Barbara D Krieger on Genetic Diversity    

- introduction by Ingemar Borelius

In my article on “the past and future of the (working) Flat Coated Retriever”, that is published on this homepage, I’ve focused quite strongly on the formation of the breed and the fact that all Flat Coats today around the world derive from a small pool of dogs being available in UK after the second world war. The diversity of the gene pool affects a breed’s longevity and severe health problems like cancer can be explained by a narrow gene pool. I soon realised that ambitious efforts are made in the US to use modern science to analyse the genetic diversity (GD) in the Flat Coat. Barbara D Krieger is a US Flat Coat breeder/owner since 1985, who has taken a driver role when it comes to this and I asked her to compile an article on Genetic Diversity testing for this homepage.

I believe it’s important to state that testing on genetics is a mature science today. Laboratories can assess relations between individuals, no matter if it’s between human beings or animals, with a very high level of exactness. The traditional ways using pedigree search or statistical means (COI=Coefficients of inbreeding) to find out about inbreeding consequences, the level of outcrossing in a planned mating, are very insecure.

I asked Barbara if there are different companies to choose from providing a similar kind of DNA-service. There are others for sure but Flat Coated Retriever Society of America has chosen UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) to provide the testing service and to provide the analysis of the VGL data. As long as methods and results from other testing companies are not coordinated we couldn’t compare different dogs being tested by different companies. So, it would be a waste of efforts if different countries, different breed clubs would choose to recommend different companies.

To maintain and improve the genetic diversity in Flat Coats I’m sure there is no other way than to encourage individual breeders to use this tool as an addition to health tests like HD X-rays and eye testing and the testing of conformation and performance provided via dog shows and working tests and field trials.

I believe Flat Coated Retriever breed clubs around the world needs to promote this:

1 - at first to verify that the quite alarming picture being presented by UC Davies on the low level of genetic diversity is correct.

2 - secondly to make it a standard tool for most breeders to expose how the individual dog could add to the genetic diversity of the breed.

3 – furthermore to maintain and possibly improve the genetic diversity of the breed

I believe as well that breed clubs around the world should consider subsidising - let’s say the first hundred dogs with a significant sum of money to get things rolling.

FCRSA is offering initial support for the registration of individual GD results into However, I believe that breed clubs should consider establishing an administrative support role to manage GD data on to keep down costs for the individual breeder.

It’s important as well to state that things can’t change overnight. Dog breeding will still be about producing good looking, mentally sound and useful dogs for the average dog owner; dogs will still be used if they could offer qualities when it comes to good looks or good working qualities. An element of inbreeding/linebreeding will always be an element in all targeted breeding, no matter if it’s about the dog’s conformation or any kind of work related issues.

But we must initiate a mind shift were diversity becomes a key word in all breeding, where we mate two individuals with open eyes knowing to what extent they will add to the genetic diversity of the breed or if it could be a mean to save a less used breeding line.

We must as well pay special attention to and praise breeders focusing on the preservation of unusual blood lines as long as they produce reasonably typical, mentally sound and well-functioning Flat Coats.

Genetic Diversity - Guardians for our Breed.

By Barbara D Krieger

Problems can become opportunities

Problem - At the present time researchers are continuing to look for specific disease genes and their mutations.

Opportunity - Genetic diversity testing and analysis is now available and can immediately show owners and breeders a risk for disease by assessing overall genetic similarity within individual dogs, the breed in general and possible mate selection. It is important for our breed’s diversity to take advantage of the additional tools that are available through UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (UC Davis VGL) and UC Davis VGL performs the genetic diversity test service, while is used to analyze the UC Davis VGL Genetic Diversity data and provides owners and breeders with the actual genetic information about individual dogs, breeding pairs and possible litters prior to making breeding decisions.

Why the need for a genetic diversity test?

1. UC Davis VGL reports that Flat Coats are one of the least genetically diversified breeds, second only to Dobermans.

Looking at the UC Davis VGL graph below one can see how clustered our breed is. The comparison using the Golden Retriever was only used for the graph because both breeds had similar numbers of dogs tested at the time of the reporting.


We need genetic diversity in Flat Coated Retrievers to ensure, and possibly improve, the breed’s health and longevity.

Genetic diversity is considered by scientists to be essential to maintaining a breed’s soundness, vigor, fitness and future.

Research has linked a species’ and breed’s lack of genetic diversity to growing genetic health problems.

Flat Coat breeders are using Genetic Diversity testing and analysis to help lower the breed’s risks for

·       known and unknown recessive genetic diseases

·       complex diseases, like cancer 

2. Other breeds have been forced to out-cross to another breed to solve serious health issues.

The time may come when our breed’s health issues have grown too large to overcome by continuing to breed only to Flat Coated Retrievers.

3. If breeders do not focus on genetic diversity, a breed will lose genes every generation. Once lost, those genes can never be replaced.

Every dog tested makes a valuable contribution to the genetic knowledge of our breed’s present gene pool and the future health of the breed.

Genetic diversity testing and analysis will inform breeders with what genes individual dogs have.

Knowing what genes are presently available will help to maintain and diversify the present gene pool.

Having rare or unique genes makes a dog as valuable as one with OFA Excellent hips or a Dual Champion certificate.

Using genetic diversity results?             

Scientists agree that genetic diversity testing and analysis is a valuable tool for controlling genetic diseases. Research has shown that dogs with the most common genetics are shown to be at a higher risk for breed specific diseases.

The Flat Coated Retriever Society of America is presently using two organizations for genetic diversity: It is vitally important to use one testing and analysis service as other forms of genetic testing are not compatible with UC Davis VGL and BetterBred com.

·       test results are provided by University of California at Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab (VGL)

·       analysis of those results is provided through

Breeders can use these Genetic Diversity results just as they already use tests for and analyses of health, longevity, type, structure, temperament, inbreeding, and performance.

Breeders do not need to lose breed type, temperament or working ability when applying genetic diversity results to their breeding programs.

Genetic Diversity results are a far more accurate assessment of the genetic relationship between dogs than the old-fashioned Coefficients of inbreeding (COI) estimates.

The BetterBred analysis:

·       uses the actual “genetic relationship” between two dogs, unlike the COI, which provides only a statistical estimate. Like many statistics from earlier times, today’s science has proven to be far more accurate.

·       allows us to know the number of unique and common genes within our dog’s pedigree and a possible mating.

·       still allows us to know the number of unique and common ancestors within our dog’s pedigree and possible mating.

Helps us avoid doubling up on harmful genes

·       The Genetic Diversity analysis allows a breeder to see the potential genetic outcomes of test breeding before doing the mating.

·       Analysis scores test breedings on a diversity standpoint, using a scale of 1 (weakest) to 10 (best), just as the OFA scores hips from severe to excellent.

·       Include genetic diversity in your decision-making process, just as you use hip and elbow scores, titles, structure, etc.

·       BUT, both males and females need to be tested and entered for analysis to provide breeders with more choice when making important breeding decisions so test and analyze your dogs TODAY!       

Recommendations by   

1.    Try not to breed dogs with too many of the same exact ancestors. Breeding with too many of the exact same ancestors allows those genes, the good and the bad to be much too common within the breed. By having a more varied ancestry and retaining many different lines, we will allow our breed to have more variety in our genetics and the possible dilution of the disease genes combinations.

2.    To help increase our breed’s diversity genetically unique dogs should be bred to dogs that are equally unique, thus producing more overall diversity. The resulting litter should than be tested and the best overall puppies with the lowest Average Genetic Relatedness should be kept intact. The more unusual the adults and puppies are, the more important it is that they are bred, and bred to other unusual dogs.

3.    These dogs are responsible for maintaining diversity, so they should be generally healthy, long lived, have decent structure and good temperaments, but they don’t have to be perfect in type.

4.    Common dogs (dogs with similar genes): research is showing these dogs are more at risk for breed specific diseases. Common dogs should be selected very carefully – because they are responsible for putting selection pressure on the rest of the breed for proper breed type, temperament and health. Excellent quality common dogs should be bred to more genetically unique dogs and the best of their puppies that have the lowest Average Genetic Relatedness should be kept intact.

With effort on all of our parts and using genetic diversity testing and BetterBred analysis we may be able to reduce some of our breed specific diseases, while at the same time preventing new diseases from becoming all too common. Some diseases are fixed within the breed, while others can still be bred away from with care.  We want to prevent our breed’s diversity from becoming so depleted with too many common risky genes that we need to outcross to another breed. The choice is ours- please consider implementing these new tools into your breeding program, as conservators of the breed.

How do I test and analyze my dog from any country?

  1. Create an account, sign up and pay for the genetic diversity test. The Order your swab kit by visiting the UC Davis VGL website - cost of the test is $80.

  2. To receive the $25 Foundation reimbursement, you must be a member of the FCRSA, email a copy of your paid invoice to Mary Beth Bissig:

  3. After receiving your kit in the mail, swab your dog according to the included instructions, and return the swabs to the VGL. Don’t worry, swabbing is easy!

  4. When you receive your dogs’ results via email, forward a copy of that email and attachments (your dog’s VGL Genetic Diversity Certificate and Diversity Panel) to Barbara D. Krieger - for inclusion in the BetterBred database or enter your dog’s GD information into yourself.


We must accept the fact that the Flat Coated Retriever does indeed have a lack of genetic diversity, and various health issues. We all can rise to the challenge of being responsible for the future health and well being of our breed by making every effort to protect the diversity we presently have with the hopes of improving it in the future.

If you have any questions please email Barbara D Krieger at:


Additional Research on Genetic Diversity: (dogs) (poodles) (poodles) (Pugs) (Identifying SNPs) (DLA and Addisons) (DLAs across breeds) (Italian Greyhounds) (Akitas)

Other important papers! (loss of genetic diversity in breeds) (Tollers) 




       © Alex Faarkrog 2017