Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Raw Food Diet, Day 323- In Breeding


Big Pupi is feeling rather pensive:

I enjoy reading the news online - getting my updates and keeping step with the world's current events. Yesterday morning I found myself in my usual routine, skimming and scanning various sites, until I came upon an article on the BBC about dog shows and dog breeding. Well, seeing that this was news I could sink my teeth into, I read on. And on. And on. Man, this was interesting stuff.

What the news told me (translated through interpretive dance by my humans), was that the BBC refused to air the Crufts dog show, thus suspending their 46-year relationship with the organization. These actions were in response to a documentary which aired on BBC in August which dove into the breeding and health practices of dog show canines, and the refusal of Crufts to ban a presently undisclosed list of 12 breeds which the BBC deemed to have felt the worst effects of show breed standards. This documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, showed the ill-effects of improper breeding practices and how these decisions have detrimental effects on the blood lines. Many dog shows reward breeders for these practices, given that their dogs adhere to the strict guidelines of the breed standards. Unfortunately, these breed standards have moved farther and farther away from the qualities that make an animal healthy and useful, as even the working breed dogs find themselves in a weakened, yet "show quality" state.

In an excerpt from Pedigree Dogs Exposed, we meet a Cavalier King Charles spaniel - a show dog that has seen much success in the ring. This particular dog suffers from syringomyelia, a condition which leaves the skull too small for the dog's brain. Despite this devastating condition, this cavalier has been awarded for its ability to meet the stringent breed standards. But how can that be? The BBC and many concerned humans have raised more and more issues about how these breed standards no longer reflect what is best for the dogs.

The documentary also features a boxer with epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems due to their much-desired scrunched faces, and bulldogs that can no longer breed or give birth on their own. No... these are not dogs found in a kennel, in a shelter or as strays on the road. These are show dogs, all them successful, and many of which have been bred for their show characteristics.

My family is no stranger to dogs with poor health and poor breeding. Stanislaw and I suffer from so many food allergies that my people have lost count of the items banned from our food bowls. I suffer from Sebaceous Hyperplasia, and Stanislaw has endured two surgeries to fix his eyes when the gland on the third eyelid prolapsed, a condition more commonly known as cherry eye. Our departed baby brother Wile E. was plagued by puppy staph, an upper respiratory infection and cherry eye all before he made it 14 weeks. It was during this 15th week that he underwent surgery to repair the cherry eye and his little body just couldn't handle the anesthesia.

Too often dogs are bred to be pretty - to have coats that flow long and luscious and glisten in the sun. To have eyes that are perfectly round or faces that are adorably wrinkled. Legs that are long with delicate gaits or legs that short with a muscular strut. Too often these traits are bred into dogs without consideration for their overall health and performance - a dog should be able to do what they were originally bred to do, but these show qualities have gone by the way of deformities in many breeds. As this video discusses, police will not take a German Shepherd that meets show qualifications because their hind quarters are too weak to work. I, Big Pupi, believe that when there is such a dichotomy between a show dog and a working dog of the same breed, that's a red flag and glowing neon sign telling us that we're losing sight of what really matters.

And what matters is our health. Of course, what has been discussed above does not apply to 100% of the cases 100% of the time. We know that there are dogs that are bred to show AND work, and that these dogs are often found doing what they were made to do in between their show grooming and prances about the ring. We know there are responsible breeders out there that maintain a varied blood line and spend a lifetime to breeding health issues out of their dogs. But we also know that not everyone has their dog's best interest at heart, and it's at dog shows when these types of individuals are rewarded and their animal suddenly becomes the Stud Du Jour.

I applaud the BBC for putting its foot down. As regular non-breeding folk, my people watch dog shows and believe that "this is the way that breed is SUPPOSED to look/act/move." Those dogs are put on a pedestal as the ideal, without ever a thought as to the health issues or shrinking genetic pools that this ideal is creating. Too many "regular non-breeding folk" seek pedigrees that meet these standards and the genetics and breeding practices are pushed even further. It's about time that health was put above appearance, and a good place to start is at a internationally televised dog show.

The noise being made about breed standards has begun to make a difference. The Kennel Club has revised its standards for the Pekingese, which states that a slight muzzle is now to be desired. And just watch... suddenly these quirky little flat-faced dogs will be seen with a bit of a schnozzle, and all because of the influence the Kennel Club standards carry. Many breeders follow these standards like they are the undisputed Law. While the BBC can create awareness, the Kennel Club can create the change.

And so can you. Change begins with knowledge, and a little bit of education can go a long way. Take what you see at dog shows with a grain of salt, and be aware of a breed's strengths and weaknesses. It goes without saying that if you breed your animals do it for health. (This of course requires extensive veterinary checks, like hip x-rays and eye exams.) Be a responsible owner, and most importantly love your dog for everything that (s)he is. After all... your dog loves you for all of your perfections and imperfections.

Signing off,

Big Pupi


Coco said...

My mommy rescued a spaniel that came from a puppy mill that looked like you Pig Pupi! he had all kinds of hip and spine problems. My mommy rescued me when i was only 4 weeks old!

Puppy's like you, me and Stan are VERY lucky to have parents that love us for who we are!

Tail Wiggles & Puppy Kisses,

Coco - The Princess

Jessica said...

I just have to say that I really appreciated that post, having adopted a shelter pup myself, the dog breeding industry is something that has always felt wrong. And I can say with absolute certainty, that just because you get a mixed breed dog, it doesn't mean that you will end up with a funny looking mutt, or some weird combination of breed-specific body parts(big ears, short legs, etc). I personally think my dog is a beautiful dog, & get compliments on him often, even though he's "just a mutt." Added bonus, he's healthy & calm, no inbreeding of health problems or neurosis. Thanks for posting that, it needed to be said.

Fenway said...

Wow, Pupi, you really have your nose in late-breaking news. This development has been discussed to death over at my Show Border Collie message board (and yes, there seems to be a message board for every kind of minutiae!)

The breeds in question are: Basset Hound, Clumber Spaniel, Dogue de Bordeaux, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Pekingese, Shar Pei, St Bernard, Chow Chow, German Shepherd, Bulldog, Bloodhound, Rhodesian Ridgeback and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Bad genetics from inbreeding are producing dogs with many problems from hip dysplasia to brachiocephalic dogs and problems like heart problems in King Charles Spaniels and that nasty disease you mentioned that I can't even pronounce!

My breeder's motto is: pretty is as pretty does. This really addresses the notion that a show dog—particularly a dog bred to herd, track, sight, etc.—needs to be built correctly to do his natural job. It's just as important as the fluffy stuff! When I'm in the ring I need to show a judge that I am balanced, well muscled and can gait with an economy of movement...just as if I were rounding up sheep. No strange prancing, slinking or waving my tail around like a flag.

We're hoping Crufts can help clean up disreputable breeding practices and artificial, unnatural breed standards.

My predecessor, Logo, had hip dysplasia and suffered with arthritis when he was older. That's why The Alphas insisted on getting me from a top show breeder with a pedigree that could guarantee certifications for health, structure and temperament. They just couldn't bear the heartbreak of another lame BC.

I am SO VERY SORRY to hear you have recurring genetic problems, Pupi & Stan. I know your peeps will nurture you and love you into health.


Hero said...

My mom watched that show when it first came out. The stories about the Cavaliers and the Boxers nearly made her cry. It's terrible how much some of those dogs have to suffer just to win some silly prize. There are a lot of responsible breeders who follow the guideline of health, temperament, function, and form, but there are some who are so misguided and seem to have completely forgotten what their dog was specifically bred for. Do you remember that one guy who said that the show bred GSD had the perfect physical form for doing the job GSDs were bred for? The GSD could barely stand what with its banana back and its hocks resting on the ground.

My breed was nearly ruined because early breeders thought that a longer backed and shorter legged dog would win more at the shows. It got to the point where my breed could no longer do the job we were bred for and to top it all off we were even ridiculed by other dog enthusiasts. Thankfully there were some breeders who were set on restoring the Field Spaniel to its natural form, but it took a lot of time and a lot of work to save what was already nearly ruined.

Hopefully the breeders of those dogs in question will realize how their irresponsible breeding and unhealthy expectations are harming the dogs before it's too late to save them

Scottie the 'cutie' said...

I wish I could have caught that show, but we don't get BBC here (well, not in our regular TV programs). Thank you for sharing the article with us, Pupi!

Mom has been to a dog confirmation show before, and can't comprehend at all the things that the dogs have to go through to look 'nice and pretty' for the show. Not just that,sometimes it feels like the dogs do not have a normal and happy life like we do (and boy, I am SOOO thankful to be where I am now!). Although they meet the outrageous standards of the show, the dogs don't seem to quite themselves =( Plus, I think the 'prizes' that they win don't really matter to the dogs, more so for the breeders only.

It is so sad to hear that the show standards have deteriorated so far away from what it used to be. I agree that breeders have become so narrow-minded on the quality of health in the dogs. Makes us think more than twice about getting a show quality dog...*shudders*

Hope that with this exposure, at least SOMETHING can be done for the health of doggies everywhere...*crosses paws*


The Animal Doctor said...

hurray for this post, Big Pupi!

we have the same problem in our country, worsened by the fact that animal welfare consciousness isn't as high as that of western countries.

in our Pet Clinic alone, we often have cases involving the teacup variety of either shih tzu or chihuahua which are extremely difficult to treat. they are so tiny that it becomes virtually impossible for the vet to insert even the smallest IV needle available. it is especially tedious ( for our staff) and stressful ( for the puppies) in cases of parvo and intestinal infection, when to counter dehydration, the vet has to rehydrate "manually" by force feeding liquid every half hour or so, or resort to intradermal injection of fluids.

I have also observed that certain breeds cannot give birth except by c-section, but i won't delve into that anymore.

i hope there will be a lot of eye openers on the hype attached to breed defects. its ridiculous how the work of an irresponsible breeder can be turned into something desirable and even fashionable for people, while it is the animal who suffers.

-the Secretary

Petra said...

Thanks for the update; it's too bad that it's so discouraging.

On a lighter note, Stanislaw, you should ask Santa for a stocking for Christmas. I mean, it's CHRISTMAS, and you should get at least one little stocking to chew, don't ya think?!

the 4 Bs said...

our mom says that we are all perfect because we are imperfect. does that make sense? we don't like all of that inbreeding either - it's not cool and us poodles can have a lot of health problems. we would rather be healthy than "perfect", whatever that stupid breed standard says.


Joe Stains said...

GO BBC!! That is so totally pawesome!

River said...

My mom would like to see that show. Maybe it's on DVD.

Thank you for your kind words about our Sasha. It's always hard to lose a friend.

love & wags,

FleasGang said...

Wow Big Pupi, I think you must have syringomyelia because your brain is overflowing with great information. Plus, that could also account for your awesome 'hawk :-)

Shelly & Tommy

Eric said...

H Big Pupi,Good on you!
The original programme on the BBC highlighted just how big a problem genetic engineering has become for some breeds. The Kennel Club refuted it and there was a great deal of debate in the media for week this side of the pond.For the BBC to not show Crufts is a very deal and we heard too Pedigree Dog foods are also withdrawing their sponsorship. If you want any links to the UK news articles wag by and I'll pass them on.

Eric and his Mom.

Amber-Mae said...

It's amazing to know that so many dogs with health issues actually become champs in dog shows! WOW! What kind of judging is going on here??? My Mommy always believed that the dog's function & performance is far more important that the looks & structure of the dog. I mean, dogs were bred for a "purpose: in this world. They are not trophy dogs. Yes, we enter for shows too but we just dot his for fun. The last time when Mommy asked Chloe to perform some tricks during a dog show, NOBODY was impressed. Many show dog owners in mah country only care about the beauty of the dog. Not how intelligent or how well trained it can be. It's just so sad. And NON of them are responsible dog owners especially when it comes to picking up their dogs' poops!!!

Butt wiggles,
Solid Gold Dancer

Stanley said...

Hey, BBC! Way to go!

We have always wondered about the healthy-ness of certain breed standards used to judge dogshow dogs!

Thanks for the heads up. We're wanting to look this documentary up!

Glad to know that you and your peeps are so well-informed, and that you have parents who take care of you so well.

Goob love & smooches,

Niamh said...

It is so sad that some dogs are bred to look a certain way to satisfy humans and yet they can barely walk!! There are health problems in Gordon Setters but my parents had all their clearances and I have too even though I am not ever going to be a mom.

We know two cocker spaniel sisters that look a lot like you Big Pupi. They came from a puppy mill and have terrible eye problems. They were dumped at the shelter and then a nice woman adopted them both. Sophie has cherry eye and Lucy is almost blind from cataracts and they are younger than me! Fortunately they are both going to have operations at the vet school after the holidays that will help them but it is so sad.

Have a great holiday and keep up the good work.

Your friend,

Canine Aficionado said...

Yo Big Pupi!!

It's your pal, Louis, formerly of Cup of Dog...now I am with The Canine Bark - http://thecaninebark.blogspot.com/

As a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, I am super aware of the issues caused by breeders. Grrr.

Can't wait to read more meaty articles by you and Stan!!


Biggie-Z said...

Wow, you guys read my mind. I have been brewing a post like this for a while but couldn't find all my words - I just kept saying, just cuz you get a "purebreed" dog "with papers" doesn't mean a thing unless you know what that breeder's history and practices are. IF you decide you want a specific look or a specific breed, by all means get a purebred but make sure you do ALL your research on that breed - on health and temperament issues - and then do your research on the breeders. And do more and more and more research.

It amazes me how many people think "purebred" equals some minimum standard of health and temperament quality, and also how many people ask, since Biggie is a purebred kuvasz, if we plan to breed him! Yes, his parents are champions with great health and temperament who have also shown in obedience and done some rally and agility, but that doesn't automatically mean that he should be a stud dog. I'm a strong believer that dogs shouldn't be bred unless and until they've been cleared of health issues, especially genetic ones, and they've passed some basic temperament and intelligence tests.

What a great post, guys.


The FOUR Musketeers said...

We wish you a Merry Christmas ,
We wish you a Merry Christmas ,
We wish you a Merry Christmas ,

xoxo ,
Four Musketeers & Family
Lady , Zena , Cody & Joyce

Alex said...

Something definitely needs to be done. I definitely would recommend reading Christie Keith's blog post on PetConnection.com about this. And the comments that follow. In the comments that follow, Jemima (who made the documentary) actually commented as well. http://www.petconnection.com/blog/2008/08/22/dna-stupid/