Part 2 - Viewing a Litter

John is an extremely experienced member and trainer of Gun Dogs. Hints, tips and general advice can be found in here which will build into an extremely useful souce of informatation

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Part 2 - Viewing a Litter

Postby LabRes1 » 14 Sep 2007, 19:49

PART TWO

Viewing a litter.

Often an experienced working or show person will put their name on a puppy from a particular bitch before the puppies are born and in fact sometimes they are even conceived! But most people will have their first contact with the breeder other than over the phone when they go to see the puppies the first time. When you arrange to see the puppies get there at the right time. Nothing is going to create a poor impression quicker with the breeder than not arriving at the right time. Puppies eat, play and sleep in that order and a good breeder will try to arrange the “Play” phase to coincide with your visit. Arriving early and the breeder will not have had time to cleaned the play pen and too late and the puppies will be sound asleep!

Expect to be asked some questions. The breeder brought these puppies into the world so of course she will want the best for her babies. The breeder should also be prepared to answer your questions. I would want to know about health checks. The test for Glaucoma where appropriate is a once in a lifetime test the same as hip scoring whereas the standard eye test needs carrying out each year. The more dogs in the puppy’s pedigree which have been hip scored the better picture you can get of the hips in the line as a whole.

When a hip is scored the panel are looking at 9 features which consist of angles, shape and clearances. All of these features are awarded a mark of between 0 and 6 except one which is between 0 and 5! The marks for each feature are added together to give you a score per hip of between 0 and 53 (The lower the score the better.) These scores are usually shown as a figure such as 7/6 which would mean that 7 marks have been lost on the left hip and 6 on the right. In talking most people will add the scores for the two hips together and talk about a dog having scored 13.

Be aware of the average hip score for the breed before going to see the puppies, that way you will know whether a score is good or bad. For example, the average for a Labrador is 16 (total for both hips) whereas for a Clumber Spaniel it is 42! Obviously from that you can see that a figure, without knowing what is good or bad in the breed is of no value to you at all! A score where one hip is much different to the other is often (But not always) an indication of damage rather than a hereditary fault. Knowing the scores of the dogs behind this one would help to confirm this.

Elbow Displasia is something else which is being tested for these days. In this the grading system in use in the UK is 0 to 3. 0 is classed as normal, 1 as minor displasia, 2 as moderate and 3 as severe. At the moment the test has only been around since 1997 and has not really got accepted by a very large number of breeders and for my part, until it achieves large support from breeders I cannot see rejecting puppies because they have not been tested. With me the jury is still out on this one!

It’s nice if the breeder removes the puppies already sold because you then have the chance to concentrate on only the puppies you are interested in. Some breeders pick the puppies for the puppy buyers saying that as they know the puppies, they are better able to say which would suit a person best. This might or might not be a good idea. For a first time puppy buyer with no experience it can be very difficult to visulise the puppy’s future nature but for an experienced person I don’t believe this is such a good idea because I don’t believe anyone knows exactly what I am looking for. I like to sit and watch the puppies, see how they interact with each other. I’m looking to see which is the dominant one, the submissive one, the independent one, the one who comes as soon as I call, the one which goes to investigate a knotted handkerchief, all the little details which make up the individuality of the puppy. I look at the basic overall shape, Rear angulation, lay of shoulder, tail carriage, remembering that rear angulation usually looks greater in a young puppy! I VERY gently look at the bite, the way the top and bottom jaw meet in front. Most breeds specify a scissor bite (where the from of the bottom teeth touch the back of the top teeth. In almost all breeds, the bottom jaw grows more than the top so if the bite is right at an early age then it is quite possible that it will finish wrong! I like to see just a small gap between the front of the bottom and the back of the top to allow growing room. Some breeds are prone to deafness but it can happen in any breed so I try to test for it, snap my fingers behind it’s head to see if it takes notice. Be careful not to create a draft of you wont achieve anything, the puppy could just be looking to see where the draft is coming from! I don’t make a big thing of it in front of the breeder but just add it into the little things I do when around the puppies.

After all this watching I have usually got an eye on the dog of my choice but then comes the big question, “Do I want to live with this dog?” Science goes out of the window and the heart comes in! If the heart says yes and if the breeder is happy with me then that’s the one! It’s a deposit to the breeder and counting the days!!

Next time we will be collecting our puppy!!!

Regards, John
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Postby Glenys » 14 Sep 2007, 20:50

This is excellent information written for our rescue by John Weller to share with people especially if you are looking to own a dog for the first time or to help with any training you may need with an existing dog.

Also do not forget to ask if there are any questions you would like to put to John in particular I am sure he would be able to advise.
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Postby John » 14 Sep 2007, 23:07

Actually, this series of articles was written some time ago, and of course, time does not stand still. At the time of writing DNA testing for hereditary problems was in it’s infancy, and results were not always as accurate as desired. But that has changed. There are now DNA tests available for a number of problems, although as at the moment only one applies to Labradors this is the one I’ll talk about. But if anyone is interested in any other breed I’ll be happy to chat about that.

There is a particularly nasty condition called “Generalised Progressive Retinal Dystrophy” which, as it’s name implies is a progressive degeneration of the retina, eventually resulting in total blindness. In the past this was part of the normal eye test. But the problem with this disease is that until the dog actually starts to go blind there is nothing to see, and because it can take until the dog is 7 or 8 years old before showing a breeder could have bred two or three litters of puppies before even knowing they had a problem.

But for all the difficulties the disease posed for breeders the mode of inheritance was well know. It’s what is known as a “Recessive” disease, meaning that it is carried in the recessive gene and will not cause any problems unless both the sire and dam of the puppies carry the gene. We know quite a few Labradors who carry the defective gene but only the tip of the iceberg. Interestingly, because of the way so many breeders select the stud dog for their forthcoming litter we are seeing more problems in Chocolate coloured Labs and in working lines.

But now a firm in America, Optigen, has brought out a test of the dog’s DNA which has proved to be as near 100% correct as makes no difference. A specimen of blood is taken by the owner’s vet and sent to Optigen for testing. The test results are then emailed back in about two weeks, shortly followed by a printed certificate arriving through the post. Cost is not cheap, at the moment, allowing for the exchange rate, £’s into $’s it works out at around £100, but if a minimum of 20 people get together and all send their samples in what is called a 20/20 clinic it works out quite a bit cheaper. At this particular moment, £74. Again, if anyone wants more info just ask and I’ll try to answer.

So, how does this affect the puppy buyer?

Firstly you need to ask the question, “Has the sire or dam been Optigen tested?” Ideally you would like to see both tested clear because this would mean that the puppies will also be clear. But as long as one is clear then the worst the puppies could be is carriers, they could never develop the problem. (Although if you ever intended to breed then you would need to get the pup “Optigen tested” first.) At the moment many breeders are not DNA testing, but more and more are and I honesty believe that unless we go down this route we are going to see an explosion of cases in the near future.

One last thing. The Optigen test is “As well as” the usual BVA eye test, not “Instead of.” There are a number of other conditions which are tested for in the BVA test which are not covered in the Optigen test.

Just out of interest, DNA testing will not stop there. Field tests are at present going on with a test for Hip Dysplacia and there is also a test on the stocks for Epilepsy in Labradors. So it’s very much a matter of “Watch this space!”

This is all a very simple guide, but the implications are huge and through testing we really can eliminate this disease. The inheritance is so well known that with care we can safely breed from even a dog blind from PRA. Not a single dog needs to be lost from the gene pool.

Regards, John
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Postby Glenys » 14 Sep 2007, 23:35

We recently had Nell optigen tested luckily she was clear
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Postby John » 14 Sep 2007, 23:43

I'm actually awaiting Amy's results at this moment. Thats how I know the latest exchange rate price :wink:

Regards, John
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Postby Glenys » 15 Sep 2007, 10:24

its also handy to know that you can store your dogs DNA with this company as well which is surely a good thing with dog thefts increasing
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