Research reveals declining levels of inbreeding since
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.
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 exacerbated by selection for positive and
predictable traits (including temperament and health), meaning that
the rate of loss of genetic diversity must be kept at sustainable
levels to avoid the detrimental effects of inbreeding.
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.
Dr Tom Lewis, Quantitative Geneticist at the Kennel Club and
author of the research, said: "Pedigree dogs have many advantages
because we know their ancestry and can predict the way that they
will turn out. This helps us to know how big they will grow, their
exercise needs and predict the health problems they might face,
enabling breeders to know which DNA tests to give the parents
before they are bred from, none of which is available for dogs of
"But it also means that they tend to have a more closed gene
pool and so we have to manage the rate of inbreeding 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.
"The research allows breeders to 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 the next litter of puppies, but also for the
health of the breed population as a whole."
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said of the research:
"This research has been conducted on a huge scale, but its impact
will have a lasting and positive effect on the future of the dog
breeds we love so dearly, enablingbreeders touse science to make
even better decisions about which dogs to breed from.
"Such analyses are only possible due to the availability of the
pedigree data that we hold for every registered dog, and
demonstrate the value of this data in helping us to improve the
health and welfare of dogs. We remain concerned about those dogs
which are not registered with us and about which there is no
information, as there is no way of knowing if the breeder is health
testing or considering genetic diversity.
"We also remain concerned about crossbreeds such as Labradoodles
which are being bred without much of the health information or
resources available for pedigree dogs, and which will also have
limited gene pools as more and more generations of these crosses
The research has been distributed to the Breed Health
Coordinators for every breed. Judith Ashworth, Kennel Club Breed
Health Coordinator for the Otterhound Club said: "We are delighted
to receive such comprehensive research to help us preserve the
future of our small but historic and wonderful breed.
"We are working with the Kennel Club to develop breeding
strategies that will protect the health of the breed that we love.
With the Kennel Club we have been looking at outcrossing and
they have now given us permission to register two litters from a
non-purebred dog of a working variety, enabling us to increase the
number of dogs that are contributing genetically to the very small
population of dogs within our breed. We look forward to working
with the Kennel Club to continue to find solutions that will
protect the future of our breed."
A peer-reviewed paper outlining general trends and points of
interest is available from the online journal Canine Genetics and
and reports for the 215 breeds are featured on the Kennel Club
website as well as a Q&A document and infographics