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Breeding Father to Daughter Dogs: Risk, Ethics & Mortality Rates

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By Nicole Cosgrove

two shetland sheepdog

Thanks to selective breeding, there is the diversity of 193 AKC-recognized dog breeds that we see today.1 It has also fueled the rise of so-called designer dogs that exhibit desirable traits. It then begs the question of whether breeding related dogs, such as father and daughter, is a wise thing to do, or does it tread on some dubious moral and ethical grounds.

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The Case for Selective Breeding

Many dog breeds today are the result of selectively mating two different animals to help them do their job better. Other times, it occurs to reduce the size of the pup or make a favored characteristic more common. Think of the different sizes of Poodles, going from miniature to standard. Observation would explain how it happens without knowing anything about DNA or genetics.

Austrian biologist Gregor Mendel figured it out in 1862 with his three Principles of Inheritance. His work determined three general rules that can help answer this question of whether to breed father and daughter dogs. They include:

  • Law of Independent Assortment: Organisms inherit traits independently of other characteristics.
  • Law of Segregation: Each attribute has two versions or alleles.
  • Law of Dominance: One expression of a gene is the dominant of the two.

Offspring get one copy of a trait from each parent. It used to be before Mendel’s experiments that people thought the result was a blend of the two. For example, mating a white male dog with a brown female pup would give tan puppies. That isn’t necessarily true. However, there are some significant consequences of breeding closely related dogs.

two chihuahuas
Image Credit: Regenwolke0, Pixabay

Health Risks of Inbreeding Dogs

Not all traits are desirable in people or dogs. There is a genetic component with some canine health conditions. They include disorders, such as hip dysplasia in large breeds, a heightened bloat risk in Great Danes, and deafness in Dalmatians. The incidence of these undesirable characteristics is directly related to gene dominance.

For example, let’s say you want to breed a dog that has slow-growing nails versus one in which they grow quickly. The first one is the dominant version with the ‘A’ allele, and the second is recessive with the other one, ‘a.’ If you breed two dogs in which the puppies inherit with two ‘A’ alleles, they all will have slow-growing nails. Likewise, pups with A-a match will also have that trait.

If the dogs get the a-a version, they will have the fast-growing nails. Since the trait is recessive, there must be two copies of the ‘a’ allele so that the puppies have this characteristic. A dominant trait only needs one. That can have significant consequences for other genes.

Health and Gene Dominance

The problem with breeding father and daughter dogs is that inbreeding can increase the risk of unwanted recessive traits from occurring. That means things like the hip dysplasia we referred to earlier. That’s one reason why reputable breeders participate in the Canine Health Information Center Program (CHIC) of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).

The organization maintains a database of health conditions for which certain breeds are prone. Breeders provide specific screening results based on the OFA’s recommendations. They also include DNA tests based on a particular breed’s health risk. It’s the proverbial win-win for all individuals involved with the program.

Breeders learn which animals they should not mate. Buyers can look up the test results of the parent dogs for a better assessment of their health risks. The OFA brings all this information together in one platform that makes these data easier to access and search.

From a health perspective, father-to-daughter dog breeding is unacceptable.

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Ethical Concerns of Father Daughter Breeding

The same issues raised with canine health also overlap the ethics of dog breeding. Knowingly allowing this match to occur is reprehensible on many scores. It risks the lives of the dogs and the reputation of dog breeders everywhere when individuals engage in unprofessional and inhumane practices.

From an ethics perspective, father-to-daughter dog breeding is unconscionable.

chocolate brown and black doberman
Image Credit: Lets_Talk_Dog, Pixabay

Long-Term Mortality and Viability

Congenital issues like skeletal deformities or system disorders can have profound impacts on the quality of life and longevity of dogs. They also present financial concerns over the affordability of treatments. They often put pet owners in the inevitable position of making euthanasia decisions. All of these points make a solid case against breeding father and daughter dogs.

However, it goes beyond the immediate effects of undesirable inherited traits. It can also affect the long-term viability of a breed. Organisms exist because they can respond genetically to changes in their environment.

A classic example is the color change of the gypsy moth in response to coal burning. Mutations in which the insect went from white to peppered to black saved the moth from predation. That happens on a smaller scale with dog breeding, too.

A study published in the journal “Genetics,” found that inbreeding dogs over six generations reduced the genetic variability of the canines by over 90%. That means these breeds are more vulnerable to environmental changes, such as climate change. They are also more likely to suffer a die-off if a disease runs its course through the breeding stock.

From a viability perspective, father-to-daughter dog breeding severely limits a breed’s ability to respond to environmental pressures.

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Final Thoughts About Father-to-Daughter Dog Breeding

People have used selective breeding throughout the ages to encourage desirable traits and increase diversity. However, the essential thing to remember is that its success depends on the genetic viability of the dogs. Inbreeding, including father daughter breeding, increases the risk for disease and unwanted characteristics that can threaten a breed’s existence. It’s a cruel practice that has no redeeming value in today’s world.

Featured Image Credit: JACLOU-DL, Pixabay

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