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Ardziv, Owner Darren F, White Rose Farm

RESPONSIBLE BREEDING

Ruining a Landrace

gene pool damage

Breeding the Armenian Gampr is necessary in order to save the breed from extinction. However, there must be forethought and proper planning to accomplish this, otherwise the already critical gene pool will sustain even more damage.  

 

The last few decades of irresponsible breeding or misguided choices have left the gene pool in poor shape; very few true Armenian Gamprs are bred responsibly.  The result is that an incredible amount of the gene pool has been lost and now, unfortunately, most dogs in Armenia sold as Armenian Gampr are actually not Armenian in ancestry but instead are primarily falsely labeled Eurasian Gladiator dogs.   The kennel breeding of these x-large mixed dogs has almost wiped out the true Armenian Gampr.

Here's an example...

Owner A has two extra pups and sells them to Owner B, who has some great Gamprs but lost his best male recently.  He picked two who are sure to grow his pack bigger, stronger and more coveted, as this is what people are buying. This means in a year or so his dogs will look just as impressive and will be selling dogs for the same price as his peers.  

Later, Owner B breeds the two pups and keeps offspring and repeats.  After a few generations the original pack is long gone but his new and improved pack is larger, more imposing and can be sold for a much higher price.  The new puppies are so much better than before! But are they?

With a quick evaluation you can see that their bodies are not ideal.  These pups have awkward, breed inappropriate legs and wide bulldog / mastiff chests and some have visible Central Asian facial features. Owner B is now the proud owner of a mixed, fighting lines dog pack full of stifled and funky rears, fallen pasterns, slower movements, less agility, no endurance and uncooperative attitudes. Pups from his lines have been sold throughout Armenia and some even to the US, where some of those dogs are in their own breeding programs and have produced litters.  Now imagine this hypothetical, but very real situation happening in villages and kennels all over for around thirty years.  This is currently the state of our breed.  The Gamprs have been replaced with larger dogs with many structural issue.

Fortunately, here in the US, we have opportunities that are not available in Armenia. We can evaluate our dogs using several different tools to help us choose the right dogs to work with. To investigate a Gampr properly, we should factor in all elements and evaluate the movement, physical characteristics and structure, behavior, health and working ability.  All of these components are equally important within the context of what is appropriate for the breed.  We must use available tools to stay on the right track for not only helping save the gene pool but also, need to do so without creating new, problematic conditions and diseases.

Should You Breed?

responsible selections

Determining if your dog is a credit to the breed is the first step for anyone considering becoming a breeder.  Putting two dogs together and letting nature run it's course or breeding just to have cute pups around will do more harm to the gene pool.   No one dog is perfect, they all have flaws, and that's ok!  Knowing our flaws better helps us make sound breeding decisions which increases the probability of healthy pups and creates a positive influence on the gene pool. To make sound breeding decisions we can utilize several available tools.

Steps to becoming a responsible breeder; dogs should be:

  • In good health, free of parasites, heartworms and other weakening afflictions

  • Up to date on vaccinations

  • Happy, with plenty of exercise and a job to keep them mentally stimulated

  • Registered with pedigree to know that lineages were properly investigated, taking into account any details such as inappropriate relatives, general lineage health or the overbreeding of certain lines 

  • Embark DNA tested to get results for:

    • Breed identification

    • COI%-  Coefficient of Inbreeding which tells us what percent the dog's ancestors are related and important for breeders to consider when pairing with a mate.  A 30-40% result is high, but is not uncommon, and a dog with higher values should be paired with a very low COI% mate.  Inbreeding can help cement ‘good’ traits but there’s a danger of it also cementing bad ones.  In particular, it can cause the rapid build up of disease genes in a population. This inbreeding may lower the population's ability to survive by creating some negative effects, such as reduction of litter size, reduced fertility, decreased disease resistance, and failure to thrive in puppies. It increases the likelihood that puppies could be double copy carriers of a disease.

    • DM- Degenerative Myelopathy, which is present in about 30% of our breed as a single copy carriers.  This is a healthy number but one we should monitor consistently. DM is an incurable, debilitating disease that causes gradual paralysis in many dog breeds caused by  degeneration of the spinal cord. To avoid potentially producing affected or double copy carriers it is extremely important to never breed two carriers.

    • GM2- Gangliosidosis is a fatal neurodegenerative lysosomal storage disease which ends in early death. This rare (to our breed) disease is now being studied since 3% of our dogs have tested positive as single carriers.  Currently, it is suggested that if a single GM2 carrier is bred to a non carrier, each puppy in their litter should be Embark DNA tested before leaving the Breeder. Although, at this time it would be best not to breed any single carriers of GM2.

  • Evaluated to find out how your Gampr aligns with the ideal for the breed, as the process shows us where our dogs excel, and where they could improve. We also can see if these traits are showing strongly in a family, whether a potential mating could increase or decrease any particular trait and the best possible characteristics to look for when choosing a mate:

    • Physical Characteristics are evaluated to inspect structure and to analyze the greatest strengths and any faults

    • Movement is evaluated to further inspect physical characteristics, and graceful and fluid motions

    • Working ability is evaluated to ensure the comfort level of the dog in a working setting and  behavior with people, children or other animals

  • OFA CHIC Certified when possible, by completing the following tests to determine your Gamprs faults and assets.  As the Armenian Gampr breed OFA CHIC Partner, we have recommended the following, minimum testing (further, optional testing on the CHIC link):​

    • OFA Hips and Elbows -  Ask your local vet to take radiographs and send them to OFA for analysis. No need for a specialist if your vet feels comfortable.  It is an easy process, your dog will be sedated for the best possible positioning and will usually require a several hour stay.  The vet will submit the digital radiographs along with the OFA form, complete with your information and info from your Gampr's Registration.  They must be microchipped as the vet will need to scan and document the identification number on each form. ​

    • OFA Patellar Luxation - This can be done on the same day as hips and elbows

Together, these tools can tell us how to keep a good gene pool balance and how to help prevent any more damage.  We must not continue to breed dogs who fall too far out of the scope of what is breed appropriate but instead use the results from the testing to improve.

Additionally, you as a Breeder must be committed to and responsible for every single puppy you produce and mentor to each new home.   It is not easy and is very time consuming if done properly.  We have outlined responsible ownership and breeder guidelines in the AGCA Code of Ethics which can be used by anyone who may be contemplating becoming a breeder.

To consider becoming an AGCA Approved Breeder, review the Program details.

Beautiful Armenia! Shepherds and Gamprs watching over a flock of 1600, owner Armen Khechoyan