The Kennel Club has analysed extensive data from its pedigree
records to launch ground-breaking research that will help breeders
to improve genetic health and protect the future of our favourite
The 35-year review, which is the most comprehensive research
project of its kind, analyses Kennel Club data from 1980 to 2014
for all 215 recognised pedigree dog breeds and, where numbers
allow, calculates the rate of loss of genetic diversity within
each. This is quoted as the Estimated Effective Population Size -
an important descriptor of the sustainability of a population.
The research shows that, since 2000, the rate of inbreeding has
declined or slowed down in the majority of breeds to sustainable
levels, meaning that the future is brighter for many breeds -
including some of the UK's vulnerable native breeds whose lack of
popularity and low numbers are a concern.
Pedigree dogs have many advantages because we know their
ancestry and can predict the way that they will turn out, but it
also means that they tend to have a more closed gene pool.
Therefore, the rate of inbreeding has to be managed at sustainable
levels to ensure genetic diversity is preserved, as the lower the
genetic diversity the greater the risk that certain health
conditions will begin to surface.
All animals in a population will have ancestors in common,
meaning a degree of inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity is
inevitable. This can be made worse by selection for positive and
predictable traits (including temperament and health), meaning that
the rate of loss of genetic diversity must be balanced at
sustainable levels to avoid the negative effects of inbreeding,
while still allowing for selection to avoid known inherited
The slowing down of the rate of inbreeding coincides with
advances in science that have enabled the Kennel Club to develop
its online Mate Select tool, where breeders can look at the genetic
risk associated with a potential mating, and also the relaxation of
Pet Passport rules enabling foreign, and potentially more distantly
related dogs, to be brought into the country more easily.
The Kennel Club will use the research to help breeders develop
strategies that will help them continue to prevent the decline of
genetic diversity on a breed-by-breed basis. Breeders can now
review the unique situation for their own breed and, using this
information and tools such as Mate Select, they can decide how best
to preserve genetic diversity, not only for the health of their
next litter of puppies, but also for the health of the breed
population as a whole.
A peer-reviewed paper outlining general trends and points of
interest is available from the online journal Canine Genetics and
Epidemiology (www.cgejournal.org) and
reports for the 215 breeds are featured on the Kennel Club website as well as a Q&A
document and infographics.