Saturday, 10 September 2016

Kennel Club identifies "priority" breeds for new conservations plans

The KC has finally released more information about its new breed health and conservation plans (BHCPs).

The plans will, it claims, take a "holistic" approach, embracing genetic issues, conformation concerns and population genetics.

As revealed in today's Dog World (see here):

"To help determine the impact and importance of the health concerns in each breed, a number of evidence-based criteria will be used. Each health concern identified will be assessed and prioritised, based on welfare implications, proportion of the breed affected and likelihood of the concern getting worse in the future. The bespoke nature of these breed-specific health plans will include monitoring and review, to ensure they are up-to-date and remain relevant."

The KC has identified the following as its "priority" breeds for 2017:

Basset Hound



Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Chow Chow

Clumber Spaniel

Dogue de Bordeaux

English Setter

French Bulldog

German Shepherd Dog


Neapolitan Mastiff





St Bernard
This comprises all 11 Category 3 breeds (defined as "Breeds where some dogs have visible conditions or exaggerations that can cause pain or discomfort") and six others that regularly feature on this blog. 

I am, of course, delighted that the Kennel Club has seen fit to take my advice regarding the introduction of conservation plans  - as I proposed in this post just over five years ago.

The devil, however, will be in the detail....and also key will be how influential the breed health co-ordinators will be allowed to be. As the KC says:
"Breed Health co-ordinators will continue to be central collaborators in the identification of health concerns and risks."
Unfortunately,  many reading this will know that while there are some decent health reps others are abysmal, essentially seeing their  role as defenders of the status quo. 

Most of the BHCs for the above breeds would fiercely oppose any meaningful changes to the breed standard or any proposals to outcross (outside of the breed) to inject some much-needed genetic diversity - with one or two exceptions perhaps.  Three of these breeds have seen outcrosses - the Clumber to a Cocker (the descendants of which are now being shown in the UK); the Bloodhound and Otterhound to non-registered working dogs.  All have caused a fuss, though.

The KC, however, maintains that the project will involve collaboration across a broad spectrum of stakeholders including breed clubs and the veterinary and research community so hopefully it won't be possible for an in-denial BHC to have too much influence.

In fact, the Dog World article includes this: 
The KC has asked for any health information you have collected through health surveys or health schemes. This can be e-mailed to
I am pretty sure that's aimed at the Breed Health Co-Ordinators, but I would urge anyone with useful observations/research about genetic, conformation or diversity concerns in any breed (not just the ones listed above) to take this opportunity to contact the Kennel Club, with "BHCP - [breed]" in the subject line. That should ensure they are included when the discussions start in earnest.

It would also be a good idea to forward relevant papers as I am astonished at how often breeders appear to have never heard of key health surveys/published research on their breed.

That address again:

Please feel free to copy/blind-copy in on any emails you send to the Kennel Club.  I am very happy to act as a back-up repository of breed-specific information -  in complete confidence of course unless mutually agreed otherwise. 


  1. The longest journey begins with one step.

  2. Jeez, I wish they would consider health problem beyond the 'visible'. It is just as serious that dogs of a certain breed die young too often from cancer or bloat, or suffer enormously and drive their owners batty due to chronic allergy problems, or have high likelihood of epilepsy or SM, or are frequently put to sleep as adolescents due to behavioral problems. It's a step forward. I guess. A rather timid step, that's likely to be negated by the old guard and the system.

    1. Well to be fair, they *are* looking beyond just the visible...

  3. This list seems familiar. Maybe like the 2012 list for some breeds to have health checks?

    How is this more than the same health checks?

  4. On the face of it, it does seem a step forward until you read "Breed Health co-ordinators will continue to be central collaborators in the identification of health concerns and risks." Having known how some Breed Health Co-ordinators work, they will only take advice from the influential in their breed. The 'grass root' people will not be listened to as these people cannot help the co-ordinators' egos.

  5. This does seem hopeful, until one remembers how hopeful we were after Crufts 2012, when 2 breeds had no winners to send on because they had failed their health checks.

    It seemed that such a huge advancement had been made, that surely each year would bring better changes and healthier dogs. But it didn't work that way, did it?

    Older people remember when men walked on the moon, and afterward nearly everybody thought that we would soon have buildings there, and that by 2000 we'd have cities in space. But it didn't work out that way, did it?

    What happened with the US space program, I don't know, but what is going wrong with dog breeding is easier to see, and it isn't lack of money.

    I have come to believe that the real problem isn't with the dogs at all; it's with the people who breed the dogs and with the authorities above them.

    The problem, and therefore the solution, is in the culture of dog breeders, dog shows, and the culture of purebred dogs.

    Perhaps the first step is to tell the truth about what is happening, take photos, and make those in charge look and listen to the reality of what they are doing. But this is harder to do than what it would appear to be.

    Denial is powerful, and when seen, can look like some dark spell has been casted on some unfortunately person. But denial is a natural "fuse box" in the brain. When new information clashes with long held ideas, the brain often goes into a foggy mode, sometimes simply unable to assimilate the new conflicting information.

    People often stay with the old way, because they just can't adjust to the new information. You find this often when a person dies, and adult members of their family will plan the funeral, attend the funeral, but then weeks later, say "Where has Mary gone? I haven't heard from her in weeks?"

    Yet no matter how many times you explain that Mary died, no matter how many times you get them to remember the funeral and to talk about it, their mind keeps resetting to a time before Mary died. This is common enough to, in some places, be considered a normal response to the death of a person you love. Although the grieving person is expected to face reality after a few days or weeks.

    Yet in the world of dog people (Dogdom), you can easily find people who have perfectly fine vision, but can't notice the crippled gait of the German Shepherd Dog, the suffering gasps of the Pug, or any of the obvious signs of suffering and ill health in purebred dogs.

    Sometimes I feel that it might be easier to leave the deniers alone in an old style group, and just build new better groups parallel to them. This would allow newer people, not yet burdened with the mental ruts of the old way, to join with the more rational breed clubs.

  6. Ugh. Please stop trying to "conserve" pure breeds as though they were naturally occurring species, subspecies, or landraces. They're just populations bred for certain traits and not allowed to mate with other populations. Over time, they're bound to decline and eventually go extinct. If you really want to conserve domestic wolves (dogs), let them have a function, and let them outcross, and stop thinking of them as breeds.

    1. I have started to get the feeling that its actually going to be a cycle.

      Breed gets accepted, breed looses diversity, breed looses health, breed goes extinct.

      And with perhaps breeds constantly being created and constantly going extinct, that is the cycle of the Kennel club?
      Instead of breeds dying out when they are no longer needed so no one breeds them, they die out when they get so genetically unhealthy they die?


  7. Hopefully the "broad spectrum of stakeholders" will include knowledgeable pet owner representatives. After all, pet owners own the great majority of Kennel Club registered dogs and in many of these breeds they are the experts in caring for sick and elderly dogs.

    In Cavaliers the best informed health activists are probably members of a pet owners club called the Companion Cavalier Club. It is a small club but very proactive in encouraging members to volunteer for health studies and it has already granted £100 each to 10 members to submit scans to the official BVA/KC CMSM grading scheme. The Club supports and promotes the Cavalier Matters Charity which funds a variety of health research projects and educates the public on health matters. Also linked is the Cavalier Tissue Collection Scheme which collects cell tissue samples from deceased Cavaliers for heart, pancreas and SM studies. Two coordinators of this scheme are named co-authors of a peer-reviewed veterinary paper on Pancreatitis in Cavaliers

  8. What about the Whippet seeing as it has an effective population size of just 43, with the resulting cataclysmic drop in longevity to 10-years?

  9. 60% of dobermanns are now carrying Autosomal Dominant genes for Dilated cardiomyopathy. Dogs as young as two and three years old are dying in their sleep or at their owners feet whilst out walking...others suffer distressing lives after being diagnosed and put on mind bogglingly expensive medication to keep them alive for just a few months. It is a known fact that breeders are still using dogs diagnosed with DCM for breeding so sending the genes out to more and more dogs. The averge life expectancy of the dobermann has been cut from 11/12 years to 6 or 7. When is the Kennel Club going to do something about a few years the incidence of DCM will be will be then too late. Action is needed

    1. Yeah, just a shame that selecting only the DCM free dogs, the already small amount of genetic diversity will get even smaller...

      Breeders are too reliant on health testing, thinking as long as you health test its safe to inbreed as much as you want.

      But I guess they have no concerns for things like fertility, cancer, diseases you cannot test for, etc.