My Labrador has had her hips scored and I am still not sure whether to breed from her or not... can you offer advice?

Q: My two-year-old Labrador bitch was recently hip scored and got a score of 15 (8:7), which is higher than I was expecting. I am getting conflicting advice on whether I should breed her or not. Can you give me any advice?

VICKY PAYNE replies: Ideally, we should only breed from dogs with a hip score below the breed median (i.e. in the better half of all scored dogs). The median for Labradors currently stands at 9. If there are any numbers in the boxes after the first three, this indicates that the dog already has some arthritic changes caused by poor hip conformation and these dogs should not be bred from. If the numbers are only in the top three boxes and your bitch is an otherwise outstanding example, some people will feel that it is acceptable to breed her. If you choose to breed, you need to look for a stud dog with a very low hip score (under 6 and no more than 4 on either side), and with a good EBV (estimated breeding value). The EBV is based on assessment of his close relatives and progeny and gives you an idea whether his pups will have lower hip scores.