INBREEDING---when is "too much" really TOO MUCH?

By: Tina Barber
(reprinted with permission of the author
from the November 1998 SSDCA Newsletter)


Several years ago I helped a friend of mine pick out a very nice show puppy. Shortly thereafter, I noticed that this puppy was having difficulties after eating, she was displaying symptoms of Esophageal achalasia!! That brought back some ugly memories of litters from long ago born with this anomaly! I had been so sure that I had managed to "wash-out" the recessives responsible for this! After the veterinarian’s verification of this disease, I started to research my own memory attempting to locate the cause. It was very prevalent in the (let’s call it "Sword") line, furthermore, it seemed to be more prone to coming out through the (let’s call it "Cloud") line. I owned "Cloud" and due to his size & other "special" qualities, he was used a considerable number of times with many different bitches. My records showed that the problem only came up in puppies that were inbred on him, or descended from him along with a heavy concentration of the sword bloodlines. I did more research into dogs inbred on Sword, and found that they too produced this! Since I knew that we were at least 7-8 generations away from these dogs, I was dismayed to think that somehow we could have this problem again! I proceeded to visit the breeder, and on her kitchen table she laid out her 6-generation pedigree. I asked for some blank paper, and started to write in the next few generations. It went something like this; (I am going to list the dogs in the 6th, cap the dogs in the 7th – 8th, and bold those in the 99h) Reno-SWORD, Rhyme-PAL-MORE -Sword, hooch-ZEB-Sword, Daffy- 10th & 11th, Cloud-PAL-MORE-Sword, this went on down the line! Nearly every dog in the 6th generation could be traced back to "Sword" if we went up to the 11th generation. Even more shocking was the fact that more then half of these dogs had him much closer!! As for "Cloud," either he or his brothers showed up in there 22 times (2X in the 5th, 5X in the 6th, 6X in the 7th, 5X in the 8th, 4X in the 9th) in the first 9 generations !!!! Maybe compounded recessives can only stay "dormant" for so long?? If you consider the fact that you are dealing with 1024 dogs in the first 9 generations, when the same dog shows up over 100 times (like "Sword") some caution should be used if continued inbreeding is planned!

Nearly all "Shiloh breeders" are using lines that are linebred on "Shane" or "Smokey." So let’s look at one of them now. Shiloh-Guardian Still Smokin is out of DI-MAR-Shiloh’s Princess Leia, and SHILOH’S SMOKE-IN-SZAR. Szar is out of a Gunsmoke son (Luke) and Gunsmoke daughter (Tara), who in turn is out of Gunsmoke and Solo, whose sire is "Festus, " a Gunsmoke son! Now lets look on his dams’ side. Leia is a Luke (Gunsmoke’s son) daughter, and Shiloh-Lin-mars Czarne Mishka, who in turn is out of Shiloh’s Hope of Perfection, who is out of LUKE’S bother, Cid!! Whose sire of course is.. GUNSMOKE!! How many times does Gunsmoke show up in the first 5 generations?? Why hasn’t anyone noticed this before, or if they did notice, why hasn’t Gunsmoke’s "bloodline" been researched more?

In 1983 I printed my first "Stock Sheet" that listed all of the dogs in my breeding program, with pictures and a brief description of the dog, listing both dominant & recessive FAULTS & VIRTUES! This was again repeated, and expanded in the ‘86-87 Stock Sheet that included many articles, pedigrees, and pictures!!! Just as an example, I would like to share the Gunsmoke "write up" with you.

Ch. Campaigner's Gunsmoke

Black & Cream 27" 115#

OFA GS 3405

"Smoke" has been the foundation of our Super Oversized dogs!! He was the "missing ingredient." We needed to consistently produce dogs like Luke!! Since we incorporated this fantastic Paladen son into our breeding program back 8 years ago, we have produced some of our Greatest dogs!! After proving his abilities to produce Super Size Show Specimens (he has sired several Champions and appears in the pedigrees of many top dogs today!) and after seeing the fantastic temperament and working abilities of his oversized sons -- we decided to test the "old man" in protection work. At the ripe old age of 7, Smoke took to it like a duck takes to water. He has a very strong protective instinct and proved that he was a Champion in more ways than one!! Even to this date, visitors are thoroughly impressed with that "old" dog that stares them in the eye, and will not back down!! It is very clear he is still the "Boss" and even though his sons have taken over the "girls" for him, he is still a great dog! The most amazing part is that even in his old age he can track with the best of them and still loves to go out herding the cows!! He's living proof of a sound mind and a very sound body with outstanding hips!! Smoke has been inbred, linebred, and outcrossed to a variety of bitches, and has always produced sound temperament and good hips. He has an amazing quality to pass on his best!


The only serious fault we came upon early back in the seventies was ESOPHAGEAL ACHALASIA. Originally this caused enough of a scare that we ended up sacrificing many excellent breedings out of fear. Not wanting to lose his fantastic abilities we began a selective outcross program in which the problem disappears and linebreeding than can be continued with excellent results.

Smoke has produced some fantastic pigmented pups, but when bred to bitches that carry a diluted pigment gene, the results are very "washed out" colors, including white feet (not just toes) and rarely (when heavily inbred) white facial hairs. He has never produced "livers or blues."


a) Smoke has always produced sound stable character!! Depending on the bitches, and type of breeding program used he has produced from medium to very hard aggressive temperament. He has never produced a "hype" or "spook"!

b) He consistently out produces himself, and has produced an exceptionally great percentage of males and females that mature larger than he is. All of his offspring have inherited his excellent longevity and hips.

Esophageal achalasia was certainly mentioned as the MAIN problem in his lines!! If you would like to investigate more genetic links to this, I would like to suggest you study the excellent pedigree printed in Fred Lanting's book, THE TOTAL German SHEPHERD DOG, on pg. 189. Is this the "only" problem that Shiloh breeders should be concerned with? Maybe not ! If you look at the pedigree below, please take a moment to highlight Bezaubende Zobel Tamara, and her full litter sister A-Farm’s Hannalore of Emmview. You will note that "Hanna" is Solo’s dam, and therefor Szar’s g-grandam! While "Tammy" is the original "Shep"s" dam, and grandam of the famous "Kari" !! These dogs are being INBRED on continuously!!! What do we know about them?

This is a question you should certainly ask your breeder! You may also want to ask other questions like; how many times do these dogs show up in your puppies’ pedigree? Why did you linebreed on these dogs? What good qualities do you hope to gain from this breeding? What problems may arise from such a heavy concentration of these particular genepools? How much experience have you had with this particular inbreeding, versus other inbreedings you have documented, etc.

Inbreeding can be a horrible CURSE , or a marvelous BLESSING! It is an excellent tool to be used by conscientious breeders looking for "deeply rooted" recessives! Inbreeding brings these "hidden secrets" out of hiding, so they can be properly dealt with. The great stuff can then be "polished" and strengthened through tighter inbreeding on that particular dog, the BAD stuff can be "washed-out" through identification & elimination! Inbreeding on "pedigrees" without extensive knowledge of the dogs themselves, their littermates, etc is without a doubt the most dangerous form of breeding! It is much safer to just outcross, or "type" breed! That is the reason that most novices are advised NOT to inbreed!!! Without a long-term breeding program in mind, and the resources and dedication to accomplish it , all such breedings are in vain! Worse of all, others will most likely continue to breed such dogs without having sufficient knowledge about their faults & virtues, thereby compounding this problem even more!

As a well educated consumer, it is YOUR responsibility to discourage such breedings, by refusing to purchase puppies from UN-informed breeders! If you fall for a good "sales-pitch" and end up with one of these genetically programmed disasters……….please don’t blame the breed! There is no such thing as a "perfect" dog! The Shiloh Shepherd is still under "development." Some combinations work great, others do not! Some dogs should be bred…often, others should not be bred at all! Some puppies will be suitable for future breeding programs, others should be neutered or spayed! The SERENITY PRAYER applies well to choosing a Shiloh puppy, or breeder. I have changed it slightly for future Shiloh owners;

God please grant me

the serenity to understand the things I cannot change

The wisdom I will need, to produce only the best dogs possible

And the courage to do the right thing, no matter what people will think


 Now let’s go back for a moment and look at this pedigree again. If you study all of the data in my "Gunsmoke" file, you will discover that when he was bred back into a heavy concentration of certain lines, his offspring were HUGE! When I inbred on HIM, the size went down considerably! Solo for example was very short & stocky, (just think of a Basset hound). When bred back to the "leggy’ Gunsmoke, her offspring were still short & stocky!! It took one more cross, to a Gunsmoke son to "bring back" the "leg" but I still did not get the height! The most interesting part is that when I bred Szar to Kess (who carried some very tall dogs in her lines) the pups ended up very short & stocky! If you look at Shiloh-Emmview’s Super Jiggs, you will notice that she is the granddaughter of Countess Marchese, a half sister to "Tammy" & "Hannah." If you then take a good look at Cara-Mia’s Drifter, and HIS pedigree, you will be able to understand why the pups came out that way! In order to rectify the problem, I needed an (inbred) outcross that carried the desired lines back to the "tall" dogs that Gunsmoke produced, while "washing-out’ the (Basset) "look." This took 4 generations to accomplish, but it DID work! Although the "Basset pups" would still show up occasionally, they would be weeded out, and sold as pets. I STILL do this today!!! We now call them "low-stationed" and remove them from the breeding program.

The dog I chose to cross with was still a Gunsmoke g-grandson, and linebred on his sire, Paladen. Even though he too carried "Tammy" in his pedigree, he had enough out-crossed blood to "over-power" the Tara influence! This dogs full name is Shiloh’s Easy Rider a/k/a/ "Shane." He is the sire of Shiloh’s Wolfin Sasquach, Shiloh’s Captain Caliber-Baker, and many other dogs that are in nearly every "Shiloh" pedigree, often many times over!! When you outcross two (properly selected-compatible) inbred lines, you gain size, bone & vitality!! Extensive inbreeding on the same dogs, without proper research & selection, causes LOSS of size, and increases major health risks! If a breeding program "falls out of balance" the puppies end up paying the price, developing immune deficiency problems that can lead to things like Demodex Mange, some forms of Cancer, Necrotic bowel syndrome, Pancreatitis, autoimmune disorders (like Lupus), just to name a few. Above all else, producing genetically healthy puppies should always take precedence over any specific "show" type, after all most of them will go to homes that desire them for their intelligence and companionship. Health & vitality should never be sacrificed, at any price.

So when is too much, too much?

There is no special "rule" or "formula" that works perfectly all the time, but there are general principles that need to be followed. From my experience, working with these lines for nearly 4 decades producing hundreds of litters, that have been heavily inbred many times over, out-crossed at varies levels, then inbred back, etc. I have discovered some basic results that seem to show up consistently. A guide that needs to be investigated by all breeders goes something like this; (provided that you are inbreeding on a SOUND genepool, which has already been well tested!)

4 times in the first 5 generations is usually very good. You will be locking in the "type" you are looking for, without any major inbreeding depression. When the same dog appears 5 times, a "caution" flag should go up. If he is in there 6 times……..You could be heading for big trouble! A lot really would depend on the "rest of the story" that you need to investigate, like this dog’s influence going back to the 7th (or even better) 9th generation. You could be dealing with a big problem, brewing in the background, that you are totally unaware of.

This week I did an intense study of a pedigree that belongs to a recent litter of puppies (don‘t panic, they are not ISSR registered). When I first saw the litter advertised, my stomach felt the same way it does after a long roller coaster ride! Once I managed to calm myself down, I did an intense 9-generation outline on this breeding. Knowing all of the dogs in this pedigree intimately, and remembering their littermates, etc., I would be scared to go so deeply into this genepool, even though it would make an interesting experiment. There are times when you just have to draw the line for the sake of the poor creatures that you are bringing into the world, unless of course you plan to cull heavily and raise the rest yourself.

The first thing I did with this pedigree was to circle "Still-Smokin" in red. Then I started to count off the number of times he shows up in the first 7 generations. 1 X in the 3rd, 3 X in the 5th, 7 X in the 6th, and 1 X in the 7th. That is a TOTAL of 12 times. Now if you want to go to the beginning of this article and figure out how many times "Gunsmoke" shows up in this dog, plus the other lines I mentioned, you may start to get some idea of the influence these dogs (Tammy– Hanna– etc.) actually have on the puppies that will be born! Then I proceeded to count off how many times "Shane" or his dam (Kari) show up in the first 7 generations, and again I came up with 12 times! Since Gunsmoke is Kari’s grandsire (and TAMMY is her grandam), it only stands to reason that this litter is being very heavily inbred on both TAMMY and GUNSMOKE!! Worst of all, I highly doubt that the breeder is even aware of this fact.

Since the Shiloh Shepherd was "created" via an intense inbreeding program, much care has to be exercised when planning future litters. Future owners need to be better informed in order to avoid some of the dangerous pitfalls they will face in choosing a new puppy. Other breeds that have not been careful about exchange of information in their breeding programs, and focused only on "show" or "type" have created so many inferior animals, that the breed itself has suffered greatly. Just take a look at any popular AKC breed, like the Golden or Rottweiler, compare the quality you can expect today, to what you could find only 10 years ago! If you really think about it, it didn’t take "breeders" very long to "ruin" some great breeds! I know that I would really hate to see that happen to my beloved Shilohs. I dedicated a lifetime to "creating" the "total" dog, and I have every intention of dedicating the rest of my life (and my daughter’s J) to continuing the excellence that I expect from this breed! If you become an educated breeder or consumer, you will have nothing to worry about!

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