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?