Doberman Genetics/WZ Registration/Albinism

Facepalm Friday has come early folks. 

If you’re at all familiar with Doberman, you know that “Z-factor” or WZ registration is kind of a big deal. If you’re not, Google it real quick. Undoubtedly the entire first page is filled with forum and blog and breeder posts berating the existence of these dogs. You will probably see posts like the one below: 

Or this:

According to these, WZ (or “Z-factored”) Doberman are albinos, right? Or at least definitively carry the gene for albinism. 

WRONG. 

This is probably the biggest myth and misconception about WZ Doberman. “Z” is NOT a gene, it is a registration tracking device based solely on the phenotype of one ancestor. “Z” is not, nor has it ever been, an actual testable gene. WZ was used prior to DNA sequencing technology to track any dog that descended from the original albino Doberman, without knowing if they carried the gene or not. 

So pop quiz. Given the definitions provided by our friend in the Facebook post and the folks over at Idlewild Doberman, is this a WZ Doberman?


If you said “No,” you are absolutely… Wrong. This Doberman has a WZ number. 

Some of you are probably thinking, “but tUH, that dog is CLEARLY not albino/white coated/whatever, how is that possible?” And some are probably hunched in a corner guarding their dog’s 10 generation pedigree and COI thinking, “nasty tricksy little dobe has the nasty Z gene.” 

Okay, fair assessment. So then we add this: 


(This is the UC Davis VGL report stating that the Doberman shown above is genetically incapable of producing an albino. He DOES NOT possess the gene that produces albinos, the demonized “Z gene.”) Soooo… If it doesn’t look like a rat and it doesn’t act like a rat…It must be a rat? That’s illogical. 

Saying that WZ Doberman carry the albino gene and will “eventually throw a white pup” would be akin to me saying, “hey, since your great-great-great-great-grandfather got cancer, you must carry the cancer gene” or, “since you have one red head person in your ten generational pedigree then you must carry the red head gene.” Is it possible that you inherited a gene for either of those? Of course. Is it a given? Far from it. If DNA shows that you are incapable of producing a red head, is it fair of me to run around calling you a ginger? No! (Not that it would be nice regardless.) Or say that you MUST be hot-headed because there was once-upon-a-time a red head in your family? That’s just ignorant and narrow-minded. 

Have people exploited albino Doberman as “rare” to make an extra buck? Yeah, but no more so than unscrupulous breeders of poorly bred WS Doberman have taken advantage of their dogs. Plenty of sickly, poorly built, temperamentally unstable Doberman who are NOT WZ registered make their way into the hands of people spouting nonsense about WZ, when their own dog is just as inbred and likely to die early. 

When there was no better way to test for the presence of the albinism gene the WZ registration was a good option. But now we have all kinds of testing available to potentially increase the gene pool in a breed so miserably lacking in diversity that to turn down an otherwise healthy and temperamentally sound dog solely because of a registration number is cutting off our nose to spite our face. Doberman breeders need to take diversity where they can find it, and look at the individual dog, regardless of registration or lineage, to determine soundness for breeding. 

As a side note, the Doberman pictured above is also less inbred than breed average, less homozygous (homozygosity increases likelihood for disease) than breed average, and has a relatively rare haplotype group that could benefit breed diversity if bred back into the general gene pool. 

I in no way support the blanket reassignment of registration numbers; however, in a dog that does not carry the gene for which WZ registration was created, and who is otherwise healthy, it is time that the DPCA and the AKC assign a non-stigmatized registration number and stop ostracizing diverse blood from the gene pool. 

Resources: 

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