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This is an interesting article especially for those who are really interesting in the future of the German shepherd breed.

Three key strategies to reduce genetic disorders in dogs - The Institute of Canine Biology
Thanks Doc. I agree all the way with the clarity of the article. We must give credit however for the research and science that, though rather redundant, verified what many knew about the pollution of the gene pool, yet the fight to maintain its exclusivity.....

I've attempted conversations on this topic several times but never got far as some seemed to take the questions as personal attacks. This needs to get talked about as we all look toward the future.

I have been at a loss trying to imagine how, with the genetics so knotted and woven that it can ever be set right again (health wise) and I see a dismal future.

The concept and application of the "world seed bank preserves" seems to be the soundest principal to me. We are going to have to rebuild the breeds from basics, learning from our mistakes.......:(
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It appears that many breeders do not consider the complexity of genetics particularly when selecting breeding mates. Just because " a Judge" picks a particular dog as Champion does not mean that the dog has great genetics. It is very obvious where that mentality has led us. Politics, breed, and money has pushed the science of breeding under the bus. We are seeing the results of that push more and more. Sad. Very sad.
 

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I don't see how - today - the most conscientious breeder could hope to select properly.

The honest breeder will say health problems can happen anywhere with this dog.

The couple of dated tests that are available to breeders don't touch the surface - though there are much more advanced tests available through trials. I would like to see more breeders participating in these with the vet colleges that can crunch the genes.... UC Davis is one. But it would take their local vet's time and time is money..... to participate in the trials. Same problem we're having with human trials on the latest promising cancer killers. Doctors can't find the time....

My sister became involved with UC Davis trials back in the 80's with her goat herds. She ended up being involved in a major way as a contributor to the creation of a hardy, healthy strain of goat that could eat scrub and survive well. This boosted the survival rate of children in Africa. She ended up being tied with their studies for 20+ years until retirement.
 

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These are classic strategies of good breeding, no? Not trying to be a smart alec. Surely there are poor breeders out there who don't know or care but are they reading The Institute of Canine Biology?

I'm guessing its just a page filler for the publication, nothing wrong with that because the principles are as sound today as they were however long ago animal husbandry developed. I'm not an anthropologist, so not my wheelhouse but its got to be thousands of years ago.
 

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These are classic strategies of good breeding, no? Not trying to be a smart alec. Surely there are poor breeders out there who don't know or care but are they reading The Institute of Canine Biology?

I'm guessing its just a page filler for the publication, nothing wrong with that because the principles are as sound today as they were however long ago animal husbandry developed. I'm not an anthropologist, so not my wheelhouse but its got to be thousands of years ago.
It's a bit different Viking. Because 80% of all dog breeds didn't exist 130 years ago and at the extreme acceleration their crossing has occurred in the last few decades - it's basically animal husbandry on steroids..... no another domesticated animal species had been subjected to this rapid diversity.

There is this mysterious repeating dna sequence in the dog that allows for such rapid mutation. It's very easy for introduced altered or new cell packages to attach... like a bus that will stop to pick up passengers at 150 stops vs 1 stop. This allows us the freedom to mickey with the species much more readily than most. That, plus the dog is a whimsy now days, not specifically bred for a specific purpose like cattle or other livestock..... Our imagination is the limit....
 

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It's a bit different Viking. Because 80% of all dog breeds didn't exist 130 years ago and at the extreme acceleration their crossing has occurred in the last few decades - it's basically animal husbandry on steroids..... no another domesticated animal species had been subjected to this rapid diversity.

There is this mysterious repeating dna sequence in the dog that allows for such rapid mutation. It's very easy for introduced altered or new cell packages to attach... like a bus that will stop to pick up passengers at 150 stops vs 1 stop. This allows us the freedom to mickey with the species much more readily than most. That, plus the dog is a whimsy now days, not specifically bred for a specific purpose like cattle or other livestock..... Our imagination is the limit....
Okay, I don't see the article at issue addressing what you are referencing at all. Its hard to get a clear picture of what you're saying. The article was discussing the very slim number of genetic tests we have for health concerns and the impossibility of developing genetic tests for all diseases due to the exponential increase of mutations from inbreeding.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
In a world where a roached back, red and black, hock walking German shepherd is crowned Champion, something is terribly wrong. When the majority of Champion dogs look alike, something is wrong. The article emphasizes that when you breed withing the same tainted gene pool, there are numerous "disorders" (my word) that can occur. And these occurrences can happen at a much faster rate than the test needed to scan for it. In other words, if you keep mixing the same genes, you get the same results PLUS increase the chance of new genetic combinations that may produce more medical disorders and challenges.
Recent DNA results now indicate that the many of the eastern (Chezh) German shepherds have a different DNA than other German shepherds outside of that region. So in our lifetime, we have seen some evolution within the breed. And I posit that this is a result of artificial selection - mans breeding for a specific purpose. The original breeders of shepherds relied on natural selection over artificial selection to establish the foundation of this breed. Breeders captialized on what natural selection gave them. And in the vase of the foundational breeds that make up the German shepherd, they all bought different traits (in the form of their genetic makeup) to the table. The challenge was to combine the right genes to produce a dog that was versatile - a Jack of all trades but master of none - if you will.
Today, that genetic diversity has been neglected and the once genetically diverse and rich gene pool is no longer the driving force behind many breeding programs.
 

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Doc-

That seems like a fair reading of the piece you linked. I saw the video here that someone posted a short while ago of the award winning GSD who was clearly on its hocks. It was painful to see.
 

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Here is some food for thought.

Dogs have 78 chromosomal strings, as opposed to the 46 humans have. This accounts for their resistance to sustained in-breeding as well as their great plasticity in the formation of variety--the Great Dane to the Chihuahua--but in the German Shepherd we are now beginning a second century of in-breeding, and we are building on a mountain of back-massing that permeates the entire breed.

Line-breeding, the breeding of first, second and third cousins is in-breeding one or two generations removed.

In (short for incest) breeding is the breeding of mother to son, father to daughter, brother to sister and uncle to niece.

In-breeding and line-breeding are used in the formation of breeds to 'set type' and create uniformity by limiting the gene pool.

Limiting the gene pool is done to make it more likely that the breeder will score the particular characteristics desired in the cosmic lottery of gene selection when the genes from a male and female are combined. It also makes it more likely that perhaps unwanted recessives will occur.

An example of the occurrence of recessives--the color black. Originated with a dog named Roland v Starkenburg (the first black GSD born 1902). Virtually all black GSDs come from Roland. Because black is a recessive allele, in order for a black pup to be born, he must receive the allele from both parents, ie, mom must add the black recessive allele and dad must also add the black recessive allele, so that the pup has no other color 'choice'. Pup is black. Again, because black is recessive, a black and tan or sable bred to a black individual may very well produce an all black and tan or all sable litter of pups. This is common. As a result of this, one fine day, a sable is bred to a sable, or a black and tan, and whoopsie! one or two or even half the litter is born black.

The recessive alleles have traveled down through the years and the generations, maybe 40 years, maybe 7 or 8 generations, only to suddenly appear. Often, no one knew they were there.

Somebody who wants black dogs then in-breeds black to related black, in order to produce blacks on a consistent basis. Sophisticated breeders know this method will work.

BUT. Here's the kicker. Many, many genetic 'disorders' travel the same way, unseen, and until recently, undetectable, until in-breeding brings them to the fore. The same 'uniformity' that makes the 'black and red' dog in the German High Line, the sable in the German working line, black dogs and white dogs, serves to increase the odds that two or more (EPI is not completely understood yet, genetically, but so far we know that 3 recessive alleles are involved) recessive alleles will wind up in the same pup at the same time.

Some people insist that we go ahead and line/in-breed and then simply test the pups (result) and eliminate the undesired results. Now, never mind the culling controversy--what do we do with the undesired result? how many disorders can we eliminate only to find others cropping up? or do we start making judgments--this disorder is not so bad but that one is?

Here are some of the disorders currently appearing:
EPI
SIBO
IBD
hip dysplasia
elbow dysplasia
anal fistulas
vWildebrands (Canine Hemophilia)
juvenile renal dysplasia
DM
cardiomyeopathy
seizures/rage syndrome
allergies
Mega E

At this time, while many of these disorders are associated with specific 'lines' while others, like EPI, are distributed widely through-out the breed.
'Out' breeding 'buries' the disorder but does not eliminate it. It can still crop up here and there but becomes far less common.

Some people advocate eliminating any dog that carries the disorder from the gene pool. If done rigorously enough, this will result in the elimination of that disorder, but in many of the instances where this method has been tried, something even worse has emerged, brought to the fore and made more common by the in-breeding and the narrowing of the gene pool used to find and eliminate a less lethal allele.

And so it goes. khawh
 

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Great post Khawk.

Do you think it's possible the breed could be "recreated" or is it too late because all the other original breeds needed are to far removed l or too tainted and also carrying their host of problems?
 

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I'm a moderate. I dislike the 'throwing the baby out with the dishwater' type alternatives. But, to attempt a response to your actual question--

1)the genetic disorders came from the four originating breeds. So far, Willis isolated EPI to Alex v Westfalinheim, 1914, and I think I have run vWildebrands to Tell and Tillie Goldsteintal, the brother-sister mother and father of Tell v d Kriminal Polizei, who disseminated it through-out the breed. Horand seems to have been responsible for Juvenile Renal Dysplasia and Mega E, and it was in-breeding on Horand that produced Alex, so I suppose EPI was his 'gift' to the breed as well.

Horand was 25% each Swabian, Saxony, Thuringian and Northern herding, so pretty much anybody's guess where this stuff came from.

Also, the German Shepherd and other modern breeds, such as Dutch Shepherds and Malinois, Australian Cattle Dog, aka Queensland Heeler, have pretty much subsumed the old Saxony/Brunswick and Thuringian breeds. For Swabian fans, some folks in Germany are attempting to bring back the old herding dog, calling them Alt Deutsch (Old German) dog. There may still be some of the old Northern breed dogs left in Northern German and Czechoslovakia but I don't know about trying to find them--they're pretty far outside the mainstream. I suppose you could raid the Czech dogs for the old Northern genes, but the Czech dogs have quite a bit of Juvenile Renal Dysplasia running through them, so that might be a problem. At least there's a genetic test for JRD.


2) And that's a second problem. We don't have genetic tests for many of these things. We're working on EPI and Cardio right now, but don't have conclusive results. We do have tests for JRD, DM, vWildebrands and we can do x-rays for hip and elbow dysplasia, but since they're multi-allele problems with contributing factors having to do with tendons and ligaments inheritance is anything but simple. We don't have genetic tests for perianal fistulas, SIBO, IBD, epilepsy, Mega E, allergies, etc, etc. How do we avoid winding up right back where we started? And how do we avoid a too limited gene pool? The last number I heard was 26 breeds struggling with the looming shadow of extinction due to the constriction of their gene pools created by too much in-breeding and 'uniformity'.

For me, (and Doc and I have been talking about this problem for YEARS) is to follow the suggestions in the article. Breed across lines to bring in out-lines. Use tests advisedly, but don't allow the tests to make breeding decisions for you. Avoid uniformity. And don't use 'popular' sires to the detriment of your dogs.

Working line folks and show folks (both Am-lines and German High-lines) scream bloody murder when you talk about this stuff. The working-line folks get VIOLENT about it. Uniformity is the show folks' god. Popular sires are the super highway to 'titles'. If you don't use them, forget about those championships and those Schutzhund/IPO 3s. I've given up on those groups.

The only people I know deliberately, knowingly and with care who are following the article's suggestions for genetic health are the white dog folks and the 'old-fashioned' folks, and on this forum and most others, these groups are driven away with deliberation and a great deal of abuse by the working line folks. People like me, who care about dogs bred for ACTUAL work, as opposed to bite 'work' are marginalized and abused. So I post here only very rarely.

In my opinion, the only real way to correct the problem would be for people who purchase pups to look back through multiple generations of pedigrees and refuse to buy pups from line and in-bred inheritances and to avoid pups from those 'popular' sires. But realistically, how likely is that to happen? Think of all those people who love to brag that their pup comes from 'champion' bloodlines.

One of the reasons that the German Shepherd is so popular is that there is a 'type' for almost every dog owner. We are well along the road from the Golden Age when the breed was one type of dog with very little variation to a time when the German Shepherd will be a group of essentially separate breeds of differing types. More astute puppy buyers will select a type (you see some of that happening now) and do their puppy choosing within that type. The price we are paying for that variation is restricted gene pools and the proliferation of genetic 'disorders'. I don't see this changing.

When I started out buying dogs to work (40 plus years ago) no one I knew would have considered any breeder 'reputable' who KNOWINGLY sold a puppy with an illness, genetic or otherwise. Today, people are buying pups with Mega E and EPI and both they and the breeder are aware of the pup's problems. What incentive is there for a breeder to stop in-breeding when they can SELL sick puppies due to that in-breeding at the same time that the in-breeding is providing them with 'titles' and 'champions' in competition?

In the end, the consumer is the only one who can make any kind of substantive change. And consumers CAN do it. They have in the past, in many venues, purebred dogs being one of them. Will they do it in the future? That's the question. khawk
 

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I have read the summation above and quite frankly I don't know when I fit as the stereotypes listed above. I certainly agree that the breed has suffered from " lines" and the narrow breeding scope leading to developing lines whether it be for show/ sport/work/ or specific structure and color.( like big heads/bodies, or black/red or black sable,etc)
I think the breed was healthiest when ( primarily the 50/60s) you could get superb working dogs ( sport/work) from dogs of correct structure( show) during this period of time. I think the health of the breed was better then, notwithstanding the recessive maladies that are a part of this breed.( i.e. HD, Missing teeth/testicles, faulty temperament). So show and bite work in and of themselves are not the problem, but the extremes that breeders have taken these aspects certainly is from my perspective. But in order to be the utility dog that this breed was meant to be we need the structure ( show ) and the temperament( as demonstrated originally through Sch/herding trials to verify the temperament) SO that the dog can be an utility and work dog.
The legacy of this breed is based on excellence in service work, herding/farm work AND police and military work. The German Shepherd is not a Thuringian, nor a Wurttemberg, or a Swabian dog. There should never be an emphasis on any one of these types except for short season to compensate than continue in the moderate utility vein in all aspects. The breeding of extremes and likes has decimated this breed( often called lines), whether it is for color, size, temperament, or structure. With these extremes come the health deterioration through the breeding practices that bring them about. Kennel blindness and Line blindness is rampant as is the show and sport extremes no longer reflecting true suitability for utility/work. But we must still breed dogs that have excellent structure and we must breed dogs that CAN do adequate bite work or else those breeders are also taking the dog out of critical aspects to continue it legacy.
So in closing, I find I agree with the genetic thrust of the posts above, but it must translate to breeding dogs that a litter should have some dogs in it capable of doing all aspects of the utility legacy, and not just show or police or service work, exclusively......otherwise they will end up right where the people they are ranting against.
 

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One last thing, I read where someone posted that in examine the DNA of Czech dogs after 45 years of separation from the Western world, though they were definitely GS, the genetic composition was different than the GS of show/ sport of western world. I think this is probably true, yet unlike myself who incorporated DDR and Czech lines almost 20 years ago BECAUSE I felt genetic diversity was more important than my likes, I find some of the same advocates that acknowledge this concept would never breed to one of these dogs because of reasons like 1) sport people don't want to lower drive or they may lose nerve, 2) show people might lose fronts or shoulder or sidegait, or 3) the service people might breed a dog capable bite work ......well so much for utility thinking as it always comes down to breeding FOR what I am doing instead of breeding for utility and realizing that some in litter can be service dog, some police dog, some farm/ herding dog and any of these because of their moderate genetics should be good family dogs. People talk the talk but don't walk the walk in my opinion.
 

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One last thing, I read where someone posted that in examine the DNA of Czech dogs after 45 years of separation from the Western world, though they were definitely GS, the genetic composition was different than the GS of show/ sport of western world. I think this is probably true, yet unlike myself who incorporated DDR and Czech lines almost 20 years ago BECAUSE I felt genetic diversity was more important than my likes, I find some of the same advocates that acknowledge this concept would never breed to one of these dogs because of reasons like 1) sport people don't want to lower drive or they may lose nerve, 2) show people might lose fronts or shoulder or sidegait, or 3) the service people might breed a dog capable bite work ......well so much for utility thinking as it always comes down to breeding FOR what I am doing instead of breeding for utility and realizing that some in litter can be service dog, some police dog, some farm/ herding dog and any of these because of their moderate genetics should be good family dogs. People talk the talk but don't walk the walk in my opinion.
When I posted this question about a year ago, there was a rather vocal member here (that is no longer here) and he was on the WL side. He said "Why?" "Why would I want to give up the best in what I need in my sport for a lesser dog?" My suggestions for the betterment of the breed overall and perhaps a superior all around dog fell on deaf ears. There was no open mindedness to the concept and his sentiment was echoed by many including the SL people. On their side - it was felt that the judges would have a huge problem with any changes and would discourage change by sending the dogs that looked different down the road.
 

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to expand the gene pool you have to bring in a foreign element -- you can increase diversity
by selecting outside of a single family line .


bring in those DDR dogs, those Czech dogs. Pohranicni Straze dogs were a developed family through purposeful selection , which provided diversity to working lines . DDR dogs, the same , often a resource for old herding genetics. GSD out side of the SchH , SV , system , including the Belgian / Dutch (GSD) , and other European gsd all give variety , at least
as much as possible in a closed stud book "breed" .


swim in the deep end !


specialists sub groups , yes I am going to say this, such as the show lines , both West German and American are , the shallow end --- because when you examine pedigrees they don't welcome out-of-family genes .
At least the American breeders will bring in DDR and will bring in the WGSL .


West German show line breeders' problems with backs are going to be difficult to fix within their own group . The genetics are so intensified , you just keep making copies of the same or worse.
Germany using American show lines -- now that is a big laugh. . After all both are conformation specialists .
Would it help them. I think so . Temperament should never be compromised in any case.
For the "pet" home I would recommend a good American bred dog -- even if there is zippo
working drive .
The American dogs don't have bad top lines .
Conformation , back to type seen around the era of Yoncalla Mike, and his very nice brother Wilhelm auf der Winterzeit
https://gsdca.org/GSDReviewed/wdogs/WilhelmWinterzeit.html --- nothing wrong with that at all.
Look at Wilhelm --- he could be a "classic" WGSL dog if all that Canto nonsense hadn't derailed things.


If you had a return of both the American and the WGSL return to this balance you would have something to talk about.
I would like to see this.
I look at a LOT of pedigrees .
I can't say that I have seen a WGSL with even so much as a one time use of a working line in the pedigree.
Shallow waters ! -- the boat is going to hit dry land soon
Working line - open use of DDR , Czech, other registries, other sports -- even show line which happened when the east and west were able to access each others GSD .


all parts of the heritage have to be utilized --- breed for utility .
 

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One last thing, I read where someone posted that in examine the DNA of Czech dogs after 45 years of separation from the Western world, though they were definitely GS, the genetic composition was different than the GS of show/ sport of western world. I think this is probably true, yet unlike myself who incorporated DDR and Czech lines almost 20 years ago BECAUSE I felt genetic diversity was more important than my likes, I find some of the same advocates that acknowledge this concept would never breed to one of these dogs because of reasons like 1) sport people don't want to lower drive or they may lose nerve, 2) show people might lose fronts or shoulder or sidegait, or 3) the service people might breed a dog capable bite work ......well so much for utility thinking as it always comes down to breeding FOR what I am doing instead of breeding for utility and realizing that some in litter can be service dog, some police dog, some farm/ herding dog and any of these because of their moderate genetics should be good family dogs. People talk the talk but don't walk the walk in my opinion.


good one Cliff !
This is a breed developed for work , AND developed for aesthetics . That was the vision.
This was to be a very USEFUL breed. Utility being the ultimate beauty.
 
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