Dog Breeder Talks Genetics to Animal Science Class

Dog Breeder Talks Genetics to Animal Science Class

The Animal Science class at the Center for Career Services is a hive of activity on a daily basis, with students learning to handle and care for a variety of animals under the direction of instructor Michael D’Abruzzo. However, Friday, Nov. 3rd, was busier than usual with the introduction of three fully grown Portuguese water dogs and a puppy.

Animal trainer Joseph Kelly, a native of Dublin, Ireland, brought the dogs to Mr. D’Abruzzo’s class as a way to educate his students about the ethics of animal breeding.

The puppy, named Darcy, was donated to the class for educational purposes.

Second-year student Molly Joyce chose the name because of its popularity in Ireland and because she felt it honored Mr. Kelly, the breeder who donated the dog.

The name also means “dark one,” reflecting the jet-black locks of the puppy.

The older dogs who were also in the classroom come from three generations of the same family, said Mr. Kelly. They include Harvey, Summer and Carlito.

Mr. Kelly told the class that dogs have been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. The New Jersey-based breeder, who runs a business called Eclipse Portuguese Water Dogs, learned how to feed, play and work with his grandfather’s hunting dogs during school vacations.

Before moving to the United States in 2013, he studied under some of the world’s leading canine training and behavior experts. Today, he is a certified dog trainer and behaviorist, and also runs the Train4Fun Canine Academy.

During the 90-minute class presentation, the students learned a lot about this highly intelligent utilitarian breed that originated in the Algarve region of Portugal. Known to be loyal and hard-working, these dogs are distinguishable by their curly or wavy hair and powerful, thick tails.

Explaining the business of animal breeding, Mr. Kelly told the students that he typically buys dogs from different countries in order to “expand the gene pool.”

Like humans, dogs have health-related problems, too, and Portuguese water dogs are no different. Mr. Kelly said some of the minor health problems this breed displays includes canine hip dysplasia (CHD), distichiasis, Addison’s disease, alopecia, juvenile cardiomyopathy as well as other, more serious issues like progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).

Mr. Kelly said he always tests the parent dogs for the above diseases before breeding.

The dogs in his care include Harvey, who is 12 and is from Ireland; Mimi, who is 7 and is from England; Praia, 6, from Sweden; Summer, 5, half-Irish, half-Czech; Miss Kitty, 3, half- English and half-Irish; Carlito, 2, half-American, half-Irish; Jubilee, 1, half-American, half- Irish; and Harmony, 4 months, half-American, half-Irish. They are all in excellent health and have been DNA tested, he told the students.

Since breeding relies on the science of genetics, Mr. Kelly said most breeders will need to know about canine genetics and health.

For instance, breeding a Labrador and a poodle will most likely produce a dog with a very different coat type, but Mr. Kelly cautioned that breeders who match more uncertain breeds may get a dog with bad traits from both parents, and not the good traits they are looking for.

“With all the pet overpopulation issues that students will experience firsthand as they enter the animal science field, the presentation from Mr. Kelly was extremely valuable,” said Mr. D’Abruzzo.

“To see what one model breeder does right while preserving a rare and ancient breed will make it easier for my students to recognize what is wrong in the industry.”