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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

June 14, 2011

New Computerized Tests for Dog Breeding

By David Alderton

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Science is revolutionizing the breeding of pure-bred dogs. The first phase of a unique web tool has just been launched in the U.K., helping breeders to find the most suitable mate for their dogs, based on how genetically healthy the offspring and future generations of dogs are likely to be.

The Mate Select service, developed in conjunction with scientists at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) in Newmarket, Cambridgeshire, has just been launched on the Kennel Club website. It enables breeders to assess the impact a proposed mating between Kennel Club registered dogs will have on the genetic diversity of a breed, based on the tool’s calculation of inbreeding coefficients. The service is intended to safeguard the future of pedigree breeds.

Science is revolutionizing the breeding of pure-bred dogs. The first phase of a unique web tool has just been launched in the U.K., helping breeders to find the most suitable mate for their dogs, based on how genetically healthy the offspring and future generations of dogs are likely to be.
Family portrait of a group of Border Collies. Careful matings to avoid harmful genes as far as possible can now be carried out.
It will also be aligned to the Kennel Club’s Health Test Results Finder, enabling breeders and puppy buyers to view the health test results for all Kennel Club registered dogs, thereby ensuring, as far as possible, the good health of the puppies. Ultimately, it is hoped the service will also aid further understanding about the health status of crossbreed and mixed breed dogs, about which there is little information.

"Mate Select is a groundbreaking service that will enable breeders to match the compatibility of two dogs based on the contribution that they will each make to the long term health and genetic diversity of the breed,” said Professor Jeff Sampson, Kennel Club chief scientific advisor. "It is vital that genetic diversity is preserved so that future generations can continue to thrive.

"The service is also linked to the Kennel Club’s health test results finder so that breeders will be able to take various judgments into account when designing their breeding programs,” Sampson continued. "It does not replace or compromise the traditional art of the dog breeder, but its availability will give added confidence to breeders that the selections that they make will be for the long term benefit of the breed as a whole. It will drive demand for healthy dogs and encourage and support responsible breeding.”

Mate Select will include links to Kennel Club Accredited Breeders, whose members follow all of the recommended steps for good breeding practice, and list the health tests for different breeds that they are required to use for their dogs. These lists are continually updated as new tests are developed at the Kennel Club Canine Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust and elsewhere.

"Purebred dogs are an important part of our lives but we have a responsibility to use the information and science available to ensure that they are as healthy as possible,” commented Sarah Blott, head of the quantitative genetics team at the Kennel Club Canine Genetics Centre, which has helped to develop the science behind Mate Select.

"As science develops and our knowledge about canine health grows, so an increasingly complex set of considerations that breeders need to take into account has emerged,” she added. "Mate Select helps them to make breeding decisions that will prevent the decline of genetic diversity and stop harmful genes from being passed down through a breed’s gene pool.”

The Mate Select Inbreeding Coefficient Calculator uses specific formulae to help breeders to see what impact their breeding decisions are having on the genetic diversity of their breed. The less genetically diverse that a breed is; the more chance there is that puppies will inherit two identical genes from both parents. These may be beneficial genes but they could just as equally be harmful genes, causing clinical problems in some cases.

The Kennel Club banned close matings (mother/son, father/daughter and brother/sister) in 2009. Mate Select will enable breeders to assess the impact that any mating will have on genetic diversity and use this in conjunction with a dog’s health test results in order to choose the best mating for the individual, as well as for the future long-term well-being of the overall breed.


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