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Working Dogs and the Secrets to Success: Right Breeding, Right Training and Right Health Regime

Working Dogs and the Secrets to Success: Right Breeding, Right Training and Right Health Regime

Helen Bull, MA VetMB BSc MRCVS of Molecare Pet Vets discusses…


The health of any dog is reliant on good breeding. Understanding the breed helps to select the right dog. Moreover, get the parentage right and most dogs will go on to live long and fulfilling lives. Knowing the parentage of working dogs or at least being able to trace the parentage is vital to selecting the dog that best suits your needs. The Kennel Club have the most thorough database of canine lineage and work hard to promote health screen schemes, all with the objective of improving the canine health. As working dogs are generally pedigree in nature, each breed will have a list of breed specific conditions to be mindful of, many of which will have an associated screening scheme.


Vaccines are a vital and safe way to prevent some horrific diseases. Working dogs are just as exposed as pet dogs to diseases that we can easily prevent through vaccination. Leptospirosis from rat infested waters and kennel cough from close proximity to other dogs on shoot days are just two examples. Vaccination in puppies should start from 8 weeks of age and consist of 2 vaccines 2 weeks apart. Annual vaccinations are vital. The reason for this is firstly, immunity, ie. the protection to Leptospirosis is reasonably short lived in comparison to some of the viral diseases we vaccinate against. Without annual vaccines to protect against Leptospirosis, the risk of clinical disease increases dramatically. Likewise, the immunity to kennel cough is similarly short, thus requiring an annual booster. Annual vaccinations also provide an opportunity to have your dog checked over. With many conditions, the sooner problems are addressed, the more favourable the outcomes tend to be.

Parasite Control

A thorough parasite control plan should always be discussed with your vet and implemented throughout the year as required. The parasites to consider tackling are: fleas, ticks, mites, roundworms, tapeworms and lungworm. Unfortunately, there isn’t one product that will cover all these bases, so a combination of products could be required. Which products are chosen should be based on a thorough risk assessment in conjunction with your vet. With the flea life cycle being mostly in the environment rather than on the back of your dog, just using a flea product on your dog will likely be insufficient to tackle a flea infestation. A two–pronged approach will be required, which should include some form of environmental spray on the carpet or in the kennel.

For many working dogs, ticks can be a real pain. Not only can they be irritating, they can also carry some nasty diseases, ‘lyme disease’ being the most common. Products to tackle ticks range from collars to tablets being taken monthly or three monthly to spot onto products to be applied to the back of the neck monthly. Some products claim a degree of repellence, stopping ticks attaching, whilst others require the tick to attack to get a lethal dose of the applied medicine. It really is which product you feel most comfortable in applying or giving.

In terms of mites, there are a number of concerns for working dogs. The first mite that comes to most owners’ minds is Sarcoptic Mange. The second common mite is Otodectic Mite or the ear mite. This mite can be effectively controlled with certain drops on the back of the neck. The final mite of concern is the Demodex, although this mite is reasonably rare in fit and healthy dogs.

Finally there are roundworms, tapeworms and lungworm. Lungworm resides in the blood vessels of the heart and lung. Not only an it cause coughing, it can have some fairly dramatic impacts on your dogs ability to form blood clots, which can be fatal.

Should your working dog be around livestock, it is important to ensure they are regularly wormed. Dog tapeworms infect sheep and can condemn carcasses unfit for human consumption. Certain dog tapeworms can also infect humans and so pose a human health risk. Certain roundworms can infect humans, especially young children. The risk of lungworm can be reduced by either using an appropriate month spot on product or tablet are recommended by your vet.


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