The SKK - Svenska Kennelklubben (Swedish Kennel Club) is Sweden's largest organisation dedicated to dogs and dog owners, representing the interests of their 300,000 members – first time dog owners, experienced breeders, hunters, dog lovers, puppy buyers, exhibitors, agility competitors, and many more. The SKK is one of the founding partners of IPFD.
Svenska Kennelklubben (SKK), the Swedish Kennel Club, was founded in 1889 and is an organisation for everyone with an interest in dogs. The basic structure of the SKK is that of a representative union of non-profit clubs with approximately 300,000 individual members. Decision-making is done democratically by various committees. The final decisions are made by Kennelfullmäktige, KF (the Kennel Council), who assembles once every second year. All member clubs send delegates to the General Meeting. During the period between the KF assemblies, the General Committee is responsible for running the club. The central organisation has an office with about 70 employees, administrating the club's business.
SKK dedicates substantial resources to helping breeders breed dogs in a way which benefits both the individual dog and the development of the various breeds. The SKK’s Breeding Committee is responsible for all issues related to breeding within the organisation. Its members are made up of breeders with a special interest in these issues, and a number of experts in veterinary medicine and genetics have been co-opted by the committee. In addition to regular meetings, the Breeding Committee also organises conferences for breeding officials from member clubs and initiates courses in specific subjects. The Breeding Committee is responsible for the project to develop a breed-specific breeding strategy for each breed.
The breed clubs affiliated to SKK have delegated responsibility for one or more breeds, and the clubs therefore have their own breeding officials or someone responsible for breeding issues. Their tasks include keeping up-to-date with issues concerning the breed, at the individual as well as the breed level, both from a national and international perspective. The breeding officials provide breeders with information which helps them to set appropriate priorities and to make personal decisions regarding their breeding programme.
The SKK central office in Stockholm has a department for breeding and health employing eight persons, including two full-time breeding consultants, a geneticist and a veterinarian. The department is responsible for assisting the Breeding Committee and breed clubs in breeding-related issues, for example, managing health programmes, breeding statistics and genetic evaluations. The employees have access to a broad contact network made up of experts in the field of veterinary medicine, genetics, ethology (animal behaviour) and cynology. Moreover, the department plays an important role in SKK’s education of breeding officials from the clubs.
SKK Code of Ethics, Breeding Policy and Ethical Guidelines
SKK has a responsibility for the dog and a large part of the activities involving dogs that takes place in Sweden. SKK aims to create and maintain good conditions for the dog and the dog owner as well as good relationships between dogs, dog owners and the community. All members in the SKK organisation are obliged to care for and treat dogs and other animals well in accordance with established practice, current animal protection legislation, and regulations issued in connection thereto.
Breeding and rearing of purebred dogs is the foundation of SKK’s activities. The very first paragraph of the charter, which states the goals of the organization, specifies the significance of breeding through the text: “to create interest in, and promote, the breeding of mentally and physically healthy purebred dogs that are adequate in terms of working and hunting and that have a favourable appearance”.
Dog breeding shall be conducted in such a manner as to promote the health and wellbeing of the progeny. Each member that makes a dog available for breeding shall be well acquainted with the SKK Breeding Policy, SKK’s Registration Regulations as well as with the breed-specific breeding strategies, the breed standard and the testing working trial regulations. Moreover, breeders shall observe good breeder ethics and good cynological practice.
The SKK Code of Ethics, Breeding Policy and Ethical Guidelines, can be found here (in English).
Supervision of breeders in Sweden
The SKK carries out extensive supervision of its members, with the priority on breeders. More than one hundred kennel consultants carry out approximately 2000 visits a year to kennels throughout the country. In many areas, the consultants work closely with the animal welfare officers employed by the municipalities.
Education of breeding officials within the SKK
Education of breeding officials and breeders is a priority and major focus of the SKK’s activities. The central organisation has compiled extensive material, including several books (in Swedish), to support the education. The SKK organizes yearly courses for breeding officials as well as regular breeding conferences. The investment in education is one stage in the SKK’s efforts to quality-assure dog breeding. Knowledgeable and responsible breeders are the best way to achieve dog breeding which benefits the future of the various breeds.
Registries – the SKK registry and breeding statistics
There are approximately 780,000 dogs in Sweden. All breeders who are members of the SKK register their puppies in the SKK database. Approximately 70% of Sweden’s total canine population is registered with SKK. The registers are accessible to the public, and anyone can view them on the SKK website through Dog Data (Hunddata) internet service. The register contains pedigree data and results from various competitions, trials and tests, as well as the results of genetic health programmes administered by SKK. This gives buyers the opportunity to obtain a lot of information before purchasing their puppy, and breeders the possibility to evaluate their breeding stock.
As an additional service to breeders and breed clubs, the SKK website also features the Breeding Records service (Avelsdata) including breeding statistics for both individual dogs and for each breed as a whole. The statistics are based on results from health programmes, the dog mentality assessment, official competitions, and dog shows, as well as pedigree information. For individual dogs, individual records as well as statistics for littermates, full-sibs and offspring are available. The pedigree and coefficient of inbreeding is shown for each dog. Moreover, the service includes an option to calculate the expected inbreeding coefficient for offspring resulting from a planned mating. The population-wide information provides a general picture of the development and status of a breed as a whole, including statistics on number of registrations, dogs used for breeding, health traits, behaviour traits and average levels of inbreeding by birth year. The Breeding Records service is accessible to everyone and has become extremely popular. The transparency and opportunity to obtain information is relatively unusual from an international kennel club perspective.
The Breeding Records service can be found here, though the service is currently only available in Swedish.
The SKK Genetic health programmes
Genetic health programmes are one of the tools used by the SKK to manage hereditary disease. The SKK implemented the use of screening programmes to improve health in Swedish dogs more than 30 years ago. The first programmes concerned hip dysplasia and hereditary eye diseases. More recently, programmes for other heritable conditions, such as elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation and heart disease have been developed. Health programmes are based on breed-specific needs and have been introduced on request from and in consultation with the breed clubs.
An increasing number of genes underlying health issues in dogs are being revealed by advances in molecular genetics research. In addition to health programmes based on phenotypic information, the SKK records findings from genetic tests for several gene mutations. The availability of genetic tests makes it possible to accurately determine the genotype of an individual dog with respect to a specific disease, enabling a more subtle management of breeding programmes to decrease the frequency of a particular disease gene without unnecessary reduction of genetic variation.
Besides physical health, SKK has developed programmes with respect to mental health and management of genetic variation. All results of tests carried out on dogs of breeds included in the various programmes are registered with the SKK and the results are accessible to the public through the SKK webpage.
Genetic tests in dog breeding - Nordic strategy regarding the use of DNA tests in breeding
The availability of genetic tests for different diseases in dogs has increased dramatically in recent years. For breeders and dog owners, the utility and accuracy of these tests are often difficult to assess. Even though DNA tests offer new opportunities as a tool for breeding, they also imply new questions and challenges. The fact that a genetic test is available for a disease in a breed does not automatically mean that the test is accurate or appropriate to use as basis for breeding decisions.
The Scientific Committee of the Nordic Kennel Union (NKU/VK) has agreed on a common strategy regarding the use of genetic tests in dog breeding. The document should give guidance to breeders and dog owners in the Nordic countries regarding the use of genetic tests.
The information and policy from the Scientific Committee of the Nordic Kennel Union (NKU/VK) regarding the use of genetic tests in dog breeding can be found here.
International cooperation – Dog Health Workshop
The 1st International Workshop on Enhancement of Genetic Health in Pedigree Dogs – the Dog Health Workshop in short – was organised by the Swedish Kennel Club in Stockholm in 2012. The second workshop is arranged by the German Kennel Club (VDH) in Dortmund on February 14-15, 2015.
The Dog Health Workshop provides an opportunity to exchange experiences and views on dog genetic health. The overall aim is to boost the collaborative actions needed for a healthy, long term sustainable dog breeding.
The first Dog Health Workshop attracted a wide range of stakeholders, such as geneticists, veterinarians, and representatives from cynological and animal welfare organizations. Seven key issues were addressed and proposals for its further handling were suggested by the 140 participants, representing 24 countries in different parts of the world. The conclusions and proposals from the Dog Health Workshop 2012 can be found here.
For more information on Dog Health Workshop 2015, please visit http://www.vdh.de/dog-health-workshop/.