Feb 282015

In a day in age where google and facebook forums give birth to overnight experts in a breed, an alarming amount of puppy peddlers talk the talk, where the falter is walking the walk.
Here is where I would like to invite you to please shop around, compare what you learned about us, our dogs and dedication to others. The more you shop, the better we look. The positioning here isn’t fluff or bolstering an ego it will honestly educate you and save you and your family from years of heartache having purchased an unhealthy puppy from unhealthy, un proven parents raised by less than experienced or dedicated people. To help you in finding the perfect new addition to your family the internet is FULL of “questions to ask when buying a puppy” guides, we recommend you use one of those AS WELL. We’ve also made a list of questions to ask a breeder you’re interviewing, and why those questions are important. We know some of these questions may seem odd, but the answers may alarm you. These are not the type of questions you will find on a “typical guide” these questions have answers that will make you feel wonderful about where your buying your puppy from, or will have saved you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars.buyer beware

1. How old are the sire and dam (mom and dad)? All too often we see females being bred on their very first heats or what should be well into their retirement. What possible benefit could come of this? Typically, males reach sexual maturity before females, meaning some males can sire a litter when they are six months old or less. Females take a little longer to mature. But the best practice is to wait until both are fully mature so you can assess their physical traits and find the best mate to breed away from any faults. You should also wait for your dog to fully mature so that you can perform any necessary health checks on them to make sure that they won’t pass on any heritable diseases or conditions. (OFA requires dog be at least 2yrs old to certify their hips and elbows free of dysplasia or degenerative joint disorder). The only motive is money.

2. How many litters has the Dam (mom) had? How many litters do you have a year?

3. Do you show your dogs or participate in any dog sports? The sport of showing orginated as a way to prove your dogs worthiness to be bred, PERIOD. Where a dog was judged to the breed standard and competed against other dog to weed out the best of the best for breeding stock. Breeders who show their dogs are not necessarily better than those that do not. However, if you want a puppy that has show potential, you need to visit a breeder who shows. The same is true in other sports. Even if your puppy is going to be your companion and friend, do not immediately rule out such a breeder. You might end up with a pet that may not be show quality, but an excellent dog. However if a breeder is making boastful statement about the dogs being the “best” without having competed in a ring, proven its worthiness… those are no more than boastful statements.

4. Are the parents health tested? Now while most breeders will say yes, it’s only because they don’t even know what health testing is. Health testing has nothing to do with shots, dewormings or rabies. Frequently an uneducated breeder will answer in all honesty, “yes”. You as the consumer need to know there are only two major certifying organizations, the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation of Animals http://www.offa.org/) and PennHip ( http://pennhip.org). While Pennhip focuses on hips the OFA tests tracks and scores the entire canine genetic health including cardiac disease, congenital Deafness, elbow dysplasia, eyes, hip dysplasia, Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, shoulder OCD, thyroid, tracheal hypoplasia, and dna testing. While our breed doesn’t test for all of the above, HIP DYSPLASIA, ELBOW DYSPLASIA, TRACHEAL HYPOSLASIA AND CARDIAC DISEASE do PLAGUE OUR BREED. While 9/10th of programs within our breed DO NOT HEALTH TEST their stock an alarming 7/10th DO NOT EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS!

5. Does the puppy come with Health certificate and certificate of sale? Ask the breeder if he will supply a health certificate for the puppy issued by his veterinarian, most states REQUIRE a puppy being sold to have a valid heath certificate issues no more than 10 days prior to the sale. Some states require also a certificate of sale. A health certificate is a minor expense and there is NO EXCUSE for a breeder not supplying one, both as a safety nets for the breeder as well as the buyer. It does insure at the time the puppy appears healthy and is free of internal and external parasites.

6. Are you a licensed business with the state? LLC, Inc. ? Are your licensed with the USDA? Several new laws and additions were passed by the USDA September 10th 2013, for the protection and welfare of animals that require even “hobby breeders” to hold and license and be subject to inspection. The long and short of the new laws cover almost everyone who breeds dogs to be licensed. The cliff’s notes: If a breeder has more than 4 breeding females (animals with the capacity to be bred, meaning not spayed) on their premises, or they ship puppies SIGHT UNSEEN, they must be licensed. The buyer MUST see the animal IN THE FLESH before purchase, photos do not qualify. The only exempt “hobby Breeder” is one who gross ANNUAL sales are less than $500 and the offspring are going into pet channels, meaning spayed and neutered.

7. Ask for a list of references! I cannot stress this one enough, don’t be shy either, in our glorious technology era you can really get a lot of information easily, but do your due diligence when checking references. Best reference in the world is a “repeat customer” When you can find a breeder who has customers come back again and again over the span of many years you’ve found a breeder you can count on for the next 10+ yrs of your new family members’ life.

 February 28, 2015  Tagged with: , ,
Jun 192014

Adversity Does Not Build Character, It Reveals It

When it comes to the animals that make up the foundation stock of a breeding program and the plan for a particular individual, the dog world is chock full of folklore, rumors and general opinion. This mix of ideas confirms there is a general lack of agreement about the planning needed to find the best dog(s) in order to eliminate unwanted diseases and correct certain traits of conformation (Brackett, 1960). Such an approach requires planning and the willingness to think smarter using new ideas. With new ideas and improved management, breeders can make better selections and reduce the confusion caused by the uncertainties surrounding the risk of producing the unwanted traits and disorders that lie hidden within the pedigrees of the breeding stock.



The building blocks of a breeding program are called the foundation stock. These are the dogs whose traits and pedigrees serve as the base from which future generations will be produced. Therefore, these individuals should be healthy and as close to the breed standard as possible. Finding those who are best suited for this purpose must be done with care and study. Without a good understanding about the strengths and weaknesses of their pedigrees and how to manage risk, frustration becomes the inevitable. A few examples illustrate this point. Let’s begin with one of the most popular myths found among those who are the least skilled in selecting foundation stock. It is the notion that one breeding to a superior animal can be used to eliminate health problems. Occasionally this seems to work, but only because most litters do not show health problems by the time they are sold. This is what leads many into believing they are on the right track. Not seeing their pups after they have been sold misleads many breeders about the health and quality of their litters. Too often breeders rely on buyer feedback as the primary means by which they determine if they are making progress. If all of the pups from each litter were evaluated at maturity a different story might be told. In a mobile society that relocates with regularity it is less likely that puppy buyers will take the time to give breeders feedback. This causes much information to be lost particularly if there are health problems that have a late onset. In a majority of these instances, what a breeder could learn will go unnoticed.


Another myth about selecting foundation stock is the folklore that surrounds the use of outcross breedings. In the past, the outcross was thought to be a useful breeding method for hiding or protecting breeders against recessive traits. This method was thought to improve risk aversion. Misguided about the outcross, many breeders used this method in an attempt to avoid genetic disorders. Others simply excluded those found to be affected or known to be a carrier. Neither of these approaches has proved to be very effective. Time, experience, and science have demonstrated that those who repeat outcross breeding in an attempt to dilute the detrimental effects of the recessive genes might hide the carriers, but only temporarily. The risk of producing them and their unwanted traits does not diminish because the recessive genes cannot be diluted; they are either present or not (Bell, 2000).


Today we know that the principles described by Mendel (1850’s) can be used to make improvements. He discovered that the recessives can skip one or more generations before they reappear (Battaglia, 2009). This means that breeder should not rely on the rumor and folklore that surrounds many stud dogs. Instead they should do their own homework and learn about their direct ancestors (14) and the littermates of these ancestors. As the number of relatives studied increase, so do the opportunities to understand the complexities of the problems to be solved (Felix, 2005). Therefore, when pedigree analysis is coupled with breeder tools, the odds begin to shift in the direction of the breeder.


The most successful breeders are central figures in their breed because they are the individuals who select the stud dogs, choose the method of breeding (outcross, inbreeding, and line breeding) and provided advice to the buyers about puppy management, AKC registration and micro-chipping. In short, they have distinguished themselves as being “in the know”. Seasoned breeders understand that the job of making improvement in never done and that the process is not straightforward or easy. It has its ups and downs and a sampling of the unexpected. One of the challenges facing most is to understand the real meaning behind the time tested principle that “the strength of ones breeding program is based on the quality of its bitches.” Over the years this popular phrase has been passed down from father to son as folklore. The rationale and data necessary to support it did not surface until researchers interested in this subject began to study why this principle worked in practice. Hedhammer (1979) led the way when he conducted a longitudinal study using 401 litters (or approximately 2,500 German Shepherd Dogs). His study also demonstrated the importance of the dam’s role for improving structural soundness. He found that the dam’s influence on her offspring was greater than that of the sire by as much as ten percent. His study supports the notion that the dam is central to making improvements, particularly in the muscular skeletal areas. Hedhammer was not alone in his efforts to uncover the usefulness of this idea. Hutt (1979), a famous geneticist, in his book Genetics for DogBreeders, also refers to research that supports placing emphasis on quality dams in the breeding program.


After years of effort, five principles have been associated with the selection of foundation stock:

  1. Use only quality bitches.
  2. Remember that the traits and characteristics seen in a puppy may change by the time it becomes mature.
  3. Outcross breeding do not necessarily produce dogs free of recessive traits or lessen the risk of producing carriers.
  4. One breeding will not concentrate enough genes to produce a litter of superior animals.
  5. Success requires the combination of quality animals, good management and proper nutrition.


The decision to select certain individuals as foundation stock begins with a careful study of their traits along with the relatedness of their close ancestors. Included in this process is an understanding of the modes of inheritance. Modes of inheritance are useful because they help in our understanding of how the desirable and undesirable traits are carried forward from parent to offspring. For example, a trait might be produced by breeding two carriers to each other or it might involve only one carrier acting alone. Many of the traits and diseases that are of interest to breeder seem to have a polygenic mode of inheritance (HD, heart disease, etc.) which means that many genes are involved. Without DNA test, managing the recessives becomes a more difficult problem. At the current rate of discovery, it appears that DNA tests for disorders caused by polygenes will be slow in coming. This should not discourage breeders because other protocols such as laboratory results, radiographs, and other phenotypic test, when combined with pedigree analysis, can still produce significant improvements in just a few generations.



No one doubts the importance of structural soundness in the selection of foundation stock. For purposes of this discussion hip dysplasia (HD) will be used to illustrate the importance of this process and how the quality of information can influence the outcome. HD is a polygenic disease that was first discovered in 1935. As the popularity of the working dog increased in the late 1940”s it became evident to breeders, dog owners, and veterinarians that the frequency of this disease would only be reduced when breeders learned how to manage the carriers in their pedigrees (Battaglia, 2009 a,b). Knowing that a dog has a defective hip based on a radiograph is only the beginning. The key to producing dogs with better hips involves an analysis of the fourteen ancestors in a three-generation pedigree along with the littermates of these ancestors. To help in this process, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has provided information about the hip status of animals and their offspring through a database search option (www.offa.org). They have also published the following guidelines and recommendations (Keller, 2007) for those interested in producing dogs with normal hips:



  1. Breed normal dogs that come from normal parents and grandparents. This recommendation places emphasis on the immediate three generations (50% genetic contribution from each parent, 25% from each grandparent and 12.5% from each great grandparent.
  2. Breed normal dogs that have more than 75% normal siblings. This recommendation is more difficult because most animals in a litter become pets and are not radiographed.
  3. Select dogs for breeding that have a record of producing a higher than breed average percentage of normal progeny. A stud dog with a superior track record (90%) normal progeny is a better choice than another with only 50% normal progeny. The OFA database can be used to search the records of stud dogs.
  4. Choose replacement stock that exceeds the breed average. This recommendation assumes that either the breed club or the breeder collects this kind of data and can calculate the breed average.



In summary, three major considerations apply to the selection and use of foundation stock. First, their identification must be based on the quality of their conformation, health, and temperament. Second, the information collected about their ancestors should serve as convincing evidence that quality is present. Third, breeders must have the courage to use the new techniques and guidelines that have been developed. When these efforts are combined with pedigree analysis, the results will yield quality foundation stock whose offspring can be saved to further improve a breeding program.

In a perfect world each breeder would have all of the information needed about all of the ancestors in their pedigrees and they would have a DNA test for each trait and disease. This is not yet possible; however there are more than 60 DNA tests available


Battaglia, C., 2009 a. Managing the carriers, part 1. Canine Chronicle, March, 2009, pp. 180-182.Battaglia, C., 2009 b. Managing the carriers, part 11. Canine Chronicle, April, 2009, pp. 162-166 Bell, J., (2000) Choosing wisely, American Kennel Club Gazette, New York, N.Y., Aug., Vol. 117, Number 8, p. 51 Hutt, F., 1979, Genetics for Dog Breeders, WH Freeman Do., San Francisco, CA. p.128.Keller, G, 2007. The use of health databases and selective breeding. Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, St. Louis, MO. Pp. 9-11 Felix, J., 2005. Use of canine genetic testing in breeding programs. Proceedings, Tufts Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference, Sept., 30 – Oct.,1, Sturbridge,MA. Hedhammer A., Olsson S-E, Anderson S-A,

et al, 1979. Study of heritability in 401 litters of German Shepherd dogs. Jam Vet Med. Assoc. 174: 1012-1016



Carmen L. Battaglia holds a Ph.D and Masters Degree from Florida State University. He is an AKC judge, researcher, and writer, and he continues to be a leader in promoting ways to breed better dogs. He is the author of many articles and several books and has appeared on TV and radio talk shows. His seminars on breeding dogs, selecting sires, and choosing puppies have been wellreceived by breed clubs all over the country.


Breeders’ Briefcase


By Dr. Carmen Battaglia

This article first appeared in The Canine Chronicle, August 2009, and is reprinted with permission.


 June 19, 2014  Tagged with: , , , ,