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Are dog shows creating unhealthy breeds, just so they will “look good” and win “Best in Show”? That question causes a lot of controversy. Dog breeding has many purposes, and one of them is for show dogs. To help us understand the concept better, let’s have a quick review of the history between men and dogs. About 15,000 years ago, according to anthropological records, the first domesticated dogs are noticed. Since we wanted the dogs to fit in to our daily lifestyle, the breeding process changed from the natural to the artificial way. Can you imagine: we have been actually breeding dogs for thousands of years already!
To make the story short, dogs were the very first domesticated pet for humans. They have been our partners longer than any other animal in the world. They have also achieved many things as if they were humans, and sat alongside their masters throughout the years and centuries. In centuries past, selective breeding only took place when it was necessary to have dogs for the right use, such as herding, hunting, guarding, and others. Even though breeders of the past may not have known what “genetics” was, they apparently tried to breed dogs specifically for the needed tasks while at the same time maintaining the bloodline’s health. They instinctively understood that genetic issues are actually very important in a dog’s health.
Are Dog Shows Creating Unhealthy Breeds?
However, dog shows have emerged in the last couple of centuries, and show dogs have taken the limelight. And unfortunately, breed associations have changed over the years in setting up standards for the show dogs where their appearance is the all-important factor. And because of that, many breeders started to disregard the performance level and focus more on the dog’s overall appearance by breeding specific types simply to conform to the requirements and standards. Breeding solely for the sake of looks does not help a dog to stay healthy and live longer.
In fact, an educational article on the PBS website is quite harsh in stating a few of the many problems caused by this:
In the same way that inbreeding among human populations can increase the frequency of normally rare genes that cause diseases, the selective breeding that created the hundreds of modern dog breeds has put purebred dogs at risk for a large number of health problems, affecting both body and behavior.
Some conditions are directly related to the features breeders have sought to perpetuate among their dogs. As they deliberately manipulated the appearance of dogs to create or accentuate physical characteristics that were considered aesthetically pleasing, like the flat face of a bulldog or low-slung eyelids of a Bloodhound, breeders also created physical disabilities. The excessively wrinkled skin of the Chinese Shar-Pei causes frequent skin infection; Bulldogs and other flat-faced (or brachycephalic) breeds such as the Pekingese have breathing problems because of their set-back noses and shortened air passages; Bloodhounds suffer chronic eye irritation and infection.
The unnaturally large and small sizes of other breeds encourage different problems. For example, toy and miniature breeds often suffer from dislocating kneecaps and heart problems are more common among small dogs. Giant dogs such as Mastiffs, Saint Bernards, and Great Danes are nearly too big for their own good. Researchers have found a striking correlation between a dog’s large size and a frequency of orthopedic problems like hip dysplasia.
And here is a fact we probably already know: many establishments and places ban pit bulls and bulldogs, simply because they are often the ones publicized in dog attacks, which is not generally true, as not all of those types of breeds are vicious. In fact, they are some of the oldest breeds in history, with dog skulls found in some ruins in Pompeii. They should not be put into the publicity fire – they just need to be understood. After all, when trained properly, they can be even friendlier than the good-looking dogs out there.
This is the sad fact in dog breeding history: many breeding associations have exaggerated their requirements for show dogs, in which a dog’s health and longevity is sometimes apparently not even remotely given a second thought. For example, some breeds have external features that keep them from being normal dogs. There are some parts of dog that are very vital, such as its nose, which is responsible for a dog’s thermoregulation or adjusting their body temperature. While humans can sweat, dogs cannot.
Not even daily trips to local vets can help prolong your dog’s life once it has bad genetics. Perhaps dog owners and breed show associations need to think over their breeding methods and standards. Maybe it’s time to help the dogs live a longer life by focusing on its health rather than its appearance when selective breeding. In this way, we would really show them our proper concern.
I have always been somewhat uncomfortable with dog shows, because to me they were artificial. For instance, why are there 6 “new” breeds accepted recently? Have they had a natural bloodline down through the centuries? Have they been so inbred just for the sake of creating “new” show dogs, that they will have poor health and short lifespans just to satisfy somebody’s ego and vanity needs? Now that I know that dogs’ supposedly loving caretakers are actually creating and perpetuating unhealthy dog breeds, I can no longer in good conscience watch them.
So, what is your answer to the question: are dog shows creating unhealthy breeds? Share your thoughts below.