Early Stimulation and Socialization Can Result in A Healthier, Smarter, Bettery Adjusted Dog
by Carmen Battaglia
Source: AKC Gazette, May 1995, pp. 47-50.
Surprising as it may seem, it isn't innate capacity that explains the differences that exist between individuals - humans or dogs. Most seem to have far more capacity than they will ever use. The ones who achieve and out-perform others seem to have within themselves the ability to use hidden resources. In other words, it's what they are able to do with what they have that makes the difference.
Researchers have studied this phenomenon and have looked for new ways to stimulate individuals to improve their own natural abilities. Some methods have produced lifelong lasting effects, and many of the differences between individuals can be explained by the use of early stimulation. the key, it seems, is adding just the right amount of stress early on; not too much, and not too little.
Because of its importance, many studies have focused their efforts on the first few months of life. When pups are first born their eyes and ears are closed. Their digestive systems have limited capacity and require periodic stimulation by their dam, who routinely licks them in order to promote digestion.
At this age they are only able to smell, suck and crawl. Body temperature is maintained by snuggling close to their mother or by crawling into piles with other littermates. During these first few weeks of immobility, researchers have found these immature and underdeveloped canines are sensitive to a restricted class of stimuli that includes thermal and tactile stimulation, motion and locomotion.
Other mammals, such as mice and rats, have also demonstrated a similar sensitivity to certain stimuli. Studies show that removing them from their nest for three minutes each day during the first five to 10 days of life causes body temperatures to fall below normal. This mild form of stimulation was sufficient to stimulate their hormonal, adrenal and pituitary systems. When tested later as adults, these same animals were better able to withstand stress than littermates who were not exposed to the same early stimulation exercises.
Other studies involving early stimulation exercises have been performed on both cats and dogs. The electro encephalogram (EEG) has been used to measure the electrical activity in the brain because of its extreme sensitivity to changes in excitement, emotional stress, muscle tension, and changes in oxygen and breathing. EEG measures show that pups and kittens given early stimulation mature at faster rates and perform better in certain problem-solving tests than non-stimulated littermates.
While experiments have not yet produced specific information about the optimal amounts of stimulation needed to make young animals psychologically or physiologically superior, researchers agree that very early stimulation has value. What is also known is that what may be just the right amount of stimulation for one may be too intense for another, and that too much can retard development. The results show that early stimulation exercises can have positive results but must be used with caution. In other words, too much stimulation can cause pathological adversities rather than physical or psychological superiority.
The Military Method
The U.S. military developed a method that still serves as a guide. In an effort to improve the performance of dogs used for military purposes a program called Bio-Sensor was developed. Later, it became better known to the public as the Super Dog Program.
Based on years of research, the military learned that early neurological stimulation exercises could have important and lasting effects on dogs. Their studies confirmed that there are specific time periods early in life when neurological stimulation has optimum results. The first period is a window of time that begins at about the third day of life and lasts until the 16the day. This is believed to be a period of rapid neurological growth and development.
The result of this research is a group of exercises called the Bio-Sensor method. These exercises affect the neurological system by kicking it into action earlier than would normally be expected, resulting in an increased capacity.
Five benefits have been observed in dogs that were exposed to the Bio-Sensor stimulation exercises:
*Improved cardiovascular performance;
*More efficient adrenal glands;
*Greater resistance to stress;
*Greater resistance to disease.
In tests of learning, stimulated pups were found to be more active and were more exploratory than their non-stimulated littermates, over which they were dominant in competitive situations.
In simple problem-solving tests using detours in a maze, the non-stimulated pups became extremely stressed, whined a great deal and made many errors. Their stimulated littermates were more calm in the test environment, made fewer errors and gave only an occasional distress signal.
Socialization and Stimulation
As each animal grows and develops, factors outside itself affect how it will be shaped as an individual. Early neurological stimulation is the first stage. The second stage is socialization, and it also has a limited window of opportunity.
When ethologist Konrad Lorenz first wrote about this process in 1935, he talked about imprinting and its importance on the later development of an animal. He differentiated imprinting from conditioning in that imprinting occurs early in life, takes place very rapidly and seems to have lifelong results.
Socialization studies confirm that the critical period for canine socialization is between the fourth and 16the week of age. During this period two things can go wrong. First, insufficient social contact can affect proper emotional development, which can adversely affect the development of a human bond. Second, over- mothering can prevent sufficient exposure to other individuals, places and situations that have an important influence on growth and development. The lack of adequate social stimulation, such as handling, mothering and contact with others, adversely affects social and psychological development.
Most researchers agree that among all species, a lack of adequate socialization generally results in unacceptable behavior and oftentimes produces undesirable aggression, fearfulness, sexual inadequacy and indifference toward partners.
Busy lifestyles with long and tiring schedules often cause pets to be neglected. Left to themselves with only an occasional trip out of the house or off the property, they seldom see other dogs or strangers and generally suffer from poor stimulation and socialization. For many dogs, the side effects of loneliness and boredom set in. The resulting behavior manifests itself in the form of chewing, digging and behavior that is hard to control.
It seems clear that small amounts of stimulation, followed by early socialization, can produce beneficial results. The danger seems to be in not knowing what the thresholds are for over- and under-stimulation.
The third and final stage in the process of growth and development is called enrichment. Unlike the first two stages, it has no limited window of opportunity. Enrichment means the positive sum of experiences that have a cumulative effect upon the individual.
Enrichment experiences typically involve exposure to a wide variety of interesting, novel and exciting experiences with regular opportunities to freely investigate, manipulate and interact with them. When measured in later life, the results show that animals reared in an enriched environment tend to be more inquisitive and are better able to perform difficult tasks.
Studies by canine behaviorists John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller show that, when given free choice, non-enriched pups preferred to stay in their kennels. Other littermates that were given only small amounts of outside stimulation between 5 and 8 weeks of age were found to be very inquisitive and very active. When kennel doors were left open the enriched pups would come bounding out, while littermates that were not reared in an enriched environment would remain behind.
The pups that received less stimulation would typically be fearful fo unfamiliar objects and generally preferred to withdraw rather than investigate. Even well-bred pups of superior pedigrees would not explore or leave their kennels, and many were difficult to train as adults. These pups acted as if they had become institutionalized, preferring the routine and safe environment of their kennel to the stimulating world outside.
Regular trips to the park, shopping centers and obedience classes are examples of enrichment activities. Chasing and retrieving a ball is often considered enriching because it provides exercise and serves as a reward. While repeated attempts to retrieve a ball provide stimulation, it should not be confused with enrichment exercises. Such playful activities should be used as an exercise or as a reward after returning home from a trip, and should not be used as a substitute for trips, outings or obedience classes that provide many opportunities for interaction and investigation.
Because of the risks involved in under-stimulating pups, a conservative approach has been suggested. However, as a guide, it is generally considered prudent to guard against under-stimulation rather than overstimulation. A conservative approach would be to expose them to other people, toys and other animals regularly. Handling and touching all part of their anatomy is also necessary as early as the third day of life. Pups that are handled regularly generally do not become hand-shy as adults.
Both experience and research have demonstrated the beneficial effects of early neurological stimulation, socialization and enrichment. Each has been used to show how significant differences between individual dogs, their trainability, health and potential for individual performance can be realized. The cumulative effects of these stimulations have been well documented and best serve the interests of the owner and the animal.
The Bio-Sensor Method
The Bio-Sensor method is a workout that requires handling each puppy individually, once a day, and performing five exercises (the order of the exercises is not important). These five exercises stimulate pups in a way they would not encounter naturally at this early age. Each exercise is performed for three to five seconds.
1. Tactile stimulation: Holding the pup in one hand, the handler gently tickles the pup between the toes on any one foot using a Q- tip. It is not necessary to tickle each foot.
2. Head held erect: Using both hands, the pup is help straight up so that its head is directly above its tail. It should be pointed straight upward.
3. Head pointed down: Holding the pup firmly with both hands, the head is pointed downward so that its head and body are pointing toward the ground.
4. Supine position: Holding the pup so that its back is resting in the palm of both hands, the pup is allowed to either sleep or struggle.
5. Thermal stimulation: Use a damp towel that has been cooled in the refrigerator for five minutes. Place the pup on the towel, feet down. Do not restrain it from moving.
These exercises should not be repeated more than once a day and should not be extended beyond the recommended time for each exercise. Experience shows some pups will resist some of the exercises. If that happens, proceed gently. Try not to over-stress any pup. Over-stimulation of the neurological system can produce negative results.
Carmen Battaglia has written numerous articles and books on canine breeding and genetics. He is past president of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America and is a member of the Atlanta, Congers and Lawrenceville Kennel Clubs. He judges the Herding Group, nine other breeds and Best in Show.
Original Doc: socializ.doc
Alpha is Not a Four‑Letter Word
Equating alpha with abuse is a mistake.
By Carol Lea Benjamin
Source: GAZETTE, Dog Trainer's Diary, August 1991, pp 31-32.
As a pack animal, bred and born for cooperative living, the dog, not Ronald Reagan, is the great communicator. It is part of the very nature of a dog to be able to assess a group of any species to determine strong from weak, alpha from omega, and, clever thing, to place himself accurately in the hierarchy. He does this by using and reading body language, the subtle signs and signals of natural authority or the lack of it. That's communication! Dogs don't take ground with tanks and guns. They're too smart, too practical.
What happens when the dog finds out someone other than himself merits leadership? Were he human, he might become small and bitter, full of thoughts of revenge. But he's not human. Isn't that partly why we are so attached to his species? He feels no resentment at all. Instead, and here's the kicker, he worships the one he recognizes as worthy of leadership ‑‑the alpha. There is nothing more attractive to a dog than his alpha. Did your dog ever instantly offer the crown to a stranger? In a living room full of company, who did he choose to look lovingly at, to lean on? Or, if not so well‑schooled, did he climb aboard the "dominant" person's lap and clean his glasses? There's a kind of mental strength and greatness of spirit that any dog can recognize and respond to. It is what makes him feel safe and happy. It is the right of every dog to know who's in charge.
Alpha is an attitude, confidence brought on by understanding dogs and loving them as well. It has nothing to do with cruelty. Yet of late, there is a great sweep of sentiment toward training methods which virtually eliminate the concept of alpha, equating alpha with dominance and dominance with abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Saying that you train with positive reinforcement or just with love and praise sounds really good. It sounds kind. Surely, we dog lovers all want to sound kind. And no one who trains dogs would deny the importance of positive reinforcement. But a dog, because he is a dog, needs to know the other side of the coin. When adolescence rears its ugly head, positive reinforcement‑only techniques tend to fall quickly apart.
Ironically, many trainers say they only use food for "difficult to motivate" dogs, or worse, ''difficult dogs," ensuring that they remain so. The obsession to "stay positive" gets as silly as the advice in one book that suggests you rid your dog of obnoxious behavior by naming the behavior and never requesting it. As Joan Rivers would say, " Grow up!"
Training with treats offers instant gratification. You can get a puppy to sit and down and stand and follow in no time flat by luring him with bits of food and by shaping and naming the postures and behaviors you desire. But as quick as the training appears to be is also how superficial it is. When something more tempting arises, the dog will not obey. This is particularly so for the adolescent dog when simply the freedom to disobey is in itself an irresistible temptation. In fact, choosing to disobey is a normal stage of development, the canine version of the terrible twos.
At this point, the trainer's response should be something like your parents' was when you were an obnoxious teen: "Because I said so." If you are alpha, you do this with a warning sound, a well‑directed look or, if necessary, a leash correction. Dog abuse? No, dog training, training based on the concept that the dog is a pack animal and that every pack needs a leader.
There is another important issue here. When training a dog in a more traditional way‑‑the way his mother taught him‑‑you keep his focus on the relationship. This leads to a most satisfying friendship with a dog. Lure or food training developed with animals that could not be trained by traditional dog‑training methods because they were notpack animals or they lived in water rather than on land. You cannot train a chicken to dance using a collar and leash or the force of your personality. When chickens or dolphins are trained to perform it is that performance that is important, not the relationship. In circumstances where this is also true with dogs, lure training is an appropriate choice. In other words, if getting a flashy, accurate, high‑scoring performance in the obedience ring is what's most important to you, and if your time is limited, lure training may be your best bet. With it, you can get a good performance. You are unlikely, however, to get a well‑trained dog.
Trainers complain that pet owners will not spend the time it takes to train a dog well with natural (i.e., alpha) methods of training. No doubt about it, training a dog takes time. But in the long run, short cuts take more time because they don't really work. So many of the clients I see are paying the price for having used instantly gratifying puppy training. They are finding that when their dogs begin to think the dark thoughts of adolescence‑-"Hey, this is America, just because you call doesn't mean I have to come"‑‑they do not have an appropriate relationship or language to fall back on. These dogs, dogs who live as family members, need the natural family structure they are born to understand. To rob them of this is perhaps in itself a form of dog abuse.
The Old‑Fashioned Way
Having never done anything cruel or unfair to a dog in my life, I get fed up reading articles that claim that training by any other method other than a lure method is rough or cruel. The fact is that over the years I have observed a lot of other trainers working. I have also seen lots of dogs working and failing to work. As far as I can observe, it's only the real stuff, old fashioned dog training if you will, that goes deep, teaching a dog so well that he understands exactly what you want and is more than happy to give it to you because a) you are his leader and he worships you: and b) he knows you can make him do it in the same comprehensible way his mother would have should he decide it's his constitutional right to disobey.
When I go out and about with my dogs in the real world, their safety is in my hands. I have to know that when I call, my dogs will not find another dog, a flock of pigeons or something blowing in the wind more attractive than me. The only way to proof a dog for a real life is by being alpha. To me, that has always meant being the kindest, smartest, most fun leader you can possibly be. How on earth did alpha become a four letter word, folks? It makes no sense to me.
On Another Note
If my mother were here, she'd remind me now to say thank you. You spoke. The GAZETTE listened. I am grateful. This is grand friends, simply grand.
Ms. Benjamin is a professional trainer and author of five books on dog behavior. She returns to the GAZETTE after an eight‑month hiatus.
Original Doc: beha-9.doc
Punishing some behaviors can actually reinforce them.
By Ian Dunbar, Ph.D., M.R.C.V.S.
GAZETTE, Behavior, August, 1991, pp 34-35.
Any student of behavior is familiar with Edward Lee Thorndike's provisional laws of learning, especially the Law of Effect. Translated into dog‑training lingo it means the frequency of a response is dependent upon its immediate outcome: when the outcome is pleasant (rewarding), the response is reinforced and increases in frequency; but when the outcome is unpleasant (punishing), the response is inhibited and decreases in frequency. Thus, punishment normally decreases and ultimately eliminates unwanted behaviors. Most experienced animal trainers, however, know there are a number of behaviors which seem to be resistant to punishment training. In fact, some of these behaviors actually appear to be strengthened by punishment and paradoxically increase in frequency. Licking, pawing, jumping‑up, growling, fear‑biting, fighting, slow recalls, no recalls, lagging and balking are all good examples of "learned helplessness." These behavior problems all have one thing in common--the standard "treatment" for the problem, i.e., punishment, is also its cause.
Aiming to Please
Licking and pawing are examples of behavioral neoteny (the retention of infantile characteristics). whereby puppy food‑soliciting gestures are preserved as deferential greetings in adulthood and appeasement gestures normally used by lower‑ranking dogs. Canine social structure depends on a subordinance hierarchy, with the onus placed on lower‑ranking animals to make voluntary displays of deference toward those of higher rank.
When meeting people, socialized dogs feel similarly impelled to display friendly and courteous deference, usually by licking, pawing and/or jumping up. If the owner punishes the dog for these behaviors, the dog will now have two reasons to demonstrate deference: the initial reason, which is to show respect; and the new reason, to assuage the person's anger. Dogs must think jumping up is the accepted way to greet humans as it has been condoned and encouraged since puppyhood. So not only does punishment increase the fervor for jumping up, but the dog's level of activity may also rise to linebacker proportions: "They'll pet me if I hit them mid‑chest"'
Of course, it would be easy to stop the dog from jumping up by using extreme punishment. Squeezing the dog's forepaws, for example, kneeing it in the chest or even using a shock collar--or a 2 x 4. But then you've won the battle and lost the war: solved the behavior problem but destroyed the dog's temperament. The dog no longer jumps up, but neither does it trust people anymore. Yet unbelievably, some people still resort to such inane and inhumane methods. It is far easier and more rewarding to train the dog to sit when greeting people (counter‑conditioning) and to kiss, shake hands and give hugs only when requested (stimulus control).
It is the rare trainer who has never found himself in a vicious circle of escalating aggression with a dog. Usually it starts with the person doing something nasty to the dog, who in turn growls to warn the person to back off. Instead, the person punishes the dog for growling, which causes the dog to growl more intensely, et cetera ad nauseam. Attempting to stop a dog from growling using punishment alone is on par with trying to train a dog to cease wagging its tail using praise and rewards. Just as praise, rewards and the owner's happiness are primary reasons for tail‑wagging, reprimands, punishments and other psychological and physical nasties are primary reasons for growling.
The Right Reprimand
Many people interpret growling as a "dominant" behavior signaling attack. And on occasion it may be. But this type of growl is usually short, soft and subtle. A protracted, noisy growl, however, is usually a warning that the dog feels uneasy or threatened, normally by the person's proximity and/or actions. By all means, reprimand the dog for growling, but then carefully consider why was it growling. Try looking in a mirror.
When reprimanding a growling dog, it is neither necessary, nor advisable to approach or grab. A retreating reprimand is safer and far more effective. First, teach the dog to "shush" so in times of stress it is possible to constructively rebuke the dog ("SHUSH!"), so it knows specifically why it is upsetting you. i.e., by growling. Then, back off immediately to give the dog space and quickly upshift into a rapid counterconditioning routine: "Come! Sit! Down! Sit" If the dog responds to these commands. it will have most likely stopped growling by the time you get to the second sit‑command. Now you may praise the dog (for sitting and ceasing to growl) and get the relationship back on track.
When dogs growl at other people or dogs, sometimes punishment stops the growling, sometimes it doesn't. Even if this works, it would be prudent to investigate and resolve the underlying reasons for the dog's anxiety. If punishment does not terminate the growling after a maximum of three incidents. owners should consider alternative training techniques before the behavior gets worse. Say, for instance, the dog is edgy when approached by a stranger (dog or human) and growls to keep him at bay. After being punished for growling just a couple of times, however. the dog will begin to associate approaching strangers with punishment. Now the dog has another reason to growl--to prevent the owner from becoming upset and inflicting punishment.
Such problems are best resolved by rewarding the absence of growling. Sounds silly but it works. Have the dog on lead but do not let it pull the lead taut or lunge. Instruct a stranger or person with a dog to cross your path many times. Ignore the dog's behavior until it does not growl when the stranger passes, then gently praise the dog and offer a treat. In time, the dog will associate approaching strangers with a happy owner.
The obedience world is replete with instances of punishment exacerbating. rather than curing, problems. Recalls and heeling are the two stock obedience exercises necessitating the dog's desire to remain close to the handler. Punish a dog for a slow recall or a sloppy sit and you'll end up with no recall. Similarly, chronically punish a dog for lagging on‑lead and you'll end up with Houdini‑heeling off‑lead. Why not spend 15 minutes teaching the dog the commands "quickly" and 'steady." then say "quickly!" whenever the dog moves too slow or "steady!" when it moves too fast?
Some dogs learn they will be punished whatever they do and thus give up. Some will do a whirling‑dervish routine, whereas others refuse to budge--standing, sitting, collapsing and, of course, the all‑time classic canine learned‑helplessness maneuver, rolling over and going limp. The dog is not being stubborn, it just does not understand what the owner wants it to do. It wants the owner to chill out but is too good‑natured to growl. Luckily, helplessness tactics are usually effective. Few people insist on heeling a flaccid furball. Unfortunately, some do.
I once saw a puppy collapse and roll over during a supposed sit‑stay. The owner sibilantly inhaled, slithered toward the dog and, grabbing it by the flews, hoisted the confused critter aloft and planted it in a sit, only to have the pudding puppy flop to the floor as soon as she let go. And then she did it again! Time to change to Plan B, Buddy, because Plan A isn't working. Have another look in the mirror. Learned helplessness behaviors are a warning signal in training. Time to go back and teach and encourage--and rebuild the dog's destroyed confidence.
A native of Hertfordshire, England, Dr. Dunbar is an animal behaviorist, veterinarian and author.
Original Doc: beha-7.doc
Tackling the Beast Head-on!
Tackling the Beast Head-on!
New TCC Screening Study Announced
Marcia Dawson, DVM, Chairman HTF
For those who have never known a Scottie afflicted with bladder cancer, you can count yourself fortunate. In a breed estimated to be 16-20 times more at risk for Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) than other breeds, any effort to tackle the disease is indeed welcome news. Now, with the STCA’s endorsement and approval of HTF funding for a new screening study to be conducted by Dr. Debbie Knapp at Purdue University, the news could not be better.
Dr. Knapp is already well known to Scottie owners and the STCA for her tenacious, long-term research and clinical trials on TCC, a cancer that far too many of us have experienced in our dogs. Thirteen years ago, she and Dr. Larry Glickman conducted the first epidemiological study to characterize this disease in Scotties. Six years later, Dr. Knapp joined forces with Dr. Elaine Ostrander at the NIH to research the genetics of TCC in Scotties and other high-risk breeds, a project of major significance that is still underway. And now, in her study entitled Screening and Early Intervention to Positively Transform the Management of Urinary Bladder Cancer in Scottish Terriers, Dr. Knapp plans to follow a population of 100 Scottish Terriers over a 3-year period with twice-a-year screenings.
The ultimate goal of this study is the development of a successful and routine screening protocol for Scotties and other high-risk breeds, leading to early intervention when needed using a relatively low risk medication. This protocol may ultimately save the lives of thousands of dogs, while avoiding the side effects from traditional cancer treatment and helping to lower health care costs for the owners.
The screenings will consist of a physical exam, ultrasound of the bladder, urine collection by free-catch for specialized urine assays and urinalysis, blood collection, and paperwork to be filled out by the owners. The screenings will take place year-round at Purdue and also in the fall and spring at two off-campus locations: Louisville, KY (Rose Shacklett, coordinator) and Springfield, IL (Lisa Hills, coordinator). There will be no cost to the Scottie owners for the screenings. If abnormal lesions are discovered in the screening, follow-up diagnostic work will be offered at Purdue, also at no cost to the owner.
Dr. Knapp’s new study is an innovative approach in veterinary medicine in that it focuses on the prevention, early detection and early intervention of TCC in Scotties. In human medicine, we know that routine screenings and early diagnosis of disease can result in more successful treatment outcomes. But this is not a typical course of action in veterinary medicine. Too often the diagnosis of TCC in Scotties is made too late, when the cancer is too advanced and often has already spread to other areas, making treatment much less effective. Dr. Knapp is taking a proactive approach in that she wants to screen apparently healthy dogs starting at the minimum age of 7 years and then follow these dogs carefully over 3 years. This will allow Dr. Knapp and her team to detect the earliest, pre-cancerous changes in the bladder wall, even before there are any symptoms in the Scottie. If abnormalities are found on screening and a diagnosis of TCC is then confirmed, Dr. Knapp will be able to intervene earlier than ever before with Deramaxx®, a drug similar to piroxicam. It is expected that this early intervention with a pill taken every day will result in regression or long-term control of the disease in the majority of affected Scotties.
Weighing the importance and the potential benefits of the study for our Scotties, the HTF and the STCA Board agreed to help fund the project to the level of $30,000 per year for a 3-year period. The sponsor agreements with Purdue University are now officially signed, and the project has the green light!
There is no question that this study is a big commitment for the HTF, one that we enter into with consideration and care. Yet, we firmly believe that this project has the potential to provide the tools to routinely screen for, diagnose early and manage this terrible disease in our beloved Scotties, both now in the future. In fact, the study is already having an impact! In a practice run at Purdue on June 18th, TCC was discovered in Barb Zink’s 11-year-old Rita, one of 7 Scotties screened. After confirmation of the diagnosis with a biopsy via cystoscopy, Rita is now the first case on Deramaxx, and so far, she is doing well.
In the ultimate analysis, the success of this important study can be achieved only through the participation of Scottie owners. If you are able and willing to enter your Scottie(s) in this study, please contact the individuals listed in the accompanying fact sheet for more information and details. For those unable to participate, and for all Scottie owners who understand the ravages of this disease, please consider contributing to this cause, in memory of so many beautiful dogs that we have lost and for the future of so many Scotties to come.
Test & Register Health Registries Open to Scotties NOW
Copyright 2003, Carole Fry Owen
Source: Great Scots Magazine, May/June 2003, pages 30-31, 42.
Question: "How long before Scotties will have health registries?"
"I sat on the floor and hugged my CMO puppy," remembers Cairn Terrier breeder Clare Redditt. "'Fraiser,' I said, 'something good is going to come out of this pain!"
It did. Redditt helped develop registries for craniomandibular osteopathy and other diseases in Cairns. She is the genie who jump-started Scottie/Cairn/Westie CMO DNA research, and she chairs Cairn Terrier Club of America's health committee.
"Cairn breeders really did do pedigree tracking with our CMO open registry," praises Redditt. "They lessened their risk of CMO. Lately Cairn breeders have been more relaxed, and CMO is peppering our breed again."
Scottie owners whose dogs suffer CMO like Fraiser, and more lingering conditions including cerebellar abiotrophy, Cushing's disease, epilepsy, liver shunt and liver abnormalities, hypothyroidism and all our c~ncers grope for answers and ideas.
No wonder "registry" gets popular buzz. Canine health registries can help lower incidence of inherited disease in a breed-for complex multigenic diseases like hip dysplasia as well as for simpler recessive diseases like CMO.
"When will there be registries for Scottish Terriers?" Friends, they exist right now! Someday there may be others.
Developing other new registries is not simple. In the 1990s when Gail Gaines was chairman of Scottish Terrier Club of America's (STCA) education and health committee, she was maybe the first to investigate possible Scottie health registries.
Gaines learned that accurate diagnosis of dogs is paramount in any registry. Without that, registries mean nothing, and innocent dogs can be branded disease carriers.
The condition has to be something a veterinarian can diagnose!" explains Gaines. "That eliminates Scottie Cramp." Why? Breeders and owners diagnose most Scottie Cramp. The coming DNA test, however, would make a Scottie Cramp registry possible.
"I don't feel burning hot about registries now. They're more complicated than I thought. An epilepsy registry would be hard because of difficulty of diagnosing true epilepsy. One registry we can really use now though is vWD," judges Gaines. "If I'm going to breed to a dog, I'm going to ask for von Wi!lebrand's Disease DNA evidence. I offer it, too."
Gaines surely wonders: are breeders who don't discuss health issues, question health status, or track offspring likely to use health registry information, just because a registry exists?
Scottie vWD Registry
Gaines does use the Orthopedic Foundation for Animal's vWD registry. Red and Noah are two of her Scotties on it. Noah is, in fact, OFA's newest entry. "Dogs used at stud, I put on the registry. They can affect many."
Tony, Trevor, Brubeck, Cooper, Bucky, Hauser and Jack are other Scottie boys whose floossier registered names I ran across in the vWD registry. They, Red and Noah (among others!) do not carry the vWD gene. They are "clear." I headline the guys because male dogs often produce more litters than females, with greater impact on the health of a breed-good or bad. These boys have not produced vWD with any female! And will not!
OFA's vWD registry has 68 Scotties, all "clear." I am proud of every owner who has entered Scotties on the registry! Problem is the vWD Registry does not give the whole story. VetGen reports testing 1,007 Scotties since 1996. Others were tested during development of the vWD test. Only 6% of tested Scotties are on the vWD registry-none of the carriers or affecteds.
"We need to start somewhere, but it worries me that enough people are not using the vWD test, let alone registering the results," evaluates former STCA Health Trust Fund chairman Barbara DeSaye. Years ago she helped find and interest vWD researchers and with her Michigan club carried the fundraising torch to the wire. Like Gaines, she later looked into registries.
Registries can't exist without testing. Though a low percentage of all tested Scotties are on the vWD registry, still fewer Scottish Terriers are even tested. Only 87 Scotties were vWD tested in 2001 and 95 in 2002, years when the American Kennel Club (AKC) registered between 3,000 and 4,000 Scotties.
VetGen figures show that carrier incidence for vWD in Scotties is about 10%. Using AKC Scottish Terrier registration numbers (and there are many other Scotties bred!), VetGen's John Duffendack says at least eight or nine vWD-affected Scotties are born annually. I heard of a new one this week. At least 60 bleeders in the seven years we've had the test! All 60 totally preventable!
Reasons to Use Registries
To document disease status in individual dogs.
To assist healthy breeding decisions.
To provide historic records.
To show incidence of disease in a breed.
To provide peer pressure for testing.
To publicly reward those who value testing.
To assure buyers of decreased risk of disease.
To provide data researchers need.
To locate affected dogs and their families when researchers need DNA.
Registries differ in the amount of information they divulge. The more the better, indicates Dr. George Padgett, the canine geneticist who helped STCA develop its 1995 Health Survey, then interpreted its data.
Open, semi-open, and closed registries are the choices. OFA's registries started as closed ones, and OFA released only normal results. Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) is still a closed registry.
Open registries provide information on all properly diagnosed dogs whose owners submit releases. That includes affected dogs and carriers. Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals (GDC) pioneered open registries, and its databases are now at OFA.
Semi-open registries, which OFA currently uses, release test results as directed by owners. They are informed consent databases. Owners can choose whether to release affected and carrier results or only clear results.
Cairn Terrier registries for CMO, Legg-Calve-Perthes, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, globoid cell leuko- dystrophy and eye diseases were all open registries when at GDC. Westie's WatcH registry for CMO, Legg- Calve-Perthes and hip dysplasia have been open registries, too. Dr. Padgett advised Cairn and Westie innovators who developed these registries.
"Use an open registry," urges geneticist Padgett in the most underlined tones. "If it's not open, don't bother. When affected dogs are known, you can define carrier probability and risk of producing the disease."
CHIC is New
A newly emerging registry, one OF A manages for AKC's Canine Health Foundation, is CHIC. CHIC stands for CanineHealthInformationCenter. National breed clubs which participate designate desired tests for each breed. Thus far, 20 clubs use CHIC.
An important CHIC service still under development is DNA banking for blood samples of individual dogs. As research projects materialize, a club could release DNA from designated dogs. The beauty of CHIC banking is that the DNA from one blood sample is unlimited. DNA from the same dogs can be used in multiple studies.
Even if you build it, they may not come.
"We can't get Westie people to X-ray, so there is nothing to put on a registry! There've been no new ad- ditions to the WatcH CMO registry in four years," relates Anne Sanders, West Highland White Terrier Club of America president. The WHWTCA health survey of 1999 showed a carrier incidence of 22.1 % for the CMO gene in Westies.
WatcH is unique as a private health registry. With several other Westie breeders and Dr. Padgett, Sand- ers in the late 1980s founded WatcH. It never published lists of dogs, but for only $5 breeders could obtain a pedigree analysis giving percentage of risk for given breedings.
"Registries have been frustrating forme. We've tried the encouragement route. Now we are going to lead by example. Some Westie breeders who are winning are going to test and register," states Sanders. "I'm recommending our club go with CHIC."
Sanders says it so well: "Those people who are concerned and want to make a positive impact just need to do-it (test and use registries) and not worry whether anyone else does,"
Join me again next issue for more on registries. There are little known ideas about how registries can be used to reduce incidence of complex diseases, even cancers. I'll also explain how you can make your Scottie count for our breed by using existing health registries.
Until then, mark Sept. 5, on your calendar for the exciting Scottie eye clinic in Michigan. Once again, the innovative Scottish Terrier Club of Michigan is leading the pack. It is sponsoring the first CERF eye clinic for Scotties. If you're up north, take in the Michigan Scottie specialty Sept. 6, and have your Scotties CERFed the previous night at the show site by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist. Place: Burton, MI; Time: 6 to 9 p.m., Sept. 5; Price: $25 first dog, $15 each additional dog; Reservation, $10 deposit to Barbara DeSaye, 2702 Pensicola Ct., Lapeer, MI 48446; (810) 667-0942.
Why CERF your Scottie? In eight years (1991-1999) only 118 Scotties have had CERF exams. We know little about Scotties' eyes. CERF figures show about 58% of tested Scotties have been "normal." We need more CERF tests. The Michigan Scottie Club points the way for us.
Your Scotties, too, can be in the vanguard on health registries, wherever you live.
Additional reading: "Scottie Health Registries." Great Scots Magazine, November/December 1998.