The goal of our breeding program is to produce dogs suitable for assistance work. These goals fall into four categories: health, temperament/ behavior, trainability/performance and conformation. To accomplish our goals, we must evaluate each breeding in an effort to improve our program.
The health of our dogs is our first priority. Evaluation of the hips and elbows is by radiographs. Puppies as young as 12 weeks can be evaluated by the PennHIP (www.pennhip.org) methodology or preliminary OFA (www.offa.org) technique when the dog appears to have reached their full growth. These methods are screens for hip dysplasia. The elbows are done at the same time as the hips, looking for degenerative changes, suggestive of elbow dysplasia. The hearts are evaluated by a board certified Veterinary Cardiologist, for the presence of a heart murmur suggestive of Subaortic Stenosis (SAS) or other problem. CERF (www.vmdb.org) exams, performed by a board certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist, evaluate the eyes for abnormalities. Affected dogs in any of these categories are unsuitable for breeding or assistance work.
Temperament and behavior are the next qualities to come into consideration when evaluating our dogs for breeding qualities. The dog must be calm yet attentive to command requests by the handler. Aggression, either toward other dogs or people is always unacceptable. Extreme hyperactivity with little control and destructive tendencies are unwanted behaviors. These traits, when seen in multiple dogs from a single litter are suggestive of an underlying problem and the dogs will not be used for breeding.
Trainability and performance is essential. The dog must be capable of learning very specific and critical skills. These skills range from the simplest command taught by the puppy raiser, i.e. SIT, to the more advanced commands, i.e. GET IT. Commands will vary with the dog’s ability to learn and the applicant’s specific requirements.
Conformation and beauty are the least important of the goals. Its value is in released dogs, which are adopted by the puppy raiser or sold, to the lucky owner. Although our released dogs are unsuitable as working dogs, they are well-socialized, obedience trained and make wonderful pets.
2007 B. Kramer DVM
Bonnie "Dr. Sparky" Kramer, DVM