Suddenly it happens! Suddenly, oxygen flows into the room that has been closed for 100 years. Suddenly, our kennel club opens the doors to more sustainable and long-term breeding – they open up genetic variation!
As I mentioned earlier, I got to participate in SKK ‘s annual breeding conference, it took place on November 12-13 out on Lidingö in Stockholm and I was there as a representative of our breed club White Shepherd Dog Club. The whole conference was like a firework of new thoughts, fresh air and hope! Of course, for some it was a brutal awakening, when it became clear what inbreeding means for our dogs. Many held their breath when they saw the genetic inbreeding graph for white shepherd dogs and German Shepherds when it was used in a presentation by Erling Strandberg from SLU. Realizing then, right then and there, that it is not just German Shepherds and White Shepherds that are inbred, but the vast majority of breeds, was likely an emotional moment for some participants. I was very happy and proud, proud to represent our nice little breed club, so small and really so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but still so ahead of things when it comes to inbreeding and opening the studbooks. Of course, not everyone is as happy about this, but for me and many breeders, this weekend was clearly historic, as nerdy as it sounds, our kennel club has never been so open and honest about breeding in closed populations and what it means. In the days before the conference, SKK had even published a Guideline for how we can do in the future, which was also discussed during the weekend. I link to it below.
So, will there be a lot of talk and a little workshop in the breeder’s future work? Yes, it can be, because not everyone will want to take the step of crossing out or otherwise incorporating new genetic material. Many many breeders select and choose breeding animals based on the exterior, that is, a breeder who bred, for example, specific breed for 40 years does not suddenly want to have a litter that looks like something else in the first generation. We breed what we see, and we have done so for 100 years. You don’t change that in a day. What we see is actually only a few genes, genes that determine appearance. What we don’t see, all these millions of gene pairs that control the dogs’ immune system, behavior, functions of organs and everything that makes an individual a living organism, well, we basically haven’t selected that much.
For my own part, I land on the question – will I be able to sell puppies that look different? Dogs that, after applying for an outcross litter to SKK, will be registered as white shepherds in an x-register but will look completely different, at least in the first generation. Yes, I actually think I can. If you, as a potential future puppy buyer, are asked: You have a choice – a dog that looks exactly like a white shepherd or a dog that will be healthier than average and likely to live longer, what do you choose? The vast majority want a healthy, robust four-legged companion to share life with, appearance becomes a priority that comes far down the list of wishes. The first generation will also compensate for their different appearance with what is called hybrid vigor – they will have the genetic predisposition to be healthier, stronger and more robust than both of their original breeds! They will be extremely important for future breeding and will only be sold to those who understand how valuable those particular individuals will be. When they are then crossed back to the white shepherd, generation 2 loses some vigor but they will still have more genetic variation than the population at large, and already the second generation will look more like white shepherds. Will I find wise, dedicated puppy buyers who want to join this historic journey? Yes, I will because there are many wise people out there who can absorb research and information. Will I do it? Absolutely, I will. I am guaranteed to be both hated and loved, but regardless of what people around me will think, that is not what is relevant – I breed for healthier dogs, not to collect likes and rosettes at a show.
Breeding plans for 2023 are therefore to make an outcross . With which breed and which individuals it will be, I will continue to think about it, DNA test, discuss with geneticists and other breeding experts and once I have arrived at a decision I will inform about it here on my website of course!
Remember the words x-reg and outcross because it will trend strongly in the years to come.
As always, I’ll include some links, but remember – the information is out there, endless amounts of research has been published on the subject, and it’s available to everyone!
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