Dedicated, registered dog breeders must become experts in many areas of dog breeding and animal wellbeing if they wish to produce sound, healthy dogs. Their specialist expertise should include:
- Feeding and nutrition
- Housing and kennel management
- Basic genetics
- Disease control
- Understanding of any problems within their breed
What is breed soundness?
Maintaining healthy, beautiful dogs that are sound in temperament and body, are the aim of all dedicated dog breeders. The 'breed soundness' of an individual dog is based on several factors:
This relates to construction and health. Is the animal able to cope with the demands of ordinary life, as well as stresses of heavy work in specialised areas if required? Health can refer to organ or system health, such as reproductive health, as well as areas such as heart function or joint health.
This refers to the temperament, ability and aptitude of the animal to be of benefit in its chosen field. Different temperaments are required for the numerous fields of activity (or relative inactivity) across the wide range of dog types. For example, a keenness to work that is admired in working and utility breeds would be rather overpowering in many toy breeds.
This is reflected in many physically-obvious attributes, as well as on cellular and hormonal levels, which may be less obvious. Recent developments have resulted in many more conditions being deemed genetic in origin, however the means to readily remove such conditions from a breed are often not yet available.
Before considering breeding, you should assess whether your dog or bitch is typical of the breed, that is, whether it looks like the breed should look. To improve the quality of stock within your kennel, any dog or bitch used to produce a litter should be 'above average' in relation to the breed's standards.
Why breed a litter?
Before you breed a litter, you should know why you are doing so and have goals in mind for what you wish to achieve. A responsible breeder aims to produce a litter for better construction and temperament, and an overall sounder dog.
You should understand the basics of genetics to give you some idea of how different traits or characteristics are inherited. In contemplating a litter, you should consider the ‘breed worth’ of the parents and their overall breed soundness. When breeding dogs, we are constantly trying to create better and hopefully sounder dogs.
Where the end result of breeding is compromised, sometimes due to factors such as economic ones, honest attempts should be made to reduce the incidence of any problems, particularly if it impacts a dog's quality of life.
Breed clubs can provide testing to reduce the incidence of disease or improve soundness within the breed.
The more we know of all the factors affecting our breeding stock before breeding a litter, the better equipped we will be to find solutions to potential problems and reduce the number of unsound dogs being produced. This has benefits for all, but particularly for the dogs.
Information provided by Dr Karen Hedberg BVSc, practising veterinary surgeon and Chair of the Australian National Kennel Council Canine Health Committee.