Breeders’ Symposia: AKC and CHF Present a College of Canine Knowledge
By Erika Werne, AKC CHF Director of Education and Communications
“There is no element of our sport more important than the breeder,” says Walter F. Goodman, member of the AKC board of directors and recipient of the 2011 American Kennel Club Lifetime Achievement Award (Conformation).
“The breeder is the foundation from which all other aspects of purebred dogs emanate. In the USA, the successful breeder proceeds with informally acquired skills and knowledge. Today there is an increasing need to provide breeders with a reliable source for technical and practical information. The American Kennel Club, the AKC Canine Health Foundation, the AKC parent clubs, and all event-giving clubs are in a unique position to fill that role.”
The AKC and the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) have been sponsoring educational programs specifically for breeders since 2004. More than 30 of these Breeders’ Symposia have been presented throughout the United States. Said one attendee about the symposium held at Cornell University, “Wow! Awesome! It was the best money spent in a long time. I hope you will be back again soon!”
The AKC’s objective, to advance the study, breeding, exhibiting, and maintenance of purebred dogs, is exemplified by these symposia. The CHF tagline, “Helping Dogs and Their Owners Live Longer, Healthier Lives,” illustrates the ongoing theme of such programs. All of us—the AKC, CHF, researchers, veterinarians, breeders, and owners—are working together so that our beloved companions may live longer, healthier lives, and to protect and assure the continuation of the sport of purebred dogs.
Photo by Mary Bloom
Each symposium, usually hosted by a veterinary school, brings together researchers, veterinarians, breeders and dog owners to discuss the latest advances in veterinary medicine and breeding techniques. Speakers often include specialists from the host veterinary school who lecture on topics such as reproduction, nutrition, cancer, cardiology, endocrinology, behavior and immunology/vaccinations. Breeders are given the opportunity to meet the staff of the host school, and have access to these experts. Additional topics include discussion of the various test registries, such as the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), and the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF).
Keynote speakers have included the likes of Dr. Claudia Orlandi on “The ABC’s of Dog Breeding,” Pat Hastings on canine structure, and Dr. Jerold Bell on pedigree analysis and developing a healthy breeding program.
Targeted for novice and expert breeders alike, the Breeders’ Symposium is an ideal venue in which to learn about sound breeding practices and advances in genetic health tests that lead to healthier dogs. It offers breeders information on how to improve their lines—from choosing the right breeding pair to recognizing distress in a bitch in whelp. Speakers often discuss breeds that are prone to a particular disease, so breeders learn the appropriate steps to prevent that disease in their breeding stock and subsequent progeny.
Another opportunity afforded by these symposia is meeting other breeders. Attendees range from individuals who have never bred a litter and are interested in beginning a program, to those who have been in their particular breed for 20 or 25 years or more. Everyone has the opportunity to ask questions and contribute to the discussion during presentations. There are opportunities during breaks for attendees to meet and mingle, developing relationships that will benefit future generations of dogs. An attendee of the Missouri symposium said, “I have been a breeder for 30 years, but I still gained knowledge and materials to become better.” Most Breeders Symposia offer continuing-education credits to vets and vet techs in jurisdictions that recognize AAVSB RACE approval; participants should be aware, however, that some boards have limitations on the number of hours accepted in certain categories and/or restrictions on certain methods of continuing education.
The Next Best Thing to Being There
The Genome Barks podcast series is another useful aspect of these symposia. The podcasts feature interviews with speakers from the Breeders’ Symposia and provides responsible breeders and pet owners an inside look at the work being done by the AKC and the CHF. Topics include reproduction, vaccination protocols, orthopedic disease, and interviews with CHF-funded researchers on cancer research, immune-mediated disorders, infectious disease, and others. New podcasts are released every two weeks. Find them at CanineHealthFoundation.org, iTunes®, and GenomeBarks.com.