Saturday, 30 November 2019

Thor the Bulldog - a National disgrace

A Bulldog called Thor has just won the National Dog Show in the USA.  As the judge approached him before awarding the Best in Show crown, the judge's mic (so she must have heard it herself) picked up the rattle in his throat that likely points to an elongated soft palate. Two-hundred breeds, 2000 dogs and, ta-daaa, a respiratory cripple took the top spot.

© NBC clipped from here

Too strong? Here's Thor playing with a puppy at home, the obstruction obvious. 

EDIT 3/12/12: This video was embedded from Facebook and its owner has now taken it down.  It showed Thor playing with a puppy and I posted it because Thor's breathing was noisy/raspy. 

This video is from around two years ago.  Given that BOAS is a progressive condition, I am surprised that Thor was not noisier trotting round the National Dog Show ring but then the mic was not close to him most of the time and the crowd was loud.

Now Thor is actually better than most other Bulldogs we've seen in the US show-ring - he moves quite well (for a Bulldog), he has tight eyes and there are no obvious skin issues (although the judge did not lift his large nose roll to check). He's heavy but at least not grossly obese. He has terrible teeth compared to a normal dog, but they are better than most Bulldog teeth (you can, at least, see all six incisors even if they are higgledy-piggledy and largely buried in the gum). 

Most Bulldog teeth look like this.

Thor has a very short, recessed screw tail (a mutation that we now know is associated with spine issues). The tail does not appear to be mobile, robbing him of that mode of expression,  and it doesn't come anywhere close to covering his anus.

And that nose!! Tilted backwards under the large nose roll, Thor's nose is dry and dull and his nostrils are almost closed.  Remember that dogs are as near-as-dammit obligate nose breathers.

And yeah.... that underbite... It's a demand in the breed standard; codified therein in the erroneous belief that, back-in-the-day, it better-equipped the Bulldog to hold on to a Bull. It leads, inevitably,  to soft-tissue trauma in the mouth and a vastly elevated risk of periodontal disease because of cramped/rotated teeth and the mismatch between upper and lower jaws.  I say it a lot but I will say it again... an underbite is a deformity (a Class 3 malocclusion in veterinary terms) and it has no place in a modern breed standard. Or, indeed, in a modern dog.

Thor has been quite extensively health-tested - and I'm genuinely pleased to see that he has good hips given that the Bulldog is the worst breed for hip dysplasia). This is a bit of progress.  But you'll note that there is no result here for respiratory health and that's because despite poor breathing being the single biggest health issue for Bulldogs and other extreme brachycephalic breeds, there is no official scheme in the USA, unlike here in the UK, Scandinavia and an increasing number of countries in Europe.

To sum up, while Thor might be good for a Bulldog, he is a disaster for a dog and I despair that any judge could have chosen him over the other dogs (all with normal canine conformation) in the Best in Show ring.  I mean, award him Best of Breed if you have to -  but the Best dog overall?

Finally - a question to US vets and the American Veterinary Association:

Why are you not doing more to address brachycephalic health in the US?  Why are you not even talking about it publicly when the Bulldog is now the 5th most popular dog in the US (and the French Bulldog - arguably even worse - is the 4th)?

Here in the UK, in Scandinavia and in parts of Europe, there is progress being made because veterinarians have stood up and said enough is enough.

US vets: your silence increasingly suggests tacit approval of the breeding of dogs that struggle to mate, whelp, breathe, thermo-regulate and are dead by, on average, six old.   Please, please, please get more involved in shaping a healthier future for these dogs. 

They need you.

EDIT 2/11/19

Several commenters below have suggested that the Bulldog with the bad breathing featured in the home video that was featured above is not Thor. 

Here are some pictures which prove they are one and the same dog - on the left, stills from the home video, compared with, on the right, stills of Thor from  the National Dog Show TV footage.

Join in on the Brachycephalic debate on CRUFFA.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Basset Hounds 2019: a new low?

One of the things I found most depressing when making Pedigree Dogs Exposed was seeing a young male show male Basset squat to have a pee and see the urine splash all over the dog's belly.

No dog should have so little ground clearance that they risk damaging their penis when going for a walk on anything other than green baize.  Originally a hunting hound, today's show Basset is short and heavy and in no way fit for its original purpose, even if the mind is still willing. We know this, because there are still Bassets that do hunt out there - and they look like this.

Woolaston working Bassets
In the aftermath of Pedigree Dogs Exposed, the Kennel Club introduced vet checks at championship shows for what were then known as "high profile breeds" - essentially those with the worst conformation problems. The Basset was one of them.  

In 2012, this dog (Ch Buzz Lightyear at Dereheath) won Best of Breed at Crufts but was then disqualified after failing his vet-check, albeit for an eye problem, not his resemblance to a badly-fitting valance.

There was uproar in the show-world.  But the Kennel Club held firm, the vet checks continue to this day and Buzz was never bred from.  

Even better, the following year,  this dog won best of breed at Crufts 2013. Result!

© The Kennel Club

Sadly,  the 2013 BOB was mated several times with no puppies ensuing. And then, horror of horrors, this massively overdone bitch won the following year.

© The Kennel Club

Since then, it's been up and down but mostly down. In 2018 it was good to see this more moderate bitch (Switherland Smart Alice) win.

But overall, the trend has been back towards lower, heavier dogs.  The murmurings from ringside is that this breed, with less focus on it in recent years,  is slipping back to where it was.

Which brings us back to the dogs featured at the top of this post. On the left is this year's Crufts winner,  Ch Switherland Smart Image (Danny to his friends) and on the right is Malrich Paris Carver. This pic was taken last weekend at Richmond Championship Show where Danny won BOB under breed specialist judge Judith Murray. 

In fact Danny went on to come second in the group under Swedish judge Miss MA E Persson. She will doubtless be familiar with the Swedish Kennel Club guidance re Basset Hounds that includes a concern regarding ground clearance and excess skin.

The UK Kennel Club has something similar guarding against excess skin and too little ground clearance.

So I am guessing that six-year-old Danny looks good on the move for a dwarf breed.

As the KC's Breed Health + Conservation Plan notes:

Yep, it's a developmental abnormality that, frankly, you wouldn't wish on anything (however stoically that being may deal with it) but in the Basset Hound this is considered a breed feature not a disease. Moreover, it's something us humans have deliberately bred for - a handicap initially designed to slow them down on the hunting field and, more latterly, because it wins pretty ribbons.

But it's a heck of a burden to impose on a dog. And no surprise then that they suffer a number of muscoskeletal issues as a result.  In the US, 40 per cent of more than 200 Bassets that have been tested have been found to suffer from hip dysplasia and 15% have elbow dysplasia. In a recent UK breed club survey, almost 20% of the breed were recorded as having conformation-linked disease.

However, only a pitiful four Bassets have been hip-scored in the UK in the past 15yrs. And only six dogs have had their elbows tested - with only one having normal elbows. (See the breed specific stats here.)

Concern about elbows is such that testing is recommended by the Kennel Club. But no one does it.

And, finally, there's one big, dwarfy elephant in the room for Bassets: inbreeding.

The KC calculates the average co-efficient in the breed in the UK as 10%, but there are some top winning dogs that have COIs way higher than that.

Like Switherland Smart Image, the big winner featured above.

Bearing in mind that this is more inbred than a father/daughter or full-sibling mating, this is going some. Moreover, despite the breed's health and conservation plan raising concern about the inbreeding in Bassets, this mating went ahead in 2017.

On top of that, Switherland Smart Image was first used at stud at just 10 months old and so was a son from that litter, Switherland Smart Alec. Two months later, Smart Alec was mated again (like his dad bred before any health testing had been done), resulting in another very high COI litter (24.2%) but producing the 2018 Crufts winner Switherland Smart Alice.

Ta-daa.... inbreeding (or line-breeding as the breeders like to call it to make it sound less bad) works when it comes to winning in the show-ring. At least in the short-term. Sometimes.  But it will be the death of the breed - if fashion doesn't kill it first. Registrations for this breed have dropped by two thirds in the past 10 years, with under 500 registered in 2018. Potential buyers might smile at the 'funny' pix of Bassets swimming in their skin as they run but the hound predisposition to being whiffy - often exacerbated by their skin problems - do not in the main make these dogs easy house guests.

To sum up... there has been some movement on Basset health since Pedigree Dogs Exposed - their eyes are considerably better than the droopy red wells that were almost ubiquitous in 2008. We also much less often see the Queen Anne legs of yesteryear.

But it's deeply depressing to see heavier and lower dogs in the ring again, when really we should be going the opposite way. This is a dog called Laval of Lohaire and although I haven't been able to track him down (anyone?) I think he dates from the 1930s/1940s and really, how much better is he for having longer legs and none of the mad, useless skin that is an affectation of the show-ring?

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Crufts 2019: the "cock-eyed, cousin-kissing" Pug that won Best of Breed

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 Pugs that 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.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Royal Canin removes Bulldog display at Crufts; Bulldoggers threaten boycott

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 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. I suspect the latter given that the Bulldog breed health rep met with Royal Canin and the Kennel Club at Crufts yesterday. Mrs Collins-Nattrass is a member of the Brachycephalic Working Group but it would seem that the display removal is a step too far for her.

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.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

White supremacy - alive and well at the Kennel Club

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 formalised as a breed 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 (canine) founder's had a white grandfather called Greif. The breed's human founder (Max von Stefanitz) was always at pains to point out that there was no "wrong" colour for a good working dog. And white was considered a perfectly acceptable colour until 1933 when 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 much further afield than Germany ended up being "bucketed" - (drowned in a bucket of water at birth) or otherwise disposed of.

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.

Puppy Sophie... Swiss White Shepherd? Or white GSD? 

Sunday, 16 September 2018

PUGS: THE END IS NIGH! (Well, as we know them now - but don't panic, it's a good thing)

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 an official translation into English is made available, I'll add it here.

The idea is to increase genetic diversity (studies suggest it is very low) 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 and ocular problems.  Recent research undertaken by Cambridge University shows that 70% of Pugs aged 3-7 have significant problems breathing - clearly unacceptable.

Now I expect my interpretation of the impact this could have might be different from that of hard-core show breeders in Holland but, if accepted by the Dutch KC (and the word is that it will be), it's possible we will start to see KC-registered Pugs that look more like this 'Retromop' below - leggier, more athletic and with more of a muzzle. (Retromops have been crossed with Jack Russell then bred back to Pugs to create a more moderate dog. There is also an "Altedeutscher" Pug in Germany that is more moderate and purportedly purebred.)

More importantly, a move like this really paves the way for other breeds, and a new wave of younger, more science-savvy breeders,  to follow. And, technically, if registered in Germany they can be registered in other FCI countries and any countries that have a reciprocal arrangement with the FCI (such as the UK Kennel Club).

Great news for the breed - and possibly many others, too.  Well done the Dutch Pug Club!


Friday, 14 September 2018

New freaks on the block: how to avoid buying the worst Bulldogs in the world

There is a sick trend in dogs that has now well and truly arrived in the UK. Welcome to a depraved new world where the game is to breed deformed, overdone bulldogs/bully types, usually in non-standard colours, then flog them for thousands of pounds under the guise that they're in some way special.

They're not. 

These are dogs often burdened with deformed skeletons and/or massive wrinkling, conceived by artificial insemination (AI) and born via C-section.The more extreme, the more "baddass" they are.

The breeders' Facebook pages are notable for back-slapping comments written by the barely literate  and they are usually strewn with 'on-fire' emojis πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯. Never mind that these dogs are so compromised by their physiques that if there was really anything on fire in the vicinity they'd be toast.

Until recently, these dogs were the domain of a handful of idiots and wannabe gangstas with Lilliputian genitals in the USA. Now they've arrived in the UK. And, worse, the Kennel Club is registering some of them.

This breeder has blocked me but these links should work for you. This one shows a very exaggerated puppy with a purple tongue.

And here is the dog's KC pedigree - totally legit (well in terms of it being a genuine KC pedigree).

The most successful breeders boast a slick front-of-house - websites blaring gangsta tunes and kennels that would be the envy of many. (One even has flat-screen TVs on their kennel walls.)  They talk about the dogs being "compact" and having "massive" bone, heads or muscle  like these are good things.

They are not.

You might look at these dogs and go WTF.  But there is a market that buys into it - mostly young, uneducated money that finds the marketing cool. These are people who have no deep-down knowledge of what a dog should be.

The dogs fall broadly into two camps. The first are extreme English-type Bulldogs - I've highlighted this one before, also KC-registered.

The second are exaggerated "pocket" American Bullies which actually often have half-decent heads and tails but whose shoulders are in the next county, cantilevered on to compressed, dwarfy frames. They usually have cropped ears (illegal in this country ) and are often very inbred to the point of looking not-quite-with-us.

The dogs are often sold to other wannabe-breeders who are tempted by the get-rich-quick promises. You too don't have to get a real job if you buy and pimp an extreme stud, wank him to exhaustion while he's still alive, dunk the filthy liqueur into a freezer in volume and flog it all over the world for a grand a time (and often a lot more) to people who have shit for brains.

Too strong? 

I'm just so angry that anyone in the UK could be stupid enough to breed and buy these dogs.

The breeders claim the dogs are healthy while doing few or no health tests. They claim they love them while condemning the animals they breed to a life beset with breathing problems, infected skin and painful joints. Most die young - but live on through frozen semen. Once they start to fail they are passed on for huge sums to unsuspecting buyers in other countries - often China.

Some of the new UK breeders are also behind a slew of new UK fertility clinics pitched at breeders of brachycephalic dogs offering cut-price procedures that are entirely focused on circumventing their dogs' desperate attempts to avoid passing on their genes.

A recent video on the Facebook page of one in the West Midlands showed intra-uterine insemination being done for what they called a "problematic" bitch (ie one that could not conceive by ordinary, non-surgical, AI) went viral on the veterinary groups. I understand that 100s of vets have signed a letter to the RCVS asking for action.

On October 1st, new legislation comes into force in the UK that will make it much harder for breeders to sell duff dogs. If you buy a dog that has not been health-tested and turns out to be suffering or dies from a breed-related problem, you can seek recourse in the courts and and help put these breeders out of business. Oh, and please let me know, too - I'd be happy to help.

Of course it would be better to not buy one in the first place.

Here's what to avoid

• Puppies that were conceived by artificial insemination or born by a C-section. You are perpetuating the breeding of dogs that nature is saying should not be bred.  
• Breeders whose premises have ornate metal gates with the name of their kennel welded into them. 
• Any breeder that offers you finance 
• A breeder whose website or Facebook page where the "rare" colour of the dog is mentioned in the first two sentences. Some colours come with health consequence and others do not, but it reveals the breeder's main focus (which is to fleece you of as much money as possible). 
• Breeders who insist their dogs are "quality" or "healthy" without providing solid proof in the form of health test results.  Ask what health tests have been done before you visit because the moment a little ball of wrinkle has been popped into your hands, man, you are lost.  Some will DNA-test for colour and some will also DNA-test for HUU because it's cheap and easy and makes them look like a good breeder.  One has posted this on his website which makes it look like they are health-focused - but there is zero mention of any tests other than those for colour.

Breeders who really care about the health of their Bulldogs/Frenchies/Pugs will be doing BOAS testing (which assesses how well the parents can breathe), heart-testing and spine-grading - and they will be boasting about them.

Ironically, puppies from health-tested stock are invariably cheaper than ones from the breeders I am highlighting here. 

• Do not be fobbed off with "vet-checked" - all a vet can check is that they're not actually dying at the point of being checked. It is meaningless in terms of future health. 
•  Don't be impressed by an expensive-sounding puppy pack. It's a marketing tool. 
• Any UK breeder that displays pictures of dogs with cropped ears. Ear-cropping has been illegal in England since 1899.
• Breeders whose social media sites feature a lot of these πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯,  πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘, πŸ’£πŸ’£πŸ’£πŸ€‘πŸ€‘πŸ€‘, πŸ’°πŸ’°πŸ’° or where anyone calls the dogs "sick" meaning great.
• Kennel names that include misspelled words: eg deziner, bullz or bullyz. 
Feel free to add your own below!

Further reading:

Warning:don't buy into the designer Bulldog bullshit.html