When we breed to better a line of purebred dogs, many intangible or subjective variables come into play – conformation, athleticism, intelligence, trainability and more. Mentoring and experience, even the gut instinct borne from these teachings, can make assessing those variables easier. As we learn more and develop an eye for evaluating and reading dogs, the standards for what constitutes a ‘better’ dog, one worthy of breeding, usually rise. The comparative knowledge experience brings allows us to differentiate a ‘great dog’ from a ‘good’ one; what might have been an acceptable to us a decade ago, might not make the cut today. And therein creates the economic correlation of supply and demand among top breeders.
As we eliminate potential breeding partners in favor of ‘better’ dogs, those that will truly improve a line and therefore breed, fewer and fewer potential partners exist. That makes the remaining pool of dogs more desirable and valuable.
When the qualities that elevated a dog to the top of the gene pool are combined with the objective results of canine genetic screening, a breeder is truly ‘bettering the breed’ by passing along the best physical and mental qualities the dog possesses while reducing or eliminating detrimental genes.
However, some people believe genetic testing poses the risk of reducing the gene pool of quality dogs too much. Certainly, if you were to remove every dog that was determined to be an affected or a carrier of an inherited disease, that upper echelon of dogs within a breed could theoretically bottleneck (especially if it’s a small gene pool to begin with); and/or leave dogs that don’t complement and strengthen each other consistently enough to better the breed across necessary qualities, regardless of genetic diversity. True, the knowledge of genetic mutations in two dogs could prevent a top-notch breeding from taking place, but in the big picture of bettering a line and breed, that's a small concession.
But that’s not how genetic screening works. Genetic screening of canines for inherited diseases provides the knowledge to breed responsibly and with scientific evidence. Breeding to a carrier, or especially affected, dog is a personal decision each of us must weigh, but it can be done safely. Using genetic science, we can determine the mode of inheritance, as well as the variability and expressivity of a gene. With the knowledge of today’s science, we can breed smarter and safer than ever before.
Genetic screening makes a dog a known quantity. Combined with its physical, mental and psychological qualities, genetic screening allows for healthier decision-making choices that truly ‘better the breed.’ The fact that a dog is a known quantity in a gene pool makes it more valuable; a dog’s accomplishments set it apart from the general population, and genetic screening, regardless of results, put it in an even more elite pool of dogs.
If you have questions about how the science of genetics pertains specifically to your dog, Paw Print Genetics offers genetic counseling that can explain the situation and help you make an informed decision – just call our toll-free number (855-202-4889) and we’d be happy to help.
*Photo courtesy of Andre Hagenbruch via Flickr*