Doggie Genetics

The What

Canine DNA tests have been around for quite sometime—Wisdom Panel, DNA My Dog, Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel 3.0, and newcomer Embark to name a few. Knowing the ancestry of both of my dogs has made me disinclined to spend the $50-$200 that these panels run; however, a recent effort to document Doberman genetics with the ultimate goal of improving diversity convinced me to participate.

I know that Juneau is Doberman. Despite uninformed accusations that he must be part Great Dane, I have his five generation pedigree, and he is very much the standard Doberman. I also know that Juneau is a vWD carrier, and that he is from a backyard breeder, so his genetics probably aren’t phenomenal. Hopefully though, our contribution can help with future research and breed preservation.

This week I ordered the Embark DNA test through Doberman Diversity Project, which is currently offering $50 off the cost of the test. I also ordered the Canine Genetic Diversity test through UC Davis’s VGL. The VGL test currently costs $50 for Doberman (among other breeds) while in the research phase, but will increase to $80 once enough samples have been collected and analyzed.

The Why

First, I suggest reading the the following.

The Institute of Canine Biology blogs:

An update on the genetic status of the Doberman Pinscher

Are we watching the extinction of a breed? (or, Why are we focused on consequence instead of cause?)

Are we watching the extinction of a breed? (part 2)

Population analysis of the Dobermann breed published by The Kennel Club

The Doberman breed is in a bad place right now, brought on by a great many factors, including: geographic separation, bottlenecks from social and political turmoil, selection based on type, European vs American preference, and plain ‘ol prejudice. Plenty of people herald this new information as free reign to claim that their untitled, untested dog should be considered for breeding and should not be the subjects of discrimination; those same people insist that Z registrants or highly inbred specimens should still not be bred.

I will be completely honest—Juneau is a Z registrant. This means that way, way back in his lines, he is related to the original albino Doberman. Information on the original albino can be found here. The albino Doberman presents a very real problem, because ever since then a few unscrupulous breeders have bred them to create “rare white” Doberman, and created lines of rampant inbreeding. We must wonder though, what genes have been tossed and muddled around in dogs related, but not bred for albinism after all these decades? I know that I wonder that. There are currently Z registrant Doberman who do not carry the albinism gene, live long and happy lives, and quite possibly have less inbreeding than show champions. Although I am in no way claiming that this is the norm for Z registrants today, I do think that this is a major class of dogs that we must consider to increase diversity. For the past several years, Z factor Doberman have accounted for over 25% of Doberman registrations (yearly statistics can be found here). That’s over a quarter of registered Doberman that aren’t even looked at as show, performance, or breeding prospects. To even consider a handful of these Doberman for genetic diversification, we need to stop the stigma.

Many people believe that cross-breeding is the solution—breeding in other breeds of dogs to increase genetic diversity and breeding back for type at a later date. While this may become necessary at some point, we should also seriously consider first breeding for diversity of the Doberman Pinscher—not the European (“Euro”) Doberman, not the American Doberman, not the Australian or the Canadian Doberman, and neither show nor pet nor working Doberman. All Doberman. The Doberman.

This is an exciting and scary time to be involved in the Doberman breed, and I can’t wait to see what breeders do in their attempts to save the breed.

 

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