Vision & Mission
Problems with purebred dogs
The purebred dog is in trouble. The situation is more serious in one breed than in the other. If the studbook, and therefore the gene pool, remains hermetically closed, every breed risks dying out. With a lot of misery before that happens for the individual animals and their owners. A lot of documentaries have already been made about it and articles about it have appeared, click here to view a selection of them. So for years and years, geneticists have been warning about the dangers of excessive kinship in a population.
What can we do about those problems?
How it came about is interesting, but it is much more interesting to see what we can still do to prevent worsening of the situation or even better, gain improvement. Science provides a number of tools and issues some warnings. The Sound Sighthounds & Lurchers Foundation will use these tools and heed these warnings as follows:
Use more dogs for breeding
The puppies from the litters that are bred through the Sound Sighthounds & Lurchers foundation are preferably sold with an agreement that they will remain available for breeding. This way the genetic material of more individual dogs is preserved in future generations. The foundation also intends to set up a sperm bank. This is to make international cooperation easier. There are several breeding projects worldwide and this way we can better preserve and spread diversity. But just as important is the fact that we can store sperm from promising young males when they are optimally fertile. Then we can follow them throughout their lives. When they grow old healthily but may have become less fertile, their sperm is still available. Finally, an advantage is that the genetic material is preserved for the future. Suppose that population genetics shows that the genetic material of an already deceased male is interesting to use again, that is still possible.
Look at health tests with policy
The foundation has a health committee that will assess every planned parent combination and indicate which health tests should be done. The results of the tests will then be considered by the committee and a positive or negative breeding advice will be given. The committee will be careful with the test results and we will ensure that we do not exclude too quickly. When an animal is excluded from breeding, his or her genetic material is also lost. If that happens too much, it can have consequences for the diversity of the entire population.
Watch out for extremes in appearance
The foundation will always let fitness and functionality outweigh the breed standard. One example is the fact that the Irish Wolfhound is known as a "giant breed". They have to grow very fast to reach their size, which can cause problems. In addition, the skeleton, the packaging, grows faster than ‘the content’ when selecting for size. This can also cause problems. We will investigate this further. Perhaps a lobby can take place to have a particular breed standard adjusted on points if we can demonstrate that those points are harmful to the breed’s fitness.
Preventing problems due to too much inbreeding / excessive kinship
The foundation registers all parent animals and offspring in the Zooeasy database. In addition, all potential parent animals are DNA tested at Embark if there could be a kinship with our breeding population. This way we can keep an eye on the inbreeding coefficient both at the pedigree level and at the DNA level. Embark can calculate the predicted inbreeding coefficient of the offspring for each intended parent combination. The health committee will then assess whether the outcome is acceptable. The foundation has also entered into a research agreement with Embark with the objective of collecting DNA from at least 200 purebred dogs per population. Then we can check at DNA level whether there is still sufficient diversity present in the population concerned. It can also become clear which combinations of parent animals retain and spread that diversity as much as possible. Another tool that can be used is mean kinship. Mean kinship is the average relationship of an individual animal to the entire population, including itself. To calculate this, you need a database of the entire population that goes back to the founders, the animals that made up the population before the studbook was closed. It would be nice if we could conclude an agreement with the IWDB, the Irish Wolfhound Database, so that population geneticists can use that data for their calculations.
What else can we do in the field of natural selection?
The foundation will go for natural mating and giving natural birth as much as possible. Furthermore, together with the health committee, we will have to consider how far a breeder can and must go when a very weak or sick puppy is born. And, depending on the cause, it will also have to be considered whether these weaker animals can be used later for the breeding program. Openness and registration are key words here.
Breeding value estimation
A breeding value is an estimate of the genetic predisposition of a dog for a certain trait. Such a characteristic is usually determined by a combination of genes and environmental factors. Breeding value estimates can be calculated for all traits that are sufficiently hereditary. To apply breeding value estimation, registration of traits is essential. The foundation will register this information as much as possible in Zooeasy. Collaboration will be sought with professionals who can calculate these breeding value estimates..
Risks of competition at shows
What we will always have to take into account: diversity in genotype will lead to diversity in phenotype. What really needs to be ensured is that winning a show, or achieving a good result, does not determine whether or not the dog is used for breeding. Show must again become a "game", and an opportunity to see your fellow breeders again and see where they stand in their program. An opportunity to have a nice chat with the lovers of the breed while enjoying a drink and a snack. The foundation will organize these kinds of meetings in the future. Crossbred offspring can be judged by a panel of specialists on appearance and character at such meetings.
In short, the foundation will always put the welfare and health of the individual animals first so that their owners can enjoy them for a long dog's life!