A collaborative effort towards better working dogs

We are excited to share with you that PADS is participating in a new program to raise selected puppies for possible export as young adults to be breeding dogs in assistance dog programs in Europe and Oceania.

Taking collaboration to the next level, Assistance Dogs International (ADI) is building upon the incredible success of the ADI North America Breeding Cooperative (ABC) over the past 8 years and launching two new breeding cooperatives – Europe (EBC) and Oceania (OBC), with all 3 breeding cooperatives operating under the ADI International Breeding Cooperative (IBC) umbrella.

IBC’s vision is to “provide a reliable and relevant puppy supply while exponentially improving service dog type”. In other words, making sure all member schools have access to sufficient puppies of guide and assistance dog quality to meet their needs.

As part of ABC and PADS’ commitment to collaboration, ABC will earmark some litters of puppies for potential international collaboration. Under this new initiative, ABC members will grow selected puppies to adulthood in their puppy-raising programs, and these puppies may then be selected as young adults to permanently join breeding programs in Europe or Oceania.

PADS owes many of its successes over the past 35 years to partnerships with other assistance and guide dog schools who have given us a leg up, whether it was Canine Companions for Independence providing an apprenticeship for our first trainer, Guide Dogs for the Blind providing breeding quality puppies to seed our fledgling breeding program or Guiding Eyes for the Blind providing training in standardized assessments, even when we had nothing to offer in return except our commitment that their gifts would help to provide assistance dogs to individuals who could benefit from their skills beyond the borders of their programs.

We pride ourselves on paying these kindnesses forward, providing mentorship to other organizations, donating puppies, providing stud services, and helping to seed ABC at its outset. This new initiative is just a further way for PADS to ensure the increased strength of all member programs, including our own.

“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” 

Virginia Burden

What does collaboration look like? 

We’d like to introduce you to a very special girl, PADS Jazz! Jazz is one example of the collaborative nature of ADI programs. Jazz represents a shift in status quo – from a model where it’s common to share puppies between schools, to sharing adult dogs.  Jazz was born at Guide Dogs for the Blind in Santa Rosa, California and donated to ABC who placed her with member school Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs. As a young adult, Jazz was selected by ABC as a breeder. In an effort to spread genetic diversity around geographically she was sent to PADS for her breeding career. This is wonderful news for us as she’s not related to any of our studs and for the cooperative because the puppies produced will be shared by all.

We’ve all heard of the perils of a high level of inbreeding. Moving breeding quality dogs around represents a tremendous opportunity to improve the health and temperament of our working dogs, but also keep the gene pools of all involved healthy and thriving. 

You might wonder why this is an issue with the volume of puppies produced at PADS each year, but we only have a few stud dogs here and some (like Pride and Rolo) are father and son, so many of our breeders are related and cannot be bred to one-another. By bringing in “new blood” it gives us so many more options for well-bred pups without the significant expense and challenges (logistical and biological) of either transporting chilled semen or bringing outside studs to PADS.

Why not continue to send puppies?

Within North America, it is common practice for us to exchange puppies, with adult dog exchanges, aside from short-term breeding rotations, less common. However, both Europe and Oceania have strict import requirements that make it difficult or impossible, depending on the country, to import puppies; the process of preparing a dog for export to one of these countries often takes 6 months.

The most impact is achieved if the dog who is exchanged enters the breeding population in the region it is imported to. Rather than sending a large quantity of younger dogs hoping that one or two may mature into breeders, holding exports until a dog is mature and health and temperament tested ensures that the dogs who do travel will make the most impact on the cooperatives they are joining. Sending puppies may benefit individual schools in Europe or Oceania even if they aren’t approved for breeding as they still may be suitable for placement with clients, however sending breeders benefits the regional breeding cooperative as a whole.

What will PADS and ABC be getting back?

One of the operating values of ABC is cooperation between cooperatives, and the belief that in helping one another we all become stronger. That being said, there are also tangible benefits to PADS and ABC of participating in IBC exchanges.

  • ABC member Susquehanna Service Dogs enrolled one of their personally-owned stud dogs in ABC, and he traveled to the Netherlands on a stud dog rotation 18 months ago, and got trapped in Europe due to COVID. Over his time in Europe he has sired a number of litters, and the European schools have been growing out potential breeding candidates to send back to ABC in North America. Now that some of these puppies have reached maturity, ABC will decide which candidates it would like to import back for ABC, which will benefit all ABC members with infusions of new bloodlines from the European schools.
  • As EBC and OBC become established with their own puppy supplies additional puppies will be earmarked for potential export to North America.
  • With male dogs selected for export, both the school who raised the dog and ABC will have a chance to use him at stud if desired before he is exported, and to freeze semen if desired.

How will raisers be selected for these potential collaborative puppies?

Litters with the potential for collaboration are identified before puppies go out to puppy-raisers, and raisers will be informed prior to accepting a puppy that it is a potential export. While this opportunity may not be for every puppy-raiser, we know many raisers will be excited at the opportunity to contribute on a global scale to providing assistance dogs to clients around the world.

What are the odds of a collaborative puppy being selected for export?

It’s hard at this stage to put odds on it, however it bears keeping in mind that nearly all of the puppies who enter puppy-raising currently are designated as potential breeders, and only a small percentage end up qualifying for the Breeding Program as young adults (about 6%). As with PADS breeding candidates, in many cases the whole litter of puppies will be in the running as breeders, with at most 1 or 2 breeders being selected.

Are schools compensated for the loss of dogs selected for export?

Currently, if a litter is earmarked as a collaborative litter, a school who is offered a credit puppy from that litter is offered a second puppy without it counting as one of the ABC puppies it is entitled to from the distribution queue. While the exact details are still evolving, it is possible that exchanged dogs will be replaced by a puppy from an ABC litter.

We are really excited about this new opportunity for collaboration, and for the benefits that it will bring to PADS over time.