Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's Performance At Crufts Dog Show

How lovely to see this happy+ and sound+ 10 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel ... super active and able to jump well into the senior years. What a great performance after all the past negativity concerning Cavaliers and Syringomyelia.

Pedigree Dogs Exposed were you watching? This dog was born well before your negative portrayal of this breed.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Terrierman Unleashed

Shown here holding a filthy (after the hunt) full grown terrier by the scruff of the neck (for shame) is the infamous Terrierman. Looks like moderating all comments to his blog is not succeeding in the repression of contrary-to-Terrierman points of views as he hoped - people obviously find other ways to express their thoughts:

Is Pat Burns Even Worth Responding To?

SPCA Outrage in Philadelphia 10: Answering Pat Burns

Terrierman Uncensored

Nice to see I am not alone in my thinking see... The Pot Calling the Kettle Fat.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Letter from a Veterinarian in Support of Breeders and Purebred Dogs?

The following email has been making the rounds on the various purebred dog lists. In actuality, Veterinarian Libbye Miller wrote only part of the comments. The "letter" is actually a composite of comments from various people. You can read about who wrote what and how this email went "viral" on the ApsoRescueColorado blog. Regardless of how the letter came to be, the authors have made some excellent points!

Permission to crosspost:

Thank you Libbye Miller DVM for stating:

"Adorable mixed breeds" get cancer, epilepsy, allergies, heart disease, and orthopedic problems just like purebreds. I see it every day in my veterinary practice but mixed breed dogs aren't tracked like the purebreds so they have a reputation as "healthier" that is actually undeserved in many cases."

It is so sad that a lot of folks, including young veterinarians these days, buy into the "hybrid vigor" baloney. The vet schools have been infiltrated by the Animal Rights Extremists, who are teaching them this junk science in order to push their agenda.

All animals have a certain amount of genetic load, which is to say there is absolutely no animal without some genetic problem of some sort of another. Know anyone who wears glasses? Has allergies? Thyroid problems? Weak knees? Flat feet? A skin condition? Arthritis? A gap between their front teeth? These are all genetic imperfections.

No human is genetically "clean." Neither is any individual of any species on earth. So this idea that dogs should not be bred because they might have a genetic problem, and that breeders are somehow "evil" for breeding them, is ridiculous. Every single individual of every single species has at least a few genetic conditions.

To use PETA's logic, all breeding of all kinds (including having human babies) should halt immediately. And to be honest, Ingrid Newkirk (the woman who founded PETA) does believe exactly that. She thinks that humans should become extinct, along with dogs, cats, etc. This ridiculous scenario is precisely what she would like to see happen.

So folks, if that is what you want...if you agree with Ingrid Newkirk's whacky views, send your hard earned money to PETA. They will help to ensure you are not able to own a dog or cat or hamster or any other pet in the future. They will see to it that you can't eat meat or fish or eggs or any type of animal-based nutrition. They will work to shut down places like Sea World, the zoos, etc. so you cannot observe the many wonderful animals on the Earth. Eventually, once they accomplish these things, they may turn their efforts to making it illegal for humans to procreate.

If you don't agree with their extremist views, wise up and start supporting those who truly do love, care for and enjoy interaction with other species here on our little blue planet.

The fanciers of the breeds, those you see exhibiting their dogs at cWestminster and other dog shows, work very hard to eliminate serious genetic conditions. They screen their breeding stock with every available test. They research pedigrees before breeding into other lines, to check for similar clearances in those animals. They contribute money to research organizations to further the work being done to track down genetic problems. They contribute blood, cell samples, etc. From their own animals to help with DNA and genome studies. They have made great progress so far, and they continue to work hard at it.

Are there unethical breeders? Certainly, there are. Just as in any group of humans, you will find the good and the bad. United States VP Elect Joe Biden, for example, managed to find a not so good one when he got his new German Shepherd puppy. I don't know who did his research for him, but they obviously didn't do their homework if they were looking for a responsible breeder. Joe has the right to get his dog from whomever he wishes, but if he was trying to set an example of purchasing from a responsible hobby breeder he went off the track this time. That's too bad, but it was his choice.

Unfortunately, breeders like that may be a lot easier to find because of their high volume and high profile. If you are looking for a nice family pet from a breeder who will be there for you forever, you need to do due diligence. You won't get that from a pet store. You won't get that from the guy selling dogs out of his pickup truck in the WalMart parking lot. You won't get that support from a high-volume breeder, either. Yes, it takes a little more time and effort to find someone who really cares and does all the work to breed the healthiest, happiest puppies possible and then stands behind those puppies.

This is a living being that will be part of your family, hopefully, for many years. Isn't it worth a bit of effort to find a breeder who will be there for you and that puppy forever?

And guess what? Shows like Westminster are a very valuable resource for finding breeders who do care and who use the best possible practices, as well as for learning more about the various breeds.

Bravo to USA Network for broadcasting the Westminster Kennel Club show all these years. May they enjoy continued success through the ongoing inclusion of such programs. I will be eagerly watching this year's show!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Future for Veterinarians in North America

This great post from, Mary Spinelli, came through the Canadian Showdogs email list:

So far, three Atlantic province Veterinarian Associations have banned their member vets from performing these surgeries (cropping and docking).

They did it surreptitiously, in direct contradiction to breeder input and passed it unilaterally. Playing nice with these organizations is a non-starter because they don't want to play at all.

I've said this before and I do mean it. If these organizations wish to pattern themselves on some Utopian concept of European morals then I will make it my all-consuming passion to have them accept all European standards. European norms do not allow for mass spaying and neutering, cat declaws, de-barks or many other "elective" procedures that are the bread and butter of North American veterinarians.

I'll have plenty of time to devote to my new mission, since I won't be breeding Dobermans. Many other breeders, from across the many Conformation Groups won't be breeding either. Not only will I no longer be breeding dobermans, I will effectively be "out of business". At least I realize that breeders are the life-blood of my business (breeder-based software applications). North American vets will learn to their peril that once they've acquiesced to the Animal Rights terrorist in their midst, that the remainder of the A.R. (read PETA) agenda will be more easily achieved, likened to tumbling dominoes.

Here are some interesting fact for the North American veterinarian to ponder:

England has 5 vet colleges for a population of 61 million people.
France has 3 (65 million people), Germany 5 (81 million people) , most
have but one college. The United States ? They have 31 schools for 308
million people. Canada? We have 4 for 33 million people. This chart
sets out the data nicely.

COUNTRY # of Colleges Population ratio
(in millions)

England 5 61 12.2
France 3 65 21.7
Germany 5 81 16.2
United States 31 303 9.7
Canada 4 33 8.3

Why do Europeans have so few Vet schools, by population? Because they don't need them! General conclusion? There will be a lot of unemployed vets if we adopt the European standard of veterinary care. The ironic part? They will have done it to themselves.

Mary Spinelli,
Canine Specialty Software
Adlerheim Dobermans

(Posted with permission)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Assessing the health of mixed-breed and purebred dogs

Found this great comment online:

by Rabenschwarz
There have been many claims by a great many people, a lot of them educated, that there is a "hybrid vigor" that causes mixed breed dogs to be healthier than purebreds. The very term hybrid is misleading in this example as dogs are the same animal regardless of breed. It would only be a hybrid if a dog mixed with a wolf or coyote or something of the sort. In truth the animal that may have "hybrid vigor" is just a mixed breed dog because the dogs are the same species. Now that the mixed breed has been clarified I would like to state that "Hybrid vigor" is no guarentee of a healthy animal.

Most examples of "hybrid vigor" state that the mixed breed dog will have less health problems because they come from a larger gene pool. It is true that purebred dogs come from selective breeding and therefore most probably have a more shallow gene pool and sometimes inbreeding is involved, further limiting the gene pool and bringing the potential for more health problems. However, mixed breed dogs come from the breeding of two purebred dogs of different breeds. Each of the dogs that went into the mixed breed have the possibility of passing on negative traits and potential illnesses as a purebred breeding. In fact, there may be a better chance of getting a problem from both parents. For instance if a Chihuahua afflicted with slipped kneecaps bred with an Italian Greyhound that was prone to epilepsy there are three possible outcomes. One, the puppies could be lucky and born with "hybrid vigor." Two, The puppies could be afflicted with one problem or the other. Three, the unfortunate puppies could be afflicted with both ailments. Any breeding has a chance of producing undesirable traits whether it be from a planned breeding complete with stud dog or a drifting Romeo wanders into a back yard. I think the odds are even between purebred and mixed breed dogs in terms of health.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Basset Hound Club of Wales Fights Back


And ...
Help Spread the Word About it

Fighting Back: Getting the Message Across

Basset Hound breeder and Text & Communications Consultant Jon Buscall has a number of suggestions for how dog breeders can use public media to counter some of the anti-breeder and anti-purebred dog propaganda that is out there - the titles may lead you to think these are all business focused links but take a look at them and you will see that they are actually all pro-purebred dog focused.

Promote Your Campaign Online

A Weblog is Essential for Crisis Management

How Would Your Company Respond to an Attack from the Media?

Is Caroline Kisko a Liar? A Story of Web 2.0 PR

Related post: Setting the Record Straight

The one advantage that Terrierman has is that he has been blogging for quite some time and has built up a bank of blog posts. Doesn't matter that they are inaccurate and misleading, in this case tabloid-like quantity can be more compelling than factual quality for folk not familiar with the issues. Collectively, we breeders could "exterminate" Terrierman (and others like him) at one fell swoop if enough of us use the various internet media formats to our advantage. Large quantities of factual quality information will be more persuasive in the long-run than sensationalistic ploys to draw attention (seemingly more to stroke his ego than for the purebred dog cause).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dog Food for Deformed Dogs???

Terrierman is on another rant about purebred dogs and breed characteristics which he perceives to be "deformities".

The focus of his rant this time is the Royal Canin Company which has developed a dry dog food product specifically designed for Pugs. Royal Canin Pug 25 apparently has a cloverleaf shape which Royal Canin claims will be easier for Pugs to pick up.

Terrierman's reaction: "So let me say it simply: If a dog or cat cannot eat on its own, we need to stop breeding it and go straight to euthenasia."

Duh! Just because a dog food company decides to market a product with a different kibble shape specifically for Pugs does not mean the Pug breed needs it. Hell, they've sustained as a breed for 100+ years, long before Royal Canin or any other dog food company existed. Pugs have been eating whatever is available and "on their own" for quite some time now. In fact, I've never seen a Pug that I wouldn't describe as being rather on the "portly" side, looking to not have missed any dinners.

Enough with the reactive tirades and tabloid headlines, Terrierman.

By the way, the correct spelling is euthanasia, not "euthenasia".

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Are genes really lost forever with inbreeding?

Recently I blogged about how few studies actually look at inbreeding in dogs - see What do dogs have in common with fruit flies?

One study that does look at dogs, or at least their pedigrees (even if was mainly conducted from the perspective of finding a research model for investigating human genetic diseases) is:

Population Structure and Inbreeding From Pedigree Analysis of Purebred Dogs

Many refer to this paper as the "Imperial Study"

There is one particular finding of this pedigree analysis study that genetic diversity purists in dogs focus on exclusively, and that is: "For all but 3 breeds, >90% of unique genetic variants are lost over six generations, indicating a dramatic effect of breeding patterns on genetic diversity."

Typically after citing this finding the genetic diversity purists in dogs will dramatically emphasize that:

"Inbreeding results in genes being lost forever!"

Let's take a closer look at this prediction of doom and gloom ...

Dr. Jerrold Bell, DVM, a clinical associate professor of genetics in the department of clinical sciences at Tufts University has stated that: "Inbreeding or linebreeding does not cause the loss of genes from a breed gene pool. It occurs through selection; the use and non-use of offspring. If some breeders linebreed to certain dogs that they favor, and others linebreed to other dogs that they favor, then breed-wide genetic diversity is maintained" (Bell. 2001)

Closed purebred registries, by their very nature, are dealing with a finite number of genes descending from the founding stock that helped to develop the breed in the first place. There will be no new genes added to a purebred population unless the studbooks are opened and cross-breeding (crossing different breeds to produce a mixed breed) is permitted. There are those who will argue this is necessary or will become necessary - it's important to bear in mind that some of these individuals are determined to erradicate dog breeds.

The reasons given by those who advocate cross-breeding is that purebred dogs breeds are inbred populations that cannot sustain longterm. This line of thinking basically ignores the examples of long-sustained inbred populations that can be found in the wild.

Their logic follows from population genetics models based on observations of wild animal populations which are subject to natural selection and random breeding. Of course most dogs are not subject to natural selection (unless they get lost in the wild) and most purebred dogs are not subject to random breeding.

Wild species populations are structured in terms of age, gender, and geographical location. As such the wild animal population structure does not fit the structure of domesticated dog populations.

Domesticated dog populations are composed of various breeds, and each breed population is further subdivided dog into subgroups based on breeding purpose: show breeding, working breeding, one-time breeding, puppymill breeding, commercial breeding, back-yard breeding, etc. And there are various levels of expertise on the part of the breeders found within each subgroup. There are no equals here.

Comparing between the subgrouping and levels of expertise is like comparing apples and oranges.

Some other findings of interest coming out of the Population Structure and Inbreeding From Pedigree Analysis of Purebred Dogs study include:

(1) Around 20% of dogs have a recorded offspring.

This finding dramatically illustrates just how many dogs are removed from the genepools of purebred dogs through non-use. In a wild population, any individual that survives to sexual maturity, that is not otherwise prevented from mating, will more than likely produce offspring and subsequent offspring in the following mating seasons. This is certainly not the case for dogs.

(2) Most dams have just one litter recorded.

Clearly "popular dams" are not an issue in purebred breeds. The best recommendation coming out of the genetic diversity movement in dogs is to use more males in breeds rather than many dogs being bred to popular sires. We all know that doing so typically leads to a glut of half brothers and sisters with no where to go for the next generation. There is a need to maintain distinct lines and to try to prevent lines from dying out due to lack of popularity. These are all important to breeds.

(3) Specifically, we estimate from simulations the probability that an allele chosen at random from a founder would be represented by a copy in generation 6. We found through simulations that for a random-mating population with a large, constant size, this probability is close to 25%.

Even in a random-mating population, such as a mixed breed dog population or wild species population there is only a 25% probability that a randomly chosen allele will be maintained after six generations (that's an estimated 75% loss). Obviously, alleles can be potentially lost within closed purebred registries and within closely related lines (the study reported a 10% probability that a randomly chosen allele would be maintained over six generations over the period of 36 years), but it is not inevitable since breeders are not all making the same breeding decisions as Dr. Bell has pointed out. In addition the Population Structure and Inbreeding From Pedigree Analysis of Purebred Dogs revealed that inbreeding can actually be "advantageous through generating extra rare-allele homozygotes". Inbreeding is not bad, it's just a breeding method for achieving a particular goal (increasing homozygosity for desireable traits characteristic of various breeds ) versus outcrossing (increasing genetic diversity and more generic dogs )

(4) A low proportion of genetic diversity is retained under strong inbreeding or when reproductive success is highly variable across individuals.

Not only are purebred dogs not subject to natural selection as wild popluations are, on top of that we spay/neuter thousands, if not millions, of perfectly healthy purebred dogs every year. Human and wild populations are not subjected to that kind of reduction to the genepool. If a person or wild animal survives to sexual maturity there is a good chance he/she will reproduce, not so for dogs.

Just by virtue of being a closed population some genetic loss in going to be expected since not every healthy dog that reaches sexual maturity will produce offspring and some level of relatedness is assumed since the entire breed descends from the same founders of the breed. From this study it would appear that that > 90% of genetic variation can be lost over six generations in situations of related breedings/increasing COI, however even in random-mating populations there is an expected 75% loss of genetic variation predicted over six generations. These findings are not "bad", just different effects for differing population circumstances. Genetic loss is an inherent risk for any population and is directly affected by the use and non-use of offspring (Bell, 2001).

According to geneticist and dog breeder Dr. Malcolm B. Willis (2009):

All purebred breeds begin with a certain amount of inbreeding. Largely this is done to establish the type of animal the breeders are seeking and to obtain some degree of uniformity. However, some generations on, the inbreeding will be much less. I made a study of British Boxer champions which covered 276 dogs over the period 1935 - 1975, only 13 of which were inbred 20 percent or more. 140 were inbred less than one per cent and the average inbreeding value for the population was 4.2 per cent. Included in this population are the "Wardrobes" Boxers, a kennel which used inbreeding to a considerable extent and to great success, during the fifties and sixties.A similar study to the Boxer one was undertaken on American GSD champions in ten year periods from 1940 to 1980. The study comprised 2,478 dogs; the percent of animals scoring an F value in excess of 20 was 2.9, 58 percent scored 5 or lower and 23 percent between five and ten. These are not indicative of high levels of "incest" breeding. The average in breeding for these American dogs is 5.3 per cent, which is less than first cousin mating.The consequences of inbreeding are varied because many defects are autosomal traits. One consequence of inbreeding could be an increase in abnormalities but this only applies if the population under study carries the defects. Inbreeding brings defects to the surface but does not create them.What can occur is inbreeding depression which leads to a reduction in fertility, a decrease in litter size, and an increase in mortality. However, inbreeding depression is not inevitable and over a period of time, numerically large breeds can show no adverse effects. In a study undertaken in 1908 on 29 litters of Bloodhounds, Heape showed a mean litter size of 10.06. I have recently undertaken a similar study on a similar number of litters in Bloodhounds and found the litter size to be a half a puppy less, which indicates that in a century of breeding, virtually there are no adverse effects on litter size.My own study of 3,331 GSD litters born in Germany in 1935 showed a litter size of 7.29. A German study (Winzenburger 1936) gave an average of 7.15 in 22,281 litters. Similarly my study in 1981 on 444 British litters gave a litter mean of 7.76. Humphrey and Warner in 1934, in a study of 104 litters of American dogs gave a litter size of 7.63.These all indicate minimum change in litter size over a long period of time. Professor Lush (Iowa State) in his classic book, "Animal Breeding Plans" (1945) argued that, "more opportunities for breed progress are lost by not inbreeding when inbreeding would be adviseable than are lost by too much inbreeding."This is not an invitation to inbreed willy-nilly but it certainly suggests that greater use can be made of it than is often done. Inbreeding has its biggest effect upon low heritability traits and much less of an effect on highly heritable characteristics; it may thus have minimal effect upon conformation (Willis, 2009).

Some people are ignoring or dismissing Willis' findings and focusing on the results of the Population Structure and Inbreeding From Pedigree Analysis of Purebred Dogs study to point fingers at show breeders and the "damage" they are doing to purebred dogs.

It's important to observe that no where in the paper is reference made to the type of breeding that the analyzed pedigrees came from.

And in fact the data can be broken into COI ranges that represent inbreeding (sibling to sibling, parent to offspring), linebreeding (presumably with occassional outcrossing), and outcrossing (within the breed to unrelated families). Here are the figures for the 13 breeds looked at in (across the entire pedigree database from 1970 to 2006).

Akita Inu:

COI >= 0.25 : 1.4%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 10.2%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 20.1%

  • Percentage Inbred (first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 1.4%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 29.4%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 20.1 %


COI >= 0.25 : 1.6%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 10.7%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 20.1%
  • Percentage Inbred(first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 1.6%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 30.2%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 20.1 %


COI >= 0.25 : 0.7%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 10.4%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 23.1%

  • Percentage Inbred(first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 0.7%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 32.8%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 23.1 %

COI >= 0.25 : 0.8%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 7.6%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 16.2%
  • Percentage Inbred (first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 0.8%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 23.1%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 20.1 %

COI >= 0.25 : 1.6%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 11.5%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 20.4%
  • Percentage Inbred (first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 1.6%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 30.3%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 20.4 %
Golden Retriever:

COI >= 0.25 : 0.6%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 3.8%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 11.4%
  • Percentage Inbred (first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 0.6%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 14.6%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 11.4 %


COI >= 0.25 : 1.7%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 14.4%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 24.8%

  • Percentage Inbred (first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 1.7%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 37.6%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 11.4 %
German Shepherd:

COI >= 0.25 : 0.9%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 4.5%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 9.2%
  • Percentage Inbred (first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 0.9%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 12.8%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 9.2%
Labrador Retriever:

COI >= 0.25 : 0.5%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 2.4%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 7.2%
  • Percentage Inbred (first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 0.5%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 9.1%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 7.2 %
English Springer Spaniel:

COI >= 0.25 : 0.5%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 3.1%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 8.9%
  • Percentage Inbred (first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 0.5%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 11.6%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 8.9%

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel:
COI >= 0.25 : 0.8%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 5.6%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 13.3%
  • Percentage Inbred (first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 0.8%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 18.1%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 13.3%
Flat-Coated Retriever:

COI >= 0.25 : 0.5%0.125 <= COI <> COI >= 0.125 : 4.1%0.0625 <= COI <> COI >= 0.0625 : 14.8%
  • Percentage Inbred (first-degree): COI greater than .25 = 0.5%
  • Percentage Linebred: COI greater than .0625 and less than .25 = 18.4%
  • Percentage Outcrossed: COI .0625 or less = 14.8%
This set of data conclusively reveals that only about about 1 per cent of KC registered dogs has a COI of 25 per cent or greater (sibling to sibling, parent to offspring), and that the majority of each of the examined breeds fell in the two broad COI ranges associated with linebreeding/outcrossing and outcrossing breeding methods.

This data DOES NOT indicate the type of breeding of the breeds examined. That is, there is no way of knowing from the data if the analyzed pedigrees represented breeding for show/pet dogs, working/pet dogs, for profit pet breeding (one-time breeding, commercial breeding, backyard breeding), or outright accidental matings (which likely accounts for many of the 1% of > .25 inbred pedigrees).

It's also important to keep in mind that the Population Structure and Inbreeding From Pedigree Analysis of Purebred Dogs study analyzed KC registrations and the UK was until recently under restrictive quarantine regulations that curtailed the free flow of genetic material from other countries. Plenty of UK dogs have been exported internationally for decades, but the reverse was not true. This means that the levels of COI's found in this particular study may not be reflective of breed populations outside of the UK.

An e-mail from one of the Population Structure and Inbreeding From Pedigree Analysis of Purebred Dogs study authors:

Hello dog lovers,

I'm one of the authors of this article and would like to clarify that the Kennel Club gave us access to their registration database to assist us in planning studies of canine genetic diseases, with a view to both to help dogs and to help us understand similar diseases in humans (I am in a medical faculty, and am not really a dog person: small, cityapartment not suitable for dogs). It was only later that the idea came up of publishing a paper describing the pedigrees - including reporting inbreeding coefficients and effective population sizes. Jeff Sampson,the Genetics Co-ordinator of the KC, was very helpful in answering our queries and was keen for this information to get into the public domain. How or if Jeff disseminated our results within the KC I do not know, butI think that Caroline Kisko didn't know about it and got the wrong publication date because Imperial College put a story about our paper on its website just before the BBC TV programme, and it seems that Caroline assumed that this coincided with publication of the paper (she may have read a pre-publication version and not known the publication date). Whatever criticism the KC may deserve, I think it also deserves some credit for its co-operation with our research that had no immediate payback to them. For those of you interested in some of our results, but not inclined to read through a longish scientific paper, I have put on my website a poster that I presented at the Dog & Cat Genetics meeting in St Malolast May. You'll need to zoom in to each box to read it. Most of the results are from the paper, but there are some extra results that we did later on variance-effective population sizes. Surprisingly, there was almost no interest from the dog genetics people at the conference, norwas there much discussion there of inbreeding and its implications for canine health (I also suspect that the KC thought that our results wouldn't attract much attention). After all, that there is inbreeding in purebred dogs is not news. But Jemima and others found the results to be shocking, I guess because we have put numbers on it systematically over many breeds. For example we found that several major dog breeds inthe UK have the genetic variation equivalent to a population size of only about 50, often regarded as a threshold for a wild species to be regarded as seriously endangered. We also found that for many breeds,any one gene in a dog 6 generations ago has less than 10% chance of surviving until today, compared with a 25% chance in a random-mating population.

I hope this is of interest to some of you,

David Balding

Are genes really lost forever with inbreeding?

A purebred dog can only inherit the genes that it's parents contribute, so this may be true for a particular dog, but for the entire species of dogs? Of course not!

Purebred dogs by their very nature are homozygous for many gene pairs. That is what defines the breed. That is how the various characteristics of breeds were developed and how they are preserved. But dog species is composed of many breeds (with many unique different genes being maintained) as well as the mixed breed population. If a gene matters and is not to be found in a breed (and the Dalmatian is the only breed that comes to mind), it's only a matter of breeding outside the breed if a breed is actually in peril, and there is no other alternative. But after 100 years most breeds are sustaining or increasing in population size. For most breeds careful breeding and the use of available health tests will help breeders to produce healthy dogs. Lack of breed popularity is far more predictive of extinction than level of COI!!

That which can be found is never lost.

When making comparisons with wild animals (as David Balding did above) it's important to remember that a "the genetic variation equivalent to a population size of only about 50, often regarded as a threshold for a wild species to be regarded as seriously endangered" is hardly applicable to purebred dog breeds and the species of dogs as a whole.

A population size/genetic variation equivalent of 50 in a wild animal is cause for concern because that represents the species as a whole. A breed with the genetic variation equivalent to a population size of only about 50, is but one small piece of the species as a whole.

Dogs as a species are not in danger, in fact they are one of the most populace and successful species on the planet.

The problem is that some people are mistakenly viewing breed populations as species populations, which they clearly are not, and then erroneously drawing some rather dire conclusions for breeds.

Yes, purebred dogs have been developed out of inbreeding methods, and are being maintained with linebreeding and outcrossing methods. That's the nature of purebred breeds. That's not bad, it's just the way it is.

Every pedigree study of purebred dogs will reveal high, middle, and low COI's just as the paper discussed above has. As David Balding stated above "that there is inbreeding in purebred dogs is not news". Inbreeding at various levels is part and parcel to being purebred, but this does not mean the dogs are all suffering from genetic diseases. There is no established "optimal" COI. COI's greater than .25 do not indicate unhealthy individuals (it depends on whether double sets of defective genes were inherited). And it follows that a low COI of .o625 is no guarantee of health, since again it all depends on whether defective genes were inherited from the parents.

It's important to be wary of reading more into results than a study was designed to show. It's clearly mistaken and overly simplistic to draw negative conclusions of the health of a breed based on level of COI alone. To do so is ignoring the positive improvements breeders can make through careful linebreeding, conscientious selection of breeding animals, and responsible use of available phenotypic and DNA health tests.

Even Dr. John Armstrong, who started the genetic diversity movement in dogs, recognized the limited meaning of low COI's:"I keep reminding people that a low inbreeding coefficient does not guarantee a healthy, fertile and long-lived dog. In addition to its inherent limitations, there are just too many other factors involved."

The bottom line is that any breeding scheme is going to result in some gene loss whether as a result of artificial selection by breeders or natural selection by Mother Nature in random-mating populations. Breeders select for preferred traits and Mother Nature for fitness traits that will maximize survival. Normally the most advantageous genes will be preserved or maintained in a population.

Theoretically, in dog breeds it would be possible to maintain a maximum of genetic diversity if a maximum number of each breed was maintained in the genepool and used. But how practical is this? It would require the cooperation of puppy buyers to allow their dogs to be used in breeding programs, more litters than currently are produced, a need for more breeders, and a drastic reduction in spaying/neutering practises. This approach certainly could have the desireable effect of maintaining a maximum of genetic diversity in breeds, but at what expense? Possibly an abundance of dogs with no owners and an increase in accidental matings. Obviously there is a need for some balance.

There is one canine diversity purist who is advocating what he calls an "outbred nucleus colony". An outbred nucleus colony can be viewed as a sort of genetic feedlot for breeders to use to reduce high COI dogs in one breeding. The colony would be composed of dogs with COI's less than .625. It presents with some interesting dilemmas with respect to who and how and where, but especially with respect to need.

Afterall, there are breed populations all over the world with which a breeder could immediately reduce a pedigree to a COI of 0% if so desired. There has not been that much crossover of international and domestic lines in most breeds (apparently the Standard Poodle is an exception). From time to time one hears of breeders who say they cannot find any unrelated dogs to breed to within a breed. This is taken by some to be proof positive that genetic diversity is at a critical level of collapse. The truth be known, unrelated dogs can easily be found within most breeds, but are not neccessarily of the type or quality that the breeder wants to use. There is a big difference between not being able to find the quality/type of dog one wants versus being able find an unrelated dog within a breed.

One final comment

I am sure someone will question genetic diversity in dogs with respect to the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), in particular the potential dangers of MHC homozygosity and predicted reduction in disease survivability that could effect an entire population and lead to extinction. It is a legitimate concern but there appear to be exceptions to the prediction. Both the highly inbred Cheetah and the inbred wolves of Ise Royale have been exposed to various feline infectious diseases and parvovirus, respectively. While there were losses from these diseases, neither species/population were wiped out, and subsequent blood titres indicate an immune response in the survivors. A similar trend was seen when parvovirus was first introduced in dogs, and distemper before that.

MHC functioning is important, but there is no evidence that dogs are currently in trouble with respect to MHC functioning, nor is there an established optimal level of COI beyond which MHC functioning would be expected to be compromised. In fact the immune responses within inbred populations in nature would suggest there is quite a bit of leeway with respect to immunocompetence. I'll write more on this later.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Scathing Expose of Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Yesterday, I just happened upon a dog-related blog, and while reading through, I saw this great commentary written by rufflyspeaking that hit so many good nails on the head, many of the same nails I have been trying to hit too:

I'm a (gasp!) breeder and I am trained in biology and genetics. I think that most good breeders end up with somewhere around a bachelor's level of knowledge in genetics, honestly. But I got it on a piece of paper, for whatever that's worth. I see a TON of misconceptions here. I think one of the things that hurts our understanding of dog health the most is a very faulty system of definitions. For one thing, there is no attempt to distinguish between a well-bred purebred and a terribly or carelessly bred one. Of the purebreds in this country, a conservative estimate would be that 90% are horribly bred by breeders who don't care anything about health or quality. I don't know any show breeder who would say that badly bred purebreds of our breeds aren't horribly unhealthy--we know they are, because we're the ones rescuing them and rehoming them. You can't lump the two populations of purebreds together. And you also have to distinguish between TRUE mixed-breed/random-bred dogs and what we actually have in this country, which is deliberately bred crossbreds. Again - go to the Middle East and look at the true random-bred dogs that are shaped by natural selection and must survive on their own. They really are healthier. That's an entirely different "crossbreeding" than breeding a wheezy dysplastic Pug and an epileptic Beagle, or a Maltese with a liver shunt to a dwarfed and unsound Poodle. You need to forget the labels. Say, instead, that the way you get a healthy dog is by breeding healthy dogs. That applies across the entire population, to purebreds and mixed breeds. And the way you tell whether your dogs are healthy is by HEALTH TESTING and KEEPING TRACK OF PEDIGREES. Both are essential; neither can be neglected. You can have a healthy dog that doesn't produce healthy dogs because every relative was unhealthy; that's why pedigrees are important. Second definition: "Hybrid vigor" in virtually all dogs is a complete myth. Hybrid vigor is a very specific thing; it has a specific definition. It means breeding individuals who are so totally unrelated that the offspring are bigger, grow faster, and have increased resistance to disease than EITHER parent. The reason it doesn't apply to purebred dogs is that there is not enough separation between the breeds. Most of the European-origin breeds were freely exchanging genetic information as little as 150-200 years ago. So when you put a Lab and a Poodle together, you're combining pedigrees that actually haven't been separate all that long, in the grand scheme of Dog. You're in effect putting them BACK together. There's no automatic benefit to the offspring. Hybrid vigor also requires that the breeds of origin are healthy themselves. Why on EARTH would you think that combining the cancer- and elbow- and hip-dysplasia-prone poorly bred Golden with the epilepsy-, SA-, thyroid-, heart-disease- and hip-dysplasia-prone poorly bred Poodle is going to give you a dog that lives a long time? If someone tells you they're accessing hybrid vigor, ask them to prove it. Have them show you charts of growth rates, food utilization, and multi-generational health testing. If they can't do that, they're using a phrase they have no permission to use. If "designer dog" breeders actually put their money where their mouths are, breeding only the best to the best (in other words, only using dogs who have not just health tested themselves but have parents and grandparents and great-grandparents who all have health testing) and rigorously selected their breeding dogs for sound structure and ability to do a job, none of us show breeders would object to what they do. After all, we have no issue with the Seeing Eye breeders who cross Labs and Goldens, or the bear-dog breeders who cross Ridgebacks and Coonhounds and Danes and various other breeds. But it's important to realize that if those breeders DID do those things, did build a program that produced predictable, reliable results of health and structure, and did prove their dogs by opening them to peer review, they'd be one more purebred. They would no longer be mixed. There's no "magic" in mixing. By the way, specifically on the Australian Labradoodles: There's a lot more (or maybe a lot less) there than meets the eye. The "breed" is now a mix of poodle, lab, cocker, curly coated retriever, some of the water spaniels, and they've been hitting up the Portuguese Water Dog people, all because they are not getting the "perfect" dog they're advertising. They do not have anywhere close to a finished product and they're not making the reliably fabulous dogs they say they are. I want to add that one of the reasons it's so important to keep a population of reputable breeders is that we're the ones pushing for the genetic testing and treatments that, ironically, open us to so much criticism. If you look at the diseases that everyone screeches about, the hearts in Boxers and cancers in Goldens and syringomyelia in Cavaliers, the studies and research are virtually all funded by the breed clubs (and therefore the breeders). It's because we're so obsessed with producing a healthy dog that we get accused of producing unhealthy ones. As a final note, because it illustrates this point, there's nothing about the "back" of the corgi that's an issue. The standard doesn't need to be changed. The things that happen in the long-backed dogs are illnesses like IVDD (intervertebral disc disease) and DM (degenerative myelopathy) and are almost certainly a function of how cartilage is formed in short-legged dogs and how the dog builds myelin around its nerve bundles. The community of breeders is working and funding research that will tell us how to select good breeding candidates that won't be prone to the diseases. But it's not a simple "they're just breeding freaks and that's what's wrong" situation. You can force Dachshund and corgi breeders to halve the lengths of the backs and it wouldn't change a thing. And that's exactly why we as show breeders object to being painted as the villains in these situations. We KNOW it's not our standards; we ABHOR and obsess over genetic disease; and, honestly, we're in this because we adore our dogs so much. We want them around for full, long lives just as much as any pet owner does.

Joanna Kimball
Blacksheep Cardigan Corgis

PS: We don't actually have any good studies on purebreds vs. mixed-breeds precisely because we haven't separated the well-bred portions of the purebreds. My own breed, when carefully bred, routinely (and I really do mean routinely, as in virtually all of them if they don't get injured or pneumonia or something) lives to be 13-15; I know of at least a few who are 17 and 18. So show me a study that looks at 35-45-lb mixed breeds and gives a reliable measure of how long they live, and then we can start to really compare numbers.

I considered this to be a most brilliant post, so I tracked down Joanna Kimball's rufflyspeaking blog and found an equally brilliant and scathing expose of Pedigree Dogs Exposed. Although I don't agree with everything that Joanna has on her blog site, and I truly feel ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgebacks should be carefully placed in pet homes not euthanized (afterall the word cull by definition means to "pick out from others, select" not kill), but otherwise Joanna does an excellent job in this particular article of exposing the inaccurate and misleading information presented in the television programme Pedigree Dogs Exposed. Permission was given on the site to reproduce or forward any content and rather that sending you to that site I have reproduced the expose here so it will be able to get even more exposure. It's long, but very worthwhile reading.

If you have never heard of Pedigree Dogs Exposed or not yet seen it, you can follow these links to view it:

Pedigree Dogs Exposed - Part 1
Pedigree Dogs Exposed - Part 2
Pedigree Dogs Exposed - Part 3
Pedigree Dogs Exposed - Part 4
Pedigree Dogs Exposed - Part 5
Pedigree Dogs Exposed - Part 6

Now on to the EXPOSE ...

The implications of the Kennel Club (UK) changes to the Pekingese standard; also Pedigree Dogs Exposed.

October 15, 2008 — rufflyspeaking
By: Joanna Kimball, Blacksheep Cardigan Corgis

I said I would get to the Pekingese and UK Kennel Club situation and here it is. I’ve been stewing for a couple of days about exactly how to communicate what I’m thinking and worried about, and I suspect this will be a very large post, so settle down and get a cup of coffee.

This can’t be told without going back a few years. Across Europe-and this is a situation very unlike the dog breeding culture in the US-there is a feeling that government is responsible for pet animal welfare to a very great extent. There is an expectation for rules-making that would be considered invasive and even unlawful here. For example, in some Scandinavian countries bitches are not allowed to care for more than eight puppies; any additional whelps must be put down. Failure to do this means the “breed wardens” will throw you out of the breed club and quite possibly you’ll be blacklisted. It’s a very interesting paradox; the acceptance of dogs as part of normal life is higher there (for example, dogs are often allowed in restaurants and shops), there is a much lower tendency to perform “routine” procedures on dogs (including spay/neuter, although there are very few unwanted litters), but there’s also a much greater interference in terms of what dogs may be owned or bred and how and when.

Into that culture came the recognition of a term that, across all the countries I can find it, is translated as something like “pain-breeding” or “torture-breeding.” Pain-breeding is the production of a weird dog, basically. It’s when you breed a dog with a very short face, very short legs, long spine, lots of coat, or any other trait that could be seen to interfere with the dog having a “normal” (we’ll get to that later) life. Pain-breeding also means any kind of pairing that could possibly result in dogs that are unhealthy. This particular clause tends to affect those dogs that have possibly deleterious recessive genes but are themselves healthy (like dogs who carry for but do not express PRA, an eye disease), or those dogs that when bred together may produce a disorder relating to color (for example, breeding two merle collies, or two harlequin Danes, or two blue Dobermans).

Germany passed the first pain-breeding legislation that I am aware of, earlier in this decade. It forbade, among many other things, breeding two harlequin Danes or two dapple Dachshunds together, and outlawed a long list of breeds perceived to be either unhealthy or prone to aggression (which was, as far as I can tell from the German breeders, part of the same philosophy-it’s not so much “they’re unsafe” as it is “it’s unfair to the dog to breed them when they have tendencies like this”). The breeds forbidden were done so under the German Animal Welfare Law, which gives an indication of the philosophy behind the decision.

You need to know those three things-that there is a focus on a “natural” dog as opposed to an “unnatural” dog, that there is a feeling that any breeding that could possibly produce an unhealthy puppy (even if that puppy would be put down at birth) should be forbidden, and that there is a greater acceptance of dog-related legislation-to understand what’s going on in the UK right now.

Coming back to the present, this year the BBC sponsored and broadcast a… well, let’s very generously call it a documentary-style program, called Pedigree Dogs Exposed. It was a total piece of schlock journalism that basically can be summed up as “Purebred dogs? Parade of mutants! Kennel club? Moronic eugenicists! Breeders? Money-grubbing builders of gingerbread houses! You know who liked dog breeding? HITLER!”

I watched it and it’s honestly laughably inaccurate, both in facts and in conclusions, but it created a groundswell of dog-show hatred (and breeder hatred, and Kennel Club hatred) especially in the UK but around the world as well. The RSPCA withdrew from Crufts (and this is me being cynical here, but I believe this was their plan all along-the RSPCA’s vet was the one who called a dog show a parade of mutants). People were doing the Internet equivalent of running around waving their hands in the air screaming. And the Kennel Club itself… well, let’s talk about that in a minute.

That program “exposed” three categories of issues in registered dogs: extreme breed traits, inherited disease, and inbreeding.

Let’s define extreme breed traits first. The program pointed out the issues they say are the result of extremes in face, legs, spine, tail, and coat. It strongly alleged that breeding for any conformational detail that took a dog away from wolf-hood was detrimental to that dog to the extent that it deviated from the wolf, and pointed out some specific examples: the brachycephalic head of the Peke, the curled tail of the Pug, the dwarfed legs and long ears of Basset Hounds, the extreme angulation of the German Shepherd Dog, the large eye of several breeds, and the ridge of the Ridgeback (which got an extra helping of hatred because some breeders put ridgeless puppies to sleep at birth).

Second, they targeted inherited disease. Here they pointed out the epilepsy that plagued a sweet Boxer and the malformed skull and mitral valve disease in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
Third, they made some really stunning allegations about the vague and undefined evil of inbreeding, which was said to cause horrible diseases and mental defects and infertility.
They served it all up with a big swirly topping of vets decrying deliberately breeding mutations and how terrible inbreeding is, and owners weeping over their sweet sick dogs.

Well, the Kennel Club LOST ITS BOWELS. As far as I can tell, there must have been about twenty people in a board room having a complete fit. I’m tempted to call them na├»ve, but maybe it really is the truth that they hadn’t ever had charges like this leveled at them. The Brits LOVE their dogs, really adore them. So maybe the Kennel Club felt that it would enjoy the cozy approval of the entire country indefinitely.

And here is where the Kennel Club made what I feel to be a completely horrible decision and perhaps one that will end up being fatal to its role in the UK. It is a move that I feel indicates a genuine emergency on the part of the purebred dog community world-wide.

Instead of responding to each of the allegations of the program and explaining where and how they were incorrect, the Kennel Club AGREED. It not only agreed, it promptly shifted blame to the individual breed clubs and accused them of cruel and inhumane breeding practices.
The breed clubs were, understandably, horrified. This is their parent club; they have always felt not that this was a boss but that the Kennel Club is the very best of what they are. The people accusing them of not caring for their dogs were once (and many are still) breeders themselves; the KC, it is felt, should have had the breeders’ side on this.

Specifically, the Kennel Club announced the following sweeping changes:

1) Each standard (the description of the perfect purebred of that breed) would be reviewed and changed by fiat as necessary. If you’re not in purebred dogs, let me just tell you what an incredible assumption of power this is. Breed standards do change, but they do so extremely slowly and the major impetus behind each change is the breed club (for example, the Pekingese Club), not the Kennel Club. The breed club typically has a Standards Committee and spends literally decades considering whether the breed needs even the most minute changes to the standard. I’ve been in on months of deep and passionate arguments about whether a dog’s elbow should mark half the distance to the ground from the shoulder or if it should be an inch above that. Some people believe so much in the traditional description of a breed that they will talk longingly of the glories of, say, the 1971 standard, which was probably published when they were ten years old and which varies from the 1993 standard by half of one paragraph. The Kennel Club’s normal role in changing a breed standard is to provide input on the correct format of the proposed change or changes, to make sure that the wording will be clear to the judges, to suggest clarification, etc. For it to seize control of standards and change them without breeder input is shocking and unprecedented.

2) The standards would be changed with one goal: to reflect an emphasis on “health.” Now let me assure you that they don’t actually mean health, or longevity. They mean “less exaggeration.” The Kennel Club has totally bought, or is pandering to, the notion that deviation from the wolf equals detriment to the dog, with the extent of the deviation indicating the extent of the detriment. This is TOTALLY INSANE, as I will try to discuss later, but they bought it. And so the Kennel Club has promised to focus on the exact issues that Pedigree Dogs Exposed insisted were problematic-short faces, short legs, curled tails, heavy coat, long spines, long ears, and angulation.

3) The Kennel Club implemented a Code of Ethics for all breeders and forced each club to adopt it. This, again, is a power it has never before assumed.

A Code of Ethics is sort of like the standard for breeders. It describes what it means to be a good breeder of that breed, and is a valuable tool for prospective owners and also for prospective breeders. Most, if not all, breeds have a COE, but aside from some standard statements about humane breeding they vary considerably between breeds. The COE reflects the best practices for that particular breed or responds to a situation the breeders perceive to be an issue for that breed and that breed alone.

So, for example, in the US the Pembroke Welsh Corgi COE mandates that puppies not be sold before the age of ten weeks. The Cardigan COE has seven weeks, but forbids the retouching of show or informational photographs. I don’t even pretend to know what situation led those particular elements to be added to the COE of the breeds, but there they are.
The fact that the Kennel Club handed down a COE that must be adopted by all breed clubs was, again, an implied accusation that the breed clubs could not be trusted to make their own decisions or weigh for themselves which practices define a good breeder.

4) The Kennel Club is currently seeking legislative powers that will make it law to belong to the club’s Accredited Breeder Scheme if you want to legally sell puppies in the UK.

So what is wrong with what the Kennel Club is doing? Why is it such a bad decision?

I want to answer this in two parts: First, why Pedigree Dogs Exposed was incorrect, totally and fantastically and horrifyingly wrong, in its conclusions. Second, what this means to the community of UK breeders and, because the world of registered dogs is in fact very small, to breeders around the world.

Let’s examine the assertions of the Pedigree Dogs Exposed program, one by one. I’m going to leave out the Pekingese stuff for now, because I want to examine that breed in particular in Part 3.

1. Purebred dogs have radically changed in the last 100 years.

The pictures the documentary uses to supposedly “expose” the changes in purebred dogs are totally false. You cannot make statements about a dog based on a photo of a POOR EXAMPLE of the breed! I can go find you a poorly bred long-legged Basset right now in 2008; doesn’t mean that the breed has changed.

From 1931. See the front legs?

From 1950

Oh, and just because I promised, here’s a 2008 Basset (found this one on one of the Internet puppy finder sites, which means that now I have to take a shower to wash the skeeze off):

Moving on: The bulldog they say is the historic one absolutely isn’t. That’s a PIT bull dog, not a bull-baiting dog.

What they actually looked like in 1850 (look at how short the face is):




Bulldogs: (1950s):

Modern (2007): This is a show Bulldog (a Polish boy). Look at the angle from his nose to his lower jaw. You can see that his upper teeth would be only slightly inside his lower teeth. Note that he’s actually more moderate than the dog from the 1950s!

This is the exact skull the program said was representative of the English Bulldog:

This is not only an incorrect skull but a grossly malformed one. The dog would have had serious trouble eating or living anything close to a normal life.

By the way, this is a skull sold by a medical research company, which would, of course, have nothing to do with determining the normative Bulldog skull. And it’s on the first page of a google images search for “bulldog skull”– the research done for this program was incredibly shallow and irresponsible.

This is the actual Bulldog skull, as described by the illustrated standard–in other words, this is the skull that is seen as the highest achievement of deliberate breeding:

It is absolutely obvious that show breeders do NOT want the unhealthy skull, would immediately reject the unhealthy skull, and would be horrified by any animal in that condition.

2. How about the Bull Terrier! They’ve totally changed! You can see how the skulls have changed through the decades!

Answer: This is the skull series they animated to supposedly show changes (found, yes, in a google images search):

It’s irresponsible of anyone to use that skull series to show that bull terriers used to look like X and now look like Y. That skull series shows exactly what the study says it does, which is that dogs have an extremely plastic phenotype and you can cause rapid changes in a short period of time.

In order to say that bull terriers looked like X in year 0 and look like Y in year 30, you have to show far more than one skull per year and you have to find the NORMATIVE skulls. There’s a huge variation in type according to deliberate breeding (or the opposite, careless breeding) and I could find you identical skulls to every single one of those, all labeled AKC-registered Bull

Terriers, in 2008.

Check it:

The “1890s” skull:

The “1950s” skull:

The “unhealthy overexaggerated skull”:
The “hey, that’s pretty moderate, why don’t breeders do THAT?” skull:

ALL of those are BTs, ALL are from the late 2000s, and the one who is a champion, the head they want? Yep, #4.

Here’s another example, a top-winning Bull Terrier from the 70s: still think the breed is in rapid flux?

3. Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a ridge, which is a form of spina bifida, and because of the ridge they have horrible painful dermoid sinus formations. If they would just breed the ridgeless dogs, they wouldn’t have this problem!

Answer: That statement was just categorically untrue. The ridge is NOT a form of spina bifida; it’s a cowlick. Ridgeless dogs do NOT have a lesser chance of having dermoid sinus formations. They are two separate issues. Dermoid sinus, by the way, is actively battled and bred against by good Ridgeback breeders.

4. Horrible Ridgeback breeders cull puppies without ridges!

Yes, some do. And I want to explain why. It’s not because they’re evil. It’s because ridgeless dogs don’t look like Ridgebacks. They look like a hound-pit bull mix. They are very rarely picked up as Ridgebacks when they come into rescue, so they’re not valued and are not turned over to purebred rescue. Ridgeless dogs are very likely to be put to sleep, assumed to be a dangerous cross-bred. Many end up as bait dogs in dog-fighting rings.

The fate of a ridgeless dog is far less than certain if the first and original owner does not act responsibly, and every breeder knows that you can’t always trust owners to act responsibly.

So, as a breeder, if you know that a certain percentage of your ridgeless puppies are going to end up living horrible lives of pain and confusion and loneliness and then be put to death, even if it’s only one percent, you have a decision to make. You can send them out there, trying hard not to think about that one percent, or you can make sure that their lives are short and painless and they never know fear or hunger or fighting. It is an individual decision that no breeder makes lightly. We LOVE our puppies. We ADORE our dogs. Every single time we lose one it is a personal tragedy. So while I may have certain convictions about what I would do, I have a great deal of sympathy for those who make a decision that is different.

5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are unhealthy because uncaring breeders (who, it is pretty explicitly implied, enjoy causing dogs pain) are trying to produce a tiny skull that doesn’t leave enough room for their brains.

Answer: Nobody knows exactly why syringomyelia is a problem in CKCS. The round head type is not appreciably different from many other small dogs, including the English Toy Spaniel, the Shih Tzu, the Maltese, etc. Across the world, good breeders are horrified and are doing something about it. I would bet money that almost every health issue that the documentary pounced on was uncovered by good breeders, the research paid for by good breeders, and the population of good breeders is freaking out and trying to fix.

Note here: (<– linky)

Look at the summary of DNA research. Every single study is being paid for by the breed clubs of various countries, meaning that every penny is coming from the pockets of the breeders themselves.

No one is sure, yet, how to get rid of syringomyelia in CKCS. My sister-in-law owns two Cavaliers, a mom and son, who were given to her by a breeder who MRId the mom and found very mild signs of the disease (the dog is pain-free). That particular breeder was completely clearing out (finding good homes for and never breeding again) every single dog who had any signs of the disorder. The mom dog was imported from England, did well in the shows here, the breeder spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on health testing, and then gave the dog away. That’s the kind of response good breeders are giving to these horrific diseases.

Right now the Cardigan people are tackling IVDD (disc disease). You know who has worked to describe the disease? breeders. Who is donating thousands of dollars to DNA research? Breeders.

Who is pushing everybody to do cheek swabs, bringing the swabs to shows, pressuring every owner they can think of? Breeders.

There is no body of individuals more dedicated to stamping out canine genetic disease than the ethical purebred breeders. Every year, the purebred clubs donate literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund studies to identify genes, they are 90% of the customer base for the genetic testing companies, they are the ones pushing for health registries, they rigidly police their own ranks and disavow anyone who is knowingly breeding unhealthy dogs. I’ve never met a single cross-breeding breeder who will volunteer their dogs for studies, but it’s commonplace in the show world. I have a friend who has driven her Danes hundreds of miles, twice a year, on her own nickel, for years now, just so the researchers can do serial ultrasounds on a related family of dogs. When the call goes out for cheek swabs and blood tests and x-rays and echocardiograms, show breeders consider it their duty to respond–never seen a Puggle breeder do anything of the kind.

The idea that breeders are sinister in this is absolutely untrue. There ARE bad apples. Of course. But when you look at the entire body of responsible breeders, it’s an overwhelmingly concerned and careful group of people.

6. It’s a symptom of how terrible CKCS breeders are that they continue to breed affected dogs.

Answer: is an absolute required read to understand this issue. It is a fact that if no Cavalier with any form of indent in the skull is ever bred, the breed will cease to exist. This seems to be a skull formation that exists throughout the breed (and is NOT, and NEVER HAS BEEN, the result of breeders trying to get a smaller and smaller skull regardless of the consequences). The goal of the protocol is to minimize symptoms and the expression of the actual disease, and to move toward a breed that has no skull indentation. Within this protocol, it is acceptable to breed dogs that have the skull indentation but are asymptomatic, as long as you are breeding them to dogs that do not have the indentation.

7. There are a few good breeders, but most of them are in it only for the ribbons and don’t care about health.

Answer: This really isn’t true. The reason that doesn’t work too well to ignore health if you’re a breeder is that it’s very difficult to exist on your own. You have to buy puppies, use other people’s stud dogs, and hopefully other people will ask to use yours. Since there is a huge, HUGE amount of peer pressure within the group to never lose sight of health testing, you will not be welcome. Puppies will not be sold to you; you will not be able to use stud dogs. Your own stud dogs will not be in demand. So you will not succeed consistently or at all.

I know the Dane world better than I know the Cardigan world, yet. So I can tell you that in the community of blue/black breeders, which is maybe 30-40 active and inactive kennels across the US, there’s a set of four or five “show” breeders that do not health-test consistently, or they do health test but they don’t make decisions based on those results. Everybody knows it and nobody will touch them with a ten-foot pole. The non-testing breeders all stick together and they breed to dogs owned by the other members of that group. They are not respected by their peers, nobody sends puppy people to them, and if we can warn puppy people away from them we try. They’re so shunned that most of the other breeders won’t even breed to something with those kennel names in the pedigree–those non-tested dogs as parents or grandparents taint even otherwise excellent breeding prospects, even if the offspring dog has finished its championship, even if the dog itself has health testing. Those non-testing breeders have effectively totally shot themselves in the feet.

So no, I don’t think that there are many more non-testing breeders than there are testing breeders. The dog show world is intensely political, it’s not really “fair” in many ways. It’s far from perfect. But the pressure to consistently health-test, in every breed I’ve seriously investigated or been involved in, is SERIOUS AND REAL.

8. The show ring is the real evil; because it only looks for beauty, breeders only care about looks.

Answer: The community of good breeders knows that the show ring is purely a place where the conformation of the dog is evaluated. Conformation is only one piece of the puzzle. We think that shows are VERY important, and goodness knows we love the gorgeous dogs who are the top winners, but if you are savvy and watch the dogs actually being bred, you’ll find that some of the top-winning dogs of all time have very, very few offspring. That’s because within their breed, even though the breeders recognized the beauty of the dog, it was not a suitable stud dog or brood bitch because of some health, temperament, or ability shortfall.

That’s where the real question of responsibility comes in. Breeding only for looks is, for obvious reasons (that’s what they see on TV), what everybody thinks we do. But it’s far more often that I hear “I’ve got this lovely bitch at home and there is literally not a male in the country I want to breed her to” than the opposite. It would be EASY to breed for looks and nothing else. But you bankrupt yourself ethically and you do a huge disservice to your dogs if you do.

The one place where I think that the program had some leverage with me was with the rears on German Shepherd Dogs. I happen to be a person who thinks that GSD rears are in terrible shape right now–but what they don’t tell you on the video is that the majority of everybody in the show dog community who are not GSD breeders thinks GSD rears are crazy. “My gosh, I can’t even look at them; they look crippled” is the most common show-ring comment. I HOPE that someday they get their heads out of their armpits and realize that it’s nuts, but I will say that even with the enormous change in preferred style, they’re STILL OFAing their dogs. They’re still testing and still breeding carefully. And not every dog is that extreme–I’ve seen the ones that wobble and I hate it, but I’ve also seen dogs winning that are, yes, overangulated and yes, too far down in the rear, but they can stand normally.

In any other breed, a dog who stood like that in the rear would go to the back of the line. Dog shows are NOT about health; they are about soundness. So you could have a dog with lymphoma win Best in Show as long as he looked sound and muscular and his gait was perfect. That’s why you always insist, as a breeder, and why you must insist as a puppy buyer, on health testing as well as show participation.

How about temperament? Any registered dog on full registration (as opposed to limited, which means that the breeder doesn’t want the dog shown or bred) who is not spayed or neutered can be entered in a dog show and can walk in the ring. That means there are absolutely dogs with poor temperaments in the ring. Again, this is one of the reasons that you sometimes see those top winners with very few offspring. If the handler is good enough to keep the dog from biting the judge, it can and will win. If it does bite, it will be excused and/or disqualified and after 3 DQs you’re done; you can’t ever show the dog again. Dogs that attack other dogs and do harm will sometimes be immediately banned, sometimes not. That’s why you never, as a breeder, breed to a dog without either getting your hands on him yourself or getting the opinion of someone you trust who HAS had their hands on him.

I would honestly invite anyone who is interested in this subject to attend a dog show. I strongly suspect that you’d not find a crazy freak show full of unhealthy dogs. I’ve said this before and I’ll offer again–if someone in the New England area wants to attend a show (to look at the different breeds, to see whether show dogs are abused, to see if this documentary is correct, etc.) and I can get there, I’ll walk around with you and show you what’s going on and what happens with the different breeds.

9. Mixed-breed dogs are healthier and have better temperaments than purebreds because they have hybrid vigor.

Answer: Here’s the way it usually works: Mixed-breed comes into vet. Vet says “I’m so sorry; your dog has osteosarcoma. These things just happen sometimes.” Boxer comes into vet. Vet says “I’m so sorry; your dog has osteosarcoma. It’s because he’s a Boxer.” Labeling plays a HUGE part in our perception of purebred health.

The other thing that happens is that people’s experience with purebreds-and this includes VETS’ experience with purebreds-tends to be almost exclusively with poorly bred ones. How many actively showing, health-tested, hunt-tested Labs have you ever met? How many World Sieger Shepherds? If all you’ve ever met are badly bred purebreds, of COURSE you think they’re all unhealthy and squirrely–they probably are, because they’ve been bred for nothing more than an certificate of registration, and with no more care than you’d use in choosing a pair of socks. An UNTESTED purebred is a very poor health risk, because if you’ve got two dogs on the street at least they have to be strong and sound enough to get tab A into slot B. Purebreds have no such restriction; a bad breeder will find some way to get the bitch pregnant.

There is absolutely no such thing as hybrid vigor in dogs. Hybrid vigor is a term that means that when you breed two TOTALLY unrelated breeds, or even two species, the resulting babies are bigger, taller, stronger, healthier than either parent. So Brahma-Limousin cows, for example, are heartier than either Brahma or Limousin purebreds. In order to take advantage of hybrid vigor, you have to keep breeding the originals–in other words, you don’t keep breeding the Brahmousin to each other or they become just another purebred with no advantages; you’re constantly producing new ones using the two unrelated breeds.

All purebred dogs are about 150-200 years old, and they all came from the same place (Europe). Aside from a few primitive breeds like the Chow, genetic testing has proven that even the breeds that look old are modern European creations (much to the chagrin of the Ibizan hound people). Until 200 years ago, there was no notion of a closed stud book, so while you had some lines that were relatively pure, the fact is that if it could herd and looked mostly like a corgi it WAS a corgi, and the same dog in another part of England would possibly have been labeled as desirable Shetland Sheepdog breeding stock.

So when you breed a Labrador and a Poodle, for example, you’re not accessing any “hybrid vigor.” You’re putting back together two breeds that were probably freely exchanging genes no more than a couple hundred years ago. The hip dysplasia in Poodles is the same hip dysplasia as is in Labs. The genes for thyroid disorders in Dobermans are the same as the genes for thyroid disorders in Rottweilers. You’re right that the genes have to meet to be expressed–and they’re quite as likely to meet when you cross-breed as when you breed two purebreds, except in the relatively few breeds that have genuine issues with a few cancers.

I have four dogs in the house, all of which I love dearly. The Cardigans represent the best lines in the US. They have strong, enduring structure, their backs are not too long or too short (won’t break down under stress); their teeth have a perfect bite so they’ll always be able to eat, even in old age; their front feet turn out no more than 30%, so they won’t get arthritis. They’ve been genetically tested for PRA, heart, hips; I know exactly how long their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and gg-grandparents lived and what they died of (actually, thanks to the great good health of Cardis, most of those dogs are still alive). I have an accidental cross rescue, a dachshund/Jack Russell Terrier. He’s also achondroplastic, like the Cardigans, but in his case there’s been no care to make sure his feet don’t turn out too much or that his back is level and strong. His elbows do not touch his body, so he can’t run as fast or corner as quickly as they can. His feet turn out and are flat, so he doesn’t have the tendon system he needs to keep his feet from hurting when he gets older. I have no way of knowing whether he’ll suffer from eye, heart, hip, or spinal problems as he ages. I also have a “designer dog,” a deliberately crossbred Papillon-Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She has cherry eye, a congenitally deformed jaw, and bowed front legs, and for her whole life I’ll have to watch out for glaucoma, epilepsy, spinal disorders, brain disorders, etc., because none of those have ever been tested for, as far as I know, in her generations of puppy-mill ancestors. So from my point of view this is not even close to an argument.

10. The dog on the program was so congenitally deformed that he had to sit on an “ice pillow” so he wouldn’t die!

Danny, the Peke pictured, was on a cool bed, which is an extremly common tool used in the show ring to keep the dogs comfortable so they won’t pant. It’s got a gel inside that is at room temperature but helps transfer heat, and it feels pleasant to the dog, like lying on a tile floor. Some exhibitors will put an ice pack under the bed to cool it off. We don’t want them to pant because an open mouth makes a bad picture. Judges can’t see the profile of the dog’s head properly if the dog is panting; the dog can’t show an alert or pretty expression when it is panting. We like to have a nice photograph, too; it’s important to us as breeders that photos show our dogs at their best. Danny was in no danger of overheating. It had been a very long day for everyone; Danny was going to need to have his picture taken hundreds or thousands of times and was under hundreds of lights. That made him pant, so his handler wisely let him lie down on a cool bed. No dog would ever lie down on an actual ice pack, any more than you’d lie down on a block of ice.

11. Purebreds are so deformed that they have to be bred by AI and have c-sections!

There’s a huge difference between “have to be” and “usually are.”

Good breeders typically get one or two or three litters from each female. Every single litter is extremely precious and represents the investment of years of effort and thousands and thousands of dollars, and we LOVE our breeding bitches. That means that we have a very low tolerance for the risks associated with breeding.

So a large proportion of ALL breeders, across ALL breeds, preferentially use AI (either “fresh,” where the male is collected right there and the bitch immediately inseminated, or surgical). They don’t want to risk infection, injury (I’ve had a male injured during breeding, so I know this happens), or the possibility that either dog won’t get the job done.

Pekingese CAN breed normally, but their breeders are very worried about the possibility of injury when the two dogs involved are short and heavy, so they do AIs. As I said, this is true across the spectrum of breeds including those very “natural” in shape and size.

There are SO many reasons that dogs end up with sections, and some are a “weakness” and others are not. The c-sections we had with the Danes were on a mother and daughter; the mom’s section was because she had dead puppies inside that had set up a huge infection; she delivered five live and five dead puppies and I sectioned her for the last (live) puppy. Her daughter’s labor stalled out, and when the vet opened her up she found the puppies “shrink wrapped” in an extraordinarily tight uterus (she actually had to be spayed to get the puppies out). For each, if I had let the labor progress she would eventually have delivered. But we would have had what I considered, at the time, exhausted and terrified, too high a chance of losing puppies or mom. Objectively, looking back, I don’t know.

Neither bitch could be bred again, obviously (massive infection and scarring, mandatory spay), but even though this was in mom and daughter I don’t think I would have called it a genetic weakness.

If you have a whole bunch of related dogs who are all ending up with primary inertia–yup, I’m willing to call that a genetic problem. But the number of times I’ve actually seen that isn’t high. Most of the times when you have a high incidence of c-sections it’s for slow labors, which IS something I’d love to have erradicated in purebreds, but the reason they’re sections is that it’s a nervous breeder who sections quickly and for any reason that could possibly lead to puppy death (ummm, guilty as charged).

And of course a true dystocia you’ve got to section or everybody dies.

I’m honestly not sure there’s ANY data about c-section frequency in dogs. I’ve certainly never seen a study or seen a study referred to. You have to understand that c-sections in dogs are run entirely by breeder judgment; except for the very rare complete dystocia, these are ALL breeders making the decisions. So rates are heavily, probably almost completely, influenced by personal comfort levels and not necessarily by any kind of medical reality.

Let me give you an example: I have a friend, a GREAT breeder, who breeds Mastiffs. She sections every bitch, every time. They do not get a trial of labor, nothing. For her, losing a puppy is absolutely unacceptable. She also needs the predictability of being able to take two weeks off work for each litter. So she progestone tests, knows the day of ovulation, schedules the section for the exact day when delivery should occur (this is actually OK in dogs–there’s not a wide range like there is in human women), and sections every bitch.

So she’s got multiple generations getting multiple c-sections. But *could* those bitches have free-whelped? Quite possibly. She could, in fact, have the freest of free-whelping Mastiffs in the entire country, but the stats would not reflect that.

I have another friend, a Bull Terrier breeder, who NEVER sections except for a complete dystocia/malpresentation. She wants the bitch to whelp no matter what. She’s lost large proportions of entire litters during the whelping process; almost every litter has at least one or two stillborns. So are her dogs statistically complete free-whelpers? Absolutely. Would they be free-whelpers if they lived in my house? VERY doubtful.

Pekingese (and bulldogs and pugs and so on) CAN free-whelp. But they will lose puppies if they do, and these are already breeds who cost a huge amount (not just in money) to get pregnant and who have small litters. A single stillborn represents half the litter, often. When canine c-sections are relatively safe and ensure that you get every puppy out alive, for many breeders (across ALL breeds) and or many repro vets, this decision is absolutely understandable.

I want to spend some time now looking at the specific situation with the Pekingese standard, because the changes made to it are the distillation of the new direction the Kennel Club has decided to take in its (regrettable, in my opinion) response to the concerns raised in the Pedigree Dogs Exposed program. Pekingese were the first to fall in what is going to be a wholesale razing of standards because they have the misfortune of combining all of the mutations (and they are mutations, that much is true) that the program highlighted.

Pekes have a brachycephalic face, they are achondroplastic, they are often gotten pregnant via AI and given c-sections, they have great quantity of coat, they have a tail up over the back, they have long spines in proportion to their height, they have heavy shoulders and forequarters, and (let’s face it) they walk funny. For an agenda that focuses on appearance as an indicator of health, they’re walking around with big red targets on their backs.

What I want to do first is explore exactly how tortured a typical Peke’s life is, and then move on to what the implications of this move are going to be for all registered dogs. I don’t think I’m exaggerating or overreacting when I say that this will have very profound and very far-reaching effects throughout dogdom.

Pedigree Dogs Exposed made so many terrible assertions about Pekingese dogs that many viewers probably wondered how on earth the dogs could even make it through the day. But the Peke is actually, in the grand scheme of things, a pretty hardy little dog. They run like crazy-yes, even the ones with the show-quality faces-they jump, they play fight, and they live terribly long lives, well into their teens. You need to stop and realize what that means-they have a lifespan between four and six years longer than the average Golden Retriever. Four to six years longer than Flat-coats. Six years longer than the average Great Dane. They are stubborn, charming, demanding dogs with a fiercely devoted following, and if you buy one you are much more likely to have it die of old age than anything else.

The health problems that occur in Pekingese dogs do relate to the dog’s face. A proportion of the dogs will need soft palate surgery, and probably more should get it than currently do. The poorly bred dogs, whose breeders are not paying attention to this issue, can also have stenotic nares, where the nostrils curl inward and restrict free breathing. Labored breathing affects the health adversely, (eventually) causing tracheal problems and heart problems.

The question is Does this need disqualify the Peke from existing? I would strongly argue that the answer is no.

Palate surgery is one day in the life of the dog; it is not a risky surgery and when done with a small laser does not even require stitches. Stenotic nares surgery, where it is necessary, requires only two sutures. These procedures, alone or in combination, totally solve the breathing issue and resolve any discomfort.

What the Kennel Club should have done, in my opinion, is immediately respond to criticism about SHAPE by emphasizing QUALITY OF LIFE. Pekes generally have an extremely high one. This is not a breed in crisis.

What needs to be changed, I would argue, is that breeders should stop any form of insisting that the face is not an issue. They must instead fully acknowledge it and take responsibility for making sure it never affects the dogs’ quality of life. If breeders established as a standard best practice that puppies be kept until the palate could be evaluated, and that any puppy or young dog receive any needed surgery before being placed, without exception, they would do a great deal of good for the individual dogs and for the image of the breed.

This would almost certainly necessitate a longer period of time before the puppies could go to homes; a possible “fix” could be the use of a palate deposit or similar, where part of the purchase price could be held in anticipation of the surgery. If the dog needs the surgery, it is “free” or at a much reduced cost to the owner; if the dog does not need the surgery everyone goes on his or her way with a happy and healthy dog.

Why is this so terribly important, and why should every breed club take notice and strongly consider allying with the Pekingese contingent to fight this?

Let’s look at the mutations that were targeted in the television program, and look at how the Kennel Club changed the standard to move toward erasing exaggerations in EACH area. Most people think that the face is the only thing the KC cares about. This is entirely false and you’re asking to have your standard changed underneath you if you don’t pay attention. Complacency is a VERY BAD IDEA.

Face: If we take the necessity for soft palate resection or stenotic nares to be criteria for a needed change in the standard, EVERY brachycephalic breed is in danger. Every single one of them, even those with as much muzzle as a Boxer or American Cocker, needs tracheal surgery on a more or less regular basis. LENGTHENING THE PEKE MUZZLE WILL NOT FIX THIS. This is SO IMPORTANT to understand! Let me say it again:

If the necessity for palate surgery is the criterion, nothing less than a full (same length as backskull) muzzle will suffice.

That means the Kennel Club can be expected to target the following breeds:

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Boston Terrier
  • Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • Shih Tzu
  • Tibetan Spaniel
  • Boxer
  • Affenpinscher
  • Brussels Griffon
  • English Toy Spaniel (what the UK calls the King Charles Spaniel)
  • Japanese Chin
  • Pekingese
  • Pug

Legs: The Kennel Club specifically changed the leg length on the Peke. The Pedigree Dogs Exposed program called for an end to the breeding of achondroplastic dogs (who are “mutated” and “deformed”).

This means you will see pressure on, if not changes to the standard for:

  • Basset Bleu De Gascogne
  • Basset Fauve De Bretagne
  • Basset Griffon Vendeen
  • Basset Hound
  • Dachshund (all six varieties)
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Cesky Terrier
  • Dandie Dinmont
  • Glen of Imaal Terrier
  • Sealyham Terrier
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Skye Terrier
  • Swedish Vallhund
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • Lancashire Heeler

Wrinkle: This was specifically mentioned as a problematic mutation. Look for targets painted on these breeds:

  • Bullmastiff
  • Dogue De Bordeaux
  • Mastiff Neapolitan
  • Mastiff
  • Shar-Pei
  • Bloodhound

Coat: is already being radically changed in the Pekingese standard. Others that share the excessive coat mutation:

  • Puli
  • Chow
  • Bergamasco
  • Komondor
  • Poodle
  • The Bichon group: Bichon, Havanese, Bolognese, Maltese, Coton
  • The hairless breeds: Chinese Crested, Mexican Hairless

Eye size: The large round eye is being changed. Other breeds with similar eyes (that are not already targeted under the anti-brachycephalic language):

  • Lhasa Apso
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Pomeranian
  • Chihuahua

Thick bone/heavy forefront: Most affected breeds are already noted here under another mutation, but I think the Clumber Spaniel could fall into this category.

Commonly bred by AI/commonly delivered by c-section: Because it is not recognized that these decisions are made by breeders who are nervous about disease, need to get a breeding done in a short amount of time, and won’t tolerate losing puppies, this will also be perceived as a health issue. Expect most of the toy breeds, the short-bodied muscular dogs, and many of the very large breeds to be blamed.

Common congenital issues: Now here’s where we’re going to really get in trouble - as if we haven’t already. The RSPCA has already made the case that deliberately breeding ANY dog with a congenital issue or with the possibility of passing along a congenital issue is “pain-breeding.” Think about this very carefully. Is your breed currently fighting an issue? Goldens and Flatcoats and Rotties and Boxers and Bernese and Danes with cancers and heart problems; Collies with CEA; Poodles with SA; breeds with storage diseases, breeds with low puppy vitality, breeds with Addisons and Cushings. Let’s make the pile higher: Dalmatians with deafness; Keeshonds with thyroid disorders; Dobermans with von Willebrands and color dilution alopedia; the fifty breeds at increased risk for bloat.

I know of very few, if any, breeds that do not have one or two issues that are more common than in the background population.

Unless we are very clear on the benefits that deliberate purebred development brings - that yes, your Smooth Fox Terrier is more likely to have patellar problems than average, but is healthier and more predictable in these other four ways - we are going to find ourselves playing a very uncomfortable game of defense against people who do not like us, who do not think dogs ought to be deliberately bred at all, and who view purpose-breeding that changes body types as immoral and quite possibly illegal.

The other thing nobody’s talking about is what this decision and the changes in the standard are going to do with the UK Pekingese. The United Kingdom has historically been a repository of some of the very best genes in purebred dogs. They REALLY know how to breed dogs. For such a small country, they have an incredibly huge number of dogs being exported to all corners of the world to enrich and better the gene pools and conformation of many breeds. The herding dogs, of course; the Labrador and Sussex and Clumber and other sporting dogs; many of the giants (I absolutely love the UK Danes; they have the fronts and shoulders that put the US dogs to shame); etc.– all of them exist there in an excellence of form and function that exist very few other places.

The changing of these standards is going to effectively rip these breeds out of international consideration, and vice versa. Crufts, which has been the show against which all other shows are compared, will no longer be allowed to use the standards that draw breeders from the US and all over the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. That means that it will no longer be a meeting of the best of the best. The UK will no longer be the arbiter of quality. And there is a very real danger that the FCI (the standards-keeping body for most of the world except the US, Canada, UK, and Australia) will throw the UK Pekingese out if it physically changes. This has already happened with the US Akita when the US decided the breed should be larger and stockier and be many different colors; the FCI split the breed into two (the American Akita and the Japanese Akita) to indicate that the US Akitas had indeed become a different breed. Accordingly, the two are no longer allowed to be bred together. If this is what happens to the UK Pekingese, the breed will effectively be stranded in one country, unable to contribute to or access the gene pools of other countries, or to be shown against the Pekingese in other countries.

Implications: What’s next?

We must have good, logical, specific, TRUE, and ethical answers to the following questions, remembering that most people have little or no experience with the well-bred purebred. Don’t lose sight of this! Most people go through their entire lives and never meet even a single show dog. They already think of show breeders as a group of weirdos who don’t like normal dogs, and this recent criticism has fueled the “us” (owners and dogs) versus “them” (breeders) view. If we avoid these questions, or don’t have well-thought-out answers to them ( “because you just don’t understand” or “because that’s what makes a good show dog” are NOT good answers - we have to have answers that focus on the good of the dog and its suitability as a pet), we will only fall deeper into this hole.

We must also willingly and proactively admit that these body shapes ARE mutations, and DO require a lot of care to breed properly. We should immediately tell our prospective owners that the unhealthy short leg, or short face, is a legitimate danger to the dog.

Individually and as clubs, we must consider:

Is the brachycephalic head an unhealthy head? Does it disqualify the breed as a pet? How much does it affect normal quality of life? How does it change the care the dog must receive? How can you recognize an unhealthy brachycephalic head as opposed to a healthy one?

Is the achondroplastic leg an unhealthy mutation? What is its purpose? What is a sound achondroplastic leg as opposed to an unsound one?

Is it cruel to breed dogs with a lot of hair (or no hair at all)?

And so on–carefully consider anything that could legitimately be called a mutation, whether of skin or hair or bone or ears or head or whatever.

Are we doing absolutely everything we can to respond to genetic disease? If we are, how do we communicate that in a clear and succinct way to our puppy buyers?

Is our breed in a genetic corner scary enough that we need to consider cross-breeding with another breed? (Listen, I know how unpopular this is, but this decision will be made for us if we’re not proactive about it.)

We must realize the implications of buying the lie that mutations are bad. If we try to toe that line, purebred dogs as we know it will end. A three-inch leg will NOT satisfy this requirement better than a two-inch leg. A short muzzle will NOT satisfy this requirement better than a flat face. The only logical outcome of this kind of philosophy is that all dogs end up looking like wolves again.

We must make sure that the public sees the truth - that we got into this activity because we are knowledgeable, careful, passionate dog owners. It’s tragic that the opposite is usually assumed. We need to emphasize the nature of our involvement with dogs as being 98% pet owners and dog lovers and 2% exhibitors, that we show dogs to enjoy time with them, that we don’t make money on litters, that we are heavily involved in rescue, that we sponsor research and homeless dogs, and every other great and good thing show breeders do.

Get out there! Show breeders should be walking dogs through town, should be coming to the street fairs, should be bringing dogs to groomers, etc. Don’t let your dogs sit in the backyard while every other human on the street is walking a Labradoodle and enthusing about what a great dog they are.

Danny, the Peke so unfairly featured in the Pedigree Dogs Exposed program, is now nine years old and healthy and happy. Why wasn’t this emphasized in the Kennel Club response? Why wasn’t Danny immediately shown, running happily around his yard and flirting with his bitches? Instead, the world is left to believe that he probably walked off the green carpet at Crufts and fell over dead.

The best defense is a good offense. This cannot be said more clearly. Breed clubs need to take firm control of this issue and present a TRUTHFUL picture of their breed and their practices, or they will have that picture painted of them-and it will not be flattering.