Right now, Pugs, French Bulldogs, British bulldogs and Dachshunds are among our most popular breeds of dog.
Not only can you find many of these particular canines in the dog park and on the footpath, you can also see them everywhere on social media, in TV commercials and even depicted on clothing and other accessories.
People are often drawn to these breeds because of their looks. Some love the flat faces, big eyes and wrinkly skin of Pugs and Bulldogs; others admire the long bodies and stout little legs of the Dachshund. And liking the way a particular breed of dog looks is just fine – except when it comes to some breeds, whose looks mean serious health problems for them.
Before you think about adding one of these pups to your family, it’s important to know that these exaggerated physical features can cause major health problems.
It wasn’t always like this
These breeds haven’t always looked the way they do today. Pugs from centuries past had longer legs, longer muzzles and straighter tails. Dachshunds’ legs and necks were proportioned in a way that better supported their long bodies and British bulldogs … well, let’s just say they were much better off before they reached a genetic dead end.
As soon as breed standards (strict guidelines describing how particular breeds must look) started prioritising appearance over long-term health and welfare, things changed. The exaggerated features that Pugs and other dogs are known for today have been created by deliberate selective breeding for particular physical types or traits.
As their features have become more extreme over time, the health problems faced by these breeds have increased in severity. These include but aren’t limited to:
Healthy puppies and registered breeders aren’t the solution
Sadly, even a healthy young puppy might have serious problem in future. Many of these problems won’t show up until the puppy is one to two years old, or even older.
A good breeder might offer to take the dog back if problems emerge – but who wants to give up their much-loved family pet? And even the best breeders are unlikely to compensate you for all the money you’ve had to spend on vet bills.
The best breeders are likely to conform closely to the breed standards – and that’s where the problem lies. For example, the Australia breed standards for the British Bulldog says the head should be ‘strikingly massive, ‘the skull should be very large – the larger the better’, ‘viewed at the side, the head should appear very high, and very short from its back to the point of the nose’ and ‘the face, measured from the front of the cheekbone to the nose, should be as short as possible ‘.
Until breed organisations accept that standards like these are causing serious and widespread problems, and adjust the standards accordingly, there is only so much the individual breeder can do.
Dogs shouldn’t have to suffer this way
We all love dogs, we love these breeds, and we don’t want to have to advise people to avoid them altogether.
And not all dogs of these breeds will have problems – some do live happy, healthy lives.
But it’s really difficult for us to recommend Pugs, French and British Bulldogs, Dachshunds and Shar Peis in particular, when we’re aware of these many, serious and widespread problems.
We’re not alone either - according to independent research we recently commissioned, 64% of people are aware that some breeds of dog have health issues because of the way they’ve been bred to look; and 70% of people – upon knowing of the health issues faced by these dogs – would avoid purchasing or recommending the affected breeds.
So if you have your heart set on one of these breeds, please think very carefully about whether
If you’d like to support a healthier and happier future for purebred dogs with exaggerated features, please join us in calling upon the Australian National Kennel Council to commit to working with breeders, vets and animal welfare groups to prioritise good health and welfare above physical appearance.
For anyone looking to welcome a furry friend into their life, we strongly recommend visiting your local animal shelter - where you’ll have the opportunity to give a pet a second chance at a loving home.
If you’d prefer to buy a purebred puppy, please be sure to ask the breeder directly whether they breed away from physical exaggerations. Ask to see the parents of the puppies to get an idea of their appearance and whether their offspring might be prone to health problems. Check out the Smart Puppy and Dog Buyer’s Guide to learn more.
If you own one of these breeds already, make sure you speak to your vet about ways to help your fur baby live a healthier and more comfortable life. And please have your dog desexed to ensure it doesn’t pass on any health problems to the next generation.
For more information, visit http://loveisblind.org.au/
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