We are always struggling with defining good breeders, and it is a true challenge. But I have been talking about this topic lately, so thought I would blog on:
Good Breeders follow ALL their puppies! And share the data.
This is one thing that there is really no good excuse for not doing, so kennel and breed club breeders - anyone who considers themselves a 'good breeder' should do their best in this regard. This was one topic I discussed in a recent talk to the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Canada at the National Specialty on 11 Sept. 2021. A PDF file of my talk is attached below.
There are many challenges facing breeders - sometime integral to the status quo of show breeders, e.g.:
- Pros and cons of selective breeding over the years.
- Use of linebreeding and lack of genetic diversity and how to maintain and improve it
- Choice of health tests for a breed, a current tendency for too much focus only on genetic testing
- Lack of evidence on occurrence of disease
- Dealing with controversies and challenges and how problems in specific breeds can influence pressure on all breeds
- SOCIAL MEDIA! Unhelpful attacks on people who speak out, push for health programs, etc.
Some ideas are thought-provoking and challenging. But there are many tools available to help breeders in these tasks and many are listed in the talk.
What does it mean follow ALL puppies:
- The success of your breeding program is not defined by the best brace or group of dogs you bring to a show, or the number of champions produced by your dogs.
- It is defined by the overall, overtime health and longevity of all the dogs produced through your breeding.
- One of the greatest deficits in our knowledge of health and causes of death in dogs arises because of lack of tracking, recording, and sharing these data.
- Pedigree databases that require tests for common/important disease and only register puppies for those with appropriate results are great, especially where health and pedigree data are linked. But many kennel clubs and registries do not have this capability. And the number of tested conditions will always be relatively few.
Owner-provided health and death records are worthwhile where:
- an unbiased majority of dogs are reported on
- where possible there is the veterinary diagnosis or necropsy findings
- several excellent efforts on international registries exist for many breeds (see resources below)
- Good registries of this type are great - and should be supported BUT where submission of data on dogs is purely voluntary, we often get a biased view with breeders reporting 'the best of the best'; the more dogs that are registered, with full info, the better. AND they must not be hidden!
Why do breeders hesitate to share accurate and complete data?
This is a complex and dog-cultural question.
- Is it too much time, too much trouble, not enough assistance or good databases?
- Is it an understandable - if unfortunate - resistance to being forthcoming about both successes and 'failures'?
- The tendency certainly is different by region - perhaps some countries in Europe promoting more transparency than in the USA?
- Is there the fear - like in everything these days - that bad new will be picked up and spread maliciously on social media?
- There is a tendency to embrace sharing only when the breed comes to a critical point.
Whatever it is - a cultural shift - would be good for the health of dogs and breeds.
This is written with full understanding that this is a big ask for breeders of many dogs... but it should be a responsibility of those creating the populations - and therefore contributing to the health and welfare of breeds.
One other thought - please - make sure you have adequate evidence on the occurrence of a specific disease before requiring or recommending a new test!!
And remember - as important as it is to use genetic testing - these tests will not cover the range of IMPORTANT conditions in your breed. Genetic and other health testing is just a part of the behaviour of Good Breeders.
Irish Wolfhound Database: https://iwdb.org/
WILD Foundation - Leonberger Database: http://leonberger-database.com/
Bernese Mountain Dogs: Berner-Garde: http://www.bernergarde.org/home/Database
Australian Shepherds - IDASH Database: http://www.ashgi.org/open-health-database-search/idash
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Database: http://www.scwtdb.org/,
The Afghan Hound International Pedigree Database: https://afghanhoundpedigrees.com/