The recent item I did on the “Good Dog” and recent press articles on the influence genes has on children s ability to learn reminded me of a small article I did many years ago after reading an American book on Mendels Theory or practices that cataloged and explained the use of those practices by the American Guide Dogs for the Blind association in their breeding program.
It was hard going then and although I no longer have the book the theories are readily explained and case studies written elsewhere so the general gist of it all soon came back when I started to delve.
At the time in the seventies the Guide Dogs for the Blind herein the UK was also looking at this as a way forward and so were some Police forces though not in this country.
The reasons for this way of thinking were obvious as these organisations relied on gifts of animals to do the job, and even though assessment at the initial stage weeded out those unsuitable the training regime would reduce the intake still further as unacceptable traits would show up and the animal would be rejected, this cost both time and money and was wasteful on many fronts as the dogs would then have to found a new home.
For specialised work as required by these organisations, having found the ideal ‘prototype’, types a breeding program would be set in place that would ensure the inherited genes passed on to the offspring rather like F1 hybrids in plants or seed.
What it relies on is the dominant genes of each pair or more coming to the fore ensuring “pure breeding” or specifically the locus or single gene that relates to a single trait being passed on.
This all gets very complicated as successive generations often weaken and the whole process has to start again from scratch, so it was not the panacea it was hoped to be though no doubt with the advancements in this area of science the problems will be overcome in time.
The faults with selective breeding that is not vigorously controlled can be seen in the problems many dog breeds suffer today.
This is the result in many cases of breeders of show dogs continuing a line that has bought success in the show ring despite other faults becoming more and more apparent.
I had a good example in my time with a well known breeder who did a lot of winning in the show ring with my breed whose dogs stood out – a mainly passive temperament breed as a rule – by their terrible aggressive traits. Much of the hip problems and other physical and dodgy temperaments can be attributed to the same failings in breeding.
I won’t continue with this line as I’m sure most readers will have nodded off by now, but the reason for the prelude is obvious. Whenever a theory that like Darwin, Mendels originally was founded on research using 5000 peas !
There is an immediate reaction should anyone dare say the same theory could apply to humans, the cry has always been that humans are different, they have the ability to overcome traits as they are a thinking species etc etc.
When in fact we all inherit traits from our parents, looks, disposition, diseases, and so on, so why when the obvious is stated as here.
Do we get silly articles from people like this, what are they attempting to disprove.
This whole subject has been a taboo for as long as I can remember.
Going back to dogs, the cry “there is no such thing as a bad dog it’s the owner” is total b****. Even in passive breeds, that recessive gene will occasionally get out. I’ve been on the receiving end of one who terrorized his new family and had to be put down.
The animal behaviorists who talk glibly of how “for a large sum normally” they can correct these isolated instances of a mutation have no concern for the safety of all around.
We acknowledge that humans have faults that are genetically passed down, we accept that this can apply learning ability and social behaviour as examples, we accept it for hereditary diseases, well at least for certain groups so why not much more?
Of course, other factors come into play. No one would deny bad parenting and the lack of basics being ‘imprinted” at an early age plus peer pressure all are part of the jigsaw that is life but still the fact there are genetic ‘wrong uns’ out there will not be contemplated.
Whole lines of inbred families were in the past accepted as raving, such as the Delavals of Seaton Delaval in Northumbria, all these years on and still the subject is skirted round.
Partly, of course, a certain Adolf Hitler and his quite recent attempts to create a super race.
And the downside of attempting to eradicate those with “faults” doesn’t help the case in bringing this into proper debate nonetheless it might be an unpalatable truth all the same.