WICANI: The home of happy collies!

 (Rough and Smooth coated)     


I prefer to create my own song and dance to it....therefore i write my own articles based on years of study, experience and research. In the words of a dear friend...i am 'Nobody's puppet'..!!!! Angela Harvey

This article is written by Angela Harvey and she owns copyright. No part of this article may be copied without prior permission of the author.

Reducing undesirable traits in the Rough Collie.

This article is for ‘young’ breeders and those 'older' breeders that are prepared to open their mind.

To begin an article such as this, I feel it is of paramount importance to explain the problems now known to be associated with inbreeding.  Let me explain that inbreeding also includes line breeding because line breeding is in fact a milder form of inbreeding, and when practiced repeatedly over many generations the resultant progeny can have an inbreeding coeficient higher than some brother/sister matings ( a simple brother/sister mating where no other animals within the pedigree are related, has an inbreeding coefficient of 25%). Bitches with a high inbreeding coefficient are less likely to exhibit a natural intinct to whelp and rear their puppies unaided. Inbreeding is proven to reduce life expectancy. It is proven to increase susceptability to infection, to increase levels of anxiety and nervousness, to increase the incidence of skin and coat problems, to reduce overall fertility in both male and female animals and to increase the general level of birth defects. Dogs with an inbreeding coefficiency of 30% or more are 50% more likely to die at around 9 years of age or less. Dogs with an inbreeding coefficient of less than 15% are much more likely to have a life expectancy of at least 13 years. Because of the increasing amount of evidence based on modern research, we feel obliged as responsible breeders to aim at producing puppies with inbreeding coefficients below the average for the breed. The Rough Collie average inbreeding c/o is presently 13.7%. We are therefore working hard to breed puppies with an inbreeding coefficient of less than 13.7%

We can therefore see that breeding is not for the faint of heart, it takes years of dedication to acquire enough knowledge to become a successful breeder. Whilst we all need to begin somewhere, beginners need a trustworthy mentor with a wide knowledge of the problems likely to be encountered in a breeding programme within their own Country.  In times past the type of breeding program most encouraged was ‘line breeding'. As stated already, we now know that the continued breeding of related animals can create havoc with the immune system and lead to many abnormalities and infertility. Human babies born from a successive line of cousin marriages often have liver abnormalities and one can assume this could also be the case in dogs. For many years breeders (including myself) have bred consistently within a ‘line’ with occasional ‘out crossing’ done to avoid pitfalls. This was fine until the majority of bloodlines disappeared because breeders selected to use the same few sires. Collies around the world return tail male to a Collie named Trefoil who was born in Ireland, however although every collie returned tail male to Trefoil there were many female lines involved in this process and in the beginning a wide variety of sires from differing female lines were available for the discerning breeder to use. This variety in female lines kept the breeding pool healthy. The bitch is actually more important to a breeding program than the male, as she not only produces 50% of the puppies DNA but she is also responsible for much more...as Dr. Jim Gannon published in the Greyhound Journal 2006...below

"According to the information from Theresa Garton in Oklahoma City in USA, research has revealed irrefutable scientific evidence that challenges, and disproves, that popular traditional belief. So the real ANSWER is - that the bitch actually contributes more than 50% genetically to her litter. For the scientifically minded, this is how the apparent heresy comes about: -Every structure within the body is composed of millions of tiny cells (brain cells, liver cells, kidney cells, skin cells, etc.) -Every cell has three important components - a nucleus containing the genes hidden in the coils of DNA - a membrane (like a skin) that holds the contents of the cell together-and, the cytoplasm which is a jelly-like fluid filling the cell and supporting some other structures essential to cell operation, and, to life itself. -Two of these life-support structures within the cytoplasm are the Mitochondria, and the Golgi Apparatus. Now, the egg produced in the ovary is similar to any of the other millions of cells of which the body is composed - except it has only 50% of the mother's genetic material (DNA) in its nucleus, same as the sire has in his sperm, BUT the egg also contains the mother's cytoplasmic life-support Mitochondria, Golgi Apparatus, and all of the other enzymes within the normal cytoplasm. -On the other hand, the sperm contributed by the sire contains only the usual 50% of his genetic DNA in its nucleus, plus a tail to enable directional guidance when swimming, and a short-lived energy supply for the swim-but virtually no cytoplasm. (and consequently, none of its important life-supporting Mitochondria or Golgi Apparatus structures --these come only from the bitch.
Fertilization occurs when the sperm of the sire locates and enters the egg of the bitch, and the newly formed cell develops into a pup over the next nine weeks. However, it becomes immediately apparent that the pup which develops from that fertilized egg will have equal DNA contributions (genes) from each parent (50% DNA from each) within its nucleus, BUT, will also have all of the essential life-support systems of the Mitochondria and Golgi Apparatus from its mother's egg within its cytoplasm -- and these are inherited ONLY from the mother. Without these life-support structures, the genes within the newly formed nucleus would never survive to reach their genetic potential --and, the efficiency of the working cell in later life will be totally dependent upon these cytoplasmic structures inherited from the bitch. The RESULT is that the litter really do inherit more from the mother than the sire. The LESSON is to select the brood bitch with just as much care and attention as you would for the sire".

The above is most definitely food for thought and explains why puppies bred from UK dams and sired by American males are most definitely following the over all type pattern of the dam!

In the UK and most of Europe, almost every Collie born today now traces tail male to a Collie born as recently as 1962 and they all return to him via one of only 4 sons and 2-3 female lines. In America the majority of Collies are equally inbred on their own version of such famous sires. After much research I decided to bring new bloodlines from North America and combine them with UK bloodlines, (creating the closest we can achieve to a total out cross), in the best attempt possible to re-establish an open gene pool. It takes years and many generations of breeding to discover what lay beneath the surface of each breed, and this knowledge is essential to a long term successful breeding program. It is easy to find a fault, a health problem, an undesirable trait, and blame the sire or dam for introducing it. However the truth is, that many ‘problems’ are polygenic (concerning a number of genes) and others are carried recessively (hidden from view). Polygenic problems are widely believed to include Hip Dysplasia and in the aesthetic range of undesirable traits they include tail carriage. Neither of these problems is controlled by one gene alone, rather the dog must inherit several genes in a certain combination. This is possibly why a puppy with HD can appear in a litter of otherwise healthy puppies, and why two collies with ‘A’ hips can produce a puppy with HD, also a Collie with ‘D’ hips can produce a puppy with ‘A’ hips. However on the subject of Hip Dysplasia there are wide and varied belief systems even amongst experts, some not even believing the problem is genetic at all.

Please read the very interesting article found on this  link  -CLICK

When we consider the aesthetic problem of tail carriage it is equally difficult. There is simply no such thing as a gene for bad tail carriage, because tail carriage is usually created from a number of gene combinations. Some of these genes are recessive in nature, and in the case of recessive genes it takes two to tango!

There are also some dominant genes involved. Dominant genes are the easiest to breed out because we can see them; it is the hidden (recessive) genes that are the real problem. Tails can be carried incorrectly for a variety of reasons. The construction of the croup can be at fault and surely this cannot be controlled by one gene. The tail can be too soft and this also involves many genes controlling cartilage and bone. Tail carriage is also determined to some extent by temperament; much ‘dog talk’ is done through the tail!

As I have witnessed a ‘gay’ tail arising from two parents with correct tail carriage, the problem is obviously not essentially ‘dominant’ even in its most simple form; otherwise one parent would have to exhibit the fault.

If an undesirable tail carriage has appeared in a breeding program, do not fear, it will easily be corrected in the second generation. Rome was not built in a day. If the main cause of the problem does indeed appear to be dominant, then provided the partner chosen for such a dog is without this trait, all puppies born to this combination will carry the genes for the ‘desirable’ tail recessively (hidden) and therefore if we mate one of these to a second animal free of this undesirable trait, 50% of the puppies will be completely FREE of any dominant gene involved, and the really good news is, they will not be carrying the problem either, because dominant genes cannot be carried in a hidden form!

Why would we wish to incorporate a dog or bitch with an 'undesirable' trait in our breeding program? In a perfect world we can always find a mate for our dog or bitch that is free of all undesirable traits, unfortunately this is NOT a perfect world! There are a multitude of health problems within every breed and some problems are created by close breeding itself. A gay tail is only an aesthetic fault; in itself it will not shorten the dogs’ life. Every Collie has at least one minor fault and usually several, even Champions...if you think you have a Collie that perfectly fits the standard you are deluded!

 If a dog is otherwise healthy and proves to be a complete out cross to a breeders’ original breeding line, it gives the breeder advantages that far outweigh the disadvantage of an aesthetic fault, and this dog can still be incorporated into a valid breeding program. After all, here in the UK a great many famous, popular and highly used sires have exhibited undesirable tail carriage. Many gained Champion titles, and yet the breed is not riddled with the problem, obviously it can be easily controlled within a breeding program if the breeder is skilled in their art. Breeding requires patience and the artful breeder will aim to improve slowly in each subsequent generation. Sometimes one must appear to go backward in order to move forward!

Breeding to improve head profile and skull follows a similar procedure. I own a NA bred tricolour male with what I would describe as ‘two angled’ head planes. However, when mated to UK bitches he has not to date produced this (he has sired 6 litters to different UK bitches). People have asked me, “Will this two-angled head appear in the second generation”? My answer is “not if you continue to breed his progeny to collies that do not exhibit this fault”.

Yes, it will possibly be carried recessively, but this being the case it takes two to tango, and will only make an appearance if both parents carry these genes. As this is a rare fault in UK lines, the chance of it making an appearance is extremely unlikely and if it does, I am certain someone will give this ‘occasional’ puppy a loving pet home. The important thing in my opinion is, this male carries genetic material not found (but much needed) in UK Collies. He is a big dog (too big for the UK show ring) but here in the UK we have very many small and lightly built collies, this dog can help to bring size to what I consider to be a more acceptable level. I am delighted with his progeny. My experience to press is that UK bitches are proving dominant in type over American sires, but American bitches are proving dominant over UK sires. A strange phenomena but one that many old time breeders agreed with, I have often heard established breeders say the strength of a kennel lies in its bitches. It would indeed seem that the bitch controls type to a greater degree, but the sire adds finishing touches. The progeny of most of the NA/UK combinations is, in my opinion, greater than either parent!

DNA testing is now available to breeders and what a fabulous tool this is if used wisely. Some breeders fear DNA tests but actually these tests FREE the breeder. For instance Dog ‘A’ is a fabulous specimen of the breed from an aesthetic view point; he also exhibits a bold outgoing temperament, he is cea clear and has good hip grades. Unfortunately it is later discovered his grandsire had renal dysplasia. Does he carry the defective gene?

We now have a DNA test for renal dysplasia and can test him. If the test proves positive we can then test any children he has already sired. Not all will have inherited the gene and we can single out any that are genetically free for use in a continued breeding program. We have therefore taken advantage of the dogs’ desirable traits and rejected the undesirable. By use of DNA tests we can work around problems without dangerously reducing the gene pool further than is absolutely necessary. If we follow the old idea of cutting out every branch of ‘dead wood’ in other words if we cull any line that produces an undesirable trait, we are sentencing the breed to death. We need to keep the gene pool as open as possible for the breed to survive.

I do not believe that any long term breeder can say with all honesty they have never had a problem exhibit itself in their breeding program. For instance no breeder who, having been breeding for a large number of years (unless they breed very few litters), can truly say with hand on heart they have never bred a puppy with hip dysplasia. Have they actually hip scored every single puppy they ever bred during that extensive period? HD is a polygenic disease, and possibly (at least in part), environmental too. In Scandinavian Countries where x-raying of hips has been extensively used as a breeding tool the incidence of severe cases may have reduced, however I do not know any serious breeder who has NEVER bred a puppy that failed the grade, and this continues. Even In these Countries breeders still have collies with bad hip grades. Personally I do not believe that hip scoring should be the only deciding factor on hips in a breeding program, in my opinion the dog must also be correctly angulated and be able to move well. If we concentrate too heavily on grades alone, we can easily over look some equally important things. I have seen dogs with bad HD grades exhibit excellent movement, and in some cases I have noted such dogs retaining this soundness well into old age. I have also seen the reverse. I have seen dogs graded excellent who developed severe arthritis as young as 6 years of age. With this in mind, and whilst understanding that a dog with A hips AND excellent movement is possibly the very best option, I will ask what I consider to be a valid question. Is it better to breed from a dog even if he has a slightly higher grade (C) but who is extremely sound moving (being from dogs known to retain sound movement into old age) or is it better to use a dog with A grade who does not move at all well (and that is bred from dogs who exhibited early onset arthritis)? In view of the fact we need to keep the gene pool open, I would say that a dog with a slightly higher score could be incorporated into a breeding program PROVIDED that every care is taken with the next generation to ensure we are improving the grade. Of course, if this dog displays other seriously bad or unhealthy traits, we should not dream of using it. But one must take everything into consideration. There are actually worse problems in the breed, and we must weave our way around them all, whilst keeping the gene pool as diverse as possible.  Interestingly, I have read the total hip score of individual Wolves can range between 0-22!

We are hopefully aiming to breed a beautiful collie of strong mind and body, we are trying to avoid coloboma and blindness, we are trying to avoid HD and arthritis, we would prefer our puppies to be MDR +/+.

We hope to avoid pancreatic insufficiency, renal dysplasia, DM, Demodectic mange (and other auto immune diseases including ‘Collie nose’), heart defects, Achondroplasia, Liver problems, thyroid problems, seizures, etc.

A clever breeder takes his responsibility seriously. If he fails to remove simple aesthetic traits from his breeding program, how can he hope to understand the constant weaving necessary to remain clear of the many serious health issues?

One thing is very certain, our breed MUST exhibit a good temperament and to this end every breeder has a clear obligation, one should never breed from an animal that exhibits aggressive behaviour toward humans. Some breeds of dog are known to be feisty toward other dogs, the Collie is not a saint and is capable of arguments, HOWEVER his fights are of a ‘handbags’ nature. If a Collie exhibits more than an occasional tendency to handbag fights he or she should NOT be bred from. If the breeder goes ahead and this dog produces offspring, this breeder must take full responsibility for his/her actions. No breeder can blame anyone else for any problem arising from their using this dog. The responsibility lies firmly with that breeder.

It must also be remembered that whilst temperament is inherited, it is also taught behaviour and not always of a genetic nature. Only the owner/ breeder know the truth in this regard. If the dog has an obviously aggressive disposition he/she should never be incorporated into a breeding program, to do so is failing the breed. To do so is failing the individual dog. We must take responsibility for our own actions.

Finally as breeders we have a responsibility to our breed and its future, and we should work together to this end. No dog is perfect and we should willingly accept that any dog purchased will have faults to some degree. If we believe we are buying the perfect dog we are only deluding ourselves, and yet we are buying the perfect dog, because what is perfection? Each dog is a living being; it has a soul and a heart that beats. It has entered the world at the will of a breeder and trusts this breeder will have found it a kind and loving, considerate and understanding owner. Hopefully this dog will grow up to fulfil its early promise; we certainly hope it will live a long healthy life. In itself every living creature is perfection. It is what it is. The new owner must be willing to help this collie to achieve its potential, and accept this ‘potential’ might not be exactly what they had hoped.  As a breeder of many years I have never expected a fellow breeder to replace a collie that I bought, even if I decided not to incorporate that dog into my breeding program...why? Because I understand the difficulties involved in creating a collie that fits another person’s interpretation of what constitutes the ideal. I understand how difficult it is to consistently produce quality animals that pass every health stat. I understand how easy it is to misjudge a promising puppy. I understand how easily a promising puppy can be ruined by some silly mistake on my part. I accept responsibility, because this dog is now MINE. I also believe that any aesthetic ‘fault’ can be quickly eradicated, because I have confidence in my knowledge of how to eradicate it. Once I incorporate this dog into my breeding program the progeny are ‘Wicani’, they are the result of MY decision to combine Dog ‘A’ and Bitch ‘B’. Another breeder may have seen it very differently, another breeder may have made different choices, and another breeder may have selected to keep something very different from the resulting progeny. This is why my homebred Collies are different to those of the next breeder.

If I have made the decision to breed from this dog, I accept full responsibility for the progeny. Dog breeding is an art and a science, we can learn the science but the art is a gift. Perhaps I can remix the paints and produce a masterpiece!  One thing is for certain, if the dog is bred from, there is no way I can justifiably expect a replacement!

However, if a collie bought from me as a breeding specimen develops a serious inherited health condition, and if this condition is proven by Veterinary records, I myself am happy to replace the said dog. I would also expect such a dog to be replaced if I had bought it. If such a breeder prefers a money refund, we will refund the purchase price of the collie but not any travel costs involved in the original purchase. In my experience, breeders wish to keep their original collie unless the inherited condition has cost the life of the dog and in the case of a dog sent overseas, much depends on the ‘problem’. Presently the dog must undergo a Rabies vaccination, blood titre test and subsequent 6 months wait before re-entry into the UK, and this may not be advisable under certain conditions (for example, if the dog has seizures) if we feel that preparations for re-entry would have an adverse affect on the health of the dog, we would not expect a fellow breeder to send the dog directly home to us in the UK. We would hope such a breeder will make certain we have received all relevant correspondence before assuming we do not care, and if we do not appear to be answering your email, a telephone call might be the right course of action.

A clever and artful breeder will have proven their craft over time. If they have proven themselves capable of consistently breeding winners across several countries, what more can we ask? We can ask them to continue to the best of their ability, and at all times to consider the health and future of the breed we love. I am sure that any breeder worth his/her salt will endeavour to do so with a willing heart.

There will always be some who are jealous, there will always be some who place Ego above all else, there will always be some who ‘never make mistakes’, and are quick to pass the buck to someone else. There will always be some that are unprepared to sit an ‘apprenticeship’ within the breed, and expect to be given respect without earning it. There will always be some, who twist words and spread malicious lies fuelled by one of the above, or who simply misunderstand or misinterpret the reasoning of a fellow human being. As the well known song says...“A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” so I will finish with the words of Buddha who on his death bed told his disciples to “work diligently on your own salvation”

We here at WICANI aim to be trustworthy and professional in our approach to fellow breeders, whether you are experienced or new, and you can trust that we will not make public any private correspondence between us.

Angela Harvey