Color Genes Seldom Travel Alone


If you think the only difference between a purebred Labrador Retriever and a dilute dog with an invalid Labrador pedigree is coat color, then you better think again. Coat color genes seldom travel alone. Studies of dilutes and their history have shown us that, at least in many cases, the dilute gene comes from the Weimaraner. In other words: the dilutes we see are a mix. In several cases this actual mix took place several decades ago, in other cases the mix happened more recently.

DNA does not just pass on coat colors, but also behavior and diseases. You can not separate the one from the other, and even if you think you’ve managed to eliminate some undesired traits by selective breeding, these undesired traits might pop up in later generations.

Weimaraners have some traits which we would rather not see in a Labrador Retriever. Their “will to please” is usually not developed in the way we expect it from a Labrador. The following descriptions show us that the Weimaraner is not the perfect family dog. Not at all.

“Separation anxiety is a serious problem in this breed; some Weimaraners become so distraught when left to their own devices that they bark, dig, escape, and even injure themselves. They can also be stubborn, demanding, and tough to house-train. They’re frequently a hazard to cats and other small pets, and if they don’t get a lot of daily exercise, they go stir crazy.” [1] “Weimaraners aren’t the breed for everyone, however. First-time dog owners need not apply. These dogs have a great deal of energy and stamina and need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. Without it, they’re likely to become nervous and high-strung. They can be quite a handful, with loads of energy to burn, and the intelligence to figure out how to get into trouble all on their own! (…) Weims aren’t a soft-mouthed dog like a Golden Retriever and some have a low tolerance for small, furry animals, such as rabbits, and even cats and dogs. (…) Weims often are suspicious of strangers and can be unacceptably aggressive.” [2]

Also, the Weimaraner has health problems, apart from the usual health problems we see in other breeds.

“Weimaraners are prone to a few health issues including bloat, low thyroid, mast cell tumors, poor bites, eyelid and eyelash disorders, and especially, auto-immune reactions that are often linked to vaccination.” [3]

However, there is one disease which is pretty much unique to the Weimaraner, and not present in the Labrador Retriever: a rare tremor disorder.

“Weimaraners – sleek, athletic dogs originally bred for hunting—are known for their striking, silver-tinged coats. Unfortunately, they also are known for a rare tremor disorder reported widely throughout North America and Europe. Sometimes called “shaky puppy syndrome,” the condition occurs almost exclusively in Weimaraners. It first appears in one- or two-week-old pups, and the tremors grow in intensity for several weeks. While the trembling diminishes and eventually stops in most cases, it can make nursing difficult, which may prove fatal without intensive care. (…) The researchers tracked down the mutation through several complicated steps. Using samples from three unrelated families of Weimaraners -including dogs with the syndrome and an unaffected control group – they conducted a genome-wide association study, which examines common genetic variants in a group of animals to see if any are associated with a specific trait, such as a disease. This narrowed their search to a single canine chromosome.” [4]

At present, science isn’t able to tell from DNA samples which breed a dog belongs to. But we are able to say that certain genes do not belong to a breed. The dilution (dd) gene is alien to the original Labrador Retriever breed, so any dog carrying this gene simply can not be a purebred Labrador Retriever. And now, with the unique tremor disorder isolated, we will soon be able to prove if the dilution (dd) gene in so-called “silver”, “charcoal” and “champagne” “Labradors” comes from Weimaraners or not.

As DNA research improves every day, and we’re already since 2007 able to prove by the presence of the dilution (dd) gene in dogs that these can not be purebred Labrador Retrievers, the Kennel Clubs are still living in the 1970s. They certainly need a wake-up call.

Jack Vanderwyk,
January, 2014


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About Jack Vanderwyk

Hey! What am I like! :-)
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3 Responses to Color Genes Seldom Travel Alone

  1. Jane Anderson says:

    I agree totally with this. I have a Jack Russell rat terrier mix. She is mostly white with a couple brown areas. Unfortunately this is the shade of brown that boxers have. And boxers are prone to mast cells. My dog has recovered from two. In horses, two overo Paints should not have babies as a lethal white could result. In Arabian horses, foals are sometimes born that are a lavender color. This color brings a lethal defect where the foal dies or must be put down. This is a genetic condition that can be tested for before two horses are bred. Testing for genetic conditions from DNA is a Godsend, every breeder should be using this wonderful tool to give their babies every chance in life.

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