If you own a Kennel Club registered dog or bitch and you are considering breeding from them or using them to sire a litter, there is a lot to think about. It can be a long process to reach the decision to breed from your dog, which shouldn’t be made unless you are confident in the good qualities that your dog possesses, their health, and the quality and saleability of their future litter.
When you have undertaken your research and decided that your own dog is a good candidate to breed from, you next need to find a mating match for them – either a sire such as a stud dog for a bitch, or a bitch if you own a male dog.
Then you have to begin the process all over again, doing the same research on the other party to ensure that not only are both dogs individually good candidates for breeding, but that the match of the two dogs is appropriate too.
There are a number of different things that might mean that a mating match isn’t viable or isn’t a good one – even if both dogs within the prospective match might be viable candidates to breed with a different mate.
For instance, if a prospective dam and sire are DNA tested and both possess carrier status for a certain hereditary health condition, this might result in some of their litter inheriting the affected form of the condition, even though both of their parents were fine. Additionally, breeding closely related dogs comes with increased risks for the hereditary health of their litters, and is generally best avoided.
But how can you find out whether or not a breeding match is viable on paper, and where do you look for the information that can help you to decide on the viability of any given pairing? There are a couple of tools that can help, and these are The Kennel Club’s Mate Select tool and their coefficient of inbreeding calculator.
In this article we will explain what the Mate Select tool is and how it works, and what the coefficient of inbreeding calculator can tell you about a mating match. Read on to learn more.
The Kennel Club’s Mate Select tool is a publicly accessible free database of all pedigree dogs entered within The Kennel Club’s breed register. If a mating match you are considering is a Kennel Club registered dog, you can find their details within the Mate Select tool – just as other people can find the details of your own dogs if they are themselves registered.
The Mate Select tool is free to use, and provides a range of useful information on individual dogs for would-be breeders to use as part of their decision making process. Here are some of the main uses for the Mate Select tool:
The Mate Select tool enables you to search the results of health tests performed on dogs within The Kennel Club’s breed register, such as DNA health tests, BVA/KC hip, elbow and eye schemes, and any other recordable health testing protocols.
Dogs that have been hip and/or elbow scored also have their screening results entered into the database, which means that you can search and find the hip or elbow scores for individual dogs that have ben scored. For some breeds that have a high incidence rate of hip or elbow dysplasia, an estimated breeding value is provided too, which shows you not only the individual dog’s hip score, but also the projected hip or elbow score of your selected mating match for the litter as well.
The coefficient of inbreeding calculator allows you to determine the level of inbreeding or shared ancestry that the litter of any two given dogs will have – ultimately, how inbred or closely related the two parent dogs and their litter will be. You can also check the average score across the breed you are working with to judge how your own prospective mating match compares.
To use the Mate Select tool, you just need the registered or full formal name of the dog you are researching, or their registration/stud book number (this is commonly provided by the owners of stud dogs to enable the owners of bitches that are considering using the dog to find out more about the prospective sire).
When you have entered this, the tool will return health testing results and any other information held, but it will not tell you whether or not you should go ahead with any given match – the final decision is left to the owners of the two dogs involved.
The coefficient of inbreeding or COI figures held on individual dogs provide valuable information for breeders, which can help them to avoid inadvertently mating two closely related dogs, which comes with an increased risk of genetic anomalies and health conditions.
The coefficient of inbreeding is expressed as a percentage, and the higher the percentage score, the more closely related the two dogs in question are.
In terms of what is normal or desirable, the lower the coefficient of inbreeding, the better it is in terms of the genetic diversity of the pups, but each different dog breed has a different average across the board. This means that in some breeds, it would be virtually impossible to produce a litter with a very low COI, because the breed’s gene pool is small and there are few totally unique unrelated dogs available as mating matches.
This means that it is not really possible to state a safe or desirable COI score, and this information must be taken in the context of the breed norms. However, working to lower the COI score of subsequent litters below their parent dogs’ scores can help to improve the breed’s health, and reduce the risks of hereditary health problems in the litter itself.