Academic Fraud in Toller Research

Biologist Claire Wade and her Toller "Burn" during an NSDTRC-USA Field Test.

The 2011 study A Genealogical Survey of Australian Registered Dog Breeds is a shoddy piece of work and a disgrace to the scientific method.

The world-wide population of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels descends from only 6 dogs.  This bogus study manufactured 836 observed CKCS “founders.”


The authors Mohammad Shariflou, John Hames, Frank Nicholas, and Claire Wade did themselves and the canine community no service in writing it and I contend that Claire Wade allowed her own bias for and attachment to Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers to taint her judgment. Combined with her failure to disclose her extant conflicts of interest as a Toller owner, breeder (stud service), trainer, and breed club member, this bias and its resultant corruption of the methods and characterization of the results by the authors are de facto academic fraud.

The authors begin by suggesting that their analysis is circumspect and all encompassing when it’s anything but:

To better understand the actual nature of pedigree dog population structure on a whole-population basis, we examined data records for a representative sample of recognised pedigree breed populations in Australia.

This is a lie.  This paper did NOT look at a whole-population basis at all, in fact the researchers went out of their way to limit the information they were looking at and purposely excluded data that is both informative and readily available.

The world-wide population of Pekingese Lion Dogs descends from only 5 dogs.  This bogus study manufactured 1053 observed Peke “founders.”


They looked at only a fraction of the data available in one registry in Australia, going out of their way to remove all known dogs before import which were certainly contained on their import pedigrees but not included in the analysis.  This means that they failed to look at the whole-population of any dog breeds  despite claiming otherwise.  They didn’t even come close.

Only one breed, the Australian Terrier, passed the 10 generations of data mark. The other native Oz breed, the Australian Cattle Dog, fell short at only 9.7 generations but this low mark still greatly surpassed the imported breeds.

Generation Equivalents (EqG): 3.0, 2.1, 3.5, 5.4, 4.4, 3.1, 3.4, 3.3, 4.8, 4.1, 4.1, 1.7, 7.6, 2.6, 10.1, 9.4, 7.7, 8.3, 8.1, 7.6, 9.7, 7.6, 6, 7.5, 7.3, 8.7, 6.6, 4.8, 6.7, 6.6, 4.9, 8
mean: 3.9

These scientists threw away so much prior-to-import data and the documented history within Australia is so limited for almost all these breeds that their results are based upon an average of only 3.9 generations! This is less information than would appear on one single import pedigree and we know that most of these breeds have many more generations of documented history.

The world-wide population of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers descends from only 9 dogs.  This bogus study manufactured 84 observed NSDTR “founders.”


As I’ve shown before, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers should have between 11 and 22+ generations of documented pedigrees.  I’ve traced my own Border Collies back (including significant history in Australia) between 20 and 70 generations.

It’s really laughable then that they claim their results are “comparable with other species of domesticated animals.”  How can you compare genetic analysis of an entire species to a circumcised look at a niche registry in a remote island country?

Why would you make such a comparison when your data doesn’t support it and your methodology precludes making such comparisons in the first place? These sorts of throw away comments suggest an author with an agenda to create sound-bites for breed apologists instead of a scientist with ethics and objectivity.

Claire Wade's Toller "Burn" a.k.a. Am, NSDTRC-US CH Edlyn Seastar Dodge N Burn WC CGC CCD JD, is a conformation show champion.

Using complete national pedigree data supplied by the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC), this study examined the levels of inbreeding and popular sire use in 32 Australian dog breeding populations with different registry sizes.

This statement is misleading.  It says “using complete national pedigree data” but as you’ll soon find out the researchers discarded much of that data, so the use of “complete” is highly inappropriate.  If you want to use the word ‘complete,’ you should include all known pedigree data, worldwide, period.

The world-wide population of Samoyeds descends from fewer than 20 dogs.  This bogus study manufactured 149 observed Sammy “founders.”


For Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, this analysis was already completed and published before the Wade paper in 2009 by Katariina Mäkii: Population Structure and Genetic Diversity of Worldwide Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and Lancashire Heeler Dog Populations. For the Australian subpopulation, the study found an inbreeding level of 28% and looked at 13.2 complete generation equivalents worth of pedigree data.

It’s not that this data contradicts the ANKC data, it’s that the Mäki data was not artificially manipulated to exclude known relationships and create bogus founders out of thin air.

The Wade study looks at but the tip of the iceberg and pretends that everything below water doesn’t exist.

Claire Wade's Toller "Burn" is an import to Australia and a stud dog for hire. He's sired at least two litters to date.

The evaluation of data over the entire registration histories of breeds shows inbreeding trends over time.

The world-wide population of Leonbergers descends from only 5 dogs.  This bogus study manufactured 149 observed Leonberger “founders.”


This statement is misleading and if it was intended to suggest to the reader that these researchers were looking at “the entire registration histories” then it is a bold lie.

Even for the few breeds which were developed in Australia, I’d like to see some evidence that they were founded within the ANKC and that their breed is represented well within just that registry.  I have my doubts as the study claims to only have data from 1954 from the Australian Cattle Dog and 1955 for the Australian Terrier.  It’s likely that the ANKC is not the parent/founding registry for these breeds and thus their formation is not contained in their registry database (or that data has been excluded in this study).

In the genealogical analysis, animals with known parents born from 2000 to 2009 inclusive were used as the reference population. The completeness of pedigree information was determined by complete equivalent generations (EqG) in the reference population. Founders (f) were defined as animals with unknown parents (typically imported dogs with known parentage but outside of the Australian registry) contributing to the gene pool in the reference population.

This little gimmick is what completely invalidates this entire study.  They are creating “founders” out of thin air, throwing away the information which documents inbreeding and then declaring that there is no inbreeding!

This is Australia we’re talking about so almost every single breed was developed elsewhere and there’s a good chance that the two Australian breeds were not developed within the AKNC, so this one step not only obliterates evidence of the true founder effects on the breeds, it also white washes the very real import bottleneck that Australia has.

Import bottlenecks are no small matter.  Think of the rising inbreeding documented in culturally or geographically isolated human communities: Muslims in Europe & AustraliaPolygamist Mormons; Ashkenazi Jews; BedouinsMartha’s Vinyard, Pitcairn Island, Faroe Islands, Easter Island, Iceland; Hirado, Japan.

As far as dogs are concerned, Australia is no different.  Not only are they geographically isolated from the countries of origin and the largest dog markets in the world, there are also historical import barriers that prevented the easy flow of dogs into the country.  Many of these barriers still exist: it’s very expensive and laborious to sort through all the red tape, bureaucracy, and quarantine to import a dog into Australia.  This greatly limits the gene pool versus the global population of a breed.

If you read this study as presented, you’d be given the mistaken impression that Australian dog breeds are miraculously well off genetically.  This is true only if you blind yourself to reality. But that’s exactly what Wade has done:

Observed values for breed mean inbreeding coefficients are considerably lower than those reported by Maki (2010), who analysed international pedigrees of rare breeds, but are in line with those reported by others based on national data (Calboli et al., 2008; Leroy et al., 2006). For example, it is likely that the observed disagreement with the Maki analysis for the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever breed (Australian F = 0.03 vs. International F = 0.26) is related to the treatment of imported individuals in our data and, as part of this, the lack of pedigree information from ancestors of the imported dogs. The correspondence of our breed mean results with other national data collections suggests that the majority of the inbreeding identified by Maki (2010) for this breed is probably derived from distant rather than recent co-ancestry. Recent inbreeding is expected to be more deleterious to population health (Hinrichs et al., 2007) and so inbreeding coefficients calculated over more recent population history (such as are presented in this analysis) may have more relevance to breed health than total inbreeding.

The first bit of intentional distortion here is that Mäki didn’t just look at all International data, she also published subdata which included Australia.  Wade clearly doesn’t want to point out that the Australian subpopulation of Tollers is actually more inbred than the International average at 28% inbred versus the 26% Wade quoted.

Wade is trying to claim that the post-import Australian breeders are doing such a bang-up job of avoiding inbreeding that they’ve dropped their COI numbers, this isn’t the case, obviously, as the Australian dogs are more inbred on average, not less.

The second distortion is that Toller inbreeding is “distant” versus “recent.”  Tollers are not an old enough breed to distinguish between distant and recent inbreeding.  As you saw from my recent COI post, Toller inbreeding skyrockets after only 4 generations: 9.57% at 7 generations, 19.35% at 8 generations, and 25.9% at 9 generations.  This is NOT distant inbreeding.

Wade quotes the 2007 paper by Hinrichs et al to suggest that Toller inbreeding is somehow so distant that they are protected from the effects of inbreeding.  The Hinrichs paper defined “new” inbreeding as at least 25 generations of pedigree information! Tollers don’t even have that many generations in their entire history, so the notion that the Hinrichs paper is applicable to Tollers is a joke.  The fact that Wade would try and apply the Hinrichs paper but redefine “new” inbreeding as under 4 generations and “old” inbreeding as anything over that is a horrible distortion of the truth and of another researcher’s work.

When you look at less and say it’s more, you are a liar.

When you look at more and say it’s less, you are a liar.

Claire Wade and the other authors of this paper looked at less information and claimed that it was more.  Knowing that COI levels were more, they manipulated their data to tell you it was less.  

This is fraud. 

At the end of many research papers you’ll find a signed statement that reads something like this:

Conflict of Interest Statement  None of the authors of this paper has a financial or personal relationship with other people or organisations that could inappropriately influence or bias the content of the paper.

The Conflict of Interest statement signed by Claire Wade

This represents a commitment to the integrity of the scientific process, the credibility of the presented findings, and a reaffirmation of public trust that is central to peer review and publication.  Conflicts of Interests arise when an author or researcher has any relationship or interest which can influence their judgement and the potential for bias can exist and should be disclosed even if the author believes that such a relationship will not affect their scientific judgment.

While financial conflicts are the most obvious (Researcher X is currently employed by Pharmaceutical Company Z whose drug Amazicure is being investigated in this study), conflicts can arise from personal relationships or rivalries, academic competition, and even a passion for the subject being studied.

Claire Wade is a Toller owner, breeder, trainer, and conformation show exhibitor.  She imported her Toller “Burn” into Australia and it’s possible that his offspring are included as data in this study.  She has a vested interest in the promotion and breeding of Tollers and that is a conflict of interest that should have been disclosed in this study and it was not.

What does that spell?  F-R-A-U-D!   F-R-A-U-D!   F-R-A-U-D! 

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.