Guide to Good Dog’s Health Testing Levels

Guide to Good Dog’s Health Testing Levels

Good Dog uses three levels of recognition to distinguish breeding programs based on the number of recommended health tests performed. Programs are recognized as having Good, Great, or Excellent health testing practices.

We want to emphasize that this guide is just the beginning of our work toward improving canine health and well-being. We consider this to be a “living document” subject to change as scientific advances are made, new heritable diseases and their causative mutations are identified, new or improved screening tests become available, and as we continue to receive feedback from the breeder community. Our mission with these levels is directly linked to our overall mission, and it is to encourage, support and help all breeders on their journey from Good to Great to Excellent.

What is health testing?

As discussed in our Community Standards, one of the key areas we evaluate when screening breeding programs is their care for the physical health of their breeding dogs and puppies. One critical element of physical health is prevention of heritable diseases or conditions, meaning those that are inherited or passed down from one generation to the next. 

There are certain health tests that can be performed on breeding dogs to identify the presence of, or risk of developing, heritable diseases or conditions. For each breed, there are recommended health tests based on the diseases or conditions common in that breed. By performing the recommended health tests on their breeding dogs, responsible breeders can take steps to decrease the likelihood of producing puppies with heritable conditions. 

Comprehensive health testing programs will often incorporate both genetic and phenotypic screening tests. The number and type of tests recommended will vary by breed due to the overall number of hereditary conditions that have been identified. A discussion of common health conditions and recommended tests to screen for them can be found on the search results pages of each breed.

Why does health testing matter?

Research into canine health testing is continuing to add powerful new insights into how to breed healthier dogs. Our understanding of canine veterinary medicine, preventative care, and genetics are changing and evolving as advancements in scientific research are made. The reliability of tests, the methods used to test dogs, as well as the best way to implement the results within a breeding program are always improving. New diseases and conditions are being discovered each year and new tests developed to screen for them. 

Many outstanding questions regarding things such as incidence rates and prevalence of diseases, both within individual breeds as well as the dog population as a whole, remain. However, there are health tests known to decrease the likelihood of producing puppies with heritable conditions, based on current scientific evidence. This means that, by utilizing recommended health testing in breeding programs, we can improve the health of a litter of puppies as well as generations of dogs to come.

What is Good Dog’s approach to health testing?

Good Dog has developed a three level system to distinguish breeding programs based on their health testing practices. The breed-specific system is based on the publicly available information provided by sources including health registry databases, genetic testing companies and peer reviewed scientific journal articles as well as national breed club recommendations and discussions with breeders. We aimed to compile data to better understand the prevalence and severity of known health conditions for each breed in order to recommend screening tests that will improve dog health and welfare. The three levels are as follows:

  • Good – programs that meet our entry-level health testing requirements for their breed are identified as “Good”
  • Great – programs that exceed our health testing requirements for their breed are identified as “Great”
  • Excellent – programs that significantly exceed our health testing requirements for their breed are identified as “Excellent"

You can read more about each level of health testing below. It’s also important to consult our breed-specific health pages to understand what these levels mean for each breed. 

We use different levels of recognition to identify breeding programs in this way for three reasons, each of which is directly related to our mission. 

We want to help people make responsible decisions by providing education and transparency into breeders' practices. This equips buyers to be able to ask the right questions and make an informed choice based on their preferences and priorities. 


We believe that by sharing evidence-based information and what we believe to be best practices, we can help and encourage breeders to take steps to strengthen their programs and improve the health of their dogs as well as generations of dogs to come. 


By creating levels, we can incentivize breeders who may not be doing much testing yet to do more and to recognize the breeders who are excelling in this area. 


We believe educating buyers is especially important – we highly encourage asking breeders about their practices with respect to health testing. Each breeding program is different and understanding a breeder’s practices, as well as the rationale behind them, is critical to finding the right program for you.

Good

Breeders in our community whose programs meet the entry-level health testing requirements for their breed as set forth in our Community Standards are identified on their Good Dog profile as having “Good” health testing practices.

These breeders are dedicated to continuing education for themselves, supporting their owners and, of course, their dogs. While it depends on the breed, the majority are doing some health testing and many are in the process of adding additional testing to their programs. They are committed to learning and working together as a community to further develop best practices and improve the health of all our dogs. 

By way of example, for some breeds, a breeder may be performing genetic tests on their breeding dogs but still be in the process of finding specialist veterinarians to perform more advanced physical examinations and specialty tests recommended for conditions common in their breed. In this case, we would likely identify that breeder as Good with respect to health testing.

Great

Breeders in our community whose programs exceed our health testing requirements for their breed as set forth in our Community Standards are identified on their Good Dog profile as having “Great” health testing practices.

The degree with which they exceed our entry-level requirements will vary by breed, as some breeds have fewer recognized heritable conditions and diseases than others and therefore have few recommended tests. 

By way of example, if there is a breed for which there are a lot of available health tests, but some are more critical than others, then our entry-level requirements for that breed may include some but not all of the recommended health tests. In which case, we would likely identify a breeder performing more of the recommended health tests for the breed as Great with respect to health testing.

Excellent

Breeders in our community whose programs significantly exceed our health testing requirements for their breed as set forth in our Community Standards are identified on their Good Dog profile as having “Excellent” health testing practices.

Generally, these Good Breeders have breeding programs that go above and beyond – seeking out any and all available tests and doing everything in their power to decrease the likelihood of heritable diseases being passed down. Some are even on the forefront of science themselves, involved in cutting-edge research studies dedicated to improving the health of their breed. These Good Breeders often also serve as mentors to other breeders of their breed. They lead the way in protecting, preserving, and improving the health of their breed.

We're here to help:

Canine health testing can be confusing, even for the experts. We’re here to help. If you still have questions or would like to speak with a member of our team to better understand screening tests for heritable health conditions, please reach out to us anytime at help@gooddog.com or 1-855-446-6336.

Learn more about our levels by breed