This is Ch Eastonite Randy Andy who won Best of Breed at Crufts last week and it is incredibly depressing that we are still seeing Pugs like this being rewarded at the very highest level in the show-ring.
First up.... pinched nostrils and a squiff eye (strabismus) that is a result of the shallow eye sockets that are a feature of the breed (to the point that their eyes sometimes pop out).
Here's what the KC standard says re eyes.
So how did this dog win Best of Breed?
Perhaps eye tests should be mandatory not just for Pugs (they're not btw) but for Pug judges, too?
Second up, the Kennel Club database reveals just how inbred this dog is.
Let's consider that cousins would have a co-efficient of inbreeding (COI) of 6.25%
And that a grandfather/granddaughter mating would produce puppies with a COI of 12.25%.
And then look at this.
Why, 11 years after Pedigree Dogs Exposed, is the Kennel Club still allowing dogs this inbred to be registered?
Why do breeders think it is OK to breed like this?
Surely I don't have to spell out the cost of inbreeding to this degree?
So have we seen any progress? Well sure... this dog was carrying a bit less weight than those in the past and he moved OK.
Oh, and we now have a Pug Health Scheme ... But it shows that 70% of Pugsthat have been tested aged 3-7 are clinically affected with Brachycephalic Obstructed Airway Syndrome. Read that again... thousands and thousands and thousands of Pugs suffer from air-hunger.
Now on the main Pug Health website those results are only up to the end of 2017. Maybe things have improved since then? Well who knows... no one has bothered to update the results since then.
And I can't tell you if this particular dog has passed any breathing because it doesn't list the names of the dogs.*
In early February, the KC announced the launch of a new respiratory grading scheme for Pugs (and Bulldogs and Frenchies) which should mean the results will be made available. Unfortunately the KC hasn't actually bothered to update its website to reflect that this scheme is actually up and running.
These dogs suffer and the complacency stinks.
*The Northern Pug Club does list some health-test results here.
On Thursday night, Royal Canin bowed to pressure from vets and animal welfare campaigners and removed this display from their stand at Crufts.
The move has provoked outrage from Bulldog breeders across the globe, most threatening to never buy Royal Canin again. Even those who've never bought it anyway... ;-)
For those that don't know, there is a move in the UK - sanctioned by the Kennel Club - to persuade advertisers/companies to stop using extreme brachycephalics to sell/promote their goods or services. As I understand it, everyone taking a trade stand at Crufts has been informed about this (at least they were last year).
The aim of the no-brachy initiative, which I started in December 2015 with the launch of CRUFFA, is simple: to try to reduce visibility and, therefore demand for dogs that are very well-documented as having a lot of health issues.
I felt this was a more positive approach than simply beating-up breeders for producing short-lived dogs with a high risk of breathing, spinal, ocular, oral/dental and fertility/whelping issues. And I was delighted that the Kennel Club, vets, animal welfare bodies and even breed clubs backed the idea through the Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG) that was set up two years ago. You can see the BWG's 2017 statement re this here.
Then, earlier this year, the British Veterinary Association published new guidelines for advertisers to help them make better choices in all the animals (not just dogs) they use to market their stuff.
The combined effort is working. Companies such as Comic Relief, Costa, HSBC, Costa and Pets At Home are among those who have committed to halting or reducing their "brachy-use". The initiative has now spread to other countries too, notably in Scandinavia and the Netherlands. And while you'll still see Pugs, Bulldogs and Frenchies on stuff, I really think it's now on less stuff than it was when we started.
One would hope that those who consider themselves good breeders would be grateful for anything that reduced their breeds' popularity. It is never a good thing for any breed. But sadly most instead see it as persecution. They think it's an animal-rights-fuelled plot to rid the world of Bulldogs, Pugs and French Bulldogs and are outraged that Royal Canin has bowed to pressure.
Now, personally, I'm looking forward to the day where the market for these dogs crashes and when people will be too embarrassed to have one because owning one (in their current form) labels you as unthinking. But if in the meantime if a few less can be bred, especially by quick-buck breeders, then surely that's got to be a good thing?
I should say that it probably did not help that Royal Canin's mea culpa statement offered zero explanation as to the backstory, making them look like they were recoiling in horror at their hideous mistake.
They have actually now removed this statement, either preparing something a little less bald or perhaps bowing to pressure from breeders.
After all, they do market a Bulldog-specific food which is supposed to be easier for the pauvre undershots to pick up. (You'd think, wouldn't you, that a dog once celebrated for being able to hang on to a bull would be able to manage a bit of extruded kibble but hey...)
Rather amusingly, RC market the product comme ci.
Yeah, I didn't know where to start, either. Well, perhaps with a little vowel substitution.
There is such an irritating piece in today's Telegraph, by journalist Val Elliott who has bought hook, line and sinker a Kennel Club-fed story that some unscrupulous breeders are trying to pass-off white German Shepherds puppies as more rare (= more expensive) Swiss White Shepherd pups.
For a start, there is zero evidence of this happening on anything more than a one-off scale. The Telegraph story refers to a single case in south Wales. A trawl through the UK's internet puppy sales sites reveals a few ads for white German Shepherds at the market price, but not a single ad for a White Swiss Shepherd other than for a single adult female that is KC-registered.
Frankly, the whole selling of the White Swiss Shepherd as something more precious than a white German Shepherd stinks worse than a month-old corpse in a Victorian sewer.
Here's the real story:
The White Swiss Shepherd was created in the 1990s by breeders who objected - I mean not unreasonably - to the fact that Kennel Club breeders used to kill German Shepherds that were born white. Why? Because white is now a disqualifying fault in German Shepherds, despite the colour having been in the breed from the start.
The breed's founder's had a white grandfather called Greif. And white was considered a perfectly acceptable colour until 1933 iwhen the Nazi party took over the breed club in Germany and banned the colour, believing (erroneously) that the colour was linked to health issues.
It led to the wholesale slaughter of German Shepherd puppies born with white coats.
The UK and US kennel clubs later blindly followed the German breed standard in effectively barring white German Shepherds from the conformation show-ring.
The result was that white puppies ended up being "bucketed" - drowned in a bucket of water at birth.
There is, thank goodness, now more of a market for white German Shepherds although this site maintains that some breeders still cull white puppies.
Bottom line, it's all so stupidly arbitrary. The colour should never have been banned in the first place. There is a cost to genetic diversity caused by splitting any breed based on colour alone. And how ironic that a breeder of White Swiss Shepherds, who must surely know the history, is now suggesting that white German Shepherds are a second-class cousin? (Although thankfully the White Swiss Shepherd breeders have, so far, eschewed the broken toplines and wobbly back-ends of the German Shepherds that you'll see trotting round the ring at Crufts this coming week.)
My advice? If you want a White Swiss Shepherd puppy but can't source one because of the long waiting lists, why not go for a well-bred white German Shepherd puppy instead? Choose wisely and it's pretty much the same dog. And hey, it may even ensure that a puppy isn't killed based on its colour.
In a landmark move, the Dutch Pug Club has responded to bad publicity, unrelenting pressure from campaigners, a wealth of science elucidating the breed's many health issues and strengthened animal welfare laws in the Netherlands.
They have just announced the following reforms:
• opening of the stud books to allow interbreeding with non-registered Pugs (that may or may not be purebred). • the introduction of a minimum craniofacial ratio (muzzle/skull length) • a limit on the number of litters any one stud dog can sire • the introduction of a second endurance test designed to ensure that only the fittest dogs are bred.
You can read the statement here if you understand Dutch (and if not you'll need to pop it into Google Translate). If tan official translation into English is made available, I'll add it here.
The idea is to increase genetic diversity and moderate the very flat-faced Pug that is currently in vogue. Pugs have varied a lot in form historically, but have never been as flat-faced as they are now and it has resulted in considerable respiratory, ocular and spinal problems. Recent research undertaken by Cambridge University shows that 70% of Pugs aged 3-7 have significant problems breathing - clearly unacceptable.
If accepted by the Dutch KC (and the word is that it will be) we should start to see 'official' Pugs that look more like this one - leggier, more athletic and with more of a muzzle.
I fear it will feel like a bad joke to Pug breeders in other countries, but it really is great news for the breed. Well done the Dutch Pug Club!
Now, the modern dog is much more moderate than many we've seen in recent years. The dog below, for instance, won Crufts in 2008, just before Pedigree Dogs Exposed highlighted the issues in this breed. And it's not just that one is male and t'other female.
But while welcoming the moderation we've seen in the last decade, I think the dog of old is just SO much better put-together than the 2018 Crufts winner: no dollops of flesh hanging off his hocks or neck (well anywhere really); smaller ears, greater ground-clearance, a lovely rounded bum (honestly, dead straight top-lines are completely unnatural), and that whole rear-assembly is just so much more natural. You can really imagine the dog doing a day's work - running freely without leaving most of its body half a second behind. And of course, today's true hunting Bassets look like the old dog, not the Crufts winners.
Upshot: there is progress but show Bassets still need more leg and less flesh - and the only dollops we need are of common sense.
The Croatian Kennel Club has just announced that it will no longer register LUA Dalmatians - citing that science is on its side.
The problem? The dogs are not pure!
LUA stands for Low Uric Acid - and it relates to a line of Dalmatians bred down from a single cross to an AKC champion English Pointer 40 years ago. The outcross was done to introduce a healthy version of a gene lost in purebred Dalmatians and it prevents the dogs from suffering from a painful and occasionally life-threatening health problem.
In their refinement of the breed, breeders of Dalmatians managed to inadvertently lose the healthy version of a gene that codes for uric acid production - the only breed of dog in which this has happened. As a result, there was no way to reinstate it in Dalmatians without an outcross.
Thus, the Pointer cross has simply restored an allele (gene variant) that exists in every other breed of dog. Indeed, after 20 or so generations, it is likely almost the only thing to remain from the original one-off cross. The added bonus in the LUA breeding programme is that the dogs have been well-documented/monitored by very health conscious breeders.
There are now hundreds if not thousands of LUA Dals being bred and shown, with both the American Kennel Club and the UK Kennel Club among those who have recognised and registered the LUA Dalmatians (albeit after an almighty campaign, including by this blog). Via a reciprocal agreement with the FCI, these dogs have now been bred and shown across Europe and elsewhere for some years now - including in Croatia.
It is true that there were issues with the breed's all-too-important spots not being perfect enough for the show-ring in earlier generations, but today's top dogs are indistinguishable from 'normal' Dalmatians and are winning well in the show-ring, with the added bonus that they do not suffer from the painful and at times life-threatening bladder stones that effect at least 10% of 'normal' Dalmatians. Affected Dalmatians have to be fed a low-purine diet and find it difficult/painful to pee. At worst they can die from a blockage/burst bladder.
Now, the breed's country of origin has taken the insane step to ban them.
On the Dalmatian Club of Croatia's Facebook page they state:
"...we want to improve the breeding, breed healthy dogs and there's no place for mix breed... We just wanted to all let you know that LUA Dalmatians are huge NO in Croatia, mother land of Dalmatians."
Motherland. Fatherland. Vaterland... Any similarity to German wartime rhetoric is of course, entirely coincidental.
The scrap is being played out on Facebook here and, rather amusingly, having stated that the dogs are 'inferior' and not to the standard, it turns out that one of Croatia's top breeders and judges gave one a great critique at a recent show.
No, no response yet to this proof offered two days ago..
Sadly, Bulgaria has also recently taken the retrograde step to ban LUA Dalmatians.
Let's be clear. There is zero scientific rationale for not accepting these dogs - and considerable scientific and ethical reasons why the decision by the Croatian Kennel Club is retrograde madness.
Does it matter? After all, aren't Bulgaria and Croatia minor Kennel Clubs? Perhaps we should just let them be and get on elsewhere with breeding beautiful, healthy Dalmatians?
Well yes it does matter. Croatia IS the official breed's country of origin (disputable in fact if you really dig into the breed's history) and there is real and genuine concern that this anti-science nonsense could spread.
The fight to get the LUA Dals recognised was a long and fractious one, particularly in the USA. Unfortunately there are still those in the breed outside of Croatia who believe these dogs are mongrels and unwelcome. (Still no mention of the LUA Dals on the British Dalmatian Club website either....)
What we need now is a virtual scientific delegation to write to the Croatian Kennel Club asking them to reconsider on scientific and welfare grounds - and in particular to counter the extraordinary supporting statement written by a Croatian biologist called Krunoslav Brčić-Kostić.
You can read that hereand frankly I don't know where to start. The man should be ashamed of himself. But basically, these are the reasons for advising that allowing the LUA Dals would be a bad thing.
the high probability that the LUA population possess Pointer genes closely linked to the SLC2A9 gene, and among them are breed specific genes responsible for the development and quality of spots
the possibility of introducing some deleterious alleles from Pointer
and the well known fact from population genetics that it is very difficult to eliminate deleterious recessive alleles.
I've already addressed the spotting issue, above. Re the possibility of introducing some deleterious alleles... well nothing has popped up yet and the outcross was done 45 years ago. And finally, if he was a conservation biologist worth his salt, he would know that there is no need to "eliminate deleterious recessive alleles" - every living thing has them and they really are just fine unless you increase the chance of them meeting up by inbreeding inside a closed gene pool. For a start, these alleles are rarely discrete entities that only code for one thing (eg the mutation for sickle cell anaemia also confers protection against malaria).
Nope. This has nothing to do with health and no one should be fooled. It is all about purity at all costs.
And as for this...
"The Dalmatian Dog breed was not established in 1975 nor in 2005. It is a historical breed which traces to a distant past, and this should be respected. The formation of the Dalmatian breed was accompanied with the acquirement of genetic load for deafness and metabolism of uric acid. This was the only option since without that the Dalmatian breed would not be possible."
Makes my skin crawl. The reasons so many Dalmatians are deaf is because of human selection for a dog that is too white - and a specific requirement that they should not have coloured patches on their ears (which would be protective against deafness.) Plus it's perfectly possible that it is relatively recent selection for ever more perfect spotting that resulted in the the HUA gene in normal Dals becoming fixed. Historical images show a very different-looking dog.
Brenda Bonnet and the team at the International Partnership for Dogs would be well-placed to do this - perhaps with the support of Danika Bannasch who did so much of the original gene research on this issue, plus any veterinary associations willing to add their name?
Hopefully it will be possible to get this decision overturned.
Pedigree Dogs Exposed was broadcast on BBC1 in the UK 10 years ago tonight. It laid bare dog-breeding practices that had caused a great deal of harm to dogs - harm that had been overseen by a Kennel Club that should have known better.
Indeed it did know better. Even its own genetics advisor, Jeff Sampson, had written in 2004 in an article for a symposium that: "Unfortunately, the restrictive breeding patterns that have developed as part and parcel of the purebred dog scene have not been without collateral damage to all breeds."
Like many before him (and since) the answer for Sampson (who was clearly not stupid but had been subsumed into the KC culture) was to advocate gently from within in the hope that something might change. He and the Kennel Club could fairly point to money put into research to developing DNA tests for the ever-spiralling number of genetic diseases. It's just that nothing was being done to tackle the root problem.
When I first walked through the steel and glass doors of the Kennel Club's Clarges St headquarters in London’s Mayfair in early 2008 - past oak-panelled rooms, fine art and chefs in starched whites pandering to the Members, I smelled complacency.
Despite the KC's literature claiming that the primary objective of the Kennel Club was 'to promote in every way, the general improvement of dogs', it had actually overseen a criminal genetic neglect of man's best friend.
It was the Kennel Club that had endorsed the breed standards, that sanctioned the dog shows, approved the judges, green-lighted inbreeding, refused to mandate health checks and had continued to register puppy farm dogs.
It had done next to nothing because the problem was - and remains - that the people who run the Kennel Club are part of the whole self-serving system. Group-think had persuaded them that it was OK... convinced them that a show-ring rosette was prima facie evidence that they were doing something good for dogs.
For those that don't know, Pedigree Dogs Exposed was prompted by the death of my Flatcoated Retriever, Fred. That's us at the top.
Fred was born in 1987 and I lost him in 2001, aged 14. I had thought he was going to live forever and my heart broke into a thousand shards when he died. Truly, I had never felt grief like it - and I write as someone who had already lost their mother and father before their time, my mum when she was just 46 to a brain tumour.
It was after Fred died that I discovered that Flatcoats, typically, die of cancer around the age of 8/9 and I was horrified. I felt cheated enough that I had lost Fred at 14. And I asked: why do so many flatcoats die of cancer so young?
It opened Pandora's Box.
It wasn't just Flatcoats.
It was breed after breed after breed, with some paying a horrendous price in terms of genetic disease, wounded immune systems and lifespans that, for some, average just six or seven years old.
I started making Pedigree Dogs Exposed with an open mind but the more we researched, the more we learned and the more shocked we became. By the time the film aired, I felt completely justified in calling it one of the greatest welfare scandals of our time. What grated most was the pomposity; the arrogance with which crippled German Shepherds were being wobbled round the show-ring by breeders who to their core believed their dogs were superior to any randomly-bred mixed breed when the scientific evidence spoke so strongly to the contrary.
Inbreeding was seen as a good thing ("as long as you knew what you were doing" - which mostly they didn't).
The KC happily registered pups born of mother/son + full sibling matings.
Breeding from a top-winning dog as often as possible in order to pass on those champion genes to as many of the next generation was seen as a way of improving the breed.
The show-ring was busy selecting for ever-more extremes - gasping Pugs, bulbous Shar-peis, German Shepherds that were dragging their back ends, all on the watch of a Kennel Club that enjoyed Royal patronage and a respect in higher places that, frankly, it did not deserve.
As many will remember, I was the villain for highlighting that a top-winning Cavalier had been diagnosed with syringomyelia rather than the owner for continuing to show and breed a dog with such a hideous inherited condition.
I don't think I'm exaggerating in saying that Pedigree Dogs was a "water cooler" moment. There had been many others before PDE - notably vets Simon Wolfensohn and Emma Milne, and writers/such as Pat Burns (Terrierman) and J Jeffrey Bragg, but it's hard to beat the power of 9pm prime time BBC and the international sales that followed (the film made a particularly big impact in Sweden and Australia).
The issue hit the headlines - and continued to dominate front pages in the UK for months to come, fuelled by the three high profile reports into dog-breeding that followed, the desertion of Cruft's main sponsor, Pedigree; the BBC dropping the broadcasting of Crufts after more than 40 years, and the setting up of the Dog Advisory Council as a canine watchdog (sadly now defunct).
For my part, having lit the blue touch-paper, I found I couldn't walk away. I wrote articles, did interviews, started this blog (almost 7 million page views to date) spoke at conferences and dinners, chivvied the great and the good behind the scenes and embraced social media to continue to spread the word.
In 2012, I made a follow-up (you can view it here) which highlighted the need for more to be done. Rather more recently, driven by deep concern about the lack of reform for the extreme brachycephalics, I started CRUFFAin an effort to tackle that particular issue from a different angle.
So, 10 years on, where are we now?
The good news
• There is much greater awareness of the dangers of selecting for extremes - whether for very flat muzzles, or short legs, excessive skin or size. If you compare the dogs that won Crufts in 2008 with the dogs that won Best of Breed in 2018, there is a perceptible swing towards moderation in some of the worst breeds.
• There is widespread acknowledgment that inbreeding is a bad thing. Most breeders now know what a co-efficient of inbreeding (COI) is and that a high number is a bad number. Some are going beyond the COI worked out from paper pedigrees and using tools such as Embarkor MyDogDNA to check diversity and disease status at a DNA level. Some - heaven forfend - are even doing some thoughtful outcrossing.
• There is a wealth of new science on the issues. Make something a hot topic, as did the film, and the research interest and funding will follow.
• I had the devil of a time trying to persuade the veterinary profession to speak out when I made PDE. Today, they are among the strongest and most determined advocates for reform at both an individual and profession level. Thank you.
• The RSPCA was always on board, in no small part due to their then Chief Vet, Mark Evans who spoke out extremely strong in the film. Since then, all the main animal animal welfare organisations in the UK have played a part in maintaining the impetus for reform. A big thank you to them, too.
• Legislation: October 1st sees the introduction in the UK has of legislation that makes it a criminal offence to breed from a dog "if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of its genotype, phenotype or state of health that breeding from it could have a detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health or welfare of its offspring." The proof of this will be in the pudding but my hope is that a few high profile cases will act as warning shots over breeders' bows. There are similar laws now being enacted in Europe/Scandinavia, too.
• Social media: nothing to do with PDE, but Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others today act as an effective watchdog. Pictures of extreme show-dogs proliferate quickly and attract widespread censure. Brands that use exaggerated breeds to flog their stuff are now contacted - and very often respond quickly. This morning on Twitter I collared both Body Shop (Cruelty Free International) and supermarket Waitrose for using a Frenchie and a Bulldog respectively in their marketing. I am hopeful of a good response. Everyone can help here by doing the same - it really works. Brands in the main do not want to be associated with animal suffering.
• The Kennel Club has come quite a long way since 2008. After initial denial, it quickly bowed to public opinion (the then Chairman of the KC, Ronnie Irving, described it at the time as "a tsunami of hate") and began making changes. These included the banning of first-degree-relative matings; better training for judges; a review of breed standards (and changes to more than 70); the introduction of Mate Select; educational tools for breeders and the public; vet checks at major shows; the establishment of the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust.; a limit on the allowed number of C-sections; increased funding for research and the news that it would consider well-thought-out outcrossing. The KC's Assured Breeder Scheme is now policed much more strictly. The KC supports a peer-reviewed journal which publishes useful research in the field. More recently the KC announced breed health and conservation plans which are intended to take a more holistic view of breed health - although the huge delay on these being publicly available suggests these may be proving contentious with breeders/breed clubs.
Sounds a lot, doesn't it?
The bad news
• Exaggerations are always in danger of sneaking back in. This Peke has just won the Toy Group at the World Dog Show in Amsterdam.
Bottom line, if we'd seen true reform, the Pekes winning in the show-ring would look more like this little one from 100 years ago - a dog today that would be thought to be a Tibetan Spaniel.
And at Crufts this year, although there were some more moderate dogs - and better breathing than we saw 10 years ago - it was depressing that this young dog had qualified.
There has been zero progress in terms of moderating faces in the extreme brachycephalics. Deleterious underbites are the norm with jumbled mismatched teeth the inevitable consequence. There are still no restrictions on popular sires, either - and little impetus when this is where the serious money lies in dog-breeding. This year's top Bulldog, Ch Sealaville He's Tyler, has sired around 200 litters. At at least £500 a squirt, this is where breeders claw back the expense of raising top show dogs and it's an income stream few would willingly forego.
• Inbreeding is still rife. The KC may have banned actual mother/son, father/daughter and full-sib matings, but they still register puppies from matings that are far more inbred than this because of cumulative inbreeding. They also chose to not also forbid grandfather/grand-daughter matings - a pairing Sir Patrick Bateson, who chaired one of the reviews into dog-breeding, thought was particularly pernicious.
• We've seen outcrossed Dalmatians and outcrossed Irish Red + White Setters registered by the Kennel Club - but this has been entirely due to individual breeders fighting for it; not something initiated by the Kennel Club or the breed clubs, which in the main remain deeply conservative. As such, outcrosses are extremely rare and the norm is still to breed dogs in closed gene pools with the inevitable consequences.
• Breeders continue to convince themselves that they can health-test their way out of problems.
• Progress has been made in raising awareness of the health deficits associated with particular breeds, but the popularity of some of our most deformed and disabled breeds - Bulldogs, Pugs, French Bulldogs - has soared. The Frenchie is now the UK's most popular KC-registered dog - knocking the far more sensible (and more sound) Labrador off the top-spot it has held for decades.
Now, we're seeing a surge in miniature smooth Dachshunds - seen as a cute "easy-keeper", at least until they bugger their backs. They have a muzzle, I guess. Just no legs.
• There remains disdain for crossbreeds, despite the science telling us that they tend to be healthier and live longer than their purebred cousins. The comparing of purebred dog breeding to eugenics in PDE was uncomfortable for many, but the parallels are obvious. And they remain. Everyone who still looks down their nose at a labrador x poodle and refers to them as a "labramongrel" needs to take a long hard look at what's driving how they feel.
How depressed am I by this? In truth, at times, very. But it is not as lonely a place as it was. There were times when I've felt like I was the only person shouting that things must change and now I am not. The conversation has started - and it continues.
Ten years is the blink of an eye and there has been change. It is heartening to see the progress made by European and Scandinavian kennel clubs in particular.
But it isn't yet the root and branch reform in the way we breed dogs that's needed to protect our dogs and it could so very easily slip back. There is also much work to be done in helping puppy buyers to make better choices.