breeding a longer lived dog

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John G. Faughnan

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Jun 27, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/27/97
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I hope I am not resurrecting a long dulled discussion, but I have
wondered for some years why we do not attempt to breed a longer lived
dog. As our lifespans lengthen, the gap between the terribly short
lifespan of our companions and our own lives is growing longer. I wish
my 8 yo mixed breed companion could have a longer active, healthy, life
than we can expect.

Canine lifespan is highly variable. True, it is related to size, but
there are some short-lives small dogs and some longer-lived medium sized
dogs. (Of course Great Danes are sadly short lived). Size alone is not
everything.

Breeding for longevity is, obviously, tougher than breeding for
attributes that manifest early. Still, I can think of a few ways to
begin. The goal would be a mid-sized dog, with a companionable
temperament, with a heathy active lifespan of 13-15 years, followed by
3-5 years of old age. This seems close enough to current canine
lifespans to be achievable without major genetic engineering.

Of course this would not be pure-bred! It would be a new breed that
would take generations to stabilize.

We could begin with long lived healthy male dogs who are still sexually
active. They could be bred with young female dogs of a healthy line. A
longer-lived mid-sized dog could be crossed with a smaller longer-lived
dog. I suspect dogs with delayed onset of puberty would be likely to
have longer heathy lives, and delayed onset of puberty is obviously much
easier to use as a breeding marker than long life.

There are other techniques to consider. We could freeze ova from
potential female candidates (this is done in humans seeking IVF, and is
not a dangerous procedure). Those that had delayed puberty and
physiologic markers of youthfulness in middle-aged could be selected for
fertilization from similar males (young females, could, of course, bear
the pups).

Such a breeding program would take time, perhaps 30-60 years, to achieve
the desired goal. The dogs entered in the program would, however, be
desireable for their optimized health and vigor. They would also carry
the cachet of being the fore-runners of a new breed of dog.

Comments?

--
John Faughnan M.D.
john@-remove-.faughnan.com
(To form my email address, remove the text -remove- from this string. I
had to do this to foil spam robots.)
http://dragon.labmed.umn.edu/~john/

Lori

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Jun 27, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/27/97
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(Snipped John Faughnan's thought-provoking post about the possibility of
breeding a longer-lived breed of dog)

John and all,

I thought that the primary reason for the increase in human life spans
was the advance of medical science...vaccinations, anitbiotics,
surgeries, transplants, treatments for diseases which were previously
incurable....etc. I didn't think the human gene pool was becoming
stronger or more long-lived for genetic reasons...but that is just my
impression. I haven't studied such things, and as a doctor and the
originator of this thread, you obviously have. It would be wonderful to
have a dog that easily lived 20-25 years...!

Of course we have had advances in veterinary medicine as well, and I bet
dogs do live longer, in general, than they used to. I have a cocker who
a couple of decades ago would have had to be euthanized, but with
medication, she is living a pretty good life. True, a lot of pet owners
don't take advantage of the advances in vet medicine...but many of us
do, and are grateful.

Do you envision this as a definitely new breed? How is this different
from what responsible breeders are doing for their own breeds...testing
for genetic defects before breeding litters, continually improving their
bloodlines?

This is a very interesting topic, requiring more thought on my part...

Lori

--
Ripley's Den Page: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Meadows/1442
"In doG We Trust"

John G. Faughnan

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Jun 27, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/27/97
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[bcc Lori, newsgroup]

Lori graciously pointed out in an email that human lifespan increases
are unrelated to the kind of increase I'm thinking of for dogs. This is
absolutely true, and I should have been clearer. Human lifespans
increase because of better diet, hygeine, immunization, public health,
medical therapy, birth control, and reductions in war and violence.

It's true all of these things are also available for dogs, and that many
dogs are likely living longer than ever before. Immunizations, better
dog food, and veterinary care all make a great difference.

Dogs have an advantage over us however, that we can use to their
benefit. We humans are unlikely to choose our mates on the basis of
longevity, but dogs are somewhat less selective. (Robert Heinlein, by
the way, based a number of science fiction novels on the premise of just
such a human choice, but I digress.)

It feels odd to me to think about deliberately extending the lifespan of
our dogs, though we have done far odder things to the wolf in the past
100,000 or so years [1]. I think that by comparison to past practices,
breeding for a longer healthier life is a modest change.

Lori asked if I envisioned a definitely new breed. I'm not sure what the
technical meaning of the term 'breed' is. I'm don't think the ll-dog
(long-lived dog) would look like a 'breed'. There would be a lot of
crossing involved, and in breeding for health, longevity, and
temperament we'd probably forsake the usual breed markers of morphology
and size. I'd guess that the new breed might look like the 50 lb mongrel
cur that shows up in cities everywhere. (See my home page for a photo of
my favorite cur.)

Lori also asked how this would be different from what responsible
breeders are already doing to reduce genetic defects in purebred dogs. I
think that there'd be a lot of similarity, and that many of the same
techniques could be used. The main difference would be in the extent of
cross-breeding ll-dogs from different breeds, and in the use of
longevity markers in addition to confirming the absence of genetic
defects. We would, of course, need the same rigorous genetic tracking
used by modern breeders.

Thanks Lori!

john


[1] A recent estimate of how long we've been altering the wolf since we
first began running with wolves.

Lori

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Jun 28, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/28/97
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John Faughnan wrote:
>
> Hi Lori!
>
> Thanks for your note! I tried to send a newsgroup reply to your note to you
> (without revealing your email address of course), but it turns out that
> having an anti-spam invalid email address in netscape prevents my SMTP
> server from processing the mail sent via Netscape. (guess I should have
> known that).

I did get your message, and I also saw it on the group. I'm not sure
how that works, generally...I anti-spammed my address for a while, but
found that the people I correspond with who do not frequent newsgroups
were confused. Anyway.....I'll make a few more comments now, as I ran
out of time last evening.


>
> Dogs have an advantage over us however, that we can use to their
> benefit. We humans are unlikely to choose our mates on the basis of
> longevity, but dogs are somewhat less selective. (Robert Heinlein, by
> the way, based a number of science fiction novels on the premise of just
> such a human choice, but I digress.)

Well, if sound hips or healthy hearts are qualities we breed for, I
imagine longevity would be, too...but we'd obviously be looking at the
sire and dam's (probably) great, or even great-great grandparents. That
many generations removed, it might make it difficult to pinpoint the
specific lines with the best longevity, but with lots of time and
patience, I would guess it would be possible...while continuing to breed
for the other qualities that contribute to long, healthy lives.


>
> It feels odd to me to think about deliberately extending the lifespan of
> our dogs, though we have done far odder things to the wolf in the past
> 100,000 or so years [1]. I think that by comparison to past practices,
> breeding for a longer healthier life is a modest change.

True, we have bred for many, many specific characteristics, resulting in
some 300 distinct breeds ranging from Yorkshire terriers and Chinese
cresteds to Great Danes and Russian wolfhounds. In the present day,
there continue to be changes being made, some of which I support, and
some of which I don't. I think a change in a breed should be made for
some health or task-related reason, just as dogs which were bred to seek
out vermin in their burrows have short legs, and dogs that retrieve in
water have webbed toes. And I support those who are breeding some of
the current breeds back to their original standards, as the current ones
are too prone to unnecessary health problems (such as bulldogs being
bred to have longer legs, smaller heads and more of a muzzle, and
cockers going back to the 1950s style).

>
> Lori asked if I envisioned a definitely new breed. I'm not sure what the
> technical meaning of the term 'breed' is. I'm don't think the ll-dog
> (long-lived dog) would look like a 'breed'. There would be a lot of
> crossing involved, and in breeding for health, longevity, and
> temperament we'd probably forsake the usual breed markers of morphology
> and size. I'd guess that the new breed might look like the 50 lb mongrel
> cur that shows up in cities everywhere. (See my home page for a photo of
> my favorite cur.)

Couldn't each breed be bred within itself for longevity, or are the two
options (purebred and l.l.) mutually exclusive? I wonder if a "new"
breed, maybe similar to a dingo or African wild dog, wouldn't eventually
end up with the same problems as current purebreds, when the breed is
established and then confined to a limited gene pool. And in the wild,
aren't they already breeding for longevity? I mean the biggest,
strongest, healthiest male in the pack will produce the most offspring,
because by virtue of those characteristics he will live longer and have
more opportunities to breed. Yet wolves, coyotes and wild dogs
everywhere still have a limited lifespan. (though I confess I don't
know what that is. How long does a wolf live, if he is healthy and not
interfered with by humans?)

>
> Lori also asked how this would be different from what responsible
> breeders are already doing to reduce genetic defects in purebred dogs. I
> think that there'd be a lot of similarity, and that many of the same
> techniques could be used. The main difference would be in the extent of
> cross-breeding ll-dogs from different breeds, and in the use of
> longevity markers in addition to confirming the absence of genetic
> defects. We would, of course, need the same rigorous genetic tracking
> used by modern breeders.

I confess that part of my hesitancy is because I rebel at the thought of
intentionally creating a cross-breed, only because there are so many
accidentally created each year. True, that is how most of our current
breeds were created, including my own beloved goldens (thanks to the
wavy-coated retriever and tweed water spaniel, with a little help from
Irish setters, bloodhounds and others), and my rational self knows that,
but from a gut level, I hesitate. I think part of my confusion comes
from my difficulty separating the concept of breeding for genetic health
from breeding for longevity. Good breeders are already doing the
former, which hopefully leads to the latter. I wonder if there is some
genetic marker that could be tested for which would indicate relative
age, or if it is only a result of many genetic factors combined with
diet, exercise and treatment.

Still, I find this possibility interesting. We have all had to say
goodbye to a dog long before we felt it was time. If my goldens could
live 25 years instead of 14, that would be wonderful. One final
thought...if we created *one* breed that would be especially long-lived,
would it be possible to somehow incorporate that trait into other
breeds, because otherwise people who prefer a certain type of dog (the
old Yorkie to wolfhound thing again) would never be able to enjoy this
benefit. If anyone were unwilling or unable to live with the "l.l. dog"
then they are out of luck. And in the quest for health and longevity,
we must not forget intelligence and temperment!

dogsnus

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Jun 28, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/28/97
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Lori wrote:
>
> (Snipped John Faughnan's thought-provoking post about the possibility of
> breeding a longer-lived breed of dog)
>
>
> Of course we have had advances in veterinary medicine as well, and I bet
> dogs do live longer, in general, than they used to. I have a cocker who
> a couple of decades ago would have had to be euthanized, but with
> medication, she is living a pretty good life. True, a lot of pet owners
> don't take advantage of the advances in vet medicine...but many of us
> do, and are grateful.
Lori,
I just read something about how the dogs in the USA receive the
best medical care in the world, and that they have a longer
life span than most K9's in other countries.

I wonder though...If my other 2 loves had lived this long, I
would not have had the chance to have my current 3 loves.
It is a thought provoking topic, isn't it?
Much like the cloning thread here recently, it is extremely
interesting! So may pros and cons. For example, some would
say, great! Other comments may be, what about more dogs in
shelters at an older age?
Interesting.....
BTW, took a look at Ripley's page. WOW! What an operation!
That picture alone is worth a thousand words to people breeding
dogs without a thought for HD!
Im so glad Ripley found you!
Cheers,
Terri

Lori

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Jun 28, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/28/97
to dog...@mailhost.cyberhighway.net

dogsnus wrote:
>
> Lori wrote:
> >
> > (Snipped John Faughnan's thought-provoking post about the possibility of
> > breeding a longer-lived breed of dog)
> >
> >
> > Of course we have had advances in veterinary medicine as well, and I bet
> > dogs do live longer, in general, than they used to. I have a cocker who
> > a couple of decades ago would have had to be euthanized, but with
> > medication, she is living a pretty good life. True, a lot of pet owners
> > don't take advantage of the advances in vet medicine...but many of us
> > do, and are grateful.

> Lori,
> I just read something about how the dogs in the USA receive the
> best medical care in the world, and that they have a longer
> life span than most K9's in other countries.
>
> I wonder though...If my other 2 loves had lived this long, I
> would not have had the chance to have my current 3 loves.
> It is a thought provoking topic, isn't it?

It really is. I guess I haven't taken a firm position on it, but I'm
keeping an open mind. I'd like to see it accomplished within each
existing breed, but don't know how you would breed for "longevity"
except by what we already do...screening, etc.

> Much like the cloning thread here recently, it is extremely
> interesting! So may pros and cons. For example, some would
> say, great! Other comments may be, what about more dogs in
> shelters at an older age?

Or "gee if my first husband hadn't croaked at 45, I never would have met
my nifty new husband...." <g> Is it better to have *more* dogs in your
life, or keep the ones you love longer? And would these long-lived dogs
who end up in bad homes just suffer longer? So many things to think
about.

> Interesting.....
> BTW, took a look at Ripley's page. WOW! What an operation!
> That picture alone is worth a thousand words to people breeding
> dogs without a thought for HD!

Doesn't he look totally despondent? As miserable as they come! Poor
little goober. Lost his puppyhood being in pain.

> Im so glad Ripley found you!

You and me (and probably Ripley) both!! :-)

Steve B.

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Jun 29, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/29/97
to jo...@faughnan.com

<Stuff snipped>


> Dogs have an advantage over us however, that we can use to their
> benefit. We humans are unlikely to choose our mates on the basis of
> longevity, but dogs are somewhat less selective. (Robert Heinlein, by
> the way, based a number of science fiction novels on the premise of just
> such a human choice, but I digress.)
>

> It feels odd to me to think about deliberately extending the lifespan of
> our dogs, though we have done far odder things to the wolf in the past
> 100,000 or so years [1]. I think that by comparison to past practices,
> breeding for a longer healthier life is a modest change.

<Stuff Snipped>

--
> John Faughnan M.D.
> john@-remove-.faughnan.com
> (To form my email address, remove the text -remove- from this string. I
> had to do this to foil spam robots.)
> http://dragon.labmed.umn.edu/~john/


I'm all for a longer living dog too, but what you say about how we
humans pick our mates intrigues me also and as an M.D., maybe you are in
a better position to comment. Q: What is happening to the human gene
pool now that, for the most part, thanks to technology and the
comfortable world we live in with many medical advances and other aides
such as insulin, hearing aids, eyeglasses etc. almost anybody,
regardless of their health, can live long enough to have children? Is
our gene pool being weakened by allowing humans to breed on the basis of
"love" rather than science? I know this is an incredibly cold question,
but it used to be that nature made sure only the most suitable human
genes were passed on, but now almost anybody's bloodline can continue.
I applaud what the best breeders are doing with dogs in this area,
selecting only the best while veterinary science allows individual dogs
to live out their lives as comfortably as possible regardless of how
ill-suited their individual bloodlines are for breeding. But what do
implications do you see for the human gene pool in the long term if we
continue to select from "poor" human bloodlines (i.e. ones that show
genetic predisposition to poor eyesight, hearing, and the whole
multitude of other, far more serious hereditary diseases?) What
technology is there coming down the road to humanely (no pun intended)
allow all people to continue their bloodlines if this is indeed even
possible?

Just wondering

Steve Belramini.


Stephen.Beltramini*nospam*@bc.edu
(The portion of text to remove to correct my email address for use is
*nospam* , though I guess you can probably see that. Let's hope the
spam robots have a more difficult time. Thanks)

Ed Gauci

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Jun 29, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/29/97
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In article <33B5B1...@worldnet.att.net>, WO...@worldnet.att.net wrote:
>It really is. I guess I haven't taken a firm position on it, but I'm
>keeping an open mind. I'd like to see it accomplished within each
>existing breed, but don't know how you would breed for "longevity"
>except by what we already do...screening, etc.

Prof. Richard Dawkins, in one of his books, had an interesting hypothesis on
how to increase human life spans. Basically, you set a minimum age for
procreation. Start it at say, 35. Then every few generations bump it up five
years. It filters out genes that cause death in young people. (Before anyone
blows his or her fuse, nobody suggested actually doing this.) I'm doing this
from memory, I'm sure the details are wrong.

I don't see why it wouldn't work in dogs.

Ed.


Ed Gauci mailto:ga...@good-things.org
http://www.good-things.org/ <-- pet pics and atheist cookies

The Carrolls

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Jun 29, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/29/97
to

Now I don't lurk to this group or anything, but how would you know that you
had long-lived dogs until they were too old to breed???

Emily

Gail B. Mackiernan

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Jun 30, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/30/97
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In article <01bc84c4$0e9da480$5b68...@carroll.dundee.net>, "The Carrolls"
<car...@dundee.net> wrote:

Very good point. However, the best strategy would seem to be to select as
breeding stock offspring of long-lived individuals and eliminate from
breeding stock descendents of short-lived (barring accidents, of course)
individuals.

Also, select studs which are older, but healthy, vigorous and free of
serious age-related problems.

That there is a definite genetic component to longevity is pretty certain,
since some breeds or some lines within breeds are longer-lived (or shorter
lived) than others.

My own breed, standard schnauzers, are pretty long-lived and also known
for being active until rather advanced ages. I once won best veteran at a
specialty with a 14 1/2 year-old bitch. The judge asked me afterwards how
old she was; he didn't believe me and had the steward confirm her age in
the catalogue. She lived to be 17 1/2 and was healthy and active up until
her last couple of months. The oldest SS I knew of was 21 at death; he was
owned by Sybil Hussar of New York -- she was given him as a puppy when she
was eight and he died when she was 29! However, I would say the average
age at death for SS is closer to 14-15. Whether such extremely long-lived
individuals are genetically determined (that is, there is the genetic
potential for significantly raising average age in the breed) is not
certain, of course. They may just be outliers.

Gail Mackiernan

pro...@pantless.com

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Jul 1, 1997, 3:00:00 AM7/1/97
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Putting a stop to the rampant inbreeding currently going on in
the industry would probably increase pet lifespans. 20% of all vet
treatments are for genetic diseases caused primarily by artificial
inbreeding, so it would also decrease the cost of pet care. There are
also a host of neurological and behavior problems caused by
inbreeding.
It's not uncommon for wolf hybrids to die in the 20-25 year
zone, it kinda makes you wonder why other dogs can't live that long.
Unfortunately they are such large dogs they are not suitable for most
people.

dogsnus <"Terri"@cyberhighway .net> wrote:

>Lori wrote:
>>
>> (Snipped John Faughnan's thought-provoking post about the possibility of
>> breeding a longer-lived breed of dog)
>>
>>
>> Of course we have had advances in veterinary medicine as well, and I bet
>> dogs do live longer, in general, than they used to. I have a cocker who
>> a couple of decades ago would have had to be euthanized, but with
>> medication, she is living a pretty good life. True, a lot of pet owners
>> don't take advantage of the advances in vet medicine...but many of us
>> do, and are grateful.
>Lori,
>I just read something about how the dogs in the USA receive the
>best medical care in the world, and that they have a longer
>life span than most K9's in other countries.
>
>I wonder though...If my other 2 loves had lived this long, I
>would not have had the chance to have my current 3 loves.
>It is a thought provoking topic, isn't it?

>Much like the cloning thread here recently, it is extremely
>interesting! So may pros and cons. For example, some would
>say, great! Other comments may be, what about more dogs in
>shelters at an older age?

>Interesting.....
>BTW, took a look at Ripley's page. WOW! What an operation!
>That picture alone is worth a thousand words to people breeding
>dogs without a thought for HD!

>Im so glad Ripley found you!

>Cheers,
>Terri


Cluebus Mechanic

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Jul 1, 1997, 3:00:00 AM7/1/97
to


On Tue, 1 Jul 1997 pro...@pantless.com wrote:
> Putting a stop to the rampant inbreeding currently going on in
> the industry would probably increase pet lifespans.

"Rampant"? As in "erect"? Yes, yes, we must stop erect inbreeding!

> 20% of all vet
> treatments are for genetic diseases caused primarily by artificial
> inbreeding,

Substantiation for the two assertions above would be appreciated. First,
"20% of all vet treatments are for genetic diseases" - citation, please.

Second, some definition of "artificial inbreeding", and support for the
statement that inbreeding (artificial or natural) CAUSES GENETIC DISEASE.

Inbreeding is either a measurement of the probability that one side of an
organism's inheritance is identical by descent to the other side of its
genome, or a system of breeding that pairs close relatives to increase
homozygosity (uniformity) in the offspring. Neither definition includes
any reference to mutation, which is the only way a genetic disease is
CAUSED. A gene mutates and the expression of that mutation is
detrimental to the health of the animal carrying it. Whether the animal
inherits the mutated allele(s) from closely related parents or not.

>... There are


> also a host of neurological and behavior problems caused by
> inbreeding.

Wrong. There may well be neurological or behavioral problems perpetuated
by poor breeding practices, but suggesting that "inbreeding" CAUSES
problems that are somehow unique to inbred animals is false and misleading.

Mary H.


Gail B. Mackiernan

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Jul 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM7/2/97
to

> Putting a stop to the rampant inbreeding currently going on in

> the industry would probably increase pet lifespans. 20% of all vet


> treatments are for genetic diseases caused primarily by artificial

> inbreeding, so it would also decrease the cost of pet care. There are


> also a host of neurological and behavior problems caused by
> inbreeding.

> It's not uncommon for wolf hybrids to die in the 20-25 year
> zone, it kinda makes you wonder why other dogs can't live that long.
> Unfortunately they are such large dogs they are not suitable for most
> people.
>


This is very interesting -- wolves themselves live about 14-16 years (in
captivity), sometimes less and sometimes more. The few hybrids I have
known have also lived to about this age -- what percentage of hybrids
reach the 20+ range?

However, if hybrid vigor alone promotes longer lives, one would expect
that randomly bred dogs would live longer than purebreds, and I am not
sure that they do (at least, not with any statistical confidence).

Btw, inbreeding does not "cause" these genetic problems -- it does
increase homozygosity and thus there is an increased tendency for
deleterious recessive traits to be expressed. Wild species can also have
these deleterious recessives, as anyone involved with captive breeding of
wild animals (such as zoological parks) knows. In areas where wildlife has
been restricted to small ranges, with an decrease in gene flow, wild
populations often begin to show reduction in vigor, size and fecundity
often considered a side effect of inbreeding.

Gail Mackiernan

Robin Nuttall

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Jul 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM7/7/97
to

pro...@pantless.com wrote:
>
> Putting a stop to the rampant inbreeding currently going on in
> the industry would probably increase pet lifespans. 20% of all vet
> treatments are for genetic diseases caused primarily by artificial
> inbreeding, so it would also decrease the cost of pet care. There are
> also a host of neurological and behavior problems caused by
> inbreeding.

And your citations to peer reviewed scientific studies which back up
these "factoids" you are throwing out are....?

Inbreeding in itself is not a harmful thing, and indeed can be very,
very helpful. A properly bred purebred dog is more likely to be
genetically healthy than a mixed breed dog (Padgett, Dog World January
1997). The tripe spouted above is an old wives tale.


--
Robin, Jasper and Dreamer
robin_...@muccmail.missouri.edu
(my opinions are strictly my own!)

Doberman page:
http://www.hsc.missouri.edu/people/robin/

Robin Nuttall

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Jul 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM7/7/97
to

John G. Faughnan wrote:
>
> I hope I am not resurrecting a long dulled discussion, but I have
> wondered for some years why we do not attempt to breed a longer lived
> dog. As our lifespans lengthen, the gap between the terribly short
> lifespan of our companions and our own lives is growing longer. I wish
> my 8 yo mixed breed companion could have a longer active, healthy, life
> than we can expect.

A worthy goal. The Doberman Pinscher Club of America will soon be
starting a BFL registry--Bred For Longevity. This project is the
brainchild of Vic Monteleon, who also invented out WAC/ROM temperament
evaluation test, much copied by other breed clubs. It isn't in place
yet, but as soon as the details are worked out, it will be--hopefully
this fall. Basically, any dog who passes a certain age will be given a
certification. If that dog in turn produces puppies which also reach a
certain age, they will get a high certification. It begins at age 10 and
goes up. Breeders will be encouraged to store sperm from stud dogs. If
the dog reaches an old age, great. If the dog dies of cardio or another
genetic disease early, just throw the stored sperm away.


>
> Of course this would not be pure-bred! It would be a new breed that
> would take generations to stabilize.

Well, it would end up a purebred, regardless of how it started. And
there is no reason to not do this *within* purebred breeds, as the DPCA
is doing. Breeding JUST for longevity will leave out things like
temperament, working ability, and working structure. You could end up
with a 15 year old dog who is genetically healthy but crippled from
jumping for too many years with straight shoulders and who bites
everyone who looks at him. Breeding for a single goal never works.

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