Dog breeders are often concerned about one thing: producing winners. They want to ensure they'll be able to sell cute puppies to their customers at a decent price. But the reality is, purebred dogs come from inbreeding, and the dog inbreeding effects can be disastrous when it comes to dogs' health. Mating a mother dog with a son may produce a physically appealing pup, but it could have numerous health issues and end up costing the owner a lot of money, time, energy, and heartache.
How dogs are bred
Dog breeders have been around for about 4,000 years, breeding dogs that have specific physical characteristics as well as personality traits. For example, they have bred sheepdogs to be excellent at rounding up sheep, and Cavalier King Charles spaniels to have droopy ears and soft fur. Over time, people have desired certain characteristics more and more, which led to inbreeding and line breeding.
Inbreeding is a form of breeding where two dogs that are closely related to each other and share similar DNA will be matched up. This would include breeding a mom with a son, or breeding siblings or cousins with one another. Line breeding, another form of breeding, involves matching two dogs that are both related to one specific ancestor, however, they are not closely related to one another.
Line breeding and especially inbreeding of close relatives have their share of risks. Breeders must weigh out the pros and cons when deciding how to make a match. If they inbreed two related dogs, they could produce puppies with desirable physical traits, and, perhaps, no problems will occur. However, they could also cause a number of physical issues and medical problems should something go wrong, which is much more likely with inbreeding.
Desirable and undesirable genetic traits
Sometimes, when considering breeding a mom and a son or other dog relatives together, breeders want the mutated genetic traits to be passed on. For example, the Shar-Pei breed gets its signature wrinkles from a genetic mutation. People liked that about the dog, so breeders responded by doing more inbreeding of them.
Another example is the French bulldog, which is known for its very cute face and body, as well as its numerous health issues. Breeders are practicing inbreeding with the dog, and it's having a range of problems from respiratory disorders to chronic eye, skin, and digestive illnesses. The dog may look appealing, but this type of breeding is hurting them.
Oftentimes, breeders will take one male dog that has won a number of championships, and then try to spread his genes as widely as possible to get those "winner" traits into other dogs. This is called "popular sire syndrome." Even if the dog looks like a winner on the outside, his genes could actually be of poor quality because of inbreeding or line breeding. This is why it's important to look at a dog's ancestral line and not just basing a purchase off a dog's appearance.
Breeding a mom and son
Undesirable genetic traits, like health issues, are much more likely to arise when two dogs are closely related. Breeding a mom and son is risky because the two may have recessive genes that their offspring inherit. When an owner buys a pup that has been inbred, that owner will likely find themselves at the veterinarian more often to deal with the medical problems that are coming up.
Inbreeding will, many times, lead to a dog having a shorter life, or, at the very least, a worse quality of life. Some disorders that can come about from breeding a mom and a son include progressive retinal atrophy, multidrug sensitivity, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, urinary bladder stones, von Willebrand's disease and Collie eye anomaly.
Some of these disorders will require drugs to keep a dog going, while others may call for surgery. Some genetic disorders are fatal and may cause an early death, and others can be dealt with by keeping a dog in good health and going to the veterinarian on a regular basis.
Responsible dog breeding
Instead of line breeding dogs and seeing the negative dog inbreeding effects, breeders can simply follow responsible practices. This includes not breeding a mom and son or any other relatives, and instead matching up dogs of the same (or different) breeds that have the desired genetic and physical traits.
Responsible breeders will take the time to devote themselves to the study of the breed. They will become experts on a certain breed as well as study up on American Kennel Club requirements for a purebred dog. They will go to events for breeders, like dog shows, and connect with one another to ask for tips and guidance. They will not breed simply to earn a living or to produce as many dogs as possible, but instead, to give their customers healthy, loving, desirable pups.
Good breeders will go to dog shows to see how their pups stack up to the best in show, and then aim to breed out the undesirable traits — physical appearance and health-wise — and breed more dogs with desirable traits. They will read up on how to take care of pups, and ensure they are 100% healthy before selling them to their new owners.
Buying a dog
Along with making sure breeders are responsible, anyone who buys a dog must practice responsible purchasing. They should only buy pups from breeders with a solid reputation, and avoid pet shops at all costs, since they typically procure dogs from unhealthy puppy mills. These puppy mills do not have the ideal conditions for raising puppies, and can be breeding grounds for disease.
The AKC Marketplace PuppyFinder is where owners can find AKC-certified puppies from responsible breeders. Owners need to ask their breeders for at least two references from other customers, as well as visit the breeding facilities in person to see that the dogs are being treated well. Looking at a puppy's parents is going to tell owners a lot about who they are purchasing from.
It's also important to have a document that shows a puppy's pedigree and line of ancestors. It should have the AKC logo on it. The papers should be given at the time of purchase to prove that a puppy is truly certified by the AKC.
- AKC: AKC’s Guide to Responsible Dog Breeding
- Institute of Canine Biology: Lush on Linebreeding
- National Geographic: Are We Loving French Bulldogs to Death?
- JAVMA: Study reveals genetic diseases of mixed-breed, purebred dogs
- AKC: 9 Tips for Finding and Working With a Responsible Breeder
- Huffington Post: How Our Dog Obsession May Actually Be Making Their Lives Miserable