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Hip Testing - Conclusion

It should be clear that hip testing is an essential part of determining which dogs should be bred, and how to improve the structure and health of a breed with each generation. Particularly in corgis, these evaluations and scores are harder to interpret, because their dwarf anatomy does not look or work like other breeds. Hips that would appear horrible to other breeds can be excellent in corgis. There is also the issue of whether or not a dog is affected by their hip conformation - OFA and PennHIP cannot definitively prove that a dog will or won’t experience arthritis, with or without a passing score. We only know that well-structured hips make them less likely to experience hip dysplasia, but it is still not a perfect science. This is another reason why careful record keeping is done by ethical breeders to find those correlations, and make the best breeding decisions possible.

Although in general a breeder should try and improve the hip scores of the puppies they produce, Excellent, Good, and Fair are all passing scores. You might compare them to classroom scores - Excellent is an A, Good is a B, and Fair is a C. We know that a C grade is in fact passing, so breeding a dog with Fair hips may still be ethical, when done conscientiously. In some contexts, such as rare breeds with a smaller pool of breeding dogs available, it could be reasonable to breed a wonderful representative of the breed, even with poor hip scores. It all comes down to a breeder using all the information possible to make their decisions, being able to explain their reasoning, and taking responsibility for every puppy they produce, in sickness and in health.

The goal of an ethical breeder is to improve or maintain healthy hips every generation, so a breeder may choose to breed a dog with a lower score to a dog with a higher score. Testing must be done every generation, but typically only to dogs intended to be bred. However, it can be helpful to score siblings to know the variability of what a dog actually produces. Two parents with Excellent scores aren’t guaranteed to produce Excellent hips in the next generation. Below is a chart created by OFA that shows the likelihood of a puppy to receive passing or failing scores based on the scores of the dam and sire. You can see how different combinations affect the odds of healthier hips.

Remember that any score is one piece of the puzzle that a breeder uses to make breeding decisions - there is no easy formula to prove/guarantee health and longevity. But look for a breeder that cares about, understands, and utilizes the information derived from health tests to make the best decisions possible. Breeders and researchers are continually working to better understand the polygenic and multivariable causes of hip dysplasia. But genetics are a part of the equation, and hip evaluations are essential to make the best breeding choices possible. It's what our dogs and the families that love them, in this generation and the many to come, deserve.

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