The Doctor Is In!

 Notes from our advising Veterinarian, Dr. Kathleen Kenyon

Minimizing Genetic Disease
Breeding of dogs is quite frankly a crap shot. You need to consider structure, the standard of your breed, temperament and health. Of course if the breeder shows dogs, the breed standard and winning in the show ring is a paramount importance. It may alter a breeder’s choices if winning is all they care about. I feel this is very wrong as most of our puppies go to pet homes. We as breeders should be most concerned with producing healthy, structurally correct puppies that have good temperaments. I like to win as much as anybody but since dog showing is so subjective and political that is not my first concern.

Health Testing
So as a reputable breeder what can I do to minimize this overwhelming task and produce healthy happy puppies?
First each breed club recommends what health tests should be done in their breed. It will  be different tests for different breeds. In the Great Dane all breeders should be tested for heart, hips, thyroid and eyes. Also breeders should be temperament tested if at all possible to determine if they are the proper temperament for the breed. A Great Dane,  Golden Retriever, an Akita and a Chihuahua should all have different temperaments.
Health testing is where most breeders fail, whether this is from ignorance or just not wanting to spend the money. An example of this in my own breed is requirements of health testing to be listed on the Great Dane Club of America's (GDCA) website as a breeder. The membership of the club voted a couple of years ago on whether you could be listed on their site without doing health testing. The final vote was that you only had to test for one disease but what about the other three. You would not consider members of the GDCA to be backyard breeders and this tells me that most do not do health testing. How are we supposed to decrease the incidence of genetic disease if we do not health test?

Careful Breeding
The second way we as breeders can minimize genetic problems is by careful selection of mates thereby picking the right stud for the right bitch. Just because two dogs are there does not mean they should be bred.
A lot of backyard breeders get a male and a female and just breed them because they are there and they can sell the pups. Most dogs should not be bred and great care should be taken to get the right combination. In today's world where chilled and frozen semen breeding's are available, we know longer have to be concerned with geography. So if we look we can find that dog who has just the right things to compliment our bitch.

One Final Thought
As I said most breeders who show are looking to win in the ring and breed accordingly. This is why we have so many fads in the ring because breeders breed what the judges put up and those judges may not know the breed standard at all. As a breeder who is more concerned with the breed and not just winning must breed to the standard no matter what the judges put up.
The Great Dane is a Head Breed which means that the head is given an out of proportion importance by most judges. Judges started putting up big enormous heads with big floppy lips so everyone started breeding this even though it is not to the standard. A lot of these dogs had these big heads but with terrible rears and straight shoulders so they could not move correctly. One judge committed to me that "Danes do not run on their heads". 
So, I thought to myself what would be most important to me as a puppy buyer? A dog that had this enormous head that could not run with me by the time he was four or one whose head was not a classic but could run at eight because the dog was structurally sound and healthy.
                                                          Dr Kathleen Kenyon



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