March 30, 2005


The tragic death of a young dog shortly after receiving routine vaccinations has sparked an animated exchange of opinions on an agility mailing list. I've been doing some reading ...

The Vaccine Controversy rages on two fronts. The first point to consider is the safety issue. Vaccines can be harmful. We vaccinate because the advantages outweigh the risks. Just ask anyone who has seen a beloved pet die of parvo or distemper. But there are risks associated with vaccinations. For instance some dogs, after being vaccinated with modified live canine distemper vaccine can develop seizures, a lack of coordination and other neurological dysfunctions caused from a rare condition called postvaccinal canine distemper virus encephalitis. Another problem noted with genetically susceptible animals is that it is possible for vaccinations to trigger various autoimmune diseases.

Another source of controversy is the recommended frequency of vaccinations. Although yearly boosters are recommended by most vets, for many diseases the yearly booster really is not obligatory. However, a yearly checkup is necessary for the same reasons you would have one yourself. For the low-risk pet, once the initial puppy series is completed, a booster at one year and another at three years should suffice until your dog's senior years. Unfortunately, no duration of efficacy studies are available yet because minimum duration studies were not required for vaccine licensure until recently. This means there really are no data that tell us how long the immunity lasts in a vaccinated animal, but animal vaccines should compare favorably with the duration of human vaccines. On the other hand, no data supports yearly vaccinations either.

The AVMA vaccine guidelines for dogs and cats released in November 2002 by the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents recommend tailoring vaccine programs. The "COBTA Report on Cat and Dog Vaccines" concluded that inadequate data exist to scientifically determine a single, one-size-fits-all protocol for vaccination or revaccination of dogs and cats. It said that variations among patients, their lifestyles, and related disease risks, and between individual vaccine products available, necessitate a customized approach to vaccination recommendations. COBTA concluded that evidence shows that some vaccines provide immunity beyond one year. While annual vaccinations have been highly successful in curbing disease, the one-year revaccination frequency recommendation found on many vaccine labels is based on historical precedent, not scientific data. Even in cases where scientific data were submitted to qualify a label claim, the data generated generally represent a minimum duration of immunity and don't resolve the question about average or maximum duration of immunity.

The incentive for reducing vaccination is that various reports show serious immune system suppression in significant numbers of pet animals and humans resulting from routine annual or regular vaccination.

Vaccines can be separated into 'core' and 'non-core'. Some vaccines have had a profound effect by reducing, or eliminating, diseases characterized by moderate to high morbidity and/or mortality. However, other vaccines have had little or no recognized beneficial effect because they were designed to prevent infections that cause little or no morbidity and/or mortality. Some vaccines are so new that the potential benefits they provide are not known e.g., Giardia, Leptospira (L.) grippotyphosa and L. pomona.

A vaccine titer is a blood test that measures the antibody level a dog is carrying against a certain virus. There is a great deal of debate regarding whether or not a certain level of antibody can be considered tantamount to protection. Many veterinarians do not feel it is useful to run titers until this issue is resolved (ie there is more to protection than an antibody level; there is an entire immune system involved and there is no simple way to assess the entire immune system). Other veterinarians find it cost ineffective to recommend titers prior to vaccination (it costs a great deal more to run the titer than to simply give the vaccination. If the titer is adequate, the worst possible outcome is that the vaccine will be ineffective.) Other veterinarians question whether or not it is harmless to annually give vaccinations when there is already adequate immunity present.

March 29, 2005

Contentment Posted by Hello

March 27, 2005

How Do You Score as a Puppy Picker?

When Gary Wilkes wrotes this article for a major dog magazine, he was criticised for supporting back yard breeders, but as he says "the bottom line is that good dogs are where you find them and, as I have already said, any source of dogs is a crap shoot."

He says that selecting a puppy is the equivalent of adding a member to your family. The new addition will need to adapt to the dynamics of your existing family members, an environment that is probably devoid of litter mates, parents and possibly even its own species. While a few people use complex temperament tests to make their selection, the majority of dog owners still use emotional criteria to select a pup, or abdicate their power of choice and let the puppy pick them. Using some simple guidelines to help make your decision may allow you to find the puppy that appeals to your senses and your good sense.

Also check out his articles on clicker training originally published in Front & Finish Magazine.

Happy Easter! Posted by Hello

March 18, 2005


Diesel was my first pedigree puppy, and although I'm getting another dog from a breeder I do support canine rescue and know that there are wonderful dogs available through rescue.

Jon Katz in The New Work of Dogs talks about an apparent need some people have to feel that they have 'rescued' a dog from a life of abuse, and you will hear people say "He's a rescue dog" with an eyebrow raise that suggests a past blackened by horrors too terrific to mention. Of course there are far too many animals that have been abused, a moment in front of tv news tells you that. But for the most part the dogs available through animal rescue have just become inconvenient - a new house or baby, or a need for some training, or they wandered away. Not all rescue animals have baggage to be overcome, or problems to be worked through. Indeed most that are re-homed do not.

PetRescue are a new, not for profit, organisation dedicated to rehoming shelter animals across Australia. They act as an umbrella site for breed or location specific rescue across Australia.

Australian Cattle Dog Rescue is devoted to the Cattle Dogs (and Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dogs) in Australia that are in need of loving homes.

March 16, 2005

Canine Gestation

I know nothing about pregnancy in dogs, except that nine weeks sounds a lot better than nine months, but there is some good information available. The Canine Pregnancy Calendar allows you to enter the date of first mating, and gives you the milestones along the way.

The VCA's Guidelines for Responsible Breeders includes information on conception and pregnancy. What to Expect When You Are Expecting Puppies, says "Dogs began having puppies long before humans came into their lives. So there’s no vital need for intense, day-to-day management of your pregnant dog. It’s much more important for owners to understand what’s normal during their dog’s pregnancy and to intervene when there are signs of trouble."

March 15, 2005

Galwarri Red Rose
Posted by Hello

Bangeeri Aussie Alchemist Posted by Hello


One of the problems I have in choosing a puppy is that it is important to me to find a breeder who is serious enough about breeding to have assessed the sire and dam in terms of their health, temperament, phenotype and genotype; and yet is a small enough venture that the puppies are home-raised with individual, personal attention. There are not too many around that do both.

One who meets the criteria is Ikenheel. Deb has announced on the website that Galwarri Red Rose ADX CD ET HIT JDM has been successfully mated to Grand Ch. Bangeeri Aussie Alchemist.

Also, a distinct advantage of an Ikenheel puppy is that Deb and Murray will ensure that its agility training is well advanced by eight weeks of age, so hopefully it will be able to teach me a thing or two.

Breeding Experiments

Bruce Cattanach says "crossbreeding is no longer a recognised option but for the first 50 or so years of this century, crossbreeding to allow the introduction of new or otherwise desirable characters into established breeds was permitted by the Kennel Club". A breeder of Boxers for over 40 years, he was always irritated by the need to dock tails to achieve the desired characteristics. So when faced with potential changes in tail docking legislation, he acquired two boxers with screw tails and bred them but found it was not an hereditary condition - all the puppies had long tails.

Friends asked him to look into the inheritance of a bob-tail condition in Corgis that exists in a few show lines, and he found that the condition bred true, with no associated abnormalities.

He decided that "it would really be fun to try and breed a Boxer with an inherited short tail." The story of his experiment makes interesting reading.

In quite a different experiment the Soviet Union's Institute of Cytology and Genetics tested a hypothesis to look at whether selection of breeding foxes for tameness could bring with it the changes in appearance that were associated with the domestication of dogs.

March 11, 2005

Pet health insurance

My vet sends out an email newsletter each month, and today it contained a link to a pet health insurance scheme, Vet's Own Pet Health Insurance.

I've looked at these in the past, but most of them seemed to only insure you against a meteor falling from the sky onto Fido, and as such not value for money. This one seems to cover more of the things that actually go wrong with your dog - though there is still a long list of things that are not covered - like hereditable conditions.

It does have, at the expensive end of the scale, a good health rewards rebate. Spending $200 on vaccinations, worming, flea treatment, accupuncture, shampoo gets you a $100 rebate making the most expensive option cheaper than the mid-range option.

As with any insurance policy there is a lot of fine print, but I think it's worth my exploring it further.

March 09, 2005

Canine Genetic Diversity

Many writers are warning that the strict adherence to breed standards and line breeding practices are condemning modern dogs to extinction. J. Jeffrey Bragg warns that we need canine genetic diversity and list a series of accumulated errors that need to be addressed to take dog breeds into the twenty-first century :

  • Dog shows are now just mills for the production of Champions, Best in Show and Group winners, and contribute almost nothing to the true welfare of dog breeds.
  • Breed purpose and the cultivation of canine utility have a low status compared to appearance.
  • Obedience work, begun as a way of initiating dog owners into the fascination and technique of training one's pet to be a pleasant, well-behaved companion, has become largely ritualistically and sterile. Intelligent and useful training on the owner's part, and intelligent obedience on the dog's part, are are abandoned in favour of a minutely-perfect performance of a set ritual.
  • Modern registries based on a rigidly-closed studbook are throttling the genetic health of all registered dog breeds.
  • Incest breeding, once a convenient tool for the rapid fixation of type in newly-registered breeds, has become virtually standard practice for those who seek success in dog breeding, and the net effect has been the decimation of gene pools.
  • Kennel Clubs cling to cumbersome structures, making it difficult for them to respond in a timely fashion to external challenges or internal needs.
  • Breed clubs seem to possess little real power to represent breeders or their breeds effectively.
  • Breeders, as well, are sometimes far from free to make their own responsible decisions for the best interests of their own dogs and bloodlines.

The Canine Diversity Project is an attempt to acquaint breeders of domesticated Canidae (dogs) with the dangers of inbreeding and the overuse of popular sires. Both lead to the indiscriminate loss of genetic diversity and increase the frequency of genetic problems in the population.

Phenotype & Genotype

The dog’s genetic makeup is manifested by its appearance (phenotype) and its genome (genotype). The phenotype is visible or measurable: a dog’s color, coat type, bone structure, height, head shape, etc. all comprise the phenotype. The genotype is hidden.

Because some genes are dominant and others are recessive, the genotype is not necessarily represented by the phenotype. In other words, even though you can see a black coat, the dog may be carrying the gene for a red coat, and may produce red puppies.

In assessing a dog’s potential as a parent, a breeder takes account of how they look, the phenotype – whether they are true to type.

To assess the genotype it is necessary to look at the dog’s family. Knowledge of pedigrees including the dogs’ titles, show ratings, and hip ratings, along with littermates, parents, grandparents, offspring and their ratings, allows the breeder to make an informed guess at the genotype. Software like Breed Mate and Breeders Assistant makes this more manageable.

The Dog Genome Project aims to produce a map of all the chromosomes in dogs, which can be used to locate the genes causing disease and those controlling appearance and behavior. Having the map will make assessing genotype a more reliable process.

NorthWest K9 Reading Room has an excellent reading list on canine genetics.


Often, in ads for kennels, you'll see the comment "breeding for temperament", but few go on to elaborate on what they mean by this statement.

Just as a breed ‘standard’ sets out what a particular breed of dog looks like, it also gives a description of what the dog’s temperament should be. From the standard, an Australian Cattle Dog should be:
  • alert, extremely intelligent, watchful, courageous and trustworthy
  • exhibiting loyalty and protective instincts
  • suspicious of strangers
  • amenable to handling

Any feature of temperament foreign to a working dog must be regarded as a serious fault.

So a cattle dog who is nervous, shy or fearful, aggressive towards other dogs, subdued or listless, aggressive towards people or lacking in a work ethic, does not meet the standard and should not generally be part of a breeding program.


A breeder needs to be aware of the hereditary diseases in the breed, and to test for at least the common ones. The Cambridge Veterinary School database on inherited diseases in dogs lists the Australian Cattle Dog as:

  • Hip dysplasia - Lameness in hind legs and gait problems.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy - Loss of night vision progressing slowly to total blindness.
  • Sensorineural deafness - Congenital deafness.
  • Elbow dysplasia - Swollen painful elbows and lameness.
  • Lens luxation - Luxation (eversion) of the lens accompanied by glaucoma and pain.
  • Ceroid lipofuscinosis - Progressive loss of night vision followed by neurological deficits and blindness.
  • Polioencephalomyelopathy - Seizures, spastic paresis by 5 to 6 months of age. Vacuolar degeneration cerebellum, brain stem, spinal cord.
  • Portosystemic shunt - Vascular shunt bypassing liver leading to toxic encephalitis.

How are defects inherited? Through the genes. New DNA tests for inherited diseases in the dog are steadily increasing, as our understanding of canine genetics gets more detailed.

The goal of breeding

The goal of breeding must be to produce better dogs – not to produce more dogs. You hear a whole range of reasons for letting Fluffy have a litter from “letting the children witness the miracle of life” to “she’s a lovely dog and my neighbour has a male of the same breed” to “these puppies sell for $800, with a litter of six I could really make some money.” All of these goals are frequently thwarted as the birth becomes a traumatic experience, puppies inherit crippling disorders, and vet bills consume potential profits.

Responsible breeders follow a series of steps to ensure that their knowledge and experience will result in a mating that will produce an exceptional litter of puppies that will go to excellent homes. Before deciding to produce a litter of cute puppies, the potential breeder should assess their dog in terms of:
  • health
  • temperament
  • phenotype
  • genotype

Morrie Oxley's Koolie, Victoria Aus Posted by Hello

March 08, 2005


I had an email from Greg C. who reminded me of the Koolie, my only excuse for not having them on my shortlist is that they don't come up on the puppy picker websites.

Another Australian breed, the Koolie was referred to by Robert Kaleski in 1911, saying that at the time there were many varieties of working dogs. One particular one called the Welsh Heeler or Merle was commonly referred to as the German Koolie. The Koolie is one of the oldest breeds of working dogs in Australia, however records were never kept regarding parentage. Reputable breeders are now working to keep accurate records, and to avoid the deaf/blind consequences of the merle gene.

Heide the Koolie

The Koolie has high energy levels and is not happy confined to a suburban backyard. It needs both mental and physical activity to prevent boredom. As with most working breeds it excels at obedience training and is athletic and enthusiastic making it an ideal dog for those owners who choose to participate in flyball or agility. This is not the breed for sedentary owners. Greg says of his nine month old bitch "she does have an off switch, but sometimes I have to remind her that it works."

Bess's pups have a nap after lunch. Posted by Hello

Cow Dog

Writing up the various choices made obvious what I really knew from the beginning - I'm going to get another Australian Cattle Dog. I might import buhunds as a retirement project, and I'd like a kelpie at some point. But for now I'm looking for a cattle dog. Probably a girl, hopefully red.

There are some folk wisdoms about the differences between males and females. In Woman's Best Friend Babette Haggery-Brennan says:

"Males will be more likely to be bossy whereas females will be bitchy, hence the name. There is a higher incidence of aggression in males than in females, and if you already have a male, I would recommend a female. However, males do tend to bond more with the lady of the house."

Robert Kaleski who compiled the first breed standard for the Cattle Dog, thought a red cattle dog looked more like a Dingo than a blue, therefore he had a prejudice against the red dogs. This myth has persisted particularly in rural areas where otherwise intelligent people will tell you that the red is more likely to be vicious than the blue.

Occasionally someone will also say that their dog is a cross between a red and a blue. There is no such thing as a red and blue cross puppy, they are different colours of the same breed. There can be both red and blue pups in the one litter.

The cattle dog's colour is a result of its genetic makeup. Cattle dog puppies are born white and develop their adult colour as they mature.

March 07, 2005

Derrett & Garrett & Puzzle

I'm just back from a five day seminar with Greg Derrett and Susan Garrett - Nicola had Puzzle with her. He was nearly nine weeks old, and had been at his new home for just a few days so it was a big occasion for him with lots of new dogs and people.

Puzzle is a Labradoodle. He is a great little dog, alert and confident but in a quiet, self contained way. In his crate he sleeps and/or entertains himself. Outside he confidently explores, happily interacts with people and dogs, and quickly learns his lessons.

Labradoodles have achieved recent popularity, but they have been bred in Australia for thirty years, a result of The Guide Dog Association implementing research and breeding programs in search of an allergy friendly guide dog.

Tegan Park and Rutland Manor are probably the oldest established Labradoodle breeders in Aus, though in the last few years we have seen a proliferation of breeders who offer Spoodles and Groodles and Schnoodles and Cavoodles in response to a demand triggered in part by lifestyle tv shows. One such show placed 'Designer Mongrels' in second place on their top ten dogs list with the ludicrous statement: "They are all fabulous little family dogs, which have fewer veterinary problems than their purebred parents. "

A poorly bred dog is a poorly bred dog, regardless of what breed the parents are. A labradoodle from an uninformed back yard breeder or puppy mill will be no more or less fabulous than a pure bred dog from the same breeder.

Derrett and Garrett? I think Greg is fantastic. He remembered our dogs from a year ago, and had an encouraging word for everyone. Susan's presentations were primarily chalk and talk lectures, and I think she got cross with us for not taking it all in. But her methods are great, and I'll be buying her book as soon as it's released. And I'll be actually practicing the drills in Greg's videos.

Thommo Posted by Hello

Australian Cattle Dog

Over a lifetime I have had more ACDs than any other breed. I grew up on a cattle station in central Queensland where they were an integral part of daily life. I currently have a six year old male, Thompson.

They seem to be a breed that people don't much like until they have one, and then they love them. There is quite a bit of information available about them, and a number of dedicated websites including Their history is often misrepresented, mainly because one of the earliest writers about the breed changed his story later in his career. Noreen Clark's history based on rigorous document research and a sound knowledge of genetics is the only one that provides evidence for claims about the origins of the breed.

Narelle Robertson's guide for judges sets out the standard in pictures and the Nth Qld ACD Newsletter archives has a range of articles on topics from health to training.

ACD breeders near me include:

March 06, 2005

Australian Shepherd

Despite the misleading name, the Australian Shepherd is not Australian at all, but was developed entirely in the U.S. to work as a herding dog on ranches.

A little research has led me to drop it off my short list, though this doesn't mean it won't make someone else a wonderful pet. It is traditionally docked if born with a tail (though this is now unlawful in Australia), and its dew claws removed. It carries the blue merle gene and associated blind/deaf factor. The naturally bob-tailed dogs can have serious spinal defects. Caratacts are a problem, and they are often sensitive to ivermectin.

The concern about the seeming increase in frequency of genetic problems in Aussies has led to the establishment of the Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute .

Belgian Shepherd Posted by Hello

Belgian Shepherd

There are four varieties of Belgian Shepherds, differentiated only by the length and colour of their coats, though in the US the varieties are treated as separate breeds.
There is the
  • Groenendael (Long black coat),
  • Tervueren (Long coat, fawn to grey (other than black) with a black overlay and mask),
  • Malinois (Short coat, fawn with black overlay and mask)
  • Laekenois (rough coated fawn - sort of like an Airedale Terrier coat - and there are only said to be 3 of these dogs in Australia to date).

These are intelligent, strong willed dogs and even major fans of the breed acknowledge that they are not a dog for everyone. They can be a difficult dog for a novice owner and it is important to choose your Belgian puppy carefully.

Border Collie Posted by Hello

Border Collie

The border collie is probably the first choice of people who are looking for a 'working dog', whether the work is their traditional farm tasks, or modern dog sports such as obedience and agility. Like other working breeds they need exercise and a mental challenge if they are not to be noisy or destructive. The border also likes it's owner to be on the ball, and will give a swift nip to those who don't get the point fast enough.

Breed clubs are well established around the world, and can provide a wealth of information for the prospective owner. Border collie rescue is also well developed in Australia and elsewhere and is an excellent source of a dog with known characteristics, although browsing the reasons why dogs were surrendered emphasises the need for company, stimulation and secure fences.

Borders can also be nervous dogs, afraid of thunder and lawnmowers; or obsessive, staring at the tap waiting for it to drip, or chasing your shadow.

Working Kelpie Posted by Hello


The kelpie is an Australian herding breed. The kelpie was first registered as a breed in Australia in 1902, one of the earliest registered breeds in Australia. It is one of those breeds that has divided into two - show dogs and working dogs, or dogs registered by the Australian National Kennel Council and dogs registered with the Working Kelpie Council of Australia. There are differences in appearances with the show or bench kelpie having a more compact body and a wider range of colours, the main difference is in working ability.

The bench kelpie is slightly less active than the working type, and less successful as a herding dog, though perhaps easier to manage as a family pet in the city. The working kelpie needs daily, extensive excercise of a sort that challenges their intellect while it tests their stamina. Bench kelpies are generally known as kelpies and the others as working kelpies.

The two kelpies I know best, Scoot and Oops, are a great advertisement for the breed.

March 05, 2005

Norwegian Buhund Posted by Hello

Norwegian Buhund

If you want a dog who...

  • Is medium-sized and spitz-like, with a wolfish face, prick ears, thick coat, and curled tail
  • Is sturdy and strong, yet athletic, agile, and light on his feet
  • Is less headstrong and more willing to work with you than other spitzes
  • Is happy-go-lucky, plays vigorously, and likes a lot of outdoor exercise
  • Is polite with strangers, yet with his keen senses and watchful attitude, makes a dependable alarm dog ...

a Norwegian Buhund may be right for you. (Your Purebred Puppy) National Kennel Clubs and Breed Clubs will be able to give you information and breeder contacts - UK Norwegian Buhund Club.

However when I made enquiries with the state body, the Royal NSW Canine Council and the national body, the Australian National Kennel Council, I discovered that no Buhunds had been registered in Australia in the last twenty years. Checking with the Norsk Kennel Klub I was told that a pair had been exported to Australia in the 1970s but had "escaped into the bush". The good people on the Buhund list had heard of a male buhund in New Zealand some years ago, but that didn't help me much.

Importing a Buhund I guess is an option, but Australia's quarantine laws complicate the process as dogs from overseas have to remain in quarantine for at least thirty days. In any case, owning the only Buhunds in Australia I'd feel some obligation to breed and show which doesn't really interest me at the moment.

Clever Dogs

Most of the puppy picker tools are coming up with similar dogs (provided I lie about the size of my backyard). These are mainly the herding breeds with short hair. I'm not crazy about dogs (or men) with wet beards and food encrusted moustaches. So my first list is:
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Belgian Shepherd Dog
  • Border Collie
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Kelpie
  • Norwegian Buhund
  • Papillon
  • Poodle
  • Shetland Sheepdog

I'd rule out the papillon, sheltie and corgi because they are small, and I'd like a dog that could provide at least symbolic protection, and the poodle because I don't want groomers to be an integral part of my life, and the german shepherd for no real reason - just don't like a lot of them I've met.

March 04, 2005

Choosing a breed - read a book.

There are so many things to consider when deciding on which breed to get, and which breeder to choose that it is not suprising that there are a number of books written on the topic.

Your Purebred Puppy: A Buyer's Guide by Michele Welton has an excellent section of questions to ask a breeder before looking there for a puppy, however the information on particular breeds can be a bit general. Under cautions when buying, for example, the same caution is given for many breeds "Don't choose a scrappy, timid or frail puppy" so you may want to read this in conjunction with a more comprehensive dog breed encyclopedia.

Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Dog and Puppies for Dummies are from the two series of information books and are good general reference books that are widely available.

Paws to Consider by Brian Kilcommons & Sarah Wilson is a refreshingly candid guide. Topics covered include:
  • Genetic health problems for all breeds: which popular breeds go bald, which big dogs get orthopedic problems, and why others get cancer.
  • Daily exercise requirements: a once-a-day jog satisfies a Borzoi (yes, it makes a great city dog), while a Labrador needs hours of fetching and playing.
  • Classic temperaments for nearly one hundred breeds: a Golden Retriever will desperately want to please you, but a Beagle will be deaf to your call if he finds a rabbit trail.
  • Lifestyle matches: for instance, a French Bulldog will travel with you anywhere and a Keeshond is perfect for active young families.
  • The potential problem dogs: Jack Russell Terriers, Dalmations, and certain other breeds that can give you more than you bargain for.

You might find their criticisms of your favourite breed a bit negative, but at least you are prepared for the traits your puppy exhibits down the track.