Genetics and Partnerships: Creating the Best Working Dogs
Guide dog and service dog schools around the world face the challenge of creating confident, healthy, intelligent dogs. Schools that have a formal breeding program—like Southeastern Guide Dogs—face challenges of maintaining genetic diversity to prevent inbreeding. Schools without a breeding program often rely on donations from shelters or other breeders without the benefit of information about the health history and lineage of the dogs. This is where genetics and partnerships come into play.
Within the organized service dog community, collaboration became critical in the shared quest to improve the breeding and development of working dogs. In August 2013, Assistance Dogs International North America (ADINA) began operating the ADINA Breeding Cooperative, abbreviated to “ABC,” and Southeastern Guide Dogs became a foundation and host member in December 2013.
ABC strategically connects service dog organizations for the purpose of improving genetics and creating the highest quality service dogs for people with disabilities. By sharing and receiving information, puppies, and genetic materials from top quality breeders among multiple service dog organizations, Southeastern Guide Dogs creates genetic diversity in our colony of future guide and service dogs.
“The puppies we breed today are needed by our students two years from now,” says Zuhey Medina-Gonzalez, our Director, Genetics, Reproduction, and Puppy Care. “We rely on the strong genetics of our breeders and on the shared resources from our partners in the breeding cooperative.”
As a result of our amazing breeders, our data-driven breeding program, and our partnerships in ABC, we’re creating healthier, more confident guide dogs and service dogs that have keen abilities to process their environment and make good decisions on the move, even while encountering distractions from nature, traffic, pedestrians, and other animals.