What are the health clearances for Golden Retrievers, and why are they important?
The Golden Retriever breed has been hit pretty hard with hip, elbow, heart, and eye problems, among others. Hip & elbow problems lead to dysplasia. The heart problem prone to Goldens can cause one to drop dead instantly, usually around 4 to 6 years of age. And the eye problem Goldens are prone to leads to blindness.
To combat these, some breeders have their doggies screened by Veterinary specialists. Orthopedic Specialists use x-rays to examine hip and elbows for dysplasia. The OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) reviews the x-rays and grades an individual dog’s hips & elbows. There are three passing grades: Excellent, Good, and Fair. And there are three failing grades: Mild, Moderate, and Severe. Results for any doggy may or may not be included in the OFA’s database.
Cardiologists examine a dog’s heart for tell-tale signs of sub-aortic stenosis (SAS). Upon examination, a dog is considered SAS Certified if the cardiologist hears no evidence of the condition. Results for any doggy may or may not be kept in the OFA’s SAS database.
Ophthalmologists examine eyes to see if a dog’s retina is becoming detached from the back of the eyeball. The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) issues clearances for eyes. Results for any doggy may or may not be kept in OFA’s CERF database.
The theory goes that by breeding one “cleared” dog to another “cleared” dog, the result will be healthy puppies. Like I said, though, it’s just a theory. Unfortunately over the course of breeding dogs for forty plus years, we’ve seen instances in other breeding programs when the theory doesn’t work. And there’s good reason why – genes are tricky things.
There is, however, a methodology that will produce amazingly healthy and calm puppies with much better frequency than just following the “clearances” theory. We’ve abided by it the whole time we’ve been breeding Golden Retrievers. If you visit and remember to ask about it, we’ll tell you what it is.
One thing is for certain. In our forty plus years of breeding, we have never encountered a veterinarian who said inbreeding or line-breeding dogs was a good thing. In fact, they insist inbreeding and line-breeding amplify Golden Retriever health problems. This is why Liberty Run Golden Retrievers refuses to inbreed or line-breed, nor do we use dogs that are products of those breeding techniques in our breeding program.
Unfortunately, some folks don’t bother to look for it, or maybe they don’t know how. Visit us, and we’ll show you.
Many beauty pageant breeders are inbreeding or line-breeding their dogs. They believe there’s nothing wrong with the technique. (Hey! It’s a free country, they can do what they like.) We believe they feel maligned by our stance on the issue and the fact that we bring it to light. How do a few of them respond? Malicious and false attacks directed at us. I guess they live by the motto, “it’s a dog eat dog world.” We prefer to live by the words of Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. “educate, educate, educate.”
Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.
What does an age-old idiom about forests and trees have to do with dog breeding? Our concern is too much attention can be focused by some breeders on SAS, OFA, and CERF clearances. They miss the forest because of the trees – they forget about an equally, if not more important, topic: temperament. Have you heard of a temperament clearance or certification? Other than what we do at Liberty Run, we haven’t seen any special attention paid to temperament. When we announce litters, we have a rating system for parents of our puppies.
Think about this. A breeder spends thousands of dollars to get all four health clearances. That’s money well spent of course. But what if the dog’s behavior isn’t the best? Most breeders are expert dog trainers. They can make a dog behave any way they want by training it, so when you see it, it appears to be a well-behaved dog.
Is a dog that requires professional behavior modification really a good candidate to breed? With thousands of dollars spent on clearances, most breeders use cleared dogs for breeding even if those dogs required professional behavior modification. Is there any wonder why so many Goldens are high-strung or challenging to train, today? And why they’re not too bright? We believe not enough attention is paid to behavior. And of course, every breeder believes passionately his Golden is perfect. If that’s true, why are good ones so tough to find?
Here’s what we do at Liberty Run, instead. We first examine a dog’s natural behavior and intelligence over the course of years. (We do not “train” him or her to “behave.”) We want to see how calm and intelligent he is naturally. Why? Because as the theory goes, naturally obedient males bred to naturally obedient females will produce naturally obedient puppies. Male dogs requiring professional behavior modification bred to females who require professional behavior modifications are not going to produce sound, calm, and intelligent puppies.
Most people looking for a puppy aren’t professional dog trainers. They don’t need a behavioral problem that takes the form of a Golden Retriever. To ensure we’re breeding the best possible companion Goldens, Liberty Run only breeds parents that are naturally obedient. If one of our dogs passes all the certifications – OFA, CERF, and SAS – but we don’t like the way it behaves as a mature adult, we take the hit. We do not breed him or her. We feel it’s bad for the breed. Bad for you. And bad for our program in the long run.
We think, based on our track record and feedback from families, that our methodology works. Check out what families who have our puppies say on Facebook. They post lots of updates about us on the Liberty Run Family Group page. A few of the most recent posts from that Group Page are automatically posted in the closest column to the right. If you’re a FB user, follow this link to the actual page so you can see it in its entirety.