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 …