Followup on A Football Field of Dogs

I wanted to address comments specifically in a post, because I know that not everyone reads comments. I am not including identities because I want to be VERY CLEAR that I am responding to issues, not people. If I use “you,” it’s the collective you and includes myself. I am making no statements about individuals or breeders with names.

I don’t know. Your posts along these lines always give me a lot to think about, and I certainly agree on some levels. For instance, the fact that every dog that is sound, mentally fit, & healthy has a place in a breeding program if so desired. And I think it takes a trained eye to be able to tell what faults will eventually cause unsoundness. But I am nonjudgmental when someone breeds a dog that isn’t “typey” or has some glaring faults, as long as the dog is sound. I could care less about a dog having the CH in front of their name. Some of the best Cardigans in history have come out of less than stellar parents, and I think that is a lesson worth studying.

Yes, I think it really is. I suspect, however, that those “best” Cardigans were not really anomalies when you look at the whole pedigree–at least in terms of soundness. You can have a bitch with a wonky topline and still breed her wisely if you know that the bad topline is not throughout her pedigree, or if you know that the stud dog you’re considering for her reliably corrects toplines. It ends up coming down to our two tests: Does it affect her life? Yes. Will it affect and hurt future generations? If you’re fairly sure the answer is no, it’s a good and ethical decision to breed her. 

To a certain extent I think this mindset follows down to “fault judging” versus finding the virtues of a dog. Many people fault judge and will decide that so-and-so shouldn’t be bred because of xx fault. I also think that what you should consider for the whelping box is vastly different than what you should consider for the show ring.

Yes, yes, and yes. If you have a dog who is likely to produce well (and by “well” I mean my oft-repeated phrasing about a happy, healthy, long, pain-free life), it is a solid contributor to the next generation even if it is not shown, or shown heavily. Breeders SHOULD show, and I think it can’t be a low priority. As political and unfair as it is, showing makes you put your money where your mouth is. It’s a peer review activity, where you “show” the products of your breeding program. But it’s not invalid to say that the products of your breeding program don’t have to be every single dog you’ve ever kept. Many good breeders keep back animals, especially bitches, that they feel will produce well but would not necessarily be the best choices to represent them in the ring. Now you have to be very careful–there’s a fine line between keeping a dog back because it is a solid producer and keeping an unsound or nasty dog out of the show ring but thinking up ways to justify breeding it. Keeping dogs out of the ring can’t be an invitation to kennel blindness. But as a strategy, yes, it’s valid.

And, of course, the issue with trying to do only the “valid” and relevant tests is that it’s not always clear which are which. I’ve heard many arguments that hips are not a relevant test in Cardis, but having lived with an OFA “mild” who DID show symptoms (while his OFA “moderate” dam did not), it’s hard for me to accept those arguments. Like above, I don’t get judgmental of those who choose to breed borderline hips when the dog seems very sound, as long as they do so thoughtfully. But I also can’t accept that idea that we should give up on trying to improve hips just because the tools are flawed. 

For me, the question on hips again comes down to whether it hurts the individual dog and whether it hurts the next generation. In some breeds that answer is completely obvious. In ours I really think it’s not. You saw it yourself in dogs that did not follow the “rule” of severity of dysplasia equalling pain level. And the answer to the second one, hurting the next generation, seems to be VERY poorly understood. I think we can say in Cardigans that an OFA-type view has moderate–not super, but moderate–value when it comes to analyzing the health of that dog as he or she stands there. It does not seem to have a lot of value when it comes to predicting how that dog will produce the next generation. The question is not whether the tools are imperfect–the question is whether they work AT ALL.

And I also feel that because of the AR activists, we need to be very careful about differentiating ourselves in as many ways as possible from mass-market breeders. That’s a tricky line to walk.

I want to address this one more fully below, because I think it is a VERY VERY BAD IDEA to be thinking along these lines. But since it’s repeated below, let me write about it once and not twice.

Comment 2:

“EVERY DOG WHO IS REMOVED FROM THE POPULATION HURTS THAT POPULATION.” – No, I won’t go there. And then you don’t go there either as you go on to talk about eliminating dogs with unsound structure or temperament from the gene pool. However, structurally sound dogs with cosmetic problems (such as mismarked or coat length) need not be eliminated in my opinion as well. And color? Well, most know how I feel on that issue.

Removing any animal from a population hurts that population. That’s how it works. It’s not my personal agenda; it’s ecological fact. No change is neutral, no removal without cost. The question is whether the removal benefits the population more than it hurts it. 

Nature performs this task with incredible efficiency and also with incredible conservation. She never unnecessarily removes an animal; she leaves the maximum number who can survive to reproduce. Barring a bottlenecking event like a flood or a volcanic eruption or something that kills a ton of animals in an unnatural way (i.e., in a way that doesn’t prove whether or not they would have survived in their environment), populations will stay at their maximum possible, breeding as widely as possible, maintaining the richest gene pool possible. The extent to which we screw with that process is the danger we put populations in. 

I am sure you know the term “no sacred cows.” We need to make sure we’re not falling into groupthink or conventional wisdom; we have to tell the truth even if nobody else is. For some reason, breeding has become something we view almost as a necessary evil, and it’s really better to not breed. That’s how the majority of “breeders” feel, or at least how they behave. I’ve heard people brag that they’ve been in a breed for 30 years and only bred four litters in that time, and they really do think that makes them a better breeder than someone who has been producing three or five litters a year over that span. 

That is, in the words of Trollope, a damnable lie. It is utterly contrary to the way you behave if you want to produce and maintain the healthiest possible population. We need to stop thinking that the best way to be good breeders is to not breed! We need to be breeding the largest possible number of dogs to the largest possible number of dogs or our gene pool will disappear. It should be “I neuter wisely,” even more than “I breed wisely.”

I strongly agree with [the above] statement about needing to be careful in today’s political AR climate. We need to be the guardians of our breeds and do our best to raise the bar, not lower it.

Now, see, here’s where I get the major heebies.

 

It is utterly vital to realize that the HSUS and the more generalized animal rights agenda has absolutely nothing to do with discovering who has the healthiest puppies. If you are laboring under the delusion that we have ANY kind of defense against their agendas because we do four health tests instead of one you are VERY VERY wrong.

And, if we’re honest, no matter how careful we are we can’t guarantee health. We can’t even guarantee that the puppy we’re selling is going to live a longer or better life, or have a better temperament, than the most raddled Malti-Poo from Petland.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you know that the dog we are all foolishly and totally in love with is Ginny, a genetic nightmare of a designer dog with a mouth that can’t even close properly. If I had a houseful of Ginnys I’d be in heaven. And the worst experience I’ve ever had with a dog I owned was a purebred with a pedigree as perfect as you could ever imagine.

That’s why I think it’s a really terrible idea to even pretend we can “promise” a product, or to say that our dogs are “better” than the worst reject from a puppy mill. Owners love their dogs, and what makes dogs “better” from their standpoint has nothing to do with the way we tend to define it. We can say they are sounder, we can try to educate them about conformation, we can talk about the ability to do a job. Ninety-nine percent of that will go in one ear and out the other. And then we’ll sell them a puppy, they’ll make a hundred dumb mistakes, they’ll create a fear-biting dog, and they will be convinced that we’ve ripped them off. Promising “better” is a dead end.

What we can do is WARRANTY health, stand behind our dogs; fix problems and replace puppies. But we should be doing that just because it’s the right thing to do, not because it will decrease litigation or liability. I’m afraid that ship has already sailed, and we’re going to be in court whether we like it or not and it will have nothing to do with whether we have healthy dogs.

The HSUS and its ilk make no differentiation between responsible and irresponsible breeding; their only goal is to end breeding altogether. The HSUS is asking for lemon reports to prove that unhealthy puppies come from breeders, that breeders produce unfit animals (and they do-I don’t care how many tests breeders do, if you have more than a couple of litters you will produce puppies that die young and even horrifically, sometimes due to genetics but usually due to the fact that they’re living things and some living things die young), that breeders create animals with bad temperaments or bad behavior, and that breeders treat their animals cruelly, and therefore you should never buy from a breeder.

If we breed with the HSUS’s threat as a motivator, or with some mythical definition of perfect health as the qualification for responsible breeding, we WILL fail. Don’t forget that we’re breeding dogs with a deformity, and even though we know that their quality of life is not hurt we’re automatically viewed as sickos who like deformed dogs. In other words, if we cater to that approach we will be neatly forced into not breeding at all.

Think about this carefully: If you were taken to court and asked to prove that the puppies you’re selling are “better” than a group of ten Aussie-doodles, could you do it? Because that’s what you’re saying you can do. You’re saying that because you health-test and somehow breed only “elite” dogs, raising the bar, you’ve differentiated yourself as “better.”

The prosecutor leans over and says, “So you’re saying that none of your dogs have ever shown any kind of reactivity or aggression toward other dogs? How about kids-is every single one of the dogs you have in your house completely trustworthy with children? Will they happily approach the elderly and disabled? Has any dog you’ve ever sold bitten any other animal or human? Has any dog you’ve ever bred been diagnosed with any genetic health problem? OK, well, plainly you’re in trouble there, so let’s go on to our expert witness. Dr. Wilson, can you show us a study that establishes that the defendant’s dogs are healthier than these mixed-breed dogs? OK, well, are the defendant’s dogs able to run normally? Oh, they have a deformity, yes. Why would anyone choose to breed dogs with a deformity? Well do they have any hip dysplasia? Oh, these deformed little dogs have hips that are twice as loose as the mixed breeds’ are? So… in other words, there is a documented history of bad temperaments, bad behaviors, bad health, and they’re congenitally deformed and damaged.”

You could NOT defend yourself. You would not have a single leg to stand on. “Raising the bar” is what we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better, to tell ourselves that when someone comes knocking we’ll be safe. WRONG. This is one thing I CAN guarantee: If breeding Cardigans were put on trial according to the animal rights agenda, our breed would be shut down without hesitation.

So forget the animal rights organizations-they do not respect you, they do not make ANY differentiation between you and the guy who has a thousand dogs in rabbit cages full of filth. They will work just as hard to destroy you as they work to destroy him.

You breed for the BREED. For the DOGS. Not because somebody has a carrot or a stick. You find out the truth-about genetics, heterozygosity, soundness, movement, health, testing, all of it-and you breed to hand off the best and best-prepared population to the next generation of breeders.

Being a guardian of the breed needs to be something you take very seriously, and that means understanding and owning your decisions and working to understand the situation and the actions that will benefit the entire breed.
We’ve GOT to stop defining it as “doing more health testing than my neighbor does.” Even if that were a positive, it’s about five percent of what makes a healthy population. What about disease resistance, heterozygosity, population dynamics and geographical diversity, founding members, 200-year projections, growth rates, fecundity, fertility, lifespan, survival rates, biomechanical fitness, and the hundreds of other topics that we know about PINE TREES, for crying out loud, that every property manager has to know about his CLUB MOSS but we conveniently ignore in dogs because ooo, we’re such great breeders because we x-ray hips?

The long-term health of this precious, precious population, this endangered species, this cup of wine so close to spilling, think of it however you want. Bringing it from |here| to |there| demands every single bit of us; it demands tearing down the sacred cows and looking at the truth. It demands actions that are defensible scientifically and morally. It demands seeing the whole picture. That is the ONLY motivation; nothing else will stand the test of time and nothing else is fair to the dogs.

 

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10 thoughts on “Followup on A Football Field of Dogs

  1. Well, I’d like to note that I don’t think we should be differentiating ourselves for the AR people’s sake. We should be doing if for everyone ELSE’s sake. The “general public”, the people who buy our dogs or any dog, and the people who are making decisions on bills that affect our rights. I know better that to think that the ARistas will change their opinion, no matter what we may or may not do. LOL But if we can influence the opinion of the people in the middle, that to me is vitally important.

    I NEVER tell people that my dogs or planned puppies are “better” than others. I tell them that I take steps to give them the best chance I can. If they’re still listening, I’ll go into more detail about tests and breeding decisions, stress the important of training and early socialization, and talk about guarantees. Because that’s really all I can do…say that I will do the best I can, and that if something goes wrong, I’ll do my best to help fix it.

    As far as the diverse population comments go, scientifically I definitely see your point. Reality is a bit different though, as not that many people have the desire or means to support a large kennel of breeding animals. I CAN’T breed 3-5 litters a year, nor would I want to, and it’s not because I feel like I “shouldn’t” because breeding is bad. Heck someone who does not work would have plenty of time to raise & socialize that many litters. Finding good homes for them would be more challenging than raising them, though, and that’s not a step that I’m willing to shortcut. Yes, some of the homes my puppies go to will probably turn out to be not the best. But hopefully the majority will not. But even that aside, I’m just not in a life position to raise many litters, nor are a lot of people these days. Ultimately, I am assuming that you will argue that fact will be the downfall of purebred dogs, and you may be right. :o)

  2. Jeri, one thing that I think is interesting is the people who say “I could NEVER find that many good homes.” I bred my first litter in November (Rittie reabsorbed, unfortunately, but that’s not the point here.) I had TWENTY FOUR PEOPLE contact me. 18 of them passed my scrutiny (including reference checks, and a phone interview.) and 2 more were borderline (might have been good puppy owners but had factors that made me think they’d be better off with a different breed in one case and a breeder who was closer to them in the other.)

    I am a first-time breeder, and while 6 of those were referrals from my friends in our local breed club, there are obviously a lot of people out there looking and looking hard for a well-bred puppy with health-tested parents! The message IS reaching someone. We just need to figure out how to make sure that they find a reputable breeder, because so many of the reputable breeders are basically in hiding.

  3. “Don’t forget that we’re breeding dogs with a deformity, and even though we know that their quality of life is not hurt . . .”

    To play the devil’s advocate, do we know that? I believe that the jury is still out on the link between IVDD and achondroplasia. Having both owned and produced dogs who went down at the age of four, I am sensitive on this subject.

    I have never claimed that our puppies are perfect or that we’ve never produced a problem, are you implying that I have? Anyone who makes such a claim hasn’t bred enough litters to know. We have bred a number of litters in the last 15 years but not yet enough to have “seen it all”.

    Six months ago I made the decision to place an otherwise wonderful dog who I loved very much because his hips didn’t pass. That was a painful decision but I felt it was right choice for future generations. It was the correct choice for the dog as well as it is not fair to them to keep an unlimited number. The days of big breeders with kennels full of dogs has for the most part come to an end outside of commercial kennels. You might wish that things didn’t change, but change they do and it’s true that it’s not always for the better.

    We each have to make our own decisions. The shotgun approach to breeding has produced some wonderful specimens in the past. But now we have more knowledge and more tests that we can base breeding decisions on. It is my choice if I wish to use them to help me make my decisions.

  4. One other thought that has been nagging at me.

    I’ve heard you say a couple of times something along the lines of OFA “does not seem to have a lot of value when it comes to predicting how that dog will produce the next generation.”

    In a single generation? Sure, absolutely. It’s like any other non-simple trait. Say you have a dog that is OFA Good. His sire is also OFA Good, and his dam wasn’t x-rayed at all so we have no idea what her hips look like. 1 of the 4 grandparents also happens to be OFA Good, but the rest are unknown. That is not an uncommon pedigree in Cardis, at all. How on earth would we know how to expect the hips to reproduce?? It would take GENERATIONS of solid, passing hips to have any sort of reproducibility, IMO. And the simple fact is, that DOES NOT to my knowledge, exist in the breed. I haven’t ever seen a pedigree that goes, say, even 3 generations deep with passing hip scores. The Eli x Lizzie litter pedigree is actually pretty good, with all 4 grandparents and 6 of the 8 great-gp having passing hip scores.

    Additionally, OFA recommends that you look for breadth of pedigree as well. A dog that xrays good but his siblings xray poorly would not be as good a breeding prospect as one that had siblings that xrayed good also.

    These issues are all obviously separate from the opinion that we don’t need to fix hips in Cardis because of the dwarfism and unknown effects on the skeleton/pain. That’s a separate belief altogether, but I disagree with statements that OFA/Penn-Hip “don’t work”. I don’t think we KNOW if they work, because the breed doesn’t have widespread acceptance of the practice enough to guarantee any sort of heritability.

  5. Jeri–the study I referred to was “Heritability Estimates of Hip Scores in the Golden Retriever Breed,” presented in France in 2000. It wasn’t something that I came up with.

    If you look at the changes in hip scores in the last 20 years, even in breeds where there are HUGE numbers being scored, where it is considered an absolute necessity, there’s an incredibly tiny improvement, and we can’t even rely on it as a true improvement because OFA doesn’t force you to submit the films. Results get skewed toward the positive end because if a breeder knows the films won’t pass–or for some breeds like Siberians, even knows that the hips are likely to be “fair”–they don’t submit them.

    What I see, when I look at the scores, is that breeds that were in good shape six or ten generations ago are still in good shape. Breeds that were in bad shape are still in bad shape. Breeds that were in the middle are still in the middle. Very, very little change in any breed. Which is exactly what the Golden Retriever study expected would be the case.

    Penn HIP is MUCH MUCH better in terms of methodology. I think we could use that as a genuine tool and should be doing it in most breeds. Where I object to it in Cardis is that our entire breed is clustered in “loose,” in a score range that Penn says should be producing a HUGE percentage of painful hips, and yet our dogs aren’t in pain.

    It honestly may be that we (the breeders of dwarfed dogs) need to come up with our own system. I wish that could be the case. Because I really, really do care about hip health because I am so intolerant of any dog in pain. My criticism of the methods has NOTHING to do with a refusal to admit that some Cardis have painful hip changes. I know they do. I just need somebody to show me any existing method that reliably prevents that–aside from feeding and exercising properly and keeping dogs very lean, which is the only approach that I can find real evidence for.

  6. Carolyn– No, I wasn’t speaking to you personally; that’s why I stripped out all names.

    Where I do get heated, and I feel the need to object, is that some people say something on the order of “It’s my right and my decision to test and to make breeding decisions based on that test.” Which is absolutely true. And then those same people say that making breeding decisions based on that test is “raising the bar” or “being a caretaker of the breed.”

    This pretty clearly implies that those who don’t make breeding decisions based on that test must NOT be “raising the bar” or must not be good “caretakers of the breed.” It’s a backwards criticism, and a very harsh one, of those who don’t use that particular test to make decisions. And if someone is going to make that kind of criticism, they need to have facts to back it up.

    On your other comments: Yes, we do have a link between dwarfism and IVDD. However, we still have tremendously long lifespans and happy dogs. We’re in better shape than the vast majority of breeds out there. So, in the balance of things, we can say (and I believe very truthfully) that the dwarfism has not made our breed one that consistently has lower quality of life than the background population of dogs. However, there’s no question that, medically speaking, it’s a type of deformity.

    I think that the days of the huge breeders are, it’s true, over. There are some things that are negative about that and there are many things that are positive. My drive toward maximum genetic diversity is not trying to bring that back. It’s saying that moving toward maximum diversity should be seen as a goal for the entire breed, a positive when it comes to considering a breeding. When you’re making the stud dog lists and figuring out pros and cons, the fact that a litter with Big Boy would have a very low coefficient of inbreeding should be placed in the “pro” category, and a the fact that a litter with Shining Son would have a very high COI should be in the “cons.” You may still decide to go with Shining Son after all is said and done, but moving toward a low COI across an entire breed should be seen as a virtue. That’s the exact opposite of the way most breeders think, despite overwhelming evidence that high COI is not good for a population.

    • “high COI is not good for a population”

      Neither is breeding two dogs that are carrying for the same defective genes that could be determined by using an available DNA screening test. Breeding two carriers will produce affected progeny (high COI not necssarily and only if the defective genes are present). If there is a way to prevent the occurence of a genetic disease I would think a conscientious breeder would do everything available to ensure that. I know of one breeder who took a chance breeding two dogs in a breed with a known genetic eye defct that is easily screened for with a DNA test that costs less than $200. From what you write above that person should not be considered as person not doing the best they can for the breed. I strongly disagree with you there. There are inevitable risks in breeding because we don’t have all the tests we need to make 100% sound decisions (although the results of past breedings and researching pedigrees can help hedge your bet), but there is no excuse NOT to use the ones that are available and which 100% eliminate the possibility of producing blind puppies, for example. I feel that you are trying to support breeders but you are caught on the fence of your Biology background telling you one thing and your breeding experience telling you another. You need to find that middle ground where the two work together. An outsider looking in could walk away from what you wrote and go to the very breeders who are breeding without a care in the world to the closest dog handy with no consideration or even real understanding of health or soundness. Responsible breeders avail of the breeding tools that are available to them. One has to wonder why a breeder would choose not to use an available health test. Carriers can be safely used if carrier status is established so there is no reason not to test. Even if you don’t believe in using OFA, at the very least knowing that a dog is dysplastic and even if the breeder is determined to use it, at the very least OFA could be used to find a dog from a strong hip family to breed to. Not what most of us would do who are trying to breed puppies that don’t end up dysplatic but at least a small step in the right direction and better than breeding two dysplastic dogs together and possibly generations of dysplastic dogs simply because someone didn’t recognize the value of OFA (even just for knowing what you are working with in a dog).

      • How about we say that high COI isn’t good for a population (which is demonstrably true) AND that it’s not a great thing to breed two genetically unhealthy dogs together? I don’t care if there’s a test for it; I think the tunnel vision on testing has done a great deal of harm when breeders don’t see the forest for the trees. You can have a very healthy dog who has “failed” a single test or a complete nightmare that has passed them all. That’s why I am so insistent about looking at the whole dog and on understanding what the tests do and don’t mean.

        Your position on OFA testing is exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the line we all know, use OFA to prevent the birth of dysplastic dogs. But here are all the ways in which that picture gets muddy: 1) What is dysplasia? You have three different testing methods defining it COMPLETELY differently. 2) Does OFA accurately diagnose dysplasia? 3) Does OFA accurately predict a painful hip? 4) Does breeding according to OFA ratings reliably change the likely hip health of the puppies? Once you’ve answered THOSE questions, then you can say that every breeder should use it. Ditto with the other tests. You have to know what they are, without allowing your assumptions or what you’ve been told to color your perceptions. At that point there is a chance of using the tests we have available to support a good breeding program. Before that, there is a good chance that you’re eliminating, or including, dogs foolishly.

        • “Your position on OFA testing is exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the line we all know, use OFA to prevent the birth of dysplastic dogs.”

          This is not my position at all. I said that using OFA can prevent the breeding of dogs that are dysplastic (if breeders choose to remove them from breeding programs) and enable breeders to find strong hipped lines to breed to if they are hell bent on using a dyspastic dog (not recommended but people will use you line of arguing to justify doing so). OFA is information – information that hopefully can be used to move a breeding program towards sounder hips if only on average. We don’t have enough generations OFA’d in many breeds. Even in my own breed (and my own dogs) which has been xraying hips pretty much from the moment it became recommended, there are still many in pedigrees that were never assessed. The pedigree of the last litter I did had 2 dogs without OFA numbers behind the dam and about 4 behind the sire. Both sire and dam were OFA’d clear as were the grandparents. Eight of the nine puppies OFA’s clear at 7 years of age and included three excellents and one was mildly dysplastic with no signs of it at all. The point is that the pedigree is not 100% OFA’s ancestry and many pedigrees are not there yet. These things take time and hip dysplasia is polygenetic so not clear cut inheritance. What I have is a litter which is thyroid normal, 8 out of 9 clear hips, genetically clear of a breed specific disease which has a DNA test, and they have been overall healthy dogs, good eaters and doers for all of their 7 years. The ones that were shown finished and one has made breed history with her owner. And you are going to tell me that this is not possible? That we should be using dogs that don’t pass their hips because they are otehrwise healthy? Well, there are popular sires behind the breed I had that were used extensively that failed their OFA – do you consider that good for a breed? It is probably why I have one in this litter who didn’t pass OFA. The answer is NOT keeping problem genes in teh genepool for the sake of diversity, but to weed them out. That doesn’t mean elminating a lot of dogs unless no one has cared to be selective in a breed and it has reached a point of having few healthy individuals. I am not going to breed the dysplastic one in my litter. Why would I whenI have others from the litter to choose from that are not dyspastic. I can’t imagine a dog being a “complete nightmare” and passing all it’s health tests. A nightmare how? In temperament? In conformation? In structure? Or in health? All this is taken into consideration along with the results of health tests. Sometimes it is necessary to look at lethality too with respect togenetic problems when dealing with issues in a breeding program. Things crop up. Dr. Padgett has a great book and numerous online articles that look at lethality/ undesireableness of genetic diseases that can crop up and how to approach breeding away from problems. I still come back to breeding healthy dog to healthy bitch and I don’t care if the COI is high, in fact I would prefer it if it meant the dog came from generations of breeding from a conscientious breeder who diligently weeded out health problems. I am not afraid of puppies coming from close breedings. I am afraid of puppies coming from breeders who do not research the health history of the pedigrees they are combining and don’t do health checks nor look at the parents objectively and completely. If they don’t do the easily available health tests and choose to breed blind, well I wouldn’t want any part of that, and again I and others would question why they wouldn’t do them. If you don’t know things like hip status and thyroid are a problem in a bitch then how will you know to look for lines strong in these areas to breed to? It’s like driving in unfamiliar territory without a map. You might get lucky and reach your destination but more likely you will meander around, wasting time until you ask someone for directions. OFA and other tests that are available are like maps and directions. Not the only consideration for breeding but certainly information worth having in order to make informed, intelligent breeding choices that will avoid the double up of defective genes wwhere that is possible. DNA tests are the way of the future to make breeding more predictable. Until then conscientious breeders will continue to rely on the results of health screening tests, their own assessment of the dogs, health histories, and past breedings, just as they always have.

        • “A complete nightmare” who passed all his health tests – absolutely. I can think of half a dozen instantly. One CHIC-certified dogs had cardiac ultrasounds every other year of his life, passed them all, his kids are dropping like flies of heart problems. He himself died too young (of a different disease, which also runs in lines and for which there is no test) to die of the heart diseases he has produced. I can keep going, but the point is that the health tests we have are less than half of a drop in the bucket. A CHIC dog can die at age 25 months of Addisons Disease, but it sure looks good on a pedigree.

          It drives me crazy that we’ve lost sight of overall health in favor of a few health tests. I would, in a heartbeat, make every Dane on earth mildly dysplastic if they would all live to be ten or eleven.

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