Posts Tagged ‘closed registry’

I find these every once in a while.  Here is a pedigree of a golden named Lady Betty. I know nothing of her golden retriever ancestors, and they aren’t mentioned in her pedigree either. However her black ancestors are known to every flat-coat historian.  Ch’s Black Drake, Darenth, and Black Queen all appear in the pedigree. When I go back through Black Drake, I find that he had Ch. Moonstone as a great grandsire. Moonstone carried the gene for yellow or red, because when he was bred to his dam, that breeding produced one red puppy named Foxcote. This might explain why a breeding between a descendant of Moonstone might be bred to a golden to produce a golden puppy. Moonstone’s litter brother, Tracer, was bred into the line kept at Guisachan– for obvious reasons!


Ch. Black Drake



Ch. Black Queen

Ch. Moonstone, an influential black flat-coat champion who produced at least one red puppy named Foxcote, when bred to his mother.


All of these dogs were black, but they did play a role in founding the golden retriever. They didn’t have closed registries back then, and even though there was a lot of line-breeding and inbreeding, they didn’t have the two breeds separate as they are today.

Goldens have black dogs in their pedigrees. These were some of the elite in flat-coated retriever history.

And some of their descendants were blonds and red-heads– and became a separate breed.

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No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

–Albert Einstein

With the discussion that has happened on this blog, Border Wars, and DesertWindHounds about inbreeding, dog health, and closed registries,. some have asked me what we should do about it.

Yes. The problems with dogs in this regard are mostly systemic, and systemic problems have certain issues associated with them.

One of these is that systemic problems are often hard to observe. If something has been accepted as virtuous for a very long, then it may be difficult for anyone but total outsiders to see anything wrong with them. I am certain that this is the case with most dog issues, because the Western dog fancy has been around for about 150 years. No can remember when the values of the fancy were established, and very few question whether these values are good. If you do, another aspect of systemic problems comes to the fore.

Systemic problems exist because systems have ways of reinforcing themselves. It is more like the indoctrination system of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. People are simply conditioned to accept certain negative things as good. The best example of this is blood purity for blood purity’s sake it. It is one religious tenant that cannot be touched. It even supplants reason.

And that’s another problem: reason often doesn’t matter when dealing with systemic problems. The values that maintain the system are very much against those who question. Even harsher measures are used against those who actually do something about the problems they see.

These problems are big. They are almost impossible for the average dog owner to see anyway of combating them.

That’s why so many people get involved in rescue.  Dog rescue does have some inherent problems, but in general, it is nothing quite like the issues surrounding the closed registry problem.

And there is nothing wrong with getting involved in rescue. Each person should participate where one feels most comfortable.

However, the dog owning public can do lots of things to help bring about reform.

One thing should always be understood: The closed registry system is moribund. The AKC has declining registrations year after year. It is on its way out, unless it begins to reform. (Which is unlikely.)

There are other registries, but some of them are nothing more than paper mills. I know of a few that if you breed a jaguar to a dog, I bet they’d register the hybrids. Those registries are not inherently good. They are nothing more than paper mills, and they are part and parcel of the mass production industry. They are not the solution to this problem.

So now that we know that the big institutions that exist to promote the fancy are in trouble, I don’t think we need to waste much more breath criticizing them. Jess does particularly good job at exposing some of the weird belief system that exist within her chosen breeds, and the more those get exposed, the less likely new dog owners are going to pay attention to them.

Logic and reason are your friends in dealing with this mess. Follow this advice from Daria Morgendorffer (I’m dating myself, I know):

Stand firm for what you believe in, until and unless logic and experience prove you wrong. Remember, when the emperor looks naked, the emperor is naked.

Now, use logic and reason when you enter the marketplace in search of a new dog.   Look for breeders who understand issues related to genetic diversity and the long-term health of their breeds or types. You will find that this is a bit harder than using logic and reason, but they do exist. That is because even breeders of working breeds often have a poor understing of population genetics.

That is how the market will sort some of this out.

But the market alone won’t save it. Markets can only work so long as people are informed. My suggestion is that everyone try to get as many people as possible to read the posts Jess and Christopher have put up about inbreeding and closed registries. Those are all very readable. I would also suggest that everyone take a look at The Canine Diversity Project. Some of the links don’t work, but it still a great source for information.

Truth does not set us free. But it is a good first step.

If one has the resources and time, it is probably a good idea for one to consider participating as a breeder. Now, to be a breeder who intentionally produces for genetic diversity is to be really a “man (or woman) in the arena.”  But we need more people breeding dogs. I know that sounds counterintuitive and is against almost all the things we hear from various welfare organizations and breed clubs. However, the only way to increase genetic diversity for the long term health of dogs is to have more dogs breeding– and more people need to be breeders.

Unfortunately, many dog people are simply unaware for the problems that can result from a paucity of genetic diversity. The various cultures do not reward diversity. They reward conformity. They reward top producing sires, and when a male dog excels in some area, everyone wants to breed from him.

If the cultures at large don’t reward diversity, then it is up to consumers to solve the problem. Many people are uncomfortable with this solution, but because the issues with each individual dog population are different and because different breeders have different approaches to solving these problems, we cannot ethically legislate them away.

In the end, all of these problems will be solved. The information continues to flow freely on the internet. People are openly questioning things. The response that these genetic diversity posts have been getting from all three blogs shows that the dog-loving public is deeply concerned.

I don’t think anyone wants to harm dogs, but that which has existed before has been harmful. To think that we can solve these problems without making big systemic changes is a delusion, and it is why I included the Einstein quote at the top of this post. I don’t think we can solve these problems with the current registry systems we have, whether it be the AKC or the ABCA.

And that’s a hard thing to say.

And even harder thing to change.

But people want something better. We just have to work together to find ways of getting there. We have to use what we can to disseminate information and push for reform. If we all keep pushing a little bit, we will get there.

In the past months, I think I can safely say that a large enough percentage of the dog loving public is questioning these issues that we can begin to see things change. People are looking for answers. I don’t have all of them. No one does.

We have to work together to find those answers.

I’m confident that we’ll do it.


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The post with the thread that never ends spilled over onto Querencia, where Stephen Bodio quotes Jess’s commentary on that post and the same sort of debate ensued. The debate also moved onto discussing whether we need stricter breeder regulation. It seems that various breeder regulations are being used by the various self-appointed mandarins to harass those who deviate.

Jess recently experienced how far these mandarins will go to cause trouble when the Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club (of the UK) published quotes from her blogs and online commentary in an article  in their publication, The Saluki. They didn’t ask her for her views, but they did manage to publish her e-mail address!

Why can’t we all just get along?

If we can’t have a rational discussion about genetic diversity within the various contrived genetic bottlenecks we call breeds and if all people who deviate from the norms get this sort of treatment, then I don’t think we’re going to get along.

And we shouldn’t.

I don’t care what people do with their lines.

I do care when various pseudo-scientific bromides are used to justify practices and to pillory those who are using science to ensure that their beloved animals remain viable and healthy.

It should be up to consumers to decide which dogs they want, and as consumers, they should be privy to all the knowledge about genetic diversity issues.

But they very often aren’t, and on the ‘net and as a meme within the dog culture, inbreeding is often defended.

And it can be defended, provided one has access to new blood.

Which is exactly what is being denied in the closed registry system.

And now we’re back to where we were.

No way we can get along.


Oh and here’s a brindle saluki:

Brindle, for some weird reasons, is controversial in salukis.

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What mechanism drives the popular sire effect?

The answer is complex, but in the end, it can be reduced to two simple quests:

Breed for superman and breed from superman.

One of the most interesting factors that drives the most used sire effect is something called “prepotency.”  That’s the ability of a sire to produce quality offspring over a wide range dams. The only way to prove this ability is to breed to as many dams as possible.

On the Border Wars blog, Christopher Landauer, explains that

[t]he greater theory of Prepotency is bunk: that superman sires should be able to overcome any problems in the dam, ideally the female being but a vessel to produce perfect copies of the sire.  What isn’t bunk is the very real effect of rising homozygosity: the more homozygous the parent, the less variation in genes passed along to the offspring.

The culture celebrates stud dogs. Simply because a males can have many, many more offspring that females, sire have a greater influence on the gene pools than dams do. If one has a great stud dog that has superior traits in either phenotype or behavior, one has the ability to affect the greater development of the breed as a whole.

The owner of a good stud dog has great power, and with this power comes responsibility.

As a whole, this problem has not really been given careful consideration within the various fiefdoms, principalities, and cliques with the greater dog culture.

The goal is to produce that superman dog. One that has such superior traits in whatever utility he is needed for and to have him replicate those traits when bred to so many different bitches.

That is where power comes from within these dog culture systems.

If you have a stud dog that is totally awesome, one can really control the breed–for more than just the present generation.

Top producing sires are quite feted, at least within the AKC system. (Here’s the record for AKC St. Bernard sires. The healthiest breed ever, right?)

That is a problem.

So how are we going to solve this problem of the popular sires?

There are some answers, but they are almost all contrary to the prevailing wisdom and cultural mores inherent within these systems.

Line-breeding and inbreeding are the best ways to produce offspring that are relatively similar in whatever way one desires.

It takes a bit more skill to produce the exact qualities in more heterozygous stock.

And we can’t mention the idea that we might want to open registries to allow new blood in.

That idea is either universally p00-pooed as it is in the big multi-breed registries or  given lip service as it is in the JRTCA and ABCA, which are, for all intents and purposes, Potemkin open registries.

The only real open system with dogs is one that exists for racing sled dogs, which doesn’t even have a central registry system. You simply breed what runs hard and long  in very cold conditions with what runs long and hard in cold conditions. That really doesn’t exist anywhere else in the greater dog culture, although the feists and curs still exist within something like it, even as they are all being standardized into breeds.

Domestic dogs possess great genetic diversity. However, in the West, it has been sequestered into various breeds or strains. (In the East, well, as we have seen in China and Japan, they have simply adopted the Western system.)

Besides opening the registries, we have lots of things we could do but are so politically impossible to do on a large scale.

The notion that we should really worry about how genetically diverse the various bloodlines are is simply a major affront to the prevailing wisdom.

Diversity means less predictability.

I have read dozens of dog books that extol the main virtue of the purebred dog: we know what we’re getting when we pick a certain breed.

That means that somewhere there must exist a happy medium between preserving genetic diversity and producing dogs that have a relatively consistent phenotype and temperament.

I think the answer may lie with the boxer/corgi hybridization program. There a naturally bob-tailed corgi was bred to white boxer. And within just a few generations of breeding back, dogs were produced that looked and acted just like boxer. But they had natural bobtails. (With country after country banning tail docking, is this really such a stupid thing to consider?)

If a breeder can do that with two breeds that are as different as boxers and Pembroke corgis, then one surely would be able to produce a consistent phenotype  and behavior with the use of two similar breeds.

Just a little variance on just a few genes separates the different dog breeds. It is one reason why dogs change type over just a very short period of time. It is also why wild wolves vary so much in appearance and have always done so.

But it is hard to think like this, when the culture is all about breeding for superman and breeding from superman.

To have a superman means that one’s breeding program is immortal.

To breed from a superman means that one gets a bit of the super gene and over time, the breed will become more consistent in type and temperament.

Until the inbreeding depression sets in.

But that’s as long way off.

It is better to have results as soon as possible. That’s how one wins. That’s how one gets closer to immortality within the breed.

This is the quickest and surest way.

The other way, well, that requires a  some more work, a little bit more study, and lot more commitment to actually produce. It requires tolerating some variance and maybe a bit of mediocrity to reach a better goal.

It is not a short-cut. It is the harder way.

Which is why the number of breeders who actually consider genetic is actually quite low.

It’s not the fastest way to breed for superman.


Everyone should check out that post at Border Wars, not just for the discussion of prepotency, but for the really good graphics that explain what inbreeding is and what it does to the population.

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If one looks at the basenji, one sees what should be a tough little dog, free of exaggeration in conformation or type. It looks like it had been entirely selected by the processes of natural selection.

Although capable of barking, it very rarely does so, and when it does, it is just a short little woof. In this regard, it is very much like the wolf or the dingo.  The bitches have one heat cycle per year.

It is almost like a wild animal, so one would think that there wouldn’t have been a healthier breed to own.

Unfortunately, all that you have just read is nothing more than an appeal to nature fallacy. All the natural appearances are superficial.

Basenjis in the West are just like any other breed of dog. They have a limited number of foundational sires, and when one gets involved in producing quality dogs for the show ring, the tendency is to use just a few members of the population to produce offspring. With a closed studbook, all sorts of new hereditary problems began to surface.

But unlike other breeds of dog, the basenji started out with a very small population in the West.  Just 18 or 19 dogs founded the original basenji population. That is a pathetically small number on which to found an entire breed.

By the late 1980’s, basenjis were in a lot of trouble. In 1989, Dr. Russell Brown of Virginia Commonwealth University sent a letter to the AKC Board explaining why the basenji needed to have its studbook reopened.

The AKC eventually opened the studbook to allow new blood to be imported from the Congo. This is actually where the brindle coloration that has popped up in the basenji came from.

It is often mentioned that basenjis are quite common in Africa. One must be careful with such assertions, because basenjis have peculiar traits that are actually not that common in the African pariah dog population. This needs to be repeated, for there are assumptions that just about African village dog with prick ears and a curled tail is a basenji.

It ain’t so.

This is not a contrived breed. It’s not like the West Highland white terrier, the golden retriever, and the Norfolk terrier, which have all been separated from their closest relatives on what amounts to little more than superficial reasons.

This is an actual landrace that is native to Central Africa. It may superficially resemble other pariah dogs that are found in other parts of Africa.

But those dogs bark a lot and the bitches have two heat cycles per year. From what I’ve seen, most of these dogs really don’t have the curled tails of the show basenji or even loosely curled tails that one sometimes sees on African basenjis.

Any population of dogs that rarely barks and has but one heat cycle per year is clearly different from other dogs, no matter how one looks at it. These dogs are physically and behaviorally unique.

To rejuvenate the bloodline, African dogs indeed were allowed in. These dogs had the same traits that we associate with dogs of this type, and some of the health problems are indeed being mitigated.

But what the basenji story actually tells us is what happens when we allow just a tiny population of dogs to found a breed and then close off the studbook.

Basenjis were nearly ruined through such an extreme genetic bottleneck. They may yet be redeemed through these African imports. I certainly hope so, for the basenji is such a unique dog that I think it is very much worth preserving.

Its unique characteristics give us insight into what the early dogs might have been like. The inheritance of its barklessness was actually tested by Fuller and Scott, when they crossed basenjis with cocker spaniels. It turned out that barking was a dominant trait, but the number of barks that a basenji/cocker will give is still somewhat lower than that of a pure cocker. That study suggested that the constant barking trait that so characterizes other dogs could have easily been transmitted through the populations of domestic dogs very early on.

And all of these genetic disorders certainly do give us something else to examine.

The African dogs lived very well for thousands of years. They evolved to fit a particular task and a particular climate. But when our dog culture picked them up, things just didn’t turn out that well.

Maybe the future will be better for these African “barkless dogs.” But we have to be very careful about these registries. We don’t need to ensure the genetic viability and general health of all of these dogs. We have to start thinking in such a way for all of these dog breeds.

If we don’t, the potential exists for even more problems like the basenji was facing in the 1980’s. In fact, this potential is almost a certainty if we don’t starting thinking differently.

Dogs are organisms, but our cultural backage winds up having major effects upon them, whether we like it or not. Our inability to understand them as organism with need for sustainable gene pools is a major problem for the long term viability of the domesticated form of C. lupus.

If we could just start thinking this way, maybe we could have a better future for dogs.

But we have to change our dog culture, and that is going to take time.


Basenjis are hardly the most extreme case. The Norwegian lundehunds (the polydactyl puffin hunting dogs) are derived from just six dogs that survived a distemper outbreak that happened during the Second World War. All of these dogs have the genetics to develop an extremely debilitating set of digestive disorders called lundehund gastroenteropathy in which digestive bacteria grow out of control, preventing the dogs from deriving nutrients from food.  Some dogs never develop symptoms, but others eat and eat and never get enough nutrients.

Open registries are not the solution for all problems solving dogs. Lots of things have to be done to solve these problems. Opening registries alone will not save them in the end. However, if we don’t open them, we will be doing very little to solve the macro-level problems that are making breed after breed less healthy.

The registry issue is systemic, which means that it is sometimes harder for people to understand. It is also the biggest sacred cow in the fancy– purity for purity’s sake. To even suggest that this problem is the greater systemic problem in dogs is a great heresy.

But not everyone in the fancy is entirely in love with it. I think the number of people who love dogs as dogs in the fancy is much larger than you might assume from reading this blog or others.

Within the fancy itself, there are people who want something better and who are articulating it and pushing for it.

Bit by bit, change will come.

For those of you who want a better future for dogs, please know that you’re not alone. It’s starting to happen.

In the public consciousness, the AKC doesn’t mean what it once it did. When people think AKC, they think of unhealthy purebred dogs. It doesn’t mean golden. It means gilded.

That’s a major branding problem.

It’s one I’m sure the AKC doesn’t want to have.

It’s also why the AKC is losing out market share the paper mill registries. If the AKC is just a paper mill, then why can’t Jim Bob down the road start his own?

In the end, we have no quality control or consumer protection institution for dogs in the United States.

We are lost.

We have to do this research for ourselves, which, thanks to Google, means that it isn’t as hard as it once was.

But I still think we need some kind of body, even at the breed and function-based level, to have some sort of regulating or quality control influence over breeders. I’m not in favor of new laws. I’m in favor of a better system in which dog people regulate themselves.

We need an open registry system, but we don’t need one in which people are inclined to do crazy crosses just for the hell of it.

And that’s my dilemma.


In case you were getting ready to dispute me on whether basenjis can bark:


I wonder whether living around “normal” dogs has any effect on that behavior. I remember reading about some wild-caught wolves that were kept in a kennel with lots of barking domestic dogs. The younger wolves in the pack started barking like dogs.

Barking does have a learned component to it. I knew a Dalmatian that joined a household that included a mongrel beagle. This beagle had a tendency to great everyone with a baying howl.

After about two weeks, the Dalmatian was trying to make that noise– very unsuccessfully.

Maybe some basenjis are learning let loose a few barks here and there  just to fit in.

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About half of all Tristanians have asthma.

It has a genetic basis, as you’ll see in the film.

What happened here is a good example of the founder effect. A high proportion of the original settlers had asthma, and because the settlers have intermarried, a very high percentage of the population have asthma.

This is actually not that different from what we’ve done with domestic dogs.

But instead of putting them on an isolated island that has little access to new bloodlines, we have made a closed registry system. In effect, the closed registry system is like setting up hundreds of Tristan da Cunhas.

If human populations were all like Tristan da Cunha, we’d be in a lot of misery. Each population would be highly susceptible to all sorts of diseases. Each would probably have its own disease. It wold be very bad for us.

Yet we seem to think it is perfectly fine for domestic dogs.

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Because I’m getting lots of comments from people who don’t get it, I’m posting  a link to this again.

This isn’t sensationalized journalism. Of course, if you don’t like the message, you’ll say everything to tarnish the message and the messenger.

Hey, I’m in politics. I get it.

When you give a hit, you’d better be prepared to take one.

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Earlier this month, ABC’s Nightline featured a story about the problems in purebred dogs. I covered it here.

Unlike their British counterpart, the American dog fancy spammed the heck out of the comments section on the ABC New article.

Now, I’m in political science (at least partially. If anyone would like a Democratic campaign consultant– I can be of some use. )

Whenever you see lots of the same comments in a letters to the editor section of a newsaper or lots of the same comments on a youtube video or blogpost, you know there is a concerted effort at PR.  It is very instructive that many of the people placing these comments are using the same logic and invective against the reporter, ABC news, and everyone featured in that piece.  This similarity in their comments means that the fancy’s main people have given the breeders some sort of talking points.

The Kennel Club (of the United Kingdom) did not have good PR professionals working for its interests. I can’t believe the president of that particular club actually agreed to be interviewed in Pedigree Dogs Exposed. The  journalists who worked that program not only interviewed the KC’s upper echelon, they had extensive interviews. And as a result, the KC people could not effectively manage the crisis. That’s why this program has been so successful in building the outcry for kennel club reform in that country.

The AKC refused to appear in the ABC segment. That was a smart move from a PR perspective. The AKC can stay out of it. It can call the report biased.  Just more animal rights extremism.

And then, in wave two, they get their legions of loyal breeders to spam and troll any blog post that features this story, although they have not frequented this blog.

Remember, the mainstream media in this country is a wonderful political football for partisans of all stripes. And here I’m not just talking about the politics as we typically talk about it. Dogs are political. Dogs have lots of money tied up in them, and there are strong institutions that work within the world of dogs.  We all know that institutions are mostly about credibility, and these institutions will do anything to protect themselves from losing credibility. With credibility comes power. Reduction in credibility reduces powers. Having no credibility means you’ll cease to exist.

And that’s the war that all PR professionals fight.  The PR people working for the AKC are doing quite well at preserving the institutional legitimacy of that institution.

They are not falling into same trap that the KC fell for.

However, good PR works only so long as a spin can be made, and in twenty years, it is likely the number of dog breeds severely damaged by such practices will reach a level that far more people will be demanding reforms. After all, PR can only spin facts. It cannot change them.

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