Dachshund shows are back again

For those of you who don’t subscribe to Our Dogs, this is the article published on 15th June:

Eastern Counties Dachshund Association held its championship show at Newark Showground on Sunday 6th June 2021, making it the first Dachshund show to take place since lockdown in 2020. ECDA has a 3-yearly rotational set of Challenge Certificates for Mini Smooths, Standard Longs and Standard Wires so this was an important year for us. We are thankful it wasn’t our rotational year in 2020 when this important show would have had to be cancelled.

We were pleased to be able to share the showground with the Dachshund Club who hosted their open show which meant the organisational workload was shared between the 2 clubs’ show management teams.

It seems like months ago that we began planning for the show amid doom and gloom about the virus and whether we would be allowed to run the show. The Newark Showground events team were amazingly helpful and did everything possible to smooth the path for us. They had template documentation for an Events Plan and asked us to provide a Covid Risk Plan for the local authority. I would particularly like to thank Tim Hutchings for sharing the Cotswold Boxer Club’s Covid Risk Plan as that and the KC guidance available online, enabled us to meet all the regulatory requirements.

It was always going to be a bit of an act of faith given that our show was scheduled during Stage 3 of the Roadmap out of lockdown, when some restrictions would still be in place. There was the threat that the roadmap wouldn’t move as planned but we were determined to run the show if at all possible, knowing that Covid cases had been extremely low all through last Summer even before the vaccination programme had begun.

Nevertheless, against that backdrop we drew an entry of 360 dogs, which was 100 up on our 2018 championship show. The Dachshund Club benefited from a similar entry which meant one of our challenges would be how to get through judging at both shows in good time. Partnership shows for Dachshunds are always complicated by the fact that some exhibitors show more than one variety and the entries vary considerably across the 6 varieties, making judging times difficult to coordinate.

Our show management teams had everything set up on Saturday afternoon and all that remained was to keep fingers crossed that the weather would be dry as everything was taking place outdoors, with only gazebos for shelter in the rings and the “office”.

Traffic Hell!

Sunday morning dawned dry but overcast and the forecast suggested there might be a shower around mid-morning. The first signs that we might have a problem were when committee members arrived and reported large queues building up on the approach to the showground. The showground staff had told us there would be an autojumble on an adjacent part of the venue but had said nothing about its scale or the fact that it might cause traffic problems.  It took me 30 minutes to travel the last mile to the showground and that was at 07:40. As time went on, more people were reporting being stuck in traffic and as we approached our start time it was evident that exhibitors and some judges would be late for the planned 10:00 start. This posed a real dilemma for how much to delay judging because we knew the big entry meant judging would go on well into the late afternoon even if it started on time. We know that some exhibitors were stuck for several hours and therefore missed their classes and I’d like to apologise on behalf of our committee for the stressful start they had to their day.

Smiling faces, gazebos and sunshine

Despite the traffic problems the showground was a real buzz of energy and excitement as friends met up for the first time in 15 months, swapping notes on their gazebo-erection challenges and remembering how to do everything that once seemed so routine at a dog show. I even found a few minutes to live-stream some views of the show on Facebook which generated responses and good luck wishes from as far away as Australia.

Being outdoors, there was no specific requirement to wear masks and it was great to see so many happy, smiling faces. Our judges had requested that masks be worn in the ring, where social distancing with them at the judging table would not be possible. Apart from that, it almost looked like a normal dog show (if a dog show can ever be described as “normal”).

By 11:00 our Secretary’s and Show Manager’s stress levels had subsided to something more bearable and judging was well underway in all 6 rings. We had a fantastic group of stewards who kept things moving and managed the required cleaning of the judging tables between dogs. And so it went on; just like in the good old days.

Finally, at 16:00, with dark clouds rolling across the sky,  it was time to call the 6 Best of Breed winners into the ring for Best in Show. Both the BIS and BPIS judging were live-streamed on Facebook. Our BIS judge for this special occasion was Daphne Graham (Jadag) and her choice of BIS was Mrs Sue Ergis’s Mini Smooth CH Siouxline Rapunzel with Melriding.

Reserve Best in Show was Mrs Mandy Dance’s, Mini Wire CH Emem Summer Sunshine JW.

BPIS was Mrs Fran Mitchell’s Mini Smooth Bronia’s Antonella, handled by daughter Emily.

RBPIS was Mr Roy Wood’s Mini Long Wildstar Wrolanda and Best Veteran was Ms Marilyn Norton’s Standard Smooth CH Matzell Minella.

The skies opened and the rain came down

By the time we were finishing BPIS and taking photos, the skies opened and the rain came down in torrents. Although our committee must have breathed a sigh of relief that we had just beaten the rain, we felt so sorry for the Dachshund Club judges, committee and exhibitors who still had classes to complete and then to judge their BIS and BPIS.

The rest of the afternoon saw us all sheltering from the torrential rain and dodging out when it let up a bit in order to pack things up and for the Dachshund Club to complete their show. I’d like to end with particular thanks to ECDA Secretary Minna Borsuk and Show Manager Trevor Watkins for their hard work in putting on this very special first Dachshund breed club show of 2021. Also, to Dachshund Club Secretary Lloyd Cross and Show Manager John Bennett for their contribution and teamwork over the past few months and on the day of the show.

I am delighted that we were able to run an event that felt as close to normal as we could make it (so normal that people were complaining about the traffic). The best thing for me was seeing so many friends again and their smiling faces and happy Dachshunds. 

An inspriational lecture? My “Best of Health” article for April 2021

An inspirational lecture? Best of Health – April 2021

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7 years of my “Best of Health” articles

It’s the 7th anniversary of my first “Best of Health” article for Our Dogs, published in March 2014. They are all (84) available here.

I sometimes wonder how I’m going to find 1000 words every month but, invariably, somebody says something or does something that inspires me to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). There are some recurring themes:

  • Improving canine health is a complex multi-stakeholder problem
  • There are no “simple solutions” despite what some people might want
  • The big challenge is how to change human behaviour, using the data and science; but some people simply do not see the need to change
  • It’s easy for conversations to become polarised but there’s actually lots of common ground to build on
  • There have been some great contributions by individuals and groups; I’d single out Breed Health Coordinators as the unsung heroes

My thanks to Ali Smith and Vince Hogan for the opportunity to be one of their regular columnists and, of course, thanks to everyone who reads my articles and takes the time to comment.

Breed Health Improvement: finding the balance – “Best of Health” March 2021

I was pleased to be invited by the Whippet Breed Council to present a webinar at the end of February as part of their current online education programme. I had to smile when it was first advertised and billed as “an evening with Ian Seath”. I couldn’t help thinking that second prize was “2 evenings with Ian Seath”. Nevertheless, over 80 people signed up to attend. The webinar was titled “Breed Health Improvement: finding the balance” and my invitation was prompted, apparently, by reading the interview Gay Robertson wrote for the Kennel Gazette.

The plan was to talk about approaches to breed health improvement and why every breed needs a health strategy. The Whippet Breed Health and Conservation Plan is still under development with the Kennel Club but there is useful data already available from previous health surveys. The challenge is knowing where it will be best for breeders to put their effort. The presentation covered areas where it might be useful to focus attention and discussed how breeders can make use of DNA tests and clinical screening programmes, as well as some of the pitfalls to be aware of. There was an opportunity for a question and answer discussion after my presentation.

A single source of the truth

I started with a quick reminder of the KC’s approach to developing Breed Health and Conservation Plans (BHCP), of which there are now around 100. A BHCP summarises the current state of a breed with data on registrations, health, genetic diversity from surveys, insurance data and research papers. As such, it provides a single source of the truth for all aspects of a breed, which then leads on to action plans and guidance for breeders and owners.

One of the useful sources of data that I shared with the Whippet people was the 2014 KC Breed Health Survey. I asked the participants what they thought the top 3 causes of morbidity and mortality were for Whippets. 

Most people thought heart murmurs, cryptorchidism and pancreatitis were the top 3 health conditions. The actual data was cryptorchidism, lipomas and colitis. They were more correct on the mortality data; they thought old age, traumatic injury and autoimmune conditions were the top 3; in fact it was old age, lymphoma and traumatic injury.

That proved to be a useful reminder that our personal experiences and perceptions need to be tested against the data. It also points to what I call the need to triangulate in on the priority issues in any breed, using evidence from multiple sources: surveys, published research and, of course, experience and common sense.

Do you need to do anything?

Having discussed why it might be important for a breed to take ownership of its health strategy, I suggested there were 5 potential areas to focus on for action plans:

•Conformation and exaggeration

•Temperament and behaviour

•Genetic diversity

•Simple genetic mutations associated with health conditions

•Complex, multifactorial conditions

Those in the webinar prioritised these as follows:

I have written before about conformational tipping points and illustrated this in my presentation with graphics showing a range of types in Dachshunds and in GSDs. Not being a Whippet expert, I wasn’t sure what aspects of conformation might lend themselves to a tipping point perspective.

In discussing temperament and behaviour, I found it interesting that the Whippet Breed Standard describes them as being “highly adaptable in domestic and sporting surroundings” and having a “gentle, affectionate, even disposition”. That sounds like an ideal companion; great as a pet but equally able to do its original work.

Breeding by numbers?

Discussions about genetic diversity inevitably lead to questions about the Coefficient of Inbreeding and, I had found the current Whippet breed average is 9.9%, according to the KC website. The inevitable, but wrong, question is whether that’s a good or bad number? The important thing is to understand the risks that come with inbreeding and the KC’s advice is that, where possible, you should produce puppies with an inbreeding coefficient which is at, or below, the annual average for the breed and ideally as low as possible. In general, the lower the COI, the lower the risk of a dog having health issues caused by recessive mutations (alleles that are identical by descent at a locus). The COI data and trial mating COIs are tools in the breeder’s kitbag and it’s very clearly not just about “breeding by numbers”. Breeders have many options these days to import bloodlines from overseas but also shouldn’t overlook the possibility of matings with dogs from different sub-populations such as sporting vs. showing lines.

Moving on to talk about simple genetic health conditions, it was worth reminding people that nearly 700 inherited disorders and traits have been described in the domestic dog and that all species carry genetic mutations. With ever growing numbers of DNA tests, it will become more difficult for breeders to decide which ones are relevant and how to use the results. My go-to resource these days is the IPFD’s Harmonisation of Genetic Testing database where, in addition to listing the available tests, they are now describing “relevance ratings”. These provide a view of whether any particular test has proven associations with clinical disease in particular breeds.

Many of the Whippet folk are already familiar with the KC’s hip and elbow screening programmes, which are used to assess breeding risks for complex, multifactorial conditions. Some Whippet breeders are also carrying out heart screening. The KC’s advice is to make “balanced breeding decisions” that take into consideration the qualities and compatibility of both the sire and the dam, as well as the implications of a dog’s screening score or EBV.

Needless to say, I made the point that “health tested” does not mean “healthy”!

4 steps to a viable breed future

In my summary, I referred to the 4 steps listed in the KC’s Breed Strategy Guide: Lead, Plan, Engage and Improve. This is a continuous cycle, but starts with good leadership. That, clearly, is a role for any Breed Council to take on, with their Breed Health Coordinator (BHC) as a key contributor. In my opinion, it is essential that there is a team working on breed health and this is not a task that is left to the BHC. In all breeds, there needs to be wide scale commitment from Council and Club officers to support their BHC and to build on the knowledge and plans contained in a Breed Health and Conservation Plan.

I’d like to reiterate my thanks to the Whippet Breed Council for the opportunity to present at this webinar and for their donation to Dachshund Health UK.

My slides from the webinar are available online at https://www.slideshare.net/Dog-ED/whippet-breed-council-health-webinar

Kennel Gazette March 2021: Wirehaired Dachshund features

The March 2021 edition of the Kennel Gazette features Wirehaired Dachshunds. Wires are described as “Small in stature but with plenty of charisma, Wires are an energetic, intelligent and outgoing breed”.

This includes:

  • 2021 Crufts Best in Show winner
  • Dachshund Rescue UK
  • The WHD in art
  • Judges’ Choice

You can order a copy online.

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