for predictability. Not ability.

      Hardly environmental selection. What is the value to its environment in that?
      Purpose for domestic dogs is not supported outside the K.Cs
      If its members were free to breed dogs ineligible for registration, it would be free to meet environmental demands and show a value in what they do- by producing dogs with real value out side of the show ring.
      When the environment ( people ) recognize a valued purpose to keeping dogs,THEN they have a responsibility to keep or enhance the value. That value must be taught by example> the organizations ability to respond to the needs of its environment should be where its value lies.

      An environment is a space we occupy. The ability to respond is what defines life and serves any purpose,( even for an organization.) not the space we occupy.

    4. Anon 12:28

      I agree. The K.Cs do all in their power, as per their constitution, to see that the breeding of dogs remains a K.C perogative. They have CLAIMED responsibility in arguing it should only take place within their organisation(s)

      The K.Cs keep their buyers at a distance from the whole process of breeding dogs-" Its a task for dedicated experts" .

      They don't teach the public whats involved, only to avoid it.

      When a car manufacturer achieves a good reputation for quality, THEN they get business. When the buyers feel they will get value for money. But that value has to be taught 1st to the buyers, what is the evidence of quality and what to look for in buying. The responsibility lies with the car manufacturers to teach us what quality means, through demonstrating it in use and comparatively.. So that we can recognize it when we find it.

      Reputation is a big selling point, but you can't trade on that forever.The value in dogs has to be taught before it can be sought.

    5. Anon 12:56, Anon 12:28 here.

      I agree with what you are saying, because, what you have described is the human psychology of recognition heuristics. There is evidence a plenty that when a 'brand' (whether that be dog, car, fridge or hotel services) is well known and gets recognized for its' quality and when people understand what that quality entails, they will remember and recall information about it and choose it over others.

      The problem is we have only have one 'brand' - the KC. And it is defective....people have no other choice.

      We need competition based on quality and real value and empathy about the future of the domestic dog, particularly coming clean about continuing along the path of self destruction with breeds. It requires grass root education in schools and it requires people to break away from this institution and start again. Those pioneers will educate and set the standards based on what is sustainable. They'll also repel dog showing based on ethical grounds for welfare and environmental sustainability.

  10. Buyers aren't taught a purpose for dogs. Until a purpose can be recognised by buyers and promoted, they can't be properly valued BY the environment and it WON'T take responsibility for them.

    The niche, or space dogs exist in isn't responsible for their direction. The species response to that space or environment is.

    Does the organization (or species, breeders here) take responsibility for purpose and direction.?
    In this case, I think not. Until they do, any value can only be eroded further.
    When breeders can demonstrate a value and purpose in what they do that carries benefits to the environment, then the environment has some thing to support.

    In biophysics, changes to the environment are brought about by the responses to it.
    Not the space itself. The environment can only "react" according to its make up at any given moment. Response is reserved for the life that it holds.

    When we no longer recognize a value or purpose in our children, then we will shrink the environment that holds them too, through legislation that tries to ensure they don't end up where they are NOT valued.

    We see purpose and values being eroded even here on PDE,ie: when people say there is no purpose for dogs with aggression, because of those who see no value or purpose to that, so won't accept any responsibity to see that its benefits out weigh its possible liabilities.

    Maximum response depends on ACCEPTING diversity, and possiblities. Fixing biological direction through a constitution can only limmit the response to the environment available to the whole of the species.

    The environment can't be held accountable for the responses of what it holds.Only what it holds has the ability to shape the space.

  11. Looking at this problem from a biophysical perspective, I'm convinced there are only 2 possible solutions. And that implementing at one of these is critical NOW, if the species and it value to our communities is to be retained.

    1) is for the K.Cs to revoke the ruling that does not allow members to breed dogs that are ineligible for registration.

    If that can not happen, or, maybe regardless since it should work faster and better ( in evolutionary terms, faster and more competitive against poorer practice would be:

    2) Start a new registry based on PURPOSE of any type and situation. Keeping it simple and with positive instruction only, for stated goals of breeding for sustainability into the future and mutual responsibility.

    I am convinced this would lead to real value being placed on the breeding of dogs, their welfare, ownership, purpose and most of all,our responsibilities to those goals individualy.
    That buyers of any dog would rapidly, in evolutionary terms, become more aware of their own obligations in choosing a dog no matter what its intended purpose, and their responsibilities to maximize on its possibilities.

    Such a registry would teach people expectations. Because Bob Grundy, those expectations need to come before response can be made.

    1. Indeed - Bob Grundy is a man of unrealistic expectations it would seem.