Tuesday 17 October 2017

Time to get tough

It is...

• soon to be 10 years since Pedigree Dogs Exposed
• five years since The Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding highlighted the issues linked to head conformation in brachycephalic breeds
• 18 months since the publication of research (funded by the kennel club) spelling out the link between stenosis (pinched nostrils) and respiratory issues, especially in French Bulldogs
• a year since a veterinary petition demanding urgent reform for flat-faced dogs
• almost a year since the Kennel Club set up the Brachcycephalic Breeds Working Group in response to that petition

.. and of course I have highlighted the issue of pinched nostrils endlessly here on this blog.


And yet... the picture at the top is one the Kennel Club has used as the ideal depiction of the French Bulldog in its new edition (2017) of its Illustrated Breed Standards.

And it isn't a one-off. Here's the one the KC has used for the Boston Terrier standard.

©  The Kennel Club

The Bulldog.
©  The Kennel Club
And the Pug.

©  The Kennel Club
Dogs are as near-as-damn-it obligate nose breathers. And even if they can supplement by mouth-breathing when they are awake, they are unable to do so when they are asleep, meaning thousands of these dogs live lives of interrupted sleep as they have to wake up in order to not asphyxiate.

Study after study has shown that these dogs pay the price for not being able to pull in a decent lungful of air and that starts with the nostrils.

These pictures are all the proof you need that the Kennel Club is not taking this issue seriously; that at its very core the KC is paying nothing more than lip-service to the demands for reform by the veterinary profession and animal welfare campaigners.

At one of the first meetings of the Brachycephalic Breeds Working Group, then KC Chairman Steve Dean expressly said that he didn't want "changing the breed standards" to be at the top of everyone's list of actions that could be taken.

And indeed, it hasn't been.

There have been some new measures.  The KC continues to fund brachy research. There is also now a brachy learning resource available on the KC website, the promise of better education of judges and a breed club commitment to educate better about the importance of keeping brachycephalics slim. There are also now health schemes for the Bulldog, French Bulldog and the Pug which do test for respiratory issues.

All this is welcome. But, bottom line, the Kennel Club continues to bat for the breeders who do not want the basic phenotype to change because it's the breeders that pay their wages.

Of course the simplest, quickest remedy is to give these dogs back some muzzle - to help not just with breathing issues, but to help protect their eyes from trauma and to give their teeth some room in their overcrowded mouths (a Pug here compared to an Australian Shepherd).

The problem is that  breeders are wedded to flat faces, particularly in Pugs and Bulldogs. They talk about the perfect "layback" - which essentially means that the nose should not interrupt the line between the forehead and tip of the dog's chin.

In fact, there's a new book out on the Pug head (yours for only $159) which reminds everyone that the word Pug comes from the latin for "fist" and that this is the shape the Pug's head should be in profile - i.e. totally flat.


Here's a reminder from a top UK show breeder of what the Bulldog's head should look like.


As you can see, a  protruding nose or a less severe underbite is considered a fault.

There was a big review of breed standards following Pedigree Dogs Exposed but it was mostly to add vague qualifiers such as, in the Pug standard,  "relatively" short rather than just short when describing the length of the muzzle. This gives the breeders way too much wiggle room.  We need proper metrics - a defined minimum skull/head/muzzle ratio and we need to find more profound ways to change their minds about what constitutes their breed in their eyes.

Large open nostrils are a requirement in brachy breed standards, but this is widely ignored because other points of the breed are considered more important. There would be outrage if a Frenchie with one lop ear  or a Bulldog with a liver-coloured nose won in the show-ring, but dogs with slits for nostrils continue to be made up to champions. 

Meanwhile, on my CRUFFA group, whenever you post a picture of more moderate examples of the breed, current of historical, the breeders heap scorn. A few days ago, one breeder insisted that the dog featured in this famous painting of a Pug by Carl Reichert, dating from the late 19th century, was a crossbreed.

Same for these ones. Mongrels, the lot of them.

She admitted that the eye-white showing was undesirable but  preferred the look of this Crufts dog.

Today, this was posted on a public Facebook page by one French Bulldog breeder in response to a plea by vets for more moderate dogs.

To those who say you cannot rebuild Rome in a day I say... rubbish. There are already more moderate versions of these breeds out there being bred by breeders more interested in health than the current fashion. 

For more than 10 years, I have called for moderation and hoped it would come from the breeders. But  I now know it won't. If we want anything more than a wee bit of tweaking round the edges, then we need to demand it. 

It is time to get tough. These dogs suffer - not all of them all the time but too many of them too often. 

Brachycephalics live a third less long than non-brachy dogs. Fifty per cent have significant airway disease. Almost all struggle to cool themselves. Most Bulldogs still can't mate or give birth naturally. Pugs have 19 times the risk of developing corneal ulcers.  All suffer from very low genetic diversity. And so on.

Today, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs make up one in five of the dogs registered with the Kennel Club - up from one in 50 in 2005.

Yesterday, a new petition was launched asking for a ban on brachycephalics.  Over 20k people signed it in the first 24 hrs. 

Have we reached a tipping point?  With your help. 

I haven't been able to blog much recently because I am busy finishing off a television series for BBC2. But I have taken time out to write this because the new breed standard pictures made me so angry.

So please... Although it's moderation I want, not a ban, sign the petition. Make your feelings known to the Kennel Club (see here). Complain if brands or media use generic pictures of brachycephalics to sell their wares. 

Vets: thank you so much for all that you are now doing, but please keep the pressure on.

And, of course, to everyone out there - please don't buy that puppy. 

It is not safe to buy a Pug, Bulldog or French Bulldog. Not safe for them and not safe for your wallet. 


  1. Sadly, humans often do bad things despite all reason. That's why we have laws. Torture breeding will continue as long as it is legal.

    1. Laws are usually only passed if their is a mass outcry for them... or if a politician's wealthy campaign donor asks for one, and it's snuck through on the sly, attached to some other bill, without drawing any public debate. (Or at least that's how it's done in America; I have no idea if that's also true in the UK.)

      Since the second method isn't going to work for us, because the big-name breeders are the ones with money and influence to peddle, we need to get the word out more to the puppy-buying public, to create the mass outcry.

    2. I'm afraid so. If people can't treat animals ethically, then we need laws to force them to ... again.

  2. Apparently, having any nose at all is "nosey". Ha!

  3. Apparently, having any nose at all is "nosey". Ha!

  4. That is honestly very, very disappointing of the KC. Completely and utterly back to square one. It just shows, they've stopped thinking it's an issue altogether. Dust settled and it's back to business as usual. Breeding and showing dogs to intentionally suffer.

    Definitely time for more draconian solutions.

    What you see in the illustrated breed standard is what needs to be banned not the breeds of course. However after all that been said and done to help these breeds what the KC is here saying is that this is the breed, full stop. They're actively promoting extreme brachycephaly with these pictures, no doubt about it at all.


    I just hope the EU at least takes this up and does something about it once and for all. Banning is a lot easier than regulating or policing a whacky bunch of intransigent lunatics with unassailable cognitive dissonance concerning the suffering of mans best friend.

    Im sure the wolf in every dog bred to suffer would if they new regret that they ever chose mankind to befriend.

  5. how the kennel club and breeders can think producing a dog that CANNOT breath is good I will never understand. As an RVN and seeing the amount these breeds struggle with breathing, skin problems, eye problems etc... They need to ban this. and only allow breeds that able to have a non-restrictive life.

  6. I wonder if the prejudice some people have against "pit bulls" also interferes with brachy reform. Because I've seen people complain that Leavitt bulldogs and those Hawbucks cuties looked pitbullish, and admittedly, when you give a small molosser more of a nose, you often do wind up with a profile a bit like a Staffie's. Which I have no problem with, it's still cute and it's probably healthier, but people who associate the look with gangsters' dogs would probably be less enthusiastic.

  7. So frustrating.
    KC won't change because its wages are paid by the breeders, who like the poor purebred dogs. Can't we create new breeds that are based on ability and health and not line breeding, and place them in another Registry?

  8. Jemima, this entry is called, "Time to Get Tough," and indeed it is time to get tough. But if you're gonna get tough, then get tough. You're a hero, and a champion of animal welfare. But if you're disappointed with the lack of progress since PDE - and indeed over the past century - then it's time to stop pulling punches.

    It's not just brachy breeding that's that problem, and it's not just the slope-backed GSDs, or the dwarf-legged bassets, either, though of course those are serious problems. It's the entire approach to dog-breeding, which is a holdover from an earlier time. If one breeds domestic wolves (dogs) with intentionally messed up features, then one obviously does not understand or does not care about their welfare. However, pure-breeding itself is a danger in any animal and must be avoided. Even without deformed faces, backs, or legs, pure-breeding will ruin all dogs (and cats, chickens, goldfish, etc.) sooner or later. Even dogs with normal or near-normal morphology are experiencing epidemic levels of genetic disorder and cancer, simply because they are inbred. Having a screwed up body only adds to this problem.

    Now, there are two approaches we could take. One is the incremental one, in which we try to win small battles in the hope we eventually win the war. We could simply try to persuade people that brachycephaly and other extreme traits are unhealthy, and hope that things continue on an upward trajectory.

    The alternative is to simply "lay some science on them." Sure, they will resist, but they're going to resist anyway. We simply can't go on breeding wolves (or other species) as though they are clay waiting to be molded. They are not objects, they are animals. Again, people are either completely ignorant of this, or if they're aware, then they don't care and they just want to make dogs look like what they want, and to hell with the consequences. And as long as the veterinary technology keeps up, this trend will only get worse, because the life-support will only get better.

    In a word, what I'm saying is we need to go for the whole paradigm shift, or we'll never get where we're going. Jemima, you are without a doubt one of the greatest allies dogs have in this crazy, ape-dominated world. But if you're asking what you need to do to get tough, then my recommendation is to just tell it like it us, educate the masses, and extinguish the demand for freaks wholesale. My expertise and skills are at your disposal.

    1. Im not sure what you're suggesting?

    2. What I'm suggesting is that we need a public education campaign, which teaches people why pure and extreme breeding are biologically untenable and unethical, and why they should stop. We need a big picture approach. If the public understands that it's not only wrong to breed dogs with flat faces and roached backs, but also to breed them in genetic ghettos, then the demand for freaks will dry up and the overall health of domestic wolves will go up. So, what I'm suggesting is a public education campaign that is informed by the best and more recent science. As a biologist and educator, I would be happy to help.

    3. Sounds great to me! i'm no 'professional', but would be very happy to be involved.

      I do think a purpose based registry would be a great complimentary idea.Instead of breeds, purpose and environment suitable descriptive groupings.

    4. Good idea! A registry that includes purpose and environment would be helpful. Again, dogs have been diverse for millennia, with landraces from the Arctic, deserts, and pastures being different. But these populations are genetically diverse, and these dogs have normal, healthy traits. There are serious consequences to breeding for freakish traits, and I think most of the public is oblivious to this.

    5. And Dogs in a registry like this could be listed under multiple groupings or move between them, based on demonstrated value to purpose or environment. Similar to pre K.C. only with the benefit of a history that actually tells you some thing useful.

    6. P.S.

      The setting up and launch of such a registry could be used as a vehicle to drive the message....continuously.

  9. Much of the problem does come down to what a 'Registered' pedigree breeder will or can 'Recognize' as a 'Breed'.

    Presently, the majority of Breed organizations 1st statement is that what lies outside of the accepted pedigree standards is not recognized.

    So its NOT about Dogs, no matter what a member or the organization wants to believe. Its about identities.
    How people believe Identity has fixed and unchanging parameters to BE a distinct identity.

    The breeds are identified,
    A breeder is Identified- by the standard type illustrated in the case of the dogs, and by adherence to those standards by the breeders.

    So of course the variations that could lead to better out comes are not recognized as valid representations. Diversity has no place in a 'fixed' identity.

    So we WILL have pugs and Bull breeds with snouts and trim builds that are NOT RECOGNIZED as part of their breed. That WON'T be permitted to 'identify' as Pugs or bull breeds.
    Working Bassets that Registered, pedigree breeders won't 'recognize' as bassets.

    The 1st step to change MUST be to change the definition of an accepted breeder.
    That would finaly allow recognition and identification of the diversity of environment that any 'Identity' must respond to be viable.

    We MUST demand that! There must be a recognition and acceptance that a viable Identity is NOT fixed, but contains enough diversity to respond, adapt and change to accommodate environmental demands as they arise.

    A statement by any canine registering body of what is NOT recognized does not allow for diversity of identity in the breeders, or the dogs they produce. It does not accept that there is any environmental demand to be met in producing dogs. The only environment accepted IS the 'standard', as it is recognized by its current illustration in the show ring.

    Force recognition of the species beyond accepted 'Pedigree standards' and we will begin to move beyond them.

    The other huge drawback to a statement that refuses to recognize what is outside the identity is that to recognize and accommodate the environment its dependent on, that must be turned into a mirror image of the fixed identity or be destroyed in the process.

  10. Yes. I agree with both Lion and 20OCT@02:55.

    To accomplish this what really needs to be banned is not the breeds but dog showing in it's present form, all animal shows of the same model. Dog shows held under auspices of the KCs are what in fact what cause all the problems dog breeds suffer from today.

    Before dog shows things were generally a lot better for the domestic dog, even those bred to fix working or otherwise purely whimsical traits. Something Jemima has been at pains to constantly point out.

    Most of us here understand the disastrous results of pedigree dog breeding for showing today and there are some well known alternatives to the KCs show model. So Im not going to explain them here.

    For there to be any chance of success, the traditional model of a dog show has to be a thing of the past. It needs to reinvent itself, move with the times, with contemporary understanding of science and contemporary understanding of animal welfare. No way around it.

    Im afraid showing breeders don't embrace diversity within their chosen breed, they only embrace diversity between breeds. Even if you sent a five hundred strong herd of Zebra stampeding through their living rooms they still wouldn't grasp the simple concept of the need for diversity in their single species. They can only see a species of horse like creature whose numbers all appear absolutely identical. Not able to see quite why that hasn't worked with Puggsie sitting bolt upright in fright in his basket in the corner. Not because of the zebras, he's seen enough of those of on the BBC but because he almost chocked to death in his sleep because he has no nostrils.

    The irony of all the health testing in the world, indeed of science forever pushing the boundaries in treatments and reproduction interventions, not actually solving the problem at all is not something they can see either. Quite frankly nor do quite a few establishment vets see it. It's become an industry meantime one where a decent living can be had by all including pharma companies.

    The only way to move forward is to abolish showing and breeding in it's present form end of story.

    I think banning brachycephalic dogs could probably be a step in that direction. It will certainly stir up the mud enough for action which is better than none at all.

    1. It would be big step forward to demand that all breed registries remove any statement denying recognition of any type of dog. (meaning cross breeds specificaly)

      Its superfluous to the rules and regulations of breeding Pedigree Dogs.
      It demands that to be recognized as a 'Breeder', a persons 1st priority must be to the 'Standard' of a Pedigree.
      Not any value the dog brings to his species, or those who keep him...only what value he brings to the 'Pedigree'.

      Recognition of Dogs as a species must be had before recognition of 'Breeds' can be effective or viable.

      Recognition is not the same as acceptance- it would not mean accepting cross breeds into registries with out following protocols already laid down for doing that.... but NO breed club, or its members, should be permitted to discriminate against any who choose to breed dogs simply because the results might not be eligible for registration or match a breed standard.

      That statement does not just permit that to happen, it suggests that it should.

    2. Agreed, although these days it's generally accepted that dogs are the domestic subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus familiaris). Without the understanding that dogs are wolves that have been living with people far longer than any other animal, dogs will continue to be abused in a number of ways, including qualzucht (torture breeding).

    3. Agreed, River P. Whether it's showing dogs or other species, much of animal husbandry is plagued by the same problems: inbreeding depression and birth defects (by any other name). The underlying problem is a lack of appreciation for what these animals really are, and how they really function and behave. Until people breed and keep animals in accordance with these principles, the suffering will continue.

    4. Yes. The 'showing' of any any animal not judged purely on general conformation for soundness of the species has lot to answer for.

      As soon as 'breed specific' standards come into it that goes out the window.

    5. Yes. Warping , shaping and inbreeding from that sound working design of Canis lupus familiaris to the extremes we see today in and out of the show ring both in phenotype and genotype in many breeds has come at a great costs to the species health and function.

  11. Is it time for The Kennel Club exposed? Dog welfare in the UK would be greatly improved following the disbandment of the Kennel Club, I believe. I’m happy to help.

    1. Yes, a "Kennel Club Exposed"-type documentary might continue the good that PDE and PDE-5YO began.

  12. We need a law to make the breeder share the cost whenever a dog needs treatment for a genetic condition. Hit them where it hurts - in the wallet!

    1. Good idea! Although almost like a badge of honour many actually on their web sites list the litany of problems their breeds suffer from! Always of course claiming theirs are healthy, tested and even worst from a long line of proven champions in the show ring.

  13. Such a travesty that the Kennel Club and so many breeders find details such as color, ear set, and coat texture more important than open nostrils or simply a less deformed jaw.

    1. Yes. It is.
      Im finding this all a bit tricky at the moment myself. But it's also helping me understand....a bit.

      I have an adopted son, Vietnamese, no not Pekingese, a pertinent "har har" here. Bit of a tangent there but Im having what are doggie problems with him, both extremely poignant and also quite troubling.

      He has grown into a very tall, strapping, alarmingly striking and highly sensitive and at times also rather deeply serious adult of twenty who we absolutely adore and vice versa. Problem is while others his age are having relationship troubles he doesn't seem to be having any at all. He has an entire entourage of girl friends and indeed boyfriends, which all keep us happily entertained trying to work out if any might turn out to be "the one". It hasn't yet happened that we've noticed. He doesn't seem overly interested in any actual commitment to any single one, showing equal and often also rather intimate affection for them all.

      The problem is unfortunately he keeps falling head over heels instead for various brachycephalic dogs. Bulldogs, French bulldogs, anything from Pug to Boston. In fact anything with a squashed deformed head face and skull, preferably also body seems to melt his heart in an instant. The more extreme the better.


    2. ...........Just last week with tears in his eyes he was all over a truly terribly bred bulldog bitch. It looked like an upside down Count Dracula after first having had a run in with the back of a bus. So protruding and upshot was its lower jaw it's lower canines shot up into the air sideways either side of its face, like a warthog. Gapping eye ectropion, stenotic nares, extremely short dipping back, a tiny pelvis and shoulders like a sumo wrestler. Legs so bent I was simply amazed it could move at all. When it did move it looked like a crab, moving off sideways on tippy toes and surprisingly efficiently at that. What it lacked in the health department it more than made up for in spirit, which although still a small mercy was I must admit still rather nice for it.

      Instant delight for my son! The dog took an instant liking to him too. She kept running out of sight behind some shelving in that dark little shop to rather comically reappear with various toys to drop at his feet. The sort of peekaboo effect which turned him into a weak kneed jelly fish of drooling adoration. Every time it returned with a toy it sat dead still in front of him, head cocked, looking up at his face into his eyes with it's own incredible wonky eyes splayed sideways. He was in raptures. The pure intensity of which I've never quite seen since he was twelve and got given his first bicycle.

      He has always loved our dogs too of course, all perfectly untouched by qualzucht and they adore him but since moving into his first flat he seems now determined to get a dog and it must be a brachy all to himself. Far as we are concerned neither is going to happen just yet and certainly not an extreme brachycephalic. Now he is away he misses the dogs a lot, I think a whole lot. He does it seems have quite quickly and intelligently worked out that the responsibility of a dog is not something he can take on right now and certainly not in a flat, but for the rest he's utterly determined.

      Even though he come miraculously into our lives rather late as a child, his very early teens, I did at first blame myself. We did as I can remember always discuss this issue, and quite thoroughly. Obviously it didn't prepare him well enough.

      There is something sadly natural about this attraction as has been discussed before. I've just never realised exactly quite how spontaneous it is.

      Yesterday after our twice weekly "brunching out" as he calls it we passed a shop window full of JRT's, the same amongst other dogs we have at home. We had also just passed some pugs in the window which as hard as he tried were too sleepy to respond. However as he bent down to look at the JRTs all six leapt at the glass window at once fixing their little beady eyes onto his own eyes every move. Tails spinning in delight. Much to his initial embarrassment I grabbed his nose and held tight. He just laughed out loud when I let go and tried to do the same to me. I also noticed that the new Fenchie phone holder with bat ears one of his friends had given him has been removed. Too young for him anyway.

      There's hope yet for that boy!

      Something interesting about those JRTs, think I might go and have a second look. Extremely lively and with stunning eye contact.....probably the product of a puppy mill but it's worth an enquiry. The one little male looked particularly sporty. No it's not Christmas, even if it was a dog is for life. That's one thing my son fully understands. I heard him telling one of his friend that, which made me so very proud!

    3. I have to say I think he is seeing the dogs in those bodies rather than the whole thing, messed up bodies and all.

    4. It's so ridiculous isn't it? How can they not see how unimportant such external features are compared to the physical soundness and health of the dog?? I don't know how it would be possible to change their minds - how do you reason with someone who cannot see something so obvious?

  14. It is obvious from the photos on the blog above that the Kennel Club is lying when they say on their home page, "We are the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of all dogs." It should read, "We are the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the torture breeding of dogs."

    Jane Howarth

  15. I suspect the KCs will go, not with a bang but with a wimper: continued membership decline.
    I don't see this as entirely good. Genetics is important in both dog health and dog temperament/behavior. Pedigrees are key to understanding genetic traits...and to genetic research. I hope time will bring about new institutions that support breeding for health and function, as opposed to conformation to some arbitrary breed standard.

  16. I can't quite understand why buyers and breeders don't understand this. Are they simply unable to grasp the meaning of it all? Or is there some greater profit in breeding sickly puppies, maybe as laboratory subjects? Or do they get their kicks (derive sadistic pleasure from) laughing at, or watching, animals suffering?

  17. What we really need is a registry that recognizes a purpose for dogs beyond the standards and conditions of its own identity.
    Refusal to recognize cross breeds is pretty much a norm any K.C body as part of its constitution, rules, regs. and mission statement.
    The document that gives a pedigree breeder identity,and forms direction of the K.C body.Its genetic blue print.

    If nothing beyond the registries own pedigree standards is recognized, it does not recognize the environment it exists in. It claims independence. A physical fact.

    Whats IN the K.C body? What IS recognized?
    Standards. For breeds and Breeders. Not dogs.
    Standards are Conditions. Conditions are limitations.
    Standards or conditions are environmental. They are what exists in a given space.
    They are neither good or bad in themselves, its how we respond to their limitations that gives us high or low standards.

    As a body, the K.Cs don't recognize dogs. They recognize limitations for breeds and breeders. There is no response to DOGS available in a K.C environment.
    The genetic blueprint for a K.C identity is to limit breeds and breeders.
    Not to respond.
    Not to dogs.
    Just to limit breeds and Breeders.

    To limit standards and conditions that don't contribute to the K.Cs standards and conditions.

    Under that statement of non recognition, Its not our response to Dogs OR our response to the limitations of our environments that brings us the highest standards.

    Its nothing to do with response at all. Its about limiting our ability to respond. Our responsibility.
    Its about limiting conditions available to respond TO.

    Nothing can change for the pedigree system without a recognition of response to standards and conditions. The value of response can't be recognized.
    Only limitation of standards is recognized.

  18. There are many Good Dog Breeds that are changed alot and KC is not doing much about it.