Know your genetics

Genetics can be a daunting subject for people but as a responsible dog breeder you need at least to have a basic grasp of why it is so important so as to limit passing on regressive genes from parent dogs to puppies.

To the novice selecting a sire and dam based solely on looks is the usual mistake. However, breeding dogs should be predicated on an understanding of how the parental genes have contributed to the dogs looks and recognising that investigating each parent’s genetic health will determine if two dogs should indeed be mated at all. The greater the understanding you have the better, and the increased likelihood you will be blessed with a litter that has the natural intrinsic qualities you are looking for.

You should also know what problems can occur by breeding a Cocker Spaniel and a poodle (link). Although we know they are generally a good match there are underlying issues to be aware of and tested for. With out getting too scientific here is a simple explanation of how genetic defects are passed a long and manifest in the offspring.

One abnormal gene = one parent affected.  The abnormality will occur in all generations but may go undetected in some generations because it can be a mild or more pronounced. This underlines the importance of health testing because the owner may not be aware of the condition.

One abnormal gene + one normal gene. This is called heterozygous and dogs who are heterozygous are termed carriers of the condition. Carriers conceal the abnormality because they do not appear to be suffering from the mutation, however, they will pass on the abnormal gene to their puppies. Recurring mutant genes will continue to lie dormant before appearing when two dogs in the off-spring have been carrying the same mutation.

Two abnormal genes are diseases that follow a recessive pattern of inheritance or homozygous disorder, meaning dogs of successive generations will deteriorate with the inherited condition.

Polygenic disorders – too many different genes being passed on into one hybrid can result in problems making the underlying difficulties hard to diagnose and predict as the pattern of inheritance will change form litter to litter.  This type of mutation will occur if too many successive generations are breed from Cockapoo to Cockapoo and is less likely to happen if an original Cocker spaniel is breed with a poodle.

Chromosomal irregularity – mutation in a chromosome structure & number can lead to genetic diseases.  Canines have thirty nine pairs of chromosomes where genes are located. Serious mutations to the  structure & number will produce serious defects.

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