With the launch of the new club website, the FLCNSW breeding guidelines have been published online for the first time. These were finalised last year after several rounds of community input. The feedback was thoughtful and tremendously helpful. Many grateful thanks to the people who took time to contribute their ideas. Almost all feedback resulted in modification or frank alteration of the content and structure of the guidelines. There was no feedback for the guidance on the use of artificial insemination. This may reflect the fact that the practice is very well accepted here in Australia. Nevertheless AI is worthy of specific acknowledgement and breeding guidance, as our practice is so substantially different to breed practice in Europe. I’m very mindful of the practical difficulties with the advice around young sires, and several people pointed out some excellent examples of how sometimes there is really no other choice. In Australia we neuter our pets and governments incentivise this. Finland does not tend to neuter pets, so old sires are ‘a dime a dozen’ and their use is actively encouraged subject to basic health checks. I want to acknowledge the difficulties that we face in Australia, but still acknowledge the fundamental truth: Older “unpopular” sires remain an ideal strategy to avoid snowballing consequences of an unrecognised health problem, and to minimise genetic drift.
There was some feedback about glaucoma and the value of screening with gonioscopy which is worth noting. In this version of the guideline I’ve adhered closely to Finnish guidance in all matters related to eye health. Thus a specific mention of gonioscopy screening isn’t included. It’s a worthy topic of discussion. Glaucoma is rare in lappies but very common in Samoyeds. Breeders with dogs within a few degrees of relatedness to a case of glaucoma may choose to screen, and this seems very sensible. The other point which did receive plenty of comment was the guidance on maximum number of litters for a bitch. Certainly my personal opinion is that 4 litters is almost always going to be a sensible maximum. Finnish, NSW and ANKC guidance all state a higher number (5 or even 6 in the case of ANKC.) I didn’t select a lower litter number for this version of the guideline, but have certainly stated that 5 litters ‘should be a rare event’ in any breeder’s breeding career.
Finally, I hope you’ll all bear in mind that these guidelines are “a cookbook, and not a rulebook.” As you all know, there is no guarantee of litter health. These are the breeding tools to maximise future health, not guarantee it. There will always be constraints that mean that not all of these points can be met all the time. Despite this, the aim should be always to avoid loss of genetic diversity and to prevent the increase in prevalence of health problems. We have the tools to keep the breed’s overall health profile stable and even improve it slowly in some areas.