The Karlton Index


“ Every dog to enjoy a healthy, well adjusted, long happy life”.

The first thing to be said is that its a pity I feel the need to do an introduction to something which has been running for so many years now. It has the approval of the Kennel Club and respected bodies who seek improvement in the health of pedigree dogs. Its simple, well led and not profit motivated. However, I mention the Karlton Index in the Basset Fauve de Bretagne “ world” and  am meet by a puzzled stare, followed by in other cases a look of disdain or complete lack of interest. What is this Index, and why should we (at least) know about it?

Phillipa Robinson is a member of the CIPD and holds a Masters degree in Human Resources management, where she has done award winning work as a consultant.This was my field ( strategic HR, Business Partnering) before I retired, and probably why what she says rings with such resonance for me.

Business management, and in particular business improvement, is no mystery. It can be used  to transform more than just profitability, staff retention, any of the other things which matter in organisations. In Phillipa’s case the poor health of her own companion dogs ( genetic disorders) and the ignorance of breeders and breed committees about health issues led her to transfer her skills set to the world of pedigree dogs. Coming close on the heels of the “ Pedigree Dogs Exposed” TV programme, it has rightly been seized on by the more pro active breed councils and committees and KC “ management” as one of the tools to help us out of the worst dangers of “closed registry” ( pedigree) dog breeding. Some breeds are in a worse state than others and the BfdB in a far better place than most – but thats no reason for complacency.

You will need to Google the Karlton Index to obtain the detail, the website is an excellent place for a visit with easy- to – follow slide shows and other content to help you move on once you understand the concept. First grasp the idea  “ Measuring progress in dog health”. Its an easy framework for a breed to get to grips with. Break it down into stages, and its simplicity itself.

  1. measure progress
  2. look around -what breeds are doing the most to ensure the future of their breeds?
  3. which breeds are making meaningful improvements in health issues?
  4. which breeds are avoiding serious health issues ?

A breed does this through a four point plan across the following themes:

  1. Leadership and strategy
  2. Communicate and engage ( with owners and breeders within the BfdB community)
  3. Participation ( of owners, breeders and other interested bodies)
  4. Evaluate impact.( through surveys, or through asking those who have the information).

These cycles can be gone through over and over again, and measured each time. Did I mention the cycle of continuous improvement? In most workplaces there will be something like this.

There’s a sixty point scoring system which Phillipa ( presumably, with help!) completes bi- annually based on information from every breed listed by the Kennel Club. The BfdB breed scored nothing out of 60 the first time the K.I. measured it in 2011. It scored 6 points out of 60 in 2013. We scored nil points for leadership on both occasions. Leadership in this context means the breed club as a body.

2015 is upon us and all breed clubs have been sent the first part of the process for the next measurement, a questionnaire. The next full scoring will be in Summer 2015. If we are to show an interest in the breed’s healthiness and progress towards ever more “fit for purpose” hounds we need a strategy, as the BfdB Club doesnt have one. Its enthusiastic breed health co ordinator Steve Cole has run a questionnaire about breed health, which scored us a number of our 6 from 60 points in 2013. Its main theme was the lifespan of our hounds and common problems. Very positively the results showed that the breed lives on average for longer than had previously been thought. Following on from  the questionnaire there was communication ( by Steve in a talk at the last AGM, and articles in the “ Fauve News” breed members magazine ) .Owners raised skin problems as an issue, and an article about general coat care was issued.

There is a perception that we have healthy happy little hounds and nothing much to worry about, and this is true. However…….. I have bred 53 puppies in the last ten years and although this is the statistical norm for me too, there are “ outliers” who have developed problems. In my early days I reared a litter for another breeder which contained three puppies, two monorchids and an overshot. The two dog puppies grew up to have skin allergies. This was an inbred litter – half brother to half sister- were their problems a co incidence? One puppy I have bred has developed meningitis, and her specialist said “ he was hearing of more of this in basset fauves”. I have heard of none other than my own bred hound, so reported this to the breed’s health officer, who has had no reports of cases either. She might be a one off, or might be an example of what different breeders could be having reported back to them – but if every breeder only has one,  and doesnt talk about it, they wont think there is a problem. Hence the importance of communication, so the breed’s “centre” discovers what is happening across all its breeders and owners. When it knows ( and measures) different health related problems it will be in a far better place to advise its community, and can be pro active in speaking to those experts who might be able to research and help.

A quick digression into another breed, which I know well. There was a single stud dog who was an acknowledged carrier of PRA in the UK back in the 1990s, and that line was treated exactly as the geneticists recommended at that pre- DNA testing time. As a result, PRA did not gain a hold, there hasn’t been a blind hound bred for many years. Communication, participation, keep under review. Remember the themes of the Karlton Index? It works.

At every committee meeting Steve gives a health report, which includes the numbers of conditions reported to him that quarter. He’s only reporting on me, as either every breeder has 100% healthy fauves with happy owners, or people aren’t wanting to share, since no one tells him anything !. As another initiative ( mine again) has now turned up 7 fauves affected by epilepsy in the UK I rather doubt its the former. I’ve yet to breed one with this condition but the more I learn about it the more I feel luck has been on my side, so far.

Tragically most of the people who contact me about different health issues because of this blog say “ my breeder didnt want to know”. The least our pet owners need to know is who to contact, and that person is the Breed’s Health co ordinator Steve Cole ( see BfdB website for his contact details). He wont be interested in the pedigrees or names of breeders, as there is nil fault in any breeder producing any condition if they were unaware it existed. What he will be interested in, on the breeds behalf, is patterns and trends – especially emerging ones. He may well still be reporting on tiny handfuls of problems, and thats great, but they should not be ignored as each individual report could add up to an issue we need to think about.

The lay person can go into meltdown when they see the word “ strategy”. Can sound a bit complicated. Below is the strategy of the K.I’s  award winners for “ most improved” in 2013, the Bloodhound. The excellent David Gore and his committee have gone into some detail, they have a breed with lots of problems to address, but it boils down to the following:


It is the aim of the Association of Bloodhound Breeders to encourage breeders to improve breed health with the following goals, whilst fully considering all aspects of the Kennel Club Breed Standard and the working functionality of the breed:

ï To maintain genetic variation by increasing the number of sires and dams used

ï To continue to make use of imported bloodlines, ensuring best use is made of imported hounds providing they meet all other requirements

ï To increase the level of hip scoring from 4% of the population to 15% of the population in the next 5 years

ï To continue to reduce the average hip score for the breed over the next 5 years by not breeding from high scoring hounds

ï To increase the level of elbow scoring from an estimated 12% of the population of UK based Bloodhounds to 20% of the population in the next 5 years

ï To reduce the average elbow score over the next 5 years by not breeding from high scoring hounds

ï To reduce incidences of skin disorders by not breeding from any hound receiving treatment for any chronic skin disease

ï To reduce the incidence of eye disorders by continuing to encourage breeders to screen for serious eye defects and by not breeding from affected   hounds

•To reduce nervousness and aggression in the breed by not breeding from nervous or aggressive parents”

The Bloodhound Club’s strategy is a good one as its clear, time related, measurable and communicated to its participant breeders. Any BfdB strategy could well be a very short one as we have so little to worry about – no fears about aggressiveness, hip or elbow problems, for sure. However, perhaps the strategy could include asking breeders to think about the Co Efficient of Inbreeding before they mate their hounds “ the old fashioned way” to purely breed for good looks or winners. The Kennel Club has made this easy for us ( see “ Mate Select”) and because many breeders have imported fresh bloodlines in the last five years or so, it should be easy to find less related hounds to breed together.

We know the BfdB breed is long lived. Our hounds regularly live to over twelve and we can prove it. The vast majority are generally incredibly fit and healthy.Fauve mothers whelp easily without inertia.  Veterans stay fit and healthy into advanced old age. Perhaps all we need to do is measure and celebrate this better – and share what we do with those people who can help us maintain this happy situation.

Our Kennel Club organised a huge on line health survey last year, so large I understand the results aren’t due to be disseminated until 2016. The breed’s health officer will at last receive information statistically which will show where owners think we stand, not just the breeders, although breeders participated too. This should be a good place to begin our own breed cycle of improvement.

Maybe in future another aim of the Karlton Index “ shared learning and improvement” will mean much more health information on the Club’s website. It would be the right place for BfdB owners to look for information – rather than a blog from an individual…..

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