Best of Health – August 2018 – Breed Health & Conservation Plans

Best of HealthHow to get the best out of your Breed Health and Conservation Plan

Plans are nothing, planning is everything” – Gen. Dwight D Eisenhower

I expect most readers will be aware of the Kennel Club’s programme to develop Breed Health and Conservation Plans. This was launched in 2016 to ensure that, for every breed, all health concerns are identified through evidence-based criteria, and that breeders are provided with useful information and resources to support them in making balanced breeding decisions that make health a priority.

The first group of breeds included those in Breed Watch Category 3 (previously known as “high-profile breeds”, plus GSDs, Cavaliers and English Setters). We’ve heard relatively little about their BHCPs from the clubs and councils associated with them, so it’s difficult to know if and how they are working.

My breed, Dachshunds, is included in the second batch of breeds and I thought it might be useful to share our experience of the process and how we intend to make use of our BHCP.

Stage 1: Evidence gathering

Dr Katy Evans is the KC’s lead person on this project and her first task for each breed is to identify and review the published evidence of the state of the breed. The key inputs to this are:

  • The KC’s own health surveys (2004 & 2014)
  • Insurance data from Agria in the UK and Sweden
  • Genetic diversity data from the KC’s 2015 study led by Dr Tom Lewis
  • KC registration data
  • BVA screening programme data (e.g. eyes, hips, elbows), where such programmes exist
  • DNA test results, where tests exist
  • Reports from the RVC’s VetCompass project
  • Eye test data from OFA in the USA
  • Any data from health surveys carried out by the breed, itself
  • Peer-reviewed scientific papers
  • Results of any current research programmes initiated by the breed

This is a massive exercise to search for, collate and distil the evidence into a first draft paper for the breed to consider. Breed clubs owe a great debt of gratitude to Katy and her colleagues because, for the first time, we have all the available evidence relating to our breed in one place.

It is a “single source of the truth” for each breed. That doesn’t mean, however, that the summary report will give your breed the definitive prevalence for any particular health condition. You need to see the evidence base as the big picture which helps you to triangulate in on points of concern.

Stage 2: Prioritise

Findings from stage 1 are used collaboratively to provide clear indications of the most significant health conditions in each breed, in terms of prevalence and impact. This is the point where breed clubs and councils need to engage with the BHCP process. From a breed’s perspective, their Breed Health Coordinator (BHC) is the key point of contact between the breed and the KC. Every breed has to appoint a BHC and, often, there will also be a Health Committee. Both the BHC role and Health Committee are appointed to serve your breed and, in the case of Dachshunds, ours are accountable to our Breed Council. They act on our behalf, are accountable to the Council and are expected to put the interest of the dogs as their first priority (not politics).

We were invited to meet the KC team in July and 6 of our 10 Health Committee members were able to attend. This might sound, to some, like a lot of people to attend this meeting but I firmly believe that the breadth of experience among our delegates was invaluable for 2 reasons. Firstly, the discussions we had and the decisions we made were based on a wide range of knowledge across our 6 Dachshund varieties. No one person can know everything about the breed nor remember the history of how we got to where we are today. Secondly, the decisions made have to be a consensus because we, the Health Committee, have to justify the BHCP to everyone else in the breed. The quality of decision-making by our team far outweighs anything that any one of us could achieve, on our own.

Stage 3: Action planning

The process we followed at the meeting enabled us to arrive at a consensus and to agree priorities for action. Katy Evans led the discussions and took us through all the content she had collated. Although this might sound like a rather linear and dry approach, the discussions it generated were not “down in the weeds”. We had all had copies of the evidence to review prior to the meeting which meant we were able to make connections between the different areas as we worked through them in the meeting.

So, for example, a single paper on Colour Dilution Alopecia (CDA) led to a wide-ranging discussion covering Colour Not Recognised registrations (CDA occurs in Blue Dachshunds), the massive increase in popularity of Mini Smooth Dachshunds and the need for better data on skin conditions, in general. There were no surprises for us here but we have agreed actions on data collection in our forthcoming breed survey, actions for the KC to look at our list of registration colours, and actions for all of us to educate the Dachshund-buying public on the breed to try to shift demand away from Mini Smooths towards other varieties.

I think the fact that, as a breed, we have been very proactive in gathering data and working on improvements gave us a head start when developing actions for our BHCP. Nevertheless, we have been able to identify further work that will accelerate the rate of progress in current focus areas as well as initiate new actions in other areas. Some of those actions include:

  • Adding a recommendation to the ABS for IVDD Screening
  • Refining the content of our forthcoming Cancer and Health Survey to capture data on conditions identified in the BHCP
  • Adding Distichiasis as a point of concern under BreedWatch
  • Publishing guidance for judges, breeders and exhibitors on exaggerated conformation (length of body & ground clearance)

All of these will need to be publicised through appropriate channels to reach breeders, owners and judges.

Tips for other breeds

If your breed has not yet been through the BHCP process, I’d recommend the following, based on our learning:

  • Take a team of experienced breeders/owners to the planning meeting; they don’t need to be on your Health Committee but they do need to be advocates for improving your breed
  • Do your homework prior to the meeting by reading and reflecting on the evidence base presented by the KC; go with an open mind
  • Keep the big picture in mind; obsessing about single health conditions and DNA testing is not a recipe for long-term improvement when a lack of genetic diversity is probably the major challenge facing most pedigree dog breeds
  • Have a plan for communicating your actions; the BHCP document itself may not be the best format for sharing information widely to different audiences

I’ll end with a quote from Peter Drucker (Management Guru) – “Eventually, plans must degenerate into hard work”.









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Our Dogs “Best of Health” August 2018 – Breed Health & Conservation Plans

Best of HealthHow to get the best out of your Breed Health and Conservation Plan

Plans are nothing, planning is everything” – Gen. Dwight D Eisenhower

I expect most readers will be aware of the Kennel Club’s programme to develop Breed Health and Conservation Plans. This was launched in 2016 to ensure that, for every breed, all health concerns are identified through evidence-based criteria, and that breeders are provided with useful information and resources to support them in making balanced breeding decisions that make health a priority.

The first group of breeds included those in Breed Watch Category 3 (previously known as “high-profile breeds”, plus GSDs, Cavaliers and English Setters). We’ve heard relatively little about their BHCPs from the clubs and councils associated with them, so it’s difficult to know if and how they are working.

My breed, Dachshunds, is included in the second batch of breeds and I thought it might be useful to share our experience of the process and how we intend to make use of our BHCP.

Stage 1: Evidence gathering

Dr Katy Evans is the KC’s lead person on this project and her first task for each breed is to identify and review the published evidence of the state of the breed. The key inputs to this are:

  • The KC’s own health surveys (2004 & 2014)
  • Insurance data from Agria in the UK and Sweden
  • Genetic diversity data from the KC’s 2015 study led by Dr Tom Lewis
  • KC registration data
  • BVA screening programme data (e.g. eyes, hips, elbows), where such programmes exist
  • DNA test results, where tests exist
  • Reports from the RVC’s VetCompass project
  • Eye test data from OFA in the USA
  • Any data from health surveys carried out by the breed, itself
  • Peer-reviewed scientific papers
  • Results of any current research programmes initiated by the breed

This is a massive exercise to search for, collate and distil the evidence into a first draft paper for the breed to consider. Breed clubs owe a great debt of gratitude to Katy and her colleagues because, for the first time, we have all the available evidence relating to our breed in one place.

It is a “single source of the truth” for each breed. That doesn’t mean, however, that the summary report will give your breed the definitive prevalence for any particular health condition. You need to see the evidence base as the big picture which helps you to triangulate in on points of concern.

Stage 2: Prioritise

Findings from stage 1 are used collaboratively to provide clear indications of the most significant health conditions in each breed, in terms of prevalence and impact. This is the point where breed clubs and councils need to engage with the BHCP process. From a breed’s perspective, their Breed Health Coordinator (BHC) is the key point of contact between the breed and the KC. Every breed has to appoint a BHC
and, often, there will also be a Health Committee. Both the BHC role and Health Committee are appointed to serve your breed and, in the case of Dachshunds, ours are accountable to our Breed Council. They act on our behalf, are accountable to the Council and are expected to put the interest of the dogs as their first priority (not politics).

We were invited to meet the KC team in July and 6 of our 10 Health Committee members were able to attend. This might sound, to some, like a lot of people to attend this meeting but I firmly believe that the breadth of experience among our delegates was invaluable for 2 reasons. Firstly, the discussions we had and the decisions we made were based on a wide range of knowledge across our 6 Dachshund varieties. No one person can know everything about the breed nor remember the history of how we go to where we are today. Secondly, the decisions made have to be a consensus because we, the Health Committee, have to justify the BHCP to everyone else in the breed. The quality of decision-making by our team far outweighs anything that any one of us could achieve, on our own.

Stage 3: Action planning

The process we followed at the meeting enabled us to arrive at a consensus and to agree priorities for action. Katy Evans led the discussions and took us through all the content she had collated. Although this might sound like a rather linear and dry approach, the discussions it generated were not “down in the weeds”. We had all had copies of the evidence to review prior to the meeting which meant we were able to make connections between the different areas as we worked through them in the meeting.

So, for example, a single paper on Colour Dilution Alopecia (CDA) led to a wide-ranging discussion covering Colour Not Recognised registrations (CDA occurs in Blue Dachshunds), the massive increase in popularity of Mini Smooth Dachshunds and the need for better data on skin conditions, in general. There were no surprises for us here but we have agreed actions on data collection in our forthcoming breed survey, actions for the KC to look at our list of registration colours, and actions for all of us to educate the Dachshund-buying public on the breed to try to shift demand away from Mini Smooths towards other varieties.

I think the fact that, as a breed, we have been very proactive in gathering data and working on improvements gave us a head start when developing actions for our BHCP. Nevertheless, we have been able to identify further work that will accelerate the rate of progress in current focus areas as well as initiate new actions in other areas. Some of those actions include:

  • Adding a recommendation to the ABS for IVDD Screening
  • Refining the content of our forthcoming Cancer and Health Survey to capture data on conditions identified in the BHCP
  • Adding Distichiasis as a point of concern under BreedWatch
  • Publishing guidance for judges, breeders and exhibitors on exaggerated conformation (length of body & ground clearance)

All of these will need to be publicised through appropriate channels to reach breeders, owners and judges.

Tips for other breeds

If your breed has not yet been through the BHCP process, I’d recommend the following, based on our learning:

  • Take a team of experienced breeders/owners to the planning meeting; they don’t need to be on your Health Committee but they do need to be advocates for improving your breed
  • Do your homework prior to the meeting by reading and reflecting on the evidence base presented by the KC; go with an open mind
  • Keep the big picture in mind; obsessing about single health conditions and DNA testing is not a recipe for long-term improvement when a lack of genetic diversity is probably the major challenge facing most pedigree dog breeds
  • Have a plan for communicating your actions; the BHCP document itself may not be the best format for sharing information widely to different audiences

I’ll end with a quote from Peter Drucker (Management Guru) – “Eventually, plans must degenerate into hard work”.









Don’t forget to express your opinion in the Our Dogs Survey before 1st September

If you own a pedigree dog, breed dogs, judge or show dogs, please take a few minutes to share your views in the Our Dogs Survey.

It is an opportunity to express your views on the way the world of dogs is commented on by Our Dogs and is governed by the Kennel Club. It doesn’t matter if you don’t read Our Dogs; there are questions that (almost) every dog owner will have a view on and it is particularly relevant for anyone who shows dogs. The closing date is 1st September.

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The Friday Essay – Our Dogs 17/8/18

Judge Select – Maybe not so fanciful!

judgeselectIn 2013, I wrote an April Fool’s blog post which announced the launch of a new IT solution by the KC: JudgeSelect. It was modelled on the KC’s press release for the launch of MateSelect, the tool for breeders to help them make more informed choices when planning a mating.

MateSelect and the subsequently developed Estimated Breeding Values depends on having sufficient data to enable dogs to be evaluated for their breeding potential and to help highlight risks.

Having done some analysis of show entries, I am actually more convinced that JudgeSelect is not such a fanciful idea. The KC has made great strides with canine health improvement as a result of data-gathering from surveys and research studies. In the case of show entries and judging, they already have a wealth of data; there is no need to do surveys and the dataset is growing by the week.

Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion”: Dr Edwards Deming

It would be perfectly possible to adopt the same sort of approach as Dan O’Neill has taken with VetCompass and apply an epidemiological approach to understand what is happening to show entries and why some shows and judges consistently achieve better entries than others.

The KC publishes show entries for each judge at Championship shows and the online data goes back to 2007. So, they already have data on a useful set of variables:

Judge:

  • Entry (No. of dogs and bitches)
  • How many times they have judged the breed (knowing which are first time appointments and which are subsequent appointments)
  • Length of gap between appointments
  • Length of time judging (years, not how slow they are!)
  • Specialist or All-rounder (knowing if they award CCs in more than 1 breed in a given group and if they judge in more than 1 Group) – it might be necessary to refine this variable for breeds with several varieties, like Dachshunds, Poodles etc.)
  • Demographic data such as age and sex

Show:

  • Date (month is probably adequate as one variable to use, but day of the week would be another useful variable)
  • Location (region is adequate)
  • No. of days over which the show is run
  • Breed Club/General/Group

In an ideal world, I would want to add some more variables to the model:

  • Does the judge currently own/show the breed? (again, this might need to be refined for breeds with several varieties)
  • Has the judge ever owned/shown the breed?

At one Breed Health Coordinator Symposium, Dan O’Neill showed how the VetCompass data could be used to answer some basic, but important, questions about the health of pedigree dogs. Translating Dan’s questions into JudgeCompass, we would want to know:

  • Do Breed Specialists attract a bigger entry than All-rounders?
  • What are the characteristics of judges who attract the best entries?
  • What are the characteristics of the shows that attract the best entries?
  • For a given type of show, what factors result in better entries?
  • For a show in a particular region of the UK, what factors result in better entries?
  • For a particular breed, what type of judge gets the best entries?

judgecompassDeveloping the judging equivalent of MateSelect would enable societies to answer questions such as:

  • If we want to increase our entries in a particular breed, what type of judge should we select?
  • If we changed the number of days we scheduled breeds, what impact might it have on our entries and which breeds should we schedule on which day?
  • If we moved to a different time of year, what impact would that have on our entries?
  • Should we change the proportion of breed specialists to all-rounders we appoint?

In my April Fool blog I suggested some further variables that would be needed in order to help exhibitors decide whether or not to enter under a particular judge, for example:

  • do they always award CCs to the Open Class winners?
  • do they always “look after their mates?”
  • do they always award CCs to the same kennels?
  • do they always award CCs to dogs by their stud dog?
  • the number of times a judge has asked a dog to move again and still awarded the top prize to the dog with the worst movement

Obviously, it’s going to be impossible for the KC to capture and record that sort of information and it really highlights a key variable that is missing from the analyses possible with the KC’s currently available data. Exhibitor satisfaction with a judge or their perception of a judge’s competence and integrity could well be the overriding factor in determining entries. A Canine Alliance Survey highlighted the impact of these factors on exhibitors’ decisions about where to enter their dogs.

Maybe what we need is a show judge equivalent of the Net Promoter Score (NPS) found in the world of consumer marketing. I wouldn’t ask exhibitors “would you enter under this judge (again)?” because there are some perfectly good judges who perhaps don’t favour a particular type. I might be more inclined to ask “would you recommend a novice exhibitor should enter under this judge?”. The aim is to identify the judges most likely to give everyone the same chance. The Net Promoter Score would give an indication of whether a majority of exhibitors believed a judge did a good job previously and would do so again.

This would be particularly useful for exhibitors thinking about entering under all-rounders who have been given a first appointment in a new breed. If their NPS from their other breeds was low, that might influence whether you would want to enter when they judge a new breed.

As soon as you start measuring a system, you change the system

Inevitably, adopting a new measurement such as NPS would have consequences, some maybe unintended. We might expect judges to “up their game”, or we might end up with a smaller group of judges being chosen by show societies and there may not be enough of them, in the short-term. It would probably also put pressure on Breed Clubs to run more and better seminars and to improve the availability of mentoring programmes.

A further feature of the KC’s approach to breed health improvement could be applied to show entry improvement: Breed Watch. Breeds could be categorised as in Breed Watch:

  • Category 1 – no points of concern; entries are stable and/or growing
  • Category 2 – some points of concern; entries beginning to decline
  • Category 3 – many highly visible concerns; entries in decline, too many CCs for the number of entries

Category 3 breeds could be helped with an “Exhibitor Conservation and Judge Improvement Plan” (to mirror the Breed Conservation and Health Improvement Plans). They would need to work with a KC epidemiologist to analyse their show entry data and develop specific plans for addressing the root causes of their problems and come up with breed-specific solutions.

Finally, another feature of the KC approach to breed health improvement could be mapped across to the issue of declining entries: Vet Checks. Category 3 breeds would require mandatory Judge Checks before the award of CCs could be confirmed. This might mean an independent “vet” would be required to observe the judging and confirm that it met the required standard so that the BOB winner could go forward to the Group Judging competition. This would be really, really, hard to implement!

The KC already has most of the data needed to adopt a more evidence-based approach to improve show entries. JudgeCompass is a real possibility in such a data-rich environment. However, I doubt if the KC has the data to analyse what’s needed to improve the quality of judging.

There is virtually nothing new in the Judges Competency Framework that will improve the capability of judges compared what’s been in place for years. So, unless somebody takes a serious look at the data and uses the insights to redesign the system, we’re in for more disillusioned exhibitors and declining entries.

My final thought: “Prejudice is a great time-saver; it enables you to form an opinion without having to gather the facts“.

A chance to express your opinions on the state of the dog world – Our Dogs Survey

If you own a pedigree dog, breed dogs, judge or show dogs, please take a few minutes to share your views in the Our Dogs Survey.

It is an opportunity to express your views on the way the world of dogs is commented on by Our Dogs and is governed by the Kennel Club. It doesn’t matter if you don’t read Our Dogs; there are questions that (almost) every dog owner will have a view on and it is particularly relevant for anyone who shows dogs. The closing date is 1st September.

IMG_1536

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