Pierre the Heir, son of top stud dog, continues guide dog linage

Pierre the Heir, a golden retriever, has fathered 13 litters and 99 puppies since entering the Guide Dogs breeding programme two-and-a-half years ago

Pierre the Heir, four, has fathered 13 litters and 99 puppies since entering a breeding programme two-and-a-half years ago. The golden retriever is the only son of Trigger, the now retired top stud dog, who was selected to enter the Guide Dogs breeding programme due to his elite family heritage on both sides.

Pierre’s granddad and Trigger’s father, Jim, fathered 18 litters, while great-grandfather Windsor fathered 33 litters and a whopping 226 puppies.

He comes from a proud lineage of breeding dogs, with Pierre’s mother Sybil coming from a guide dogs organisation called Les Chiens Guides D’aveugles De L’ouest, in Brittany, northwest France – bringing with him a vital diversity of genes into the Guide Dogs breeding pool.

Further back, Pierre’s lineage spans across Europe, as on his mother side he has relatives which can be linked back to championship show dogs from Russia and Sweden.

Explaining the breeding programme and partnerships to mark Father’s Day, Dr Tom Lewis, Head of Breeding Programme for Guide Dogs, said: “It may seem like being a dad to so many pups is hard work, but Pierre’s contribution to the process is over pretty quickly.

“It’s our wonderful guide dog mums, who then have to feed and raise the puppies. We adhere to our Breeding Code of Ethics to ensure that all our breeding dogs are happy and healthy and suitable to be mated. A guide dog mum will only have a litter if she’s in the best condition, and she’ll have her puppies at home under the close watch of a family who looks after her year-round.”

On the partnership with other guide dog schools, Tom said: “Occasionally, we enter mutually beneficial breeding collaborations with other International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) organisations. These collaborations may be in the form of mating, the exchange of frozen semen, or the transfer of puppies or adult dogs as either a guide or breeding dog.

“Just recently, we had a dog from a guide dog school in Japan join our breeding program. Such dogs help us improve genetic diversity, while ensuring we retain the personality traits and excellent health needed make successful working guide dogs for people with sight loss.”

To ensure they are able to produce the best dogs possible for the job, the family lineage of not only Pierre, but all guide dogs can be traced to ensure genetic diversity.

Characteristics such as temperament and health are taken into consideration, and a system known as Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) help value the breeding animals in terms of their potential genetic merits and hereditary traits.

As with Pierre, who is half-French, Guide Dogs enters mutually beneficial breeding partnerships with other International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) organisations.

Roughly a year after they are born, pups are put through an extensive health testing which includes x-rays to check their joints, DNA tests and eye exams. If they pass, they will be accepted as a breeding dog, and won’t enter further guide dog training.

However, Pierre, who is looked after by Guide Dogs volunteer Tonia Hone in Solihull, might have a future rival for the throne. In Trigger’s last litter in January this year, a boy named Billy was born, who has been marked as a potential breeding dog of the future and heir to Trigger’s impressive legacy.

Tom said: “Pierre is a perfect example of what can be achieved when organisations come together. His long, illustrious family history that is critical to him producing the guide dogs of the future.”

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