If you haven't read our article on inbreeding, I do recommend that you take the time to read it. However, even if you haven't had the chance yet, knowing the golden rules of inbreeding dogs is important if you plan to add any inbreeding to your lines.
In this article, we are going to go through the important rules of inbreeding to make sure that you do it properly with the greatest benefit and smallest risk to your dogs and their future puppies.
What is Inbreeding?
Before we look at the rules, I want to take a moment to mention what inbreeding is. In a nut shell, inbreeding is when you breed two dogs who are related together. This can be in three ways:
- Linebreeding: When the dog is seen more than once in a pedigree. So your dog's sire may also be the sire of your dog's grand sire.
- Close Inbreeding: This is breeding mother to son, father to daughter or sibling to sibling. Close inbreeding has a much higher risk for problems than linebreeding.
- Backbreeding: This doesn't happen that often but basically, it is one parent, usually the father, that is bred down the line. So he will breed his daughter, then he will be bred to his daughter's daughter, and then his granddaughter's daughter and so on.
However, since both are inbreeding, they both follow the golden rules of inbreeding.
#1 Don't Inbreed for Convenience Sake
Although you will get breeders who discuss the pros of inbreeding, there are some who inbreed simply because they have the dog available. This is a huge no-no and it is important to never just choose a dog simply because he is there.
Instead, ask yourself if the two dogs will improve your breeding lines. If the answer is no, then don't inbreed. If it is yes, then make sure it is the absolute best case scenario for your future puppies.
#2 Be Aware of the Good and the Bad
If you are aware, inbreeding is often done to lock in a trait. For example, if a dog has a really nice topline, and you want to make sure that trait is going to be seen in future puppies, you are going to try to lock it in with inbreeding.
When you do this, you are going to take one dog with an excellent topline and breed him to a closely related dog that has the same excellent topline (such as father to daughter). Because both dogs have the genes for this excellent topline, there is a higher chance that the puppies will share that trait.
However, when you are breeding for a trait, you need to be aware of the negative traits you could be locking in. For instance, if the dog has a recessive gene for a health issue, you can actually make that health issue a dominant problem in your puppies by breeding to a closely related family member who is carrying the same recessive gene.
Understanding the good and the bad will help you plan for the negative consequences along with the positive.
#3 Skip Generations when Inbreeding Dogs
Obviously, if you are backbreeding, you are less likely to follow this golden rule, but I don't recommend backbreeding very often. In fact, it is a type of inbreeding that I feel should be rarely, if ever, used.
However, if you are going to inbreed, make sure you skip some generations and bring in fresh lines. By adding fresh lines, you can prevent deformities, health problems and inbreeding fatigue.
If you aren't aware of what inbreeding fatigue is it is when you start to see inferility in your dogs. They will have smaller litters and will often have a harder time getting pregnant. You will also start to see an increase in birth defects and a higher puppy mortality.
When you have offspring from a parent to child or sibling to sibling breeding, you should choose another dog from an outside pedigree to breed back to that offspring. This helps lower the COI (Coefficient of Inbreeding) and will also help lower the risk of the negative effects of inbreeding from happening.
The bigger the break, the lower the risk and you can get that COI down to almost 0%. Once you have lowered the COI some, you can use linebreeding or close inbreeding to lock in that trait you want with less risk of problems.
#4 Inbreeding Dogs Should Fall Into a Set COI
Okay, one abbreviation you should know if you plan on inbreeding is COI. This stands for the Coefficient of Inbreeding, which is a measure of how inbred a dog is.
With breeding, you want to keep the COI around 5%; however, you can easily do a COI of 5 to 10% without affecting the health of the offspring too greatly. More than that, you can start running into risks of inbreeding as mentioned above. With inbreeding, close inbreeding has a 25 to 50% COI and it goes down from there.
COI's occur as the following:
- 100% Unrelated Dogs: 0% COI
- Full Brother to Full Sister: 25% COI
- Half Brother to Half Sister: 12.5% COI
- Parent to Offspring: 50% COI
- Grandfather to granddaughter: 12.5% COI
- First cousin to first cousin: 6.25% COI
- Great grandfather to great granddaughter: 6.25%
Understanding COI will help you in making sure that you are constantly reducing the COI after you do an inbreeding.
#5 Understand the Rules of Your Kennel Club
If you are breeding registered dogs, one of the first things you need to do before you even start inbreeding dogs is to understand the rules. Many kennel clubs have set rules for inbreeding.
Some kennel clubs have completely banned inbreeding and all of its practices from linebreeding to backbreeding. Other kennel clubs have banned close inbreeding of father to daughter, mother to son or sibling to sibling but have not banned aunt to nephew or cousin to cousin.
#6 Avoid Close Inbreeding and Backbreeding
When you are first starting out, I recommend to never do backbreeding or close inbreeding. Once you get a few years in, I repeat, don't do any close inbreeding or backbreeding.
The only time I recommend that you do close inbreeding is once you really understand the genetics of your dogs, your lines and the traits they are bringing to the table. If you have a mentor, definitely defer to them so you can make sure that the puppies you get are phenomenal.
However, while I strongly recommend against jumping right into close inbreeding, it can be done. If you choose to do it, make sure that you are breeding them for that good trait, as mentioned above.
Once you see the trait you want to lock in, look at other dogs you can pair that dog with. Do they share the same trait? If the answer is yes, avoid the inbreeding and go with the other option. If the answer is no, move ahead cautiously.
#7 Use Linebreeding to Improve your Lines
Finally, use linebreeding to improve your lines. While it is a form of inbreeding, you are often left with lower COI rates than if you were to do close inbreeding. These lower COI numbers means that you are less likely to see problems that are related with inbreeding, including inbreeding fatigue.
Linebreeding can actually be a very good tool for your breeding line. For one, you are breeding ancestors or dogs that aren't that closely related. For instance, cousins to cousins, especially if they are second or third cousins, have very little in common when it comes to DNA. They have a few shared traits as opposed to a large amount of shared DNA.
This dilution of the DNA helps you maintain traits that you have bred into your lines while improving in other areas. You can help lock in a positive trait while still improving on the overall quality of your dogs. In addition, there are fewer problems that occur with linebreeding than with close inbreeding dogs.
Inbreeding can be a benefit to your breeding line, but as mentioned, it is something that you need to put a lot of consideration into. Improperly inbreeding dogs can result in catastrophic consequences so when you do, make sure you follow the golden rules.