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Incestuous Breeding in Dogs – Risks, Dangers, and Ethics

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Incestuous breeding in dogs is the mating of two closely related dogs, which results in puppies that are more alike in physical traits.
  • Breeders choose to inbreed to increase the likelihood of desired traits passing on to the offspring and to increase the market value of the puppies.
  • Incestuous breeding carries risks such as poor genetic health, reduced fertility, and the development of inherited disorders.
  • Inbreeding can lead to the fixation of defects, inbreeding depression, shorter lifespans, and weakened immune systems in dogs.
  • Incestuous breeding is unethical and can result in unpredictable and harmful health outcomes for the offspring.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Wednesday 22 May 2019
Last updated on
Tuesday 25 July 2023
incestuous dog breeding
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Incestuous breeding is the mating of two dogs that are related. It causes more predictable traits in dogs through inbreeding. This can be a positive thing for dog owners and breeders alike.

In the dog breeding world, it’s fairly common – but it does have its share of complications, strategies, and downsides.

Studies of canine reproduction have exposed many risks when the mating partners are related. These risks are often deadly and unpredictable, affecting generations of dogs with terrible diseases.

Now, let’s dive into the whole topic in detail and learn more about it.

What is Incestuous Breeding in Dogs?

Incestuous breeding in dogs refers to mating between two dogs that are closely related, such as siblings or parents and offspring.

Inbreeding can occur when dogs from the same family, like a father and daughter, mother and son, or brother and sister, mate. It can also involve mating more distant relatives, such as half-siblings.

Dogs that are closely related share similar genetic material. The amount of genetic material they share depends on their degree of relation and how closely related they are.

Inbreeding can result in puppies that have similar physical traits. This type of breeding is often preferred by breeders for various reasons.

However, continuous inbreeding can lead to concerns such as compromised genetic health, decreased fertility, and the potential development of unknown inherited disorders. These concerns can be measured using the coefficient of inbreeding.

From a genetic standpoint, inbreeding raises the likelihood of two genes originating from the same ancestor. When this occurs, the gene is said to be homozygous.

To ensure the genetic health of the dogs, breeders must select pairs in a certain way. They must ensure that the probability of a homozygous gene is as low as possible.

Why does Incestuous Breeding Occur?

Inbreeding can occur either intentionally or by accident. Intentional inbreeding, also known as linebreeding, is a strategy used by some breeders to bring out specific desirable traits in their puppies. By mating dogs from the same bloodlines, breeders aim to increase the likelihood of these desired traits being passed on to the offspring. This can result in puppies that excel in show competitions, meeting the breed standards.


Breeders often choose to inbreed to increase the chances of this passing on unique traits. The puppy inherits the traits that are most desired in the breed standard and this dog will perform well in the show ring.

Let’s go into the reasons why incestuous breeding occurs.

As A Breeding Strategy

Breeders who opt into incestuous breeding have certain strategies in mind.

Linebreeding is when you mate two dogs from the same bloodlines. Remember that the pedigree of a purebred dog has the parentage of a dog which can date back hundreds of years.

These pedigrees are used when selecting mating pairs for incest breeding.

Some dogs will share a common ancestor, while some others, especially a champion show dog, will be paired up for mating with his granddaughter. Father-daughter inbreeding is banned by the majority of kennels.

Two Breeding Strategies At Play

Firstly, the breeders are able to pick mates with specific, unique characteristics. These are traits that they want their puppies to inherit.

Secondly, the value of the pedigree. More champions in the bloodline means more money.

Strategized linebreeding helps to produce a perfect dog. Dogs mate repeatedly and produce many offspring at a time. This continuous breeding makes it easier for breeders to own generations of dogs.

Therefore, they have a deeper understanding of the strong and unique characteristics of each family.

To Increase the Litter’s Market Value

Inbreeding allows breeders to increase the market value of a litter by showing a good heritage.

This value is higher when there are more champion dogs appearing in a certain pedigree.

When a puppy is advertised, the number of championships in the bloodline is highlighted. It’s a hugely valuable trait and is brought to the attention of others.

It’s a sad fact, but a puppy with a higher pedigree will cost more than one with good health.

Because of this, puppies with as many as four championships in the bloodline will cost more than one with better breed conformity. But, this is anything but ethical breeding. Now, this kind of inbreeding is perceived in a pretty negative way.

Accidental Breeding

Sometimes incestuous breeding is purely accidental.

Here, dogs from two generations might end up mating with each other while living in the same home.

In this case, The breeder or owner in these cases has failed to take suitable precautions to avoid this from happening.

What are the Risks of Incest in Dogs?

Incestual breeding might seem to be a harmless way of creating the perfect dog. But over time, it creates undesirable conditions due to the transfer of deleterious recessive alleles.

This is why inbreeding is bad for dogs and you must avoid it to the maximum possible extent.

Here are some risks that come with line-breeding.

Inbreeding effects on canine fertility
Inbreeding effects on canine fertility (chart by Institute of Canine Biology)

Fixation of Defects

When inbreeding happens, both the good and the bad traits pass on to the offspring. There is no proper way of preventing this from taking place.

It’s impossible to predict and analyze how these bad traits will turn out for future generations – adding to the glaring problem at hand.

The unpredictability of the whole scenario is what makes close breeding an avoidable option.

Inbreeding Depression

Inbreeding depression refers to the phenomenon of a diminishing return in the fertility, energy levels, and mortality of any livestock. Especially dogs. This is caused by too much incestuous breeding and has been proven by clinical studies.


Inbreeding depression in a population is about the acquisition of undesirable traits. These traits are bad for the dog and the breeder.

The depression happens when there are many bad traits of the gene in two identical alleles (that homozygous gene). The two alleles cause many diseases and health problems. One of these being Degenerative Myelopathy, a fatal disease for dogs.

Inbreeding creates a small gene pool – the cause of incest related diseases in dogs. Therefore, the more diverse the genetic pool is – the healthier it will be. The dog will be more fertile, stronger, and have a longer lifespan.

Shorter Lifespan

A shorter lifespan is a consequence of inbreeding. The shorter lifespan is a big problem because it’s more than just a distant risk.

Inbreeding hugely affects the immunity of a dog. The inbred dog becomes susceptible to catching germs, diseases, and getting sick.

These diseases are not just genetic ones, but other illnesses too. This is because inbreeding causes a complete loss of energy in the dog. It weakens the immune system, to a point that the dog can’t fight off the sicknesses.

Of course, there are other risks that come with incest breeding too, but it all comes down to one fact. The identical alleles found in inbred dogs cause recessive genes to come out.

The inbreeding of dogs is unethical – you can’t predict the illnesses that your dog will suffer from. Any ethical breeder knows that the health of their dogs is more important than a pedigree lineage caused by inbreeding.

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