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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

I am from India and am contemplating on being a first time dog "breed" owner . I have owned mutts in the past.

The reasons i am going for a "breed" are these in my mind

  1. i want to be able to rely on the temperament / training since i need it to be able to play safely with my boy unsupervised (10 yr) without jumping over him
  2. I should be able to have it function as a therapy dog for my aging parents, showing as much affection as required but not push them over
  3. I should be able to train it to perform tricks - so looking for some intelligence
  4. Have a deterrence factor / have some guarding elements in them (Least important - just barking is good enough probably)
This is the first time i have the opportunity plus am able to afford a fancy breed after college. So I thought i might buy one of those dogs i have always fancied & knowing exactly what iam getting seemed helpful.

But the more i research, i find that all special purpose breeds have tons of health issues. Whereas my mutts absolutely had none though they looked a bit plain.

When i contact owners, iam being told by many that the descriptions of temperament are not reliable at all.

For eg apparently rotties what we can buy from breeders, are now "sweet" these days is what i have been told.

This has gotten me confused & iam now wondering if its worth at all to spend a lot of money on just satisfying my vainness as opposed to helping out a tiny puppy somewhere which does not have a home.

Can someone help me determine if i get a GSD or a Doberman, how much of the publicised breed temperament can be expected in them? Or is it going to be all over the place?

Please do help me out here.

Thanks
Arun
 

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Hi. Welcome to the forum.

There's a lot to unlock there, so I'm going to break it down.

i want to be able to rely on the temperament / training since i need it to be able to play safely with my boy unsupervised (10 yr) without jumping over him
Jumping over you son is the least of your concern. I'd be more concerned with your boy missing the subtle signs that the dog isn't happy and pushing the dog to growl, snarling or even worse - bite him. If your son has grown up around dogs, and/or been taught when to respect the dog's wishes and stop what he's doing, then there's no reason for the dog not being safe around him. But I'd still advise against unsupervised play.

I should be able to have it function as a therapy dog for my aging parents, showing as much affection as required but not push them over
It's beginning to sound like you expect a lot from your dog - energetic enough to play with your son, calm enough to be a companion for your parents, intelligent and driven enough to learn new tricks and still have something of a guarding/watch dog element.

I should be able to train it to perform tricks - so looking for some intelligence
You don't need a pedigree dog for that. Any dog can learn tricks.

When i contact owners, iam being told by many that the descriptions of temperament are not reliable at all.
Ethical dog breeders should be breeding for temperament as well as health.

For eg apparently rotties what we can buy from breeders, are now "sweet" these days is what i have been told.
Depends on the dog. I once read a rotties owner describe her dog as the type to let a burglar in, show them the silverware and lick them to death.


Can someone help me determine if i get a GSD or a Doberman, how much of the publicised breed temperament can be expected in them? Or is it going to be all over the place?
There's no guarantees. An ethical breeder should be breeding for temperament as well as health, but each dog is an individual. Talking to the breeder will help hem to match you with the puppy best suited to your needs, but you're asking a lot from the dog.

What are you able to offer the dog in return?
 

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Temperament is an extremely tricky thing affected by genetics, environment (even when they're still in the womb, to a degree), and life experiences. You also need to consider that temperament will change with age - for example, most dogs are going to be pushy, energetic, and obnoxious as puppies, even if they grow up to be amazing with other dogs. I would not expect any puppy to know how to be respectful and exercise restraint around a senior dog (or person) from day one. Manners and impulse control are things that come with time and maturity - puppy brains are literally not developed enough to have that much control, just like human babies and toddlers. There will likely be a period where the puppy needs to be supervised when interacting with your older dog and possibly parents, and should be confined or separated when you cannot supervise.

(EDIT: I just realized that your 10yr old boy is probably a human child, not an older dog, whoops. Same thing applies though - baby and adolescent puppies are obnoxious and take time to learn manners, whatever their genetic temperament might be)

Health issues have been studied much more thoroughly in purebred lines, and are to some extent more predictable. For this reason, any reputable breeder or club for purebreds is going to have information on what genetic conditions exist within the breed, even if they're uncommon and/or have effective tests that breeders can use to guarantee the puppies won't be affected by the illness.

When you get a mutt of unknown heritage, it's entirely possible that they still have the genetic makeup for any of the same issues purebreds face, but it's impossible to guess which. Now if your mutts are from street dogs you're probably less likely to see really acute problems - genetic conditions that, when untreated, kill young dogs or puppies before they can reproduce - but they can still have conditions that manifest later in life, or have a smaller impact on their immediate survival. Things like hip dysplasia (can be caused by the shape of the hip joints), a genetic predisposition to cancer, hypothyroid, arthritis, etc. affect just as many mixed breed dogs as purebreds, but mixed breed dogs (usually) don't have entire communities testing every dog's genetics and x-raying their hips and reporting every incident of a particular illness so it can be recorded in a database for future study somewhere. Many purebreds do. This can create the illusion of purebreds being genetically weaker, when really they just have more data collected and research done about their genetic issues.

That being said, there are absolutely some breeds that are in a lot of trouble due to genetic illness or conformation. Almost all cocker spaniels die of an inherited heart condition - and many Doberman pinchers, even though the breeds seem nothing alike. American goldens have an extremely high rate of cancer as young dogs. Many short-faced dog breeds like the pug or English bulldog need surgery young to be able to breath properly.

Because of all this, when you're doing your research, it's often more important to understand how common a genetic health problem occurs in the breed, how severe it is, and whether it can be prevented or significantly reduced by appropriate testing of the parents prior to breeding than just how many there are. For example, my youngest is a rare breed, and there's a disease that's actually named after that breed because that's where it was first and most commonly found. Sounds scary, right? Except that the breed community immediately mobilized and researched the condition thoroughly, and now there's a test that will easily tell a breeder if two parents could produce a puppy with that disease. Every reputable breeder does this test, and therefore it's virtually impossible to get a puppy that has this illness from one of them. That's why it's so, so important to find a breeder who cares deeply about health and performs all the genetic testing on their breeding stock, so they know how to match parents so they have the best possible chance of producing healthy puppies. There's always a risk, sure, but in many cases for breeds who do not have serious, widespread health issue, there's a lot breeders can do to reduce that risk.

As for your question about the reliability of temperaments overall... there's some similarities to my comments about health. Reputable breeders have a solid picture of the temperament they want to produce, and they do as much as they can through careful pairing of the parents of each litter to maintain or improve that temperament. But yes, any two breeders can have a different interpretation of what a breed's temperament 'should' be, or what their preference and goal for temperament is. This is why you can have a single breed - let's say a lab - with dogs who can be laid-back family companions, high-energy hunters, extremely effective guide dogs for the blind, or drug search dogs for the police. You can't get a single dog who can do all those jobs - you probably can't even get that range out of a single litter. But you have breeders who are focusing on specific kinds of labs - companionship, retrieving drive and energy for hunting, extreme stability and drive to work with people for service dogs, etc - and so you get a range of temperaments while the dogs are still all considered 'Labrador retrievers'.

So you need to be looking not just for a breed that fits the bill for what you want, but also a breeder whose temperament breeding goals aligns with your own. You might decide that a German Shepherd is good for you, but if you go to someone breeding extremely intense, high-drive dogs for police work or sports, you may find that you get an animal that doesn't learn how to settle and be calm and gentle with your older dog and parents - at least not until they're several years old. However, a breeder focusing on a stable, sound German Shepherd that is more of an 'all rounder' - eg can be happy in a lot of different households and roles - might be perfect! I'm not a German Shepherd person so I'm not saying that's necessarily the best fit for your household, just trying to illustrate that breeders of the same breed can have very different goals and produce quite different animals. Meeting as many of the breeder's adult breeding stock and dogs they've bred and now live in other family's homes is a great way to judge whether that breeder's line will work for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you for replying.

Jumping over you son is the least of your concern. I'd be more concerned with your boy missing the subtle signs that the dog isn't happy and pushing the dog to growl, snarling or even worse - bite him. If your son has grown up around dogs, and/or been taught when to respect the dog's wishes and stop what he's doing, then there's no reason for the dog not being safe around him. But I'd still advise against unsupervised play.
Thanks - I will try to include that in training my kid. Is there any good guide / book you know if that teaches the dog pysche / their language ? Any tips here would be great

It's beginning to sound like you expect a lot from your dog - energetic enough to play with your son, calm enough to be a companion for your parents, intelligent and driven enough to learn new tricks and still have something of a guarding/watch dog element.
I did think as much when i was committing my thoughts into email. What are the likely clusters of capabilities here which can be met, since you have said below again too that iam asking too much of the dog? Any breed suggestions for meeting the large part of my requirements?

I thought a GSD might be able to handle it. This was exactly what i was told by a breeder as to the difference between GSD/Dober/Lab - Dober might trip my kid to get the ball since he is too focused on that but GDS might treat play differently when playing with my kid is what i was told. Lab might go after the biscuit offered by an intruder whereas a GSD wouldnt. So a jack of all trades is how i have been thinking of a GSD. Except for its health & grooming requirements, i really have high hopes on a GSD to achieve all this. Dober is next on my list due to its watch dob abilities compared to a Lab. But iam scared about the Dober temperament wrt kid safety but there seems to be enough people who claim it to be safe.

You don't need a pedigree dog for that. Any dog can learn tricks.
If that where the case, why are breeds like bull/boxer/cane etc rated as stubborn, stuff to train etc - I mean am i reading in too much into the DO intelligence ratings ? Are all dogs between say A+ to A- in intelligence instead of say like being thought of as A to D in terms of intelligence grades?

Ethical dog breeders should be breeding for temperament as well as health.
hmm - somehow iam yet to encounter a breeder who talked temperament.

Depends on the dog. I once read a rotties owner describe her dog as the type to let a burglar in, show them the silverware and lick them to death.
What are you able to offer the dog in return?
Thank you for the comment - I was thinking of myself as going to range between John Thorton from "call of the wild" and the kid from the "Where the red fern grows". What do you suggest?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Temperament is an extremely tricky thing affected by genetics, environment (even when they're still in the womb, to a degree), and life experiences. You also need to consider that temperament will change with age -
Ok - i guess i need to start thinking of dogs as "individuals" instead of a race which meets my "requirements"

Health issues have been studied much more thoroughly in purebred lines, and are to some extent more predictable.

and now there's a test that will easily tell a breeder if two parents could produce a puppy with that disease. Every reputable breeder does this test, and therefore it's virtually impossible to get a puppy that has this illness from one of them.
Are tests available for all diseases or only some types ?

So you need to be looking not just for a breed that fits the bill for what you want, but also a breeder whose temperament breeding goals aligns with your own.
Got it thank you.
 

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Thanks - I will try to include that in training my kid. Is there any good guide / book you know if that teaches the dog pysche / their language ? Any tips here would be great
This gives you a good idea. The illustrator also has a book out on the subject.
Doggie Language Chart

that where the case, why are breeds like bull/boxer/cane etc rated as stubborn, stuff to train etc - I mean am i reading in too much into the DO intelligence ratings ? Are all dogs between say A+ to A- in intelligence instead of say like being thought of as A to D in terms of intelligence grades?
Just because some dogs are stubborn, doesn't mean they're untrainable. They just adopt a "What's in it for me?" Approach. As the owner, it's up to us to work out what best motivates the dog.

There are also different types of intelligence. There's the academics like the border collie, and what we typically think of as intelligence. There's also "street smarts", problem solvers, those with emotional intelligence that are so clued in to their owners, and more that I can't think of.

hmm - somehow iam yet to encounter a breeder who talked temperament.
Ethical breeders are few and far between, but they are out there.

GSDs form close bonds with their owners, but I seem to recall that they often form strong attachments with just one or two people. My grandmother had one when I was a toddler. Apparently he was "my" dog. From the moment I toddled through the back gate to the moment my mum took me home, he never left my side and wouldn't let anyone else near me.

Sadly I was too young to remember him.
 

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A breed will give you a kind of general idea - any lab should be friendly, sociable, eager to work with people (especially), and fairly athletic. Any GSD should be intelligent, love to work, and bond closely with their human/family. Any border collie should be energetic and athletic, sensitive to their owners, and highly intelligent. But the vision of the breeders is going to shape those base traits in different ways, and sometimes the breeds change over time as the way the world sees and uses dogs changes. Rotties, for example, probably have changed since their inception because there's much less demand for dogs who can both herd cows (yup, they were originally herding dogs!) and protect the stock and their owner on the way to and from the market. But I will say that I knew an incredibly sweet Rottie who'd retired from a successful career as a K9 officer, so 'sweet' and 'able to be a deterrent/do protection work' aren't mutually exclusive.

You'll get outliers, of course. Sometimes it's from an irresponsible breeder who doesn't pay any attention to temperament (the lab who's anxious and tries to bite strangers), but sometimes it's just because dogs are living things and impossible to completely mold to our expectations or predict (like my father-in-law's hunting line dachshund who was the laziest creature on earth and couldn't track to save her life).

Many diseases that are well-known and caused by a single gene mutation have tests - some examples are Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) which causes progressive blindness and von Willebrand Disease (vWD) which is a bleeding disorder. In these cases it's just a matter of checking what form of the gene the dog has and then avoiding breeding two dogs together who might pass on the genetic combination that causes the illness to develop.

But other genetic health issues are what's called 'multi-factorial' - they are caused by the interplay of multiple genes, and sometimes even environmental factors. Hip dysplasia is a big one, because the shape and depth of the hip socket is controlled by dozens of different genetic factors, and can even be impacted by certain kinds of physical stress on the joints in growing puppies. In these cases, there's often things breeders can do and test for to attempt to reduce the risk of producing affected puppies, but it's virtually impossible (at our current level of understanding) to completely avoid the problem.

The worst problems happen in breeds where so many individuals have a serious inherited health problem that it becomes nearly impossible to find good breeding pairs that both avoid all the major health issues and are not so closely related that they're going to result in inbred puppies - which has issues of its own.

And then there are things we just don't fully understand yet. Heck, there's human genetic disorders and health conditions we don't fully understand or know how to prevent, so it's not all that surprising. There's always ongoing research to understand these new or complicated medical conditions, and to find better, faster, cheaper testing for known conditions, but it's a process. Any responsible breeder should be able to tell you what they test their breeding stock for and why, and what they're doing to minimize other health conditions in their lines. It's a huge red flag if a breeder tells you there's no health concerns in their lines, because that's essentially impossible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
You'll get outliers, of course.
That i do understand, but i was not sure of the statement - "we have bred out the ferocity out of rotties out here".

I mean i was surprised a few generations of breeding without looking at the temperament can cause such a drastic change of character. I mean these guys had to start with a temperamentally correct rottie at some point right? How can then this be true.

Thats what got me confused.
 

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A few generations of paying no attention to temperament at all can get you in a lot of trouble - and isn't something any ethical and responsible breeder will do. There are even people who show their dogs and win at high levels that I'd never consider getting a dog from because they value looks over a correct and stable temperament.

I think there's a couple things going on with your Rottie example. First, they were never intended to be 'ferocious'. They were always dogs that herded and drove cattle, and were willing to defend the livestock and the owner. Here is the breed description from the FCI - an international organization for dog breeding standards:

"The Rottweiler is good-natured, placid in basic disposition, very devoted, obedient, biddable and eager to work. His appearance is natural and rustic, his behaviour self-assured, steady and fearless. He reacts to his surroundings with great alertness and at the same time even-tempered."

And from the American Kennel Club, which goes into some detail about how a dog with the correct, desired Rottweiler temperament should behave in the show ring:

"The Rottweiler is basically a calm, confident and courageous dog with a self-assured aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. A Rottweiler is self-confident and responds quietly and with a wait-and-see attitude to influences in his environment. He has an inherent desire to protect home and family, and is an intelligent dog of extreme hardness and adaptability with a strong willingness to work, making him especially
suited as a companion, guardian and general all-purpose dog. The behavior of the Rottweiler in the show ring should be controlled, willing and adaptable, trained to submit to examination of mouth, testicles, etc. An aloof or reserved dog should not be penalized, as this reflects the accepted character of the breed. An aggressive or belligerent
attitude towards other dogs should not be faulted.

A judge shall excuse from the ring any shy Rottweiler. A dog shall be judged fundamentally shy if, refusing to stand for examination, it shrinks away from the judge. A dog that in the opinion of the judge menaces or threatens him/her, or exhibits any sign that it may not be safely approached or examined by the judge in the normal manner, shall be excused from the ring. A dog that in the opinion of the judge attacks any person in the ring shall be disqualified."


(The full breed standards these come from can be found here and here if you're interested.)

I don't know if India follows the FCI or has its own standards like the US does, but you can see that both breed standards agree that the Rottweiler should NOT be ferocious. While some aggression towards other dogs is tolerated, aggression towards strangers is not at all. The breed should be laid back, stable, confident, and very devoted and bonded to their people. Yes, they should have a defensive instinct, but they are NOT a dog that should instigate an attack on a human if bred and socialized appropriately - they should even tolerate a dog show judge squeezing their testicles to check that they're healthy an in the right place, haha!

So if the Rottweilers in your country were at some point 'ferocious' and inappropriately aggressive towards people, the change in temperament is probably a good thing! 'Ferocious' isn't a word I'd use to describe a stable dog (I know there might be a language barrier here, so take that into account). A 'ferocious' dog to me is one that's unpredictable and/or reacts quickly and makes its own decisions about who and what is a threat - that's often a recipe for a very dangerous animal, and not one who'd fit in with your family with what you've described.

On the other hand, in the modern world there tends to be less and less demand for true guard- and protection dogs, which can result in breeders for dogs like Rottweilers focusing more on temperaments that are within the breed standard, but leaning more towards animals that make good companions, rather than those who are expected to be defending livestock or their owners as a job for the majority of their lives. You see a 'split' in many breeds because of this - with some breeder focusing on 'working' lines with temperaments (and sometimes looks) closer to the original, and some breeders focusing more on 'bench' lines that are going to be better off in the average modern family and household. Unless you are doing some kind of work or dog sport with the dog, these 'bench' lines are often a better choice for the average dog owner.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This is what I have always believed about Rotties

1. They have outstanding protective instincts which peak as they mature
2. The breed is very strong

So a tendency to get over protective without adequate socialization,is more likely with a rott has been ingrained in my mind.

In Indian towns (not cities) people who get dogs usually have a yard to let the dog run and they normally won't let the dog into the house coz it gets the homes which are mopped on a daily basis dirty. People don't wear shoes inside either. So the dogs are almost always kept in kennels

In fact when I spoke to a very knowledgeable local breeder he said that he usually only ever get enquiries for dogs favouring their "size" & "temper". The temper is local parlance for ferociousness since most people who get these breeds only intend them to be guard dogs.

I know of folks who keep them in covered kennels too, to increase their ferociousness.

So you see, this protective instinct which gets blown out of proportion due to bad socialization is what I have always worried about. I can't believe rotties raised in that same manner which is almost the default here just got totally sweet and soft.

I understand most dogs raised like that would get aggressive no matter the breed but it was in this context that I evaluated his comments since he was a local who was making those comments.

But my question was not from a Rotties real temperament coz I never had an intention of picking them, but more from a theoretical stand point as to whether the local breeding can really change a breeds inherent standard temperament in a few generations time.

If I read your reply right, I think it depends on what the breeders like and if so iam afraid most breeders outside of dog shows would be breeding for size & ferociousness in dogs that are perceived to be performing guard duties like gsd, rottie, doberman etc.
 

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I would not consider a breeder who bred for dogs to be big and have scary/aggressive behavior to be responsible, nor would I consider a breeder who'd knowingly let the dog go to a home where it'd be isolated and encouraged to act dangerously responsible. And yes, you can quite quickly breed dogs that have dangerous and scary aggressive behaviors from a more stable breed that has a natural guarding instinct surprisingly quickly. Even assuming they started with excellent examples of the breed and never cross-bred with other big, 'scary' breeds or mixes, neither of which are guaranteed with such breeders.

I can't tell you exactly what's happening with the 'sweet and soft' Rotties - whether they're being raised differently, or bred differently, or there's a cultural shift that means they've fallen out of favor as guard dogs and are now mostly in homes where they're more of a companion. But I can believe that behavioral shifts can happen very quickly in a purebred populations.

In the US, the movie 101 Dalmatians came out and suddenly everyone wanted a Dalmatian - people who breed for profit saw dollar signs and began pumping these dogs out with whatever breeding stock they could get their hands on, and only a couple years later the breed suddenly had a reputation for being nasty and nervy and unhealthy. Did good, well-bred Dalmatians still exist? Sure! But most of what the public was exposed to were dogs bred without care given to their genetic health and temperament and sold to whoever was fastest to pay (which were usually not homes that were prepared for the high energy demands of the breed).

There's cultural differences involved here too - it's almost unheard of in my current country of residence and the region of the US I grew up in to throw a scary looking dog outside for security, but I know it's very common elsewhere. You're absolutely correct in dogs that are bred for this kind of 'work' are not going to be at all suitable for your family as a companion animal, and you should avoid breeders who sell to this market like the plague.

Instead, you absolutely want to find a breeder who is open and honest about what their temperament goals are, and are willing to let you see their breeding dogs and dogs they've bred that now live in family homes like yours. These breeders often also show! There's nothing wrong with that, showing is just a way breeders can get an assessment of their dogs' conformation (the way the dog's put together and how closely it fits the breed standard). They might charge more, I don't know (in the US, many responsible show breeders are actually less expensive than breeders who try to make flashy-looking off-standard purebreds or mixes they can claim are 'rare' and charge crazy prices for, but the situation may be very different in India), but if they offer solid health testing, a line with the temperament you want, and good puppy raising protocols, it's usually very worth it.
 

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Check with the National Breed Clubs to find a breeder of merit. They should be able to tell you about the breed completely. Although many of them breed to show, they always have pets in the litter. Its not that they are bad dogs it might be something as simple as color or the length of muzzle. I would start there as being in the clubs, they have a code of ethics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thank you for your replies.

The problem here in India is that the health checks is not something thats available. Even the most responsible breeder is unable to offer this.

A good pedigree with show winning lines is the maximum that can be availed and post that the puppy's health is up to our luck. Even vets i talk to say that, hip dysplasia is going to happen no matter what so dont bother checking that.That was disheartening to say the least.

We do not thankfully have the flashy-mixed breed concept "yet" but i can see a lot of labradoodle listings.

Finding an ethical breed enthusiastic breeder and vet seems to be the most uphill struggle as of now.
 

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That is unfortunate, and there isn't much I can offer advice-wise since it's not something I've had to navigate myself. I imagine many breeders have to look instead at longevity of their lines, quality of life, and diagnosed health issues, with testing being very inaccessible. Hopefully they'll be able to talk to you about how they monitor the health of their breeding lines within the resources available to them.

Hip dysplasia is a lot trickier than other kinds of testing - two dogs with great hips can indeed produce a puppy with bad hips - but in my opinion saying that's a reason not to test is oversimplifying. Over here, my breeder actually requires all her puppies to have their hips tested, because it's important to know not just what the parents' hips look like, but the hips of the grandparents, the parents' siblings, previous litters, etc. to know how common hip dysplasia is in the genetic pool overall, and to try to accommodate for 'hidden' genes that might not show up in the parents themselves. Kind of like how a short human couple is more likely to have short kids, but every so often you see a short couple with that one super tall kid because someone's grandfather was a 190+cm, and those genes are still in the bloodline, even if the kid's parents aren't physically displaying them. Testing is all about trying to improve the odds, and minimizing puppies with extremely severe dysplasia when it does happen, rather than completely eliminating the condition altogether, which is just impossible at our current level of knowledge about the genetics.
 

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Exactly^^ Deformaties and health issues are in the gene pool the same as any allele at any locus. They could pop up depending on the two parent's genetic makeup if they possess the gene deformity at the right or wrong place.
 
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