The Greyhoundshow


3rd IFPD Health Workshop – Breed-Specific Health Strategies

Filed under: Auf den Greyhound gekommen,Gesundheit,Literaturtip — admin @ 19:48

Eine Zusammenfassung der Ergebnisse der Arbeitsgruppe „Breed-Specific Health Strategies“ mit greyhoundspezifischem Fokus gibt es in der aktuellen Ausgabe von „Unsere Windhunde“. Den Artikel können Sie hier auf Deutsch lesen.
Für unsere internationale Leserschaft gibt es den Artikel nachfolgend auf English:

On 21-23 April 2017 the 3rd International Dog Health Workshop of IFPD (International Partnership for Dogs) took place in Paris. The IFPD is an affiliation of different stakeholders of cynology and veterinary medicine, e.g. several FCI members as well as The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (USA) or the Agria Pet Insurance-SKC Fund. These workshops are being organised by one of the FCI members every other year, like the VDH did in 2015 (Dortmund). Those events are open to anyone interested, but especially address breed representatives, veterinarians and service providers.

This year’s topics for the workshops were:

  1. Breed-Specific Health Strategies: By breed, nationally and internationally.
  2. IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs Initiative: Selection, evaluation and application of genetic testing
  3. Behaviour and Welfare: How can we better integrate concepts of welfare, behaviour and health in breeding and raising dogs?
  4. Education and Communication – Antimicrobial Resistance/ Prudent Use of Antibiotics. How can international collaboration support education and communication within and across stakeholder groups (esp. between veterinarians and breeders).
  5. Exaggerations And Extremes In Dog Conformation: Health, welfare and breeding considerations; latest national and international efforts.
  6. Show Me The Numbers: Integrating information from various sources for prevalence, risks and other population-level information.

To introduce all six topics short lectures for the complete audience were given, which attuned the participants with case studies to each subject. Afterwards the workgroups went into retreat in order to work on their respective assignment under skilled facilitation.

I had decided on „ Breed-Specific Health Strategies”, because I think this is a most important, but widely neglected topic for “my” breeds Greyhound and Whippet. We should give it some attention, though – especially when we want to take the VDH’s (German Kennel Club) breeding regulations seriously, which define the general set-up for breeding our Sighthounds as well:

Implementing rules breeding programs / breeding strategies

  1. General remarks
    1. Breed clubs are obliged to establish breeding programs under scientific surveillance in order to combat frequent genetic defects and diseases and have to implement those programs by means of appropriate breeding strategies. They have to make sure that their breeders follow the respective breeding program.
    2. If an affected breed club fails to take suitable measures, the VDH may – under involvement of the VDH Breeding Council and the VDH’s scientific advisory committee – issue instructions after hearing the concerned club.
    3. Breed clubs have to ensure that their members and breeders agree with the disclosure of gathered relevant data (evaluations).

Disambiguation: What is a breeding strategy?

Google: “Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.”
So we need to differentiate between “breeding goal” and “breeding strategy”. “Breeding goals” are defined by the breed club:
„The purpose of the association and its members is the preservation, maintenance and protection of the Sighthound in its purity, its capability, its nobleness, its inner and outer qualities for later generations….”
…as well as by each breeder individually, e.g. athletic performance, conformation, special character traits or preservation of genetic lines.

Thus, the breeding strategy is the way to achieve the breeding goals respectively to get as close as possible. Again we have the personal strategy of each breeder (which dogs to mate, how to select, what to pay regard for when raising puppies…), and the superordinate breeding strategy of the club.
If I will talk about “breeding strategies” below, I refer to the superordinate breeding strategy of the respective breed club.

What parts should be included in a breeding strategy?

In order to speak about “breeding strategy”, these four steps must be taken:

  1. Leadership
  2. Planning
  3. Engagement
  4. Improvement

The following scheme illustrates which factors should be taken into account:


1. The persons in charge

Like in each well-organized approach somebody has to take the lead, and so be contact and responsible person. As you need different skills in order to create a breeding strategy, which will be rarely united in one single person, the select circle will consist of a number of functionaries for logical reasons.

For the DWZRV this could be the breeding board, the respective member of the breed committee for each breed, the scientific advisory committee, as well as “external” advisors like scientists, veterinarians, laboratories, lawyers or IT consultants.


2. The data:

Each strategy starts with the collection and review of data – without underlying data no strategy will ever be successful.

3. The critical points

If sufficient data is available, the critical points must be identified for the respective breed. In doing so, the consideration should not be limited just to evident diseases, bit include all criteria which could influence the well-being of the dog and / or the preservation of the population:

  • Health issues
  • Behaviour problems
  • Reduced performance
  • Decreased fertility
  • Challenges in terms of population genetics
  • Reduced lifespan

4. Evaluation of the critical points

As soon as the breed‘s critical points are identified, each point should be rated according the following criteria:

  • Prevalence / probability of occurrence?
  • Cause known?
  • Is the problem distributed throughout the entire population, or limited to certain lines / families within the breed?
  • What is the impact on the individual’s quality of life?
  • Interdependences with other issues in the breed?
  • Are tools available to detect and tackle the problem?
  • How great would the effort be to eliminate / reduce the issue?
  • Are there risks / pitfalls related to tackling the problem?
  • Previous measures to gain control of the problem?
  • Recommended procedure?

5. Schedule

For each measure a schedule should be arranged. This should include:

  • Date of implementation
  • Interval until review / evaluation of the collected data

6. Communication / Compliance

If a breeding strategy succeeds or fails depends in no small part on the support of all parties concerned.  These are:

  • Breeders / stud dog owners
  • Other club members („dog owners“)
  • The „public“: Prospective puppy-buyers, „influencers“ like veterinarians, associations, petfood industry…

A breeding strategy should always provide a guideline on how the different target groups should be informed about its goals and measures. Objectives, incentives and – as appropriate – sanctions should be included for every measure as well in order to ensure the realization of the strategy.
A differentiated approach is of the essence to “seize” each target group in just the right way.

Example: Combatting Hip Dysplasia at the “RZV für Hovawart-Hunde e.V.” (German Hovawart Breed Club)

  • Breeders / Stud dog owners:
    • Breeding permission for each dog is only granted when ist hips are rated „A“ or „B“ by an independent expert of the GRSK
    • In addition to this „personal contribution” the HD breeding value for each dog is calculated on the basis of its relatives’ results, and the breeding value of each planned mating must not exceed a tolerated maximum.
    • The approval for a further mating for a bitch after three, for a male after five litters can only be granted, when at least 70 % of the dog’s offspring have been “officially” x-rayed for HD.
    • Breeders as well as stud dog owners pay a fee per each registered offspring of their dogs to the club’s solidarity fund. Every club member may claim financial support from that fund, if he or she gets a Hovawart puppy which is suffering from one of the defects addressed by the club’s breeding strategy (e.g. HD).
    • The HD results and the HD breeding values of all dogs are accessible to all club members
  • Dog owners:
    • Even before buying their puppy, prospective Hovawart owners are informed about HD by the club and the breeder, and are asked to x-ray their dog as soon as it is old enough. Some breeders add a deposit on the puppy price, which will be refunded when the puppy buyer presents the HD results of his Hovawart.
  • The public:
    • Prospective puppy buyers: Widely spread advertising campaigns inform about the merits of buying a Hovawart puppy bred in this club.
    • „Influencers“: Connected to the breed club’s activities to constantly improve their „products” there is a steady flow of information between the club and scientists. Thus the Hovawart (and the RZV) are often mentioned in professional publications for this target group as a good (or well-investigated) example.

7. Accompanying measures

These include all activities which enhance the likelihood of a measure to be implemented:

  • Fundraising, e.g. to finance studies or acquisitions
  • Incentives to increase the members‘ compliance
  • Implementation of a health fund
  • Collaboration with superordinate bodies, i.g. the GKF
  • Exchange / cooperation with other national and international breed clubs


This step appears negligible at first glance, when compared to the volume and the manifold components of the previous planning. But even the most sophisticated plans lead to nothing, if they are not implemented. On the other hand: Measures without diligent planning are often unrewarding and deliver only unsatisfactory results. This again leads to frustration of all people involved, which spend time and money and accept restrictions of their individual fulfilment as a breeder without perceiving an improvement of the problem concerned.

8. Implementation of the measures

  • Application of the breeding measures (testing / examination of the breeding stock, regimentation of the breeding decisions….)
  • Education of club members and the public about content and purpose of the measure
  • Data collection and review
  • Installation of a platform, where data can be shared and used
  • Collaboration with external experts, e.g. within the scope of scientific studies
  • Realisation of an incentive scheme, awards for breeders….


9. Controlling and review

The success of a breeding strategy should be verified on a regular basis, with the results being reviewed and published. If a measure does not result in the expected improvement, the method should be checked and adjusted. Or maybe another measure brings forth new data, which suggest a tightening of the regulation (e.g. from “voluntarily” to “mandatory for breeding stock”). Reversely, in case of extremely successful measures the corresponding rules could be loosened or even abandoned (e.g. if genetic testing lead to clearing the population of an autosomal recessive defect). And last, but not least there may be new scientific insights, or a new genetic test which has been only recently developed…..
Thus, a breeding strategy is a dynamic structure, which can only prevail with constant reviews and adjustments.

Anticipation of objections

Sighthound lovers as well as breeders of other dogs will often be suspicious of the idea of a superordinate breeding strategy. The most common concerns refer to the possible restrictions of their “artistic freedom” as a breeder. They also fear additional expense, and loss of face when health data of their dogs is disclosed.
On the other hand, the breed club management is afraid of breeders not supporting the strategy, leaving to other breed clubs or joining the dissidence straightaway.
Such concerns are comprehensible, but do not bespeak foresight and even less proper handling of the breeds entrusted in our care.

This question was of course discussed during the workshop, and there were several interesting suggestions. Ian Seath, Chairman of the UK Dachshund Breed Council (which represents sixteen Dachshund breed clubs in the United Kingdom), described what accounted for the success of their extensive health improvement strategy: “We did not force anybody to join in. But then, there is no legal basis to do so. But we did invest in different public relations activities in order to not only convince our breeders and club members, but which reached the prospective puppy buyers and vets as well. Breeders, which were unable to answer the questions of such sensitized prospects or club mates satisfactorily, were soon confronted with dwindling puppy sales and reduced demand for their stud dogs.” Seath sticks to the Pareto principle: “We strive to inform all involved and get them all on board. If it does not work out on one or another, let him go. And see what you can achieve with the really dedicated people.”

The information given by Jacques Arnold, Chairmann of the Belgian Kennel Club’s (SRSH) Breeding Committee was likewise exciting. The SRSH must not exclude any dog with a valid FCI pedigree from breeding. Therefor the SRSH has introduced three “quality grades” for the registration of litters:

  • Category 3: Both parents have a valid pedigree and a DNA test
  • Category 2: Both parents have a valid pedigree and a DNA test, as well as the desired scores at tests / examinations for certain heritable diseases.
  • Category 3: Both parents have a valid pedigree and a DNA test, as well as the desired scores at tests / examinations for certain heritable diseases. Further test results for other defects are available. In addition, both parents own a „Certificat de conformité au standard de race“, which is a confirmation that they comply with the breed standard.

I think this is a great idea to be included in a breeding strategy. For Greyhounds it would be imaginable like this:

  • Category 3: Both parents have got the breeding permission according to DWZRV rules (valid pedigree, show result, DNA test, temperament & conformation test (Körung)).
  • Category 2: Both parents have got the breeding permission according to DWZRV rules (valid pedigree, show result, DNA test, temperament & conformation test (Körung)). In addition they have an echocardiography score of “0” or “1”, evaluated by a member of the CC not more than two years ago. And they are rated “free” or “heterozygous carrier” in a genetic test for Greyhound Neuropathy (show lines) or Malignant Hyperthermia (racing lines). Of course, heterozygous carriers may only be mated to “free” dogs.
  • Category 1: Both parents have got the breeding permission for “Conformation and Performance”) according to DWZRV rules (valid pedigree, show results, racing / coursing results, DNA test, temperament & conformation test (Körung)). In addition they have an echocardiography score of “0” or “1”, evaluated by a member of the CC not more than two years ago. And they are rated “free” or “heterozygous carrier” in a genetic test for Greyhound Neuropathy (show lines) or Malignant Hyperthermia (racing lines). Of course, heterozygous carriers may only be mated to “free” dogs. On top of that a DNA screening has been made and published. The coefficient of inbreeding of the future litter is under 5 % for five generations.

I am well aware this article will provoke controversial reactions. But according to my experiences at the 3rd IFPD Health Workshop I am confident that sighthound people could achieve what is common practice in other breed clubs already:

To improve our breeding with all the means of the 21st century, without abandoning the wealth of experience of bygone generations – and thereby eventually fulfil our responsibility towards the breeds entrusted in our care!

Text: Barbara Thiel Illustrations: Nele Ellerich


  1. toller Artikel! Danke dafür! Vor allem den Teil über die Möglichkeiten, Züchter und Interessierte zur Mitarbeit zu bewegen finde ich super. Das wären wirklich gangbare Wege und ein Schritt FÜR die Windhundrassen. Ich hoffe, dass sich da nicht nur bei den Greys was bewegt und die Betonköpfe überzeugt werden können.

    Kleiner Tipp für alle, die diesen Artikel gern in sinnvollem Deutsch lesen wollen: benutzt diesen Link und kopiert Euch den Text rein. Ich finde, dieser Text sollte allen als Inspiration und Gedankenanstoß zur Verfügung stehen.

    Kommentar by Petra Eßer-Dannhauer — 4.10.2017 @ 12:29

  2. huups – ich seh jetzt erst, dass er auch auf Deutsch erhältlich ist… Um so besser. Danke für die Mühe

    Kommentar by Petra Eßer-Dannhauer — 4.10.2017 @ 12:31

  3. Toller Artikel, Babs!
    Man hat beim Lesen den Eindruck, da weiß jemand, wovon er spricht, da kennt sich jemand aus. Zumindest bis zu dem Punkt, wo du den Vorschlag bringst, dass für Kategorie 1 beide Elterntier S&L gekört sein müssen. Dieser Vorschlag macht den vorherigen Eindruck zunichte.

    Tut mir leid, Babs!

    Kommentar by Steffen Brandt — 9.10.2017 @ 13:44

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