Health of the Breed
“its entirely possible to achieve a healthy dog with the potential to work in the field and equally be an loved member of your family. Don’t settle for anything less”.
At Huddlestone we take special care to breed only from healthy and fit dogs, we choose carefully to select those with good hips and eyes, and genetically tested to be free from PDP1 and EIC. We also look for good working ability, and nice temperament. In this way we ensure that our dogs are strong, healthy and biddable, and make excellent shooting companions, dogs you could compete with in working tests or field trials, or simply good companion dogs to be loving and loved members of your family.
With a very small population (around 200 puppies are registered every year, and often only half of these are from working lines) the Clumber spaniel does have the problem of a small gene pool. Those of us who are interested in maintaining the working type with its health advantages and trainability clearly have our work cut out! However it can be done by thoughtful breeding and a willingness to travel for the right stud or puppy.
A lot of heat and very little light is generated by uninformed discussion of coefficient of inbreeding (COI). We aim to ensure a downward trend in COI and to maintain genetic diversity by:- taking into account the relationship of the sire and the dam; avoiding repeat matings; and using pedigree analysis when selecting our breeding pairs. We are actively involved with the Working Clumber Spaniel Society and subscribe to its policy on health (See www.workingclumber.co.uk) which in turn is directly developed with consulting geneticists to the Kennel Club and the Animal Health Trust.
To be a responsible breeder for rare breeds requires a willingness to consult and listen to the people with proper genetic knowledge and it’s good to see that members of the Working Clumber Spaniel Society (WCSS) have unbeatable access to the latest advice. An example of this is the issue of Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) for which a reliable test has now been developed. The actual incidence of this condition is very low in the breed but WCSS has served its members by issuing clear advice to breeders. The guidelines come from the Society’s work with consulting geneticists skilled in the special factors which a rare breed presents.
Any potential owners are advised join WCSS to benefit from their properly researched view of the breed’s health and we’d urge buyers of the working strain to deal with breeders who have taken the trouble to maintain membership of the Society. It costs just £10pa, so why wouldn’t you?
As far as how the dog should look, we prefer to breed our dogs to resemble as best we can the original Clumber spaniels bred by William Mansell for the Duke of Newcastle when the breed was first established. This means our dogs are much lighter framed, and maybe more heavily marked than the Clumbers you might see in the show ring. We aim for tighter eyes, free from entropian and ectropian, and dogs free from slobber and drool mainly caused by exaggerated flews.
Be guided by the vast body of experience inside WCSS and the clear advice of the Kennel Club and Animal Health Trust geneticists working together for the good of the breed rather than short termism. Good working lines cannot be thrown away in an arbitrary manner in a gene pool as small as that of Clumbers.
An intelligent breeder will do the hard work, blending trainability and valuable working traits with health considerations such as hip score, COI and EIC – all with the long term plan of protecting a balance which has been hard won over 30 years of careful breeding. We advise you to seek out breeders able to demonstrate that balance. Working instinct must not be lost by blind focus on one element to the exclusion of everything else. Equally, the various tests now available to breeders are valuable tools and must be used to inform breeding decisions wisely.
If that all sounds complicated don’t worry (even though breeding from a small gene pool IS complicated!) The good news is that it’s entirely possible to achieve a healthy dog with the potential to work in the field and equally be a loved member of your family. Don’t settle for anything less.