As that annual parade of the pedigreed known as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show unfolded at Madison Square Garden, there has been a debate over purebred dogs going on in the pages of the New York Times, at least its digital ones.
It’s worth checking out, especially, in my view, two of the opinion pieces from two of my favorite dog experts.
Alexandra Horowitz, professor of psychology at Barnard College and author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know,” hits on several important points in a piece focused mainly on the link between breed standards and inherited disorders.
She cites research showing that, among the most popular breeds, almost every one has developed some type of inherited disorder stemming from breed standards that prescribe how a dog should look.
Bulldogs and pugs have broad and shortened heads that lead to obstructions in breathing. Many large breeds have debilitating hip and elbow dysplasias. Shar-Peis, because of their wrinkly skin, are prone to eye ulcerations. The Cavalier King Charles spaniel may have a brain that grows too large for its skull, an extremely painful condition called syringomyelia.
By changing the breed standards — making them more health-contingent than looks-contingent, the health of dozens of breeds could be improved, she notes.
Horowitz also addresses the matter of personality. Although AKC breed standards make it sound like a dog’s personality is genetically determined, that’s not the case, she says.
” … A dog is not merchandise whose behavior (outside of a few hard-wired ones, like pointing) can be predicted ahead of time.
“While many owners may see breed-typical personalities in their dogs (we humans do tend to spot just the evidence which supports our theories), there is simply no guarantee that a dog will behave just so. Witness the cases of cloned — genetically identical — pets who have, to their owners’ great surprise, quite different personalities.”
Making it sound like the personality of all dogs can be predicted by what breed they are is problematic, she notes.
“When a dog does not behave in accordance with her ‘billing,’ owners call this a ‘behavior problem’ — the single greatest reason for relinquishment of a dog to a shelter. Thus, inadvertently, breed standards lead potential adopters to treat them more like products with reliable features.
“Dogs are individuals, and should be treated thusly.”
In another piece presented in the Times “Room for Debate” feature, James Serpell, the Marie Moore professor of animal welfare at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, looks at what kennel clubs, dog shows and the breed standards they espouse, has led to.
For one, inbreeding, as a way to produce dogs that most closely fit the written standards, or in some cases the interpretation thereof.
“Not only were the original gene pools of many breeds very small to begin with, but breeders have also accentuated the problem by selectively breeding from relatively small numbers of “champion sires” and/or by mating together closely related individuals.
“Nowadays, many breeds are highly inbred and express an extraordinary variety of genetic defects as a consequence: defects ranging from anatomical problems, like hip dysplasia, that cause chronic suffering, to impaired immune function and loss of resistance to fatal diseases like cancer. The only sensible way out of this genetic dead-end is through selective out-crossing with dogs from other breeds, but this is considered anathema by most breeders since it would inevitably affect the genetic “purity” of their breeds…”
“When standards do more harm than good, they should either be revised or abandoned altogether. We owe it to the dogs.”
A compelling argument is also made by Mark Derr, an author who was among the first to bring attention to the problems that have been created in the quest for purity and predictability: “It is long past time to make changes to standards that improve dogs’ lives or discontinue their breeding,” he concludes.
Less in line with my thinking — but I”ll point you to it, anyway – was a piece submitted by Lilian Barber, who breeds, judges and writes about Italian greyhounds.
Barber, president of the Kennel Club of Palm Springs, Calif., argues that breed standards are about more than appearance.
“Breeding dogs that fit a written standard isn’t just about appearance. Different breeds have different traits. It’s like choosing a vehicle. In many cases a two-door sedan will suffice, but sometimes a truck is needed.”
She continues, fortunately shifting out of the motor vehicle analogy:
”Most breeders of purebreds support research regarding the genetic health of their breeds and plan their matings carefully to insure that the offspring will be healthy. It would make little sense to put time, effort, money and passion into breeding unhealthy dogs … Those dogs are a huge and vital part of our lives.”
You can find links to all the opinion pieces here.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 14th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alexandra horowitz, animals, breed standards, breeds, cloning, debate, dog, dog shows, dogs, experts, genetic, genetics, health, inbreeding, inherited, james serpell, kennel club, mark derr, new york times, opinions, personality, pets, problems, purebreds, room for debate, standards, traits, westminster
It’s not as if they’re on the verge of extinction, but old English sheepdogs are drastically dropping in numbers, at least according to kennel club statistics.
At the height of the high-maintenance breed’s popularity, in 1975, nearly 16,000 old English sheepdog puppies were registered by the American Kennel Club. In 2009, there were just over 1,000 registrations, according to figures supplied by the AKC to the Associated Press
Breeders blame the decline on the increasing popularity of smaller dogs, and the amount of care and grooming that sheepdogs require.
“People have more to do and less time to do it, and they have lost interest in old English sheepdogs,” Doug Johnson of Colorado Springs, president of the Old English Sheepdog Club of America, told the Associated Press.
Breeders in England are also concerned about the decreasing registrations. London’s Kennel Club registered just 401 sheepdog puppies in 2011, and has put the breed on the club’s watch list, a representative said.
The decline in numbers has been steady in the years since 1975, when an old English sheepdog won best in show at Westminster. But breeders and others don’t really expect the breed to disappear.
“There are too many of us old die-hards that will go ahead and keep this breed alive,” said Johnson, who operates Bugaboo kennel and has 22 sheepdogs.
The breed is believed to have originated in Sussex, England, where they drove sheep and cattle to market.
Pittsburgh industrialist William Wade introduced the dog in the United States in the late 1880s. The Old English Sheepdog Club of America says that by 1900 five of the country’s 10 wealthiest American families — Morgans, Vanderbilts, Goulds, Harrisons and Guggenheims — owned sheepdogs, and also bred and showed them.
As Johnson pointed out, caring for a sheepdog — whose hair can grow as long as 10 inches — is easy when you can hire someone to do it for you.
Sheepdog numbers grew in the 1960s, when they became a common sight in movies and on TV. They were featured in the 1959 movie “The Shaggy Dog,” and starred in two 1960′s era TV shows – ”My Three Sons” and “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.”
Posted by jwoestendiek December 6th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: akc, american kennel club, animals, breeders, breeds, concerns, decline, decrease, dogs, england, numbers, old english sheepdog club of america, old english sheepdogs, origin, pets, puppies, purebreds, registered, registrations, sheepdogs, united states
For the 21st year in a row, the Labrador retriever is America’s most popular purebred dog — at least in terms of American Kennel Club registrations.
German shepherds repeated as second most popular, while the beagle climbed into the number three position, according to the annual list of the most popular among the 173 breeds the AKC recognizes.
Yorkies and shih tzus both dropped a notch or two, while Rottweilers made the top 10 for the first time this century. Those breeds rising quickest on the AKC list since 2000 included French bulldogs and Havanese.
“While the Labrador retriever has been proven once again to be a family favorite, this year clearly belongs to the beagle,” AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said in a press release. “The beagle’s merry personality combined with his love of outdoor activities makes him such a wonderful family pet that I wouldn’t be surprised to see this spunky breed sniff his way to the top list next year.”
In Baltimore, the Labrador Retriever topped the list of AKC registered dogs, as they did last year, followed by German shepherds, boxers, golden retrievers, bulldogs, Yorkshire terriers, poodles, Rottweilers, pugs and Siberian huskies.
Nationally, the AKC’s most popular breeds were:
1. Labrador retriever
2. German shepherd
4. Golden retriever
5. Yorkshire terrier
You can find the full list, see which breeds have risen and fallen over time and get more information here.
(Photo by John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 1st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: akc, american kennel club, animals, baltimore, beagle, boxer, breeds, dogs, french bulldog, german shepherd, havanese, labrador, labrador retriever, labs, list, most popular breeds, pets, popularity, purebred, purebreds, registrations, rottweiler
Here’s an ad we doubt would have flown during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. In fact, it never saw the light of day anywhere (except online), having been banned from appearing during the 2006 Super Bowl.
In the ad, for Bud Light, an upscale dog owner, sweater draped over his shoulders, is showing off his purebred border collie. Then he asks the mutt owner he is talking to, “What can your dog do?”
To see the painful answer, watch the video.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 2006, ad, advertisement, animals, banned, beer, border collie, bud light, commercial, dogs, dogs in advertising, marketing, mutts, pedigree, pets, purebreds, super bowl, tricks, westminster dog show, woof in advertising
That’s the slogan of a new RSPCA campaign aimed at shifting the emphasis when it comes to breeding purebred dogs — from looks to health.
The campaign launched yesterday, with this ad — featuring a pug as the poster child — in the Daily Mail.
It’s directed mostly at breeders, who the RSCPA asserts often seek to meet dog show breed standards that place appearance above canine health.
But it’s also meant to change the thinking of consumers, who help create the demand and often aren’t aware of the genetic health problems many purebreds face.
“Everyone needs to be aware of the serious health and welfare problems affecting pedigree dogs and that dogs bred for looks are born to suffer,” RSPCA senior scientist Claire Calder said.
“A cute-looking puppy or dog can be hard to resist, but the result of not looking beyond this can be thousands of pounds spent on vets’ bills and a pet with long-lasting health and welfare problems. This is one of the biggest challenges facing dog welfare in the UK today.”
As we’ve written before — here and elsewhere — it’s one of the biggest challenges in the U.S., too, even though it rarely seems to rise to the forefront.
One major exception came last month, with an in-depth article in the New York Times magazine about the plight of the purebred bulldog.
But, by and large, the UK is leading the debate, which, while long-lurking in the shadows, was retriggered by Jemima Harrison’s documentary for the BBC, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed.”
Between its impact, and the efforts of the RSPCA, there have been some changes, mostly in kennel club’s breed standards that seemed to place appearance above health.
The RSPCA website elaborates on some of the problems those standards have led to:
“According to scientific studies some of the UK’s favourite breeds of dogs have been bred to such extremes that they can no longer breathe or walk normally. For example, dogs with short, flat faces often have narrow nostrils and abnormally developed windpipes. They can often suffer severe breathing difficulties and may have difficulty enjoying a walk or playing.
Dogs with folded or wrinkled skin are prone to itchy and painful skin complaints, and dogs with bulging or sunken eyes are prone to injury, pain or discomfort. These are only a few examples and a recent study showed that all of the 50 most popular breeds have some aspect of their body which can cause suffering
Recent research by the RSPCA shows the public is prone to thinking buying a purebred dog ensures that dog will be healthy. But dogs “bred for their looks,” the RSPCA says, ”are vulnerable to unnecessary disease, disability, pain or behavioural problems.”
Among those quoted in an RSPCA press release is Victoria Stilwell, dog trainer from the TV show “It’s Me Or The Dog.”
“I have nothing against dog showing and nothing against responsible breeders, she said. “But what I do have something against is breeding animals just for the way we want them to look, even though that animal is compromised both physically and, a lot of the time, mentally. So we have to change. Why are we destroying these animals just because we like the way they look?”
Unlike in the U.S., where interest seems to rise and fizzle, the issue isn’t likely to go away anytime soon in the UK.
Harrison is now working on a sequel to “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” which promises to be just as hard hitting, or maybe harder hitting, than the first. You can keep up with those developments on her Pedigree Dogs Exposed blog.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, appearance, awareness, breathing, breed standards, breeders, breeds, bulldog, campaign, dog shows, dogs, genetic, health, health problems, jemima harrison, pedigree, pedigree dogs exposed, pets, public, pug, purebred, purebreds, rspca, trainer, uk, victoria stilwell
The Humane Society of the United States has released the results of a three-month investigation into Purebred Breeders LLC, thought to be the nation’s largest online seller of puppies.
The investigation was featured on NBC’s Today show (above) this morning.
HSUS says Purebred Breeders gets at least some of the dogs it brokers from inhumane commercial breeding facilities — puppy mills where investigators found dogs stacked in cramped wire cages, with no exercise, veterinary care, socialization, or human companionship.
HSUS attorneys, in partnership with Florida firm Leopold~Kuvin, have also filed suit in Florida state court on behalf of HSUS members and other consumers who received sick or dying dogs from Purebred Breeders.
The HSUS investigation found that Purebred Breeders owns nearly 800 websites designed to mislead consumers into believing that they are dealing with local breeders when they shop online for a puppy.
Former employees told HSUS investigators that the company sells approximately 20,000 puppies every year, using hard-sell, deceptive tactics encouraged by company executives.
Despite the company’s guarantee of a “triple health check,” puppies purchased through Purebred Breeders have arrived ill, and died after arriving at new homes.
Often, though the company portrays itself as local, the dogs are flown long distances directly from the breeding facility to the consumer.
“Purebred Breeders reaps massive profits by purchasing puppies from puppy mills around the country and selling them at a huge mark-up to dog lovers who would never knowingly buy a puppy mill dog,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president for animal protection litigation and investigations at The HSUS. “Internet puppy sellers like Purebred Breeders deceive consumers about the origins of the puppies they sell, and as a result unsuspecting families suffer great expense caring for sick dogs, or the terrible anguish of losing a beloved family pet.”
“Our goal in this lawsuit is to expose the deceptive practices of Purebred Breeders and achieve justice for the consumers and animals that the company mistreats,” said Ted Leopold, the lead attorney in the case.
HSUS says a federal law has been proposed that would help crack down on companies like Purebred Breeders.
Congress is considering the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act (S. 707 and H.R. 835), introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and David Vitter, R-La., in the Senate, and Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., in the House.
The PUPS Act would close a loophole in the federal Animal Welfare Act regulations that allow puppy mills selling directly to consumers over the Internet to escape basic oversight and inspection. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also considering taking action to regulate large-scale commercial dog breeders that sell directly to consumers online.
Any consumer who purchased a sick puppy from an online seller is encouraged to fill out the complaint form at humanesociety.org/puppycomplaint.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, breeders, broker, consumers, damaged, dealer, deception, deceptive, dogs, dying, florida, hsus, humane society of the united states, internet, investigation, largest, lawsuit, leopold-kuvin, local, national, online, pets, puppies, puppy mills, puppy uniform safety and protection act, pups, purebred breeders, purebreds, seller, sick
The American Kennel Club announced this week that it has officially recognized three new breeds – the American English coonhound, Finnish Lapphund and Cesky terrier (shown left to right above).
The additions bring the registry’s total to 173 breeds in the U.S.
The American English Coonhound was originally bred as a hunting dog in the American colonies. The Finnish Lapphund is a herding dog that originated north of the Arctic Circle. The Cesky Terrier is the national breed of the Czech Republic.
Becoming an AKC-recognized breed is a multi-stepped process, About 65 breeds are now listed on the AKC Foundation Stock Service, the first stage in getting official recognition.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 10th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: added, akc, american english coonhound, american kennel club, animals, breeds, cesky terrier, dogs, finnish lapphund, pets, purebreds, recognition, registry
Tougher regulations on dog breeders go into effect in Wisconsin next month, and some unscrupulous breeders may be dumping dogs in an attempt to avoid them.
The Baraboo News Republic reports that, within the past week, two area families have found crates containing purebred dogs in their driveways.
And the Sauk County Humane Society says those dogs were just a piece of the bigger picture. The shelter has experienced a large spike in the number of purebred strays collected in the past month.
“It just boggles my mind,” Humane Society Executive Director Dianne Horlamus. “It’s wonderful, because they’re easy to place. But I’ve been in the shelter business for about 30 years and you rarely see that amount of purebreds coming in.”
About 75 percent of the stray dogs entering the shelter in the past month were purebreds that were not spayed or neutered. Ordinarily, about 1 percent are purebreds.
The new state law will require breeders who sell 25 or more dogs a year from more than three litters to apply for a license. State regulators will have authority to inspect any licensed breeders and, if necessary, order them to bring their facilities into compliance with state standards. Those who stay under the limits are not subject to the inspections and regulations.
Horlamus suspects some larger breeders are trying to get rid of animals so they don’t have to comply with the law.
“We’re trying to get the word out that they don’t have to do that,” Horlamus said, adding that anyone can surrender an animal to the shelter free of charge. “We want people to be comfortable bringing us a dog. We’re not going to judge you.”
The newspaper quoted one breeder as saying there is “an awful lot of what we call dumping going on, and that’s just pulling along the side of the road and dumping them off, or throwing them over the wall at the local humane society.”
The breeder said others have given away dogs, or shot them.
Breeders ditching animals to skirt the new law, are violating another one.
Abandoning animals is against state law, and subject to a penalty that starts at $500 but goes up to nine months in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said the new law gives breeders time to sell their dogs and shut down their businesses. “They don’t have to just set the dogs free,” she said. “They could have sold those dogs… They can’t blame it on the new law.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 23rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, animal welfare, baraboo, breeders, ditching, dog, dogs, dumped, humane society, law, legislation, pets animals, puppy mills, purebreds, regulations, sauk county, shelter, wisconsin
Ralph Ullum, 68 of Claysville, was attending a kennel club show in December at the DuPage County Fairgrounds with his girlfriend, whose Siberian husky, Diana, was entered in the competition.
He’s accused of feeding Protonix and possibly Benadryl to a competing husky, named Pixie, NBC in Chicago reported.
Pixie’s handler, Jessica Plourde of Newark Valley, N.Y., noticed a crushed pink pill near Pixie’s cage on the second day of competition, according to police. Later, witnesses came forward saying they had seen Ullum feeding and petting Pixie while Plourde was away from the cage
A veterinarian induced vomiting in Pixie and found a rubber band, dog food, chicken pieces and an undigested Protonix pill. Protonix is used to treat acid reflux and heartburn. Wheaton police say the pink crushed pill found near Pixie’s cage is believed to be Benadryl, an over the counter allergy medicine that can cause drowsiness.
Ullum denied feeding anything to Pixie, but said he did pet her.
His hearing on misdemeanor cruelty to animals charges is scheduled for June.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruelty, animals, arrest, benadryl, cheating, competition, competitors, diana, dog, dog show, dog shows, dogs, drugged, drugging, drugs, dupage county, kennel club, pennsylvania, pets, pixie, protonix, purebreds, ralph ullum, sabotage, siberian husky, wheaton
Assemblyman Micah Kellner, an Upper East Side Democrat, and State Senator Joseph E. Robach, a Rochester Republican, are proposing the legislation.
If passed, New York would join about a dozen states that have named state dogs, including the Chesapeake Bay retriever in Maryland, the Great Dane in Pennsylvania, the and the Boston terrier in … take a wild guess.
No state has chosen the mixed breed — that most prolific of all dogs — to represent its state.
In New York, a spokesman for Kellner said the assemblyman would choose a rescue dog — as in rescued from a shelter — to symbolize the need for people to adopt pets from animal shelters and animal protection groups. Kellner has no dogs of his own, but he has provided foster care for several.
“He’s a huge advocate for animals in need,” the spokesman told the New York Times.
Also appearing at the announcement of the proposed bill will be Kim Wolf’s dog, Sarge Wolf-Stringer, a Philadelphia dog who was rescued in 2009 from an abusive owner by the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and who now works with the elderly and hospital patients as a certified therapy dog.
(Photo: A Baltimore mutt named Martini)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 21st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, assemblyman, bill, breeds, dogs, joseph robach, know your state dogs, legislation, louisiana, martini, micah kellner, mixed breeds, mutt, new york, north carolina, official, pets, proposal, pspca, purebreds, quiz, sarge wolf-stringer, senator, south carolina, sponsors, state dog, state dogs, texas