There is a great deal more involved in producing a championship dog these days than just mating two good looking specimens of a breed.
To become a champion dog, each animal must compete and accumulate points in the conformation show ring. That means that he or she must meet a specified kennel association breed standard. This includes criteria for temperament, height and weight ideals, musculature, stance, movement, coat colour and overall appearance. The dog who most closely matches this ideal, will win the show and gain championship points. When a certain number of points is obtained, the dog is deemed to be a champion. Genetics plays a great role in determining the qualities necessary to become a ring champion.
To understand how, let's look at some basic genetics. Gregor Mendel, carried out inheritance experiments using pea plants. He came up with the laws of genetics. Chromosomes are strands of DNA . The traits that are inherited are placed along these strands in pairs called alleles . During breeding, each offspring inherits an allele from the stud and bitch. If a specific breed is supposed to have a black coat, then two dogs with two dominant alleles for black coat would be the ideal combination. The genetic composition is the genotype. The way these genes appear on the dog is called the phenotype.
Dog breeders select dogs for breeding based on their history and phenotype. They can assume that if generations of their dogs have had a black coat. It would be unusual for a brown coloured puppy to appear.
When a dog is to be bred to meet the standards for the show ring, or other breed specific competitions, breeders can try to factor in all the selective processes when they look for a dog for stud. Computer programs are now available for breeders, where they can input the breeding history of a lineage, and determine the probability of getting the desired result. Breed standards became narrow for a while. This resulted in many health related problems because of inbreeding. Widening the breed standard resulted in more genetic variation and promoted healthier animals.
Many dog breeds have been plagued by many diseases. Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, subaortic stenosis (heart problems), eye problems, cystinuria (kidney problems) are just some of the results of inbreeding in different dogs. Many of these conditions are not visible to the naked eye. Countless canines have been diagnosed with elbow dysplasia, for example, despite being a visually perfect specimen of the breed. They shows no signs of problems, but the opportunity to breed is lost because of the abnormality.
As with other facets of life, computers have taken over the world of breeding. All championship dogs can now be located on the internet. Most dog breeders now require that all their animals be certified for heart, hips, eyes, elbows and sometimes cystinuria. Evidence of these tests usually accompany the dog's profile. Cystinuria is one disease that can be detected by DNA testing. Dog lineages can be traced back five or six generations on the web. Reports of health problems and breeding issues can easily be accessed. Breeders can now input desired characteristics for given traits and find the best possible combinations to get the result they want.
Organizations such as the OFA and the Ontario Veterinary College keep comprehensive records of dogs tested. This forces breeders to disclose any genetic information that might be helpful in choosing a puppy, or choosing a dog for breeding. Dog breeding is a big money proposition and world champion puppies have fetched as high as $5,000+ dollars on the market.
Genetic testing will no doubt become larger business for dogs and it will soon be easy to select your puppy without ever seeing it. You will still get the dog you desire. You will also get access to a greater data base of diseases. DNA testing is now available for Von Willebrand’s Disease, Retinal Apathy, Copper Toxicosis, and Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency and these are just a sample of the available tests.
The internet and dog breeding are now permanently linked. It is a business that becomes more precise and scientific each year. Grading of certain diseases is still subjective, and although the data bases are expanding, certification is still open to subjectivity and opinion, and can still be tampered with. Science helps with the selection of show dogs. Genetic testing and data bases provide information helpful in getting a championship dog, as many consumers have been fooled by unscrupulous breeders and the naked eye.
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