border collies: digging into the genetic background

Posted by Dr. Jules Benson on Jun 07 2010


A common question asked of me (and I suspect all vets) by friends, family and complete and utter strangers is, “What breed of dog would you get, if you had a choice?” Now, my normal answer is a Border Collie-mix. The inevitable next question? “Why?” OK, so, in today’s blog, by popular demand, I’ll try and justify my seemingly arbitrary choice with a melding of breed information, risk analysis and a little lesson in genetics.


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Firstly, why a Border Collie? Having worked for a decent amount of time with trained sheep dogs, I have great respect for the breed. For my money, they’re the smartest kids in the game. On top of that, they are also one of the healthiest pure-bred breeds with a lower incidence of serious genetic disease than almost any other dog.


So, why not choose a pure-bred Border Collie? Well, the mixed-breed part is a little more complex. Essentially, using the law of averages and the basic tenets of genetics, while a sheepdog may be healthy, a mixed breed should be even healthier.


OK, so “mix breeds are healthier,” right? Why should that be the case? Well, in all animals, there’s evidence that mixing blood lines results in a healthier individual – a phenomenon known as “hybrid vigor.” A higher variation in genes means less chance of negative genetic traits in the offspring. Simple as that! (Of course, the same is true for pure-bred dogs – avoiding breeding within the same bloodline just makes good genetic sense.)


And the punchline? Just because a mutt doesn’t have designer “genes” doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve the best pet insurance available!

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