Sunday, April 29, 2007

Good weekend

I had a good weekend and was able to get past the sadness over Anna and just enjoy time at home and with the dogs. We did some gardening which is always fun. This year, we've added foxgloves and some other species of lilies to our gardens. We also got a lot of the small bush roses, having found that the hybrid tea roses just don't do too well in hot, humid coastal SC without a lot of care. I used to spray and spray and they would be okay but I just don't want to be a slave to the roses anymore. So we pulled out the old hybrid teas and put in the disease resistant bush roses.

On Sunday, I took Stella for a romp at the beach. She really enjoyed that and has been running over to the van every time that she is let out. Finally, she got to go. We started at Station 12 and walked down to the Sullivan's Island light and then back. She got to greet a lot of other dogs and people on the walk.

Annabelle had a good weekend too. She spent most of it in the house with us. She even managed to eat a little food on her own. Unfortunately, we know that the diagnosis of lymphocytic liver cancer is grave and terminal. We just take each day at a time with her and are grateful for having the days that we have had. Today isn't the day for anything to happen.
Berta came to visit Annabelle which was nice. She loves being stroked and hugged on. Her mother Tilly is still going strong. I never thought that I would lose Anna for many years. I know now that there is another plan other than mine.

The weather has been beautiful so I'm going to head back out to enjoy some more of it before bedtime.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sad about Anna

Anna had her exploratory surgery yesterday. It appears that she has liver cancer and it is quite advanced. Biopsies of the liver were done and will be sent away. She came out of the surgery fine and went home with us last night. She was still very tired last night after the surgery. We plan to make her remaining time with us as good as possible. We don't know how long she has but will have her with us to love until she let's us know that it's time to say goodbye. She is such a dear one.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Spring weather

This week has been so beautiful. The dogs have been enjoying it too, although they tend to slow down in their playing when the temperature climbs. We haven't seen any hotspots so far which is good news.

Anna seems to be getting a bit perkier but still isn't eating on her own. We may have to have exploratory surgery done. I am hoping that isn't the case but it may be the only alternative at this point. We want to do everything that we can to make sure that she can recover. Right now, we just don't have a clear diagnosis of what the problem is. The endoscopy showed no obstructions but there could be other issues such as ulcerative colitis or a cancer that hasn't manifested as a blockage. We hope that you will keep Anna in your thoughts.

In order to relieve stress, I'm going to go for a long walk. No time for the beach today but hopefully I'll get to row tomorrow if the weather is decent.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Match on Saturday

We had a great time at the Coastal South Carolina Match on Saturday. Eugene Mah took a lot of photos and they are posted on his website at

You'll have to copy the link above into your browser because it appears not to work unless you do that.

I entered Deacon who won his class, Crinkles who got third in her class, Amelia who got second in her class and Aggie who won her class and went on to take Best Adult in Match. The weather was perfect and everyone seemed to have a great time. Since I live just down the road from where the match was held, I took one load of dogs home after they were finished with socializing and playing and then came back with another 4 puppies. They seemed to have a great time but were very tired out at the end of the day. After that I got Stella and brought her back for the human socializing part where we had salad and barbecue. It was a good meal and a relaxing way to end the day.

Today I took Stella to the beach and enjoyed walking all the way from Station 12 to the Lighthouse on Sullivan's Island. It was a beautiful afternoon for it. There were a lot of people just strolling the beach and a few dogs were out. I like Sullivan's because it isn't as crowded as Folly and Kiawah. Stella seemed to really love her outing.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Update on Anna

Several of you have expressed concern about Annabelle. She had an endoscopy done yesterday and no blockage or tumors were found. She does have a badly inflamed stomach lining indicative of severe gastroenteritis. All of her blood work was normal including her hematocrit. I am cautiously optimistic that she will be okay. She is still not her happy, tail wagging self and still doesn't want to eat anything but we are getting food into her. She is also on more antibiotics, Albon, and a stomach coater. I'm also giving her plain yogurt that has acidophyllic bacteria that may also help soothe her stomach. It appears that she has an overgrowth of bacteria in her stomach and that is why she has had diarrhea and vomiting. Hopefully, with all the medicines she will start to improve and be a happy girl once again.

Tomorrow is the B match sponsored by the CSCLRC. I hope to take the puppies for an outing. It will be nice to get them out even if it is down the road. I don't know how they will do in the ring as their attention span isn't all that great since they are babies. It will be good practice for them.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Loving on the old ones

With Annabelle feeling under the weather, I gathered the old dogs around me today. I needed to tell each of them how wonderful they are and how glad that they are with me. Tilly is still very spry, Timmi is doing well and still loving every cookie, and Anna appreciated the hugs. Tomorrow Anna goes in for an endoscopy to determine whether there is a blockage anywhere or any pathology in the digestive track. I am an optimistic person so I'm hoping for the best but am preparing as best I can for bad news.

The amount of debris that is down after the storm isn't too bad so the puppy run got raked today. With warmer weather, the snakes will be out and I don't want any of those hiding amongst the downed branches. The puppies think that the branches are great and are carrying them around in their mouths. I'm thankful for those cute babies that are Anna's grandkids.

Hopefully, I'll have news tomorrow on Anna's condition.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Annabelle still isn't interested in eating. She is wagging and drinking water but won't even eat a cookie. I'm very concerned and have scheduled an endoscopy on Thursday for her. In the meantime, I'm force feeding her with Bil-Jac. She doesn't seem to mind all the attention but having to do this is tough. She is really one of the most wonderful girls that I've ever had. Something about that grey face and those beautiful eyes watching me so intently and with such trust really tugs at my heart.

The puppies are having a wonderful time with all the sticks and downed debris from the storm. This weekend will be a busy time cleaning up after the all the wind. Everything has been raked at least twice this spring and now the final raking of the grounds will hopefully occur.

The CSCLRC has a match this Saturday. It is our B match and the puppies will be entered. It should be fun. I'm anxious to get them out and around some other dogs. Since this match is just down the road at my neighbor's place, I can carry all of them for some socializing.

I'll be posting more about Annabelle here as I learn more.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Wild weather and worries

What wild weather we started to have today. The puppies were out playing though and were really enjoying the sticks that were blown down. They were playing tug and were having a good time chasing each other. The three boys are absolutely beautiful and the two little girls are also very cute.

Annabelle has had to spend a couple days at Bohicket Veterinary Hospital because she was not wanting to eat. After having some initial tests it was determined that she had elevated liver enzymes. Her urine was also very dark. She came home after receiving fluids and antibiotics but still didn't want to eat. So she went back into the hospital on Wednesday and got back out on Friday. Her liver functions were better and she received more fluids and liquid antibiotics. Because she still isn't eating, we've had to put food in a syringe and feed her that way. We also have to stuff some torpedos in order to get food in her. Dr. Shong has not been able to find anything wrong after doing barium x-rays of the digestive system and the liver. I'm hoping that she will start to eat on her own; however, she is happy and wagging her tail. She doesn't appear depressed at all. I'm hoping that all will be well.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Weather ups and downs

With the weather not being able to make up its mind between hot and cold, I'm wondering when spring will finally be sprung. Our flowers are in bloom and the vegetables are taking off. I can do without the gnats so a good breeze on a cool morning is fine with me. It was nice to be able to get under the covers and have a fire in the bedroom fireplace when the cold weather came through earlier this week.

I posted the photo above showing Castlewood's Kiss and Tell in a spring setting. Gabby looks very happy though against the backdrop of wild flowers in the photo above. She is enjoying life with her new owner in Hilton Head, SC.

Gabby came to us from my good friends Robin Moody and Gina Cheatham. Her sire Ch. Kai-Den's Black Tie Affair was a wonderful boy and his sire Ch. Guidelines Mastercard was an import from Sweden who had successes in this country and produced many champion get. Gabby is a beautiful girl but never liked the show ring. She is reserved and is not the "wag your tail until it drops" type of Labrador. She has taken to her new owner and home splendidly. I'm sure that she will enjoy the days at the beach on Hilton Head.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An interesting article by an old breeder

I came across this article and thought that it would be a good follow up to the "How to Make a Chocolate Dog" post. It is long but is an interesting perspective from Mary Roslin-Williams who is considered one of the greatest Labrador breeders of all time. Her knowledge of the breed was legendary.

Does colour affect type and temperament in the Labrador?

By Mary Roslin-Williams
Mansergh Labradors – England

(This article appeared in the March/April 1977 issue of “the Labrador Retriever Magazine”)

Mary Roslin-Williams lives in the Moorland section of Yorkshire. She is a reknowned lecturer on British Literature as well as one of the most respected people in dogs in Great Britain. A sportswoman whose family has long been involved in all facets of dog life, Mrs. Williams is a licensed judge in Great Britain of Hounds, Sporting Dogs and Terriers.

I have chosen the above title for my article because this is a question I am always being asked by the novices. They are curious to know why I, myself, only have black Labradors in my kennel. While a breeder, such as Mrs. Wormald, only has yellows. Again, both the late Mr. Severn of Tibshelf Labradors and Mrs. Paulding of the Cookridges had (and in the case of Mrs. Paulding, still have) a great fancy for Chocolates, or as I call them, Livers.

As everyone knows, there is now supposedly only one Labrador, the breed embracing any whole colour, of which black, yellow and liver are the most usual. Indeed, a litter may contain all three of these colours, although as yet, there are not so many livers bred in Great Britain. Partly because, as ever, they are a bit slow to catch on; and partly because of the difficulty of breeding them with a good rich dark colour and good eye colour.

So I suppose the answer should be that there is no difference in type or temperament between the three colours. Please note I say “should be” not “the answer is”, because I have found in my own experience of Labradors and other breeds that certain things are linked with colour: type, behaviour and temperament being three of these things. Also texture and type of coat.

I am a black breeder, simply because I found that the yellows did not suit me personally, nor I them. When in the early days of my advent into Labradors, we kept a biggish kennel of working gundogs of various breeds, sometimes taking dogs in from other owners for training to the gun. My husband and I soon discovered that the colours in a breed such as the Cockers had a strong effect on the training of these lively and lovely little dogs. We bred and trained Liver and Whites and found them to be staunch, steady, and reliable, making super brood bitches and very easy to train and handle. They also had very good coats for the job. Lemon and white or lemon-roans were flightier, more difficult to train, needing to be put back to school every season for a day or two, did not face cover so well and had short, silky coats lacking in protective feathering and weather-proofing.

Blacks were grand, as were livers, being brilliant yet staunch and full of go and drive, and remained trained once you had got them right. Blue-roans were equally good, if not better and had better coats than the blacks, harder and less fluffy. But, oh dear, those liver-roans, flighty, silly, stupid (which is not the same thing), hard to train, hard to break off fur, wild as their yellow eyes and with linty fluffy coats with topknots and for some reason apt to get shot, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But one colour suited both my husband and myself down to the ground and that was heavy black and white, with marking like a Dutch Rabbit. Those were the ones for us and we had more success in the Trials with this colour than any other and were more fond and proud of them too. They seemed to have everything we wanted class, courage and coat. We used to pick them from the litter and whatever else we kept and trained, these were the good ones.

When it came to Labradors, my husband wouldn’t touch them so I trained all my own Manserge Labradors. I also took on any Labradors that came into the kennel for training.

Funnily enough, although I was training blacks for myself, I had more yellows in to train for others than I had blacks and here beginneth chapter and verse because my immediate reaction was “Why?” On looking back, I remember that nearly all of these I took in came to us because their owners had tried to train them themselves and had failed. I found that I did not understand them myself and found them to be difficult, also extremely annoying in such things as that when I took them down to the water to teach them to swim, I almost invariably found myself swimming – having been pushed in. So perhaps they had indeed been spoiled by their owners’ abortive attempts to train them. But then I had one from the beginning, virgin soil on which to mold the dog I wanted him to be. Copper was a vast Labrador, from memory: 25 ½ inches and with legs like Oak Trees. He was without doubt the stupidest dog I have ever tried to train and it was he that drove me demented! Firstly, I found that if you put his dinner down in the same place every night and then one night covered it with an empty dog dish, he could not find it. Then he was the most awful job to teach to retrieve, because he would pick up his own check cord and bring that back to me, usually anchoring himself on the way by standing heavily on the loose end so that he couldn’t move until you went and took his foot off the end.

Then at last I taught him to retrieve and told my husband that the battle was won. “I’ll believe it when I see it”, said my sarcastic husband. So I fetched Copper, told my husband to stand well to one side and hurled the dummy up the grassy bank. “Hie Lost”, I cried and with a great gallumphing bound the elephantine Copper set off. He lolloped a few steps in the direction of the dummy which he had seen thrown, but on about the fifth stride he turned at right angles, bounded up to my husband and seizing him by the slack of his breeches propelled him in my direction. My husband had to come because he did not want to get his nice breeches all torn. The awful thing was that had the dog had a sense of humour we would have loved the joke and laughed with him. But he did that in all seriousness, thinking it was what he had to do.

Again the time I was persuading a rather frightened little puppy to follow us across a stream. I had gone down on my haunches to encourage it across to my hand, when two heavy policeman’s paws fell on my shoulders and in I went, face down yet once again. No joke intended, just the best of good-fellowship.

The third time he dunked me, I gave up.

But actually poor old Copper made a much loved dog for his owner and family, although they realised he was not of the brightest, with a bit of Jethro “Beverly Hill-Billy” about him. He actually made a very useful gundog, going shooting until about his 12 season and serving his master well. So he wasn’t such a bad old dog really, and I was secretly rather fond of the old boy.

But he did a lot to put me off the yellows for myself and subsequent attempts to train yellows made me decide that either they were wrong for me or I for them. So I stuck to blacks after that, and have ever since.

But funnily enough, I found there were three good strains of Yellows that I really liked, and admired, and that seemed to me to have all the very best points of the blacks for work and for play too. These were all three old established kennels. They were the “Knaiths”, the “Braeroys” and the “Zelstone”, and these three kennels I absolutely exempt from my strictures. Now, why should this be? I’ve pondered the point so long that I think I know the answer. They have somehow avoided the deleterious outcross that came in during the Second World War. Therefore, they avoided the surly sulky uncooperative blood that came in from the undoubted foxhound cross. From this cross has come down many evils we got from such a shocking mixture, and also, I must admit, a lot of things that made the Labradors the great show dog it has become. But alas, the recipe was altered, to my mind terribly for the worst, and only now are we starting to get back to medium-sized nice, friendly yellows. Kind, sweet and typical, deep in body with Labrador expression coat and tail, and shorter legs.

The blacks did not suffer from this cross so much. Although we could not avoid it altogether, except in the Trial lines, and they had put in a Greyhound cross, followed by a Sheepdog cross, so they too had completely lost type and temperament only in a very different direction.

The gulf between these two major divides remains to this day and is immediately obvious to the eye!

So here we had one link with coat and colour, many yellows were tainted by Foxhound blood, the blacks not so badly affected, so they had totally different characteristics. This was reflected in my own kennel, which willy-nilly eventually got some of the tainted blood in, although for years I managed to avoid it, knowing the source.

So you will understand that I tried hard to keep these bloodlines out, although I had Braeroy and Zelstone blood in my blacks. I have always been proud of those yellow lines, crediting certain things like nose and tender mouths in my dogs, largely to these yellow strains.

However, the tide has turned and largely due to Australian Ch. Sandylands Tan and his son, Ch. Sandylands Tandy, the yellows are becoming very pleasing Labradors again. With much kinder, nicer tempers, and will at last look you in the face once again instead of turning away with an uncooperative expression as many yellows have been doing for so many years now.

Now what about the blacks who eventually got the suspected blood in? Well, certain kennels kept right, so we had them to fall back on, and right well they did us. But, although I did not see this with my own eyes, I am pretty sure that somewhere in Scotland, two Flatcoats were used to restore the temperament, good mouths and kindness, which were all in danger of slipping. I was told by the owner of the Flatcoat Stud dog (and a splendid fellow he was, both for looks and work) that a Labrador had visited him and that “My old Ch. Is doing jolly well for you Labrador people and you ought to be jolly grateful to him”. When I genuinely looked astonished and said that I didn’t know what she was talking about, she replied, “Well, if you don’t know, I’m not going to be the one to tell you”. After a time I didn’t need telling because my eye told me the fact about the show dogs. Again, we are only just starting to breed out the Flatcoat traits we got in. I rather agree with the owner of the Ch. Flattie, it was a very good cross, if a cross had to be made and did us little or no harm except for longish coats, feathered tails and horrid black eyes. The second Flatcoat was introduced by a Scottish Gamekeeper. I do not know what dog was used, though I know where it was used and on what bitch. Again, it had a lasting effect on coats and tails. In both cases, livers started cropping up in the strains, rather unexpectedly. But again, no harm was done except for long coats, feathering and too dark eyes. In the Field Trial and working strains there was a sudden change of swimming style. These dogs swimming with their heads and shoulders high out of the water as they went out towards their birds, but settling down when returning, although not swimming as low in the water nor as quietly as a true Labrador does. However, this crossbreeding has now just about been assimilated and was on the whole fairly harmless.

But now we come to the Livers, which is not a true Labrador Colour. There have been attempts to breed Livers ever since the Chilonfolliats in the just pre-First World War days. Again sporadic attempts were made through the period between the world wars. But some of these were mistakes, the colour cropping up completely unexpectedly, this being because Pointers were often kenneled with Labradors, especially in the Keeper’s Grouse Kennels and mistakes occurred, often unbeknownst. So Livers cropped up and were fancied by someone, bought, bred from, and attempts were made to fix the colour. But having Pointer in and usually Liver and White Pointers at that, (although there is one famous case where a black Pointer was used deliberately), these Liver “Labradors” were extremely ugly. I remember them well, big, rawboned, ugly, plain-faced, single-coated dogs, with huge ears, yellow eyes, pink eye-rims and nostrils. Spread feet and long, thin calloused legs, the coat worn away on elbows, hocks, and buttocks. Worse still on their Pointer briskets which were sharp, not rounded, and with no coat to protect these vulnerable parts. No wonder they never caught on! But much later came the Flatcoat crosses and immediately we got pleasant, kind-faced, nice-looking Livers. They were a bit long coated sometimes. But the breeders soon turned them into real Labradors and now we get lovely Liver Labradors of super type in this colour. With a rich dark chocolate colour, good coloured eyes, brown noses and eye-rims, along with charming temperaments. They are even starting to swim well, unlike Pointer Labradors, who I have seen having to be rescued in Pointer style, dashing the water up into their own faces until they drowned in an upright position unless rescued.

There is none of that in the present Liver strains and they are becoming really true Labradors, in most cases being even more typey than the average yellow. One great thing the Livers have, in my experience, are the most wonderful undercoats, truly mousy and very often either lead, pewter or slate in colour. I must say when judging the Livers, they give me a much truer feel of a real Labrador water-dog than do many of the yellows I judge, who seem to come in all shapes and sizes, and all types of coat and tail.

So for myself, the Labradors will always be, in the words of Lady Howe, “A Black Dog”. But I do not blame the deviations of type and traits of the yellows and to a much smaller extent the Livers of today on their colour. I blame it on the crosses that were made that happened to be done in these colours. When you cross-breed, for generations afterwards, you get the results of that cross-breeding, thus the colours in which these crosses were made become linked with the traits inherited from the alien ancestors.

So in all honesty I myself must answer the Novices, “Yes, there is a difference between the colours because of these in-crosses”. They are not the same, the colour is linked to their ancestry and therefore linked to the behavior of the dog, according to how it is bred. These crosses are also getting so far back in the pedigrees (somewhere about 10 to 12 generations) behind our present day dogs that we now at last have the chance to keep in the good and eliminate the bad, and get back to true Labradors in type, temperament, coat and all the other things that were adversely affected; and to retain the beautiful conformation brought in by the hounds without their bad points and also keep the assets given back to us by the Flatcoats while breeding out the feathering, narrow skulls and black eyes.

For the first time this year, 1976, we have seen this actually happening and soon if the judges allow it, we shall have litters in which the three colours may appear without getting in the bad traits that came in with them. Indeed I am glad to say that we already have true Labradors of all three colours competing on equal terms in the show ring, all carrying the right expressions, good coats and tails, with the happy cooperative temperament we all strive to breed in our Labradors, whether black, yellow or liver.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

How to make a chocolate dog

I had a request to write about the chocolate color in Labradors. It seems appropriate since today is Easter.

Genetically, chocolate is the rarest of the Labrador coat colors. This is because there are only 2 ways the genes combine to produce Chocolate dogs. Chocolate is a recessive coat color. It is signified by the b gene. To produce a chocolate you must have two b genes and at least one E gene.

One of the basics in breeding is that a puppy will get 1/2 its genes from one parent and 1/2 from the other parent. Chocolate coat color is a simple autosomal recessive trait in Labradors. It is recessive to black which means that even though one can't see the chocolate color, it is still there in the genetic make-up of the dog. Black is a dominant trait in Labradors and will express itself over the chocolate gene.

So let's take the following example:
A black Lab with no chocolate gene is a BB, while a black Lab that carries the chocolate gene as a recessive trait is Bb, and a pure chocolate Lab is a bb. Now to complicate things a bit, there is a third color, yellow. Yellow is produced by the presence of a recessive gene that can blot out the expression of black or chocolate. So EE indicates that no yellow gene is present while Ee is a yellow carrier that can appear either black or chocolate and ee is a yellow lab.

There are 81 different combinations that can produce coat color in Labradors. There are a couple of sites that provide color combination probabilities. One is the Wing n' Wave site at
And the other is at

Happy Easter to all.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Breeding as art and science

It's often been said that breeding is mostly art with some science thrown in. It's a pretty true statement. When breeding there are so many things to consider, such as soundness, temperament, intelligence, anatomy, and a host of other things. If you are breeding, on what do you base your decisions? Should we only breed dogs that have been through a total body scan to look for problems? Should we only breed dogs after extensive DNA testing for *ANY* hint of problems in the line? Or should we wait until each dog has reached old age, to be sure no genetic problems develop over time. As a potential progenitor, would you still consider having children if you knew that a great-grandfather had diabetes? Or put another way, if your parents hadn't given birth to you, where would you be? I think that you can see where I'm going with this. If we try for perfection, then we'd no longer have any dogs to breed, because there *are* no dogs who have no problems in the lines and if we wait for the problems to develop, they'd be too old to breed. I heard a well-known breeder state that "dogs aren't refrigerators" . They are animals who carry an entire complex genetic code. No one yet has been able to figure how which genes form a perfect hip, heart, or elbow.

Mary Roslyn Williams pointed out in her wonderful book, "Advanced Labrador Breeding" that "Top" breeders are a rare breed. They've weathered the storms, have had failures and successes just like the "middle" breeders. Beginning breeders need to pay attention to her words because the very things that have happened to the top and middle breeders will happen to you. It's just a question of when these things will crop up.

It's easy for people just getting started with breeding to forget that this breed was established with heart, soul, and the instincts of dedicated people, who had no benefit of x-rays, eye clearances, or heart tests. They built the breed by using common
sense. They tried combinations and when they didn't work, then they tried something else. Although we have benefit of these clearances today, you still have to step up and try combinations of lines based on heart, soul, instincts, and common sense.

Experienced breeders know that breeding is always an exercise in weighing the good with the bad. New breeders often panic and will eliminate anything they have that is related to a dog who has produced the latest and greatest problem in the breed. They will keep only dogs who have "no history" of problems in the line (which, of course is a line that doesn't exist). Either the person is not aware of the problems within or is thinking that the dogs that they keep could not possibly be carriers for a problem that occurred many years ago. Experienced breeders know there are no perfect gene pools. They are more aware of what lives in Pandora's Box, and they make decisions based on many things that include testing, experience, instinct, and a lot of prayer. One very well known breeder once told me to "keep breeding until you get a problem", otherwise it's pure guess work as to what will crop up in a litter (this excludes the occurrence of gPRA in Labradors for which there is a genetic test).

When asked by the beginning breeder how to make decisions, I tell them to ask themselves the hard questions about what their true goals are and what they are hoping to achieve, answer themselves in an honest manner, and don't take the road of trying to breed "away" from problems, because that road almost always leads to a dead-end or to some other problem cropping up. In the end, our decisions on how to properly breed are personal, and we don't need to qualify our decisions with anyone. Time will tell if we made the right or wrong decisions.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Completed all the hoops

I mailed off my final documentation to AKC to indicate that I have fulfilled the necessary five provisional judging assignments and been observed on three occasions by the AKC field rep. My name and credentials will then go before the AKC Board at their May meeting. If all documentation is approved, then I will receive notice of regular judging status soon thereafter. This has been a long process but one that I am so glad to have completed.

I truly enjoy judging and find that there is a lot of satisfaction in seeing some excellent examples of the breed. What makes it difficult is when the dogs being judged are just mediocre. Then it becomes harder to find the Labrador to give the points to. Having been on both sides of dog showing (as owner/breeder/handler and judge), I can more fully appreciate the difficulties for those judges whose primary breed isn't Labradors. There are obviously different types being shown at all breed shows. I think that it is so much easier at a specialty to find wonderful examples of the breed consistently in every class. Consistency in type among the class winners is what I strive for.

Sometimes that's easier said than done at all breed shows where there are a lot of different types. However, even though you like the type, if movement isn't good, then that creates a dilemma. A Labrador should be able to move in a true manner and with ease. I don't like to see a lot of sidewinding and crabbing when the dog moves. It is fantastic when you see a great example of the breed move with reach and drive. That makes me smile!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Genotype and phenotype

With Labrador retrievers being so popular, I get a lot of calls from people inquiring about puppies. These individuals are wanting a puppy to love and be their companion. Some have done research and know about genetic problems that occur in the breed. There are many problems that occur in all dog breeds, not just in Labradors. Those problems that most frequently occur in Labradors are orthopedic issues such as hip, elbow, shoulder and hock dysplasia and eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy, retinal dysplasia and cataracts. There are other problems that occur with less frequency but which are of great concern in the breed such as epilepsy, heart conditions, and hypothyroidism. The website for the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals
and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation provide a lot of information on congenital and inherited defects in Labradors.

It's important to distinguish between clearances that are provided with Labradors and the actual genetic make-up of the dog. The OFA provides certificates for hips and elbows that indicate the phenotype (
genetic expression) but cannot determine the genotype or genetic make-up of the dog. It is thought that hip and elbow dysplasia are polygenic traits with many genes contributing to the problem. Thus, no one factor is responsible for the development of these structural defects. There is also evidence that certain risk factors play a role in the degree of expression of the defect. Nutrition, size, growth rate, and some environmental factors may influence manifestation of the defect. At the current time, the only means to genetically select against HD and ED is to use radiographs that demonstrate the actual appearance (phenotype) of the hips and elbows at a given age.

There are disorders like RD and gPRA that result from recessive genes. Thus, it is possible that a dog may carry the recessive gene without expressing it. In such a case, the recessive gene is present but "masked" by the dominant gene for normal eye structure and function. When genes are recessive, a dog is a carrier of the disorder. To be affected by the disorder, the dog must receive a recessive gene from both parents.
Parents were either “carrier” or affected. A carrier has one disease gene and one normal gene, and is termed “heterozygous” for the disease. A normal dog has no disease gene and is termed “homozygous normal” – both copies of the gene are the same. And a dog with two disease genes is termed “homozygous affected” – both copies of the gene are abnormal.

Recessive genes are difficult to completely eradicate from the gene pool because the carrier may be bred many times before it is realized that the dog does indeed carry the disorder as shown by affected offspring. In order for the disorder to affect offspring, the mate must also be a carrier.

Fortunately, with gPRA there is now a genetic test which determines whether a Labrador is a carrier for that particular eye disorder.
It’s been proven that Labradors being tested for prcd-PRA have the same disease caused by the same mutated gene. So even though we know the mode of inheritance, it is now possible with PRA to test dogs before breeding. Identification of dogs that do not carry disease genes is the key. These "clear" dogs can be bred to any mate - even to a prcd-affected dog which may be a desirable breeding prospect for other reasons.

For these reasons it is recommended that dogs suspected of being carriers through expression of the disorder in offspring no longer be allowed to breed. Dominant genes are more easily eradicated from the gene pool because individuals carrying the gene will always express it. However, one complication lies in the fact that some dominant disorders are not observed until later in life, and an individual may be bred prior to discovery of the disorder. Once a hereditary eye disorder has been diagnosed, eliminating the affected individual from the breeding program and alerting owners of offspring to the potential risk may help in preventing future generations of developing hereditary eye disorders.

TVD is a congenital abnormality and is not acquired. Prevention is limited to controlling for genetic predisposition to the disorder. It is suspected that TVD may be an inherited abnormality but the mode of inheritance is unknown. OFA offers a clearance for heart abnormalities but these only indicate that the dog being tested does not present with the symptoms of the disease. Once again, the phenotype is what is known but the genotype and mode of inheritance are not known for these heart ailments.

Although parents may have every clearance that is offered, there are no guarantees that a puppy will not develop congenital defects. A breeder can only attempt to stack the odds in his favor by choosing superior individuals to breed and being familiar with the bloodlines of each; but when it comes down to facts, only Mother Nature can determine the true outcome.