Saturday, 9 July 2011

It's not a show Dogslife...

Give the researchers a helping paw, eh?
One of the big claims by show breeders is that they are the ones that contribute money and dogs to the research into inherited disease. And that is undoubtedly often true. But where the hell are they on the Dogslife project - the innovative epidemiological study of Labradors funded (to the not inconsiderable tune of £100,000) by the Kennel Club?

Dogslife, based at the Royal Dick Vet School in Edinburgh, has now recruited some 1,400 Labradors into the study - far short of the 20,000 they hoped for when they announced the project, but still enough to be useful research-wise.  But, a year into the project, and according to data recently released, a pitiful number of Labradors owned by show breeders have been recruited  - despite the project being very well publicised on the Labrador forums.

"We have been collecting data from Dogslife members for nearly a year, and some trends are already emerging. Interestingly, when participants tell us what the main reason for owning their dog is, most own their Labrador Retriever as a pet (87%), rather than for working (9%), breeding or showing (3%), or other (1%)" says DogsLife in its recent research update.

This translates as:

Pet owners: 1218 dogs
Working owners: 126 dogs
Breeders/exhibitors: 48 dogs

So come on show-breeders - enrol your Labs!

Any UK Labrador born after 1st January 2010 is eligible for the study which hopes to answer all kinds of interesting questions about environment, diet and disease.

Registration details here


  1. When will you realise that there is no such thing as a 'show breeder?' Anyone who breeds a litter and shows is very fortunate if one or two of the litter are bought as pets that are shown. Usually the puppies go to pet homes.
    The difference between a pet home and a show home is minute. Showing a dog means we share our hobbies and lifestyle with our dogs which includes attending dog shows. At the most this is once per week spread out over a year, but very few people attend that many shows.
    Pet homes mean the dogs possibly do not go to organised events with their owners. There again many pet dogs attend agility, obedience or other hobby clubs for dogs and their owners or belong to walking groups and charity groups such as PAT dogs.
    Your trying to split 'show dogs' from any other group of dogs has very blurred edges.

  2. Nonsense. If there was no such thing as a 'show' breeder, then 'show' breeders wouldn't go to such lengths to separate themselves from other types of breeders. Like pet breeders. After all, even if most pups from a litter go to pet homes, it's an insult for a 'show' breeder to be called a 'pet' breeder, isn't it? Breeding just to produce pets is considered unethical, there must be a higher calling, like showing, or sport, or work, to 'responsibly' put a litter on the ground.

    Dogslife sounds like a fabulous idea and I wish the AKC would do something like it, coordinated with the breed clubs.

  3. agreed ! - the main reason for owning my dogs is as pets - they also happen to take part in some of the canine hobbies I enjoy such as showing, agility and therapy work but if asked how I veid them I'd most certainly say they were my pets .

    I think Jemima you are trying to do a bit of landscaping here ( making mountains out of molehills !! )

  4. Are you deliberately misunderstanding the point? Only 3% of the dogs in the survey are breeding dogs. That means that almost no breeders at all--show or otherwise--responded to the survey. The vast majority of respondents so far have been pet owners.

  5. no not misunderstanding the point at all - just emphasising the fact that most show folk view
    " the main reason for owning their dogs " as pets first and foremost and are likely to be included in the 1218 'pet owning' respondents - just as those who use their dogs for agility , therapy work, heelwork to music etc etc first and foremost share their lives with their dogs as much loved PETS !

    "Only 3% of the dogs in the survey are breeding dogs. That means that almost no breeders at all"

    I'm a breeder - but in response to the question " when participants tell us what the MAIN reason for owning their dog is, " I would not say their primary purpose is for breeding ( because it's not ! ) - it's quite probable that Lab breeders also would not view this as their main reason for owning their dogs too so their involvement in the scheme would also come under the 'pet owning' heading.

    Of course this does not fit into the 'lets bash show breeders' agenda but don't let a little thing like the truth stand in your way ! .

  6. Bijou, I checked with three show-breeder friends - whose dogs live in the house and are pets, too - about how they would categorise themselves given the options above, and they all (independently) said they would say they were breeders/exhibitors rather than pet owners, hence why I felt it was fair enough to make the above point that not many had contributed.

  7. Ok - then ask the question on a site that has loads of exhibitor/breeders ( like Champdogs) - I'd be willing to bet that most have the same view as me i.e that our dogs are primarily our pets and companions

  8. If you are a breeder, then the dogs you are currently breeding are breeding dogs--not pets. I suppose any dogs you have which are spayed and neutered could be considered pet dogs, but to list your intact breeding dogs as pets to me seems disingenuous. I know I'd never do it. I might as well say "I'm not a dog breeder--I'm a pet owner who breeds my pets." Um, ok...Wouldn't that make me an evil "backyard breeder" anyway?

  9. Actually, I think Bijou might have a point given how Dogslife has worded its question - and I think it is true that show breeders are more anxious these days to point out that their dogs are loved pets as well as show-dogs.

    Because of this, Dogslife might not be able to differentiate the show population from the purely-pet population - a shame, as otherwise it might have been an ideal opportunity to be able to compare the health of the different populations.

    Whatever, here's hoping more Labrador owners from all walks of life enrol with the study.

  10. By the way, the beutiful boy at the top of this blog is Ronan, a purebred working lab rescued from an Irish pound (about to be PTS) with his brother, Dixon, who has now been rehomed.

    Ronan, about 10 months old now, is currently fostering with us and is still looking for a home. He has some learning still to do but is a very sweet lad, full of kisses

    Details here:

  11. I think it is true that show breeders are more anxious these days to point out that their dogs are loved pets as well as show-dogs.

    Can you prove this comment? What did you do, ask the three 'show breeders' that you know?

    We show people have always treated our dogs as pets first.

    It would suit you to think we have all changed our minds about how we view our dogs but no, it is you that is creating the assumption here.

    we have dogs because we love them. They are part of our family. For many people they are treated like children. Our dogs are not shut away in pokey kennels until they come into season once every sixth months then bred from.

    They share our homes, they share our beds, they share our food and they share our lives. We follow them through their loves with pride, we grieve when they leave us in old age. Our fondest memories are of our departed dogs. A little part of us dies when we say goodbye to an old friend.

    Every so often we take them to a dog show, it is a small part of their lives.

    We take them to visit family, they go on holiday with us, days out with the children include the dogs and many go to work with us. Owners fit their lives around their dogs, giving up full time work so their four legged friends are not left alone. We campaign to raise money for those dogs that do not have good lives. We work on canine committees educating new owners and helping others. We have fun with our dogs and the many friends we made along the way.

    If all that labels us as 'show breeders' I for one am pleased to be one!

    I don't expect my comment to be published on your blog as it represents the views of too many people who breed dogs and attend dog shows.

  12. Why wouldn't I publish it? Most views are totally welcome here.

    I have never once said that many show breeders don't love and care for their dogs - and I'm happy to read about and see all the pictures of your dogs enjoying their lives on the anti-PDE Facebook site.

    The point, as ever, is not how much you love and care for your dogs - it is that the way we breed dogs is injurious to their long-term future - and in the case of dogs bred to conformational extremes, their lives right now.

    So although it's great to see picture of a beautiful Dobermann, my concern is that too many of them drop down dead from DCM; when I see a Poodle I worry about the Wycliffe bottleneck and MHC diversity; when I see a Cavalier I worry about SM and MVD - and so on.

    None of this stops these dogs being loved. I just want them to be around to be loved in 50 years time.

  13. I see my last comment has not been posted yet,Mostly I just wanted to comment because of all the bad publicity this program caused us " pedigree owners " I just don't think its fair that's all.
    Be interested to read your reply to my message I sent in yesterday

  14. How many Dobermans Jemima dropped down dead as you put it with something else. Jeez Humans drop down dead on a daily basis and look at how research has evolved from years ago. Shit happens Jemima and you for sure will never be able to stop it with your silly biased programmes.
    Enviroment, nutrition, lifestyle and vaccinations have a lot do to with illnesses imo

  15. Oh. My. Goodness. Lynda, to try to claim that Dobes dropping down dead from DCM is "just one of those things" has got to be just about the stupidest things anyone has ever said here - and does a considerable disservice to the breeders who recognise how incredibly serious the problem is in the breed.

    "DCM is a very common cause of death in Dobermanns. It has been estimated both in the USA and the UK and Europe that it may be the cause of death in over 25% of Dobermanns. Dobermanns are believed by veterinary cardiologists and veterinary surgeons familiar with treating Dobermanns to have a more severe and more rapidly progressive form of DCM than other breeds. After showing symptoms, the average survival time is only 6 weeks."

    Please also read Rod Humphrey's reports (a breeder who lost a great many dogs to the disease in quick succession), also on the DBC website:

    "...the Doberman has the highest incidence of DCM in the dog world. It has been estimated that Dobermans likely have more DCM than all other breeds combined."

  16. Tamara wrote: "I see my last comment has not been posted yet". Sorry, Tamara - it slipped thru the net yesterday. Have published it now.

    Dated 10th July at 22.37 here:

  17. Funny how you seem to only answer some of my questions !!!
    So will try again
    Jemima do you know for a FACT that todays Pedigree dogs are indeed dying younger than their older counterparts due to physical changes made by todays breeders???

  18. Lynda, there is now a large body of scientific evdence showing that breeding practices have resulted in a serious and growing disease burden in pedigree dogs - due to both inbreeding and selection for conformational traits.

    Does the science prove "for a FACT that today's Pedigree dogs are indeed dying younger than their older counterparts"? No, not for a fact - because there is a shortage of good time studies (those that compare then and now). But the science suggests that it is likely the case because inbreeding depression is known to correlate with reduced longevity. If you have a look at Kelly Cassidy's Dog Longevity website, you'll see that what data is available suggests that longevity has remained static - surprising given the significant increase in average age of death in humans due to better diet/medicine (which one would expect to see in dogs too).

    No doubt you will try to seek some comfort from the fact that the data is not there to be able to provide conclusive evidence, but it really is just the same as me asking you to prove the opposite for a fact. You can't.

    With better surveillance now on the way (, we will have better answers in a few years' time.

    And in the meantime....

  19. ...some references for you:

    Asher, L., Diesel, G., Summers, J.F., McGreevy, P.D., Collins, L.M., 2009. Inherited defects in pedigree dogs. Part 1: Disorders related to breed standards. The Veterinary Journal 182, 402–411.

    Bataillon, T., Kirkpatrick, M., 2000. Inbreeding depression due to mildly deleterious mutations in finite populations: Size does matter. Genetic Research 75, 75–81.

    Bijma, P., 2000. Long-term Genetic Contributions: Prediction of Rates of Inbreeding and Genetic Gain in Selected Populations. PhD Thesis. Wageningen University, The Netherlands, 225 pp.

    Björnerfeldt, S., Hailer, F., Nord, M., Vila, C., 2008. Assortative mating and fragmentation within dog breeds. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 28.

    Calboli, F.C.F., Sampson, J., Fretwell, N., Balding, D.J., 2008. Population structure and inbreeding from pedigree analysis of purebred dogs. Genetics 179, 593–601.

    Charlesworth, B., Charlesworth, D., 1999. The genetic basis of inbreeding depression. Genetic Research 74, 329–340.

    Cole, J.B., Franke, D.E., Leighton, E.A., 2004. Population structure of a colony of dog guides. Journal of Animal Science 82, 2906–2912.

    Collins, L.M., Asher, L., Summers, J., McGreevy, P., 2011. Getting priorities straight: Risk assessment and decision-making in the improvement of inherited disorders in pedigree dogs. The Veterinary Journal. doi:10.1016/ j.tvjl.2011.06.012.

    Danchin-Burge, C., Palhière, I., François, D., Bibé, B., Leroy, G., Verrier, E., 2010. Pedigree analysis of seven small French sheep populations and implications for the management of rare breeds. Journal of Animal Science 88, 505–516.

    Głaz_ewska, I., 2008. Genetic diversity in Polish hounds estimated by pedigree analysis. Livestock Science 113, 296–301.

    Higgins, A.J., Nicholas, F.W., 2008. The breeding of pedigree dogs: Time for strong leadership. The Veterinary Journal 178, 157–158.

    Karjalainen, L., Ojala, M., 1997. Generation intervals and inbreeding coefficients in the Finnish hound and the Finnish Spitz. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 114, 33–41.

  20. Kristensen, T.N., Sorensen, A.C., 2005. Inbreeding – Lessons from animal breeding, evolutionary biology and conservation genetics. Animal Science 80, 121–133.

    Leroy, G., Rognon, X., Varlet, A., Joffrin, C., Verrier, E., 2006. Genetic variability in French dog breeds assessed by pedigree data. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 123, 1–9.

    Leroy, G., Verrier, E., Meriaux, J.C., Rognon, X., 2009. Genetic diversity of dog breeds: Within-breed diversity comparing genealogical and molecular data. Animal Genetics 40, 323–332.

    Leroy, G., Baumung, R., 2011. Mating practices and the dissemination of genetic disorders in domestic animals, based on the example of dog breeding. Animal Genetics 42, 66–74.

    Lewis, T.W., Woolliams, J.A., Blott, S.C., 2010. Optimisation of breeding strategies to reduce the prevalence of inherited disease in pedigree dogs. Animal Welfare 19, 93–98.

    Lüpke, L., Distl, O., 2005. Microsatellite marker analysis of the genetic variability in Hanoverian Hounds. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 122, 131–139.

    Mäki, K., Groen, A.F., Liinamo, A.E., Ojala, M., 2001. Population structure, inbreeding trend and their association with hip and elbow dysplasia in dogs. Animal Science 73, 217–228.

    Mäki, K., 2010. Population structure and genetic diversity of worldwide Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever and Lancashire heeler dog populations. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 127, 318–326.

    Mellersh, C., 2008. Give a dog a genome. The Veterinary Journal 178, 46–52.

    Nielen, A.L., van der Beek, S., Ubbink, G.J., Knol, B.W., 2001. Population parameters to
    compare dog breeds: Differences between five Dutch purebred populations.
    Veterinary Quarterly 23, 43–49.

    Ólafsdóttir, G.Á., Kristjánsson, T., 2008. Correlated pedigree and molecular estimates
    of inbreeding and their ability to detect inbreeding depression in the Icelandic sheepdog, a recently bottlenecked population of domestic dogs. Conservation Genetics 9, 1639–1641.

    Oliehoek, P.A., Bijma, P., van der Meijden, A., 2009. History and structure of the closed pedigreed population of Icelandic sheepdogs. Genetics, Selection, Evolution 41, 39.

    Quignon, P., Herbin, L., Cadieu, E., Kirkness, E.F., Hedan, B., Mosher, D.S., Galibert, F., Andre, C., Ostrander, E.A., Hitte, C., 2007. Canine population structure: Assessment and impact of intra-breed stratification on SNP-based association studies. PLoS ONE 2, e1324.

    Ubbink, G.J., Knol, B.W., Bouw, J., 1992. The relationship between homozygosity and the occurrence of specific diseases in Bouvier Belge des Flandres dogs in the Netherlands. Veterinary Quarterly 14, 137–140.

    Ubbink, G.J., van de Broek, J., Hazewinkel, H.A., Rothuizen, J., 1998. Cluster analysis of the genetic heterogeneity and disease distributions in purebred dog populations. Veterinary Record 142, 209–213.

    Ubbink, G.J., Hazewinkel, H.A.W., Van de Broek, J., Rothuizen, J., 1999. Familial clustering and risk analysis for fragmented coronoid process and elbow joint incongruity in Bernese mountain dogs in the Netherlands. American Journal of Veterinary Research 60, 1082–1087.

    Ubbink, G.J., van den Ingh, T.S.G.A., Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan, V., Teske, E., van de Broek, J., Rothuizen, J., 2000. Population dynamics of inherited copper toxicosis in Dutch Bedlington terriers (1977–1997). Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 14, 172–176.

    Urfer, S.R., 2009. Inbreeding and fertility in Irish Wolfhounds in Sweden: 1976 to 2007. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 51, 21.

    van der Beek, S., Nielen, A.L., Schukken, Y.H., Brascamp, E.W., 1999. Evaluation of genetic, common-litter, and within-litter effects on preweaning mortality in a birth cohort of puppies. American Journal of Veterinary Research 60, 1106– 1110.

    Voges, S., Distl, O., 2009. Inbreeding trends and pedigree analysis of Bavarian mountain hounds, Hanoverian hounds and Tyrolean hounds. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 126, 357–365.

  21. Lynda,

    I am a little concerned about the anti-vaccine suggestion in your comment.

    Dogs can have reactions to vaccines. It's true. I am not denying this.

    But vaccines have really contributed greatly to longer lifespans in domestic dogs. No longer are litters being totally wiped out by parvo and distemper as they once were.

    What bothers me is that so many people are starting to blame vaccines for immune disorders and cancer in purebred domestic dogs, when there is not one wit of scientific evidence to suggest that this is the problem at all.

    Here is a wonderful post by a real, practicing veterinarian who explains why vaccines and commercial dog foods aren't the source of the problems with cancer and autoimmune disorders:

  22. lynda said...

    "Enviroment, nutrition, lifestyle and vaccinations have a lot do to with illnesses imo"

    That was the excuse of a breeder on a mailing list I used to be on. Their dogs were descended from a dog known to throw pups that later developed AIHA. This breeders solution? Not calling that line a loss and discontinuing it's use. Their solution was to stop vaccinating their pups, because approximately 25% of AIHA cases are correlated with vaccination within a month's time.

    Then when a puppy buyer is more terrified of Parvo, vaccinates their pup, and it much, much later develops AIHA, it's the puppy buyers fault.

    And *I'm* considered an unethical breeder.

    I've seen breeders blame everything from allergies to hip and elbow problems on diet and vaccines. It's excuse-making.

  23. "do you know for a FACT that todays Pedigree dogs are indeed dying younger than their older counterparts due to physical changes made by todays breeders???"

    Many breeds have conformations that may cause problems. Conformational traits that have, since the advent of breed standards, been in some cases overly selected to the detriment of the breed.

    Luckily, veterinary science has also progressed to be able to fix many of these problems, clear up the mess, rebuild the dog, therefore extend the dogs life.

    To me quality and quantity are equally important.

    There are too many factors involved to ask such a broad question.

  24. Environment, nutrition, lifestyle, and vaccines are causing purebred dogs to suffer and die from a myriad of different genetic illnesses. Sure, that makes sense. Oh, and don't forget the puppy buyer--every disease or condition that's not the fault of vaccines or diet must be blamed on the puppy buyer! (Never mind that each breed is suffering from diseases specific to that breed, often with clearly understood modes of inheritance--LOL! Vaccines work in mysterious ways.) The level of denial going on here truly boggles the mind.

    I have an anatolian shepherd. A giant breed. Bred for thousands of years by shepherds in Turkey--no pedigrees, no concept of "pure blood," and ruthless culling. Selection for robust health and working ability only. He is now 13 years old and doing very well. He's not an anomaly--his breed commonly lives that long. So...why are all the giant breed show dogs so sickly and dying off so young? Hmm...must be the vaccines.

    Jemima, you should write a post about leonbergers or bernese mountain dogs--two breeds I love in theory but would never consider owning because of all the heartbreaking stories I've heard about their health issues and premature deaths.

  25. The misconception with vaccines and auto-immune disease is that the vaccine causes the disease. In fact the vaccine is just the Trigger for an underlying genetic predisposition to develop immune system malfunctions

    Any immune challenge such as infections can also be a Trigger for a defective immune system

    It isnt the Trigger thats the problem its the already present genetic defect thats the problem

  26. I'm not UK so can't participate. But I looked at the website and thought, from a breeder's perspective, it was patronizing and generally, a turn-off. Good level for pet owners with a new puppy. I'm not surprised they aren't getting response.

    Personally, I think the biggest genetic problem in Labs is the propensity to obesity, which is a logical outcome of dogs bred out of a Canadian landrace whose function involved a lot of swimming in cold water (blubber is good). Labs typically get fat after 4 to 5 yrs . . . so the survey will miss the problem entirely.

  27. I can't really understand why all the negativity is aimed at 'show breeders/exhibitors' of pedigree dogs. At least there is a KC database where you can do the research and check if your potential puppy's parents/grand parents have been health screened. I naively paid far too much for a cross breed believing them to be healthier based on programmes such as PDE, and was told the parents were healthy, yet my young dog has heart problems and hip dysplasia. The breeder was absolutely not interested and I've subsequently realised the parents were 'healthy' in the eyes of that breeder, who still continues to breed from the same dogs, and breeds crosses from a variety of other non screened dogs. I've had several pedigree dogs that lived to ripe old ages in the past and this is the first dog I've had for 5 years. The only cross breed I've ever owned and the only dog I've had with serious life long health problems.

  28. I should have cited the source of the references above. They were taken from an excellent new paper by Gregoire Leroy (Leroy, G. Genetic diversity, inbreeding and breeding practices in dogs: Results from pedigree analyses. The Veterinary Journal (2011), doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2011.06.016.

    This paper, currently in press, is from an upcoming special issue of the Veterinary Journal on Canine Genetics.

    More on this issue to come.