The Origin and Motivation of the TOP PAW Awards Program

The members of the Havanese Club of America (HCA) serve as the guardians of the breed. To fulfill that role, we take pride in proactive health testing to monitor and maintain the health of the breed.

The HCA participates in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) program through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). CHIC is a centralized canine health database which promotes health testing and reporting of results for all purebred dogs. In order for a dog to receive a CHIC number it must have breed specific health tests performed.

The HCA has determined that for a Havanese to receive a current CHIC certificate, the owner must provide results for three distinct tests: OFA hips, patellas and an annual eye exam(CAER).

Since the original intent with the CHIC program was to simply encourage widespread testing and the open disclosure of results through the OFA database, dogs do not have to pass the required testing to obtain a CHIC number.

In 2007, the HCA Health Committee (HC) introduced the Top Paw Health Awards program to further encourage breeders to participate in the CHIC program.
For the HCA Top Paw Health Awards, the club elected to set the bar higher, and require that dogs must pass all required tests to qualify. In addition, higher award levels were added to the Top Paw Awards to recognize those breeders who went above and beyond the minimum health testing requirements of the CHIC as recommended by the HCA.

The Top Paw program evolved in 2016 to be more streamlined and focused (see History and Description below).

Beginning with the 2019 cycle, an additional annual award (“TOP PAW RECOGNITION Award”) was created to further motivate breeder/owner participation. It is given to the HCA member that applies for, and subsequently receives the greatest number of individual TOP PAW awards (adding up all TOP PAW categories) in a given year.

History and Description of Current Award Levels

(TOP PAW 2007 through revisions in 2016, 2022, and 2023)

  • The TOP PAW Awards were first put in place in 2007 and serve to encourage health testing by HCA members.
  • The CHIC requirements in 2007 included BAER, CAER, Hip Dysplasia, and Patella Luxation.
  • A major revision effective on Jan 1, 2016 simplified the award structure while reinforcing its intention.
    1. The first level or GOLD Award is for those dogs that pass the HCA’s current CHIC requirements, and the results are submitted to the public OFA database.
    2. The second, or Platinum level is for any additional health testing beyond the CHIC requirements.
    3. The third or Titanium award is for older dogs (7 or more years) that pass the current CHIC requirements.
    4. The original 2007 stud dog, brood bitch, and breeder awards were eliminated.
  • In 2017 a clarification was made to the testing qualifications for the Platinum and Titanium awards in the revised program.
  • In 2019 the TOP PAW RECOGNITION Award was created to further motivate participation in the TOP PAW program.
  • In 2022 the Health Committee in consultation with veterinary experts using many years of data, confirmed that congenital hearing issues were extremely rare in Havanese.  Accordingly,  the BAER requirement in the CHIC was authorized by the HCA Board to be removed leaving only three required tests for CHIC.
  • In November 2023, the HCA Board approved the creation of an additional Top Paw Award (Diamond) on a two-year provisional basis.

The fourth, or Diamond Award provides us a way of annually tracking the health of the older Havanese population who previously received the Titanium Award and have current Cardiac and CAER results submitted to OFA (passing is no longer required).

Details of the Individual TOP PAW Awards

Ownership:

Havanese must be owned or co-owned by HCA members in good standing during the award year. The HCA member must complete the award submission form if the co-owner is not a HCA member. It is not necessary to be an HCA member when testing is performed.

Testing Requirements:

Passing results are required on all tests (passing is defined as the dog is issued an OFA certificate for each test). The exception is the Diamond Award where the tests must be recorded, whether they have been passed or not.

  • All tests must be submitted to OFA and be available as part of their public database.
  • The CAER number must be current (exam must be performed during the award year).
  • OFA Basic Cardiac may be performed by a veterinary cardiologist, other specialist, or general practitioner. OFA Advanced Cardiac must be performed by a ACVIM/ECVIM Cardiology Diplomate

Age Requirements:

  • Cardiac — Dogs must be 12 months of age or older to the day at the time of the examination. Cardiac tests are only valid for 1 year.
  • Hips, Elbows, LCP — Dogs must be 24 mo. of age or older at the time of the radiography.
  • For dogs over age 7, the CAER exam must be performed once on or after their 7th birthday for the Titanium Award, and annually for the Diamond.

Frequency of Awards:

  • The Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Level awards may be earned annually as long as their recipient continues to receive a current CAER number.
  • The Titanium Level Award is designed to be a one-time non-recurring award for each recipient.
  • The DIAMOND award is an annual award for dogs who previously received the Titanium Top Paw Award AND have current CAER (eye) and Cardiac testing uploaded to the OFA website.
    • For the DIAMOND award, the dog does not have to pass the eye or cardiac exam, but just make the results public via the OFA. We know some conditions are indicative of the aging process and will not exclude these dogs after age 7 if they were clear for the Titanium Award

Visibility of Awards:

Owners who have been recipients of TOP PAW or TOP PAW RECOGNITION Awards will be named on the HCA Website. (see the TOP PAW RECIPIENTS tab).

A monetary award is made available to the annual winner of the TOP PAW RECOGNITION Award.

Whenever possible, the Health Committee also makes the annual winners of the awards visible at the National Specialty Show through a short slide presentation.

A Complete Description of the Awards:

  • Gold: The award is given to dogs passing and recording CHIC in the award year
  • Platinum: The award is given to dogs passing CHIC who have also passed and had recorded any of the additional approved health tests conducted in the same year for which the CHIC is awarded. For the first time Platinum award applicants, in addition to CHIC, we will accept any of the additional approved health tests conducted in previous years, that have been passed and recorded, to qualify for a first Platinum Award.
  • Titanium: The award is a one-time non-recurring award for each living recipient.  It may be applied for in any year following the dog’s 7th birthday when it has passed CHIC.  To qualify for the Titanium award we will accept additional testing conducted in any previous years after the recipients 7th birthday, provided it has been passed and recorded.
  • Diamond:  The award is an annual award for dogs that previously received the Titanium Award and have current CAER (eye) and Cardiac (performed by cardiologist) results uploaded to the OFA database. For the Diamond Award, the dog does not have to pass the eye or cardiac exams, but simply make the results public. We are aware that some conditions are simply indicative of the aging process and will not exclude these dogs after age 7, if they were clear to receive the Titanium Award.

Requirements and Acceptable Testing to Receive Awards:

  • All tests must be submitted to the OFA and be available as part of their public database and in particular the CAER number must be current (the exam must be performed in the award year).
  • Passing results are required on all tests (ie: a dog is issued an OFA certificate for each test) except the Diamond Award.
  • The Health Committee will review and confirm the information on the Top Paw Application form.
  • Before testing, check with your veterinarian to determine the correct age for testing and for any special requirements.  In general:
    • Cardiovascular — Dogs must be 12 months or older to the day, at the time of examination.  Cardiac tests performed are only valid for 1 year.
    • BAER test can be performed as early as 6 weeks.
    • Patella Luxation – Dogs must be 12 months of age or older.
    • Hips, Elbows, LCP — Dogs must be 24 months of age or older at the time of the radiography.
    • Thyroid testing is typically performed annually after one year of age, and every 2 yrs after 4 to 5 yrs.
    • Dogs over age 7, the CAER exam must be performed once on or after their 7th birthday. Testing after age 7 is required for the DIAMOND Award.
  • Additional tests that are acceptable for awards:
    • OFA BAER: Deafness in Havanese has been shown to be very rare.  It is associated with the piebald gene. The BAER test was a fourth requirement of the CHIC until 2022 when deafness was shown to be very rare.  It is however,not uncommon for dogs to lose hearing with age as the natural progression of their tissue development. The Health Committee encourages the testing of young dogs once for BAER and submitting the results to the OFA. Because hearing is genetic, the Health Committee believes that one should not breed dogs that do not pass BAER.
    • OFA Cardiac:  The Health Committee (HC) recognizes that congenital cardiovascular defects are relatively rare in the breed; we wish nevertheless to monitor the incidence cardiac disease by encouraging the broadest base of knowledge through testing and reporting to the OFA. Tests now include both Basic Cardiac and Advanced Cardiac. The former is performed after a dog has reached one yr. of age.  Advanced (formally called Adult Onset) has been added in 2016. Both are performed annually. OFA Basic Cardiac currently may be performed by a veterinary cardiologist, other specialist, or general practitioner. OFA Advanced Cardiac must be performed by a ACVIM/ECVIM Cardiology Diplomate.
    • OFA Orthopedic: The occurrence of Elbow Dysplasia and OFA Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCP) are both rare in the breed but testing and reporting will provide a useful means of monitoring.   OFA Elbow can be performed at the same time as OFA Hips, required for the CHIC.  OFA-LCP certification is available at no cost if a dog has received a passing hip grade, and the owner sends in the appropriate form to OFA after receiving that passing hip certificate.
    • OFA Thyroid:  while non-life threatening, auto-immune hypothyroidism is believed to be a heritable condition and the Health Committee encourages its monitoring through periodic testing and submission of results to the OFA.

The TOP PAW Recognition Award

Beginning with the TOP PAW 2019 cycle, an annual award is to be given to the HCA member that applies for, and subsequently receives the greatest number of TOP PAW awards (adding up the four TOP PAW categories) for a given year.  The award is designated “The Top Paw Recognition Award.”

The award given to the HCA member shall be a $100 credit towards the purchase of one or more tickets to any HCA sponsored events at the National Specialty Show held in the year that follows the year in which the Top Paw Awards were earned.

  • HCA ticketed events include the pre-ordered receptions, dinners and banquets, pre-ordered breakfasts and lunches, and any seminars and classes, as are available at the National Specialty Show held in the year that follows the year in which the Top Paw Awards were earned.
  • In the event of a “tie” in a given year, the total award value will increase by $50 for each additional winner, then be divided equally amongst the winners.

As with the TOP PAW AWARDS, owners who have been recipients of TOP PAW RECOGNITION Awards will be named on the HCA Website.  (see TOP PAW RECIPIENTS tab)

Whenever possible, the Health Committee also makes the annual winners of the TOP PAW RECOGNITION awards visible at the National Specialty Show usually through a short slideshow featuring the owners and the winning dogs.