Breed-Specific Breeding Strategies
Tufts' Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference, 2013
Åke A. Hedhammar, DVM, MSc, PhD, DECVIM (Companion Animals)
Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

Definition of a Breeding Program

 Planned breeding of a group of animals (or plants), usually involving at least several individuals and extending over several generations

 Organized structure that is set up in order to realize the desired genetic improvement of the population

 Agreed strategy to influence prevalence of a defined phenotype in a defined population

Breeding programs for specific traits have been established in many countries. They are most commonly restricted to inherited disorders. Disease-specific breeding programs have been instituted for such disorders as hip dysplasia, hereditary eye defects, and a number of other conditions possible to reveal by phenotypic or genotypic screening methods. Their values are indisputable, but they do not account very well for breed variations in prevalence, population structure, and other traits. The goal for planned, organized, and agreed breeding plans is broader than just a few specified genetic disorders.

This presentation will review Swedish experiences to establish breed-specific breeding programs, taking into account not only disease-specific breeding programs but also how to handle other undesired as well as desired traits and how to adapt them to population structure and other differences between various breed populations.

Since 2004, the Swedish Kennel Club (SKC) has demanded every breed club to prepare a breed-specific breeding program for their strategy to handle future development regarding desired as well as non-desired traits. It calls for a thorough description of the current situation and to prioritize actions that should be taken to reach common agreeable goals for their national breed population.

Sources of Information

To describe the breed population and the results from applicable screening programs for inherited disorders as well as behavior test data, SKC has extensive material available on the web. Like in many other countries including the U.S., several breed clubs also have performed breed surveys on various health issues, which form a good basis for the situation regarding many health issues.

In Sweden, more than 75% of all dogs are of known ancestral background and registered by SKC. Moreover, over 50% have insurance for life and veterinary care, and the majority in one company - Agria Insurance.

Their database has been made available for population-based epidemiological studies of a number of diseases.

The breed-specific disease pattern in German Shepherds has recently been published, and the breed-specific disease patterns of more than 100 breeds are available as Agria breed profiles.

Future Perspective

As dog breeding is truly international, breed-specific breeding programs ideally should not only be prepared for national breed populations. International breed-specific programs would enhance exchange of breeding stock and vital breed populations. Country of origin would be the nucleus in such efforts, and the international breeding societies should take the lead in their preparation.

At the 1st International Workshop on Enhancement of Genetic Health in Purebred Dogs that was arranged by the Swedish Kennel Club in Stockholm on June 2–3, 2012, one of the key issues dealt with was development of breed-specific breeding programs on national and international levels.


1.  Agria dog breed profiles (ADBP). 2011.

2.  Special breed specific instructions (BSI) regarding exaggerations in pedigree dogs. 2011.

3.  SKC (Swedish Kennel Club). Dog health workshop. 2011.

4.  Hedhammar ÅA, Malm S, Bonnett B. International and collaborative strategies to enhance genetic health in purebred dogs. Vet J. 2011;189(2):189–196.

5.  Breeding dogs in Sweden. 2012.

6.  Code of ethics for the Swedish Kennel Club. 2013.

7.  Vilson A, Bonnett B, Hamlin H, Hedhammar Å. Disease patterns in 32,486 insured German shepherd dogs in Sweden: 1995–2006. Vet Rec. 2013;173(5):116.


Speaker Information
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Åke A. Hedhammar, DVM, MSc, PhD, DECVIM (Companion Animals)
Department of Clinical Sciences
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Uppsala, Sweden

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