New Tufts University Course: Breeders Teaching Veterinary Students
Gale Golden and Susan Patterson join host Laura Reeves for a conversation about the new and exciting AKC Tufts Whelping Program that provides information to veterinary students about dog breeders.
Golden, the AKC coordinator for the program, said that the growing difficulties with finding breeder-friendly veterinarians was a huge concern for her.
“As breeders, we've faced many challenges and still face many challenges continuing our right to breed dogs here in the United States,” Golden said. “And one of the biggest challenges has been not only the lack of veterinary care, but the lack of understanding of the purebred, responsible dog breeder and how we work and operate. And that has led to, in some instances, lesser care breeders have available to them or even, in emergency situations, outcomes that weren't the desired outcomes.”
Change the Conversation
Patterson, who has worked with a similar program at the Ohio State University, noted that “we need to change the conversation at the vet school level. How do we show that students, who most likely have never whelped a litter, will never do anything but triage, what a responsible breeder does, what their parameters are, how they make their choices, and how do they whelp their puppies.
“So, we are going directly to the students, who have some pre-formed opinions, but they have no experience. And we are sharing super transparently all the good, the bad, the ugly. We've worked with (the staff advisor) to develop what they call a selective, which in normal academic terms would be called an elective. They get to choose. And so, this last semester we had three students, this semester will have five.
“The other thing we've done that I think has added tremendously is we've not just focused on these students, but we have opened up our monthly roundtables to all interested vet students and we have brought in veterinarians. We had them in the classroom and we did have a virtual crop and dock just because of timing.
Talk About the Hard Things
“So, we've addressed the hard things. We've talked about what it takes to produce a puppy that is going to be healthy. And why we do the testing, why we make the choices, why temperament and different breeds. And so they've been able to ask us really hard questions. And I think the interaction has been very positive.”
“The total lack of understanding of what a purebred dog was and how they came to be and why they came to be” was an “aha” moment for Golden. She noted that one of the important topics covered in the course is the breed standard. “What is the breed standard and how did it come to be. The fact that they didn't know was a real aha for me.
“The other thing I don't feel like they really understood was how we preserve a breed. And as I'm sure most everyone here knows, French Bulldogs have been just bombarded with every kind of influence from outside the breed gene pool there could be. And it's like a breed being attacked on steroids, you know, from fluffy to pink. It all exists. One of the scary statistics for this breed is last year there were 32,000 Frenchie litters registered with the AKC. 294 were parent club members, 294 out of 32,000. And since DNA really can't accurately show us exactly what's behind a dog, after a few generations of breeding to Frenchies, it looks like it's a purebred Frenchie.
“Another aha for me was the health testing process, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, that it exists. What kind of data was there, who loads that data and that it is a partnership with veterinarians and breeders that actually populates that database and how we use it to make improvements. So those things were major ahas for me.
“The preservation message, however, is one that resonates for us. We don't tell our own story. You know, we're kind of invisible. There might be 90,000 of us in Massachusetts playing dog sports, but I find out legislatively many times we're invisible. You know, the fact that we let other people tell our story is a problem.”