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Tools to manage a breeding program

Basic Resource Guide for Managing a Breeding Program

Managing a breeding program can be a frustrating process when initially starting out or when a program is growing or restructuring.  Advice like “industry best practices” and “surround yourself with the right resources” can be helpful but overwhelming. What are the best practices? What resources?Where to begin? 

Having the right resources at hand, can help a new program thrive or an existing program grow.  While the resources mentioned below aren’t the only ones available to a program, they are some basic recommendations no matter the type or size of a program being managed.  These basics can keep frustrations at bay and help any program learn, grow, and thrive. 

One of the first recommendations is to maintain the colony’s data in a structured database.  The International Working Dog Registry (IWDR) Database provides serious breeders with the opportunity to use estimated breeding values and other tools to help reliably produce healthy dogs with useful temperaments and sound structure, while also maintaining genetic diversity. Although genetics lays the foundation, socialization, physical conditioning, building a positive relationship, welfare, and training, all work together to transform a young puppy into an adult working dog that people find essential for completing many tasks. Young puppies born without an adequate genetic foundation can be difficult to mold and train into a successful working dog – in contrast, a purposeful genetic foundation coupled with proper early socialization, appropriate exposure to the real world, and a purposeful training program will often result in highly valued working dogs that do their job with confidence and ease. Good data collection practices can help streamline and improve a breeding program.

Additional resources found in IWDR include the Early Socialization Project and how to collect and maintain temperament data utilizing The Behavior Checklist. Both are great resources when it comes to raising puppies and evaluating temperament/behavior. 

Local Resources

The next step is to think local.  Building and maintaining relationships with local veterinarians, trainers, rehab therapists, and business can ease the stress of knowing where to turn in times of emergencies, medical needs, and training issues.  Find veterinary specialists that can help obtain clearances needed for breeding, manage reproduction issues, and answer questions that arise day to day. 

USA Resources:

Finding local trainers and creating a training program that has the ability to optimize genetic potential is vital for a successful breeding program. 

For programs focused on producing service animals, Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) created standards for industry best practices.  These organizations provide materials and support from experts in their prospective field to provide support and guidance.

Standard Operating Procedures

Creating standard operating procedures can keep a program’s day-to-day management on track and help resolve issues and overcome obstacles.  A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a step by step, repeatable process for any given routine task.  Implementing SOPs help prevent user stress, mistakes, and miscommunication while ensuring reliability and consistency.  When creating SOPs, always keep in mind the scope of the task and the end user.  The scope of the task should be clearly stated at the beginning of the process with who it impacts, who are the users, and what is the end goal.  To do this, use concise and clear language, keeping tasks simple but thorough. Utilize intuitive formatting: does the process lend itself to a checklist? Flow chart? Step by step list?  A functional SOP should tell users where they need to be, what they need to do and give the users confidence in the task given. 


One of the best resources readily available is collaboration. Finding like minded breeders or organizations can help a program grow and keep genetic diversity.  Collaborations help share stud dogs by loaning or providing semen and also resources in lean times and times of abundance.  They help exchange ideas, innovations, and even help ease stressors or problem solve.  For members of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), the ADI International Breeding Cooperative is a resource to start collaborating within your region and worldwide.  For members of the International Guide Dog Federation, go to the member page to reach out to other member schools.  For private breeders, look towards your local and national kennel clubs.  For other working dog groups, look towards your local and national clubs, chapters, societies. 

The IWDR Database also is a useful tool when it comes to collaboration.  The Shared Dog Info function allows programs to easily share data, pedigrees, and general information about active breeders in their programs.


While the resources mentioned above are in no means a complete list of what is needed to manage a successful breeding colony, they are a great starting off point and can help any program to meet their goals.  They will also help build a stable foundation that will lend itself to growth, innovation, and finding other resources.