Articles Index/Breeding
Posted 11/16/01


Remember the anecdotal story about the buyer of a used car? The prospective buyer is told by the salesman that the car was driven by a little old lady only once per week to go to church and has never needed repairs. What the gullible buyer is not being told is that the odometer has been reset and that "little old lady" was really a teenager who raced the car over gravel roads, necessitating numerous visits to the mechanic. The unwary buyer purchases the car and a week later it conks out on a major highway. After many subsequent incidents, the buyer is crying out that he's been robbed.

Now switch gears (pun intended) for a moment. Imagine that you're a Norfolk Terrier breeder who is evaluating a certain dog as a possible mate for your bitch. Or, perhaps you are a prospective puppy buyer who wants to see the dam of the litter you are looking at. You take for granted that what you are seeing is an unmodified animal. If not, then chances are that in the not-so distant future you'll also be screaming "foul". Instead of buying a not-as-advertised used car, you've been ripped off in terms of genes, which is why I call structural modification of a dog "genetic larceny".


The most obvious modes of genetic larceny include dental repair and stud dog substitution. A dog whose bite was level or otherwise undesirable may have had corrective dental work done which would be unknown to those people who want to breed to the dog. (I can't imagine any owner being forthright about that practice.) Thus, breeders would be using a stud dog that under normal circumstances they would never have used. Imagine the frustration if a significant proportion of the litter has dental problems. If the problem doesn't show up in the first generation, the breeder is still not out of the woods as problems may occur two or more generations down the road.

When I judged Sweepstakes at Montgomery County KC last October, at least half of the entrants had unacceptable bites. Leslie Crawley of England's Ragus Kennels, the judge at Hatboro last year, also echoed my dismay at seeing the preponderance of poor bites. My conclusion was that since breeders don't intentionally select for poor bites, then at least one major stud dog in the past ten years (and possibly more than one) probably had corrective dental repair.

When sending a bitch to be bred to a specific dog, the breeder assumes that the stud that is requested is the one that is used. But if a dog is unable to perform or is on the road constantly being campaigned, there is the opportunity for malice. Perhaps switching stud dogs never occurs in Norfolks, but if it does the results can be disastrous. This was evidenced by a scandal a few years ago in Bedlington Terriers that was revealed when a puppy had copper toxicosis (a particular problem in this breed) which is an autosomal recessive disease that is lethal. The dam was a carrier and the putative sire (a top-winning dog) had been tested clear. Since the puppy had the disease it was obvious that a dog other than the one requested had been used as a stud. DNA profiling tests confirmed this and subsequently it was shown that the "wrong" sire had been used on a number of bitches without their owners' knowledge or consent.


Once all registered dogs are required to have DNA identification, scenarios such as the one with the Bedlingtons should be eliminated. I think that the overwhelming proportion of breeders and stud dog owners are honest, but if you're going to use a particular stud dog or buy a puppy, you should avail yourself of all the information that is accessible, more particularly the DNA identification of the sire, dam, and ancestors.

Andrew Kramer, PhD
ANTIC, September, 2001


Editors's Note

In the DNA Advisory Committee Minutes contained on the AKC's web page, Dr. Suzanne McKenna, AKC staff, is quoted as stating that in the first 12 months of the Frequently Used Sire Program, 45% of all litters (all breeds) were sired by these frequently used stud dogs! Is DNA profiling an important tool in anyone's breeding program? You betcha!!!


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