What Happens to Dogs when Breeding Goes Wrong
Noel is completely deaf and partially blind. She has never let her challenges get in her way and she never will — but sadly, Noel's life didn't have to be this way.
When dogs with merle coats are bred together, also known as merle-to-merle breeding, it can result in what is called a "double merle," according to Deaf Dogs Rock, an organization that finds homes for deaf dogs. This can often lead to a lack of pigment in their ears, causing congenital deafness. If a dog has unpigmented skin in his ears, the nerve endings atrophy and die off completely within the dog's first week of life.
Each puppy within a merle-to-merle litter has a 25 percent chance of being born "double merle," Christina Lee of Deaf Dogs Rock told The Dodo. Being born "double merle" can lead to the afflictions mentioned above. "Some [canine] deafness can be caused by bad breeding," said Lee. "For example, merle-to-merle breeding … has a 25 percent chance of causing deafness or vision impairment in each puppy born in a litter from [improper] breeding."
Some breeders don't take the health and welfare of the puppies into account, which can cause puppies who are bred improperly to become deaf or blind. What's worse, some breeders are instructed to euthanize a dog when he is born deaf, according to Lee. "We like to educate breeders that Deaf Dogs Rock can list [these dogs] as available for adoption or we can sponsor the deaf puppies into special needs rescues we work with across the U.S," Lee said.
Breeds with a higher rate of deafness due to improper breeding include Australian shepherds, pit bulls, Great Danes, Dalmatians and American bulldogs.
Noel the Australian shepherd is the product of improper breeding, but her family treats her just like a normal dog, finding her challenges to be the most beautiful parts of her. Noel has no real sense that she's different — astonishingly, her confidence and happiness grew out of an unfortunate past.
Pegasus the Great Dane is another victim of breeding gone wrong. Pegasus's entire litter died, except for her, and she wasn't expected to live for very long, either.
|photos by Dave Meinert|
The man who adopted Pegasus filmed her progress to prove to the world that disability is beautiful and shouldn't be given up on.
Even though these dogs are the result of ignorant breeders, we should still give them loving homes and help them through their challenges, despite the circumstances under which they were born.
Breeders are simply not the way to go if you're looking to bring a new pup into your home. We can help prevent improper breeding by following the motto " adopt don't shop," and adopting dogs from shelters rather than buying from breeders.
"Breeding doesn't just "go wrong." Double merles are usually intentional. Greedy back-yard breeders and puppy mills turn out merles because they net them big dollars. Usually defective dogs are destroyed, swept under the rug or abandoned. The people who breed them don't care. Just as the people who buy them care only for having a cute or unusual pet.
|Red merle Australian Shepherd - from a genetic standpoint, merle is merle. Whether red or blue, merles should not be red together.|
I don't hate dogs with defective sight or hearing, they can be wonderful pets. But they do require special vigilance to keep them out of harm's way. And I do hate that their disabilities are entirely preventable, and happen anyway because of greed.
|Border Collies also come in merle, but the dangers are the same. A dog should never be bred for its color.|
If you have a yen for a merle dog, get it from a responsible breeder. In the case of working dogs like Australian Shepherds and Border Collies, that means getting a dog from a breeder who does not breed for color, but for working ability. Otherwise, adopt a merle of whatever breeding from a rescue or shelter. There are no other ethical choices.
The dog pictured above is Ch. Wyndlair Avalanche, a double merle Rough Collie. This dog should never have been born. Yet the AKC in all its wisdom failed to disqualify him at Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2012. He was named Best of Breed.
On their website the breeders of this monstrosity trumpet their pride in his "accomplishments," and conveniently fail to mention the folly of his breeding. They are proud to be using a dog that should never have been born at stud. They say:
"From his birth, we knew Aiden was destined to be truly special. As his puppies have completed their championships in amazing style, our belief in him has been affirmed! Congratulations to his many kids on their smashing success in this country and beyond!
Aiden possesses beautiful length, cleanness & lightness of head with a pretty profile, huge outline, strong rear & breathtaking presence. He has a vitality and zest for life that we love.
Congratulations to Aiden's son, Am./Can. Ch. Taliesin Alfenloch Antarctic on going BEST OF BREED at the 2010 Canadian National under Judge Barry Hastings and AWARD OF MERIT at the 2010 CCA National under Judge Carl Williford! Arttie is owned by Diane Fitzpatrick, Ontario, Canada.
We are thrilled to announce Aiden's son, Nr. Ch. Wyndlair Point Given as the winner of the 2010 Kem Memorial Sweepstakes under respected Judge Nioma Stoner Coen!
Aiden stands at private stud at Wyndlair Collies. He is available to approved bitches only, owned by Collie Club of America members. Contact for details."
This is the sort of idiocy one expects from show breeders, but what of the puppies that this dog sires? What will they lose - their sight? their hearing? - when this dog is put to merle bitches, as he surely will be.