Saturday, 7 December 2013

100 years of breed improvement - the real story

The world and his mother has forwarded to me the above article from yesterday's Daily Mail (see the whole thing here). It's a steal from this post in July by blogger Mus Musculus, which features the following comparisons between dogs of old and now.

The article, and the blogpost before it, has generated a lot of traffic. Mus Musculus has done a great job of finding comparisons which match in terms of the dogs' stance.

But in doing so, punches have been pulled.  And that's because, in several breeds, the reality is far worse, excepting perhaps in the Bulldog. 

The modern example of the Bulldog above is really bad - and, actually, you'd be very unlikely to see such an extreme beast in the UK show-ring today. Equally, the bulldog-of-yore ain't much to be proud of - less wrinkled, longer-faced but that front frame is awful - a recipe for severe, debilitating joint pain. You have to go further back in time to find a more normal-looking Bulldog. 

I also don't see that much wrong with the modern Boxer (their main issues being ones you cannot see).

But let's have a look at some of the others.

The modern Basset here has much longer ears, is fleshier and a little lower to the ground, but this is the Basset that won Crufts in 2012 - way, way worse.

Then there's the GSD.

The modern counterpart featured in this comparison is an American-line dog. These are awful, but much worse to look at are the cripples favoured in the German and UK showring:

And, finally, there's the Dachshund... 

Compared to, say, this champion miniature Dachsund widely advertised in the UK dog press last year:

Or this Standard dog, which won Best of Breed at Westminster in 2011.

To come shortly... a reminder that in a sea of freaks, you can still find moderate versions of many breeds - if you know where to look. 


  1. Well the Daily Hate does seem to love extreme opinions and provoking people into reacting. Although, this is unusually accurate for the Daily Mail :)

    Look forward to learning about where to find some moderate pedigree dogs. Perhaps the are some breeders who are embracing the science and evidence?

  2. Jemima congrats! You're going mainstream! Again! And the best of luck with wooing and wowing the bbc!

  3. Instead of "my dog is better than yours", these photos look like "my dog's dick drags the ground more than yours", just look at the newest photos Jemima has on this post!

  4. Hi, Jem.

    It's been quite some time since we last spoke, I think our last e-mail conversation was back in 2012. I'm glad you're still blogging about serious issues with dog breeding, although we don't always see eye to eye (perhaps we do 95% of the time). This is one of those moments I feel I have to say something and correct you. Your comment regarding German Shepherds is unfortunately incorrect and misleading. American (AKC) lines are very incorrect and untypical, in fact the most extreme examples of the breed are usually from American (AKC) lines. A GSD of correct type is built around function (both physical and in terms of character) and both these things are severely lacking in the alternative types/lines (AKC, Alsatians, Shiloh shepherds and whatnot).

    Furthermore I find your view of modern day GSDs as "cripples" to be a very ignorant view. GSD, its history, breed standard, breeding and trials, all evolve around function. Your focus should not be sidetracked by individual dogs with e.g. overangulated hindquarters or loose hocks (albeit not a big problem for the dog or its health, it looks bad, both are faults, are against the breed standard and are never promoted in the ring by *proper* GSD specialists), or for that matter, nostalgic childhood memories of Rin Tin Tin.

    Your focus should be where it belongs, on breeds who are severely fucked up due to the very lack of "function" in breeding and judging. Dog breeds with severe health issues, dogs whose very anatomy negatively affects their breathing, ability to give birth to their pups, size of their skulls, extremely wrinkly skin and other issues you brought up in PDE.

    Rickard the Swede

    1. Please know that I abhor the American showline sheps too, Rickard. No dog was ever meant to walk with its metatarsals on the floor. Sadly, we see this in the German showlines, too.

      Your last email to me in early 2012 was to call yourself "an ethologist and future breeder of German Shepherds". I am sorry you have since drunk the showline cool-aid.

      As you say, the GSD is - or should - be to be all about function. And yet it is only the showline sheps that look like this - not the service dogs.

      And I'm afraid I see what has been done to this breed as almost as bad as the worst excesses of brachycephalism.

      There are some good working Shepherds in Sweden, e.g.:

      I like this bitch of theirs:

      Tell me what you see, compared to the dog above.

    2. Dear Rikard,

      Functionality of a modern show GSD is a joke. There are two things they are fit to do: trot in a ring and stand. In general, they have little to no working abilities and instincts. This: "GSD, its history, breed standard, breeding and trials, all evolve around function" - can only refer to working bred GSDs, like this one - - and the likes of her. I do not know where and how show GSDs earn their working titles but there is a saying that Germans can put a Sch title on a pig if they want to. And a trial can always be held and judged in a favorable manner, it is so obvious. And then at the Siegershow many of these Sch3 (now IPO3) titled show dogs cannot pass a simple courage test which is much much easier than IPO3 phase C. So many of them just run away - a total disgrace! I also have to work with show GSDs now and then, and they cannot be compared to the working stock. From very early age, there is a huge difference in abilities and drives. Nothing in the world could persuade me to buy a show line GSD, for it would be a torture forever - I admire strength, courage, strong instincts and functional body - everything an average show GSD lacks.

      As for the exaggerated features of AKC GSDs, I am likely to agree with you, many of them are even worse than European ones. But it does not make the European show type good. There is a nice Russian saying, even if rude: "I am no expert on grades of sh*t".

      Unwilling to be an expert on such matters, unwilling to try to make a decent dog out of a lousy material (a crippled show pup lacking instincts and courage), I own a working bred dog and thank his breeder in my heart every day. He does not compromise health and character for looks. And by the way my dog IS beautiful, for to me beauty is functionality.

  5. Rickard the Swede, the photographs of current day show dogs are shocking, that poor bassett, how on earth can anyone, regardless of a dog background, believe that that is an acceptable crippling of a dog. The GSDs are exactly the same, where they find it impossible to actually stand because of over angulated rear ends and weak hocks, dreadful. In the UK deformity "to catch the judge's" eye has become extreme and is just plain unleashed cruelty. Those dachies, hocks tucked up at such a ridiculous angle to counter the over long backs, the head and the weak long neck, ridiculous, shamfeful. I don't think that JH is highlighting any one particular breed, I think she is trying to get people to look at their dogs as dogs, look at their comfort, consequently look at the conformation and assess truthfully if that dog can be without pain because of the deformities inflicted upon them. Whatever the nationality of the breeder, here there anywhere, the fact that extremists are involved dog breeding and are killing off the dogs but before the release of death, those dogs are suffering miserably and I mean suffering. Just because a dog wags his little tail, doesn't mean it is well. People who are suffering pain and discomfort will always smile when talked to because they want to be polite, but they are still in pain whilst they smile. Dogs are the same except in their case they cannot actually tell us how really uncomfortable they really are, and Rickard don't be in doubt that a dog that carries the characteristics in the photographs shown above, deliberately bred for those characteristics are not suffering. They don't know what the difference between pain and painfree is, because from the day they were born they have experienced nothing but pain. The good, sensible dog breeders who breed dogs fit for function are where the attention of KC attention should be directed. Monitoring and surveying the dog show rings by the KC should be undertaken and action taken to eliminate this cruelty to pedigree dogs.

  6. Funny thing about GSDs in the US: years ago, the show breeders just wouldn't stop saying nasty things about, and to, the people who bred GSDs in the cream "white" colour. So the breeders of that colour, not being able to show, started their own line of dogs. I've seen the pics, the show lines went downhill, but the rejected white line remained normal looking. What does that tell you about the effect of dog shows on dogs.

  7. What a big change in the face of the boxer dog! They look like the "before" and "after" photos of a dog that ran full tilt into a brick wall.

  8. As someone who owns a Mini Dachshund the above pictures honestly might make me cry (or vomit). I don't actually like the breed in any way. The dog was a family friend's and they couldn't keep him so we took him. He has grade 2 luxating patellas and no dewclaws. And a pic of him compared to what we think is a Carolina Dog (Brandi), she has her dewclaws, gave birth to quite a few puppies before the place we adopted her from picked her up off the street. Sight hound/pariah dog vs. scent hound(/terrier or so people say of the Dachs). At least he has a little bit of leg.

    1. Ohh silly me the Black and Tan Dapple Mini Dachshund Bear is the product of a backyard breeder. It's sad how much shorter the Mini Dachshund in the picture is. My dog from a backyard breeder/accidental litter is near the height of the Dachshund in the black and white picture.

      He is at most a Tweenie but yet he STILL has better legs then the standard Dachshund in the 2011 picture. It is revolting what they have doe to their legs.

  9. I would love to hear some advice on where to look for more moderate examples of a breed... I speak as someone who has fallen a bit in love with certain brachycephalic breeds, but has been extremely reluctant to buy one because of the health issues. While I as a pet owner could not be less bothered about correct type or pedigree ( I do already own a crossbreed dog) the thing that attracts me to these breeds like pugs and frenchies is the personality - they are two of the few breeds that meet all of the requirements to be able to fit in well with out weird and wonderful family. Given that, any advice on how I would go about searching for that elusive healthy(er) dog would be very gratefully received...

    1. Anon 13:33:
      correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't pugs and frenchies personality caused, at least partially, by their brachycephally? There's many friendly and affectionate small companion dogs, but pugs and frenchies are more 'lazy' and laid back, because they can't run and play as much as dogs with normal muzzle length.

      If I wanted more moderate looking dog, I'd look at shelters and rescues, and pick out some pug or frenchie mix.

    2. Unfortunately shelters are not an option at the moment (all our local ones will not rehome to a family with young children, although our children are happily living with one dog already.)
      Short muzzle-induced laziness may be a factor although I know there are some pugs that do agility... But they may well be the exception I suppose. I am just interested into what one would do to select the healthiest of a (possibly bad) lot. Inbreeding coefficient would be a start presumably. Are things like wide open nostrils, less bulgy eyes and a smaller undershot in the jaw visible in puppies, or do they only become apparent with age?

    3. And, specific breeds aside, I think it would be very useful for pet owners to get some advice about where exactly to look to find a) frank information and b) advice on the best selecting process for any given breed... I haven't managed to find much outside KC information... Future blog post request for Jemima *wink*

    4. I don't think the research has been done to determine the nature of the link (if any) between brachycephaly and 'personality'. Dr Michael Valenzuela et al published a study in 2010 showing clearly that breeding has produced major changes in the organization of the canine brain. See: (Can't find the actual artilce at the moment). Valanzuela said: "The next obvious step is to try to find out if these changes in brain organisation are also linked to systematic differences in dogs' brain function". So far as I can figure, no one has yet completed this next obvious step, though a fair amount is known about how skull shape and eye position affects vision. The brachy breeds vision is more like human vision.
      As for physical handicap causing dogs to be laid back, I think it's a hard case to build.
      It is logical to expect that centuries of selection favoring entertaining house pets has produced entertaining house pets. I don't think there's any evidence that 2013 version of a pug has gotten more entertaining because its features have gotten more exaggerated and its handicap has gotten greater.

      Completely agree with those stating that guidance on how to find a healthier version of pug, Frenchie, Boston, or whatnot would be a very useful thing.

    5. I compete in agility in a part of the U.S. where every trial fills months in advance, with 660 runs per day. In a year, I have seen ONE brachy breed competing--a very moderate Boston Terrier with an actual muzzle and nostrils. Years ago, I had a student who took her pug through my agility lessons and competed at the Novice level. She could only do ONE 30-second run each day instead of the normal 2-4, and her dog had to rest the whole day before and after that 30 seconds.

      Compare that to my dogs--a Border Collie and a Papillon. They can (and do) run and catch frisbees for an hour or more between their agility runs, then go into the ring and run over 5 meters per second over obstacles. Why would anybody want a dog that needs to rest all day for 30 seconds of activity?

      And for what it's worth, I agree that brachy dogs are more laid back because they can't breath. As soon as you breed one to a normal breed and get a pup with a muzzle, the individuals I've met are very active, or even hyperactive. That really lets me know that it's their perpetual struggle for air that is affecting their personalities.

    6. Nice post S.K.Y. Sometimes common sense kicks scientific studies in the butt.

  10. One dog I'm interested to hear you talk about are Pomeranians. I did hear that they were bigger years ago. But is there too much of a difference between them then and now (Photo versions)?

    1. I seen photos on the facebook like page "vintage dog a day" there are some vintage photos of poms on there.

    2. I think they have become smaller and their coat has become much more profuse.

      I have a Papillon, and they look almost identical to the dogs 100 years ago, other than the huge increase in ear flap size, and maybe 20% more hair. As far as I know, the ear size does not affect the dog negatively in any way, and I know many Paps that are competing in agility at 13+ years old and living to 16+.

    3. I heard a theory that the American Eskimo IS the old Pomeranian, and I've also heard that Volpino Italiano was classed as a Pom at one point. This was on that Facebook page BTW.

    4. Way back when, poms use to be like a husky type, but during the 19th and 20th century the breed was made into a lap dog. I've seen old paintings of Pomeranians, they look nothing like the ones of today.

    5. Some are starting to get shorter muzzles, rounder heads,longer fur,shorter backs and of course much smaller.

      I`m also waiting for someone to talk about Rottweilers as well. Gotten much heavier,larger,shorter muzzled,more wrinkled,shorter legged,rounder heads and short lived.

      My backyard bred looks like the ones 100 years ago,but its a deterrent in finding another. Show ones can be good or bad,same with pet bred ones.

  11. Between PDE and Mus Musculus, it looks like word is getting out. I really hope the trend continues, and that minds are changed soon!

    1. But honestly, the comments I've seen are demanding the end dog breeding... I don't want that happening.

    2. Me neither,I think showing the positive side of purebreds,even non working bred ones as necessary. Otherwise people are just gonna adopt mutts,and thinking that the only dogs that should be bred are working bred ones for working homes.

    3. "Otherwise people are just gonna adopt mutts,and thinking that the only dogs that should be bred are working bred ones for working homes."

      This is almost exactly what I think, except that certain working breeds can make perfectly good pets in the right pet home too.

      There are only a few purebreeds (show types) that I think are functional enough to continue breeding, and those are only because they aren't really that popular so fashion hasn't become an issue yet.

      Basically every breed should be tested and if they cannot pass a stress test / endurance test they should be mixed out of existence. That way they don't actually go extinct (their genes are preserved in the general dog population), just the breed's looks and disabled form disappears.

  12. How do the Crufts winning Bassett and the very low-slung miniature Dachshund (Ch Denver Darling Harry Potter), go for a walk in woodland, on rough footpaths or uneven fields, without damaging their manhoods? This is go for a walk - which all dogs need to do everyday - let alone fulfil their original function. I'd be amazed if either of these dogs have been on a country walk in their lives.

    At least most of the sighthounds can still run (excepting probably the show-bred Greyhound), even if the UK Afghan Hound is now too slow to catch anything.

    Perhaps breeders of defective dogs should talk to human sufferers of whatever disease they've inflicted upon them, to give them an idea of their dogs' misery. Cavalier breeders should talk to sufferers of syringomyelia for starters.

  13. There are plenty of moderate dogs around - just look to the so-called "backyard breeders". It takes effort to keep extreme dogs extreme. More moderate dogs do show up in show-bred litters, too (including my own dog, a collie with large eyes and a moderate coat), but they're usually sold as pets.

    I know it's heresy to even suggest buying a dog from a non-show breeder, rather than a rescue, but most shelter purebreds are from BYBs anyway. BYB are also the ones breeding crosses like Puggles (short cute muzzle, but more able to breathe). Health testing - maybe, maybe not. But at least the dog won't be doomed by exaggerated structure.

    GSD offered at stud on a puppy-selling website:
    Dachshund with legs, retired brood bitch:
    Old-fashioned looking collie in a rescue:

  14. I have a doberman, a breed not lacking in health issues, but, to my knowledge, none related to conformation. They can still do anything a normal dog should be able to do: run miles, jump, swim, breathe, play ball. I can't think of any way in which my breed is disadvantaged from a mutt or crossbreed because of the way he looks. They do have their share of health issues, but as with the boxer, they're the ones you can't see, and good breeders are working tirelessly to lessen or eradicate them, and many can be genetically tested for before breeding.
    My breed has changed since its first creation, but moreso in tempermant than looks. The original dobes were quite sharp, terrier-like dogs; most doberman fans today would probably find little they liked about the dog Mr. Dobermann originally created.
    But I suppose my point is that not all pedigrees are worse off than mutts. My dobe came from health tested lines so we know he is not going to get some of the nasty issues dobes can have. But I can't say that for my friend's shelter mutt, who we don't even know the parentage of, much less what they may or may not carry!
    I support shelter dogs, where appropriate for that specific person, but not all people want a dog from a shelter, and this needs to be acknowledged and respected.

    I didn't want a shelter dog as this is my first ever dog, and I wanted a dog I could be more sure had been raised properly, fed properly, socialised properly, and had all possible done to avoid health issues via testing of the parents, and who came from working lines so I know he is out of dogs who can do a proper days work without issue.
    I could not be sure of any of this from a shelter dog, nor could I have the 'clean slate' I needed as a first time owner. I didn't feel comfortable taking on a dog that might have behavioural or health issues I might not be prepared for as a first time owner.
    Of course, all dogs can have the above issues, but it was damage limitation.

    But now I have a few years dog experience under my belt, I'd be happy to have a shelter dog and those things would bother me a little less. But I wouldn't get a mutt because I think it would be healthier, I don't generally buy into that. I'd get a shelter mutt because I wanted to give a needy dog a good home, nothing more.

    1. Hear hear! If truly sensible breeding practices where embedded based on science and evidence, then there would be no discussion on the health of mutts vs pedigree dogs anyway. We could concentrate on improving welfare for dogs holistically.

    2. I wish it were that simple for dobermans because I love that breed. But as up to 58% of dobermans will come down with Dilated Cardiomyopathy, and as few people can know with certainty whether their lines are free of it, because it often does not show until middle age, you may not be guaranteed of a dog free of issues. However, I hope you ARE free of issues and never have this happen.

      The twist is that even if you do get lines with no DCM, that could be due to merely some form of incomplete dominance. The genes behind DCM are not fully understood. And between this and all the other illlnesses in dobes, if you just selectively breed out every dog that has something, the gene pool will be so restricted that new diseases will emerge; even despite the large total # of dobes to work with.

      Dilution through carefully planned outcrosses to another breed or type and then back again, may be the only way to go. Lord knows people have done it for centuries. Only in the last hundred years or so have we been duped into believing this is wrong.

  15. Some people are never satisfied. To compare just a few pictures with another out of the thousands of dogs that have been bred in those hundred years is a ridiculous pursuit. After all, I'm sure if anyone looks back through their own personal photo albums there's going to be PLENTY photos you don't want anyone to see

    Maybe it's time you and everyone else on here focussed your efforts on tackling the real issues of dog breeding and that is designer dogs, puppy farming and the countless rescue centres full of the product of these breeders of designer dogs or irresponsibly-bred mongrels. Take that and the influx of poor examples coming in from Eastern Europe and beyond, there's a challenge

    1. There are a lot of factors contributing to the problems, yes.

      People these days on the whole, are much less concerned with survival and and so have more freedom to address welfare issues.

      So why aren't we getting anywhere? Where dogs are concerned, we seem to be getting few benefits from this age of science and communication.

      The single biggest advent in modern dog breeding has to have been the formation of the K.Cs. That has given the K.Cs a lot of influence, likely more than any other body. For close to 150 years.

      So what have they given to dogs in modern society ? What influence have they had?

      I think a holistic approach is needed, but its not going to happen while the K.Cs won't see themselves as part of the whole. Its their own rules that set them apart by their own choice. Instead of seeing poor breeding practice being brought to attention, Most K.C members see a attack on the K.Cs, by their environment, the community. And they fight back.

      You can come up with all the names you like for what happens outside of the K.Cs, but you can't tell any one the same doesn't occur within them.

      You are seeing an environment ( community) struggling to have its needs met while the K.Cs struggle to see they are NOT met outside of their preserve.

      Science says that the K.Cs can not survive under their present rules.They can not survive divorced from their environment.

      There has to be give and take between the environment and any population in it. The K.Cs are trying to survive with out recognizing their environment or meeting its needs. Its just not going to work.
      The environment they leave themselves to work in can only keep shrinking and become ever more closed till it chokes them.

      A few simple changes to the rules allows a proper interaction between the K.Cs ( the population) and its environment. (The community.)
      Seems they would rather die.

      But the way it works, they take the community/environment with them unless they are defeated by the environment 1st.

      Their choice.

      Unless the changed environment/community can provide an alternative, environmentaly successful "species". The only presently organized enough to do that are the commercial interests ( The new species) But accepting that alternative is accepting all thats been set in motion by K.Cs rules in trying to place dogs in preserves apart from the community.


  16. 'irresponsibly bred mongrel'

    Most human beings fall into that particular category.

    Do you know why people, animals are attracted to each other and want to mate?


    The sexual attraction at play is due to our immune systems and our body chemistry ensuring that we maintain a healthy immune system by sniffing out a healthy mate.

    Most irresponsibly bred mongrels have probably got it on naturally. Bound to be healthier.

    Pedigree dog breeding isn't natural. It's man made. Designer dogs is a ludicrous term as pedigree dogs also fit not that category. If we didn't focus so much on looks, I wonder, would there actually be the demand in the first place.

    Most mongrels won't win any beauty contests, or dog shows, does that mean they don't deserve to exist!?!

    Get a life!

  17. I'd love to find people making GSDs just like the one in that old picture. People have really gone nuts with these poor animals.

    EVERY dog on the show circuit is a "designer dog" these days. At least ALMOST all.


    For those of you that want to see more of the older pics you can see them online in the books Dogs of All Nations. It's crazy seeing what they used to look like!

  19. can the changes be reversed?

  20. I breed show and do performance with my Standard dachshunds. The dachshunds in the picutres, first the mini. is so extreme that my fellow breeders would be disgusted. the second dachshund we know very well and a majority of us disapprove of that dog!! Quit generalzing show people! My dogs can do what they were bred to do not too low not too high on leg either a nice balance that work and have drive. There are a ton of us in the show rings. How many here have even attended a dog show!