Belgians di Coraggio

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Questions Specific to This Breeding


Iím aware that Belgian Sheepdogs may suffer from epilepsy.† How risky do you think this breeding is?† Have any littermates to the sire or dam had a seizure?

Epilepsy can be mild or debilitating, and will certainly impact the way the puppy fits into your life.† So you need to know.† Next, the way the breeder answers will help you determine how knowledgeable they are and will give you a feel for how theyíd react if there was a problem.

A good breeder will evaluate pedigrees to mitigate any and all health risks.† Even with conservative breeding, a recessive problem like epilepsy may, against the best odds, manifest in a litter.† You want a breeder who is candid about the odds, and who will stand beside you if you lose your gamble.

A breeder who states that the pedigree has zero risk, or who is uncomfortable talking about the topic, or that doesnít know the risk would be a red flag.† Also, any breeder who states, ďNever had it in my linesĒ probably isnít looking very closely.


What health screening has been done on the breeding stock and what were the results?

The Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) is a database of medical certifications for breeding animals, including Belgian Sheepdogs.† Breeders may allow their dogís certifications to be viewed by anyone who logs onto the website.† Or they may opt to keep those results private.† Currently the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America (BSCA) only requires that breeding stock be x-rayed for hip dysplasia.† It recommends Canine Eye Registry Foundation exams (CERF), thyroid evaluations, and x-rays for elbow dysplasia.† OFA tracks heart and thyroid certifications as well.

The current predominant belief is that hip and elbow dysplasia are polygenic recessive conditions.† In other words, many genes are at play making it very difficult to eradicate.† Assuming this is the case, OFA screening eliminates known affected dogs and may help to identify carrier dogs so that breeders can avoid doubling up on the condition which will help prevent it.

Elbow x-rays and current CERFs may not be required, but the vast majority of breeders have those certifications completed.† Thyroid exams are less common, but since thyroid problems are a risk in some lines, it may, or may not be pretty important in particular breedings.† Heart evaluations are uncommon and Belgian Sheepdogs have very low risk for heart problems.

Itís a good idea to look up the breeding stock in the OFA database yourself instead of relying on your breederís word.† But you still need to ask to have that dialog.

Some breeders opt for Pennhip (hips) and IEWG (elbows).† These organizations are pretty strict so a dog with passing ratings from either would likely have passing OFA evaluations.† Breeding based upon preliminary screenings are risky.† I personally know of two boys who were used on pre-lims, but who were later determined to be dysplastic.

Both the sire and dam have passing hips, elbows and CERFS.† I can supply the certification numbers.

The current practice is hips, elbows and eyes at a minimum. Some breeders do not support the OFA screening program, itís up to you as the puppy buyer to decide if you think itís important to you.†† Other breeders may have hip certification only, or hips and eyes.† In older AIs this might be OK, but itís a red flag with a younger dog.† Nowadays a huge red flag is elbows only.† This violates the breed clubís COE and violates all accepted practice.†† The statement that health screenings arenít necessary since the breeder only produces pets is not an acceptable reason for the absence of health screenings.


Have you encountered any of the less common afflictions including, but not limited to pannus, Von Willebrands, and Addisons?

Yes, with an explanation of the likely risk, probably quite low.† Pannus is uncommon, but prevalent enough that with a little gentle digging the breeder should be able to find an afflicted dog related to the pedigree.

None of those problems are in the lines.


How old are the sire and dam?

The BSCA Code Of Ethics states that dogs under 18 months of age are prohibited for use in a breeding program.† However, the COE also requires passing hips, and this cannot be done until a dog is 24 months old, so that is the effective minimum breeding age.† Many breeders choose to wait until a dog is three as a precaution.† This gives a little more time for any health problems to come out and a more mature dam is often better prepared mentally to manage puppies.

Anything over the age of 2.

Anything under 2 years without a serious, detailed, risk disclosure statement.


What are your goals for this breeding?

An ethical breeder is breeding for purpose.† Not simply because they happen to have access to a pair of dogs from ďchampionship lines.Ē† If youíre not going to show a dog, you might think that a fancy pedigree full of titles is irrelevant.† But itís with that pedigree that a breeder will assess potential health and temperament problems.† So itís very important; a household pet that isnít going to do anything but go jogging with you needs to be carefully bred to prevent problems.† Even a couch potato Belgian needs to be temperamentally sound and healthy.

The breeder should in some way acknowledge perceived areas of improvement in her girl both in temperament and conformation. A passing comment on not doubling up on known weaknesses would be good to hear as well.

No goals, or unspecific goals.† Simply stating that both dogs are on site and are themselves sound therefore theyíll be produce good puppies that will be sound as well.


I have some specific questions about the parents.† Is either parent barky, sound sensitive, fussy about slippery floors, a fussy eater, allergic, aggressive or overly friendly?

You know, itís those little things that nag at you sometimes, and these are the questions you rarely think of until itís too late right?† Yet all of these traits run in lines.† One very popular boy produced many litters, in three of the litters Iím aware of, the pups have this passion for mud puddles.† One 6 month old boy was out in the backyard, noticed a muddy hole that another dog had dug, and the boy walked over and dipped his head down into the muddy water.† He must have liked it because he immediately repeated the behavior.† That may be a funny quirk, but if you live in house full of laminate flooring, a dam who hates slippery surfaces may produce a pup with the same issue, and that pup would be pretty unhappy on your ďfloor of death.Ē

Having an answer is fine, just so you know what you might be getting.

Not knowing is a warning sign.



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