top of page

Understanding and Maintaining Good Canine Genetics

Genetics plays a crucial role in dog breeding, affecting everything from physical traits to health conditions. In dog breeding, genetics is divided into two main categories: genotype and phenotype. The genotype refers to the genetic makeup that can be tested through DNA, while the phenotype encompasses the observable traits such as coat color, size, and health conditions seen through physical exams, X-rays, and other diagnostic tools.

Key Genetic Concepts

Co-Dominance and Incomplete Dominance:

  • An example of co-dominance or incomplete dominance is the merle gene in dogs. Dogs with a heterozygous Mm genotype exhibit the desired merle coloration. However, dogs with a homozygous MM genotype often have significant health issues, such as blindness or deafness, and predominantly white coats. The mm genotype results in a normal coat color. Good Canine Genetics

Line Breeding vs. Inbreeding:

  • Line Breeding: Involves breeding dogs that have common ancestors to concentrate desirable traits, such as specific colors, coat types, or sizes. This method strengthens certain genetic traits.

  • Inbreeding: Involves mating close relatives, such as siblings or parent-offspring. While it can help strengthen desirable traits, it also increases the risk of genetic disorders. The public often misunderstands and opposes inbreeding, not recognizing its importance in developing and maintaining specific traits in dog breeds.

Understanding Genetic Disorders

Monogenetic vs. Polygenetic Traits:

  • Monogenetic Traits: Caused by a single gene pair. These traits are easier to identify and manage.

  • Polygenetic Traits: Caused by multiple gene pairs and are more complex. Examples include hip dysplasia, hernias, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). These traits are harder to predict and control because they require a combination of genes to manifest.

Managing Genetic and Congenital Disorders:

  • Severity Levels:

  • Level One: Minor disorders that are easy to manage or correct, such as umbilical hernias or extra eyelashes.

  • Level Two: Disorders requiring long-term management but are not life-threatening, such as hypothyroidism or allergies.

  • Level Three: Life-threatening, life-altering, or life-shortening disorders, such as severe temperament issues, seizures, or major orthopedic disorders like hip dysplasia.

Strategies for Maintaining Good Canine Genetics

Breeding Goals:

  • The primary goal is to produce healthier generations by reducing the number of detrimental genes while maintaining desirable traits. This involves careful selection of breeding pairs and consistent monitoring of genetic traits.

Selection and Breeding:

  • Select dogs that are free from observable health issues (phenotype) and use genetic testing to identify any hidden genetic problems (genotype). Breed these dogs to produce offspring with fewer liability genes.

Pedigree Analysis:

  • Thoroughly analyze pedigrees to identify common ancestors that may carry undesirable genes. Avoid breeding dogs that share problematic ancestors to reduce the risk of genetic disorders.

Genetic Diversity:

  • Maintaining genetic diversity is essential to avoid disseminating harmful recessive genes throughout the breeding population. Carefully manage outbreeding to ensure that it contributes to genetic improvement without introducing new problems.

Environmental Factors:

  • Although genetics play a primary role, environmental factors such as nutrition can influence the expression of certain genetic traits. Providing optimal nutrition, especially during the growth phase, can help manage musculoskeletal disorders.

Feedback and Genetic Testing:

  • Encourage feedback from puppy buyers and request veterinary letters to confirm and understand any health issues. Implement a comprehensive genetic testing plan for breeding stock to identify and eliminate genetic problems.

Education and Resources:

  • Stay informed about genetic issues through reliable resources and expert advice. Understanding the principles of canine genetics and keeping updated on the latest research can significantly enhance breeding programs.

By following these detailed strategies and focusing on both genetic testing and careful breeding practices, breeders can significantly improve the health and quality of their dogs, ensuring that each generation is healthier and has fewer genetic issues than the last. For more information on dog breeding genetics, visit

Good Canine Genetics
Good Canine Genetics


Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page