In spite of being relatively rare, the Picardy Spaniel is a healthy, long-lived breed with no serious health issues. The small gene pool does create a few challenges, however. Of the ~1,800 dogs world-wide less than 200 reside in North America. Of those about 2/3 were whelped by breeders in North America, making a large portion of the Picardy’s here first or second cousins. Establishing a healthy, genetically viable population with so few Picardy Spaniels on the continent requires thoughtful pairing of sires and dams. Fortunately, USPSA and NAPSA members have had help from breeders in the UK and Europe in sourcing Picardy Spaniel puppies with desirable bloodlines. It will take a community of dedicated breeders and owners to increase the Picardy Spaniel population consistent with the breed standard. This community must also avoid creating health issues or watering down hunting instincts as has happened with so many breeds introduced to the Americas. This small group of North American breeders, along with their UK and European friends, are committed to working together to help increase the population with Picardy Spaniels that look, act and hunt like Picardy Spaniels.
The popularity of Picardy Spaniels in North America continues to grow as evangelists like Craig Koshyk write and talk about them on social media platforms. This message is amplified as more and more hunters are exposed to them afield and through NAVHDA training and testing events. The sires and dams that arrived in North America in the past 5 years are the foundation of a population that will continue to increase in size as the popularity of the breed increases. In 2018 there were only 2 or 3 litters whelped in North America, and a typical wait list for puppies was 1-3 years. In contrast, USPSA and NAPSA breeders have ~9 planned litters for 2022, and most of have some availability on their waitlists. The foundation sires and dams have been producing solid hunting dogs and cooperative companions, who also double as loving family dogs. But, more imports are needed in the near future to provide the genetic diversity necessary for the continued growth of the breed in North America. If you are interested in joining the USPSA and NAPSA groups in order to help as either a breeder, or as the owner of a stud with genetics needed to continue to grow the breed, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Population challenges aside, there are a few health-related issues that can occur with the Picardy Spaniel. Hip dysplasia is not common but, as with most every breed, it is a possibility. There is a good bit of debate as to whether the cause of hip dysplasia is genetic or environmental. In Europe there are instances of breeding a sire having A hips and a dam having D hips that produce puppies that with A hips. A few nations have even gone so far as to eliminate hip dysplasia testing requirements for breeding. USPSA and NAPSA breeders have all agreed to test their dogs for hip dysplasia via either OFA or PennHip prior to breeding.
Entropion, which occurs when the eyelashes grow inward instead of outward, can also arise occasionally. There is also some debate as to whether this condition is genetic or is caused by some external environmental influence. Unlike hip dysplasia, entropion is easily corrected. A vet will simply “tack” the eyelid back using a single stitch and the eyelid will then train itself to grow properly.
More common than either hip dysplasia or entropion is a “level” or “butt bite.” The standard bite for most breeds, including the Picardy Spaniel, is a scissors bite with the front teeth just barely overlapping the bottom teeth when the muzzle is closed. A “level/butt bite” is when the teeth are aligned such that the top teeth meet the bottom teeth instead of overlapping. This can cause premature wear of the front teeth, but is not considered to be a “do not breed” fault.
Lastly, the historical interbreeding with British dogs resulted in 2 recessive coat colors; the yellow, and white/piebald. The “yellow dog” is likely the result of orange belt English Setter blood. Historically “yellow dogs” have been culled immediately after whelping as the yellow coloration does not meet the breed standard. Today genetic testing of Picardy Spaniels for the eLocus gene, that responsible for “yellow dogs,” allows breeders to avoid producing “yellow dogs” by not breeding dogs that are both carriers. “Piebald/white” dogs do conform to the Picardy Spaniel breed standard, and that coloration is more consistent with the historical coat color of the breed. The genetics that produce “piebald dogs” have also been identified and breeding dogs can now also be tested for the rLocus gene.