by Pam Kadlec
All puppies are cute, adorable, lovable, irresistible! Who can resist puppy breath? Not me.
Before you invest in a purebred dog, there are a few questions you should ask the breeder. Reputable breeders who's number one interest is to further their chosen breed will be more than happy to provide you with all the information you need.
First of all, does the pup come from stock that has been certified clean of hereditary diseases?
There is nothing more heart -breaking that working, training, loving a dog for six months to a year only to find out that the dog is crippled and in the worse cases, has to be put to sleep.
The Boykin Spaniel is a relatively new breed. With a limited gene pool problems
will and have surfaced. Hip dysplasia, undershot jaws, and cataracts are three of the
disorders found in many of these dogs. I have recently noticed and heard about some
disturbing trends cropping up in the Boykin Spaniel as well. Aggressive temperaments,
chronic skin problems and an increase in the overall size of the dog are also found in
this breed. All of these factors are genetic. If you plan
on breeding your dog, please consider the consequences. Just breeding because puppies are
cute, or worse, just for the money, does this breed an incredible injustice.
The Boykin is first and foremost a hunting dog. Bred correctly, the Boykin Spaniel makes
an outstanding house pet as well (in fact, believes it belongs in the house.) Breeding
indiscriminately - as when you breed to your buddy's dog just because he's available -
jeopardizes the future of the Boykin as we know it.
Some other breeds, such as the Boykin Spaniel and Gordon Setter, the
gene pool is limited. There are dogs out there that have been OFA certified for
four and five generations. You have to look hard for them though. If you do find a puppy
who has only one side (sire or dam) certified, find out why both parents have not been
x-rayed. There are circumstances where one dog may have mild or borderline CHD but has
other qualities that make the breeder take the risk. As long as the breeder is up front
with you and lets you know exactly what the backgrounds of both parents are, you can make
an informed decision. You are not only investing your money but your time, heart and soul
Take the time to check out the information available at :
Orthopedic Foundation for Animals
Reading an OFA number: example: BY-704G24M-P - the BY signified the breed (Boykin spaniel), the first number (704) is the number of dogs in that breed that have been OFA certified, the letter (F,G,E) is the rating (Fair, Good, Excellent), the next number is the age of the dog (24 months) at the time of the x-ray, the sex (M or F) and the P or PI tells you if the dog has been permanently identified by a microchip,tattoo oDNAna.
Another source for CHD evaluations is the PennHIP. This method is newer than the OFA and offers a different view of the dogs' hips. According to their information, "The PennHIP method can be performed on dogs as young as sixteen weeks, compared with two years of age using the standard technique. An early estimate of a dog's hip integrity is invaluable, whether the dog's intended purpose will be for breeding, for working, or as a family pet."
"For the breeder, the information compiled in the PennHIP database permits informed selection of breeding stock based on hip tightness relative to other members of the same breed. Studies show that the selection process for tighter hips can be imposed without sacrificing other desirable traits. "
This information and more on PennHIP can be found at:
Cataracts can be found in some bloodlines of the Boykin Spaniel. One way to make sure your pup has a good chance of being clear of hereditary cataracts is knowing that both parents have certified clear by CERF.
The other major obstacle in choosing a puppy is making sure his/her eyes are clear of diseases. CERF is the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. "CERF was founded by a group of concerned purebred owner/breeders with a goal of eliminating heritable eye diseases in purebred dogs through registration, research, and education :
CERF cooperates with the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) to maintain a registry of purebred dogs that the ACVO Diplomats (members) examine and have found to be unaffected by major heritable eye disease.
CERF also maintains a research data base which consists of information that is generated by all examinations done by ACVO Diplomats. Reports generated from this resource help breeders and ophthalmologists identify trends in eye disease and breed susceptibility.
CERF is dedicated to educating the public on matters involving canine eye disease. CERF provides a variety of reports, the CERF newsletter and other eye disease materials to help educate the owner/breeder on heritable eye disease questions, healthy breeding stock, and breed-specific eye problems.
For more information on CERF:
Canine Eye Registration Foundation
Reading a CERF number: Example - BYS-362/2002-22-P- The letters - BYS - signifies the breed (Boykin spaniel), the first numbers tells how many dogs of that breed have been certified (362), the next is the year of the exam (should be done annually) and the last is the age of the dog when checked. CERF also uses P and PI to show if the dog has been permanently identified with a tattoo, microchip or DNA.
If your veterinarian detects a heart murmur in your dog, then a veterinary cardiologist needs to determine the cause. Some murmurs are benign, not causing the dog any problems. Some are called 'puppy murmurs' because the pup outgrows them. Pulmonic stenosis is a major heart problem now found in few Boykin spaniels. When shopping for a pup ask the breeder if their breeding stock has OFA heart clearance by a cardiologist. If you go to the OFA site to research dogs, the number will be stenosis with a "C" for cardiologist and "P" for practitioner. Some practitioners are not qualified to listen for heart mBso I recommend having a cardiologist clear your Boykin. The Boykin Spaniel Society Foundation has initiated programs to encourage the membership to have their dogs hips, eyes and hearts certified.
Last of all, ask if both parents have been tested clean of
brucellosis. Brucellosis is primarily an infectious disease of animals, including
domesticated species. In animals the disease is hard to control and can cause sterility
and abortions. Serious complications such as encephalitis and meningitis may also arise.
Treatment is with a combination of tetracycline and streptomycin. Most of us know this is
a serious disease affecting cattle, but be aware that it is found in dogs as well. A
simple blood test done before each breeding is all it takes to make sure your dog is
I have recently been made aware, from several veterinarians, that there are a lot of skin problems in the Boykins being seen at their offices. I personally have never seen a Boykin with skin problems coming from a reputable kennel. This is strictly a genetic problem and one that can be easily eradicated by NOT breeding dogs with skin conditions. If you see the sire and dam, and they have this problem, don't buy the pup unless you want to deal with years of medicated shampoos, special diets, etc. If you own a Boykin with skin problems, PLEASE don't breed it.
Some Boykin spaniels are getting bigger - way over the Standard. This dog shouldn't be over eighteen (18) inches tall and shouldn't weigh over forty (40) pounds. The ideal Boykin won't 'Rock the Boat' and fits comfortably in the front seat of your truck or on your lap.
Problems like hips, shoulders, elbows and eyes can't always be detected
without special tests. There are some physical attributes that you can look for:
Know what the breed standard calls for in the puppy you are looking at. Some general characteristics are given in all breeds; straight back (not 'roached' or rounded), a 45 degree angle to the shoulder, elbows lined up so that the dog does not toe in or out.
Look at the teeth of both the sire and dam. Most breeds call for
a scissors bite - an undershot (lower jaw protruding past upper) is a serious genetic
Unfortunately, Boykins are getting a bad reputation as being 'aggressive'. Once again, this is a genetic problem and one that can be eliminated by selective breeding. If you own an aggressive Boykin, please have him/her neutered/spayed so that this trait is not allowed to continue.
Once you've determined that the puppy is from physically sound stock,
the next question is temperament. You will want to see both parents to know how they act -
are they mellow or high strung? Do you feel comfortable around them or are you concerned
you might get bitten? This is particularly important if this pup is going to be a house
dog and/or around children. Would you feel safe with the pups parents around your kids?
If the pup is to be a hunting companion, a little drive and ambition are wanted. "Will you be able to control this dog?" if he/she turns out just like 'mom or dad'? Boykins are known to be "hyper" dogs.
Curlee is wound so tight that I call her a Boink'In - she just can't sit still when you pet her. She has to jump up, no matter how much I tell her otherwise. Since she knows she isn't 'supposed' to do this, she jumps up and twirls in the air, just missing my legs (most of the time.) But, when I get her to a trial, she is all business. When I duck hunt with her in a gheenu-type boat, she sits perfectly still, watching for birds. When she rides in my truck (in the front seat, of course) she lays right down and stays there until we get to our destination. In short, she's trainable. But, if you want a Boykin instead of a Boink'In, make sure you like the temperament of mom and dad.
Now that you have established that the potential pup should turn out
physically, what about her mental state? This is a bit different from temperament. A dog
can be sweet as honey and still be dumb as a rock. If you are looking for a working dog,
ask about the performance of the parents. If hunting dogs, are the parents titled with HR
(hunting retriever), FC (field champion), NFC (national field champion), etc. There are
too many to list here, but you get the idea. Whether you plan on trialing your pup or
simply want a good hunting companion, it is important that the parents are proven in the
field. If the breeder doesn't have documented titles, you can trust the person to tell you
how great their dog is or you can ask for a demonstration.
Keep in mind that there is NO GUARANTEE that even with all of the above, you will get a dog with the temperament you want, without hip dysplasia, OCD, or eye diseases. It only puts the odds in your favor. Even dogs with generations of clean hips can throw pups with CHD.
With that in mind, the next question to ask the breeder is, "Do you warrantee this puppy?" If it turns out to have CHD, OCD or eye diseases, what can I expect from you? You can't really guarantee temperament since some of that is environmental (how the pup is raised once at its new home.)
Reputable breeders will stand behind their decision to breed. People breeding just for the money will not.
Some breeders refund your money, others take the dog back and offer a new puppy from the next litter. A warrantee tells the potential buyer that the breeder has done all they can to further the breed and that they stand behind their decision one hundred percent.
If everyone would at least be honest and up-front about any known potential problems (if we guaranteed against ALL potentialities, no one would dare breed dogs!) all breeds would benefit.
The final responsibility rests on the buyer. If you, as the puppy buyer
know HD is prevalent in the breed of your choice, ask to see the OFA certification
numbers. Check for CERF verification. Ask to see both the sire and the dam. See what their
temperament is like. Ask about any field, trial, or bench (not weight lifting silly, dog
shows) experience if you are not already familiar with the bloodlines. If a repeat
breeding, ask for references of past litter puppy buyers. This may seem extreme, but this
investment is not only financial, but to most people, emotional as well. This dog is going
to come into your house and become a part of your family. Have this be a long and happy
relationship. Do your homework.
The statements here are the opinion of one person, Pam Kadlec. As a dog owner, lover, and trainer for over 25 years, I have worked with 15 different breeds. I have shown Dachshunds to Great Danes in front of AKC judges as a Jr. Handler and later worked for professional handlers. I have trained, judged, and trialed Labrador Retrievers in AKC field trials and later in hunt tests. I currently own and train Boykin Spaniels. I train and trial HRCH UH King's Curlee Gurlee WDS in UKC hunt tests and the Boykin Spaniel Society's Annual National hunt tests and am a UKC hunt test judge.
I personally believe that you should only breed to
improve the bloodlines. To know about a potentially life-threatening disorder and still
breed and then not tell the potential buyers, is criminal. 'Nuff said.
Signed (sort of ) PK