Breeding Functional Working Dogs with Dr. Jessica Hekman

In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Dr. Jessica Hekman from Dog Zombie about Breeding Functional Dogs.

Science Highlight: Advancing Genetic Selection and Behavioral Genomics of Working Dogs Through Collaborative Science

What is functional breeding?

  • The population is no more at risk of X disease than the dog population as a whole.
  • Also prioritizing behavioral wellness over looks or closed stud books. No elevated risk of separation anxiety, etc.

What are common pitfalls breeding programs can run into?

  • Not bringing in dogs from outside of the population
  • You aren’t going to get to the goal and sit there – you have to keep working at it while you have it
  • “It’s not about the first generation, it’s about the population and the direction you are moving the population towards” – Dr. Jessica Hekman

What tests are mission critical?

  • It depends on the breed/mix
  • The very first step would go to the breed club and see what tests they recommends
  • Then start talking to other breeders in the breed and learn about what issues the breed has
  • For mixed breeds, you should test for everything each purebred parent should be tested for, but it’s hard to say

Links Mentioned in the Episode:

Pet genomics medicine runs wild

Where Do Good Dogs Come From

Where to find Dr. Jessica Hekman: Website | Functional Dog Collaborative

You can support the K9 Conservationists Podcast by joining our Patreon at patreon.com/k9conservationists.

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Transcript (AI-Generated)

SPEAKERS

Dr. Jessica Hekman, Kayla Fratt

Kayla Fratt 

Hello and welcome to the K9 Conservationists podcast, where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs join us every week to discuss ecology, odor dynamics, dog behavior, and everything in between. I’m your host, Kayla Fratt. And I’m one of the cofounders of K9Conservationists, where we train dogs to detect data for researchers, agencies, and NGOs.

Kayla Fratt 

Today, I’m super excited to be talking to Dr. Jessica Hekman from The Dog Zombie, and from breeding functional dogs. Welcome to the podcast, Jessica. We’re super excited to have you here.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Thank you. I’m pleased to be here.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. So we had a science highlight that we’re kind of working on together, I wrote out my own synopsis for it. But if you are ready, as one of the authors, I would love to have you kind of give us the, you know, somewhat quick rundown of this of this paper, which the title that I’ve got written down is “Advancing Genetic Selection and Behavioral Genomics of Working Dogs Through Collaborative Science,” which was published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science in 2021. So, yeah, tell us tell us about that research.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah, and note that I am fairly far down on the list of authors or I should say fairly, fairly towards the middle, which will let you know, I didn’t have a massive amount to do with that paper, I sort of helped organize, pulling together some really interesting work that other people had done. So the really interesting work from that paper came out of guiding eyes for the blind, which is a school that breeds and trains guide dogs, and has a fantastic breeding program, in which they have maintained really good phenotype data for many generations. So that’s both behavioral and health data. And then also, obviously, their pedigree data. And so then with such said, you know, as compared to like, any, say, a regular breeder, as compared to a breeder who’s an individual breeder, they have a much larger population, because, you know, they’re managing this big population of dogs to produce to support the dogs for the school. And so they have this really rich population that they can look at and do really interesting statistics on to try to understand things about heritability. So there was not, there wasn’t any genomics in this paper, we didn’t go do any genomic testing. But there was genetics in the sense that they were looking at pedigrees, and looking at behavioral and health phenotypes, and then looking at doing a classical haircut, a classic heritability analysis, where you basically put into the black box or the computer the question of given this large population of dogs, and here are the relationships between all of the dogs, then what does this tell us about how much of the variation in each of these traits is controlled by genetics versus controlled by environment, which is something that the guide dog schools care a lot about, right want to be able to select their optimal breeding, replacement breeding dogs early on and set them down that path early on, and and sort of know early on who, who they’re going to send down what path and so they use these calculations to do that. So this, this paper talked about how the school does that, and then laid out some some useful guidelines for others who are interested in doing the same. And then also talked about how, you know, not everybody has access to as larger population. And so then talked about the need for organizing around people coming together using standards and creating data across multiple groups. And the organization that’s doing that is the international working dog registry. And so this paper explains about that group and how to become involved with it. So that was sort of that was sort of what it was doing.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah. And it was, it was a really fascinating paper. I know, I heard you talking about it previously on other shows, and then actually kind of going in, and I think this was the first time I’d fully read it. It was it was really interesting. And I think, yeah, would you feel comfortable kind of expanding on anything? Again, I think we have a fair number of listeners who, maybe they’ve got one or two dogs that they might be considering breeding. Is there anything that we can take away on this small scale from this as far as like these estimated breeding values? Or is this really kind of a like, just go look at the International working dog registry and take it from there?

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah. I mean, I think the lessons of the paper are that when you are able to pull together large populations, that’s when this really becomes doable. And so if we’re talking about certainly IWDR is encouraging groups to come join them and use their behavioral testing standards. But that is not appropriate for every program, right? So you may have a program where the kinds of things you want to test are not the kinds of things that WD our standard tests are for. And so if, if you’re in that situation, I think the lesson of the paper is to try to work with others to take a population based approach. And that I, it would be ideal to be able to have enough generations of data to be able to actually use what you mentioned, the estimated breeding values. And I mean, that’s, but that’s a really big ask, right? I don’t think we can really expect that breeders would get together and be able to do that at least not in, in today’s world, maybe in the future. But that’s something maybe that we could look forward to trying to figure out how to do that. Those are the the lessons of the paper, I would say, but it definitely is the perspective of this, this group that is used to working with large populations. And so it doesn’t, it doesn’t address the problem as much of the smaller population, except in terms of like, we’ll turn it into a big population like and if you can’t really do that, it doesn’t it doesn’t offer you different solutions. I think we shouldn’t give up necessarily, but this paper is not the one to answer those questions, then.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. Yeah. Which I think it’s important to kind of recognize, yeah, the scope of a given paper and were able to read it and say, Wow, this is really cool. And, you know, in the conservation dog industry, I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s anyone who really has a breeding program focused on conservation dogs, and even if there there might be, there’s probably been a couple of letters produced with that in mind, but you know, and I know like, we’ve talked about this, like my dog niffler is intact, and I’m hoping to be able to breed him probably in a couple of years. And that will be a litter that’s very much so focused on detection, Border Collies, but a lot of people in this field don’t want Border Collies, so even even if I got if I made this my life’s work to make a conservation dog breeding program with Border Collies a I don’t know if there’s demand for that just on the amount of conservation dogs period, and be like, not everyone wants a border collie in this field. So it would be not necessarily applicable, but still a lot to learn from it.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah, I mean, I think there’s really interesting insights in there. I believe I haven’t reread it recently. But I believe it talks about things like their selection index. So how do you balance all the different things that you’re breeding for, right? So in your case, be breeding for a dog with an interest in I don’t want to say drive, because that’s a term that’s hard to operationalize. But you know, a dog that’s interested in working with you a dog that’s interested in using his nose to find things that you directed to a dog that’s not easily fazed by these surprising noises. Also a dog who can live well with you in your home who is healthy in various ways? Maybe you have particular interests in particular types of coats, you know, like sugar, really, you know, too much come might be a problem going out in the field? I don’t know. So how do you balance all of those things? And so that’s, you know, that’s one of the things that they talk about is sort of well rank them and see, which is the most important and then which ones are the most heritable as well, meaning which ones have the most to say about and then sort of figure out, you know, how to make your decisions based on that?

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah. And I think that heritability question is really important, because so much of at least, what I think about when I’m selecting a dog, are these really intense and varied, kind of behavioral questions that, yeah, there’s a lot of variability. And it’s really hard to figure out how heritable a lot of these things are.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yes, yes. It’s very, very hard when you I think, I think a lot of people may feel like they have a feeling for it in the particular group of dogs that they’re interested in, but I feel like it’s the kind of thing that it’s, it’s easy to have a particular perspective on a population and then start bringing dogs in from another population and get a surprise it’s, yeah. It’s ideal when you can do that study, but again, it’s a very big ask.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah. And everyone has different preferences for how their dog is going to work and what that looks like in this field. And I think that’s true everywhere. But I can imagine even comparing to like, agility breeders, like, pretty much everyone in the US is breeding for these certain traits within the world of agility. And you may have some different types of handler preferences. I’m not deep enough in agility to know. But it seems like there may be because conservation dogs is such a broad umbrella in general, it’s almost like saying a sport dog level of variability within just the one within just the one thing that I think it would be really hard to figure out what I want.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

I don’t know anything about what different agility breeders are breeding for. But I could hypothesize, right that some might, like dogs that work closer to you. And some might like dogs that look further from you. And some might be breeding with a real emphasis on super fast dogs and others might be breeding with an emphasis on more thoughtful dogs. Maybe not quite as fast, but that they feel like are more controllable. Sure, there’s just so I could certainly see how there could be –

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, well, actually herding would be a good example. I think it’s something that is kind of similar to conservation dogs, you know, you’ve got people who are like, Yeah, I want a dog with a really nice, natural, natural outrun or a really good flanking dog. I want a dog who’s good with sheep versus really good with moms, and you are ewes and lambs are? Yes, you know, versus a cow dog. I might have said sheep twice there. Yeah. So anyway, it’s just it gets really fascinating when we’re starting to talk about working dogs. And I think that kind of brings us to kind of more of the questions that I get, I think we might come back to this paper more throughout this interview. But how, how do you go without even defining functional for for this group that you’re you’re working with?

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

So what we do we actually go into this on our website, although it’s not I should make it more clear, I’m actually high on my to do list just rewriting the about us page for our website to make it to make it clear where the answer to this question is, because I get asked it a lot. But the way we ended up defining functional was that a dog has or that the the breeding population as a whole, whatever your breeding population is, has no more. No higher risk of any particular genetically based diseases than the population of dogs as a whole as a start. So for example, say you are a golden retriever breeder, and Golden Retrievers have a much higher risk of lymphoma than the dog population as a whole. And there are some golden retriever breeders who are doing a fantastic job of reducing the incidence of lymphoma for their Golden’s for their lines. And so it’s it’s lower compared to other Golden’s, but it’s still higher compared to dogs as a whole. And so we’re taking the sort of hardline stance as we compare to dogs as a whole, not within your particular breed. So for health, and then for behavior, we have a list of things like the dogs, as again, as a hoax, we understand this as population, we understand you’re going to have outliers.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

They’re living things, they’re not all going to be clones. But as a whole, the dog should, in general, sort of be able to interact with new situations, should not be particularly prone to anxiety and being left alone should not be particularly prone to severe thunderstorms, things like that. So it’s basically the description of prioritizing those traits above other traits.

So yeah, and prioritizing those traits above what I say above other traits, I mean, not just traits, like how the dog looks, but also traits, such as being part of a closed breeding population. So if you’re close breeding population doesn’t give you the ability to reduce the risk of a particular genetic disease below what’s normal in the sort of population of dogs as a whole, then we would, we would expect you to be breeding outside of that closed breeding population or to to bring that risk down. Or you’re welcome to continue to breed otherwise, but then would not be part of our definition, our particular definition.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah. And I think that question kind of came up actually, it was another Meg from Patreon asked, kind of, yeah, how do we define it? And, you know, I think one of the things that we think about a lot in the working dog world that I don’t think is dissimilar to the sport dog world and like my, my dog niffler is from kind of working sport combo lines, but not the sort of work I do. What we would define as mentally functional and successful in a home is not necessarily what, you know, the average American with 2.5 kids and lives in the suburbs would define as functional, and that it sounds like from your definition, that’s not necessarily really part of it. Are worried about energy levels and need to work and those things?

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Exactly, the place where we really struggled was with livestock guardian dogs. Having some levels of aggression to other species is part of their job. And so we didn’t, we definitely did not want to say and also living outside the home is appropriate for them. So we definitely didn’t want to make a definition that was so restrictive that dogs was certain kinds of jobs couldn’t be included, even though the job is an appropriate necessary job that that we read, we did specify there are some jobs that we don’t consider ethical, like breeding dogs to attack other dogs.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

And so those are not, those are not included. I forget exactly how we talked about aggression levels, but it was sort of, we tried very much to be thoughtful about livestock guardian dogs. We did not talk about energy levels, tried to focus really on welfare. And so I think our definition of functional didn’t discuss the match between the dog and the home. Yeah, but that is certainly a question that anybody should be thinking about. And it is something that the FTC grapples with for sure. But it’s not in our definition of functional. So I think it’s a really good point that you could have a dog who’s super functional in one home, and super dysfunctional in a different home. And that’s, I mean, that’s something that all of us as dog trainers have experienced.

Kayla Fratt 

Uh, huh. Yeah. Yeah. Well, and like, you know, thinking through like Kim Brophy’s legs model, like, the realm of breeding, the realm of the functional dog collaborative is kind of the genetic side, the chi of legs. And that makes sense, you know, the environment is not it’s part of the breeders job for sure to work on those matches. But that’s like the genetic question of what sort of dog we’re producing is a little bit separate from that is kind of following right?

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Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah, I think I think that’s right. I think that the way I initially envisioned the FTC was very much focused on the genetic side. And we have, we’ve really started to expand a bit. So we have an initiative to provide education for what we call puppy seekers. So our fantastic volunteer, Jacqueline George heads this up.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

So educating puppy seekers to help them understand that a lot of that focus is on finding breeders who do appropriate health testing and questions like that. But there’s also certainly some amount of Do you really want a Malinois? Maybe a Malinois was not the right dog for you? That kind of that kind of redirection as well.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. Yeah. And I think it makes sense to, to, you know, the world of dog breeding is so it can be such the Wild West, that, you know, trying to figure out, I mean, I don’t envy you as far as figuring out like, what are the low hanging fruit that we need to deal with now? And we want to start with, versus then also thinking like, yeah, in an ideal world, you know, here are all of the like, beautiful pie in the sky, things we could do to really help in this in the matchmaking process.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah, and I, I resisted embracing us doing any owner education at all at first, because I really wanted to focus on breeders. And I think, eventually, well, I mean, part of it was that Jacqueline came to me feeling passionately about educating the owner side. And, and I was like, great, you clearly are fantastic at this. But also, I came to realize that focusing exclusively on breeders actually sort of does breeders a disservice, because it’s helpful to them. If the people who are coming to them have some idea of what they’re doing, who to go talk to you what kind of dog is appropriate for them? Yeah, it’s helpful for a breeder too.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah. And again, kind of part of the ultimate picture of a functional dog. This is something that like, this, like, literally keeps me up at night, as I said, Niffler is 21 months old. He’s still intact. He’s starting to do some of his health testing to think about breeding. And one of the things that like keeps me up at night and tortures me is this idea of okay, he is so good. He’s so smart. He’s so well balanced. He has no big phobias. He works beautifully lalalalalala.

Kayla Fratt 

And then I look at him and I’m like, but the life I give him is so outside the norm? How do I know that if I just put him in like a normal sport home that sent him to agility class one day a week? He would be okay. And how do I know that the behavioral phenotype I see from him is actually good enough to pass on. And it’s not just a product of the training and the environment that I give him.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

I actually, it’s not released yet. But we actually recorded a functional breeding podcast episode about a lot of that stuff recently. So maybe by the time this comes out, too, but it’s it’s such a good question. I forget if we covered exactly this, but I remember at one point, some of us were talking about, you know, a lot of dog breeders live in suburban or rural areas, they’re less likely to live in urban areas, which means that even if they do a really, really fantastic job of socializing and training their own dogs, and selecting dogs who make great pets, if they’re selling to people in urban, you sort of more suburban or urban areas, how can they really know how their dogs do they’re, obviously the best way to do it is to look at the dog’s siblings, and previous puppies, and et cetera, and see how they are doing. So I guess that’s what I would say to you about Niffler is reached out to the owners of his siblings.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

But it’s, you know, how, how useful is that? So we’re talking about estimated breeding values. This is exactly where an estimated breeding value would come in handy. If you had that depth of information on Niffler’s pedigree, you should you could calculate it out. And you could come to see that the being a fantastic dog traits, haha, right? Sure, is majorly affected by genetics versus majorly affected by environment. If you saw that there was a strong effect of genetics, then you’d be like, great, I feel fairly confident that niffler is going to pass on some genetic material. Yeah, that will, you know, versus if you saw, Oh, this is this is really the variability is much more due to environment, you’d be like, well, he’s great, but I am not confident that I’m gonna be able to pass that on.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

So with estimated breeding values, where you can actually have enough dogs to calculate out a number, you can have some confidence and in the absence of those, we say what I just said, which is you go look at the the parents and the brothers and sisters. But there’s, there’s certainly a question of how valuable is that? If you’re just taking an informal poll and asking people, and you know, you’re not doing standardized testing, and you’re not eyes running the calculations. And there’s not that depth of pedigree where you’re testing 300 dogs, you know, how valuable is it to ask three owners about how their dogs are doing and have them just sort of give you a verbal? Like, I think he’s great. It’s, it’s a hard question.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, it is. And then, you know, on the flip side, if there’s something that you don’t like in a given dog, then trying to figure out like Niffler is not as 100% Perfect, consistent, never barky with strangers as I would like. So for example, a week ago, the belt tensioner on my van went, and I had to spend six hours unexpectedly, in a mechanic’s shop, and I had both dogs with me, he barked at one person over the course of the entire six hours sitting in a shop. Otherwise he just slept.

Kayla Fratt 

I’d I still, every time one of those interactions happens, I’m like, Oh, my God, he’s reactive. I can’t add that to the gene pool. And then, you know, I also you know, so and then I kind of go back and I’m like, “Well, he was raised on a farm in Idaho, he didn’t really get out for his first nine weeks.” Then when I had him. It was December in Montana, in 2020, during the pandemic, so he also did not have like, the most ideal socialization ever.

Kayla Fratt 

But the last thing I would want to do is make excuses and then bring a litter of puppies into the world, that do tend to be more flighty or nervous with strangers, again, especially kind of going back to what the FDC defines as functional. Border Collies already tend a little bit towards that nervous with strangers, reactive, whatever label we want to put out it, thing. So that’s, this is now turning into my, like, breeding existential therapy session.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

I was listening to talk and I was like, Oh, I don’t know what I’m gonna say, because that is a hard question.  And we certainly talk about you know, if that’s a concern, then you find a mate for him, who is very complementary in that direction, right.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

And, and I think the other thing is, if you’re trying to get a handle on, how bad is it? And you feel like it’s hard for you to assess your own dog, you could try to have someone else assess them. I think that’s an excellent idea. I think it’s hard to assess our own dogs. And I think you may be being a little hard on him because of your anxiety.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah, no, I do. And especially when I talk to his dog sitters, or friends who have watched that almost or like my mom, who has spent quite a bit of time with him, and it’s not in the dog world, and I’m like, “But Mom, you’re not in the dogbook T Facebook group, you don’t know how mean these people can be?”

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Well, that’s another thing is that when you breed and you talk about it on Facebook, there’s this expectation that she’ll be breeding the perfect dog every time. And I don’t. I think there’s almost this expectation, because no one has the perfect dog. But people recognize that if they don’t say their dog is perfect on Facebook, they will possibly be in for a rough ride. And so there is an incentive against transparency, I would say transparency is often punished on Facebook. And as we both know, punishment reduces behavior.

Kayla Fratt 

So similar to you know, we could take it to like the epilepsy question and Border Collies where there’s not a strong incentive to be honest and clear about the epilepsy that shows up in your lines.

And that is something that really should be showed, quote, unquote, that’s a hard word. But like, it should be easier to just kind of check a box and say yes or no, there’s epilepsy in my dog’s direct pedigree.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

It’s, I think, I’ve heard people say, basically, there is epilepsy near Border Collies lines, the only question is whether you know about it or not.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Speaking, as I just I actually, I think we have successfully diagnosed my border collie with focal seizures, which has been really my first time I’ve said that publicly. It’s just really been interesting that I thought I would have recognized focal seizures. I didn’t, my behavior consultant did, we put him on anti epileptic meds, and his behavior has started really changing. And I was like, well, he is a border collie

Like I believed for years that there’s something systemically wrong with him. And I tested everything I could think of and epilepsy was not on my list. I did not recognize that it could, it could appear that way. And so I guess part of why I’m saying that is that if you have a Border Collie, it could actually be having focal shoot seizures, and you might not even recognize.

Kayla Fratt 

can I ask how it presented in this way that like, because clearly it wasn’t what we think of when we think of seizures.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

So when I tell you what he does, you’re sort of I think the first the first impulse would be to be like, “Why didn’t you recognize that it’s weird,” but so I want to preface this with this is a dog who was bred in a puppy mill that had multiple USDA violations, okay. And he was sold in a pet store to people who surely did not understand Border Collies, he went to his first shelter at age eight months, his second shelter at age 22 months, and then came to me and did not really and I don’t think he knew any words, he knew no words, when he came to me. He’s a border collie, and he knew words. And he had so little muscle, he couldn’t jump up on the bed like he would come and cry to be lifted on the bed. So there was a lot to untangle with this dog.

Kayla Fratt

I can’t imagine managing to get to 22 months with a border collie and not having it know something.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

He doesn’t know something but I tried him on the name that he had that he came to the shelter and he didn’t know that and he didn’t know sit so like those are my go twos.

He learned his new name within a day. He’s pretty quick on the uptake with words. But I was given all that and then he had and then he just had this like he would be very very, he’d be hyperactive, but then he’d crash and he’d spent days or even weeks just being very depressed.

And anyway, so with amid all of this, when I was trying to train him, he would disconnect and look away. And it was very hard for him to make eye contact and hard for him to interact with me. And I don’t even have to say right you could see how there’s any number of stories for what that was. But the looking away and not interacting with the world turned out I now believe to be a focal seizure. Because when we put him on the meds it stopped.

Kayla Fratt 

Wow, I mean, I don’t think I would have recognized I would have immediately like my first thought would have been, “Am I putting too much pressure on him, is he stressed out…”

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

I did pattern games I did leaving them alone I did I exactly what I put too much pressure on him. And I do a lot of just like, I’m gonna say your name and throw food. That’s it, you know, all that kind of stuff.

I think I definitely was putting too much pressure. A lot of ways in which he’s more comfortable with my husband than with me. And I think a lot of that is because I have you ever. And my husband is just the guy who plays tug with him and take him for walks, and bike rides, but yeah, so it’s been fascinating. He’s gradually increasing ability to keep his shit together, hold themselves together much better now. It’s just really interesting. And I’ve just feel like his brain is much quieter.

Kayla Fratt 

I don’t I don’t think I would have recognized that immediately. Especially with a dog with that sort of history. You know, if we think about parsimony, there’s so many other things I would think of first given his or given his background. Well, thank you for sharing.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah, I never would have recognized that it was his behavior consultant, Sarah Stremming, who recognized that

Kayla Fratt

Yeah, shout out to Sarah, I was actually just thinking of the episode that she had with a dog with a zinc deficiency. And just

Dr. Jessica Hekman

Yeah, we were looking into that with him as well.

Kayla Fratt 

Oh, interesting. I mean, I hope I never need Sarah’s help. But if I ever have something I really can’t figure out. Yeah. I’m now pretty convinced that I will be going to her for anything when I’m like, I just really, this seems like it must be more than behavioral. Or it’s beyond my behavioral capabilities. And again, I hope I never have to but yeah.

Kayla Fratt 

Well, yeah, again, thank you for sharing that. Because that’s

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah, yeah. I hope I haven’t detoured us from conservation dogs too far.

Kayla Fratt 

No, it’s okay. We’re, I mean, we’re here to talk. We’ve, got dog nerds in the audience. So yeah, kind of, I guess we will go back to the FDC. Now, what are some of the things that you kind of see

as common pitfalls or traps or hiccups that breeding programs with, again, boy with a really highly specific goal in mind, can run into what are some of one of our some of our Yeah, pitfalls?

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

I think one thing that I learned from, again, from Guiding Eyes for the Blind that was really interesting, was when you said they are breeding for a fairly specific phenotype, a complicated phenotype, right, there’s a lot of different behavioral traits that they’re breeding for that they’re balancing. And they’ve done a fantastic job. And they have not that all their dogs have to be exactly the same, like they want some to be faster, and some to be slower, some to be larger, and some to be smaller, but they definitely have gotten to a point where in their breeding population they have, they are very close to where they want to be. And and you can like when you go and interact with their dogs, you’re like, Oh, yes, that is you can recognize that type. Yeah. And they, they recognize that they have to bring in dogs from other populations, every so often, to keep their genetic diversity up.

Because otherwise, they will have bad problems down the road. And they deal with that sooner rather than later. And they understand they’re going to take a phenotypic hit. So they know that the first generation of bringing in these dogs from outside is not going to be exactly what they want. And it may be that the other program is very good, that they’re bringing a dog in from but just that they’re breeding for something slightly different. And then it’s going to take them a while to breed back. Not that long, right? By the second generation there. They have what they want again, but they have to take that hit and they have to do it regularly. They cannot wait until they are in a hole and then start trying to like push the push the diversity and then because then you’re sort of because you have to you have to dribble it in and little bits throughout the population so that it mixes all through. You can’t just expect to bring in one new dog and be like okay, doesn’t work that way because you’re just breeding all the diversity right back out there.

Yeah, you have to bring it in. So they recognize that and I think that’s really hard for breeders, particularly when they get to the point in their breeding, where they’re like, Okay, I’ve been working on this for, you know, years, generations decades. And here I have, finally I have these dogs that are very consistent, and they are very much what I want. But, but you have to keep bringing in that diversity, or you will paint yourself into a corner and start having problems that you can’t get away from. So I think that’s the biggest pitfall is just to recognize that as you’re breeding you, you have a goal, and you’re not going to get to the goal and sit there. That’s not how life works, right? It’s always dynamic. And so you’re going to be getting to the goal and sort of circling around it and passing through it and going past and coming back again. That’s, that’s sort of more how you should visualize it, rather than like, I’m gonna get there and be done. And then I can keep just sort of producing animals that are the same. That’s not how life works.

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Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, that makes that makes sense. Yeah, and I’m trying to think so in kind of more of a small breeder scenario, that would look kind of like having your favorite couple lines that you tend to bring in from your kennel. Because I would imagine most people who have under 50 Dogs can’t really stay within their kennel no matter what you do.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah, that’s a good question. And I’m sort of thinking of it in terms of types within breeds to some extent, right. So if there’s so it may be multiple breeders and multiple lines, but they all sort of come together to be a certain type. But at that point, you are talking about a population that’s, that’s large enough that you can start sort of dribbling in totally or diversity. But that if you just sort of, you know, keep breeding to, you know, the best show dog that has champion herding lines.

And then Oh, my God, I’m now I’m struggling with epilepsy in my lines, where did it come from? Well, it came from the fact that everybody is gradually more and more related to each other.

Yeah, yeah. One, I can also imagine that being beneficial for like, I remember, I think it was again Sarah Stremming, she’s getting a big ol’ shout out on this episode. But I think she shared a really good I can’t remember if it was a graphic or a description of kind of the three different types of Border Collies as far as the working versus sporting versus kind of pet show lines. And I remember reading that, and one of the big things that jumped out to me from the pet and confirmation lines was, they tend to have much better food drives, they’re much more easily motivated by food, tend to be a little bit heavier bone, which maybe we don’t want as much. But I was like, Oh, actually, it might make sense for me to intermittently layer in a pet line Border Collie, because I hate the picky eating thing

Dr. Jessica Hekman

Yeah, you know, it’s a great point. So if you stayed within the is it the sporting lines, or the working lines that you tend to?

Kayla Fratt

So Niffler is kind of he’s actually a little bit of three way already. So he’s, he’s actually kind of nicely balanced. His pedigree is all over the place in a way that I think might turn some people off, but I actually kind of like he’s got everything from beautiful SAR dogs to kind of sketchy conformation, color breeders, which that’s the section we don’t love as much. But he does have pet breeders in there.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

So then that may be where you’re sort of getting his ability to remain interested in food, and then in the face of other stimuli. And you may also have him being more able to sort of be chill around the house. So yeah, I guess remembering that each of those lines has pros and cons. Yeah. And the point is that you’re going to Yes, you are going to bring in both the good things and the bad things when you bring in from another line. But then you’re going to select for the good things. Yeah. And against the bad things. And so it’s not about that first generation, it’s about the whole population and the direction you’re moving the whole population and and you’re gonna have to bring in good and bad and then select for the good.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah. And I think thinking through, okay, how do we match so that we’re getting something that we like, along with the obvious huge benefits of genetic diversity? You know, I wouldn’t just like even if maybe it might be easier to use a breed example, like, I wouldn’t necessarily just throw a Malinois into my lines. Yeah, even though like Malinois and border collies are both very popular in the line of work, I might be more likely to bring a lab in because a I really liked that food drive, be that friendliness, that stability, that kind of quintessential “labby” nature is something that, you know, in a really ideal world, it would be nice to end up with a little bit of that and some Border Collie lines, and then we can breed back to the size.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah. And remembering that that first generation may not be what you want as conservation dogs, but it will be something that somebody wants, they can they can make good active pets and sport dogs. And so, you know you Yeah, so it doesn’t we’re certainly not talking about just throwing puppies away.

Kayla Fratt

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve got a good friend, Ursa Acree, who used to be my co-host on the Canine Conversations podcast. She just brought home just like four or five months ago now a Shiloh Shepherd, Belgian Tervuren cross that’s part of the outcrossed project.

And she was like, “Well, I really liked her Tervs, but I’ve got a seven year old, so I wanted something a little bit less than Tervs can be.” So when she heard about this outcross project, she jumped on it and she really seems to be liking the dog, so yeah!

Patreon book club is in full swing. We just finished up detector dogs and sent movement by Tom auster camp and we’re about to start canine ergonomics, the science of working dogs. To join our book club for three bucks a month head on over to patreon.com/canine conservationists. We also offer monthly group coaching sessions for aspiring handlers, puppy raisers and pros, as well as a monthly rotation of free webinars, workshops and roundtables with experts. Again, three bucks a month up to 25 bucks a month, kind of depending on what level of support you want to give and receive. Check that out at patreon.com/canine conservationists. I hope to see you join us there soon.

Kayla Fratt 

We’ve got a couple of questions from Megan again over on Patreon. And she was really curious about kind of thinking about breeding for again, like temperament, which in this case will also take to include not just the dogs like affability and friendliness, but maybe their desire to hunt their desire to play their desire to engage with you all these quote unquote, drives that we can, can or cannot try to operationalize. How? How do you see good breeders thinking through that in their programs? And again, maybe are there any common pitfalls that you’ve seen?

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

So let’s try to figure out exactly I’m trying to figure out exactly what the question is. So how is it how do you breed for a particular trait? Given that that trait is it’s not like breeding for coat color, right, so it’s obvious how to breed for a black coat. But if we’re breeding for affability it’s harder. Yeah, yeah, I mean, I just you know, selective breeding so you have a litter and if you’re breeding for affability, so assume you are reading only for affability. And I’ll talk about the complexity of balancing everything next. So if you’re if you’re only rooting for affability, then you take the dog that is the most affable from the litter. And you breed that. And gradually you start moving the population in the direction that you’re wanting to go. And you recognize that it’s not a trait like black coat color. And so sometimes there’ll be a mistake. So sometimes you’ll take a dog, the most adorable dog from the litter and it’ll turn out that he was really affable because he has a really good socialization experiences as a puppy or because his mom treated him best or whatever. And that it was environmental less than genetic and perhaps what he has to pass on genetically. Perhaps he put then put doesn’t produce the affability that you want that you have to go back, and you know, sort of backup and sort of start looking for the right dog to breed. But essentially, that’s how you do it is you just keep, you know, breeding for whatever has whatever is the farthest along in the tooth that you’re looking for. And then the other part of that question, though, is that you’re never breeding just for affability. So how do you balance it?

And that’s, I mean, that is a big question, right? So you do have to sort of take a look, we know if you have a litter of five puppies, and which one are you going to take and this one is the most affable and that one seems to have really good interest in in food and that one has a great off switch. And all of those things are interesting to you and so you just have to do some amount of balancing like so. What did I select for in my last splitter? Have I been really pushing the affability thing hard for a while and having some good results with that, then maybe now is the time to make sure that I take a break from that and select the dog that has that really good interest in food to make sure that I don’t, don’t lose that.

So I keep coming back to guiding eyes for the blind. But I remember having a conversation about that exact problem of there’s certain things that it was very important to them. But if you focus only on those things, you’ll lose a few other things that will not as important, you don’t want to entirely lose. And so you have to have this, this balance of I’ve been breeding for this one thing for a while, and it’s been going pretty well. And so I’m going to start making sure to breed in some other things. And obviously, again, that’s much easier when you have multiple litters a year of multiple dogs.

So you have this large population versus, you know, the typical small scale breeder who might have one or two litters a year. And it’s hard to find the time to balance all of that and you have to take, you know, a couple of decades’ long perspective, which is, you know, another reason why I encourage people to not go it alone to get into groups work with other people. Trade puppies with other breeders and take more of a larger scale prospective working.

Kayla Fratt 

Yes. And no, I love that. And one of the things that kind of sprung into my mind when you were thinking when you were talking about you know, for example, this affability So say we’ve got seven puppies, and one of them is a 10 out of 10 on affability. If that isn’t, you know if that’s maybe your third letter when you’re kind of thinking about that trait, and we didn’t really operationalize it. So you know, listeners at home think about whatever you want for affability, because it doesn’t really matter necessarily how we define it here. You might be better off with the dog, who’s the seven out of 10, which is better than you know, maybe you were breeding away from a dog that was a four out of 10 or whatever.

But if that dog is a seven out of 10 is better structurally and has like the better food driver, whatever, you don’t necessarily always have to take the puppy in the litter that is the most extreme in the trait, but like at least a puppy who’s moving in the right direction might seem like a good way to do it. And then also, I mean, this is kind of where cones can come in as well, right? Like exactly, sending puppies out to zactly be raised and live with someone else and still have breeding access to them so that you don’t end up. You know, I know one of the things that like personally, I don’t ever really want to end up in a situation where I have like 15 dogs, which is still a really small breeding kennel. It’s still really, really hard to have the diversity and the depth that you want with 15 dogs. And there’s so many dogs.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah, definitely too much for my home. Yeah, I think co-ownership or guardian homes, however you want to look at it is a great solution to this problem. And it may be that you put dogs out on co-ownership And you never want to breed them. Because you know, who knows how they’re gonna grow up. But it’s nice to have the option so that that one that you’re like, Damn, that is not the dog, I should have sent away, I should have kept that dog having the option to say I really want to breed that dog. Once you realize that is really important.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah. And it’s, you know, it’s obviously easier with males, Niffler is on kind of an unofficial co owner breeding sort of contract with his breeder where I own him outright. But she very much that was interested in kind of having a mentoring hand with his his breeding future. And it’s so much easier to have those discussions with a male versus talking about a female where, you know, I would have to pause her working career and send her home and on maybe send her out to the breeder and welping is scary and keeping them in shape and so much easier. It’s so much easier. Oh my gosh. And like, I think I’m pretty well convinced after speaking to Kate Graham from Katalyst Kennels, that I would want a breeding female to still be a really good working dog. And I would want to test and approve her in the line of work that I’m breeding for. But you know, it’s it’s complicated. It’s hard.

So, I know we’re starting to run a little short on time. So we’ve got a couple more questions. I could talk to you about this all night. But we do both have other things to do. Another question from Meghan is what are some of the the tests for parents and for puppies that may be kind of mission critical? Especially kind of thinking broadly?

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

I know that’s kind of impossible to say, because obviously, there are some periods where like mitral valve disease tests are absolutely genetic, behavioral tests, she just says tests. I mean, it really depends on the right, or the mix. So I think the very first step would be to go in the case of a breed would be to go to the breed club, and see what tests they recommend.

And, and then not every breed club recommends all the tests that you might want to do. So then there’s, you know, the next step, I think would be to start talking to other breeders in the breed, and just learning a lot about the breed and what the issues are that that breed has.

For mixed breeds, it is such an interesting question, what, what the tests might be, and there’s two ways of thinking about it. One way of thinking about it is you should test for everything that both of the parent breeds have, in the case of a breach of a of a mix, that’s a cross between two purebreds. And so if you have a mix that has five different breeds in it, would you test, and a geneticist would say, well, that’s actually kind of silly for a lot of these tests, because a lot of them really depend on a lot of these diseases. And the markers that we found for the diseases really depend on the purebred background. And so if you’re testing outside of that, outside of the pure breed, the test isn’t telling you a whole lot. And, you know, so and let me take a step back as well. And say, certainly, if you’re just talking about, there’s some tests where you could just say, the dog is of a certain size, so it’s useful to test for hip dysplasia, right. Like there’s, there’s questions like that, that can be fairly straightforward. But in the in terms of breed specific tests, and testing mixed breeds. I think a lot of times, geneticists feel that all those tests aren’t necessary, particularly when you’re getting down to that there’s five different breeds or more in a dog.

And doing each of those breed specific tests is probably not all that informative. However, socially, it is still very challenging in many parts of the internet, to publicly talk about breeding mixed breed dogs, particularly multi generational mixes. And it is a lot better accepted by a lot of people. If you can say, look at all these genetic tests that I’ve done, I think it’s, it’s certainly very important to be very carefully ethical and responsible when you’re breeding mixed breed dogs because of the stigma, and one way to signal that you’re doing that is by doing a load of these tests. So it’s, it’s an interesting question right now, what the right tests are for mixed breeds? And I don’t think the question has really been answered. Yeah. And it’s, it’s different, really, depending on what your mix is. It’s different depending what your breed is.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. Well, and, you know, I would imagine a lot of a lot of projects, not all, you are still kind of within similar breed groups for your outcrosses. So that may keep it a little bit narrower can certainly help like if you’re outcrossing within herding breeds.

There’s certainly some diseases that you would that you would be interested in looking for. Yeah, I can imagine it may be slightly simpler, but you’re also getting a little bit less genetic diversity, if you’re breeding Border Collie to Aussie. Versus if you’re breeding Border Collie to pug?

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah, correct. Because there’s not a genetic test for epilepsy.

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Kayla Fratt 

Or compulsive ball chasing.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Really what tests I mean, I can’t I just can’t answer that without having all space.

Kayla Fratt

No, I think that I think that makes sense. And, you know, I think like for me going back to, if and when I’m thinking about breeding Niffler. I would probably at least for the first couple litters be staying within Border Collies, I’m not closed off to the idea of kind of sport working mixes, but probably just for simplicity and kind of knowing what he’s producing. It would be easier if the first litter or two were also Border Collies, you know, obviously, the health testing within the breed isn’t as much of a complicated question, but knowing that it’s not likely that I’m going to have a lot of intact working conservation detection dog Border Collie bitches that I can choose from, you know, I will probably be doing what I can to like really get out and get to know them and see what sorts of work or you know, ideally, it would be looking at again, like given that I might not be able to find a conservation detection on like a wilderness search and rescue dog or a female dog would probably be my best bet. Yeah, but I’m not closed off the idea of an adult agility dog.

If we can look, you know, I don’t know exactly what questions I would be asking or what I would be thinking about. Because it is also, you know, and this is a little bit different and not quite Meghan’s question, but I’m like, as the stunt dog owner, yes, I want to be picky. And yes, I want to be careful about what I’m producing. But it’s not. It’s not really all that much skin off my back if someone wants to use Niffler to make a litter of agility puppies.

Dr. Jessica Hekman

Again, it’s because he’s a boy

Kayla Fratt 

If he were, if he were a girl, it would be different. But yeah.

Dr. Jessica Hekman

Yes, yeah. And especially because you’re not going to have as like, as many litters.

Kayla Fratt 

So I think, last question before, maybe we can kind of circle and round out with some FDC stuff is, what are in this is related, you know, we’ve got so many new tests coming out, and so many health tests and so many different companies. How do you, if you coach people on this or give advice? What are some of the advice you give people as they’re thinking through these tests? And you know, is more testing always the right choice? Is that always better?

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

So there’s so first of all, there’s this differentiate between the two different kinds of tests that you might do to other kinds of health tests, right. So there’s, there’s health testing, like doing radiographs to look for hips and echoes to look to look for apps to see if the dog has apps.

But those sorts of tests versus a genetic test to look for a marker for a disease to predict whether the dog is going to develop a particular disease in the future? Or has that disease already. And so the genetic tests are the ones that are new and interesting to people. And you can go get a panel and for one price, you get, you know, hundreds of tests, and how many of them are useful and people are advertising things like my dog is clear on every test on this panel. But how relevant is that if the dog is a purebred? Does that just mean that most of that panel is for other breeds?

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah, so it’s, it’s a really interesting question of how much to how much faith to put in these tests? And the unfortunate answer is that it really depends on the particular tests that the different tests have different stories behind them. And some are going to be extremely predictive. And some are not going to be extremely predictive.

And most of the genetic testing companies should be pretty good about answering those questions for you. So when you call them and say, you know, my dog tested positive on this particular test, what does that mean? Most of these companies should be willing to put you in touch with an expert, who will talk through what it means for your dog, and potentially, hopefully, for your dog’s breeding program. I know they’re definitely more prepared to talk about whether you know, how likely does this mean that your dog is going to develop X disease? They should be also have some ability to talk about how likely is your dog to pass on the risk for X disease? So I would I would go there to get those questions answered. I would not go to your private practice your general practice, veterinarian. So they are not trained in this at all.

And I would also suggest that there is an excellent paper, which I am blanking on the head view, and I had talked about it right before.

Kayla Fratt

Here. I’ve got it pulled up it is pet genomic medicine runs wild.

Dr. Jessica Hekman

Yes. That is an opinion paper by three, three people who are some are geneticists, some are veterinarians, about basically about the state of pet genetic testing, genetic health testing, and what some of the pitfalls are, and sort of how to how to think about it and how to approach thinking through particular tests.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah, this is definitely I think you we were saying before we got on, I might just have to give Eleanor Carlson an email and ask if she wants to come in. Because yeah, I would love to talk more about this because I like I know this question. Megan, again, from Patreon asked she has so many good questions. And then I like check my podcasts analytics. I’m like, I’m know you’re there, I know you’re listening.

Anyway, so Meg asked to this but I was I was thinking about similarly, so I to tell a little bit of a story. Again, we’ll keep picking on Niffler. We haven’t talked about barley at all because he’s neutered, it’s no fun. Niffler I was brushing him and doing a tick check the other day. And I found kind of for like the 10th time, this little patch of fur on his ribcage. And he’s a blue merle. So he’s mostly white and gray with black splotches. And then he does have tam points. So he also has some tan mostly on his cheekbones, and then kind of in his elbow, armpit area and the back of his thighs, just for a visual for anyone who hasn’t seen him.

But as I’m kind of brushing him, I find this other patch that is kind of a much darker, brownish color. It’s almost black, it’s very hard to see. And I was like, Is this tweet? Am I looking at tweet here? It doesn’t really matter for breeding. Other than it’s just interesting to know if that’s something he potentially is expressing and therefore maybe could potentially produce depending on who he’s matched with. So then I started going down this rabbit hole of okay, so paw print genetics seems like they’re the only ones that will test the moral allele length, which is the question we’re asking when we’re asking if a dog is Tweed. And then I kind of opened up their thing. And they were like, Okay, so here are the border, here’s the Border Collie panel, there’s the basic and then there’s the extreme or, you know, whatever it isthe super, super special. I there was like 50 tests on there. And it was pretty expensive.

And, you know, the first thing I did was then kind of start going out to these other border collie breeders that I consider mentors and being like, Okay, do we do? Do you guys just do these panels? Because it seems kind of expensive? Or is it actually cheaper to kind of do the panels versus picking out a hawk? And it’s so overwhelming. And again, it seems like if I had more money, it would be easy to just kind of throw every test at the wall or throw Niffler’s spit at every test, I guess.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

But it also backfires if he tests, you know, positive for a risk factor for something that you’re concerned about. And it turns out that the test is not actually relevant to him. But it just came up, because you were testing for everything, everything.

Kayla Fratt 

Well, and the other risks that I was seeing is I was like, gosh, if I spend this much money on all these plus his OFAs, plus his PennHip, plus his blah, blah, blah, you know, elbows, shoulders, heart, ears, eyes, like, you want to do a good job health testing, but I’m like, God, we’re gonna have to start charging 10 grand per puppy. So just to recoup costs here.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Yeah, so what’s important and what’s not important, I’m sorry. Now I’m starting to visualize people listening to this and saying, you know, Jessica is advocating against health testing. And that’s not what I’m saying, I am a big advocate for health testing, I do think it’s important to take a step back, take a look at what’s in the breed and test for that. And I recognize that people don’t have infinite amounts of money.

Health testing is expensive, and is something that you should be doing or not. Now I’m not talking to UK law, but to people’s, in general, it is definitely something that you need to budget for when you’re planning on breeding a dog. That doesn’t mean you need to do absolutely everything, it means you need to do the things that you have some reasonable amount of risk for and that involves some amount of research into the breed. And, and doing your own research. Right. So there’s certainly breeds how not to give one in particular right now. But I know I’ve been told by various people, Oh, I’ve been X breed. And the general recommendations are to test for these things. But I see a lot of this other thing in the breed and people don’t test for it. And I, I feel like I should be testing for it. Because it’s really important to me to breed away from that in my lines. So not so certainly the place to start, again, is to go to the breed club and see what they recommend. And then to talk to other breeders and see what they recommend and start to build up an understanding of what most people in the breed tend to test for. But then to also come to your own conclusions of looking at what what is in the breed and are there some things maybe there’s some things that everybody is testing for, that you really no one’s coming up positive for and you really don’t need to test for it, versus maybe there are things that no one’s testing for but you’re actually seeing them in the breed and you feel that it’s important to test for it.

Again, I will caution that if there’s something that everybody’s testing for and you really don’t think there’s any need to test for it. Recognize that if you don’t test for it, you will get blowback. There will be people who are saying the only reason you’re doing this is because to save money, and you’re an unethical breeder, and so if you choose that routes, make sure you have a lot of documentation, and you’re very clear about why you’re doing it. On the other hand, if you are adding a test, pretty much no one’s gonna complain about that. Yeah. Except for your pocketbook. So Right. Yeah, that’s very true. And yeah, I know. One of the yeah, there’s, there’s just so much to think about. And I appreciate kind of the nuance here. And it’s hard. Yeah, because there are so many different breeds available. And so many different things. It’s, you know, it’s like, yeah, sure, we can say that. Almost everyone’s going to want to have hips checked. But beyond that, you’re just going to have to spend some time on the computer and figure it out.

Kayla Fratt 

I’d potentially even knowing what’s possible in your own lines, or I know, I’ve seen a couple of breeders that, you know, if they’ve got a litter where a couple of puppies again, and Border Collie kind of have more white on their heads than you would like. They don’t necessarily test every litters eyes and ears. But they did with that litter because the white hats correlate with deafness. Yes, exactly. So exactly. So that there’s not a an answer. For every dog in the breed. There’s an answer. There’s an overall sort of breed recommendation, and then having specific, you know, for specific lines or specific letters, you may make some have some additions. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So Well, Jessica, thank you so much. Do you have anything that you want to bring up about the FTC, anything you want to promote anything that’s coming up that we should know about?

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

Nothing in particular, that’s coming up. But I we always love having new people joining the functional collaborative. So I would, I would put people who are curious about knowing more to go to functional breeding.org We have links to podcast episodes, which is a great place to start. And then of course, the Facebook group where there is a lot of conversation and a lot of people from all different perspectives mixing. So it’s a really interesting group where there’s, there’s breeders breeders with with a variety of goals, and including purebred breeders, mixed breed breeders out crossers, and then a lot of dog trainers and dog owners who are interested in the world of breeding, learning about it, sort of participating in culture change. So I would love to see more people come and join and participate. And we always need volunteers too. So get in touch. If that’s something you’re interested in doing.

Kayla Fratt

What are some of the volunteer tasks that people might be excited about? Trying out?

Dr. Jessica Hekman

Yeah, so right now we are trying to we are we are successfully in the middle of spinning up a new social media.I want to say campaign because it’d be sort of an ongoing project of having a, we’re developing content for our Instagram feed so that people would be able to follow that feed and get nuggets of information about breeding and finding a good breeder and socializing puppies, and information like that shared on Instagram. So we’re developing that and that kind of thing can be We love having people come help with that. And it can be anything along from like, Yes, I’ll help posts or a help to the design, or help brainstorm content all the way along to just like I have good organizational skills, and I’ll help keep track of, you know, what that where the project is, and who needs to do those, those kinds of things. I actually am looking for a volunteer right now to help with some sort of, you know, paperwork, governmental type stuff, which would involve doing some research on the internet and coming back and saying, here’s how you jumped through these organizational hoops that so that kind of thing.

So if you have skills, we can use your skills if you don’t have skills, but you’re good at everyone else, guess what if you don’t have specific skills for us, and but you’re, you know, you’re sort of good at organizing or doing that kind of stuff, then we can use that too.

Kayla Fratt 

That’s great. Yeah. And I know like I’m so glad that FDC exists. I am really excited about a lot of what’s going on there and like if people haven’t listened to your podcast episode, a podcast at all yet, like your episode with Trish McMillan about where dogs come from is probably my favorite podcast episode of all time. I think you I think about it all the time I like I actually haven’t listened to it for like a solid year. So I probably need to go back and listen to it again. Because it just it rocked my world. It was so good. So if people haven’t listened yet, maybe start with that episode.

Dr. Jessica Hekman 

I’ll tell Trish! It’s a good one for sure. And if people are listening to this podcast that you and I are doing right now, and you’re interested in learning more about like guide dog breeding programs and the international working dog registry, we have episodes on that as well, the J there’s a Jane Rosenberger episode that is about all this kind of stuff. And there are two Eldon Layton episodes, which are also about all this kind of stuff and a lot of interesting information. So the paper that we started out discussing a lot of the information from that paper is in those episodes, so I would also recommend those.

Kayla Fratt

Well, excellent. And we can, we’ll make sure to link those specific episodes in the show notes in case people are struggling with the search function on their phones. So we’ll try to make it easy for everyone. Well, Jessica, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. And for taking the time. I really appreciate letting you pick letting you letting me pick your brain about all things working dog breeding and functional breeding problem. It was great. You guys had great questions. Yeah, yeah. And it’s, you know, we could have gone all sorts of other directions as well. So again, I appreciate it. We tried to keep it short. For everyone at home. Thank you all so much for listening and joining us. I hope you learned a lot and you’re feeling inspired to get outside and be a canine conservationist in whatever way suits your passions and your skill set. You can find those show notes we mentioned donate canine conservationists buy a cool sticker and join our patreon for our book club and monthly coaching calls all over at K9Conservationists.org. We’ll talk to you next week.