Monday, 11 March 2013

Neapolitan Mastiffs? Better. But...

Two years ago to the day, the photographs I published here of the Neapolitan Mastiffs at Cruft's 2011 caused an outrage. Parade of Mutants is this blog's second most popular post and it prompted a call from the veterinary profession for "urgent" action to address the extreme conformation in this breed.

Above - BOB 2011
Class of 2011

Last year, they were still pretty awful - as I documented in this post. And the BOB duly failed her vet-check. Here's what she looks like.


And here's a close-up of her eyes - the reason she failed the vet-check.


The only glimmer of hope I saw last year was in a bitch called Nukualofa's Vaoila, owned by the UKClub's health-rep, Kim Slater. Vaoila won Junior Bitch and Reserve Best Bitch.

Vaola in 2012
Vaoila was at Crufts again yesterday and this time took Best Bitch. She's filled out a little since last year, but as you can see below, is still a moderate dog. She does have some ectropion but there was no soreness yesterday, and her coat was like polished slate... absolutely gleaming. 


But she didn't win Best of Breed. She was beaten by a more "typey" dog that was owned by the same breeder whose bitch failed the vet check last year.  Now this dog was certainly less extreme than last year's DQ'd winner, as you can see here:


In the photograph below he appears to be reasonably fluid... and those ringside thought he moved quite well.


But this dog, currently only 20 months old, is not going to age well.


And if you have a closer look at his eyes, they are barely better than last year's disqualified dog - with clear ectropion and redness.




So how come this dog passed the vet check, ensuring that not a single one of the high profile breeds failed this year? This is, I believe, another example of the goalposts widening because the Crufts vets are now under the KC's wing. 

I enjoyed spending a bit of time ringside with the Neos (or the Mastini as they would prefer I called them) on Sunday. Club Chair Steve Cox, whose dogs I have strongly criticised in the past, clearly wasn't that thrilled that I was there, but was polite enough both to me and the German film-crew that was filming me at the time (something that brought the KC's Bill Lambert running as it must have looked like it was me filming without permission). 

I was also impressed by breeder Sean Platts (Vallino Mastino) who was really open and has led the field in health-testing. Sean had a young dog there with a hip score of just 3/3 - pretty amazing for a Neapolitan Mastiff.

It all made me not want to be horrid about their dogs. 

And I fear that's how the Cruft's vet felt too.

But tell me what you think. Should this dog have been passed or not?

46 comments:

  1. Obvious case of ectropion; however, no obvious signs of inflammation, at least not in the photograph.

    So, if the rules say that dogs with ectropion but no signs of inflammation should pass, then that dog would have to pass based on that point.

    Whether such rules are at all stringent enough is a different matter altogether (ectropion will always predispose a dog to inflammation and other problems, such as foreign bodies).

    However, whether the vet in charge of checks should be a breeder-judge of pugs is not really all that debatable.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, last year the vets were able to use little penlights, weren't they? And they're no longer allowed to use any instruments now?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Omg........!!! Vets aren't allowed to use their instruments ???????? What's the point in doing a check then, great get out clause Kennel Club, absolutely brilliant!!!!

      I don't think the KC gives a flying £&@% about the dogs as long as the money comes rolling in and they look like there are doing something.

      Flabbergasted!!!

      Delete
    2. Anonymous, the vets were never supposed to use instruments; the idea was to make sure that judges (who don't use instruments other than their eyes and hands) weren't putting up animals with OBVIOUS health issues. If you need a penlight or a stethoscope to find something then it isn't OBVIOUS. The vet is also supposed to have the same amount of time to assess each animal as the judge - about 2 minutes.

      Delete
    3. Apparently I missed the ENTIRE point of the vet checks.
      When I first heard about them, I thought that they were in place to prevent dogs from winning that had SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUES in an effort to encourage and reward better breeding practices.
      But, I understand now, the point of the vet checks is to AVOID EMBARRASSING JUDGES who place animals with OBVIOUS health issues. My Bad.

      Delete
    4. Indeed seabrooks! Shall we say for example sheep shows, these are usually pre sale but we see them at three counties, royal welsh etc, if any animal doesn't pass vet inspection it is prohibited from being shown, vets are very thorough there, even if there is a slight scab on the ear tag it will be rejected (remember its a legal requirement to have tags and as they are not pets can often rub them or get them caught) any conformational issue will be rejected time and time again and therefore never fit for any breeding programme, this makes a very clear statement one would assume things ought to be just the same for dogs..........still flabbergasted, and very disappointing

      Delete
    5. calling them vet checks is extremely misleading, it's nothing of the sort, just an adjudication, disgraceful!

      Delete
  3. I was very disappointed to see that this dog passed. Absolutely no improvement from last year's winner.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was ringside when Vaoila was being judged and there were a few other more moderate dogs - certainly more moderate than the poor monstrosity that was waiting outside of the ring. At the time I didn't realise it was Vaoila, but I remmeber wishing that she would win because she looked the least deformed out of all the dogs.

    I am amazed the dog CC psssed the health checks and I'm afraid it's a sign they are now just a sham. On the TV, there was nothing on Sunday about the HPB, which makes me wonder if they're trying to get the public to forget the checks even existed.

    They should have kept the vets independent. Nothing will improve whilst people can pass the checks with dogs like the group winner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also question the ability of the KC vets to be completley objective. Can they bite the hand that feeds them? Furthermore, I found the Pekes and pugs unchanged....the goal posts have certainly bween moved and the standards lowered.

      Delete
  5. hi jemima.. it was a pleasure to speak with you on sunday at crufts when i finaly realised it was you lol.... as i said on sunday there are a select few of us that are moving forward with health programs as everyone wants a happier/healthier mastino.i feel its the only way forward to be open about our breed...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sean, I don't know if you are still checking comments or not. If yours is the kennel linked above, I am impressed with the direction you are moving (your younger dogs seem much less extreme than some of the older ones).

      I realize this is a delicate question, and I know how much we miss every dog we ever lose, but I could not help but notice the tragically young age at which some of yours went on to the great dog park in the sky....

      I know that in people, conditions which cause connective tissue disorders can cause stretchy (though not excessive) skin and can also cause lax joints, and in some cases can also effect the heart and some other organs.

      Is it possible that in selecting for the huge amounts of excessive skin, Mastino breeders have brought along some of the other problems that impact the breed on the same genetic material? In other words, might the other health problems in some cases be directly tied to the skin issue?

      If that were the case, it would be impossible to breed for healthier Mastinos without directly selecting for dogs with more typical skin types (some small amount of excess to allow for reduced injury in a fight, but not so many folds hanging off their front ends).

      I'm sorry if it's a painful subject; I'm sure you miss your dogs who left too soon very much.

      Delete
    2. yes beth, this is 1 of the reasons we are health testing, everyone wants a healthy happy dog including us with our mastino, we want them to live into double figures, im not sure if you have ever been around/touched a mastino but there skin is not addered to there flesh there for giving the looseness of it. we imported a male a few years ago of heavy type and as heavy as he was in his head type,he help us greatly with the eyes in our dogs.
      its going to be a long process with the breed but there are a slect few of us that are moving forward, i just wish that more would follow, but rome was not built in a day...

      Delete
  6. I was at ringside on sunday and with a couple of exceptions i felt the standard of neapolitans appears to have improved greatly. Most of the dogs appeared healthy and most looked in gleaming condition with no health issues or signs of distress apparent. With regards to the winning male dog, i did feel the dog placed second ( reserve ) would have been a better overall winner as it appeared to have a better eye and much less skin. It also moved with a very fluid movement unlike the winner who didnt appear to move as well i thought.I overheard some of the interview that "sean " gave to you and thought he sounded like an intelligent breeder who has the health of the neapolitan mastiff at heart.
    The person above who appears to be pulling down seans kennel is obviously some kind jealous uneducated fool in my opinion, i have done a little internet research before posting this reply and there reference to " working type" is irrellevant here. I have seen pictures of the sort of dog this person is talking about and i didnt think they were neapolitan mastiffs. They are certainly not the dogs i saw on show on sunday and frankly, im rather pleased about that.
    I feel great improvements have been made but there is still a long way to go, a transgression period i feel.
    thank you
    Margaret

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margaret I think your making the same basic mistake that led to so many breeds getting into trouble in terms of health - only focussing on looks. I own both ‘show’ and ‘working’ Neapolitans and at the minute the differences between the two are huge, both in looks, functionality and in health.

      Delete
  7. Does not seem right to the novice...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi chris. I am sorry but i dont agree with you. I was earwigging when jemima interviewed "sean" who had several show dogs with him. He explained in great detail the lengths that his kennel goes to to test for health and vitality, i heard him say his dogs are heart tested, eyes and hips also. Since crufts is the greatest dog show on earth ( in my opinion ), then obviously the dogs he had with him are show dogs. One particularly heavy looking type of dog had apparently allready won a show somewhere and passed a check up by a vet after winning, this says to me that this gentlemans dogs are therefore healthy, fit and well. I have seen these working neapolitan type dogs on the internet and, im sorry if i offend you but , they look like a cross of a neapolitan mastiff and something else. Just because they are less "heavy type" doesnt mean there health is better. Look at for instance a rugby player, are they unhealthy because they dont look like a marathon runner?
    Thank you
    Margaret.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margaret I own two ‘Show’ type mastino and one young ‘working’ mastino. In fact one of my ‘Show’ Neo’s is litter sister to Viola, the other was from a recommended breeder by the UK Neapolitan Mastiff Club. Both show Neo’s cost me 2k each, compared to my working Neo which cost me far less. I can honestly say that my vet bills for my show Neo’s far outweigh that for my working Neo. For me personally, you can have heavy dogs, as long as they are well constructed, but when you have paid 2k for a dog that has genetic conditions that could and should be eradicated from the breed then well need I say more? For me I never understood the working side but I studied them, and soon became apparent that more working breeders of any breed - breed for the following: health, functionality and temperament. Without these the dogs can not be worked so have no purpose. Show Neo’s until recently and many exhibitors have said this - only bred for looks for the show ring (exageration for the most part), paying no attention to health or function. Your right that the breed is improving slowly and those taking steps to get their houses in order should be congratulated, but its taken a kick up the backside for most, and still only a few are doing it.

      Delete
  9. Margaret, it is not the whole story, of course, but less heavy type *will* very often mean better health. Less stress on joints; less strain on the heart; fewer skin folds to harbour infection; less skin and joint laxity.

    As for today's working dogs looking like crosses - actually, they don't. They look like the breed used to look in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. The extreme type didn't really start to creep in until the 1980s and that was pretty much because of the influence of the show-ring.

    http://smg.beta.photobucket.com/user/Pietoro/library/Dog%20Breed%20Historical%20Pictures/Neapolitan%20Mastiff

    Of course now I'll just get told that this is before the breed was developed into the magnificent beast it is today.

    Jemima

    ReplyDelete
  10. Annie Macfarlane12 March 2013 at 14:18

    I think Viola is a beautiful example of a Mastino and one that I feel represents the changes needed to the breed. It's a shame she got pipped at the post but I'm sure she's a contender for next year. Her coat is gleaming and that's all down to the owner/handler and the obvious care she is given. Beautiful dog...albeit the Mastino is no my preferred dog....well done.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi jemima, do you have any evidence to back up your statement that the less heavy type are more healthy?
    In your blog above, you say that one of seans dogs has a hip score of 3/3, surely this means that this dog has very good joints and i believe that it also relates to the larger heavier type dog he had on show on sunday.
    I am sure that the whole of the neapolitan mastiff world wants a healthier dog, i dont think that is in dispute but, breeding these "working type " neos is not the answer.
    What is needed is an intelligent breeding programme using the best of the health tested dogs without losing too much of the ditinctive look of the dog.
    Eyes need improving, skin tightening and movement enhancing so that these dogs can enjoy a full and active life.
    I for one did not see any dogs with any major health issues except for a rather small female who was dripping in skin and a male who appeared to have a rear end issue.
    I believe that this male though was a foreign dog and not from the uk.
    I agree with you about the extreme type though, i think that this has been down to public demand for a more over the top type of dog and breeders do have to sell pups and so that is where this exaggeration has appeared from.
    From what i saw on sunday, the uk neapolitan mastiff has improved greatly over the last couple of years, keep up the good work and onwards and upwards.
    Thank you
    Margaret

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I only saw the beginning of the judging, but there was a young, very heavy and "typy" dog in the ring that could barely stand, let alone move on its back legs.

      Delete
    2. I saw this dog too and is unbelievably a champion in his own country. I hope now he placed last in his class, everyone will understand you cannot bring a dog with a big health defect to UK and expect to win dog shows, champion or not. I saw Champions go out in other breeds too. Times have changed and its not acceptable. All the UK Neapolitan Mastiff exhibitors I spoke to were dismayed by this dogs presence and said they wanted to show progression and were afraid that dog would be used to show nothing had changed when he wasnt even from here. The judge was kind not to exclude him, but I hope his placing gets the message across. Apart from him, I thought the rest were pretty good and the winning dog and bitch as strong as the winners from the other working breeds I saw. So give credit where its due.

      Delete
  12. Can somebody explain what a "working" Neapolitan Mastiff is and what it does that is different from what a "show" one does , please?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A working mastino is meant to be a guard dog, protection dog, that sort of thing. That means it has to have healthy working organs, low-maintenance skin, athletic with good stamina - a regular mastiff, just of the local Neapolitan variant. For the sake of efficiency in both movement and bodily function, there should be no extras and no exaggerations on the dog. No extra skin, no more heavy bone than necessary, nothing to weigh the dog down.
      This is the kind of dog the standard is meant to describe: http://blogg.digenia.se/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/mastino_napoletano_guaglione.jpg

      Delete
  13. armchair veterinarians..many of them right here on this blog.. one even writing this blog..imagine that..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said Anonymous!!

      Delete
  14. "But tell me what you think. Should this dog have been passed or not?"
    emphasis on the "you".. who cares what 'you " think? what is important is what the experts think.. no experts here.. only wanna be's

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who are those experts you are referring to, Anonymous? Spill.

      Delete
    2. well I would say that trained veterinarians are the experts wouldn't you ..

      Delete
  15. To answer your question Jemima; with my novice eyes I don't like the look of this dog's eyes (being used to thight eyelids in my own dogs). But I cannont judge wether or not it has an infection going on that the picture won't show.

    And to all of you that think "working lines" automatically means a healthier dog, it doesn't. At least not in my breed (which doesn't have an extreme conformation in either direction). In my breed the show lines are more carefully monitored when it comes to health, they are more frequently health screened and more breeders are more open about problems when there is one.
    While a lot of the working line breeders live under the notion that a dog that works cannot possibly have anything wrong with it. Which simply isn't true.
    Personally I like a moderate show dog or mixed line dog who are able to do breed typical work.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Jemima you flatter yourself. I was with Bill Lambert from the KC at the time of Mastino judging. I asked him to go with me to see the Mastinos. He told me he would meet me there so I went to the ring. Bill came much later hardly "running". The dogs were lovely and I had a great time speaking with some of the breeders ringside as well as others who all agreed that the breed looks much improved. You are right about one thing. The coats were gleaming. These breeders are headed in the right direction but like all things Rome was not built in a day or even in a generation no matter how much you would prefer it to be different. Good for the breeders of these Mastinos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should have come and said hello, Jan.

      We could have discussed how, as a breeder and judge of the modern Bull Terrier, you assess the head anatomy of the Neapolitan Mastiff.

      Jemima

      Delete
    2. Bit uncalled for . Many of us keep more than one breed over the years and judge more than one breed, or have an interest in more than one breed.Oh , sorry , just like you being an 'expert' across the board.

      Delete
    3. I would have but I have no idea what you look like. I have never claimed to know anything about Mastinos and would not take it upon myself to comment.. unlike some others. If you cared to discuss Bull Terriers ( "modern" or otherwise)you could have asked anyone at the Bull Terrier ring and they would have pointed me out but no matter we were happy to take home the bitch CC in a fierce competition of lovely Bull Terriers. The dogs were wonderful as well.
      At the Mastino ring, I found that the breeders were caring and concerned about their dogs. Did you find it to be a different story? As for your comment "will not age well" .. it is just these types of comments that make people who care about dogs know that you are only in this to inflame and criticize. You really have no knowledge abut whether this dog will 'age well " or not,

      Delete
    4. "Much improved" compared to when? Before vet checks? Before PDE? Did the improvements happen because of public pressure or would they have happened anyway? If I compare the year by year difference back to pre-vet checks and pre-PDE, will I see consistent improvements through the years or did something happen that forced a change? If the improvements happened because of public pressure, why would Jemima ease up on the pressure. "Headed in the right direction" suggests that you acknowledge they are just getting started and have a long way to go. Are we supposed to praise these breeders for not doing the wrong thing anymore.

      Rome was already partially built, and breeders chipped away at them. Now they are only slowly putting back the broken pieces, and we are supposed to give them a break because they are heading in the right direction? Give me a break.

      Delete
    5. Hi Jan. You know exactly what Jemima looks like, because you haunt this blog, which has Jemima's photo all over it.

      So glad that you finally agree that this breed needed improving. I would love to hear what other breeds you also think need improving.

      Delete
    6. First I have a pet mastino. Iv been in the breed for just over 10yrs and I'm still learning bout these dogs. People like mr mrs platt are going in the right way doing health testing. Some people you've been in the breed 5 mins think they know it all an no nothing. You can't change these dogs over night but by health testing an ONLY breeding from GOOD dog an not cause you have one in the kennel, can this breed move forward. It would be nice to see more people in the breed doing testing.

      Delete
    7. Hi Anon 8:05 Sorry .. have not a clue what she looks like. There is no photo that I can see on this page.. but even so as we often see here a photo is no substitute for the real thing and "public photos" are often touched up or modified I will say this, I asked several people to point her out so that we could meet. No one could.
      I did not say Mastinos "need improving" I wrote:
      "I had a great time speaking with some of the breeders ringside as well as others who all agreed that the breed looks much improved."
      I am not a Mastino breeder nor a vet so I would not take it upon myself to comment on any of the breeds that "need improving" according to the masses that post here who judge by photos that are taken with a single purpose in mind.
      Want to talk Bull Terriers.. sure.. will do.. ad infinitum..

      Delete
  17. Is the dog advisory panel looking at this vet check scheme?Should not the vets who do the checking be accredited and picked by BVA thus giving the scheme some transparency.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Lol, seems that these mastiffs are the definition of what breed they are according to dog shows, with flappy excess skin and red infected eyes.

    ReplyDelete
  19. this is all rearing its ugly head again - if the breeders that you all speak of have improved the breed - who originally bred the "mutants" that we have seen - the neo breeders are a small net of people - who have now had to sit up and look at the mess that they have made to the health and looks of this magnificent breed - the health testing is the right direction but there are alot who still dont do this and will still breed from unhealthy dogs - this is all about money

    ReplyDelete
  20. That dog should never have passed; it looks freakish and unhappy. Who in thier right minds thought that dog looked in any way ok?

    ReplyDelete
  21. Personally, I'd rather hear more about temperament and less about ectopian. Would the leading mastinos, in the wrong situation, have done the same as the Bull Mastiffs, discussed recently in this blog? If seriously large dogs have guardian-type temperament, I think this needs to be appropriately labelled and dealt with (including fencing that can't be compromised by vandalism) . . . and if seriously large dogs have had the guardian temperament bred out of them, I think this should be advertized and applauded.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hey Jemima, Just re-read your intro where you say you were filming. Does that mean we can expect a PDE 3? Please say yes?

    Carol

    ReplyDelete
  23. I would like to say that I am glad that this breed is available in the states. I love these breeds, actually I love Mastif's, Great Dane's, Rotweiler's and Pitbull's. They are such dedicated and loyal dogs. They are the biggest teddy bears ever. I get upset when people put these breeds in a catagory of vicious dogs and they are blacklisted. The breeds are all good, its the owner that makes them vicious.

    ReplyDelete