Why should I know more about the genetic diversity in my breed?

Depending on how a breed was formed and how they were bred since then, dog breeds can have very little diversity or ample diversity. Pedigree databases can offer clues, but pedigrees are of varying quality, accuracy and depth and take years to assemble.

Fortunately, modern science offers an easier, faster, and more accurate way to assess a breed. This method has already been successful in many other breeds, and it provides an innovative method for breeders to make better breeding choices.

Why do we need better methods?

Modern breeds are typically closed gene pools, where no new genetics are introduced. Closed gene pools have positives and negatives.

The positives are that we have dogs with the consistent structure and temperament that makes a breed uniquely itself. Closing gene pools is what brought us such a wide variety of breeds in the first place, and breeding within a gene pool while selecting for certain instincts, size, shape, coat or other traits enhanced the breed’s ability to do a certain job.

The negative of closed gene pools is that – along with the desired genetic traits – invisible negative genes are concentrated in the breed. This can cause certain diseases to become as predictable as breed traits. For some breeds, the disease genes have been there since breed formation, having been in one of the original founders. For other breeds, there may have been a famous sire with a spontaneous dangerous mutation,  and through his popularity, he unwittingly spread that recessive gene far and wide.

If there was enough diversity at the outset, and it wasn’t lost in a significant genetic bottleneck along the way, a modern breed will have ample diversity. If the opposite is true, there will be far less diversity remaining.

Why does diversity matter?

Simplistically put, the more diversity there is within a breed, the less likely it is that certain negative genes become very common. The more diversity there is within a breed as a whole, the easier it is to breed away from health problems without losing more diversity.

It IS actually possible to breed selectively for the appearance and temperament that fit a breed standard and still maintain enough diversity in genes that control major organs and immune systems.

We’ve just needed better tools. Finally we have them.

What are they? Read on…

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