Originally published in the AKC GAZETTE – November 2017
Welsh WAG - February 2018

In addition to always being vigilant about breed type, it is our responsibility as breeders to pay attention to those genetic problems that result in health or temperament concerns for our Welsh Terriers. If we fail to concern ourselves with genetic factors as we plan breedings, we could do serious damage, not only to our breeding programs but also to the breed on the whole.

If out of a litter of four you have one really good show prospect, and the other three are healthy, happy pets, you are doing well. To accomplish this, we must remain diligent in rooting out major genetic problems that show up even in the most carefully planned breeding programs.

Unfortunately, breeders don’t always take the time to openly and honestly discuss those problems when they exist in our dogs. For instance, when was the last time you heard breeders seriously discussing the occasional occurrence of esophageal achalasia that appears in a litter? This disease is not uncommon in all terrier breeds, as all the British terriers have similar origins and genetics. How often have you seriously discussed hip dysplasia, or Legg-Calve-Perthes disease? Hip dysplasia, for instance does occur in small dogs, even the toy breeds. Just because it is not as likely to cripple a small dog does not mean we should ignore it.

While nutrition plays a part in these conditions, the genetic implications are well known. As far as dysplasia problems, one factor just becoming important is the correlation between early neutering and higher incidence of dysplasia and other bone malformations. The recommendations are now that small dogs should not be neutered before 12 months, medium-size dogs should be at least 18 months before neutering, and with large dogs 24 months is better. Hip X-rays done by a competent veterinarian and submitted to the OFA for analysis are a vital tool for limiting the number of dogs that will develop it. However, if we don’t even discuss it or admit that we have ever run into the problem, we are doing the breed a disservice.

Lens luxation is another common problem in most terrier breeds. It is recommended that all breeding stock have a DNA test to find out the status of the dog. Some dogs are not carriers for this disease, some are carriers, and some are affected. Talk to your veterinarian and read the reports so you understand the genetics and can make logical and honest choices in your breeding stock.

Several types of heart abnormalities are also found occasionally in Welsh. Fortunately, there are clinics at many of the larger shows where certified clinicians are available to examine your dogs, determine if the dog has a heart abnormality or one of a number of eye problems, and either give you a clearance to send to the OFA for instance or tell you where you need to go for follow-up exams. The more you know, the better you can be in your breeding decisions.

In addition to health problems with a genetic implication, genes also play a major part in the temperament and trainability of your dogs. Within the breed there are certainly different personalities, and some noticeably different temperaments. Some Welsh are mellow, great lapdogs, and get along with most other dogs and most people. Others are more active and more demanding and do not necessarily get along with other dogs but are still tractable and well within the norm of acceptable Welsh Terrier temperaments. However, there are also Welsh whose temperaments are very soft, who are very noise-sensitive and often skittish, and whose coping skills in public, around other dogs, or with new people are almost nonexistent. On the other end of the spectrum are dogs who are dangerously dog aggressive, excessively noisy, and become aggressive when corrected. Neither of these extremes is typical Welsh temperament. Whatever the cause, genetics or environmental, I would consider these animals totally unsuitable for breeding. They may be actually too dangerous to even place in pet homes. Keep in mind, however, that bitches coming in season can have several days of very untypical behavior. I have found that this is most often noticed in the first or second season, and then does not appear in the mature bitch. Mature Welsh with unsuitable temperaments should be culled from breeding programs.

Remember, the future of our great breed is in our hands. Careful selection of breeding stock is vital for breed health, and those dogs who go into pet homes are the real ambassadors of the breed. We owe it to the breed to select and breed the best temperaments and the most healthy and sound Welsh Terriers that we can.

— Diane Orange,

Welsh Terrier Club of America

AKC Gazette – November 2017
Welsh Terrier Column
Reprinted with permission from the AKC Gazette