Image credit: Daniel Mott
A Discussion on Genetic Diversity
Recently, inbreeding has become synonymous with severe health issues in many purebred dog breeds. To be sure, the purebred dog scene is riddled with a much higher incidence of health issues in only 150 years of breeding for superior conformation in the show ring. When many breeders choose to breed their dogs to one winning sire, genetic diversity lessens with each generation. It is wise to remember that inbreeding does not create any new diversity within a breed, it can only exclude it.
Excluding diversity has its place when creating a new breed, however, inbreeding in and of itself, is not the whole story. The truth is, inbreeding is a natural occurrence and is seen to happen regularly in the wild, as is outcrossing. Nature works as an ebb and flow where inbreeding and crossbreeding regularly interchange. Observing different packs of wolves, for example, it can be seen that inbreeding happens much more than originally thought.
Here are some articles:
Severe Inbreeding Depression in the Scandanavian Wolf
So, wolves don't have a problem inbreeding when it presents itself. However, wolves also outcross regularly. When the pups grow, some become lone wolves wandering by themselves until they find a mate, typically from another pack.
Here are some more articles for you:
Is Incest Common in Gray Wolf Populations
Wolves are Suffering Less from Inbreeding than Expected
We believe that this pendulum from inbreeding to outcrossing occurs in all animal species. Furthermore, because the wolf has survived for thousands and thousands of years on its own without human intervention, (and human meddling has resulted in some extremely high incidences of health issues in our purebred perfections) we can assume that nature's way (or as our founder, Lois Schwarz, calls it, "God's Breeding Plan") is worthy of being observed and copied as much as possible.
Therefore, we believe that inbreeding is periodically acceptable and perhaps even necessary to secure certain traits that help the breed to survive and thrive. It must, however, be regulated and strictly monitored. The proper use of inbreeding can solidify certain traits as well as concentrate the breed's genes. The trick is to use it responsibly and in full disclosure, but then after using it, migrate back to a much lower degree of inbreeding co-efficiency once again. This is accomplished through outcrossing. When we outcross (and in our breed, regulated crossbreeding) we can diversify the genes and increase the health and vitality of the breed. Health issues decrease and vigor, or hardiness, return.
It is always a fine balance between inbreeding and outcrossing. Too much diversity in the lines does not allow for consistency within the dog breed itself. When we work for consistency in temperament, we must selectively choose puppies that exhibit the closest companion dog temperaments. Then, we must continue to breed like temperaments to ensure that all of our puppies have that sweet, mellow, quiet, intelligence that has defined our breed. Therefore, in our dog breed as a whole, the inbreeding coefficient should remain as low as possible while continuing to produce dogs of similar type in health, temperament and conformation.
Many geneticists agree that staying under 7% average inbreeding is the best way to accomplish this. However, as we have read in the last article above, wolf populations can sustain health throughout their entire population with as high an inbreeding coefficient as 25%. Somewhere between 0% and 25% inbreeding is a happy medium where optimal conditions reside. We will follow the wolf's example and breed only the healthiest dogs with the temperaments that work best for our modern age.