IPFD Workshop 2017 – summary of actions from Day 2


Day 2 of the IPFD Workshop focused on action planning in each of the 6 workstreams. We reconvened mid-morning, after an early start, for a plenary session where each group presented their recommendations. This is a summary of the final reports. The Day 1 summary is here.

Education and Communication

This workstream took antibiotic resistance as its topic through which to focus on education and communication. They agreed to:

  • Set up an AMR Network and identified founder members
  • Create recommendations for Breed Clubs on the use of antibiotics
  • Develop global guidelines for vets and breeders, together with country-specific guidance
  • Establish a project whereby existing data could be collated and a literature review conducted
  • Use the above as a basis for setting out project proposals (possibly for a PhD student) to conduct retrospective and prospective data collection


This group confirmed the need for more positive messaging to the general public regarding pedigree dogs and breeding of dogs. Their action plan included identifying currently available messaging on the importance of socialisation and to develop any new resources that might be needed to fill any gaps. In the longer term, they felt it may be necessary to conduct further research into what might be needed to ensure breeders and owners are aware of effective approaches during pregnancy and early weeks of a puppy’s life.

Exaggerations and conformation

The team focused on Brachycephalics and confirmed an action to revisit FCI Breed Standards to clarify wording and to ensure breed-specific instructions are available for 4 priority breeds. They also agreed sub-groups to exchange data, research and implementation. The latter included media communications and effective ways to change buyer/owner/breeder behaviours.

Breed-specific health strategies

This group had further discussions around EBVs, outcrossing, regulation and data gathering. Several Kennel Clubs already have components available to support the three-step process the team felt was needed: assessment of the current breed situation, development and implementation of breed-specific actions and then, reassessment. Their view was that the available solution options were probably already known but advice was needed on how these might need to be adapted to specific situations. Making case studies available via the dogwellnet website should also be an action and these should include examples of what doesn’t work as well as what does.

The group also emphasised that Kennel Clubs needed to be proactive otherwise they risked governments creating legislation that might superficially seem suitable but which, in practice, might actually make things worse.

Show me the numbers

The team felt that one of the biggest scandals is not mining the available data and the group agreed to work together to catalogue data resources within their network and to coordinate objectives across multiple studies (e.g. breed and disorder). They would aim to publish whatever is possible and look to promote fair-access collaboration internationally and inter-disciplinarily).

They emphasised the importance of asking “why collect this data?” so that it would be clear how the answers could actually make a difference. Picking up on breed trends and eco-epidemiology (recycling of data-sets) could also increase the speed at which improvements could actually be realised.

DNA harmonisation

This project is already well underway with IPFD having appointed a project director and building an early proof of concept on the dogwellnet website. Evaluation of the range of available tests using a template of questions would be a priority and further funding to ensure sustainability of the system would be important, given the rapid rate of change and development in the genetic testing field.

The workshop wrapped-up with thanks to the organisers, hosts and facilitators as well as all the participants who had collaborated over the 2 days.

I really enjoyed the workshop and picked up new ideas to share with Dachshund colleagues and other Breed Health Coordinators. I didn’t really know what to expect as this was the first IDH Workshop I have attended but I made some useful contacts and have a better understanding of what the challenges are around the world as well as some of the good practices that are already available “off the shelf”.












Ian’s presentation at the IPFD Paris workshop: DBC Health Improvement Strategy 2017

Ian Seath’s presentation at the IPFD International Dog Health Workshop 2017 on the UK Dachshund Breed Council’s Health Improvement Strategy:


10 ways to screw up your breed health improvement strategy

It’s approaching midnight and I am reflecting on a great first day at the IPFD’s International Dog Health Workshop in Paris.

A long time ago, I developed a Cause and Effect Diagram with one of my clients on how to “create” badly managed change. We did it as part of a senior management workshop while planning the implementation steps for an improvement initiative. It came to mind tonight as I was thinking about some of the challenges different breeds face across the world as they try to develop and implement health improvement strategies. I ended up with a Top 10 list of “screw-ups”.

No doubt, you can think of a few more ways to ensure a breed improvement strategy initiative goes off the rails!

  1. Provide no evidence of the need for change (or create some “alternative facts” to justify the status quo)
  2. Define the solution before defining the problem (adopt evidence-free policy-making)
  3. Hold a mock consultation with those in the breed who will be affected (pretend to seek their views)
  4. Ignore the evidence presented by people in the breed, or specialists elsewhere, who have ideas to offer (because you know better)
  5. Shoot the messenger who brings you data to define the real problem (because that way it’s less likely other people will dare to dissent)
  6. Communicate several different and, preferably contradictory, reasons for needing an improvement strategy, over time (to obscure the lack of rationale for any change)
  7. Ignore any criticism of your plans and wait for the “fuss” to die down (because eventually, they will get used to your idea)
  8. Reassure people by telling them “change is always difficult” (patronising them always helps)
  9. Drag the implementation process out over as long a period as possible, preferably so that “more data” can be gathered (to create as much fear and uncertainty as possible)
  10. Go ahead and implement your (flawed) strategy and actions anyway (because you have the power to do whatever you want)











IPFD 2017 workshop – summary of Day 1

IPFD_IDHW2017Participating in the International Partnership for Dogs’ 2017 workshop in Paris has been a privilege and has inspired me with ideas to take back to friends and colleagues in the UK.

After the morning’s short plenary presentations (watch mine here) we split into workshops to explore 6 key themes. This is a summary of the feedback from each theme at the end of Day 1. Day 2 will be about agreeing specific actions and owners.

1. Show me the numbers

Some of the issues flagged by this group included:

  • the need to prioritise data requirements
  • the importance of a unique ID for every dog
  • the potential value of national registration systems to include non-pedigree dogs, although there are clearly cultural issues affecting compliance levels

International collaboration on data collection would be valuable but we should aim for fair access rather than open access as there is the potential for open data to be used inappropriately.

Dogwellnet.com could act as a dating agency, matching research questions with data owners and analysts.

There is always a risk of balancing steering vs. funding; those who fund projects may want particular answers.

The lack of a standard nomenclature also hampers collaboration, with various systems already in place (VeNom, SnoMed, Petscan, Agria). However, there is the potential to establish “jigsaw projects” with linked databases.

Always, it is important to understand the uses and limitations of data and to be clear about what analytical methods are appropriate.

Ultimately, data should be used to enable change and improvement; the focus should be on dissemination, not just on research.

2. Extremes in conformation

This workstream focused on brachycephalics and everyone agreed this is the most severe and significant problem related to extremes of conformation in dogs.

However, there is still a need to gather accurate data to quantify the different sources:KC registered dogs vs. puppy farmed dogs. Whatever the source, increasing popularity means more dogs are suffering even though the evidence suggests many owners don’t realise this. They see the symptoms as “normal for the breed” (or worse, as “cute”).

Buyers need more information in order to make informed choices; vets have a key role to play here in educating their clients. Vets have to work more closely with Kennel Clubs on this.

Campaigns such as CRUFFA have been instrumental in flagging the issues of flat-faced dogs to advertisers and the media. This awareness raising needs to continue as it has the potential to reverse (or, at least slow) the trend in popularity of these at-risk breeds.

Overall, an aim to move the mean “health score” so that the population improves is a valid goal and there are options to consider such as the breeding of new, less extreme, brachy types (retro-pugs) or even cross-breeding. All of this does require a suitable way to measure progress, of course!

3. Education and Communication

This workstream took as its particular focus, the issue of anti-microbial resistance related to the over-prescription of antibiotics.

The establishment of an AMR network could be valuable, together with the development of global guidelines for vets and breeders, based on data to support the utility and achievement of particular approaches. More “stories” about the dangers of over-use of antibiotics are needed, to counter the numerous anecdotes about the importance of prescribing them (e.g. to get bitches in whelp).

As with many such programmes, the challenges are cash, data, geography, politics and buy-in.

4. DNA test harmonisation

There are currently no Quality Assurance processes in place for DNA tests. (Almost) anyone can set up a lab and offer DNA testing. The IPFD harmonisation project will establish a framework to validate providers and tests, and in phase 2 will develop support around genetic counselling.

A web-based resource is under development and will be available via dogwellnet.com

5. Breed-specific health improvement strategies

This is the workstream that I participated in and I will provide more detailed information separately.

Strategies need to be adapted to reflect a range of factors: legal, national, breed, severity weightings, tools, diversity). There is no “one size fits all” solution. What may work in Sweden may not be appropriate in the UK.

There are, however, tools we can share; for example health survey approaches and the resulting data. These could be shared via the dogwellnet.com website.

Recording age and cause of death would be another useful addition to available data but this would need to be done with sensitivity. It may also be valuable to record such information on pedigree certificates so that owners can see the history of their dog’s ancestors.

Of course, all this requires leadership and dedicated resources.

The group also discussed whether the binary concept of “carrot and stick” was too blunt an instrument to be useful in driving the required behavioural changes. A more finessed model might include “enthusing”, “educating”, “engineering” and “enforcing”.

6. Behaviour and welfare

This workstream stated that “socialisation” was a subset of “welfare” and started in utero. They felt there was a need for positive messages and these could be a way to add value to the sale of well-bred dogs. The 5 Freedoms would be a logical framework upon which to base these marketing messages.

Kennel Clubs could include socialisation as part of their breeding requirements, where they have schemes in place.

Because it’s unclear what is already available on socialisation there is probably a need for some survey or audit work and maybe also some longitudinal studies on what works.

As with several of the other workstreams, a lack of data and funding were identified as key barriers. In addition, a challenge here is how to reach the puppy producers, particularly if they lie outside the sphere of influence of Kennel Clubs.
















Paris in the Spring! My April Best of Health article for Our Dogs

Best of HealthThe third International Dog Health Workshop takes place in Paris from 21st to 23rd April 2017. It is being organised by the International Partnership for Dogs, of which our Kennel Club is a founding and sponsoring member and Caroline Kisko is Vice-chair of its Board. I am honoured to have been invited to give one of the plenary presentations on the work we have done in the Dachshund Breed Council on our breed health strategy.

The IPFD’s mission is to facilitate collaboration and sharing of resources to enhance the health and wellbeing of pedigreed dogs and all dogs, worldwide. It has a website: dogwellnet.com, which is an information hub and provides a wealth of resources as well as blogs on current hot topics. This brings together breeders, vets, scientists and others in an online community of interest.

The first international workshop was held in Sweden in 2012 and the second one in Germany in 2015, where there were participants from around 20 countries. This year’s workshop looks like being equally well represented, with 137 participants from 24 countries.

The themes for this year’s workshop are:

  • Breed-Specific Health Strategies: Needs and opportunities; innovations, nationally and internationally.
  • Exaggerations And Extremes In Dog Conformation: Health, welfare and breeding considerations; national and international efforts.
  • Education and Communication: How can international collaboration improve education and communication within and across stakeholder groups (especially between veterinarians and breeders); using the example of antimicrobial resistance.
  • Behaviour and Welfare: How can we better integrate actions to address issues in welfare, behaviour and health in breeding and raising dogs?
  • IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs: An international, multi-stakeholder initiative to address selection, evaluation and application of genetic testing.
  • Show Me The Numbers: Integrating information from various sources for prevalence, risks and other population-level information; the latest national and international strategies to collect data and disseminate information.

These workshops are preceded by a series of short plenary presentations, designed to set the scene for the following practical sessions. I’ll be sharing the platform with three other speakers whose names will be familiar to most UK readers: Aimee Llewellyn (formerly with the KC and who now works with IPFD), Rowena Packer (from the Royal Veterinary College and well-known for her work on Brachycephalics and Dachshunds) and Paula Boyden (Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust).

While you might expect me to gravitate towards the “Show me the numbers” workshop, I’m actually participating in the Breed-specific health strategies one. The challenge for my presentation is how to condense the key points from over 20 years’ work on Dachshund health into less than 15 minutes!

Breed Health Strategy

Our Breed Health Improvement Strategy is much broader than simply focusing on health conditions that affect Dachshunds. It is based on a model developed by the Kennel Club in its guide for Breed Health Coordinators. It comprises our approach to:

  • Leadership
  • Planning
  • Engagement
  • Improvement

I’m using those four points to give people a flavour of the wide range of activities we cover in our strategy. Our Breed Council represents the interests of sixteen UK Dachshund Breed Clubs and has appointed a Health Sub-committee, chaired by a Vet plus 9 others, to develop policies and coordinate plans for breed health improvement. 3 of our members are Pet Advisors from outside the show community.

The Breed Council reviews and prioritises health and welfare issues which it considers to be of significance to the breed. Current priorities can be found on our health website (www.dachshundhealth.org.uk) and in our DachsFacts information leaflets. We currently have a Top 3 priorities, plus a Watch List of other conditions.

We collect breed health data regularly to help us plan and prioritise our work. DachsLife 2015 was our second major Breed Survey and its focus was on understanding the lifestyle factors that might influence the risk of back disease (IVDD). The response rate (over 2000 dogs) exceeded our expectations and enabled us to identify some useful and surprising insights into the health of the breed. This was also followed up with a peer-reviewed paper which was published in 2016 which I co-authored with researchers from the RVC, including Rowena. We also have an ongoing on-line Health Survey (since 2009) which continues to provide a source of useful data on Dachshund health issues from more than 500 dogs.

For many of the conditions that we need to address, we seek specialist advice from outside the Breed Council and Clubs. We, therefore, work in partnership with specialists from the Animal Health Trust, RVC, Kennel Club and others, as necessary.

We have three key groups of people with whom we must communicate and engage effectively:

  • Breed Club members (who have agreed to abide by our Code of Ethics)
  • Breeders who are not members of Breed Clubs (probably about 80% of the UK’s Dachshund breeders)
  • Owners and potential owners of Dachshunds (an important group for our Pet Advisors to reach)

We continue to develop our approach to communications, particularly the use of on-line groups and social media. Facebook is a major communication channel for us and our Pet Advisors spend a lot of their time helping potential owners and existing owners in the many regional Dachshund groups.

None of our efforts in Leadership, Planning and Communication matter if we don’t actually achieve real health improvements that benefit the breed. We measure the impacts of our efforts in each of our priority health conditions and others that are on our Watch List. We’ve made fantastic progress on reducing the risks of cord1 PRA in all three miniature varieties and Lafora Disease in Mini Wires. Our major challenge remains in reducing the incidence of back disease; hence the introduction of an X-ray screening programme last November which is well-proven in the Nordic countries.

Networking, sharing and learning

In addition to my presentation, I’ve created a large poster which is a montage of many of the things we’ve done in the four key strategy areas. My biggest challenge was what to leave out! Some of our information and resources have already been shared on the Dogwellnet website.

Given the diversity of participants, I expect one of the benefits for many attendees will be building new or enhanced relationships across the various groups of vets, researchers, breeders, Kennel Clubs and others.

The practical sessions on each of the workshop’s six themes aim to provide some focus and prioritisation of actions needed to support breeding, health and welfare. They are intended to stimulate and accelerate activities after the workshop, so it will be interesting to see what we come out with and who signs-up to take on leadership roles in these important areas.

I’ll be on the lookout for tools and ideas being used elsewhere in the world which we can pick up and adapt to benefit our breed. I’m really looking forward to learning lots of new things to be able to share with my Dachshund colleagues and other Breed Health Coordinator friends (and anyone else who is interested).

No doubt I’ll be reporting back in a future “Best of Health” article. I’ll probably also be tweeting updates during the workshop, so please follow me @sunsongian.











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