Genetic selection of sporting dogs

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Unlike other large domestic animal species, dogs have not yet been touched by the revolution in breeding methods and techniques. This is mainly because the socioeconomic status of the dog is fundamentally different to that of commercial livestock in industrialised countries. This has determined the main genetic orientation of dogs, characterised by intentional morphological diversity and primarily based on aesthetic considerations. However, selective breeding has also produced certain physical aptitudes and behaviours, leading to genetic divergence between beauty and utility. The result is the variety of working breeds and, subsequently, sporting breeds.

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The importance of success

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Dogs cannot yet be ranked within a breed based on their genetic value.

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Breeding stock is still primarily selected on the basis of working performance. For geneticists, the goal is to compare the genetic potential that different candidates can pass on to offspring (added genetic values) by studying their observable characteristics (phenotype). This can only be done on the basis of sporting trials with very specific rules. Having said that, without wishing to underestimate the skills and experience of expert breeders, dogs cannot yet be ranked within a breed based on their genetic value. This means that selecting the best sporting dogs for breeding is still not an exact science and is most often based on observation and experience.

Consequently, there is still a great deal of work to be done to develop effective tools for the genetic selection of sporting, working and service dogs. In a direct selection process (to improve a particular trait), the first problem is the frequent difficulty of measuring sporting performance correctly (or objectively), accurately and reliably (reproducibility).

A Greyhound time trial is an ideal opportunity, with the use of two selection parameters:

- The best time achieved in the various races at a meet.

- The average time in these races.

In Ring, the choice of parameters is even greater:

- The dog can be graded based on the judge’s scale or some other scale.

- Ranking.

- Extra points based on the level of the competition and performance (this system is used for horses).

UMES

Indirect selective breeding criteria (which impact performance) can also be used. These could be performance tests in standardised conditions or the length of a Greyhound’s leg, given that it is positively correlated with speed, and even the behaviour of the angulations between the bone segments during the trial.

The current approach is oriented to a genetic selection index based on several performances by the dog, which undergo sophisticated mathematical analysis. The first results have been obtained for racing Whippets and Malinois Belgian Sheepdogs taking part in the Ring discipline. They will enable the future adaptation of modern genetic methods to sporting dogs.

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Genetic selection of sporting dogs
    Genetic selection of sporting dogs

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