Physical exaggerations in pedigree dogs can give rise to health issues. To identify trends towards exaggerations before they give rise to problems, the NKU developed the Breed Specific Instructions, BSI. Since 2014, the BSI is implemented in all five Nordic countries.
The ultimate goal of the programme is to influence the breeding of sounder and healthier pedigree dogs. Dog show judges can have a great influence on which dogs are selected as breeding stock, and therefore also on the future health and soundness of a breed.
Some physical exaggerations may have been preferred by show judges in the past and therefore influenced the choice of breeding stock.
The BSI aims to raise awareness among show judges of the possible health issues related to breed type exaggerations in pedigree dogs. The document should be used as a compliment to the breed standard and help show judges merit dogs with the optimal combination of breed type and soundness.
Selecting breeds at risk
The BSI currently lists 39 dog breeds. These breeds are all considered to be at risk of developing health problems due to various exaggerations.
The task to select which breeds to include was carried out in collaboration between dog show judges, breed clubs and veterinary surgeons. Areas of risk for each breed were also identified. Finally, health insurance statistics were used to verify the selection.
Using the Breed Specific Instructions
The BSI contains general guidelines for judging the health and soundness of all breeds. However, the main focus of the document is the areas of risk connected to breed type exaggerations and behaviour for the 39 listed breeds. It is important to note that the BSI contains recommendations, not rules, for judging show dogs.
Before judging a listed breed in a dog show, judges are informed of the BSI and asked to familiarise themselves with the document and the recommendations for the breed and breed group in question.
Show judges are asked to note the various BSI issues which they observe in their individual critiques of the dogs, and to account for their findings on a written form submitted to the relevant kennel club.
The future of the BSI
The BSI aims to prevent health problems due to physical exaggerations before they occur. It is still too early to say if the programme will be successful in this pursuit. Several generations will have to pass before a proper evaluation of the programme's success can be made.
However, one this is certain, the programme will require continued collaboration and dialogue between show judges, breed clubs and the central BSI group. There needs to be a consensus between breeders and show judges about the potential health problems caused by exaggerations in breeds today.
The Nordic Kennel Union believes that the principle of the BSI is possible to apply in most countries. However, the listed breeds must be decided nationally.