March 09, 2005

Canine Genetic Diversity

Many writers are warning that the strict adherence to breed standards and line breeding practices are condemning modern dogs to extinction. J. Jeffrey Bragg warns that we need canine genetic diversity and list a series of accumulated errors that need to be addressed to take dog breeds into the twenty-first century :

  • Dog shows are now just mills for the production of Champions, Best in Show and Group winners, and contribute almost nothing to the true welfare of dog breeds.
  • Breed purpose and the cultivation of canine utility have a low status compared to appearance.
  • Obedience work, begun as a way of initiating dog owners into the fascination and technique of training one's pet to be a pleasant, well-behaved companion, has become largely ritualistically and sterile. Intelligent and useful training on the owner's part, and intelligent obedience on the dog's part, are are abandoned in favour of a minutely-perfect performance of a set ritual.
  • Modern registries based on a rigidly-closed studbook are throttling the genetic health of all registered dog breeds.
  • Incest breeding, once a convenient tool for the rapid fixation of type in newly-registered breeds, has become virtually standard practice for those who seek success in dog breeding, and the net effect has been the decimation of gene pools.
  • Kennel Clubs cling to cumbersome structures, making it difficult for them to respond in a timely fashion to external challenges or internal needs.
  • Breed clubs seem to possess little real power to represent breeders or their breeds effectively.
  • Breeders, as well, are sometimes far from free to make their own responsible decisions for the best interests of their own dogs and bloodlines.

The Canine Diversity Project is an attempt to acquaint breeders of domesticated Canidae (dogs) with the dangers of inbreeding and the overuse of popular sires. Both lead to the indiscriminate loss of genetic diversity and increase the frequency of genetic problems in the population.


Tom said...

I agree with his take on competitive obedience - it's become a serious of tricks under controlledconditions and doesn't really translate into life skills.

Allison said...

When Bragg says "Dog shows are now just mills for the production of Champions" this is only a bad thing if the champion is not the best of the breed in the true sense. If the Champion does represent an improvement of the breed then dog shows are good things.

But I do see dogs that are perky getting the nod, even though other dogs have better conformation.