The gene pool of life

I watched And Man Created Dog last night on Nat Geo; I was skeptical but it was pretty good.  It covered a lot of ground; and they discussed a topic which I am very passionate about, gene pools.   For as long as I can remember; many breeders have been inbreeding and line breeding.  The difference between the two is a fine line; one used by many to steer clear of the stigma attached to inbreeding.  Inbreeding is described as breeding two closely related dogs; brother/sister, son/Mother, daughter/Father, Aunts, Uncles and first cousins.  Line breeding is the mating of more distant related dogs.   But the fact remains that genes are being duplicated; which can and does cause health issues like low birth rates and shorter life spans.

Everyone has heard the phrase "mutts are healthier;" right?  The typical understanding of the terminology is that nature has taken over and no one is controlling the genetic make-up of the dogs.  Genetic diversity is good when the genes in the mix are good.  That means that if you breed bad genes with good; there is a good chance you will produce just that, the good with the bad.  What happens when breeders in or line breed is that they take away genetic diversity.  So if there are bad genes in the mix they will be multiplied having no new genes to draw on.  Many pedigrees read as a duplication in lines; the same dogs can be seen behind both the Dam and the Sire.

When new healthy genes are brought into a breeding line it can add genetic vigor; but the important factor is health.  Healthy dogs bred to healthy dogs raise the percentage of healthy puppies.  Of course there are always unforeseen issues that can arise; there are no genetically immaculate dogs, they all carry something undesirable.  But with research we can lower those undesirable traits or diseases.  Zoos have long known the result of inbreeding and  now put many hours into ensuring that only healthy and genetically diverse animals are used for breeding purposes. Some breeders are now doing the same and these are the ones leading the way of the future.

Sadly; many unscrupulous breeders have jumped on the bandwagon boasting that "designer dogs" and "mixes" are healthier.  This is simply not true; yes they may have more genetic diversity but it is healthy diversity that counts.  Breeding bad dogs to bad dogs only produces more bad dogs no matter how many mixes are put together.  And unfortunately many of the breeders of these designer dogs and mixes are what I would call bad breeders.  They care little about the dogs who make them their almighty buck.  No; they are not concerned with providing you with a healthy dog; they have no interest in doing genetic health screening.  They want their money and will spend little to get it.

There are good "designer dog" and  "mixed breed" breeders out there.  And the research to find them is well worth it.  Sadly there are more bad than good.  But just like with purebred breeders; you must look to find the good ones.  There are lots of bad purebred breeders out there as well.

No dogs should ever be bred without health screening.  Breeding without screening for health issues is like breeding blind; you have no idea what you are passing onto the future puppies and their new families.  A dog may seem like an amazingly healthy specimen with a wonderful temperament; but was his Father, brother or relatives as wonderful?  A dog is a dog so whether a breeder is breeding purebreds, mixes or the newly fashionable term used for today's mixes, the designer dog, they should all be health tested.  If you contact a breeder and they are not health testing; hang up and call someone else.

All in all genetics is very fascinating; at least it is for me. Some breeders are doing it all right; some are just now having a look at this whole genetic diversity thing and there are still some caught in the dark ages with the mindset that line or inbreeding is the only way. Hopefully somewhere along the way they will see the light; if only for the good of our dogs.  Our dogs deserve to be the healthiest they can be.

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