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Discussion Starter #1
Now, I'm not saying "LET'S END ALL BREEDS!", not at all. I love purebred dogs and the variety in looks, temperaments and uses. However, paradoxically, it seems that if we want to preserve the variety in breeds, we need to outcross more.

I'm no geneticist, but logic and some research make me think that health-testing is not sufficient to keep our breeds healthy. Indeed, while health testing both parents in a breeding is done to ensure healthy pups, by limiting the amount of dogs allowed to breed (the selection being based on health, comformity to standard, etc.), we are limiting the gene pool, making it more heterogeneous, and thus making the risk of genetically inherited illnesses higher. It thus seems that health-testing is, in fact, a bit counter-productive, because the breeder may ensure they get healthy puppies in the short term, but in the long-term, they are harming the breed (again, by shrinking the gene pool).

And yet, breeding sound dogs is important, which health-testing makes easier. So the conclusion I reached is that if breeders combined health-testing their breeding dogs with periodical outcrossing, it would help maintain a reasonably sized gene pool while still being able to afford choosing not to breed some dogs because they don't fit their expectations.

Of course, my reasoning is probably a bit basic (as I said, I'm only a lay geneticist) but I think that it is overall reasonable. But I'm very interested in hearing where others might disagree. Would you support outcrossing in your breed? Would you buy from an otherwise reputable breeder who doesn't health test for the reasons explained above? Do you think there are breeds that would benefit from outcrossing?
 

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I was discussing dalmatians with a friend (we were discussing another friend's dalmatians actually) and I had mentioned that her show pup has a larger head than her sibling pet pair.
That is when I learned that at some dals were outcrossed with pointers to help correct a disorder in which they could not urinate correctly.

I thought that was neat.

If that was the sort of out crossing you're talking about... yeah I could go for that. But if you meant outcrossing from certain lines...eh, there's only so much stock to work with
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I was discussing dalmatians with a friend (we were discussing another friend's dalmatians actually) and I had mentioned that her show pup has a larger head than her sibling pet pair.
That is when I learned that at some dals were outcrossed with pointers to help correct a disorder in which they could not urinate correctly.

I thought that was neat.

If that was the sort of out crossing you're talking about... yeah I could go for that. But if you meant outcrossing from certain lines...eh, there's only so much stock to work with
I've heard of the dalmatians being outcrossed with pointers, I believe they are referred to as "LUA dalmatians", and I do think it's very neat as well. Also, I meant outcrossing with other breeds, not lines (I should have precised, thanks for pointing it out).
 

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I am fine with outcrossing in theory. If we could really improve health and widen the gene pool, I think that would be great.

Practically I think it's much more difficult. What breed do you outcross with? Most similar breeds have the same health problems and fairly related gene pools. Many breeds have very small effective gene pools, despite having large population sizes (like Golden Retrievers). It would take a lot of knowledge to do well. I think what was done in dalmatians was pretty great, and if there are other fairly "easy" projects like that, I would stand behind them. But how do you eliminate cancer in flat coats, for example? Similar breeds typically have the same problems with cancer because they come from the same origins.
 

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For the dalmatians, there was a single outcrossing with a single pointer. It's actually a really interesting story for anyone who geeks out about genetics, and there is a whole page about it here: http://www.luadalmatians.com/

Personally, I am of the opinion that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck. Even if there was an outcross at some point. Our modern idea of "closed" studbooks/breeding is so unnatural to me. In some cases (like the LUA dalmatians) it can be a really beneficial thing for the breed as a whole. Obviously most genetic problems aren't going to be as well understood or have such simple inheritance that outcrossing will have such a dramatic effect, but where it IS that simple and understood, why not? Why did it take so long for those LUA dals to be AKC registerable/showable? Mostly, I think - human ego, sadly. :(
 

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I am all for outcrossing and think eventually we will need to do so. We're boxing ourselves in a corner doing what we're doing and most other animal breeding programs (horses, etc) allow for animals to be registered on merit (or register crosses as certain grades, etc) and thus for outcrossing to happen to some extent. Some working breed registries allow this too- if a dog can perform to the breed standards then it is registered regardless of origin. This happened in border collies with some beardies. Turnbull Blue registered on merit as a border collie.

WIll it eliminate all problems? No, but genetic diversity is very very beneficial to any population. Some of our breeds started on a very tiny number of dogs or were recreated from a very tiny number of dogs. It is not sustainable long-term.
 

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In rabbit showing, as long as the rabbit fits the standard, it can win, whether it had another breed in its recent past or is "purebred". There really isn't much emphasis on being "purebred", though people will look at pedigrees of course for buying and breeding. I'm a fan of that method. I don't think being "purebred" is nearly as important as having the correct type/conformation, and fitting the temperament and working standards of the breed. Who cares if there is an outcross somewhere in the pedigree?

I think some of the resistence comes from outdated genetic thinking about what happens when you mix dissimilar dogs. In a Welshie book from the '90s, the author says she believes some ESS were crossed in early in the 1900s, because we started seeing dogs with darker red coats. What she is missing is that the liver that ESS comes in is a different color than the red of the Welsh. Breeding a liver dog to a red dog does not result in darker red by blending the colors - that's not how genetics works.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I am fine with outcrossing in theory. If we could really improve health and widen the gene pool, I think that would be great.

Practically I think it's much more difficult. What breed do you outcross with? Most similar breeds have the same health problems and fairly related gene pools. Many breeds have very small effective gene pools, despite having large population sizes (like Golden Retrievers). It would take a lot of knowledge to do well. I think what was done in dalmatians was pretty great, and if there are other fairly "easy" projects like that, I would stand behind them. But how do you eliminate cancer in flat coats, for example? Similar breeds typically have the same problems with cancer because they come from the same origins.
Yes, it would of course need to be done very carefully. But while it is true that similar breeds do have similar health problems, outcrossing to a similar breed wouldn't be the only option; I read that in Germany, in an attempt to save the Nova Scotia Tolling Retriever (which apparently has a very limited gene pool and is a generally unhealthy breed), they were outcrossed with Australian Shepherds and Welsh Springer Spaniels. I haven't been able to find recent sources so I don't know if the puppies, which were born in 2011 and 2012, have been backcrossed yet, though.
 

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Yes, it would of course need to be done very carefully. But while it is true that similar breeds do have similar health problems, outcrossing to a similar breed wouldn't be the only option; I read that in Germany, in an attempt to save the Nova Scotia Tolling Retriever (which apparently has a very limited gene pool and is a generally unhealthy breed), they were outcrossed with Australian Shepherds and Welsh Springer Spaniels. I haven't been able to find recent sources so I don't know if the puppies, which were born in 2011 and 2012, have been backcrossed yet, though.
That's pretty cool.

I do worry about my own breed, being rare and having a small gene pool, so I'm glad to hear people are working on it.
 

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They did some outcrossing in clumbers in Sweden (I believe or maybe Finland?). The breed could not pass the health requirements for their kennel club to be bred. So they out crossed to a working English cocker spaniel an it was only a couple generations before the outcrosses were judged against the standard and allowed to register as purebreds. It was hard to glean information about it though as nothing was in English.
 

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Another interesting breeding was I think in England where they wanted Boxers with short tails so they were outcrossed to a Corgi and eventually the offspring were registered Boxers born with short tails. I know it was not done for health but shows what can be done with outcrosses.
 

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Another interesting breeding was I think in England where they wanted Boxers with short tails so they were outcrossed to a Corgi and eventually the offspring were registered Boxers born with short tails. I know it was not done for health but shows what can be done with outcrosses.
And such such dissimilar breeds!

I think outcrossing is totally fine, as long as it ticks all the other 'responsible breeder' boxes like health, temperament and good homes. From my very preliminary understanding of genetics it seems inevitable to me as well. Closed stud books are a problem, but so is the "best to the best" idea where so few dogs of any given breed are bred. Its good in the short term to weed out health issues and conformation issues but you are still losing diversity. Its pretty well accepted in other species that a closed and shrinking gene pool is disastrous, dogs are no different. We don't need to do away with standards either as people might worry, I think the solution of merit, conformation and working ability to register as a breed is a good one.
 

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Indeed, while health testing both parents in a breeding is done to ensure healthy pups, by limiting the amount of dogs allowed to breed (the selection being based on health, comformity to standard, etc.), we are limiting the gene pool, making it more heterogeneous, and thus making the risk of genetically inherited illnesses higher.
First a small correction, though I know that's probably what you meant in the first place: you mean 'homogeneous' (homo = the same, hetero = different). ;)

With that out of the way: YAY for outcrossing!

In my opinion everything with a closed gene pool is like a time bomb. Genetic variation is a must for survival of a species. That is a fact.

I like to compare it like this:
Let's say you went to a lake and from all the fish you can find in there, you pick only a couple fish that you like the look of and you put them in a pond in your backyard (that, for example's sake, can be home to any number of fish). You let them breed and as the generations pass all fish start to look pretty much identical. At some point the number of fish goes down: their life expectancy decreases and strange mutations start to appear. It goes slowly at first, but as time goes by the rate goes up. Fewer fish are being spawned and eventually a dead end is reached. The small population of fish has become infertile and goes extinct.

Basically, this is a simplified small scale example of what's happening to dog breeds. I've attended several seminars on dog breed genetics and I know that there are several breeds that are in the final stages mentioned in my example above that come before extinction. The Saarloos wolfhond comes to mind. The inbreeding coefficient is over 50% in that population and the dogs are becoming infertile. Beautiful dogs, but doomed if nothing changes soon.

According to renowned Dutch geneticist Ed Gubbels, the stubborn belief that everything should be as it has always been, an unwillingness to change, is what will be the demise of purebred dogs. That, and politics, and of course the everlasting finger pointing, is standing in the way of progress.

I'm all for outcross, if done responsibly of course. Health testing is great, but not the solution in and of itself. (Ed Gubbels called it a bandaid; the damage is already done and now you're trying to staunch the bleeding)

I agree with you Whistlejacket; if gene pools aren't expanded, you're only cutting away more genetic material if all you do is health test and that's not productive for the future of a breed.

Of course not all breeds are in bad shape, but imo there are definitely a couple of breeds that would benefit from outcrossing. In fact, I think some breeds are in dire need of outcrossing.

However, I do think the system that's in place at this time is insufficient and won't be able to carry dog breeds into the future. I think there needs to be less emphasis on 'purity', but I know that will require a vastly different way of thinking that will likely never be accepted by the purebred dog fancy.
 

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I am for out crossing in certain breeds, i do think some breeds have enough diversity within their own breed to fix themselves, i am also under the unpopular belief that maybe some breeds could just go extinct
 

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I read somewhere that several cat breeds have such small gene pools that the breeds will no longer exist in 20 years. Now, cat breeds are mostly based on random mutations, so they generally started with a small gene pool in the beginning, so that's no surprise really. And it'll probably take a lot longer for the majority of dog breeds to get that far gone. But yeah. Small gene pools are trouble. Just ask people in Iceland ;).
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
First a small correction, though I know that's probably what you meant in the first place: you mean 'homogeneous' (homo = the same, hetero = different). ;)
Whoops, you are right! I actually know the difference between homo and hetero but for some reason I mixed them up >__<' Thanks for pointing it out!

I otherwise agree with what you wrote. And there are in fact more than a few breeds where outcrossing is, in my opinion, a necessity: tollers, flat-coats, cavalier king charles spaniels, Bernese mountain dogs come to mind, though I'm sure there are unfortunately many more that could benefit from some new blood.
 

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I am for out crossing in certain breeds, i do think some breeds have enough diversity within their own breed to fix themselves, i am also under the unpopular belief that maybe some breeds could just go extinct


I think we can definitely see improvement in some breeds while staying within the genepool but that will be a short term fix. With a closed studbook you are always gradually reducing genetic diversity and losing some genetic material (even if small) over every generation.

It puts me at a conundrum to be honest. I LOVE purebred dogs. Love the predictability of them and knowing lineages and health. I am not sure what the best way to maintain that kind of predictability while still looking at long term health and diversity. I feel like most dog breeding is an incredibly short term approach.
 

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In my breed, probably due to how young the breed is, we still have distinct unrelated bloodlines. If anything tragic started showing up in one bloodline it could be outcrossed to another to try and correct the problem. I am also in favor of crossing to different breeds to correct serious issues that the working population is homogeneous for.
 

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I remember reading somewhere that the Saint Bernard was once upon a time in trouble (going extinct) so the monks outcrossed them with Newfies to bring up the population and to give them a thicker coat. The coat part backfired as the longer coated Saints would have ice buildup and if a long haired Saint is born now it's considered an old throwback to a Newfie.


Edit, I kinda like outcrossing if it saves or fixes a population
 
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