Working and sporting dogs provide an essential contribution to many industries worldwide. The common development, maintenance and disposal of working and sporting dogs can be considered in the same way as other animal production systems. The process of 'production' involves genetic selection, puppy rearing, recruitment and assessment, training, housing and handling, handler education, health and working life end-point management. At present, inefficiencies throughout the production process result in a high failure rate of dogs attaining operational status. This level of wastage would be condemned in other animal production industries for economic reasons and has significant implications for dog welfare, as well as public perceptions of dog-based industries. Standards of acceptable animal use are changing and some historically common uses of animals are no longer publicly acceptable, especially where harm is caused for purposes deemed trivial, or where alternatives exist. Public scrutiny of animal use appears likely to increase and extend to all roles of animals, including working and sporting dogs. Production system processes therefore need to be transparent, traceable and ethically acceptable for animal use to be sustainable into the future. Evidence-based approaches already inform best practice in fields as diverse as agriculture and human athletic performance. This article introduces the nascent discipline of canine performance science, which aims to facilitate optimal product quality and production efficiency, while also assuring evidence-based increments in dog welfare through a process of research and development. Our thesis is that the model of canine performance science offers an objective, transparent and traceable opportunity for industry development in line with community expectations and underpins a sustainable future for working dogs. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Canine Behavior.