DNA SMOKESCREEN

by Barbara J. Andrews, AKC Master Breeder, assisted by Bill Andrews

 

He looks you in the eye and says "Selecting for VISIBLE genetic characteristics, health, and sound structure is a quicker, more certain path to breeding sound, healthy dogs of correct breed type than studying phenotype, genotype, chromosomes, dominant and recessives genes, and it blows away the DNA smokescreen."

 

CANINE GENETICS & DNA, as seen by BILL ANDREWSYeah, there are a lot of people like Bill Andrews out there. They go along quietly, never make speeches, never get involved in discussing the "finer points" of type. While the rest of us contribute to the general noise and confusion that surrounds the art of breeding dogs, they just observe. Somehow they are able to filter out the static and make sense of it all.

 

They don?t read books on breeding, we never see them at seminars, so we tend to dis-include them when we're all caught up in the latest DNA discovery or breeding theory. They listen politely, or bored with it all, they go walk a dog while we show off how much we know.

 

We use them as sounding boards on which to try out our latest, greatest piece of knowledge. The Bill Andrews people listen patiently, able to glean whatever value there is in the jumble of our thoughts, and they rarely say more than polite affirmatives.

 

But when they do... when they do, how many of us have the good sense to shut up and listen?

 

If you were one of them you wouldn?t even be reading this. You?d be sitting outside "just watching" the dogs, wondering why that one doesn?t play as hard as the others? You might be thinking about how those hound dogs you grew up with ran all night.  That might lead you to speculate on how unfit most show dogs are today.

 

On the show grounds you'd go "walkin? and talkin? and swapping lies" but you would be learning more than the rest of us would absorb from a dozen seminars. You wouldn't be taking as gospel what every proud owner says about their breed; no, you would recognize (and forgive) blind adoration and apply common sense to all that you saw on those walkabouts.

 

And then, doggone it, when one of us shares something of great consequence like "did you know they developed this new DNA test to identify that fatal CHG disease in puppies?" someone like Bill Andrews grins and says "Well I reckon if it?s fatal in pups, it pretty well eliminates itself.  If you don?t breed the same dog and bitch again, it won't happen again."

 

Huh?  Then he delivers the punch line of common sense genetics.  "Why would breeders spend all that time and money testing for something so easy to get rid of?"

 

What can you say to that kind of logic? If you?re half as smart as he is, you sit back in your chair and think about it.

 

Like when an ecstatically enthralled friend said "The ___ club is working on a new campaign to stop the media from always characterizing our breed as vicious dogs!"  His response was "That?s nice. Beats breeding trustworthy dogs and not selling to people who want to 'feed ?em gunpowder to make ?em tuff'."  My friend  had the good grace to blush.

 

Sipping coffee one morning, I said "Did you know ____ has three Chihuahua bitches that she says don?t need C-sections but have you seen those pin-headed things?"  He said "Yeah, I saw them when I was walkin? around last night. Saw the sire too. 13 years old and sound and healthy as can be. Got that same moderate head. She showed me her two bitches too.  Babe, they're just like the sire. Behind the collar you can?t fault ?em.  I reckon it all depends on whether you want to show dogs that can have puppies or those that are big-headed enough to win."

 

I?m calling the stud owner.

 

Undaunted, this week I said "I wish they would develop a DNA test that could tell us if a dog is going to go oversize. If I knew that, I could breed to ____ and not worry about which puppies to grow out. He is such an incredible dog, just big. Everyone is afraid to use him."

 

Bill Andrews with his personal Akita bitch, winter 2000He was driving. He nodded. Somehow I knew it was coming. I?d stepped right into another inarguable bit of logic.  I steeled myself.

 

He said "Y?know, seems to me that it?s a whole lot easier to get rid of one really bad fault than to breed out a dozen minor faults.  It's easy for me to fix one big problem with the motor home but if it kept breaking down from different things, I?d get rid of the damn thing."

 

I said nothing.

 

He glanced my way and grinned.  "I hear you talking about "rare genes that can kill' and I look around at the damn-near cripples.  Looks to me like breeders would rather get all worked up over some rare problem they know they don?t have than to deal with the problems they do have!"

 

Touche!  I squirmed in my seat but he wasn't done.

 

"So here you got a dog that?s healthy and typey and he has this bad fault and you can see it, so what? You breed a real good bitch to him, one that doesn?t have or carry that fault. You keep the best pup and go from there.

 

"Take that top winning super dog that's too big - our small bitches could use his bone and those four good legs. So what?s the problem? He glanced my way.  "Well?"

 

"I?m hungry. When are we gonna stop for dinner?"  He laughed.

Well?  What are you gonna say to a know-it-all like Bill Andrews?

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