Thursday, 29 December 2011

Does the K in KC stand for (north) Korea?

The schedule for Crufts 2012 is now available online and I see the Kennel Club has tried to beef up rules regarding photography.

Here's what it says:

Click to enlarge
Clearly, the KC is very worried about those horrid people singling out unhealthy-looking dogs and posting them on blogs or YouTube or, heaven forbid, giving to BBC documentary-makers. And it would have you believe that those who want to photograph problems are the ones at fault (as opposed, that is, to those breeding, exhibiting and awarding them prizes).

The addition to previous rules regarding photography is this line:
"The Organisers reserve the right at their absolute discretion to confiscate cameras and/or films for infringement of this condition. "
This is, actually, illegal and if they try it, the KC could be done for theft. Additionally, the KC has no right to delete photographs or insist the photographer does. They can ask only that the photographer leaves the premises. Any pictures or footage taken remain the copyright of the photographer.

I do appreciate that it is uncomfortable to have problems highlighted but this is a dog show where dogs are presented for exhibition and judgement. To try to put measures in place to ensure that only nice, positive, celebratory things about dogs are reported or photographed is censorship. And, moreover, pretty much impossible given the number of visitors to Crufts - almost all of which will have a camera, even if only on their phone. I should point out, too, that while individuals in certain circumstances have a right to privacy (although that's arguable if you've chosen to exhibit your dog at an event attended by thousands of snap-happy members of the public), dogs certainly don't.

My suggestion to the KC is that they man-up here. The correct PR advice is, surely, for them to welcome everyone and actively encourage anyone who records something that appears to be highlighting a health or welfare issue to discuss it with the KC.  And if, say, the photograph or recording shows prizes being awarded to a Basset Hound with ectropion or a Chinese Crested with obviously sore testicles because they've been shaved, or a Peke that can barely walk or a Bulldog or Pug with a massive overnose wrinkle, for the KC to not just point out the positive steps they are doing to deal with them (and there are some) but, where appropriate, to be unafraid of issuing a statement saying that they are extremely disappointed that a dog with such an obvious problem is still being rewarded in the show-ring.

The KC has vet checks for the Best of Breed winners of the 15 highlighted breeds starting at Crufts and this is a good move (although I am concerned to hear that the vets are not allowed to put a stethescope on the dog). This should mean that dogs with obvious problems will not win.  Which could mean that there won't be a BOB winner of Neapolitan Mastiffs at this year's Crufts.  I have yet to see one without ectropion which, thanks to input from veterinary opthamologist Professor Sheila Crispin, has been included as a disqualifying problem.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Progressive Retinal Atrophy - the Facts

They've got their knickers in a twist over at the Stop the BBC Making Another PDE Facebook site over something I said when I was being interviewed by Victoria Stilwell last week.

But of course they're wrong. What I pointed out in the podcast was that there are different forms of PRA in different breeds, caused by different mutations. There's cord1 (found in some Dachshunds and English Springers), prcd (found in a lot of breeds, including Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Tollers), rcd1 (Irish Setters), rcd2 (Smooth and Rough Collies), rcd3 (Welsh Corgi), rcd4 (Gordon + Irish Setters),Type A (Miniature Schnauzer) and X-linked (Samoyed).

All these mutations are recessive, meaning that both parents must carry and pass on the mutation to their puppies for the pups to be affected.

Obviously, if you mate a Golden Retriever with a Labrador, there's a risk to the resulting pups.

But you can mate two carriers (or even affecteds) of two different breeds that don't carry the same form of PRA - eg a Springer to a Cocker  - and the pups will not be affected (although of course could be carriers so one would have to test for both mutations if you breed on).

The only exception to this is with a dominant form of PRA found in Bullmastiffs and Mastiffs.

So thank you for the suggestion that I talk to Optigen. Of course I have - and to the Animal Health Trust which has found so many of the other PRA mutations (and is still working on others).

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Bred for Looks, Born to Suffer

Tomorrow, if you're walking down Clarges St in London's Mayfair and hear strange popping noises, it will be Kennel Club staff's heads exploding in response to the RSPCA's new  Bred for Looks, Born to Suffer campaign, launched today with the above ad in the Mail on Sunday.

I have to confess to feeling a little uncomfortable about some aspects of the campaign myself.

I'm fine with the ad above as I feel really strongly that we should return pugs to an earlier version where they had longer muzzles. In fact, we've just returned from filming with world brachycephalic expert Professor Gerhard Oechtering in Leipzig who showed us the damage that has been done, internally, by breeding for such a flat face (see below). It is so much more than most people imagine - and it is heart-breaking to see what we've done to this characterful little dog that bears its fate with such cheerful stoicism.

I'm OK, too, with what the RSPCA's new campaign says on the main campaign page, although I know others will be hyperventilating at the singling out of pedigree dogs as opposed to those dreadful designer crossbreeds.

But I did wince at this page... which starts:
The way that dogs are bred today, in order to win shows, is having a huge impact on their health and welfare. This is why we’ve launched our Born to Suffer campaign which seeks an end to the breeding of dogs based on looks.

But it's not just show dogs that may be suffering. Many pedigree dogs never appear in shows, but many are bred by breeders who want to produce show-winning animals, and who sell their surplus dogs as pets.

And the reason I winced is that, although it's true to say that it's the show-scene that often stamps the current 'look' on a breed, there are loads of breeders breeding purely for the pet marked who are producing dogs that are no better (in fact in some instances worse - pet-bred Shar-pei, for instance, are usually much more wrinkled than their show-bred cousins).  In other words, I think to single out show breeders in this instance is unfair. I know, I know, people will no doubt yelp that that is exactly what I do. But I wouldn't have done if I had been copywriting the RSPCA campaign.

Here, by the way, is a a 'grab' from the footage we shot of the inside of a pet-bred pug's mouth when we filmed in Leipzig. Pugs have the same number of teeth as a dog with a longer muzzle and this is nature's attempt at accommodating them.

Add 22/12: here's the Kennel Club's response to the RSPCA's new campaign - essentially an insistence that the breed standards are not to blame. 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

No time and no shows

Currently, I barely have enough time to breathe let alone blog, as we're flat out on Pedigree Dogs Exposed 2 - so apologies for the silence. Our first viewing with the BBC is on January 4th, so there'll be no Christmas for me this year, but I did find time last night to be interviewed by Victoria Stilwell for her Positively podcast. For those who have more time than me and want to listen, our chat starts between a quarter and a third of the way through the podcast here.

I do urge my friends over on the Stop the BBC from Making Another PDE Facebook site to listen as you'll hear no less than three clear admissions of puppy abuse on my part perpetrated during the interview itself. The victim is the puppy pictured above. Well, he wouldn't stop barking.

His name is Wrigley (although he's more usually called Pupster) and his mum is a tiny working-bred English Setter who was pregnant when she arrived from Ireland as a rescue.  Who was Dad? Best guess is a mountain goat. That's our 5ft-high Yew hedge he's jumped on.  Wrigley is a fabulous pup - a real ray of sunshine; we should have rehomed him, really, but he makes us laugh and in the way that puppies sometimes are, he's been a positive influence on the rest of the dogs.

I first met Victoria and her husband Van at Crufts in 2008. We've stayed in touch very sporadically since then and we met again a couple of weeks ago at the APGAW meeting on dog-breeding at the Houses of Parliament. We were given permission by APGAW Chairman Neil Parish to film the meeting, which prompted the Kennel Club to pull out. Neil Parish read out the following statement at the start of the meeting:

"The Kennel Club was keen to be involved in APGAW's meeting regarding health and welfare developments in dog breeding since these are issues which we consider to be of paramount importance. However, in view of the decision to allow filming by Passionate Productions, the Kennel Club has elected not to attend since we do not trust those involved to present an unbiased account of proceedings."

Fortunately,  the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association and the Dog Advisory Council felt able to attend to speak - and in the audience were many others from dog welfare and dog interest groups.

The Kennel Club's decision to not attend was disappointing. I do understand its concern but can't help feeling that they are currently receiving very poor PR advice.  No-shows do not, in the main, go down well with the public.

And television loves an empty chair.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Leap year 1930

I don't often re-post stuff from the Terrierman's Daily Dose as we share a lot of readers. But this British Pathé film clip from 1930, featuring a GSD called Mickeve, fair takes my breath away.

So here's the challenge: could anyone find me a modern German Shepherd that could do this?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Flatcoats and cancer

Pye - just one of 1000s of flatcoats to have died prematurely of cancer
Today, I heard of yet another young Flatcoat losing their life to cancer.  Millie, a search and rescue dog, was just five years old. Last year, someone I know lost two beloved Flattie boys within three months of each other - one was five years old; the other just three. As much as their owner loves the breed, enough was enough. She now has two spaniel crosses.

Contrary to popular perception, my life has not been much blighted by flatcoat cancer.  We did lose our lovely Pye (pictured above) to a cervical tumour when he was 10 but my first flattie, Fred (it's his picture at the top right of the blog) lived until he was 15 years old. My current flattie Maisie turned 10 in August. She is known as the fastest paw in the West - not for being fleet of foot (although she is quick enough when the occasion calls for it) but for the speed with which she can whip a piece of toast off the sideboard and into her mouth the moment your back is turned.

I hope to always have a Flattie in my life; but they will be rescues, not one bought as a pup. And that's because I believe Flatcoat breeders in the UK could be doing more to tackle the horrific rate of cancer in the breed (over half of Flatcoats will develop cancer by the age of 8 and it kills many of them).

There will be howls of protest at my saying this. The Flatcoated Retriever Society and breeders think they are doing quite a lot about cancer. Now it is true that Flatcoat breeders on the whole are health-orientated. Very few Flatcoats are bred without first being hip-scored and eye-tested, and many are elbow-tested too. Re cancer, over £60,000 has been raised since 1990 to fund ongoing research at Cambridge University into Flatcoat cancer - and the breed club helped source dogs for the cohort study linked to above which followed 174 flatcoats through to death.


I am disturbed that the Flatcoat Health Seminar this summer did not include anything on cancer. And I note that the Society's website doesn't actually mention cancer by name on its current health page. There is a link to the Tumour Survey, but it is just a line right at the bottom of the page.

Additionally, the Society's pdf on the Tumour Survey contains a number of inaccuracies - most seriously that the data they have collected had "dispelled the myth that [soft tissue] sarcomas occurred in young dogs."

It is true that the Cambridge research has found a peak in 8 year old dogs (and 8 was also the mean age of presentation) and there was another peak in 11-year-olds. But let's have a closer look at the figures here for the 32 dogs in the cohort study that died from confirmed soft-tissue sarcomas.

As you can see, 13 dogs died at aged 9 or over whereas 19 died at aged 9 or younger. And, crucially, this cohort recruited dogs between the ages of two and seven which could have skewed the data. The authors' rationale for this was that a previous study had found that few flatcoats under the age of seven had died of sarcoma. But this earlier study (Histopathological survey of neoplasms in flat-coated retrievers, 1990 to 1998, JS Morris et al) certainly didn't find that no young flatcoats died from cancer . Actually, the paper is a bit hazy regarding age detail, but it reports that 9 per cent of the dogs diagnosed with differentiated sarcoma were "young". Of the 10 dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma, for instance, three were under two years old.

Certainly, there is a case for repeating the cohort study and making it a birth cohort, ensuring that Flatcoats that die young from cancer (and, anecdotally, there are many of them) are included. 

Recently, a handful of cases of juvenile renal dysplasia in flatcoats has sent the breed club into a spin - disproportionately, in my view. But then it is a rather easier condition to talk about given a simple mode of inheritance and the availability of a DNA test (albeit one that has had validation issues).

It seems to me that cancer is the elephant in the room in Flatcoats - at least in the UK (perhaps US readers can fill us in on the situation there?). Yes, it is acknowledged but it is too often played down. With the researchers yet to come up with any answers that could prevent it, I think the problem is just that everyone feels utterly powerless.

But more could be being done: an open database of dogs (and their pedigrees) affected with cancer, for instance and - in particular - a more effective fund-raising campaign for cancer research. I dont want to diss the £66k raised so far but over 21 years it works out at only around £3k a year - not so much. An opportunity to donate online would be a big help.

I also think that it would be worth the breed club organising a group of flatcoats to be DLA haplotype-tested - something that the breed club turned down when I suggested it to them in 2010, saying they had limited resources and other health concerns to be spending money on. But this is a test that could help breeders breed for a stronger immune system and cancer, of course, is immune-mediated. The Society did agree to include mention of the test in its 2011 newsletter - not sure if it did or not but if it did, here's hoping it encourages some flatcoat breeders to explore.

There is a touching tribute to Millie here.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Every breath they take

It doesn't have the snappiest of titles, but "Brachycephalic syndrome by Dr Göran Bodegård, MD" in this week's Dog World is essential reading for everyone with (or thinking of getting) a short-faced breed - or, indeed,  anyone looking for ammunition with which to try to persuade people that dogs really were never meant to look like human children.

The article describes in wincing detail the welfare cost of breeding dogs with flat faces.
In many breeds the aim has been to get flat-faced dogs and this has been achieved by selection for a shortened skull and muzzle. This head type – the brachycephalic head – is not to be considered as a normal variation but is the result of a human intention to consolidate desired physical characteristics which are expressions of a genetic mutation. 
Even with the selected breeding for this trait, dogs are produced with a spectrum of characteristics, including individuals having practically no nose at all. Strongly connected to the flat face characteristics is the development of malformations in the airways including pinched nostrils, elongated and thickened palate, hypertrophic and/or collapsing walls of the trachea and bronchi which cause obstructions for the flow of air. The degree of breathing impairment is varying. The brachycephalic breeds also manifest a disturbed thermoregulation capacity.

Brachycephalic animals are all, to at least some degree, affected by lifelong breathing problems which are particularly pronounced under conditions of elevated environmental temperature and during increased physical activity when insufficient airway capacity hinders an adequate gas exchange. Attacks of evidently laboured breathing with respiratory distress, snoring and snuffling are the most common clinical signs which in the most serious cases might develop into apnoea, loss of consciousness, collapse and even death.
Let's just pull out one of those sentences again:

"Brachycephalic animals are all, to at least some degree, affected by lifelong breathing problems..."

Not some - all of them. And for their whole lives.

We did that.

Read the whole  article here.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Raging bull

The Bulldog Club of America makes a controversial claim in this week's New York Times Magazine's damning cover story on Bulldogs.

Distancing itself from UK data which put the Bulldog's median age of death at just over six years old, a spokesperson for the Bulldog Club of America insists that US bulldogs are healthier than those in England.

Great... so what is the average of age death for the Bulldog in America, then?

Er, they don't know. No one has done the work, or not recently at least - although US vet school data gathered between 1980 and 1990 found that the average age of death in Bulldogs was just 4.6 years.

But perhaps there is other data to support the BCA's claim in the article that US bulldogs are healthy? Well, no, there isn't. In fact, the OFA lists the Bulldog as the breed worst affected by hip dysplasia (over 70 per cent of dogs tested are dysplastic); and a recent paper exploring causes of death in US dogs found that the Bulldog was the breed most likely (18 per cent) to die due to respiratory problems and was only beaten by the Newfoundland as the breed most likely to die from congenital problems.

The New York Times' long and thoroughly-researched article, by writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis, is a real indictment of what we have done to the Bulldog and it makes for painful reading.  Breeders will no doubt find reason to dismiss the piece for including quotes from the the HSUS's Wayne Pacelle, but the testimony from expert after expert on the breed's many health woes is compelling.

Particularly worrying, for me, is that in 1973, the Bulldog ranked just 41 in the AKC's most popular breeds whereas in 2010 it was number 6. It is now the most popular breed in Los Angeles (where, surely, they can barely venture outside in summer?).

Of equal concern is that the Bulldog Club of America has no intention of changing the breed standard to encourage a healthier phenotype - and the AKC has no plans to make them, saying it trusts the BCA to "know what's best for the breed."

As such the US breed standard - depressingly - still calls for the Bulldog to have a "massive short-faced head", an "extremely" short face and for the head and face to be "covered with heavy heavy wrinkles" - features which are clearly detrimental to health and welfare and which have been moderated in the UK standard, although not without protest. (I should say that there is little evidence that UK breeders are taking much notice of the new standard, but at least it's in place.)

Read the whole of Benoit's excellent article here.

Incidentally, it's not the first time that Bulldog health has made the cover of a top US magazine. Time Magazine's 2001 "A Terrible Beauty" cover story caused huge ripples at the time. Have a look at that cover from 10 years ago, though, and what stands out is how unexaggerated the Bulldog on the cover is compared to many Bulldogs today. Underneath is a front-shot of a dog previously featured in profile on this blog - one of the top-winning UK bulldogs of 2011, Ch Pringham's Eclair Glace.  And underneath that, in case anyone thinks current US bulldogs are less exaggerated, is a US Bulldog featured in the NY Times article.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Discover Dogs 2011

From the "Stop the BBC Making Another PDE" Facebook site this eve...

The "Stop the BBC Making Another PDE" Facebook site issued several dire warnings in the past week warning good dog folk to be on their guard at this weekend's Discover Dogs against "JH" taking pictures without permisson. Their cunning plan? To take photographs of me or anyone who might conceivably be an agent of mine.

That would, then, be pictures taken without permission. The irony appeared to be somewhat lost on them.

In fact, the Kennel Club had refused us access to film so we couldn't. No ifs or buts -  BBC rules are strict on this and secret filming is only allowed in special circumstances. There was nothing to stop us filming outside, though, so we set up camp outside to ask visitors about their breed choice; then I paid for a ticket to have a quick whizz round the show in the last hour; camera switched off and firmly zipped in the camera bag.

Don't think the KC trusted me to keep it zipped though. As I stopped to have a chat with Sarah Blott from the Animal Health Trust at the Cavalier Matters stand, the KC's Caroline Kisko and Bill Lambert approached and hovered.  Bill then followed me as I wended my way towards the exit, quite literally ducking behind breed stands to try to avoid being seen; at one point peering through a gap in one stand's dressing to keep me in sight. Very Keystone Cops.

I doubled-back and collared him, telling him he should feel free to say hello. I also thanked him for the information he had sent me last week in response to questions about the Assured Breeder Scheme. "I look forward to seeing how negatively you use that information," said Bill.

"Well," I replied, "I am a bit surprised to learn that the KC has inspected only 15 per cent of the breeders who have joined the Assured Breeder Scheme."

I mean, really, and with the best will in the world, it is quite hard to put a positive spin on that, isn't it?

On the plus side, Bill also told me that all breeders who have registered more than two litters in the previous 12 months are now inspected before they are accepted and that there are plans to extend this to all applicants (although he couldn't say when).

But if (as is the case) the KC has only done 1100 odd inspections in total since the scheme started in 2004 and they only have 23 breeder advisors (compared, for instance, to over 100 in Sweden where in 2010 alone they did 2000 breeder visits), when exactly is the KC going to get round the 6,000 or so ABS breeders who have never been inspected?

There was some good news at Discover Dogs during my brief visit.  A breed advisor was honest about the health issues in Boxers on the Boxer breed stand and it was good to see health informaton given real prominence on the Griffon stand, as it was last year. I also saw nothing to stop me lusting after a Hovawart (despite worries about the small gene pool).

But I'm afraid the rep on the Neopolitan Mastiff let the side down when asked if the breed had any health problems. "Not really," came the reply. He also maintained that they lived on average to 8 yrs old (not really his fault - this entirely unsupported claim is in black and white in the health info the Club prepared for Discover Dogs; a bit of a shame because the rest of the health info is not bad).

Finally, despite having lookouts/security in place to protect the Neapolitan Mastiffs from me and prying lenses, this picture was sent to me this evening of the dog on the breed stand this afternoon.

Just to make it crystal clear to Neapolitan Mastiff breeders who will no doubt express outrage: the crime is not in my publishing pictures like this; it's in you breeding dogs like this.

If you don't want pictures of Neopolians with desperate eye conformation, too-narrow nares and sore skin being blogged or broadcast for everyone to wince at... stop breeding them this way.

Edit 13/11/11 @ 20:04

Now that we know this dog is Rayvonley Leone (see comments), here is a picture of him at Darlington Championship Dog Show a few weeks ago, where he won Best Dog. If you click to enlarge it, you'll see there is no skin irritation under his nose, but his chin looks sore and his eye looks no better than it does in the above picture.

Edit 13/11/11 - 

The reaction from the anti-PDE Facebook site....

So now we know. The dogs are just fine. I have, apparently, been photoshopping the images in order to make the dogs look bad.

Which beggars the question: if I could prove that I have not photoshopped them, would they agree that there is a problem that needs to be fixed?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Neapolitan Mastiff - 1949-2011

I think this YouTube video is intended as a celebration.

But you be the judge.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

"Wrinkled skin, no legs and willies that drag on the floor"

I have a weakness for dogs on which Nature has applied eye-liner. And when it has been genetically tattoed on a dog that does the work it was bred to do... gorgeous!

The dog above is a member of a hunting pack: the Albany and West Lodge Basset Hounds.  Here are some more pictures of them taken at their recent Open Day.

So now let's compare them with a young show-bred Basset that won Best Puppy at a recent championship show.

Surely some mistake?
As you can see, this show dog bears little resemblance to the working-bred dog. The Albany Bassets have longer legs, shorter ears, no loose skin and although not all of them have perfectly-tight eyes, they do not have the obvious ectropion that you can see on this winning puppy.

I should say that burdening these dogs with too much skin draped on distorted skeletons is by no means the sole preserve of the dog fancy; many pet-bred Bassets are dreadful too.

We did this. And we shouldn't have done.
So which is the real Basset. Well definitely not the Albany Hounds according to Dave Darley (Clavidar Bassets), who is Vice Chairman of the Basset Hound Club. This despite the fact that the Albany hounds still fulfil their original function when his don't.  Here's what he said in March this year in response to a post here on Bassets in March:

"There are some good looking dogs in the Albany Pack, but they are not Bassets. We dont "talk darkly" about their cross to Harrier, they are simply a cross breed and should be called "Barrier" or "Harriets". The Harrier itself is also a cross breed and has no KC Breed Standard unlike the Fox Hound that the Harrier is a cross breed of. So the Albany "Bassets" are a crossbreed of a crossbreed. How many more breeds would you like us to introduce into our breed but yet still let us call them Pedigree?? At least the Huntsmen who created the Harrier had the decency of changing its name."

This has not gone down very well with Alison Jeffers, Secretary of the Albany Bassets, whose Summer Newsletter I've finally got round to reading. In it she writes:

"Can you believe everything you can find on the internet? Apparently not! Take Dave Darley as an example. He's the current Vice Chairman of the Basset Hound Club. He has never met Jeremy (Master of the Albany Bassets) or me; he has never seen our hounds and he doesn't have any factual information about our breeding lines.

Yet he's quite hapy to blog away, making crass statements about our hounds in an attempt to 'explain' why Kennel Club show hounds look so different from our hounds.

According to Dave it's all because ours aren't Basset Hounds. They are mongrels! According to Dave and others, we have crossbred with Harriers and Beagles to create Albany Hounds, which he then goes on to describe as 'extremely poor versions of an Artesian hound'.

Like many people in the show world he makes statements that are not based on any truth. He should spend a bit of time looking through out stud book before declaring publicly what our hounds have been crossed with. If he did, he would find no sign of either Harrier or Beagle and I am sure he'll be quite 'shocked' at how much KC blood we still have in our hounds.

So if we can breed Basset Hounds that still look like hounds from the 1950s and are proven to be 'fit for purpose' why can't the Basset Hound Club? There's no logical reson as to why they can't. Within 2 or 3 generations most could be dramatically improved, it's just that many breeders don't think their hounds need to be improved, they like them just the way they are: wrinkled skin, no legs and willies that drag on the floor!"

Over to you, Dave and others in the BHC... Given that the Kennel Club has recently re-instated the old B-register, which allows you to bring in dogs from 'outside', how about going the quick-fix route - for the sake of the dogs - and crossing one of your hounds with an Albany?

Here, by the way, is one of Dave Darley's Bassets - with an Albany Basset for comparison

How the Yanks cocked-up the Cocker

Now this is a dog... (as opposed, that is, to a novelty valance) but it sure as hell ain't a gundog.  And yet this American Cocker - Afterglow Zippor Just Annabelle - just won Best in Show at the Gundog Society of Wales Show.

This breed needs to be re-classified as a Toy breed. Its retention in the Gundog Group does a disservice to those breeds that can and do still do the work for which they were bred. And, frankly, this amount of coat is a welfare issue  - not perhaps directly (as long as it is groomed regularly), but because top show dogs can't possibly get much of an opportunity to be dogs. There's certainly no way they could do a day in the field - it would ruin that all-important coat.

And how on earth do the males pee without soaking their coat?

Here's what the Americans have done to the Cocker...  from sturdy sporting dog to dome-headed,over-coated, increasingly-brachycephalic hairdresser's dog in 120 years.

1892: Ch Obo II - the foundation sire of the American Cocker Spaniel

2011: Casablanca's Thrilling Seduction, Westminster BOB
And here's how they did it...



1937 (if only they'd stopped here...)

1940 (or here...)












Saturday, 15 October 2011

Mark + Jake

The handsome beast on the left is my eight-year-old boy Jake - a GSD x sighthound (we think).  The handsome chap on the right is Mark Evans, former Chief Vet of the RSPCA - parentage fully-known despite what some call him for referring to Crufts in Pedigree Dogs Exposed as "... a parade of mutants... some freakish, garish beauty pageant that has nothing, frankly, to do with health and welfare"

The picture was taken last week when Mark, now presenting the highly-acclaimed Inside Nature's Giants on Channel 4, came down to us in Wiltshire for an update interview for the sequel to Pedigree Dogs Exposed. We wanted to know if he regretted making such a strong and controversial statement in the film, particularly as many in the dog world feel it was unhelpful.

Mark's answer? Surprising... but you'll have to wait for the film to be broadcast to find out why...

Add @ 22:40 - some more pix of Jake given the interest... (not that I really need any excuse...)