Great Dane World-Wide Genetic Population Study


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Be a Great Dane Angel! 

The Great Dane breed is suffering from three fatal and widespread hereditary conditions: Bloat, Cancer and Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Breed literature and surveys have estimated that the number of dogs lost prematurely and likely to be affected by any of these is quite high and increasing. There are many other serious genetic health issues in the breed and finding healthy dogs to breed from, especially from disease-free ancestry is increasingly difficult. These are realities most people in the breed are aware of.

These problems are exacerbated by the color code, separating the breed in three distinct, isolated families that are not customarily bred to each other. Add the selection criteria for conformation, soundness and temperament, plus the shrinking of the gene pool by using only a small percentage of dogs from each litter, the popular sire syndrome and the tendency to focus on champions,  and the difficulty of breeding selection and actual breed improvement increases exponentially. Improvement requires genetic diversity and a clear picture of the population’s inbreeding status.

As of yet, there has not been a plan to deal with these problems broadly and with the entire breed in mind. It is a breed of global distribution with a large population around the world. The solution, however, is a no-brainer: a worldwide genetic population study is the absolutely necessary first phase – the foundation. A scientific analysis of the Great Dane breed as a whole, using pedigree data to determine: the degree of relatedness between the dogs; the extent of inbreeding and the relationships between the different subpopulations and color families; the number of the original founders; and the size of the effective population. A complete, world-wide and thorough examination of the breed’s genetic status.

This information, followed by a DNA study, can provide breed Clubs and individual breeders with the facts necessary to implement selection programs for preserving the breed, improving its genetic health and increasing its average life expectancy. A blueprint model for breed preservation, available to the Great Dane community.

Since we started the Apollo of Dogs Great Dane Preservation Group on Facebook, six years ago, Preservation has become the buzz word in dog breeding. Finally, we can put the vision into action and begin making preservation a reality for our breed.

This genetic study holds the key for the Great Dane’s future. In the past, all the health schemes tackling problems in various breeds were based on such population studies, using pedigrees to identify carriers and individuals affected by specific problems of known modes of heredity.

Today, we have even more tools at our disposal: a breed-wide study based on a broad pedigree database going back to the founders, followed by DNA analysis, coupled with the Nest Generation Sequencing (NGS) can tell us much more: these advanced methods can inform us exactly how widespread the breed’s health issues are, the percentage of dogs at risk based on their ancestry, the number of original founders and the effective population of the Great Dane worldwide.

Based on this information, a thorough, detailed, breed-specific plan for addressing the three major fatal issues (Bloat, Cancer, DCM) and other health problems in their entirety, worldwide, and selecting the most effective strategies to eradicate them or at least radically reduce their frequency, can be devised. Practically, this study will draw a genetic map of the breed and provide the information breeders need to plan the way forward.

Without this essential, vital guidance, we have no clear picture of the state of the breed’s health, present and future. Preservation breeding cannot be successful without the critical study and assessment of the underlying genetic facts and factors: we simply need this knowledge about the breed’s genetic make-up and current state. Without the data, we are blind.

Genetic research has previously partially and at a small scale, here and there, included the Great Dane, sporadically and focusing individually in each separate issue. This time the whole picture will emerge. It is a historic opportunity and large scale initiative that has the potential to provide the answers to all the breed’s problems – the initiative the entire Great Dane community has been waiting for many decades. How to tackle hereditary diseases. How to preserve the breed. How can the Great Dane be restored and flourish. How we can affect a genetic rescue, and avoid preventable deaths of beloved dogs at a heartbreakingly young age. How we can ensure that there is a Great Dane breed in years to come. We simply don’t know the answer to these critical questions yet. And we haven’t time to lose finding out.

Every person who is interested, cares about the Apollo of dogs and has the breed’s best interests at heart can help: every Great Dane lover needs to get directly involved. Every club and society is essential to support and promote the program. It is a long – term commitment. It will take years to complete. Success will rely on the efforts of each and every volunteer and participant. But we finally have a breakthrough and an opportunity: the means to save and protect the Great Dane. We have reason to hope, and reason to dream a safe, healthier, happier and better future for these magnificent dogs that we love.

The Institute of Canine Biology has agreed to undertake the study and provide the Great Dane community at large with its conclusions, as well as with a detailed, breed-specific, tailor-made to suit the breed’s needs, advisory preservation plan, depending on the data available. We have a very extensive pedigree database containing over one hundred thousand dogs to initially use and more to be added along the way. We will need a team of volunteers to help with this and contribute pedigrees, as well as with promoting the project and fundraising.

The program, Genetic Study of the Great Dane, can be funded in two ways:

– by enrollment in the ICB online course Managing Genetics for the Future at an exclusive discount offered to the participants of the Great Dane Study by the Institute. The enrollment is the most essential part of the study: those who will take the course will be best able to read the paper and understand fully the scientific analysis. These individuals will be able to serve as mentors to others throughout the implementation of the Preservation project, and for many years to come.

– by crowdfunding. There will be no time or budget limit for the crowdfunding, until the program is fully funded and complete. The best platform that offers this open-ended deadline and versatility is GoFundMe. We named the fundraising campaign “Great Dane GPS” from the Great Dane Genetic Population Study: it is indeed a fortunate omen, as the program will indeed be a form of GPS, to lead the breed to safety. Link provided below.

No donation is too small: You may donate as often as you like. Clubs and sponsors can make donations too, and you can hold fundraising events during shows and other events. You can print flyers to circulate and promote this page, the ICB Great Dane site and the crowdfunding site to your members, friends, puppy buyers and everywhere else, from doggy sites and publications to social media and dog / Great Dane related businesses, dog food companies, etc.

You can, of course, do both – enroll in the course and donate to the crowdfunding account.
Your participation is crucial and critical for the success of the project: protecting the Great Dane breed as a whole and saving the precious lives of beloved dogs.

Let’s all work together and make it happen. Rescue, Revive and Restore the Great Dane breed as a whole, by learning, scientifically and systematically, how we can effectively control, avoid and eradicate these grave threats to the breed’s health, quality of life and longevity.

The Great Dane community worldwide is a large and vibrant one. If we all contribute, the project can be funded via small individual donations that represent less what the individual Great Dane family would spend at a single dog show or visit to the pet supplies store.

This is a grass-roots campaign: a worldwide movement for the survival of the Great Dane breed: you can play your part and contribute to a vision that is far greater than its individual parts and will have a long-lasting impact on the Great Dane. This is our opportunity to give back something of tremendous importance to the breed we love: genetic health and longevity. Please, do your part: become a Great Dane Angel. A Sentinel, a guardian and a visionary for the breed’s survival, a contributor to its preservation, restoration, improvement and future.

For the love of the Great Dane, we can all work together and make history. Let’s help our beloved breed flourish.

The future generations of Great Dane lovers and Great Dane dogs will greatly depend upon the success of this effort.

On behalf of the Great Dane Preservation Project

June 21, 2019.


The post will be updated with news and details about the project’s progress. You can also monitor the progress from the crowdfunding website (click on the direct link below to donate and share the campaign):

Great Dane Genetic Population Study (GDGPS) 

Please read the “New Vision for the Great Dane” post to find out how you can win a unique Great Dane original painting by joining and donating to this campaign!

Update: the GDGPS Facebook group, where people can contribute pedigrees to the study is now open: please go to the Great Dane Genetic Population Study group and join – thanks!

Any further questions you may have about this project, please ask below in the comments section. Or you can e-mail me at: