Thursday, 26 August 2010

A (hard) lesson in colour genetics

So…last weekend I’m out with the dogs and Dazzle’s coat looks an absolute disgrace, all this rain we’ve been having isn’t great for a dog with a huge coat that acts like a sponge! So I decided a good bath and groom was in order when we got home. She’s always like a little barrel, like her mother before her she is prone to weight gain, despite me cutting her food back, which is not helped by her great thick coat either. Well, I got her in the bath and soaked her and…what’s this?? OMG…Dazzle is in whelp...panic!! I looked back at when she was in season…around the time my grandad died, so the week she must have been mated was the week of the funeral when we had a whole load of family staying in the house and everything was a bit of a blur!! I just had no idea who the sire was, since I had no inkling that she’d been mated at all it really could have been anyone and no matter which way I looked at it, none of the options were particularly favourable but Spark was probably ‘worst case scenario’ being her son and a merle too :o(

Now normally when I have a bitch due to whelp it’s been a long awaited event that results in lots of excited anticipation. This last week I have to say has been one of nervous dread, waiting to see what arrived. So…she whelped Monday night and when the first pup was born…a chocolate merle…I briefly thought they might be cocker crosses (sired by Travis) but they were the size and shape of normal collie pups with neat little triangle ears, another choc merle and then the third one…an almost all white choc merle…a double merle…and I knew for sure then that the puppies were Mac’s, he is the only dog I have here that carries chocolate and he is obviously also a merle; probably second worst case scenario :o(

We finished up with 3 ‘normal’ (heterozygous Mm) choc merle boys and a ‘normal’ blue merle boy as well as a choc/white boy along with the ‘double’ (homozygous MM) choc merle. I spoke with my vet and we agreed that the kindest option was to have the white pup humanely put to sleep. The risk of deafness, blindness, lack of eyes etc was just too great to justify rearing this poor baby and there was no hesitation from my vet that this was the most sensible course of action, as sad as it seems now I’m sure we made the right decision but that doesn't actually make it any the less tough.

the unexpected arrivals...

I am totally unsure how I feel about this litter now…they certainly weren’t planned or expected and their arrival is tinged by sadness, guilt and regret but the five remaining pups are beautiful so I can’t help but smile when I look at them and I’m also quietly excited at the prospect of Mac babies; something I had resigned myself would never happen again so this is an unexpected surprise, it’s all so very bitter/sweet and I feel guilty again about being a little bit excited. The irony is that when I took all my dogs for gonioscopy testing last year, I had planned to mate Dottie to Mac so I could keep a puppy. When Mac failed the gonio test my hopes were dashed and I was desperately disappointed. I asked Stuart (opthamologist) whether it would be possible to use him again at all and he pulled his face but suggested that if I really MUST use him again it should be to a bitch with completely perfect eye structure and drainage angles, such as Dazzle (who he claimed has the best drainage angles he’s ever seen) which I obviously pointed out was never going to happen since they were both merles! I did contemplate having Mac castrated at the time but decided against it because I didn’t want to upset the hierarchy in my pack; all my boys get along so well with Mac being the ‘top dog’ amongst them and because he’s not really one for bothering when we have girls in season I’ve never found him being entire a problem (huh!).

So, here I am, well read and experienced in breeding and colour genetics and a staunch advocate against merle to merle matings, in the situation I never imagined I would find myself in, it just goes to show…you never quite know what’s around the corner in this game!

So I’m just going to share a few facts about merle to merle matings and double merles as I'm sure some people reading this will have questions.

Merle is a dominant gene and as such a dog only needs one copy of the gene to exhibit the coat pattern. So the vast majority of merles are heterozygous for merle Mm (that means they have two different genes on that allele…one for merle M and one not for merle m). When you mate a merle to a solid coloured dog the merle should (statictically) pass on the merle gene to 50% of the offspring and the non merle gene to the other 50%, so half the litter will also be heterozygous merle (Mm) and the other half will be homozygous (two copies of the same gene) for non merle (mm).

Problems arise when two merles are mated together because you now have the probability that 25% of the pups will inherit the merle gene from both parents so statistically 25% of the litter will be homozygous non merle (mm), 50% will be heterozygous ‘normal’ merle (Mm) and 25% will be homozygous ‘double’ merle (MM). The effect of the double merle gene is to drastically dilute the colour pigmentation so you end up with a puppy that is almost entirely white and this is where the problems lie. The colour pigmentation cells are involved in the development of optical and auditory systems (sight and hearing) so the lack of pigmentation can result in a whole host of deafness and eyesight issues.

What this means is that the fact that these double merle puppies have issues is secondary to the fact they are mostly white (if that makes sense)…the genes themselves don’t cause the problems, only the fact that the genes result in a lack of pigment so, while the double merle pups themselves will likely have health issues, the rest of the pups in the litter are perfectly normal healthy puppies and should a double merle be retained and bred from (whether it be deaf and/or blind itself) it would not pass any of these issues onto it’s offspring. It was (and probably still is in some places) common practice for ‘colour breeders’ (those breeding solely for colour and nothing else) to deliberately do a merle to merle mating and retain a double merle pup as a stud dog. Being homozygous MM means that a double merle, when mated to a solid coloured bitch, can ONLY pass on the merle gene and therefore can only produce merle puppies. It is also much more commonplace in breeds where merle is more prevelant, such as Australian Shepherds and shelties.

Here are a few interesting links regarding double merles but let me just clarify that I WOULD NOT EVER recommend a deliberate merle to merle mating; intentionally producing defective puppies is not my idea of good breeding practice and having to make the heart breaking decision to have a newborn puppy pts is not something I would wish on any other caring and conscientious breeder.

Double Merle Genetics

Deafness in White Aussies

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

August Flyball

For some bizarre reason I thought it would be a good idea for us to enter a flyball tournament every weekend in August (which also happens to be a 5 week month) but not content with just that we would include two weekends that involved 2 sanctioned tournaments i.e. 7 sanctioned tournaments in a single month…nuts I know!

We started at Eastham on the Wirral over the 31st July/1st August weekend. I don’t entirely remember what happened that weekend but the Pawz and Racers ran really well and got new seed times and the Demonz ran really rubbish! To be fair, everyone in our division (div 2) ran really slow and I am pretty convinced that the ring was ‘out’ making the runs longer than they should have been…our other two teams ran in the other ring which ran really well (possibly a little on the short side??).

The following weekend we took the long trek up to Dundee for two 1-day sanctioned tournaments held at Caird Park and Camperdown Park (fab venue). We ran ‘scratch’ teams since Gemma couldn’t make it so Mac replaced Bailey in the Demonz and we mixed the other two teams together on a submitted time. The dogs actually ran really well and we ran some good times plus we ran Travis and Maisie in the starters and they were both fab! After chatting to my friend Hazell (Tyne flyball teams) on the Saturday night about the problem she had running her two dogs (River – Bryning Super Cool and Jack – Bryning Bold Jack Donohoe) in their top team we decided she would move River into our team so she could run them both herself and get the best out of them. So the next day River ran with us which was really nice since Lexie ended up running with 3 of her kids (Dylan, Faith and River); this also did the trick for Tyne who ran sub 18.00 seconds for the first time when Hazell ran Jack herself! We had a really nice weekend, good company and good flyball…very enjoyable and worth the long drive.

Hear No, See No, Speak No… lol
Maisie, Mouse and Spark enjoy the wide open spaces of Camperdown Park

A rare pic of Tarka at 11 months old, she’s usually just a blur!

’HERE’s’ some more pics I took at Camperdown Park, none of the flyball I’m afraid!

The following weekend we were at the British Flyball championships, I couldn’t make the Friday and the Pawz really did struggle and came last in their division…oh well! The Racers were running Saturday with a new line up since we had moved Teal and Faith down out of the Demonz and moved Lexie up to join her daughter River in the team. Faith is considerably faster than Lex over 8” but not over 13” so she moved down with the height dog (Teal). The weather was horrendous…torrential rain meant the conditions were awful so despite them running some good times and winning all their races in the morning, it all went belly up in the afternoon with the dogs sliding all over the place and really struggling on the box; the times suffered and we ended up losing races, a real shame. Mac suffered the most, I could see him twisting off the box as he struggled for grip and sure enough he was very stiff that evening so had a massage and slept in his coat to keep his poor aching back muscles warm, bless him. We had a team BBQ in the rain on Saturday evening (true British spirit!) and all really enjoyed the fancy dress party and disco in the marquee…we all went dressed as Demons! Haha

The Demonz were running Sunday in Division 5, this was a real learning curve since this was a completely untried team of Dylan, Bailey, Lexie and River, we lost all our morning races while we all got a feel for changeovers etc but got it together for the afternoon and actually beat the two fastest teams in the division thus handing the division win to our old friends at Red Rose who were running an entire Bryning team in the form of Aztec (Bryning Aztec), Harry (Bryning Silver Harrier), Haze (Bryning Indian Summer) and Oz (Bryning Willie Wagtail)…very proud of the babies :o). It does just go to show the way flyball goes though, the two teams we beat ran fastest times of 17.60 and 17.62, we ran a fastest time of 17.85 (seasons best) and the Red Rose Rascals won the division with a fastest time 18.18! lol

There are some pics of the Pawz and Demonz ’HERE’
(kindly taken by David Flood)

A couple of my faves...
Ethan…on a mission!


And daughter River…

The following weekend we were over at Rotherham for the tournament hosted by our friends at Tyne. We were top seed with all 3 open teams which is always the kiss of death! True to form we didn’t win a single division! Well, apart from starters actually where we were joined by Beamer (a BC bred by my friend Julie) who was making his tournament debut and ran really well; along with Spud, Travis and Maisie they managed to win the division with the fastest time of the day…clever babies :o)

Spud - 10 years old and rather arthritic, he’s retired from competing but makes the odd appearance in starters when we need a ‘steady hand’ ;o)




There are more pics of this team ’HERE’
(thanks to Kirsty Price for the photos)

Again we struggled with the Pawz, Radley seems to be struggling for confidence at the moment and Fynn is struggling to concentrate for a whole division but I was a particularly pleased with Squirrel who ran her little socks off :o) We actually managed a 2nd with this lot and a fastest time of 22.17

The Racers ran ok, Mac was a little off form since he’d has an abscess on his foot so wasn’t quite 100% and I really struggled with my changeovers in on Dottie who is becoming increasingly erratic off the box, lots of lights, very frustrating!

The Demonz ran Sunday and again we seemed to struggle for consistency, throwing away easy wins on stupid lights…tsk! Hoping for better results this weekend coming at Drax!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Just Dogs Live & East of England Champ Show

We arrived at Peterborough showground on the Thursday afternoon for 3 days of breed showing, flyball and agility at ‘Just Dogs Live’ which incorporated East of England Champ show. I kinda wished I hadn’t bothered with the show, Aston got a 4th in Minor Puppy dog but I was really pleased with the way he went at his first show. The class was won by Teddy, Starside Shameless, a ’Viggo’ son who also went on to win the Puppy Dog class too. I missed Jovi’s class, decided not to take Faith in as she was so out of coat, Dottie and Spark were both ‘binned’ (shock, horror!)

Teddy on the move….

Aston on the move…

Spark on the move…

Dottie on the move…

The agility was well, painful with Teal; she just isn’t enjoying it at the moment so I’ve decided no more comps with her until we can commit to more training and she can learn how fun it all is again. I actually really enjoyed running Faith, no clear rounds but she is getting better at listening to me and concentrating on the job in hand! I think we could get it together and make a decent little agility dog of her if we could get some regular training in!

The flyball was good, we had all 3 teams running but boy was it hot! I wanted a cool coat for Teal but they had sold out when I arrived, the very kind lady on the ’DryDog Coats’ stand loaned me one for the afternoon and it made a real difference, she ran SO much better; unfortunately by that time all the collies had started to flag a bit so we didn’t gain much but I ordered 3 of the cool coats to be delivered, 1 for Teal and 2 collie sized ones. They are by far the best cool coats I’ve ever come across and very reasonably priced too; I would recommend them to anyone. I also picked up one of the dry coats to use on Spark for his pre-show bath and this is really effective; lovely flat dry coat although he does look very funny wearing it bless him! lol

Some more photos of the dogs in the showring, some stacked pics of the puppies taken at the same time and a few pics of the dogs competing in the flyball (courtesy of David Flood) HERE

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

European Flyball Championships 2010

A super quick catch up of the last couple of months starting with the Euros...

This seems like an age ago (well, it was actually!). EFC 2010 were held in Brecht, Belgium and hosted by the Black Brains flyball team. Five of us travelled out (me, Gemma, Paul, Alison and 4 year old Nico) with a total of 12 dogs between us. We only took competing dogs this year and no ‘cheer leaders’ mostly due to the new EU rule limiting the number of pets you can travel with to 5 per person. Gem and I were travelling together, I had 8 (Mac, Lexie, Dottie, Ethan, Teal, Faith, Squirrel and Jovi) and she had her 2 (Bailey and Fynn) so we were already up to our ‘5 per person’ quota with the dogs we had running. Paul and Alison had Dylan and Pip and although we had enough dogs to run 3 teams we decided to just run two 6 dog teams in case of any injuries or problems. It was another hot one and we all really enjoyed ourselves. Good racing but no trophies this year.

Some photos of us and our dogs at the event ’here’, these were taken by Peter from the Belgian kennel ‘The Border Inn’ who had come to watch; they have a blue merle Spark son (pictured in the photos).

And there are a whole LOAD more taken by David Flood here… ’here’

Gem and I headed straight to Brussels from the venue to stay with my friend Ann Eiserman (Doggone Borders), we had a good couple of days just chilling out, walking the dogs and visiting the city before heading back to the UK.

Photos of all the dogs out walking in the Park de Bruxelles (Brussels Park) ’here’; also known as Warandepark ‘The Warren’, very aptly named as it is full of rabbits! We had 25 dogs between us and not a bit of bother…quite a sight!

We drove back to the UK to spend a night with Joy and Becca in Oxfordshire where we collected Spark, Kitten and the puppies and bathed the dogs entered at East of England Champ show before heading over to the showground at Peterborough for 3 days of breed showing, flyball and agility.