Cross-Breed to Avoid Inbreeding

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cross bred puppiesFor all the lovers of ‘pure-bred’ dogs, I wanted to make sure that you haven’t missed the recent and controversial piece in the NY Times about breeding to standards.   The author, James Serpell, suggests that cross-breeding is one solution to some of the health problems that are caused by selective breeding.  Below is a snippet from the piece (italics are mine).  You can read the entire article here:

Cross-Breed to Avoid Inbreeding – Room for Debate –

First, in order to produce dogs that met the standard, breeders employed breeding practices that inevitably resulted in inbreeding. Not only were the original gene pools of many breeds very small to begin with, but breeders have also accentuated the problem by selectively breeding from relatively small numbers of “champion sires” and/or by mating together closely related individuals.

Nowadays, many breeds are highly inbred and express an extraordinary variety of genetic defects as a consequence: defects ranging from anatomical problems, like hip dysplasia, that cause chronic suffering, to impaired immune function and loss of resistance to fatal diseases like cancer. The only sensible way out of this genetic dead-end is through selective out-crossing with dogs from other breeds, but this is considered anathema by most breeders since it would inevitably affect the genetic “purity” of their breeds.

Near the end of the piece, the Author actually appears to lay the blame on the standards that are used to determine the ‘optimal’ dog for a given breed.


What do you think?  Have you experienced health problems with your pure-bred dog?  Do you think the solution is cross breeding?  Let us know!


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  1. Certain breeds do have certain health problems. However I believe if breeding is done responsibly a healthy dog should be produced. If certain breeds can not meet that standard, perhaps they need to be crossed bred. Such as a Puggle?

    • I wonder, too, exactly who is creating these ‘standards’? I wonder if they meet a valid standard for a human being? You know, 5% body fat, sinewy, taut, and functional muscle tone, 6 pack abs, etc.

  2. I have encountered this issue first hand in a different context. Having spent many years involved in working dogs, I have watched as selective breeding and the confirmation “standards” have made it incredibly difficult to find quality dogs.

    The question is what are the “standards” being used for breeding selection. Unfortunately many breeders have focused on looks. This has lead to increases in undesirable health and temperment conditions. As you mentioned, the gene pool gets smaller and is based on these specific traits which leads to problems down the road.

    The Dutch are a wonderful example of quality breeding programs. Their working dog programs are based on performance rather than looks and “champion” titles. If the dog can perform the required tasks of the breed, it gets to procreate regardless of how long the nose is or the density of the coat, eye color etc etc. This has lead to their breeding programs being the most sought after for quality military and working dogs.

    As time goes on we will continue to see an increase in health and temperament problems unless some “outcrossing” is done….or at least some breeding based on some different “standards”.

    Great article!
    KD Mathews recently posted…What’s The Rush??My Profile

    • Great points, thanks KD. Function over form, who’d of thought..? Bottom line is that breeding to an appearance standard without regard to health standards just doesn’t sound ‘right’.

  3. I know this is rather technical but has a great tool we have used in seclecting lines which measured the coeffent of inheratance. As a breeder you cna do test breedings to check 12 generations back to make sure you have minimal over lap in that time frame. I look for less than 5% but i shoot for less than 2% which is very difficult looking back 12 generations
    Peaches recently posted…Tips For Grooming Your DogMy Profile

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