Friday, 16 April 2010

Breeding matters

Do I hear the patter of tiny paws …

I’m keeping my fingers, and everything else, crossed in anticipation that this summer will see the arrival of my first litter of puppies. I’ve helped raise 10 litters over recent years, but the prospect of my very own is quite exciting, if not a tad daunting!

The decision to breed has not been taken lightly, far from it. A great deal of thought, time and expense has gone into the process to get to the stage where I’m preparing for this litter, a process which has taken over three years. The first litter should have arrived last summer but unfortunately a relatively minor, and misdiagnosed, infection passed to my dogs proved disastrous, and very costly, to my breeding programme. We’re now back on track and hopefully with luck on our side this time – although I am taking nothing for granted until the first pup arrives!

Firstly I had to look at the issue of whether my dogs were good enough to breed from … it’s not just their temperament, character and work ability that has to be taken into consideration but also the health side is a very important issue.

It’s all very well having really great dogs but if they have a health issue that will detrimentally affect future generations then breeding is a no no – sadly a factor that hasn’t been taken into account by some, least of all by the seemingly growing number of puppy farmers. Some people go to the extreme of ensuring their dogs have the very best of health certificates but they neglect the need to breed from stock with good temperament and character. Can you go too far with the health checks? Some would say no, I say possibly. Would I breed from an outstandingly good work dog, with excellent work ability, superb temperament, but with hips of a score a few numbers above the breed average? The answer would be yes, given all other things in their favour. Many excellent dogs could be removed from the gene pool just because the health check didn’t match the correct number!

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is a hereditary disease that affects a dog’s vision. It’s relatively straightforward, although quite expensive, to check for by carrying out a genetic (DNA) test. Would I breed from a dog Affected with CEA? Definitely not, however, I would breed from a dog Carrying CEA but would ensure it was mated to a dog that was Clear of CEA.

Fortunately, these are things I don’t need to worry about as all my dogs have come back with good hip scores, passed all their eye tests and are Clears for CEA/CH. We were celebrating last week as the final result for the most recent dog was delivered. The waiting now begins …


  1. Splendid website. I only have three collies - but my two rescue dogs make a pack of five and I do agree with all you say, particularly about Cesar Millan. I envy your ability with sheep. And thanks for following me on Twitter!

  2. Thank you for your kind comments. I have to admit that my ability with sheep is fairly limited, however, I've got cracking dogs and they are putting up with my slow learning!

  3. So my question is, why would you breed a normal to a carrier and not a normal to an affected? a normal/carrier would produce 1/2 carrier 1/2 normal offspring. An affected/Normal breeding would produce all carriers. If the goal is to eliminate CEA altogether wouldn't you want all pups to be normal? or at least sell the carriers on non-breeding status so as to not have an accident where a carrier ends up breeding to another carrier thus producing affected pups?

    I'm not meaning any of this to sound rude. It just caught me slightly offguard that you would breed a normal to a carrier and not a normal to an affected as the production of carriers would still occur.

  4. I’m happy to answer your question, just a shame you are posting as Anonymous and not under a user name. Anonymous sounds so ... well, anonymous!
    The examples of parent/offspring you quote are quite correct. Personally I see no reason to breed from an animal with a known disease, ie a CEA Affected, which is why I would not breed from an Affected dog, no matter how good.
    Under International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) rules, progeny of breeding dogs will only be registered from parents with an ophthalmic eye test to show that neither parent is affected by CEA. DNA testing at present is not compulsory.
    Also under ISDS rules breeding between DNA tested Carrier–Carrier is prohibited, as you know ¼ of offspring would be Affected.
    It would be quite easy to rule out CEA totally within just a few generations. However, to rule out all Carrier dogs would be ruling out some tremendous dogs, certainly in the past. One of the most famous of which is Wiston Cap. I doubt there would be many people in the Border Collie world who wished Wiston Cap had not been involved in a breeding programme.
    If I were to breed with a Carrier dog then I would ensure that my pups were all DNA tested so that I and future owners were fully aware of the DNA status. As it is, my pups go with non-breeding status anyway. There are quite a number of hoops the owners have to jump through in order for that status to be removed.
    I’m not attempting to explain the decision of other people, nor the ISDS, just my own. In truth I will only use DNA Clear to DNA Clear dogs, as the dogs that I am using are exceptional any way. By so doing, in my line, I am ensuring that we are completely Clear of CEA.