Dog Breeding for Show: Trusted Arbiters of Taste?

by Mary Haight on March 22, 2012

The Kennel Club

The Kennel Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

News from Crufts, the world’s largest dog show with some 22,000 pedigree dogs competing, came rolling in, with one dog after another losing their chance to be “Best of” in his or her breed. This after new rules required that each “Best of” dog for 15 at-risk breeds pass a vet check for “exaggerated features” before receiving the title win.

It’s good news that the Kennel Club has made this public effort to begin to correct the physical pain these breeds have suffered from inbreeding. The Club did make changes to 78 breed standards (of 207 breeds recognized) towards reversing the deformities we saw in Pedigree Dogs Exposed. Dog breeding should never be the same again, we hope.

Who are the “deciders” of the show world? A certain “look” for an animal is chosen as the one that will win the ribbons – how does the “ideal” get so mangled by the average dog breeder? I have not been part of the Dog Fancy world and would really like an answer. Why are dogs winning when they can’t hold up the weight of their own heads or walk properly on their feet. What makes fanciers unresponsive to what anyone off the street could point out as a serious problem?

During the last hour of a Temple Grandin seminar I attended some time ago, Grandin said that we should not just think of these deformities as being limited to dogs bred for show. She went on to describe what has happened to farm animals and 4H.  Pigs and cows and sheep and horses were being shown – and were winning ribbons – when the pigs were so toed-out it interfered with walking, the size of the leg bones in horses were not suited to the size and weight of the horse, and sheep and cows had problems that interfered with normal function. I was shocked.

There are rules in dog breeding, things you don’t do because really bad, crazy things happen. With all the knowledge that has been passed on in the breeding world, how could they create dogs that can’t breathe or walk very well. How could judges deem them ribbon-worthy? It seems impossible that so much could have gone wrong, doesn’t it? Yet breeders are howling at the new rules and disqualifications – read about it at Karen Friesecke’s new blog,  The level of inbreeding in dogs that are winning ribbons is an eye-opener.

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