Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Flawed by Design

Or, 'The public wants what the public gets?'  The BBC aired a follow-up to the excellent 'Pedigree Dogs Exposed' that was originally shown in 2008.

Edited to add:  They took down the original YouTube.  This one shows both programs.  The new one is about 52 minutes in.

Some of it is encouraging but ultimately it looks like the Kennel Club in Britain is up to business as usual to the detriment of dogs.  Part of the problem is that they're trying to slap a band-aid on a terminal cancer patient.  And the AKC here in the U.S.?  Chyeah right they would cave to public pressure even if anyone cared enough to apply it.

You would think the market would take care of the problem because who would purposely buy a dog with so many health and physical defects?  Who wants the huge hit to their wallet in vet bills as well as the emotional heartbreak never mind being complicit in the creation of these poor animals?  People buy purebred dogs from breeders so they can see the dog's breeding so surely they would reject outright a dog that was inbred?  For my own part if I were to get a dog from a breeder, a dog with a conformation championship title in the pedigree would be an automatic deal breaker never mind evidence of inbreeding.  But people get dogs for strange, emotional, irrational reasons and I'm not sure what to do about that short of strict regulations that I'll probably never see in my lifetime.  Breeders breed for everybody but the average pet owner because the average pet owner is perfectly o.k. with buying flawed dogs.  They get attached to whatever breed for whatever reason and logic and compassion go out the window.

I'm not sure where it leaves me or the average pet owner who truly wants a healthy active dog with a good temperament that isn't inbred and prone to genetic diseases.  If there is any breed of dog left like that I surely don't know what it is.  And if you get a mutt, well, you're at the mercy of the genetics of the parents.  Put two seriously inbred purebred dogs carrying genetic diseases together and even if they're different breeds you're still not likely to get a healthy dog.  I've been so lucky with all my dogs so far but I consider it pure dumb luck rather than any faith in the health or vitality of a certain breed or mix of breeds.  I think the future of the dog lies in the hands of the average pet owner but until they're willing to leave their emotions and whims and respect of the show ring behind and put the health and welfare of the dog first then I think it's all a downward spiral.


  1. This is a hard problem to address. In the future look for breeds that are generally very healthy. All breeds will have SOME genetic issues, even mixed breeds, but there are definitely some that are LESS prone to these issues. The average dog owner is going to have to do some research on their breed before buying, and then find a breeder that complies with their needs. Personally, when I look for dogs (I have a papillon, and a parson russell), I always make sure that I view the full 4 generation pedigree to make sure that there isn't any cross breeding going on there. If it checks out okay, then I will consider buying the dog because even if it was cross bred before the 4 gen pedigree, I feel that in the last 4 generations any negative that came from cross breeding has most likely been bred out. This is only my opinion, but both of my dogs are very happy and healthy!

  2. Yeah, that's the problem though, all the breeds have health issues, in the end you're looking at a lesser of all the evils and it shouldn't have to be that way. As consumers and dog lovers we should have plenty of breeds to choose from that don't generally have any health issue. And if we demanded it we would have it. But people are o.k. with and sometimes even are drawn to the defects. If the average pet owner said 'no' to inbreeding, freakish physical characteristics, etc. the market for them would dry right up and the breeders would have to change their ways, some breeds would (and probably should) disappear altogether. But I worry that even if someone wanted to breed a healthy dog there really isn't much of a good gene pool left and it gets smaller all the time.

    I may be misunderstanding but I'm supposing by cross breeding you mean crossing between lines? That would be a good thing if all the lines involved are relatively healthy, it's the inbreeding that's causing the health problems. But maybe I don't understand the term cross breeding in the context of a pedigree.

    My dogs all come from rescue anyway but it's probably not that much bigger of a crap shoot than getting a dog from a breeder.

  3. The sensationalism of these productions overwhelms the decent message, in my opinion. In many breeds it is still possible to breed outcrosses (no inbreeding). Sigh. Even good breeding is a crap shoot. While I personally have no use for dogs that cannot function as dogs, I wish some air time would be given to good breeders so that people wouldn't approach villify all breeders. I'm so sick of that.

  4. By "dogs that cannot function as dogs" I mean the freaky looking dogs who can't breathe due to short pushed in noses, need to deliver litters by c-section, etc. But frankly, in my world of dog friends, which is actually pretty large, I know of almost none like that.

  5. But my point is where are the good breeders? Every single breed has genetic problems and actually if anyone's responsible I think it is the 'good' breeders. Every single one of the top sport/agility Border Collie breeders produce dogs with epilepsy as well as hip dysplasia and temperament problems. They breed full well knowing about these problems and people who buy their dogs breed them knowing as well. And instead of speaking out against them people defend them and go buy more dogs from them. Because the whole model of inbreeding and breeding for something when that something isn't health and temperament is a flawed model to start with. Health is an afterthought to structure, drive, etc.

    I know so many people with dogs from 'good' breeders who have serious health and/or temperament problems, some of them career ending, some of them life ending at an early age. It's my experience that people don't speak out against breeders rather than the other way around. They don't want to say bad things about them and in fact buy more dogs from them. I wish people were more forthcoming about breeders, especially those producing epilepsy in Border Collies. SO many BC's out there with epilepsy and so many seem to be coming out of the sport lines. If consumers put health and temperament as a priority then the breeders will have to as well.

    I don't think these films are sensationalistic, sadly it's the reality of breeding that's producing these horrible realities.

  6. I do hear what you are saying. My point is that a "good" breeder does not place health as an afterthought to structure, drive, etc. Good breeders are out there. Just because a kennel name is well-known does not mean a breeder is good.

    <> Well, yes, unfortunately, because that's the way breeding goes. It's impossible to have a breeding program of any size and not produce the occasional dog with issues, so this isn't a fair statement to make. Even the best breeders who research pedigrees thoroughly (a minimum of 5 generations back plus all siblings in each generation, including dates and causes of death for each, health problems while alive, temperament, structure, etc.) will sometimes produce dogs with orthopedic problems, epilepsy, and occasionally poor temperaments. Breeding is inherently risky even when you've done the research and controlled all the factors you're able to control.

    Now, I'm *not* saying that good breeders should or do breed dogs with ortho/other health/temperament issues--because that's not a GOOD breeder. Sometimes, the luck of the draw is that they occasionally PRODUCE dogs with issues from healthy stock. It's particularly tricky with diseases for which the mode of inheritance is unknown
    (epilepsy). You try to breed away from these things without limiting the gene pool.

  7. I had a conversation just this weekend with someone about breeders doing screwy things to dogs even without the health issues, and their response was that sure, corgis are dwarfs, but it's practical because they don't get kicked by cattle. And I suggested they go try to find photos of corgis from early in the 20th century, when they were actually *used* for cattle herding, and none of them had the extended back/dwarfed legs that corgis now have. All for the show ring.

    Anyway--I also agree that breeding healthy, functional dogs is challenging no matter what. Like if you have a star herding dog with epilepsy, if you don't breed him, you lose not only that one trait for epilepsy but also the trait for superb herding. My impression is that it takes a tremendous amount of management to try to reduce the occurrence of undesired traits and to increase the desired, and simply not breeding any dog that has an undesired trait isn't necessarily the solution.

    I also agree that the general public doesn't understand the issues or how to research them and isn't likely to ever do so.