Coefficient of Inbreeding

Discussion in 'Labrador Puppies' started by Andrew Shacknove, Jun 7, 2018.

  1. Andrew Shacknove

    Andrew Shacknove Registered Users

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    Dear Pippa and All,

    Your books and this website have been an invaluable help, thank you very much indeed for caring so much about Labradors.

    I'm searching for my next Labrador. My last one, Merlin, was the best thing that ever happened to me. But he developed serious arthritis by five and died at 10.5 years due to complications from arthritis. His COI turns out to have been 12.1, which seems likely to have been a contributing, but not the sole, factor.

    Your distinction between the standards and outlook expected of 'responsible breeders' a few years ago and what you expect these days is playing out in practice. One respected (including by me) breeder recently wrote that a COI of 12.1 isn't bad. You seem not to share that view.

    But I'm wondering about whether, given the degree of actual inbreeding among Labs in the UK, one can realistically find a breeder who reaches your standards? It seems that with the added likelihood of good temperament and good looks comes the added likelihood of inbreeding.

    Only once before (on behalf of dogs walking the Coast to Coast trail) have I sent one of these 'social media' posts. Hope this works!

    Thanks again for all you are doing for Labradors and dogs generally.

    Best wishes,

    Andy
     
  2. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    Hello and welcome to the forum, and thanks for a very thoughtful post. Hopefully Pippa @editor will come along with her thoughts at some point. For now, and for what it's worth, here are mine.

    This is where you have to spend a good long time researching litters. The average COI for Labradors in the UK is 6.5%, but obviously that's for all registered dogs including those who haven't been bred for a specific purpose. When you look at a particular subset of an already closed gene pool, you're of course going to be looking at increased COIs because the dogs are being bred for particular traits. Take my entire male and entire female for example. If they had a litter of puppies, the COI would be 0.5%. He's from field lines, she's from show lines, so effectively completely separate gene pools.
    A high COI of course doesn't necessarily mean anything for a particular puppy, other than the probability of it inheriting a copy of the same allelle from both parents. There's no saying that will be a "bad" allelle and cause diseases. All you're doing is playing a risk game. If you've not seen it (and even if you have, it may be interesting to other readers), here is a really good article explaining COIs: http://www.instituteofcaninebiology.org/blog/coi-faqs-understanding-the-coefficient-of-inbreeding

    For me, when I was looking for my latest puppy, I knew I wanted something very specific; a chocolate bitch from successful show stock (for a solid temperament and good conformation) who also had the temperament to work and very good health scores for the parents. By being so specific, I was limiting myself to a handful of breeders so needed to be prepared to compromise on something. That "something" for me was her COI. It's not "bad" by any stretch, at 7.5%, but I would have ideally preferred under the breed average. I'm pretty risk averse by nature, and I wouldn't consider a Labrador puppy from a litter with over 10% COI. That doesn't mean I'm right, it's just the level of risk I would be happy to take. I've looked at COIs for cocker spaniels (for some point very far in the future), and I am under no illusion that, if I want to be even slightly specific about my requirements, the chances are that the COI will be eye-watering.

    So, to answer your point: it is possible to find breeders with litters with reasonable COIs. The breeder I used doesn't specifically look for lower COIs and is quite happy to have higher COIs in her litters, too - she is interested in the heritability of the "good" stuff and for that a higher COI can be beneficial. Her cut-off point of what is acceptable is higher than mine. Again, it's not "right vs wrong", it's all about the level of risk that you are happy with - both that your puppy might or might not inherit bad stuff but also that they might or might not inherit the good stuff.

    Looking at the bigger picture, high COIs are bad for the breed, unless the breed register is opened up at some point. But on a litter by litter basis, it's not that straightforward.
     
  3. Karen

    Karen Registered Users

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    Hey there, and welcome to the forum! I too have a Labrador called Merlin - sadly at one year old he has just been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, though not (as yet) with arthritis, despite all my best efforts to find a healthy puppy. Best of luck to you in your search - it's an exciting (and at times frustrating) time.
     
  4. Andrew Shacknove

    Andrew Shacknove Registered Users

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    Dear Fiona,

    How kind of you to reply so quickly and helpfully, many thanks. I will do exactly as you say in terms of careful research.

    Yes, the respected breeder I mentioned puts a priority most of all on temperament and conformity. Like you, I'm risk averse but would love to have another dog as delightful and handsome as Merlin. I don't know the protocols on this social media stuff, but hope you don't mind my posting my email address if you or anyone else has recommendations as to breeders. Ideally, I'm looking for a relatively small (30 Kgs or less) black male, with parents with good scores and a 'lower' COI. A show rather than a working dog might be better and it is key for me to train the dog not to chase livestock, or preferably birds. Again ideally, I'd like to take possession in March or April 2019. I'm looking for a bright, keen chap.

    Do you know who developed the COI? What a contribution.

    Thanks again and best wishes,

    Andy
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 7, 2018
  5. Andrew Shacknove

    Andrew Shacknove Registered Users

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    Dear Karen,

    Thank you for your welcome. Finding someone with a Lab named Merlin seems like finding family. You probably know there was a black Lab named Merlin who worked at Ground Zero on 9/11. Merlin did say, more or less, that he would come when we were most in need.

    I'm sorry to hear about young Merlin's dysplasia, something I experienced with my collie, Bart, but not at such an early age. I have no expertise to offer. Just work with your vet and make every day as special as you can for Merlin and you. If you ever get to Oxford, bring him for a walk (Merlin, not the vet).

    Best of luck,

    Andy
     
  6. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    I've removed your email address, not because it breaks any protocols, but because publishing emails in plain text on public websites opens you up to having your email bombarded with all sorts of unpleasantness, as there are programmes designed to automatically "mine" internet content and strip out any emails for selling on to disreputable companies to spam you. If anyone wants to send you a message they can do it through the "conversations" feature of the forum, which will then send you an email alert if you've set it up to do so in your profile. You're also welcome to share your email address within that private messaging feature, as it's not public-facing and so your details are protected.

    Are you looking within a specific area, or are you willing to travel anywhere in the UK for the right litter?

    The ideas of COI were developed in the 1920s by an American geneticist by the name of Sewall Wright. Here is a link to his original paper: https://aipl.arsusda.gov/publish/other/wright1922.pdf

    The Kennel Club in the UK launched their Mate Select tool in 2011. Here's some more information by the KC on how to read this, and the associated EBV (Estimated Breeding Value) : https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/355885/estimated_breeding_values_-_bhc_symposiu_2013.pdf

    I'll drop you an email with the names of some breeders I came across during my research.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
  7. Andrew Shacknove

    Andrew Shacknove Registered Users

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    Dear Fiona,

    Now I understand why websites have moderators! Thanks both for filling me in on the security risks of posting an email address and also for going through all these posts to, among other things, look out for us IT dinosaurs. Are there some general rules about how to participate on your website that new folks should read? I'm very grateful indeed for everyone's help and don't want to step on anyone's toes.

    It's kind of you to provide the information on the origins of the COI. Surprised it is so very old and why it has taken so long for it to reach punters like me. Don't know if its just that dinosaurs are slow learners or perhaps whether broader public education needed. Just to hazard a guess: did the COI become much better known in Britain as a result of the KC launch of its Mate Selection tool, and was the launch part of the KC's response to the BBC show? -- If these sorts of broader issues are inappropriate here, please let me know.

    Best wishes,

    Andy
     
  8. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    Hey Andy,

    The forum rules can be found here: https://thelabradorforum.com/threads/forum-rules-please-read-before-posting.1599/

    There shouldn't be anything that's any real surprise - we don't tolerate spamming, rudeness or the promotion of painful methods or devices, as we are a forum that advocates for modern, progressive dog training methods rather than training through fear, pain and intimidation.

    You ask some interesting questions! Are you a scientist, perchance? :)
    To be honest, I have no idea, but it's certainly something that would be interesting to look into. My gut feeling is very much that the COI (in terms of dog breeding) is more of interest since the Mate Select tool was launched, as before then it would have been a very complex task to calculate it simply from a dog's pedigree. By having a single number output, it makes it far more accessible to the layman to process, although I imagine it's still a relatively small subset of people searching for puppies who will come across the tool or take it into consideration. As the name suggests, the tool is aimed more at breeders and I do think there has been a broad change in attitudes within the breeding community over more recent years, moving farther away from line breeding (inbreeding). This might be in part to do with the Mate Select tool, but I'm sure there's also influence from the huge amount of information that is available at a few clicks these days that challenges people's preconceptions. Social media systems such as forums, Facebook and the like with specialist topics will allow for discussion and education of the subject. Of course, it always takes time for change to take place and it often means waiting for the new generations who are more open to different ideas to work their way through the system and for those that are set in their ways to retire.

    Absolutely not! Other than the things covered by the rules above, we're very open to discussion at any level.
     
  9. Karen

    Karen Registered Users

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    Andy, thanks for your concern - my Merlin is fine right now, he has no pain and is a very happy boy, and we have a plan in place to keep him fit and healthy for as long as possible. Hopefully he's have a long time before developing any arthritis...
     
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  10. Andrew Shacknove

    Andrew Shacknove Registered Users

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    Dear Fiona,

    Thanks for providing your guidelines on participating. Relieved not to have already made mistakes.

    Chuffed you think I might be a scientist as I have trouble even doing long division. No, I teach law, but my real job until recently was being entertainment director for a Labrador retriever, a role I want to return to. My students loved Merlin and he appears on the university website.

    The KC's COI calculator seems like such a major advance, one of those rare tools that can lead to a lot of good. That and the on-line resources the KC are providing -- for free -- to breeders and the public is just great, whatever the background reasons. If the COI were more broadly used among prospective 'purchasers', it might have quite an effect on breeding practices. Pippa as much as anyone has been trying to get that message through. Perhaps because I'm new to this, I'm overestimating the utility of the calculator for dog welfare, but if not, is there some broader form of public dissemination possible, such as through vet surgeries? Or how about a follow-up to the BBC show on what the KC has done to address the issues raised in the first show? The COI would be part of that. I don't watch TV much either, so maybe that has already been done.

    Best wishes,

    Andy
     
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  11. Andrew Shacknove

    Andrew Shacknove Registered Users

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    Hi Karen,

    That's great news, made my day. I was telling my wife about your Merlin this morning. Sounds like he's a lucky chap to have you.

    Best of luck and pats to Merlin,

    Andy
     
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  12. Oberon

    Oberon Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Love it :)


    All the best in your search. You sound like a fantastic owner and your future pup (as yet unborn) is going to be one lucky boy :)
     
  13. selina27

    selina27 Registered Users

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    Wonderful! That's exactly what I am to 2 year old Cassie - best job in the world, if voluntary :)

    Welcome to Forum and best of luck in your search. Although it sounds as if you are leaving nothing to chance :)
     
  14. Hollysdad

    Hollysdad Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    In applied maths there is a method used to find optimal solutions to problems that would otherwise be intractable. The method is called an evolutionary algorithm because it models the behaviour of evolution and breeding. I've played with this maths a few times over the years.

    Basically a solution is found by staring from a lot of random solutions. By defining which solutions are 'good' and which are not so good, it's is possible to take the best of the solutions and randomly change a few parameters to generate some more solutions. After repeating this process of selection and random change the method eventually converges on a single, good, solution after a number of iterations.

    Why am I telling you this?

    Because the analogy to dog breeding is very strong. Breeders select 'good' dogs and breed from them to try to produce an optimal dog. As in the maths, the weaker solutions get discarded as the process converges.

    In practice, the best solutions come from choosing a large number of 'above average' solutions at each iteration rather than a few good ones. Having a large number of possible solutions means that the method converges on a good solution over a long time. The weakest solutions come from choosing a few good solutions at each iteration, and this happens over a short time.

    The concept of COI seems to reflect this maths. If only a few 'good' dogs are chosen from each generation then the breed will quickly converge towards a particular type of dog, but that dog will not necessarily be optimal.
     
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  15. Andrew Shacknove

    Andrew Shacknove Registered Users

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    Thank you, you really can make someone's day.

    Sorry for the delayed reply
     
  16. Andrew Shacknove

    Andrew Shacknove Registered Users

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    Apologies for the delayed reply and thank you for taking the time to provide such an interesting answer. As someone who has trouble with long-division, this is something I never otherwise would have found. It isn't good news for dogs, is it?

    Because you and others have been so nice to reply, let me push luck and ask another question:

    Let's say there is a breeder who bred a litter within the last five years but didn't think much of all this COI mumbo jumbo, just knew how to read a dog's lineage. Do you think it would be responsible to breed a litter where the grandfather on one side is the great-great grandfather on the other?
     
  17. Andrew Shacknove

    Andrew Shacknove Registered Users

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    Dear All,

    I teach law and have a sabbatical coming. The Faculty doesn't much care what the topic is so long as it gets published. Let me ask:

    If you could introduce one change to policy, social behaviour or legislation for the benefit of dogs, what would it be?

    Thanks in advance,

    Andy
     
  18. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    I would make insurance companies publish the data - including the pedigree lines - of all the dogs who have claims for treatment related to inherited diseases. Including hip, elbow, cruciate, allergies, etc.

    It would be a MUCH richer dataset than anything any kennel club has....
     
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  19. Andrew Shacknove

    Andrew Shacknove Registered Users

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    Thanks for your speedy reply, what a good idea, never thought of it
     
  20. Andrew Shacknove

    Andrew Shacknove Registered Users

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    Hi Julie,

    Is there any reason you can think of than an insurance company would be reluctant to release such data? Is there a risk or significant cost to them? Your idea seems so uncontroversial.

    Thanks again and best wishes,

    Andy
     

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