Rescue Overreach: Ounce of Prevention Worth a Pound of Cure
Dog Savvy Lawyer Jen Amundsen joins host Laura Reeves for a frank and, frankly, frightening conversation about what recourse we have as breeders if one of our dogs lands in a shelter or rescue which refuses to return it to us.
What happens when a dog you bred or co-own winds up in a shelter or rescue, despite all your best efforts? It happens more often than many realize. Whether it is death of the owner, an escaped dog or any other series of events, shelters and rescues *should* return the dog to the breeder or co-owner but they are not necessarily legally required to do so.
“If you don’t own the dog, you don’t have much legal recourse,” Amundsen said. “Assuming your contract requires a dog be returned to you, the contract is with the owner and is not enforceable against the shelter.”
When the breeder has an ownership interest, she has some recourse, Amundsen noted, but it takes a *lot* of time, energy and money.
Common sense steps
- Microchip puppies before they leave. Register the microchips to yourself.
- Co-own dogs – This requires thought about the balance of being seen as micromanaging new owners as well as questions of “ownership” numbers.
- Contractual recommendations – include a clause that the owner must take steps to include ownership transfer back to breeder as part of will.
- Talk puppy buyers through contract – it’s only as good as the party’s understanding of it.
- Have a “read if dead or incapacitated” folder in case of emergency – keep *updated*.
- Add a copy of the MAAP plan to puppy kit with every litter.
- Talk to your neighbors and friends to make sure they know that there is a plan for the dogs. They don’t have to wind up in a shelter.
- Follow up with previous puppy owners.
- Preservation breeders provide lifetime support to owners.
“It gives us peace of mind knowing we’ve done something, that we’ve done the maximum we can to be sure our dogs wind up where we want them to be,” Amundsen said.
Breed Specific Anesthesia Fact and Fiction
Dr. Marty Greer brings us information about breed specific anesthesia myths and realities to provide peace of mind and knowledge.
“Everyone has an opinion and an experience,” Greer said. “Anesthesia is controlled death. We have to be respectful and appreciative of the advances in medicine. Your vet wants to know that you have the facts to have an informed conversation.”
Modern anesthesia drugs are “So impactful in the ability to wander through the body surgically in a way we can cure things we never could before. It’s amazing,” Greer said.
Breakthroughs in new drugs and monitoring equipment make today’s anesthetic procedures safer for all dogs. Nonetheless, certain groups of dogs have specific needs.
Sighthounds, athletes that they are, boast only 17% body fat vs 35% body fat in most dogs, Greer said. This means the anesthesia drugs metabolize slower in their systems. Higher red blood cel count and lower albumin also changes the metabolism of drugs in sighthound breeds. The low body fat also means they can become hypothermic more easily.
Greer noted that veterinary staff work harder at keeping toy dogs warm. They go so far as to use bubble wrap on the dogs legs, to help keep them warmer without a risk of thermal burns. The toy dogs’ small size can also mean a concern about blood sugar dropping during surgery. This means owners are encouraged to not withhold food for as long and staff carefully monitors glucose levels during surgery.
The airways in brachycephalic dogs are constructed differently, Greer said. They often have a narrow airway and a smaller trachea. The goal of the veterinary staff will be to get the airway under control as soon as possible. Greer also recommends medications to dry up oral secretions so the dogs don’t aspirate.
Greer’s recommendation for giant breed dogs is to give a lower dose of sedative before anesthesia. By using a combination of drugs, she is able to ensure that each drug can be administered at lower dose.
Breeding for type, consistency while keeping a low COI
Victor Stora, Shetland Sheepdog breeder, AKC/CHF Residency Recipient and Veterinary Geneticist at University of Pennsylvania, shares concrete information on breeding for type and consistency of style while keeping a low COI (Coefficient of Inbreeding).
Stora observed that many breeders fall in to one of two categories.
“People might fall in to health testing too much and losing type, or you have people ignoring health because they’re getting the type they want. The happy medium is where people should be,” Stora said.
Health test all you want, Stora noted, but keep in mind it doesn’t mean the dogs are free of disease… just all the ones you can test for. What are the really bad diseases that affect a breed, he queried, adding that the more “lethal” diseases get higher priority.
Health testing and COI are tools
“Once you get to the point that you have the animals that you’ve screened, choose the ones that have the least problems health testing wise and are most like the type you desire,” Stora recommended. “Health testing is a tool, not a meter to eliminate animals because they don’t pass the bar.”
He also strongly recommends incorporating carriers of some diseases in a breeding program. “If you eliminate carriers, assuming the carrier has no disease, you’re removing dogs that are healthy. You can zoom in *too* much on health testing, and lose what you had in the beginning.”
We don’t have all the answers yet
Stora also noted that the primary diseases we want to know about, epilepsy, cancer etc, we don’t have an answer and that they are likely environmental, plus genetic.
When it comes to autoimmune disease, Stora said the breeder’s goal is to have more genetic variation to combat it.
“Outcross to a point, line breed to a point. Watch what’s happening. If you don’t choose for fertility, you’re choosing against it. Fertility is a heritable trait,” Stora said. “Nobody got into this because it’s easy. It’s not.”
Finally, Stora counseled to stop breeding affected dogs once the breed or line has started making headway against that disease.
“If the disease is rare within a breed, never breed affected because you don’t have to. If it is common within the breed, you have to use affected,” Stora said.
Our goals as breeders, Stora noted, should be to breed with knowledge, move with testing, breed away from disease state, lower the frequency you see the disease causative allele. Move toward a goal of no disease.
Genetic Counseling link: https://cvm.ncsu.edu/genetic-testing-referral/
Bill Shelton, chapter 3: Genetic bottlenecks, marketing, adaptability
Renowned breeder and judge Bill Shelton and host Laura Reeves finish up their wide-ranging conversation on dog breeding and marketing in the 21st century.
“How do we move the bar from healthier to typier to sounder? We have to breed,” Shelton said. “We have to be accountable for what we produce. But we have to breed. And we have to get the message out about how what we’re doing is producing healthier and happier dogs. How our ‘commodity’ is predictable.”
Bottlenecks are something we may all have to deal with at some point, Shelton noted. He references the Dalmation outcross project in which Pointers were incorporated to eliminate a deadly disease. He also talks about the Basenji project, in which native dogs from Africa are incorporated in the gene pool, again to eliminate a heritable disease. Listen to my interview with Damara Bolte on this topic here.
“It’s a heretic idea to many people, but it’s going to be something we all have to do at some point, because our dogs exist in closed gene pools,” Shelton said. “It goes back to the weaving of genes. You don’t eliminate bad genes, you introduce new good genes.”
Doodles offer a lesson
“How many people dislike labradoodles. Think back in the ‘70s when there were those dogs called Australian shepherds,” Shelton noted wryly. “People get upset because doodle breeders can sell their cross-bred dogs, when they (show breeders) can hardly sell dogs. Why? Because (show breeders) exist in a vacuum. They don’t advertise, they don’t promote their breeds, they don’t promote themselves, they don’t know how to do it. And then they say how bad AKC marketplace is. We want to show our dogs. But we don’t want to share them or market them.”
No dog left behind
Shelton espoused several outstanding marketing concepts, including making a dog’s microchip number its registration number. The public finds more value in the microchip than the registration number, he said. This plan would enable AKC to sell both more registrations and microchips and promote a campaign of “no dog left behind” because all purebred dogs would be registered and microchipped.
The entire series
If you missed the first two installments of this series, you can find them here and here.
Bill Shelton on Breeding for Genetic Diversity, Breeding Up and More
In part two of our series, Bill Shelton, leading advocate for preservation dog breeders, and host Laura Reeves have a spirited conversation about how to improve the health of our breeds while maintaining genetic diversity.
“Leading theriogenologists say breeders are suppressing genetic diversity,” Shelton said. “Only testing phenotype not genotype in hip x-rays for example, removes dogs from the gene pool without understanding the genotype. When we eliminate genes for one thing we don’t know what genes we’re removing that are positive.”
Lethal genes must be removed, but until we have a DNA genetic marker we don’t really know, Shelton noted. We need to breed carriers and potentially affected as well in order to preserve a variety of genes for the future.
Weaving genes to make a healthier dog
“We are asking more of our dog breeding programs than we are for our own humanity,” Shelton said. “We’re actually holding dogs to a higher standard than ourselves and the future of humans.”
Taking the conversation full circle, Shelton noted that legislators are listening to extremists rather than experts in animal husbandry.
“We need to get our message out there,” Shelton said. “We need to have more advocacy for purebred dogs. We need to step outside this circle of dog shows.”
In an outside the box idea, Shelton suggested that AKC needs to consider rebranding as an option, to call themselves a conservancy of heritage breeds.
“How we talk about what we do is what’s important,” Shelton said.
In the “other great ideas department,” Shelton asked rhetorically, “Where is the breeder’s committee in the delegates? Where is the VP of breeders at AKC?”
“We need to take the focus away from showing and put our focus on breeding dogs,” Shelton said. “We are at the point that an amateur delegate body is running what has become a professional industry. Everyone makes money. Who doesn’t make money? Dog breeders.”
If you missed part 1, listen here.
Bill Shelton on Positive Messaging in Purebred Dogs
Bill Shelton imparts his wisdom in part one of a three-part series from a wide-ranging conversation about positive messaging in purebred dogs.
People respond to positive messages, Shelton said, which will allow us to change perceptions within the general public. Words like preservation and purpose bred dogs change the paradigm of purebred that can have negative connotation.
“Look what shelters have done,” Shelton said. “They used to be known as the dog pound and mongrels. Look at it today, shelter, rescue, adoption. What fabulous words they use. We still use all these draconian words like kennel, breeders and purebred. They are accurate, but we need to move past them. Even the boarding industry has recognized the anthropomorphized words and have day care and stylists instead of kennel runs and groomers.”
We as breeders and exhibitors have the responsibility to take back the conversation and can’t rely exclusively on the American Kennel Club to do the work for us, Shelton noted.
“I don’t use the word responsible any more because 30 people have a different understanding of what that means,” Shelton said. “Purpose bred means that not only are the dogs bred for intellect and the way they look and predictability, they are bred intentionally by people who care about them.”
The term preservation breeder opens up the opportunity for conversation in the community, Shelton said.
“The paradigm has to change,” Shelton said. “We’ve focused so much on dog shows, that we began to believe that is the most important thing. What’s really important is that you and I as dog breeders supply the demand of happy, healthy family companions.”
“As breeders we are taking accountability,” Shelton said. “We are the ones taking responsibility from cradle to grave. Rescue started in the halls of the AKC and parent clubs. This is one of the reasons we find only five percent identifiable purebreds in shelters.”
We have to assimilate different perspectives rather than pushing against them, Shelton said. We need not to demean people but rather encourage them to understand what preservation breeders are doing, including producing a quantitative predictability of health.
Anne Katona on judging, retirement, owner handlers
Long time judge Anne Katona shares her insights about judging, announces her planned retirement in January 2021 and offers encouragement for owner handlers.
Famous for her greetings in the ring, where she reminds every exhibitor that “wiggles are allowed,” the perennially cheerful Katona noted that she’s “never known a wiggle to hurt bone structure. Why do they have to be little robots?”
“I want everybody who walks out of my ring to say, I didn’t win, but it’s ok, I had a good time” Katona said.
Tips for Owner Handlers
Katona’s history as a breeder and owner-handler of Kerry Blue Terriers leaves her with an affinity for new folks and owner handlers. Her tips for them:
- New people in the ring: Stand up straight, take a deep breath, and realize every person in this ring has been in your place.
- In the group – take care of your dog, play with your dog, have fun, don’t just stand there with the dog on the end of the lead and hand on your hip
- Take a couple seconds, go to corner of ring and then go around after the down and back. You’re cheating yourselves out of 30-50 feet of the dog being seen. And judges need to see how do the dogs take off and how they get their feet under them.
- Owner handlers can be competitive if they take the time to train the dog.
- Most important thing an owner handler can own, other than their dog, is a mirror… buy a full length mirror, put it on the wall horizontally at the level of your dog’s height, watch the dog in a free stack.
- People with table breeds, work with them, let them walk forward, don’t just pick them up and plop them down. Not judging dogs on the table, just examining.
- Don’t suffocate your dogs by stacking and leaning over them. Hand stack, stand back, don’t bend over the dog.
- Do you want the truth? A lot of people don’t want to hear the truth because their ego is attached to that dog.
Bulldogs, professionals and imprinting type with Jay Serion
Specialist Jay Serion talks about bulldogs, having pride as a handler, starting in the trenches and establishing a vision of type from understanding the standard.
“At my first dog show, my dog was third out of three,” Serion said. “I came out of the ring thinking, ‘we need to remedy this.’ Cuz I was competitive. I learned a lot.”
Serion’s recipe for success:
- Do the work outside the ring.
- Fix it in the whelping box not the tack box
- Start in the trenches. Success is not an overnight thing
“My mentors were honest,” Serion said. “They told me to read the standard. Learn the standard. Study pedigrees. Ask people. Ten people will give you 10 answers. There will be a common denominator, that’s your truth.”
Professional handlers all have a bar set of the quality they want to present, Serion noted.
“Especially if you are a specialist, it is part of your responsibility to campaign a good one,” he added. “I don’t want to waste money and time. And it takes a lot of both. I’d rather wait for a great one than push one that people that know *know* isn’t.”
A Bulldog Club of America approved mentor, Serion shares his knowledge about the breed’s outline and appearance.
“They’re supposed to be athletic. In my breed, the standard was written to save the breed from an influx of “Spanish dogs” that were huge,” Serion said. “The perfect bulldog must be of medium size. This was not arbitrary.”
Layback isn’t just for shoulders
The Bulldog standard is unique in that the term “layback” refers to the head structure. Serion describes this very specific construction as being from the tip of the lower jaw, tip of the nose, through the forehead to the occiput, should be a 45 degree angle in a straight line.
“The dogs were used in bull baiting. The jaw needed to be strong enough to grab on to a bull and hang on, while the nose was pushed back so they could hold on and still breathe,” Serion siad.
“Our dogs are just as healthy as other breeds,” Serion said. “We’ve created an Ambassador of Health program in the national club encouraging health clearances.”
The program was created to provide proof of healthy dogs, testing everything from tracheas, to cardio, patella, spine, hips, elbows and more, Serion noted.
Bulldogs originally were an aggressive animal to do the job, Serion observed. The original breeders wanted to keep the type features but eliminate aggression. “I’d never breed an aggressive animal no matter how pretty it is.”
For more on the genetics of temperament: https://puredogtalk.com/dr-karen-overall-temperament-vs-geneticspure-dog-talk/
Canine dentistry: What you need to know about oral health
By listener request, here’s everything you need to know about oral health with Veterinary Dental Specialist, Dr. Jeff Schreiber.
“Periodontal disease is very painful for the dog,” Schreiber said, but “Our pets are stoic. They don’t show pain very well.”
Schreiber emphasizes that the best cure is prevention. Daily tooth brushing, Chlorhexaderm oral rinse and appropriate chew toys are the secret to success.
“Plaque is the enemy,” Schreiber noted. Visit this site for a list of great products from chews to rinses to food choices: http://vohc.org/VOHCAcceptedProductsTable_Dogs.pdf
Signs of a problem:
- bad breath
- not eating as well
- blood on chew toys
- dropping food out of mouth, prefer soft food
Schreiber strongly advocates regular dental cleanings while the pet is anesthetized. The veterinarian will pull blood work and should take xrays of the mouth. “60% of tooth structure is under the gum line,” Schreiber noted. “Good hygiene at home saves money on cleanings.”
“Dogs are supposed to have 42 teeth. Each tooth is a patient in and of itself,” Schreiber said.
Breaking a canine is an emergency.
“If we can catch it within the first day, you have a window where we can save the tooth and save the dog from a root canal. Breaking the tooth is an open wound. It needs to be dealt with, even if it is after the fact and needs a root canal. For folks who want the tooth to look good as new, the tooth can be crowned,” Schreiber said.
Dr. Schreiber is a graduate of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, class of 1981. In February 1991 he opened Miracle Hills Animal Hospital. In January 2018 Dr. Schreiber merged his practice into VCA 80 Dodge Animal Hospital. His primary practice interests include advanced dentistry, internal medicine and junior and senior wellness care. Dr. Schreiber is also a member of the Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry. Outside of the practice he enjoys showing his dogs in AKC obedience trials, camping, golfing and spending time with his family. He and his wife have two grown children and three grandchildren. He can be contacted at Jeffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org
Pre-breeding Protocols, Folic Acid, Cleft Palate and More
Dr. Marty Greer, DVM, JD, joins us for an important conversation about pre-breeding protocols. Greer provides insight on what to do (hint: folic acid!) and what not to do to help ensure a healthy litter.
Bitches who are to be bred should be started on a protocol 6-8 weeks ahead of estrus, Greer noted. Considerations include a proper diet, supplements and when to use flea, tick and heartworm treatments.
“We know from livestock and wildlife that when females are just slightly soft they produce more offspring,” Greer said. “They ovulate more if the caloric intake increases just before mating.”
Appropriate diets should include carbs, Greer said, and avoid phytoestrogens from peas/legumes. Owners should also supplement vitamin b9, folic acid, starting 2 months ahead of breeding to help prevent cleft palates. Greer recommends dosing 5mg/dog/day. For more information on some of the research on this topic, go to
Studies indicate that breeders can insure a 50-70 percent reduction of cleft palates by using folic acid properly.
Cleanliness is next to godliness
Make sure your bitch is clean before visiting the vet or having her puppies. A bath and sanitary trim will keep the vet and the puppies happier!
What NOT to do
Vitamins A and D in excess during the first two trimesters can *cause* cleft palates, Greer said. She also noted that while most of us know not to give steroids orally during pregnancy, that even topical application in ears or eyes is contraindicated.
More myth busting and important advice
- Can you or should you save cleft palate puppies — Greer shares some of the hard choices to be made
- Goats milk and cataracts — use an appropriate formula for dogs
- Colostrum/plasma — frozen plasma can make all the difference
- Subcu fluids — how and why