Golden retrievers are prone to several hereditary conditions
– just to keep this in perspective with humans the number is in the 100’s. To try to control and eradicate these conditions, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) in conjunction with the Kennel Club (KC) have instigated 3 health schemes. Breeding stock are screened prior to mating, and although it is never possible to guarantee that clear parents will produce all clear off-spring the likelyhood is much increased.
BVA/KC Eye Scheme
At present Goldens are examined for 3 eye conditions :-
Hereditary Cataract (HC)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) (now
virtually eliminated in the UK)
Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD)
Examination of dogs over 12 months is by one of a panel of vets with a special qualification in veterinary ophthalmology, and needs to be updated annually. HC can develop later in life and so all breeding stock should have current clear eye certificates. When you receive your puppy’s KC registration document, it will state the parents eye status for HC & PRA with the date of the last testing. MRD is not included on the registration as other problems of a non-hereditary nature can give rise to similar lesions and the ‘folds’ tend to reduce or even disappear with age, all of which makes acurate diagnosis very difficult.DNA research is about to begin and hopefully in a few year’s time the annual eye tests will be replaced by a one off blood test.
There is now a DNA Test (Cheek Swab) for GPRA-1 and GPRA-2, kits are available from the Animal Health Trust web site.
BVA/KC Hip Scheme
Hip dysplasia (HD) is an abnormal developement of the hip joint, influenced by hereditary factors, nutrition and exercise.The hip is a ball and socket joint and in HD the socket may be shallow so the head of the femur fits loosely which in turn leads to wear and tear and arthritic changes. The disease is characterised by bunny jumping when running, stiffness after exercise and difficulty in getting up.
Under the BVA/KC scheme the dog’s hips are x-rayed when the dog reaches a minimum of 12 months of age. The plates are then submitted to a specialist panel at the BVA who assess 9 features of each hip, giving each feature a score
|HIP JOINT||Score Range||Right||Left|
|Cranial Acetabular Edge||0-6|
|Dorsal Acetabular Edge||0-6|
|Cranial Effective Acetabular Rim||0-6|
|Caudal Acetabular Edge||0-5|
|Femoral head/neck Exostosi||0-6|
|Femoral Head Recontouring||0-6|
|TOTALS (max possible 53 per column)|
The lower the score, the better the hips, so the range can be from 0 (clear) to 106 (badly dysplastic). The breed average is currently about 19. Dogs with 0:0 hips are very much the exception rather than the rule. The parents hip scores are shown on the puppy’s registration as the score for each hip eg 10:9 which would be 19 ie breed average.
BVA/KC Elbow Scheme
This is the most recently introduced of the BVA schemes (March 1998) As it entails 3 x-rays of each elbow, some breeders feel that the risks outweigh the benefits. Elbow dysplasia is a multifactorial condition manifesting as a variety of developmental disorders of the elbow leading to osteoarthritis of the elbow joint. As the disease has
a genetic component screening should help breeders select suitable dogs for breeding. As with the hip scheme, the dog must be a minimum of 12 months of age before it is x-rayed for the scheme (hips & elbows are usually done at the same time) and the X-rays are sent off to be assessed by the BVA panel. The scores for each elbow range from 0 (clear) to 3 (badly affected) However unlike the hip scheme, on the KC registration the elbow score is shown as a single number, equivalent to the worst elbow eg a dog scoring 2:1 would be shown as 2.
If you would like a more detailed explanation of the BVA/KC schemes visit the BVA Website and click on Canine Health Schemes
European Eye Scheme
This scheme has only recently been introduced, but a number of breeders are using it in preference to the BVA scheme. It tests for HC, PRA and MRD, but the results at present are not published or collated. The KC do not recognise this scheme and so the results do not appear on the puppies registrations. Like the BVA scheme dogs need to be tested annually, so ensure that both parents have current clear certificates and ask for a copy from the
Modern day breeders have to perform a juggling act, trying to produce a good looking dog with super temperament that is as clear of health problems as possible. The health schemes should be used as a guide to help breeders towards this goal. The most important aspect of a Golden is its beautiful nature, a fact of which we should never lose sight.
Using your dog at stud (The Kennel Club)
There are a number of reasons why people may think about offering their dog at stud. The most important reason, above all else, is to improve the breed, and this should always be your main goal.
The Kennel Club does not currently keep a register of stud dogs and therefore if you wish to use your dog at stud you may wish to contact your local breed club for more information and advice.
Should you use your dog at stud?
You should ensure that your dog is:
- Fertile (you may want to have their fertility tested if they are not already proven)
- Has an appropriate temperament
- Fully health tested
- In good general health
- Free of defects, i.e. overshot jaw, cryptorchidism
- Has proved themselves in show ring, working trials, agility etc.
- Kennel Club registered
- Does not carry any KC endorsements precluding the registration of any progeny.
If you have not mated your dog before, you may want to seek advice from experienced stud dog owners to find out what to expect before, during and after the mating has taken place. It can be advantageous when first using your dog at stud, to try and mate him with an experienced bitch.
Health tests and screening schemes
Before breeding from a dog or bitch, the Kennel Club advises that breeders investigate whether there are any possible inherited conditions that may affect the breed. A stud dog can father many puppies and so it is essential that they are healthy and fully health tested to ensure that there is a low risk of passing any health issues on to future generations. Stud dog owners can check which health tests are applicable to their breed by looking at the health tab on the Breed Information Centre website, or by checking with their local breed club. It is advisable to speak to your dog’s breeder prior to mating to see if there are any health concerns in your dog’s pedigree.
There are several health schemes currently in operation to assist in the prevention or control of some diseases. These tests include DNA tests which give a definitive answer on the status of each dog. Where these schemes exist, the Kennel Club strongly recommends that both sire and dam are tested. In the case of a DNA test, the Kennel Club recommends that at least one parent should have tested clear for the particular condition. For further breeding advice on mating DNA tested dogs, please click here.
If you are considering purchasing a stud dog, then the Kennel Club’s Dog Health Test Search tool allows you to search for any health results for a dog which is registered on the Kennel Club’s Breed Register, either by its registered name or registration number (or stud book number).
Inbreeding, put simply, is the mating of related individuals – those individuals with common ancestors. High levels of inbreeding can impact the health of individual dogs, as it increases the chances of a dog being at risk for both known and unknown inherited disorders. It could also have an impact on the breed as a whole, for example, a reduction in litter size and fertility.
The Kennel Club’s online resource, Mate Select, can also be used to predict the inbreeding coefficient of puppies produced from a hypothetical mating. By using Mate Select, a breeder can easily avoid mating two related individuals together.
The impact of your dog becoming a popular sire
Popular sires, or male dogs, that are used to produce large numbers of puppies, are one of the biggest contributors to a reduction in genetic diversity, an increase in inbreeding and elevated levels of genetic diseases within a breed. These dogs are often chosen because they have good characteristics, such as traits associated with good health. Breeders will use these dogs because they wish to improve the breed, but excessive use of any males can be detrimental to the overall population. For more information on the impact of your dog becoming a popular sire, please click here,
Stud dog temperament
Dogs have different dispositions and different personalities and when choosing two dogs to mate together, both should both have a good temperament. The temperament of the potential parents will be a good guide to predicting the temperament of any potential puppies. If a dog shows any suspect temperament, such as aggression, then it should not be bred from.
When should your dog be used at stud?
- Your dog must be mature enough
- They have had the appropriate health tests or been through the available screening schemes (some have age restrictions)
- If it is believed that he will be of benefit to breed’s genepool
- Once he has proved himself in the show ring, working trials, agility etc.
What will your role as owner be?
The owners of stud dogs will usually be required to be experienced and will often:
- Provide a stud dog contract
- Supervise the actual mating
- Know how to handle the bitch to ensure mating
- Ensure the dogs are safe after they tie and that neither dog is hurt or injured
- Assist or advise if the bitch shows little interest in mating
- Be available to give advice to the owner of the bitch on whelping or puppy care
- Be willing to help with any problems with the puppies, i.e. health issues, rehoming etc.
Selecting a bitch
Using your dog on a bitch that is not well matched may have an impact on the puppies produced and your dog’s reputation. It is your responsibility to ensure that a mating between the two dogs is justified and that a mating will be beneficial to the breed. When assessing how well matched the bitch is to your dog you should ask yourself:
- Is the bitch old enough to breed?
- Has she got the appropriate health test and screening scheme results?
- Is the bitch Kennel Club registered with no endorsements?
- Have you checked how related the dogs are using the inbreeding coefficient calculators?
- Has the bitch been bred from before, if so how many times and were there any complications?
- Is she generally healthy?
- Is there any history of health concerns in her pedigree?
- How have previous matings gone?
- Is the owner happy with your stud contract?
It is important that before the mating occurs that a detailed written stud dog contract is agreed upon and signed to prevent any future confusion. Ensure that a copy of your signed contracts are filed away in a safe place.
The terms and conditions of a mating do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Kennel Club. It is therefore advisable that any breeding terms or stud fees should be arranged by mutual agreement in writing between the owner of the dog and the owner of the bitch before the mating takes place.
A general guide to creating a stud contract may be found under the Advice Sheet Template section of the Assured Breeder pages of the Kennel Club website.
As a general point, if a dog has not previously been used at stud, the owner might charge a nominal fee covering, at the very least, expenses etc. Once the dog has been proven (i.e. has produced puppies), the stud fee may be reviewed for any future matings according to the value of the dog as a proven sire, and the quality of his progeny.
A guide to an appropriate stud fee may be obtained from studying online advertisements, as breeders may advertise their dogs for stud. Alternatively you can contact your nearest breed club, who may be able to give you advice on this and any other matters relating to your breed.
Kennel Club registration
In order to register your dog’s progeny with the Kennel Club, you will need to ensure that the dog is in your registered ownership. You will also need to ensure that your dog’s Kennel Club registration does not carry any breeding restrictions or endorsements. If there are any, you will need to discuss this further (before any mating occurs) with the person from whom you obtained the dog, as any breeding restrictions or endorsements will need to be removed before the registration of a litter can take place. In most cases it will be the breeder who has placed the restriction, and they will therefore be the person empowered to remove it.
Assured Breeder Scheme
Although the main responsibilities of the Assured Breeder Scheme relate to the dam owner, there are responsibilities such as permanent identification required for the stud dog. Assured Breeders are given a high profile through the Kennel Club and advertised on the Kennel Club website all year round. There are a variety of discounts and rewards available for members of the Scheme.
Novice breeder checklist (The Kennel Club)
If you are contemplating dog breeding, joining The Golden Retriever Club will give you access to our annual hard back yearbook which contains a list of members worldwide and also Kennel Reviews which can help with your choice of stud dog. It will also keep you upto date with the health and welfare of our lovely breed.
There are certain questions that you will need to ask yourself before proceeding:
- Have I the time to devote to a litter until the puppies are old enough to go to their new homes, which is usually around eight weeks?
- Am I knowledgeable enough to advise new owners about the various aspects of caring for their puppies, including rearing, diet, training and health problems?
- Can I afford to pay for the recommended health tests for the bitch prior to mating her and, where necessary, her litter? A list of the various health tests that are recommended for various breeds can be found here.
- Do I know enough to help the bitch during the whelping, if necessary?
- Can I afford to pay for a caesarean should the dam have difficulty whelping the litter?
- Could I cope with a very large litter e.g 10 or 12 puppies?
- Do I have sufficient knowledge to rear the litter correctly, including on worming, vaccinations and socialisation?
- Would I be able to find good homes for the puppies?
- Am I in a position to take back or re-home any puppies if it becomes necessary?
If you have not been able to say yes to all of the above questions, then dog breeding may not be for you. You may therefore wish to consider having your bitch spayed to prevent unwanted or unplanned pregnancies; your breed club or the breeder of your bitch may be able to provide you with further expert advice.
If you have been able to say yes to all of the above questions, do not forget that you will also need to keep the following in mind:
- Responsible dog breeders believe that each litter that they breed, should be an improvement on the parents.
- Responsible dog breeders give careful consideration to health issues, temperament and soundness.
- Responsible dog breeders plan ahead of each mating so as to ensure that each puppy produced will be bred in the best possible environment.
- Responsible dog breeders accept responsibility for a puppy which they have bred, and make themselves available to give advice, help and information to new owners.
There is a lot more information on The Kennel Club web site with advice and links to free educational breeding resources. The link below will help you start your research: