Breeding code of ethics

Guide Dogs are committed to following best practice in the care and welfare of all its breeding stock.

We will always work to serve the best interests of each dog and believe that our dogs should all enjoy the care, respect and understanding that they deserve and require. We will never forget that our dogs are our partners in the work we do.

We recognise our responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and will keep abreast of current knowledge, always upholding the highest standards.

Guide Dogs does not require a license under the Animal Welfare Regulations 2018 (Schedule 1, Part 1 a) but adheres to all health and welfare aspects relevant to our operational methods and organisational structure.

Specifically, Guide Dogs will:

  • Maintain the best possible standards of health and quality of life for their breeding dogs.
  • Breed only from carefully selected dogs based on extensive analysis of behavioural and health data from ancestors, siblings, and progeny to ensure dogs are suitable for breeding.
  • Monitor genetic diversity within the breeding population and respective coefficients of inbreeding for individual mating pairs
  • Ensure breeding dogs are continuously checked for good health, free from infection and in good physical condition at the time of mating.
  • Ensure breeding dogs are selected using all relevant health screening processes, including genetic tests as appropriate and available, including hip, elbow and shoulder radiographs, eye tests and heart screens.
  • Ensure breeding dogs shall not be used where this could in any way be harmful to the individual dog or the breed.
  • Carefully plan all matings to primarily ensure optimal health and temperamental welfare of each individual stud dog, breeding bitch and their potential progeny, whilst taking into consideration organisational and breeding programme needs.
  • Not breed from any bitches once they have reached eight years of age, such that no bitch shall whelp a litter after her eighth birthday. No bitch will whelp before she is 20 months old, unless there are exceptional circumstances and then only if she is considered mature enough to raise a litter of puppies.
  • Ensure stud dogs shall be no younger than 18 months of age at time of first mating and aim to retire them before their tenth birthday
  • Ensure breeding dogs shall be retired at any age if this is in the best interest of the dog or the breeding programme
  • Rehome retired breeding stock with care and consideration to the individual dog’s well-being and welfare. This will normally be with the existing volunteer carer.
  • Consider a consecutive season mating only in the middle of a bitch’s breeding career, to ensure that litters are delivered at the peak of a bitch’s reproductive fitness. A consecutive season breeding shall only be considered providing a satisfactory veterinary assessment has been conducted.
  • Ensure that bitches shall have a maximum of 4 litters.
  • Ensure that all bitches that have required two caesareans shall be retired.
  • Ensure the transition from nest to the new home is as efficient and trauma free as possible.
  • Work closely and in consultation with The Kennel Club and observe, where appropriate and reasonable to do so, the current regulations and advice relating to breeding practices and welfare, including the Kennel Club’s ‘General Code of Ethics’

Additionally, Guide Dogs will:

  • Keep accurate breeding records, registration papers, pedigrees and contracts of all dogs it breeds.
  • Provide professional, timely and competent supervision and support of all volunteers attached to the Breeding Programme.
  • From time to time offer its stud dogs for use on external bitches in accordance with Guide Dogs’ current protocols. A clearly stated agreement on the use of such stud dogs will be agreed by both parties. 

This Code of Ethics will be reviewed annually to ensure it remains relevant, current and responsive to the latest thinking and research.

Guide Dogs will apply strict adherence to the Breeding Code of Ethics, unless in exceptional and unforeseen circumstances, operational and/or breeding programme/genetic need dictate a departure from the guidelines stated above.