“Embark, The Good and The Bad”
Embark the Good:
Embark is a USA based company that is quickly developing a one stop shop for most of our breeds genetic test (that can be tested through saliva) needs. Currently this one test can test for several known genetic issues within our breed, according to Embark. These tests are Degenerative Myelopathy, Multiple Drug Sensitivity, Hemophilia A variant 1 & 2, Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency Type 3, Day Blindness, Urate Kidney & Bladder Stones, Anhidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia, Renal Cystadenocarcinoma & Nodular Dermatofibrosis, and Mucopolysaccharidosis Type 7.
Most of these ailments are brought on by a recessive gene, which means both parents must be carriers. Therefore, through health testing and selective breeding we can keep them from becoming common issues within the breed.
Embark also test for long coat. (FGF5) This is a treat brought into the breed from their German Shepherd Dog ancestry. Long coat is again a recessive trait and a disqualifying fault for the breed. Again, knowing if your dog is a carrier allows for selective breeding to avoid producing litters with a disqualifying trait.
Another great feature is that Embark’s results for DM can be printed off and sent into the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) to be recorded and fulfill that testing requirements for your dog’s CHIC number. So, you are fulfilling an OFA requirement in the process of obtaining an abundance of other helpful information about your dog.
Some other fun features that Embark’s health testing provide is your dog’s coat traits, coat color, body size, and even altitude adaptation and food motivation.
OFA sets a minimum of testing requirements for the breed and Embark goes above and beyond in providing breeders, owners, and Veterinarians with an abundance of additional helpful information that is essential in insuring we are breeding the healthiest litters possibly and providing the best care we can for our dogs.
Embark the Bad:
Embark also provides a breed identification feature. The Czechoslovakian Vlčák is “provisionally” recognized by them, which means it is still a work in progress. This is causing a slight misunderstanding as people are taking this feature as a hard and fast fact or proof of lineage. Unfortunately, that is not how this feature works.
Currently there have been confirmed reports of wolfdog mixes coming back as part CSV. There lineage is known and there is no CSV in their lines. There is also reports of Embark showing 100% CSV dogs who are carriers for traits that are not found in either the German Shepherd or Wolf ancestry. This is again where the provisional status comes into play. Embark is not able to detect CSVs with 100% accuracy, currently. These issues have been reported to Embark to help them refine their breed test as it pertains to CSVs.
I was able to reach out Embark as to this issue and received this response, “…genetic ancestry testing should not be used to certify a dog as "purebred" or to prove "purity" of a bloodline. The term "purebred" is not a scientific designation and "purity" cannot be determined by an individual dog's DNA. Purebred status is formally defined by a registration body or kennel club and generally requires that a dog of a nationally or internationally recognized breed has a documented pedigree recorded in a studbook. In contrast, Embark tests for a dog's genetic ancestry, as described above. That said, we are constantly growing our reference databases, and while we anticipate seeing fewer instances like what you described here as we move forward, it is important that we emphasize the difference between a result from a genetic ancestry test and a "purebred" dog.” Embark goes on to say, “This is a process that also depends on our reference dataset and generally tells us about the most likely source of recent (past 3-4 generations) ancestry. For that reason, results might differ from registration information or known pedigrees due to several sources, but they reflect our best assessment of recent ancestry at the present time.”
What’s Next with Embark:
OFA currently has Pituitary Dwarfism (DW) listed as an optional test for the breed. This is quite worrisome as DW is common in the breed. The main hindrance is that no laboratory in the USA currently screens our breed for DW. You can still test for DW but you have to do so with a laboratory in Europe or outside of the USA. Then you can submit the results to OFA to be reordered but they are not needed for a dog to get a CHIC number at this time. Once we have a laboratory within the USA that is capable of testing for DW, we can hopefully make DW a mandatory test through the OFA.
That is where Embark comes in to play. Embark is currently working on including DW testing for our breed, specifically the LHX3 variant. Unfortunately, at this time we do not have a timeframe for this.
From Embark, “We appreciate the breeders/owners that have provided Embark with test results and samples from carrier and affected dogs, and while we currently do not need additional samples from Czechoslovakian Vlacks, the samples we have received are immeasurably valuable and useful for the future. We will certainly let the community know if we develop the capacity to test for the LHX3 variant in our lab, as we know how important this test is for several breeds.”
“…But I Just Want a Pet”
This is a phase I am hearing more and more as of late. I have had a few discussions with breeder friends of mine about the mentality and decided to write a bit about it. This phrase is being heard when talking about ethical breeders who health test and title their dogs. “I don’t need a breeder that does all of that, I just want a pet.” Here is the thing whether you want a breeding prospect, competition dog, or a family pet…good dogs come from the same place.
Let us first talk about what make an ethical breeder. This is a subjective question, as people will have their own views. For this blog I will tell you what my view is on an ethical breeder and why I hold that view.
Health testing to me is one of the two bare minimums of what a good breeder should be doing. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has made this quite easy. On their site you can find a list of required and optional test by breed. (https://www.ofa.org/browse-by-breed) All test results for a dog can also be found on there by searching the dogs registered name. I have seen people claiming to have health tested dogs because they did Embark or another similar test. However, these tests do not test for everything. Mainly hip, elbows, cardiac, or eyes. They do not even test for all known genetic ailments that can be test for by saliva. So, Embark and such test are a great resource…they are NOT a one stop shop for genetic testing.
Also, a good breeder will have no issues with sending you a link to their dogs OFA page. They will be open about test results and answering questions. OFA automatically posts passing scores but will only post failing scores with owner’s permission. It is a red flag to me is a breeder claims to have done hips and elbows, but they are not listed on OFA. At that point I am asking to see the certificate from OFA. They claim to have done x, y, z but are not willing to provide proof.
Knowing their dog’s pedigree is the second bare minimum for me. A good breeder should be able to talk about their dog’s pedigree with knowledge. They should know the ups and downs of it and be open and willing to talk about it. No dog or pedigree is going to be perfect, but the breeder should know and acknowledge the good and the bad of their dog’s lineage.
To me those two are the absolute bare minimum to say a breeder is good. Now let us talk about what (to me) makes a breeder ethical…puts them that step above.
First, I will say that temperament is not all in how you raise them. Genetics play a part; I will not debate to what extent here. To me an ethical breeder is having their dog’s temperament evaluated by an outside source. AKC has their Canine good Citizen (CGC), Community Canine, Urban Canine, Virtual Home Manors (VHMA), and they even provide temperament testing. UKC has their Socialized Pet Obedience Test (SPOT). Some breeds may not be ideal for a test like these (think working livestock guardian, not just of that breed but actual working dogs) and in those cases the breeder can reach out to other ethical and experienced breeders or judges to give them feedback of their dogs temperament and the breeder should have a few references they can pass along for you to speak to in regards to their dog’s temperament.
Second is Conformation. Breeders that can show either Conformation results or titles have taken the time to have their dog’s structure, build, movement, and temperament evaluated by multiple different Judges. This provides valuable feedback in determining a dog’s strengths and weaknesses when looking at breeding them. It should be acknowledged that every dog will have their faults and an ethical breeder makes it a point to know their dogs. This allows them to select an appropriate breeding match to balance them out.
Third is performance titles. Breeders that take the time to earn performance titles are showing that their dogs are trainable, and it shows their dogs level of work ethic. Also competing in performance events shows how the dog can focus and work around a lot of distractions. You can see how a dog maintains their focus and cool in a large variety of environments. (this also shows temperament) It also allows others to see the relationship a handler has with their dogs. If you are looking at or for a working dog (livestock guardian, herding, etc…) a breeder should be able to show videos upon request of the dog interacting with their charges and handler.
Now how do these fit back into the topic at hand? When I hear, “I don’t need a breeder who does all of that, I just want a pet,” or a Breeder that says, “I don’t need to do all of that, because some people are just looking for pets,” I cringe.
A Breeder that says that (to me) is saying they are perfectly fine breeding and placing puppies that have the potential to have bad health, come from lines with bad temperament/health, unsound or unpredictable temperaments, poor structure/movement which will lead to poor health, is willing to breed two together that instead of complementing each other can bring out or lock in bad traits.
A potential buyer that says this (to me) is saying they are fine getting a puppy that they could potentially have to spend $1,000s on vet bills, that could wind up with a crappy temperament, that doesn’t live long due to health issues, prone to injuries due to poor structure…the list goes on and on.
Now, the most common comeback is, “Well, even breeders who do all that stuff can end up with a puppy that has bad hips, elbows, or temperament.” They are correct. Even if a breeder goes above and beyond genetics can still be a fickle thing. However, if you look at an ethical breeder’s overall program it happens far less than in an unethical breeding program. When it happens in an ethical breeding program the Breeder does more research, digs deeper into pedigrees, and does everything they can to avoid it happening again. The unethical breeder says, “oh well, it happens,” and they go about their day.
The other comeback is the difference in price. Unethical breeders who charge far less are doing so because they are cutting corners with health testing, temperament testing, and objective evaluations of their breeding stock. So, to that I say you get what you pay for. Ethical breeders pour their heart, soul, and money into their dogs.
Unfortunately, the second comeback is becoming less true. Now unethical breeders are charging just as much if not more than the ethical breeders. They are doing so by using flashy sounding made up “breed” names for mixes, using catchy words like rare/exotic color, off standard sizes like giant/teacup/micro mini, etc. Meanwhile doing little to no health testing, temperament testing, and some are breeding for recessive traits with no thought to the ramifications of that. Anything is allowed if there is a profit to be made in their eyes.
At the end of the day everyone has the right to go the route they want to, but I implore you to do your research and support ethical breeders. Also, keep in mind that working, sporting, and breeding dogs in an ethical Breeder’s home are pets as well.
Choosing a Trainer
I often get inquiries about what I look for in a trainer. So, I decided to write a bit about what I look for. Everyone will have a different approach as people want different things out of training.
Currently I work with a few different trainers in my area. Can I train my dogs myself…yes. So, why do I take my dogs to classes? That is easy…socialization, working around distractions, and it is nice to have a trainer evaluate the work you are doing with your dog. When training it is critical to get feedback from others on how you are doing. Why? Simply because practice does NOT make perfect. If you are training your dog and getting a slightly off response, continuing to train that will just commit that off response to muscle memory. Then to fix it you must undo what you have done to redo your training for the proper response. So, perfect practice makes perfect. The sooner you find a problem and can troubleshoot the problem, the easier it is to fix the problem. Another trainer is a great person to have evaluate you and your dog.
Also, with each new trainer you work with you will get a different approach. I have been training dogs for over 20 years (yep, you read that right, I have been training since I was quite young) It’s ok to work with a few different trainers as you and your dog grow. The way I trained my first dog is nothing like how I train my current dog. Every trainer I work with has given something new to my training style and ability. As I learn, I grow as a trainer. So, do not think because you used this one trainer you now must use them and only them forever. Doing this you will eventually find yourself in a rut where you are not growing or expanding your skills.
The one piece of advice I have when looking for your first trainer, is to know where you want your dog to be and then find a trainer that can get you there. If you think you want a competition dog, then I highly recommend finding a trainer that has several titled dogs. (also, dogs that are titled beyond the first level of a sport) If you want a family pet with stellar house manners, then find a trainer who has dogs that fit what you are looking for.
Now I know what you are thinking, it is just basic obedience why does it matter at this point if I want to compete down the road? Anyone who has been training and competing knows how important foundation work is. Your foundation work is the groundwork for all competition training down the road. You cannot rush or slack in this department or you will greatly struggle down the road. If you have a trainer that does not compete with their dog and is training a family pet…than an amazing family pet is what you will wind up with. A trainer that also competes is going to start your dog down the right path for training at the competition level as you move forward.
If you are lucky enough to live near a training facility or club that offer classes in different sports…sign up. If you can get started in a sport with the help of an experienced trainer, that is the best way to go. However, if you are like me and live in an area where training facilities are hours away, do not give up. There is a way you can still move forward.
Once you have the groundwork in, find training DVDs to help get your start. Again, do your research and find a professional trainer that fits where you want to be. I love training DVDs as it opens the door to working with trainers from all over the world. The downfall is that you do not have that immediate critique that you have with in person training. So, I highly encourage and recommend that you look for and attend training seminars. Seminars allow you to fine tune and/or trouble shoot the training you have done at home. Also, go to trials and talk with other owners. You will be amazed how many of them will talk with you about training and competing. If there is one thing dog people like to talk about is their dogs. In doing this I have made some lifelong friends that I can meet up with or send videos to for feedback.
Here are links to just two of favorite trainers’ DVDs…
Susan Garrett https://dogsthat.com/shop/dvd/?_ga=2.163635133.385969512.1608004135-447489023.1608004135
Michael Ellis https://leerburg.com/ellisdvds.htm
Michael Ellis free online videos https://leerburg.com/flix/newestvideos.php
I have seen a few people inquiring about Czechoslovakian Vlčák as service dogs.
Let's first look at what a Service Dog is. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability. Tasks can be many different things including, guide work for people who are visually impaired, hearing tasks, mobility work, medication reminders, alerting to blood sugar changes, alerting and responding to panic attacks, seizures and many other things. The criteria here, is that the handler is disabled, and the dog is trained in a behavior that directly helps mitigate the persons disability.
Lets also look at what a Service dog is not. Emotional Support and Therapy dogs are not considered Service Dogs because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task. In other words, if the only thing that the dog is doing, is just being there, and that is comforting to the owner, that dog would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.
The law doesn't exclude any breeds, and the Federal ADA over-rides local breed bans in regards to service dogs. So why not use a CsV? If this is your thinking, you are partially correct. However, it can get sticky very quickly if the place you are trying to access, or local authorities should show enough evidence that they believe your dog may have wolf in it. But the CsV is a recognized dog breed!!! Again, you are correct in that technicality. However, currently the ADA protects domestic dogs, and in certain cases, miniature horses as Service Animals. If you look at CsV pedigrees, or if you look at a genetic break down of the individual dog, you will find that many of them will also fall into the category of low content wolf dogs.
Now lets look at what makes a good service dog, along with some of what is required by law for behavior. They must be non aggressive to both humans and animals. They cannot show any protective aggression unless the handler is being immediately threatened and it would be reasonable for a human to react aggressively in the same instance. They must be under control at all times. They need to be very stable in every sort of environment that you could encounter in public. Service dogs also need to be very biddable, or obedient to the handlers directions so as to carry out the work or tasks they are trained to perform for the handler.
Practically speaking, this means the dog must be attentive enough to the handler that the dog doesn't need to be constantly reminded to pay attention to the handler when they are asking the dog to do something. If the handler needs assistance with something that only the dog, and not the handler, would be aware of, such as for hearing assistance, or alerting to blood sugar, heart rates, or other chemical changes in the handlers body, the dog must be extremely attentive to the handler and be both willing and able to respond to things without direction from the handler.
And now, let us look at what the breed standards say about the CsV. The FCI standard calls for a dog that is fearless and courageous, yet also suspicious. The CSVCA also describes a dog that has quick reactions, is fearless, courageous, and suspicious. CsV's can have both a dominant and and independent temperament. The UKC standard is much the same. CsV's are also high energy, high prey drive, and need quite a bit of daily physical and mental stimulation.
So, what's the big deal? They were bred to be multipurpose working dogs! If they have a job to do that would provide them with both the mental and physical stimulation! Yes, it would. However, the combination of character traits in these dogs can make for some challenging moments when training.
While service dogs need to be able to ignore other people and dogs, they also must be tolerant of both in close proximity on occasion. With a CsV's natural suspicion of strangers, this could present problems with reactivity. Remember how a service cannot show any kind of aggression during public access? Also, if you as the handler have any kind of medical episode, or accident, the dog may very well not allow a EMT's or other First Responders to approach and help.
Another criteria, a service dog should in general be attentive and biddable. Due to their natural suspicion, and their prey drive, many CsV's tend to focus their attention outwards when in public, rather than keep focus on their handler. This has the potential to present a couple of different issues. One, if the handler needs to direct the dog to do something, is the CsV going to be attentive enough to you that they will hear your cues? Or will they be so focused elsewhere that you will need to constantly remind them to give you their attention? The other possible issue is if you are expecting your dog to alert to medical episodes such as blood sugar or heart rate changes. In order for a dog to do this reliably, they must be very handler oriented, even with major distractions. They must also be reliable enough that they won't provide an unnecessary alert to try and get to a reward.
Another thing to consider is why do you need a Service dog? A person who needs a service dog, has the dog with them because they need the help. If you, or someone you know, needs that kind of assistance, consider whether you have the energy and ability to provide the amount of training and extra work a breed like this will require. Will you have the energy to be that much more alert to your surroundings to create the optimal working environment for your dog? I am not saying that it can't be done, but these are serious questions and issues to consider before getting a dog like this to train as a service dog.
In summary, CsV's have been bred to be a very unique, hard working dog. They are intelligent, independent, phenomenal dogs. But the things that set them apart as unique from other beloved and wonderful breeds, more often than not makes them extremely incompatible with functioning as a service dog. You will find exceptions within the breed. But, these are just that, exceptions to the rule that this wonderful breed is not best suited to being a service dog. If you are considering a service dog, or if you know someone who is considering this breed as a service dog, I would strongly encourage them to look at other breeds first because of the potential for the person to put a lot of time, expense and effort into a dog that will be amazing, but they will not be able to function in the way you need them to.
Getting into Showing
Prior to getting my first CSV I had never been to a conformation show or sporting event nor had I ever trained a dog to compete. The only knowledge I had of conformation came from watching it on tv. I got Kaida with the hopes of getting into the show and sporting world but when she came, I felt quite overwhelmed. What if I messed up, what if I did everything wrong, what if I made a fool of myself, what if Kaida refused to cooperate…on and on the doubts in myself and Kaida went.
Finally, a friend convinced me to just go to a show. It took a while, but I finally found a small conformation show and signed up. When I got there, I was a bundle of nerves and still had no clue what I was doing. Thankfully an experienced handler reached out to me. She told me to set my crate up next to hers and she introduced me to several other handlers. She taught me how to stack my dog and we watched the groups go before ours and she explained what they were doing and why.
Then it was my turn. The whole time I was in the ring I just kept thinking, “don’t trip, don’t trip.” Before I knew it, I was done…and I hadn’t tripped. We survived the weekend and ended up having a lot of fun. The best advice I got that weekend was to accept that I was going to make mistakes, that some shows your dog was just not going to cooperate, that there were going to be embarrassing moments, and that it happened to everyone.
Since that weekend I have had some of those embarrassing moments and guess what…we survived. When I talk to others about getting into showing I often hear the same fears and doubts that I had. So Kaida and I are here to say, “Forget them!” Just get out there and have fun. It doesn’t matter if you blunder. Everyone has those stories and one day you’ll be the experienced handler telling your embarrassing stories to get the first timer over their jitters.
After getting into conformation I quickly found myself addicted. Now we attend as many performance events as we can. We’ve signed up to try sports we’ve never even heard of before, let alone trained in…but why not! Titles held by my first show/competition dog to date: UKC CH, UWP, UWPCH, URO1, CGC, CGCA, TKN, TKI, TKA, TKP, TKE, ICN, ICN2, ICN3, IMN, IUN, IGT, IGT 2, ICF, ICF 2, ICF3, RN, VIP, 4 Total Dogs…and this list will continue to grow because someone convinced me to get out of my own way.
So, take a chance and get out there. Have fun, meet new people, and learn a new sport. Showing is a great way to build your relationship with your dog and for your dog to be an ambassador for the breed.
Finally, all the pieces fell into place and I was able to do a photoshoot I dreamed of doing for several years. Photography has always been a hobby of mine and Kaida has proven to be an amazing model. When she sees the camera, she becomes a ball of wax. I can set her in any position and she just stays…as long as she’s up to a photoshoot.
I had chosen a fun little spot just down from my friend’s house will a nice cluster of Jack Pines. My friend was even nice enough to let me borrow one of her Anatolians. My niece had the day off work. We had hoped to spend an hour or so taking pictures.
Well, it ended up being almost 4 hours. Ooops. Our biggest problem was Kaida. My normally awesome model was being a little pill. She loves my niece and pitched a fit every time Haley got near Valor or Stormy. I am pretty sure people 5 miles away could hear Kaida’s screeches of outrage. So, we had to stop the group shots and let Kaida have all of Haley’s attention for a while. Then life was good, and we could do pictures.
I took over 700 photos that day and wound up with 30 that were usable. LOL. My niece was so patient as we wrangled dogs and went considerable over our timeframe.
It was such a fun day. I cannot wait to plan another photoshoot.
Here I will write about events, achievements, hardships, and general life here at Vegvisir. If you have topics or questions you would like me to write about fell free to put them in the comments.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Author's name will be on each blog post. You will hear from me as well as co-owners.