The Paw Print Genetics Blog

Popular Sire Syndrome: When Winning Results in Losing

Popular Sire Syndrome: When Winning Results in Losing

A phenomenon in canine competition circles known as popular sire syndrome can produce strong, competitive and intelligent puppies that go on to become, and produce, champions. The occurrence can also produce puppies that fill the breeding pool with genetic maladies.

When a male dog wins a prestigious championship, he obviously has what it takes to win at the highest levels. The effect is that his value as a stud dog skyrockets as breeders with females hope to produce puppies that can replicate their father’s accomplishments.

Often that trendy stud dog is bred with many female dogs throughout the country. When this happens, you can see that male dog show up in pedigrees from previously unrelated lines. In a large breeding pool, say with Labradors, the effects aren’t as profound as in a smaller population, but they’re still present and can cause issues for future generations regardless of population size. If that popular stud dog has any genetic disorders in his DNA, his puppies will likely harbor those mutations – at best becoming carriers and at worst being affected with the related disorder – and can continue to contaminate the breeding pool.

Even in a large breeding population, the bottleneck of genetics that can ensue due to popular sire syndrome can have long-lasting repercussions. Each dog in the line will need to deal with that stud dog’s mutation, and great care needs to be taken when selecting a future mate – especially if their pedigrees both contain that dog in past generations.

Fortunately, most breeders at the highest levels of the sport understand the benefits and responsibility they have to produce healthy pups. Conscientious breeders will opt to panel screen their dogs so that they know if they carry the most common and exasperating disorders, as well as the lesser known ones.

However, just because your puppy has a highly bred, trained and popular male somewhere in its pedigree, that doesn’t mean that all generations of that dog’s progeny were as thoughtfully bred. When selecting a puppy, especially if close line breeding has taken place or both sides of its pedigree contain the popular male, make sure that the parents and puppies have undergone genetic testing to clear them of known genetic mutations.

photo courtesy of petadviser


  • Katie Tazza on 03/21/2013 3:30 a.m. #

    The biggest damage is done when the groupies of the popular sire downplay and hide the genetic defects that the sire passes on. When any stud dog is frequently used his genetic defects will become known.
    I don't know how we handle the desire to have dogs on the top producer list and minimize the results of their defective genes.
    Genetic and health testing can help minimize the issue.
    Katie Tazza Up N'Adam GSPs
    Breeder of 14 Dual Champions
    and Top producing sires and dams.

  • Gayle Watkins on 04/14/2013 6:29 a.m. #

    Although golden retrievers are one of the most popular breeds in the country, we face the problem of a very small gene pool due to the overuse of popular sires. It is nearly impossible to find an American show-bred dog without one of four related sires from the 60s and 70s. The field population is equally problematic. Yet we continue to follow this path today with a few new studs that are of course related to the earlier popular sires. And we wonder why we have the skyrocketing cancer, health issue and compromised immune rates that we see in goldens

    I believe we should be breeding goldens as if they were a rare breed to see if we can dig our way out of the problem but my suggestions sound so absurd, it doesn't get any traction.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking blog!.

  • Daylene Alford on 06/17/2013 4:41 p.m. #

    I've often wondered about the over use of popular sires and its affect on the gene pool. It may be the the Jockey Club has indeed taken the right path in that sires are only allowed to breed live cover. This limits the use of popular sires and helps to promote diversity (although it does make for some outlandish stud fees.)

  • Brian Lynn on 06/18/2013 3:16 p.m. #

    Excellent comments everyone, thanks for your insightful thoughts. Personally, I hate to see any restrictions on limiting breeding (i.e., via AI), but if people aren't going to practice genetically sound research on their dogs and continue to stack pedigrees with the same stud (or dam) dogs, it just might be an external force that could help reduce the practice. The question as to whether or not something like that would be best for the breed overall, would have to be addressed, however.

Comments are closed.