Dog Breeders Using DNA Testing

Bully Whippet“Bully whippets” (pictured here) are muscle bound dogs that have a genetic mutation that enhances muscle development and makes some of these dogs run faster. Some whippet breeders are using DNA testing to keep the speed but lose the big muscles of these bully whippets.

The use of genetic research is increasing among dog breeders especially with companies offering specific DNA tests to “tailor the way dogs look, improve their health and, perhaps soon, enhance their athletic performance.” Some Labrador breeders are using these tests to ensure silver-coated retrievers.

Geneticists say that soon there can be tests for big and small dogs, curly-tailed dogs, or even dogs that cock their heads when they look at you. Many breeders also hope that using this genetic research will curtail the number of recessive diseases in purebred dogs due to inbreeding.

Breeders do see a definite downside to making the perfect breed. Since genes are often tied to multiple traits, deliberate selection of certain ones can backfire. For example, the gene responsible for silver-coated Labradors is also connected to skin problems. Breeders also have to deal with the consequences of undesired dogs.

Still some say that a genetic test cannot predict a dog’s intangible qualities that make a dog a loving and great companion.

42 Responses to “Dog Breeders Using DNA Testing”

  1. faefamily says:

    Messing around with mother nature and the consequence could be dire. What would they do with all the imperfect dogs/cats? We have not even resolved the overpopulation of pets at this point.

  2. Susan says:

    I don’t want GM food, and I don’t want GM pets. We surely don’t need more euthanasia. Is this “Brave New World” for animals? Designer dogs? IMHO, it’s absolutely revolting!

  3. Lynne says:

    That’s as revolting as seeing the steroid-enhanced body builders. Poor dog.

  4. trucorgi says:

    “Messing around with mother nature and the consequence could be dire.”

    Breed clubs all have a code if ethics, which requires us to breed only for the purpose of improving the breed Like any other tool, DNA testing can be used in an ethical or unethical manner. Ethical breeders are using this tool to breed healthier dogs. The researchers at VetGen have been in the forefront of efforts to map the canine genome. They already have successfully located the gene causing von Willebrand’s Disease (a bleeding disorder) in a number of breeds, have also isolated several other rare disorders and have been conducting intense research to find the elusive gene that causes genetic epilepsy.

    “What would they do with all the imperfect dogs/cats?”

    Dogs identified as affected should not be used for breeding. Carriers should only be bred to clear dogs.

    “We have not even resolved the overpopulation of pets at this point.”

    Actually there isn’t an overpopulation problem. It’s an owner retention problem. To call it overpopulation gives the impression that breeders are causing the problem, which they are not. Many dogs are given up due to health problems. Genetic testing is done to help breeders avoid passing on genetically transmitted diseases and anomalies. There is no line of living creatures totally free of genetic problems, including humans, but the incidence of problems can be markedly decreased by careful and selective breeding.

  5. catmom5 says:

    Sorry, but I have to disagree that we DON’T have an overpopulation. Spend a week at a shelter or humane society and check out all the animals that don’t even have a prayer of finding a home, much less being kept in one. There is no way we can adopt our way out of this situation and in some cases, breeders (knowing there are ethical and unethical ones, of course) can be a source of the problem.

    I agree that to breed these dogs for our “pleasure” rather than for medical reasons is disgusting!!! I hate to see these “designer dogs” for sale in the newspaper. Give me a good old mutt from the shelter any day!

    My 2 cents worth . . .

  6. Gary says:

    Man in his glorious stupidity just continues on.

  7. trucorgi says:

    “Sorry, but I have to disagree that we DON’T have an overpopulation. Spend a week at a shelter or humane society and check out all the animals that don’t even have a prayer of finding a home, much less being kept in one.”

    The dogs in that don’t get adopted from shelters are not puppies. The great majority of them are medium sized young adults (pit bull types). People also dump old, sick and dangerous dogs there. These are not pets people want as family pets. Most adult cats are feral. Ethical breeders are not responsible for these animals being born or for them being un-adoptable.

    “There is no way we can adopt our way out of this situation and in some cases, breeders (knowing there are ethical and unethical ones, of course) can be a source of the problem.”

    Correct! We can neither adopt nor legislate our way out of the problem of homeless animals. Public education is the best way. Breeders that do genetic health screening and take their dogs back are NOT the problem, but are always demonized. Every purebred club has a rescue and the members do their best to protect their breed from ending up homeless. From breeding healthier dogs to fostering and re-homing (cleaning up the mess BYBs and puppy mills create) we are part of the solution, not the problem.

    “I agree that to breed these dogs for our “pleasure” rather than for medical reasons is disgusting!!! I hate to see these “designer dogs” for sale in the newspaper. “

    Not sure what you mean by “breeding for medical reasons”. Eliminating dogs from breeding with genetic disorders is breeding for healthier dogs. Whippets are not a “designer dog”. They are a very old breed with a genetic mutation. If you are ethical and are breeding to the standard you would not be purposely breeding for the bully mutation. The DNA test is a tool to help breed away from this mutation. What you are speaking of is and entirely different situation. Taking two purebred dogs and creating a mixed breed for profit, passing it off as designer and giving it a made up name like “doodle” or “poo”. No health screening is done on these dogs before breeding.

    “Give me a good old mutt from the shelter any day!”

    And that is certainly your choice, but please don’t condemn those trying to breed for healthy dogs.

  8. straybaby says:

    “To call it overpopulation gives the impression that breeders are causing the problem, which they are not.”

    oh yes there is a breeding/breeders problem. what there is NOT, is a RESPONSIBLE breeding problem.

    we kill puppies and kittens everyday. don’t fool yourself. and maybe spend some time in some various shelters to get a good idea of the average population. pets given up for health issues is not a major problem. moving, allergies, lack of time are along with many other.

  9. Helen says:

    Many of the problems with abandoned animals could be avoided if people would adopt dog breeds that match their lifestyles so that the poor dogs don’t go insane from boredom (from not doing the job they were bred to do) and get the exercise they need. People abandon animals all the time because they couldn’t be bothered to learn what the dogs needs might be. People think about what they want from the dog and not enough about what the dog needs to be happy and well-adjusted, which results in some awful behavior problems.

  10. Lynne says:

    There is an interesting nationwide study on pet overpopulation here:
    http://www.americananimalwelfa.....ation.html

  11. Pit Bull Lover says:

    A link on the American “Animal Welfare” Society site:

    “Demand Gold Label Pets”?

    Nice. Follow the Gold Label link to “about us” and you get:

    “A Special Thank You to the professional breeders, distributors and retailers for your support and our success!”

    I wonder how far their Washingon, D.C. offices are from those of the PFI (Pet Food Association)?

  12. KarlaSanDiego says:

    I agree with Gary.
    This is so disgusting! It should be illegal and someone needs to control so called Pet Breeders

  13. momkat says:

    Ogh…that’s horrible! There’s nothing even remotely attractive about that! It looks like a mutant, and it IS! It’s a dog only someone like the governator ‘Ahhnold’ would be able to love.
    Why are they messing around with genetics to create monsters?
    The money wasted on this type of thing could spay and neuter A LOT of already existing pets to help the over population problem.
    This is horrendous!

  14. trucorgi says:

    The general consensus here seems to be that since there is a possibility of DNA testing being misused to breed dogs outside of their standard and pass them off as rare for profit, we should ignore the benefits DNA testing offers to produce healthier dogs.

    The other issue is that because there is some degree of homeless pets, we should not be selectively dogs breeding at all.
    Here are some FAQs http://www.saveourstrays.com/faq.htm

  15. Senas Mom says:

    trucorgi stated: “the incidence of problems can be markedly decreased by careful and selective breeding.” and “The general consensus here seems to be that since there is a possibility of DNA testing being misused to breed dogs outside of their standard and pass them off as rare for profit, we should ignore the benefits DNA testing offers to produce healthier dogs.”

    There is a very specific word for these comments. It’s called eugenics. I’m sure everyone has heard of it. A gentlemen by the name of Adolf Hitler touted the same benefits, except for the human race. It was wrong back then for humans and it is equally wrong today for dogs or cats or any creature on this earth.

    By your screen name I am infering that you breed corgis. And since you claim to be an ethical breeder I can infer that you breed them for their intended use: herding cattle and sheep. I’m sure that this is what you use your dogs for and it is only to people who have a need for a herding animal that you sell to. Is this correct?

  16. straybaby says:

    “possibility of DNA testing being misused to breed dogs outside of their standard and pass them off as rare for profit . . ”

    “The use of genetic research is increasing among dog breeders especially with companies offering specific DNA tests to “tailor the way dogs look, improve their health and, perhaps soon, enhance their athletic performance.” Some Labrador breeders are using these tests to ensure silver-coated retrievers.”

    Sounds like more than a possibility to me. I have no problem with using DNA for improving health conditions in a breed (and I think others would agree), but silver coated retrievers is a whole ‘nother ball game. Tailoring a look may not be so bad if they started using it to correct some of the past damage breeding has done over the years as far as changing the physical make up of a dog where the results have created health issues. ;)

    I will say I’m disappointed with the practice of breeding cross breeds for flyball and otherdog sports, and so I don’t see why this wouldn’t be used as a *tool* to produce more athletic dogs. Look around at the society we live in. We can certainly be our own worst nightmare when it comes to wanting it all now and one-up-manship.

  17. Feeling Nostalgic says:

    No offense to itchmo. The photo of the Bully Whippet that you provided looks like it has been altered in a graphic program (Photoshop). The neck area above the chest looks fake. As though that head was placed on that body. The following link will bring you to a page with actually photos of whippets in comparison to bully whippets. Click on figure 1 to view them. They still look mutant either way. Just not as ghastly as the photo posted here. I could be wrong this photo could be an actual dog. Either way it’s a damn shame someone would alter the beauty of an animal like this.

    ITCHMO ADMIN: We did not alter the picture of the Bully Whippet. The original photo is from the news article that we linked to in our post. Here is the link:
    www.iht.com/articles/2007/06/1.....php?page=2

  18. Feeling Nostalgic says:

    Helps if I included the link

    Scroll down and click on figure 1

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.g.....id=1877876

  19. trucorgi says:

    Senas Mom- One would have to put dogs on the same level as human beings in order to regard selectivly breeding them as eugenics.
    Do you not think we should x-ray dog’s hips before we breed?
    straybaby-I agree.

  20. Senas Mom says:

    And there you have it. trucorgi states: “One would have to put dogs on the same level as human beings in order to regard selectivly breeding them as eugenics.” You obviously do not. I believe all creatures of this earth deserve love and respect. By this comment of yours it seems you are only in it for the money. If you didn’t inbreed your poor animals so much an x-ray wouldn’t be necessary. Displasia is a condition of too much inbreeding.

    But I am beginning to suspect that you are a troll, out to disrupt others, of which I am unfortuntely one. So I bid you peace.

    ITCHMO ADMIN: Everyone, please try not to resort to name-calling to make your point.

  21. straybaby says:

    the whippet issue is interesting since they were doing it in many cases already. So the more ethical breeders were *using* the gene, but also taking all the other factors in. Hopefully that will continue with only a small minority falling to the wayside and just breeding for speed. At least there is the abitilty to avoid the bully ones now. Sounds like they may not always have the most comfortable physical life.

  22. catmom5 says:

    I have to comment on the comments to my post. I spent a good many years volunteering at the local humane society, working with both cats and dogs. I was an adoption counselor, foster mom, etc. There were many, many wonderful animals ~ dogs and cats ~ who did not make it into a home for various reasons. (Pits and pit mixes were generally sent to a rescue.) They would have made great family animals, but there simply were not enough homes for them and the hs had limited space and funds.

    Also, some very lovely cats were “surrendered” because they “scooted on the new carpet”, “knocked over the Christmas tree”, “shed on the new furniture”, not to mention “allergies”, “cost”, “responsibility” . . . some not very good reasons, in my opinion, to give up an animal.

    The “designer dogs” I referred to are the labradoodles, cockapoos, etc. Cross breeding to “create” a “better” dog . . . no apologies for my feelings about that!

    I’m sure there are reputable breeders who only want to improve the breed, but I’m guessing you are in the minority. I just find it sad that so many animals are euthanized each year while others are intentionally breeding for whatever reason.

    Guess we’re going to have to agree to disagree about a few things . . .

  23. Sky Eyes Woman says:

    WTF?! That “bully whippet” looks like something you’d find wandering around at the Chernobyl site. Ugly, ugly, UGLY! I don’t care how fast it runs, it looks like a freak. That thing is truly disgusting.

    You gotta wonder about the mental state of people that think it’s OK to breed creatures like that. Wait and see, some stupid moron will be giving it a cutesy name and sell them for thousands of dollars each, just like the “designer dogs” that are really nothing but overpriced MUTTS. I despise the stupid people I see walking around with their thousand-dollar “LabraDoodles” and “CockaPoos”. Not only are they supporting backyard breeders and puppy mills, but they are getting ripped off by people selling mixed-breed mutts for a ridiculous price.

    I’m proud to say I’ve never bought a dog or cat from a breeder and I never will. If I ran this country it would be illegal for anyone to breed dogs or cats without a very expensive license and health-tested breeding stock. No pet store would be allowed to sell puppies or kittens and there would also be no sales in newspapers or over the internet.

    If you’ve ever bought a dog or cat from a breeder, you have blood on your hands. Many die in shelters for every one sold by a pet shop or breeder. MANY. That blood will never wash off.

  24. trucorgi says:

    I’m not really sure why you feel the need to call me a troll and a Natzi simply because I pointed out that there are many breeders using DNA testing to improve the health of dogs. Perhaps I should have pointed out the benefits to humans as well. Many children have been able to identify their biological fathers. Many people have been able to prove their innocence in crimes too. Does this equally offend you or is it just the idea of breeding in general that you object to?

    ITCHMO ADMIN: Everyone, please try not to resort to name-calling to make your point.

  25. Pit Bull Lover says:

    catmom5: “Pits and pit mixes were generally sent to a rescue.”

    Those were lucky pups. Many shelters quietly and immediately euthanize *all* pit bull type dogs (Rottweilers…other powerful breeds, also) that come through their doors - puppies, adolescents, and adults dogs alike. Some shelters will release some of these dogs to rescue group, but not always.

  26. catmom5 says:

    I know ~ and it breaks my heart!

  27. mittens says:

    i wonder if it comes complete with the ‘roid rage that accompanies being an over -pumped up gym freak… where’s the fake tan and mass of gold bling around the near nonexistant neck?

    the use of dna in breeding ‘programs’ or as an agenda for human reproduction is not without a hint of eugenics- in fact it is eugenics. looking for severe genetic defects that could cause harm is one thing- picking gender, eye color, height etc is pretty much exactly what the nazi wanted to do. they actually had functioning breeding programs for producing pure aryan children.

    while we rightly view the Nazis as evil their basic eugenics agenda on its own is not without ethical issues beyond national socialism and germany in the 1930s. if many think GMO foods are morally wrong and wrong for life on this planet, why can’t the same be said about genetic motification of mammals and humans? it’s playing god on a larger scale than was possible before the decoding of dna. many people have a problem with the concept and rightly so whether it’s breeding cute dogs that are pleasing to human sensibilities or eradicating unwanted humans by making sure they never are conceived.

    melagrains, now meladogs? is that what we really need when playing with powers we have no real way of controlling or keeping out of evil hands?

  28. Traci says:

    That’s just “a tad” extreme, don’t you think?

    People can love and value and all animals and specific breeds at the same time, whether they are terriers or salukis, persians or burmese.

    There are plenty of people who have both mutts and breeds, people who are fans of specific breeds who support animal rescue and shelters.

    I think of all the animals my brother and his wife have taken in over the years–most what would be called mutts–I do not consider my sister-in-law an animal killer because she has purchased salukis.

  29. Traci says:

    “If you’ve ever bought a dog or cat from a breeder, you have blood on your hands. Many die in shelters for every one sold by a pet shop or breeder. MANY. That blood will never wash off.”

    My comment was per that, I tried using brackets to quote it the first time, and it won’t show.

  30. Feeling Nostalgic says:

    Itchmo Admin: I am not trying to accuse you of altering the photo. I apologize if I came across in that manner. I was just saying the photo in general looks altered. Especially around the neck area. As you said you have linked to the article which post the photo so who knows. The bottom line is that it is shame people are doing this to such beautiful breeds.

    I understand altering DNA to improve the health of the breed. A Whippet is a fast breed already. How much faster so they really need to run?

    Example: ViVi (the Whippet lost at Kennedy Airport in New York). She took off and they could not catch her.

    Again I apologize is I came across as though I were accusing you.

    ITCHMO ADMIN: Feeling Nostalgic, please don’t worry, we were not offended. We just wanted to clarify that we didn’t alter the photo. No apologies necessary at all.

  31. elegy says:

    Displasia (sic) is a condition of too much inbreeding.

    That is not a true statement. Dysplasia has a genetic component, sure, but linebreeding or inbreeding does not *cause* it. If you breed related dogs who both have good hips you have a significantly better chance at producing offspring with good hips than you would with scatterbred dogs with less than good hips. There are also environmental factors which can contribute to dysplasia.

    I fully agree that there is a huge pet overpopulation problem in the US. I also agree that most of the dogs dumped in shelters are adults (or at least older puppies). But those dogs were ALL puppies once, they were all sold or given away somewhere along the line. They didn’t just materialize out of thin air. And a whole bunch of them, at least around here, are purebred or “designer” dogs, which says to me that a whole lot of them were intentionally bred.

    A responsible breeder wouldn’t allow their dogs to be dumped in the shelters, so they are not contributing to that problem at all. I fully support responsible breeders- those who screen their breeding stock, who breed only proven dogs with correct temperament, who truly care about the breed and what they’re doing and aren’t just producing pups for bucks, or because it would be a good experience for the kids, or because awww my bitch is so cute and wonderful and sweet that I must make more!

    (and no, I am not a breeder. I have three shelter dogs, all speutered, and all apparently purebred.)

  32. Pit Bull Lover says:

    “Feeling Nostalgic, please don’t worry, we were not offended.” See? This is one of the reasons I so love Los Itchmos. Calm. Kind. Tolerant. And have you seen the new widget? Wowee!

  33. trucorgi says:

    http://www.woodhavenlabs.com/silverlabs.html
    Silver labs were also mentioned in the article.

  34. sandi says:

    If one does not think that there is a pet overpopulation, please go to shelterneeds we get posts hundreds every day, so many dogs being gassed down south including puppies and kittens, and in the midwest. Itis overwhelming , many groups from the Northeast make the trip every week every day to rescue said animals. Get your head out of the sand, check out pure breed rescue sites and GET A CLUE.

    Sandi
    Massachusetts

  35. Denise says:

    I want to know how to find a breeder and purchase one.

  36. Anonymous says:

    i want to really purchase one too.. is anyone breeding

  37. just a voice says:

    I suppose that all the litters of unwanted puppies and kittens left by the roadside or sold to animal brokers are not the fault of breeders either. Although I may not agree with the idea of breeding dogs (pay attention, I am purposely not saying whether I do or do not), I do understand why Trucorgi, for instance, is defending his or craft — fair enough, everyone defends what they love. I also recognize that there are humane, responsible, and high quality breeders out there. But it is likewise important to recognize that there are also irresponsible and reprehensible breeders out there. There are people who begin breeding on a whim only to find that they either do not have the time or desire to take proper care of the litters they produce. There ARE breeders out there who, for whatever reason, cannot wait the 4-8 months necessary before they can start selling the puppies. There ARE breeders who then dump those puppies at shelters, sell them to puppy brokers or puppy mills, or simply leave them somewhere, and this does create a population problem. True, if these animals make it to a shelter, they may get adopted quickly. However, no, not all of the dogs and cats currently in shelters are there because they are bad animals. If a dog does not get along well in a house with small children, it is not a bad dog. If a cat needs to be in a home without other cats, it is not a bad cat. I currently have a cocker spaniel found at the shelter. He was two at the time. When the shelter found him, he was dirty, had ear mites, was underfed, and his collar was firmly in place. The shelter contacted his former owners; they simply did not want him back. He is not a bad dog.

    Justifying one’s own motives is one thing; defending an entire group of people is another. Trucorgi, I would assume that you got into breeding because you love the animals with which you work and are committed to getting as close to the goal of Breed Standard as possible. Please recognize however that, even if the majority of breeders feel that way and behave accordingly, there are still irresponsible breeders out there, and yes, they are at fault for the animals they fail to commit to and take care of — they are not solely responsible for the animal population problem, but they do significantly contribute to it and, perhaps unfairly, they do make a blight on the breeding community.

  38. some1 says:

    I think it’s horrible that breeders want to get rid of the Bully whippets muscles! I think the use of genetic research on dogs period are wrong. What if something goes wrong with the research and all of the dogs they “test” on turn hostile and have no respect for humans what so ever? I think dogs are perfect the way they are. On the other hand i would love to buy a Bully whippet, muscles and all!

  39. Anonymous says:

    you guys are stupid you have to think about the dog not just your self!

  40. Anonymous says:

    what about the whippet you dont have to make it run if it does not want to run you people are stupid. What about the poor dog!

  41. Noor says:

    you guys are very cruel to thoes dogs! you have no hearts becouse you let them run day and night nonstop! how would you like it if you have to run day and night just to get muscels! you probaly think that you would get more atention because of the dog! You guys torture the dogs and make me sick,i dont thinks those dogs are even healthy because of the way they look! if you guys dont stop i could go on strike and i know very important people! STOP TORTURING THE DOGS! and i am not saying that just to be funny i actually care about animals! if you dont like dogs then i bet you HATE other animals too! but i would laugh if it happens to who ever is torturing the dogs! yes i am a kid but i have a bigger heart towards animals and especially dogs!

  42. anon says:

    It seems most of you people are unable to read. These dogs are not being purposefully bred. It is a genetic fault which causes the growth of the muscles. The DNA testing is to try to identify the dogs with this trait and not breed them. These bully whippets are not genetically modified in any way, shape or form.


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