Caen Elegans, Ph.D. / 2012/09/29        


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For the sake of honest disclosure, I will admit to owning “purebreds” (the ‘pureness’ of purebreeds is a discussion for
another time) but I also have mutts. All the dogs I’ve had since childhood had a few things in common, they were friendly,
prey driven, ball-crazy, intense, motivated, athletic (crazy dogs are easier to train) and none had intentionally bred
defects. I would never buy/adopt a dog whose breed characteristics exacted a health burden.(Asher 2009). That just
incentivizes people to breed more of these intentionally unhealthy animals.

The dogs on the left are from  the 1915 book, ‘Breeds of All Nations‘ by W.E. Mason. The examples on the right are
modern examples from multiple sources. To be able to make an honest comparison, I’ve chosen pictures with similar
poses and in a couple of cases flipped the picture to get them both aligned in the same direction. I had to skip some
breeds I wanted to include because of the lack of detail in the older photographs.

It seems incredible that at one time the Bull Terrier was a handsome, athletic dog. Somewhere along its journey to a
mutated skull and thick abdomen the bull terrier also picked up a number of other maladies like supernumerary teeth
and compulsive tail-chasing.




The Basset Hound has gotten lower, has suffered changes to its rear leg structure, has excessive skin, vertebra
problems, droopy eyes prone to entropion and ectropion and excessively large ears.


A shorter face means a host of problems. The modern Boxer not only has a shorter face but the muzzle is slightly
upturned. The boxer – like all bracecyphalic dogs – has difficulty controlling its temperature in hot weather, the inability
to shed heat places limits on physical performance. It also has one of the highest cancer rates.


The English bulldog has come to symbolize all that is wrong with the dog fancy and not without good reason; they suffer
from almost every possible disease. A 2004 survey by the Kennel Club found that they die at the median age of 6.25
years (n=180). There really is no such thing as a healthy bulldog. The bulldog’s monstrous proportions make them virtually
incapable of mating or birthing without medical intervention.


The Dachshund used to have functional legs and necks that made sense for their size. Backs and necks have gotten
longer, chest jutted forward and legs have shrunk to such proportions that there is barely any clearance between the
chest and floor. The dachschund has the highest risk of any breed for intervertebral disc disease which can result in
paralysis; they are also prone to achondroplastic related pathologies, PRA and problems with their legs.


The German Shepherd Dog is also a breed that is routinely mentioned when people talk about ruined breeds; maybe
because they used to be awesome. In Dogs of All Nations, the GSD is described as a medium-sized dog (25 kg /55 lb),
this is a far cry from the angulated, barrel-chested, sloping back, ataxic, 85-pounders  (38 kg) we are used to seeing in
the conformation ring. There was a time when the GSD could clear a 2.5 meter (8.5 ft) wall; that time is long gone.


The Pug is another extreme brachycephalic breed and it has all the problems associated with that trait – high blood
pressure, heart problems, low oxygenation, difficulty breathing, tendency to overheat, dentition problems, and skin fold
dermatitis. The highly desirable double-curl tail is actually a genetic defect, in more serious forms it leads to paralysis.


Once a noble working dog, the modern St. Bernard has been oversized, had it’s faced squished in, and bred for abundant
skin. You will not see this type of dog working, they can’t handle it as they quickly overheat. The diseases include
entropion, ectropion, Stockard’s paralysis, hemophilia, osteosarcoma, aphakia, fibrinogen deficiency.


It is unrealistic to expect any population to be free of genetic diseases but show breeders have intentionally selected
for traits which result in diseases. Conformation breeders claim they are improving the breed and yet they are often the
cause of these problems. If “improvement” in looks imposes a health burden then it is not a breed improvement..

No dog breed has ever been improved by the capricious and arbitrary decision that a
shorter/longer/flatter/bigger/smaller/curlier “whatever” is better.  Condemning a dog to a lifetime of suffering for
the sake of looks is not an improvement; it is torture.

Further Reading

Dog Breed Historical Pictures.

Breed-Predispositions to Cancer in Pedigree Dogs - ISRN Veterinary Science

The Price of a Pedigree – Dog breed standards and breed-related illness  – Animal Welfare Group (PDF)

A healthier future for pedigree dogs (2009) – Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (PDF)

A healthier future for pedigree dogs – 2012 update – APGAW (PDF)

Pedigree
standards.  Many of the " qualities" actually may harm the breed in oh so many ways!
Do you research!  If what you are looking for is a show dog, then please look elsewhere.  I actually breed to bring the snout out just a bit to
improve breathing,, etc
Below is just one of the many articles addressing some of these issues
.