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 in our Guide to Health Testing Levels. The breed-specific system was developed utilizing publicly available information provided by sources including health registry databases, genetic testing companies, peer reviewed scientific journal articles, national breed club recommendations, guidance from our advisors and other experts, and discussions with breeders. We compiled this data and information to better understand the prevalence and severity of known health conditions for each breed. The methodologies and requirements accepted for the recommended screening tests may vary by breed and may be based on guidance from the relevant registries and breed clubs, but all aim to 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"

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 to build a better world for our dogs.

We want to help future dog owners make responsible decisions by providing education and transparency into breeders' practices. This equips potential dog owners to be able to ask the right questions and make an informed choice based on their preferences and priorities – helping people make the right decision for them.

We believe that by sharing evidence-based information and best practices, we can provide a roadmap for breeders to take steps to strengthen their programs, helping and encouraging them to improve the health of their dogs and, in turn, generations of dogs to come.

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

We believe educating potential dog owners is especially important – we highly encourage any future dog owners to ask breeders about their practices with respect to health testing and ask to see any test results. 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. Some questions we would recommend asking your breeder include:

  • How do you think about reducing health issues in your puppies?
  • What health problems commonly occur in this breed?
  • Can you tell me about any health tests you perform on your dogs and why?
  • If you have done health testing, where can I see the results?
  • Have any of the dogs in your breeding program ever been afflicted with any health-related conditions?

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.

How Does Good Dog Award Health Testing Levels to Good Breeders

A critical aspect of Good Dog’s mission is to bring transparency to dog breeding so puppy buyers can make informed decisions about the dogs they bring into their lives. As part of our screening process, breeders indicate their health testing practices. We review and audit these practices and collect a representative sample of the results for inspection. We also discuss and confirm these practices during a screening interview and conduct an online audit of the program as part of our fraud detection and information verification process. This is also how breeders attain the appropriate health testing level.

As part of our dedication to building a transparent and honest community of Good Breeders committed to the health and well-being of their dogs, breeders can provide links on their Good Dog profiles to the health testing information for each of their dogs. It is important to note that as a potential puppy buyer, you should ask breeders to see copies of any health test results for the breeding dogs of the litter you are considering getting a puppy from. There are a number of reasons we are not able to verify the health test information for each and every breeding dog in a breeder's breeding program, including that breeders often have new breeding dogs entering their program who cannot get health tested until a certain age as well as breeding dogs who are retiring out of the program.

We also strongly encourage potential dog owners to ask their breeders additional questions like those we’ve listed above to gather health information specifically about the parents of their puppy. We know it may feel awkward or uncomfortable to ask these questions and ask to see health testing results (especially as many potential dog owners are often anxious about making a good impression with the breeder because they want to get a puppy from them!), but Good Breeders should be very knowledgeable about health conditions common to their breed, especially of their own dogs, and thrilled to answer any questions about their breeding programs or their dogs. You can also always feel free to send over breeders’ answers to your questions to help@gooddog.com and we would be happy to help you evaluate them.

How Does Good Dog Enforce Compliance with Our Community Standards

We take enforcement of our standards incredibly seriously and are dedicated to helping you make an informed decision about breeders. We have a process in place to conduct an independent investigation if any concerns are communicated to us about a breeder on our site. If it is found that any breeder is falsely representing the health testing they perform, our Legal and Compliance Department determines the consequences the breeder must face, including potential removal from our platform, for non-compliance with our Community Standards.

We have found these community-wide enforcement efforts to be an extraordinary way of holding breeders accountable and helping us maintain our Community Standards and build a trusted online community. We encourage breeders, potential dog owners, and past puppy buyers, to share any concerns with us by emailing communityconcerns@gooddog.com and, to help encourage these community efforts, we hold the identity of anyone who submits a complaint in the strictest confidence.

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