The Swedish Armed Forces (SAF) breeding program for German Shepherd Dogs – the next step

There exist more than ten breeding programs for guide dogs producing at least 200 puppies annually, but only very few for police and military working dogs. One reason might be that the former often are funded by charity, and that people in charge work closer to reality and realise the importance of high quality dogs and that access to such dogs cannot be guaranteed unless you breed them yourself. The SAF kennel, with an annual production exceeding 200 puppies a year in a relatively closed breeding colony, is one exception. Since its start in 2005, the SAF breeding program has been successful; the proportion of dogs entering active duty has doubled. This is likely a reflection of both genetic and environmental improvements. Until now, selection of breeding animals has been on phenotypes alone. As a consequence, the rate of improvement has started to decrease for some traits. Furthermore, the breeding goal is not sufficiently defined, there is a lack of knowledge regarding validity, i.e., the (genetic) correlations between selection and breeding goal traits, etc. A continued improvement of the SAF breeding program therefore calls for modern breeding methods, e.g., implementing selection based on estimated breeding values.

The SAF’s plan for how to develop its breeding program will be discussed. We hope this process will involve collaboration with other breeding programs with similar breeding goals, because this might enable faster breeding progress and make each program less vulnerable.

Arvelius, Per - Swedish Armed Forces Dog Training Center, Breeding Manager