Sunday 16 September 2018

PUGS: THE END IS NIGH! (Well, as we know them now - but don't panic, it's a good thing)

In a landmark move, the Dutch Pug Club has responded to bad publicity, unrelenting pressure from campaigners, a wealth of science elucidating the breed's many health issues and strengthened animal welfare laws in the Netherlands.

They have just announced the following reforms:

• opening of the stud books to allow interbreeding with non-registered Pugs (that may or may not be  purebred).
• the introduction of a minimum craniofacial ratio (muzzle/skull length)
• a limit on the number of litters any one stud dog can sire
• the introduction of a second endurance test designed to ensure that only the fittest dogs are bred.

You can read the statement here if you understand Dutch (and if not you'll need to pop it into Google Translate). If an official translation into English is made available, I'll add it here.

The idea is to increase genetic diversity (studies suggest it is very low) and moderate the very flat-faced Pug that is currently in vogue. Pugs have varied a lot in form historically, but have never been as flat-faced as they are now and it has resulted in considerable respiratory and ocular problems.  Recent research undertaken by Cambridge University shows that 70% of Pugs aged 3-7 have significant problems breathing - clearly unacceptable.

Now I expect my interpretation of the impact this could have might be different from that of hard-core show breeders in Holland but, if accepted by the Dutch KC (and the word is that it will be), it's possible we will start to see KC-registered Pugs that look more like this 'Retromop' below - leggier, more athletic and with more of a muzzle. (Retromops have been crossed with Jack Russell then bred back to Pugs to create a more moderate dog. There is also an "Altedeutscher" Pug in Germany that is more moderate and purportedly purebred.)

More importantly, a move like this really paves the way for other breeds, and a new wave of younger, more science-savvy breeders,  to follow. And, technically, if registered in Germany they can be registered in other FCI countries and any countries that have a reciprocal arrangement with the FCI (such as the UK Kennel Club).

Great news for the breed - and possibly many others, too.  Well done the Dutch Pug Club!


Friday 14 September 2018

New freaks on the block: how to avoid buying the worst Bulldogs in the world

There is a sick trend in dogs that has now well and truly arrived in the UK. Welcome to a depraved new world where the game is to breed deformed, overdone bulldogs/bully types, usually in non-standard colours, then flog them for thousands of pounds under the guise that they're in some way special.

They're not. 

These are dogs often burdened with deformed skeletons and/or massive wrinkling, conceived by artificial insemination (AI) and born via C-section.The more extreme, the more "baddass" they are.

The breeders' Facebook pages are notable for back-slapping comments written by the barely literate  and they are usually strewn with 'on-fire' emojis πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯. Never mind that these dogs are so compromised by their physiques that if there was really anything on fire in the vicinity they'd be toast.

Until recently, these dogs were the domain of a handful of idiots and wannabe gangstas with Lilliputian genitals in the USA. Now they've arrived in the UK. And, worse, the Kennel Club is registering some of them.

This breeder has blocked me but these links should work for you. This one shows a very exaggerated puppy with a purple tongue.

And here is the dog's KC pedigree - totally legit (well in terms of it being a genuine KC pedigree).

The most successful breeders boast a slick front-of-house - websites blaring gangsta tunes and kennels that would be the envy of many. (One even has flat-screen TVs on their kennel walls.)  They talk about the dogs being "compact" and having "massive" bone, heads or muscle  like these are good things.

They are not.

You might look at these dogs and go WTF.  But there is a market that buys into it - mostly young, uneducated money that finds the marketing cool. These are people who have no deep-down knowledge of what a dog should be.

The dogs fall broadly into two camps. The first are extreme English-type Bulldogs - I've highlighted this one before, also KC-registered.

The second are exaggerated "pocket" American Bullies which actually often have half-decent heads and tails but whose shoulders are in the next county, cantilevered on to compressed, dwarfy frames. They usually have cropped ears (illegal in this country ) and are often very inbred to the point of looking not-quite-with-us.

The dogs are often sold to other wannabe-breeders who are tempted by the get-rich-quick promises. You too don't have to get a real job if you buy and pimp an extreme stud, wank him to exhaustion while he's still alive, dunk the filthy liqueur into a freezer in volume and flog it all over the world for a grand a time (and often a lot more) to people who have shit for brains.

Too strong? 

I'm just so angry that anyone in the UK could be stupid enough to breed and buy these dogs.

The breeders claim the dogs are healthy while doing few or no health tests. They claim they love them while condemning the animals they breed to a life beset with breathing problems, infected skin and painful joints. Most die young - but live on through frozen semen. Once they start to fail they are passed on for huge sums to unsuspecting buyers in other countries - often China.

Some of the new UK breeders are also behind a slew of new UK fertility clinics pitched at breeders of brachycephalic dogs offering cut-price procedures that are entirely focused on circumventing their dogs' desperate attempts to avoid passing on their genes.

A recent video on the Facebook page of one in the West Midlands showed intra-uterine insemination being done for what they called a "problematic" bitch (ie one that could not conceive by ordinary, non-surgical, AI) went viral on the veterinary groups. I understand that 100s of vets have signed a letter to the RCVS asking for action.

On October 1st, new legislation comes into force in the UK that will make it much harder for breeders to sell duff dogs. If you buy a dog that has not been health-tested and turns out to be suffering or dies from a breed-related problem, you can seek recourse in the courts and and help put these breeders out of business. Oh, and please let me know, too - I'd be happy to help.

Of course it would be better to not buy one in the first place.

Here's what to avoid

• Puppies that were conceived by artificial insemination or born by a C-section. You are perpetuating the breeding of dogs that nature is saying should not be bred.  
• Breeders whose premises have ornate metal gates with the name of their kennel welded into them. 
• Any breeder that offers you finance 
• A breeder whose website or Facebook page where the "rare" colour of the dog is mentioned in the first two sentences. Some colours come with health consequence and others do not, but it reveals the breeder's main focus (which is to fleece you of as much money as possible). 
• Breeders who insist their dogs are "quality" or "healthy" without providing solid proof in the form of health test results.  Ask what health tests have been done before you visit because the moment a little ball of wrinkle has been popped into your hands, man, you are lost.  Some will DNA-test for colour and some will also DNA-test for HUU because it's cheap and easy and makes them look like a good breeder.  One has posted this on his website which makes it look like they are health-focused - but there is zero mention of any tests other than those for colour.

Breeders who really care about the health of their Bulldogs/Frenchies/Pugs will be doing BOAS testing (which assesses how well the parents can breathe), heart-testing and spine-grading - and they will be boasting about them.

Ironically, puppies from health-tested stock are invariably cheaper than ones from the breeders I am highlighting here. 

• Do not be fobbed off with "vet-checked" - all a vet can check is that they're not actually dying at the point of being checked. It is meaningless in terms of future health. 
•  Don't be impressed by an expensive-sounding puppy pack. It's a marketing tool. 
• Any UK breeder that displays pictures of dogs with cropped ears. Ear-cropping has been illegal in England since 1899.
• Breeders whose social media sites feature a lot of these πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯,  πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘, πŸ’£πŸ’£πŸ’£πŸ€‘πŸ€‘πŸ€‘, πŸ’°πŸ’°πŸ’° or where anyone calls the dogs "sick" meaning great.
• Kennel names that include misspelled words: eg deziner, bullz or bullyz. 
Feel free to add your own below!

Further reading:

Warning:don't buy into the designer Bulldog bullshit.html

Thursday 6 September 2018

Bassets then and now

Miss E. Rumball’s basset hound "Laval Of Lohaire"
Have a good look at the Basset Hound above - I am not sure what year this is (anyone?) but would guess 1930s/40s?

Now have a look at the Basset that won Best of Breed at Crufts this year.

© The Kennel Club

Now, the  modern dog is much more moderate than many we've seen in recent years.  The dog below, for instance, won Crufts in 2008, just before Pedigree Dogs Exposed highlighted the issues in this breed. And it's not just that one is male and t'other female. 

But while welcoming the moderation we've seen in the last decade,  I think the dog of old is just SO much better put-together than the 2018 Crufts winner: no dollops of flesh hanging off his hocks or neck (well anywhere really);  smaller ears, greater ground-clearance, a lovely rounded bum (honestly, dead straight top-lines are completely unnatural), and that whole rear-assembly is just so much more natural. You can really imagine the dog doing a day's work - running freely without leaving most of its body half a second behind.  And of course, today's true hunting Bassets look like the old dog, not the Crufts winners.

Upshot: there is progress but show Bassets still need more leg and less flesh - and the only dollops we need are of common sense.

Sunday 2 September 2018

Crazy in Croatia: breed's country of origin bans healthier Dalmatians

The Croatian Kennel Club has just announced that it will no longer register LUA Dalmatians - citing that science is on its side.

The problem? The dogs are not pure!

LUA stands for Low Uric Acid - and it relates to a line of Dalmatians bred down from a single cross to an AKC champion English Pointer 40 years ago. The outcross was done to introduce a healthy version of a gene lost in purebred Dalmatians and it prevents the dogs from suffering from a painful and occasionally life-threatening health problem.

(For the historical lowdown, see this clip from Pedigree Dogs Exposed: Three Years On)

In their refinement of the breed, breeders of Dalmatians managed to inadvertently lose the healthy version of a gene that codes for uric acid production - the only breed of dog in which this has happened. As a result, there was no way to reinstate it in Dalmatians without an outcross.

Thus, the Pointer cross has simply restored an allele (gene variant) that exists in every other breed of dog. Indeed, after 20 or so generations, it is likely almost the only thing to remain from the original one-off cross. The added bonus in the LUA breeding programme is that the dogs have been well-documented/monitored by very health conscious breeders.

There are now hundreds if not thousands of LUA Dals being bred and shown, with both the American Kennel Club and the UK Kennel Club among those who have recognised and registered the LUA Dalmatians (albeit after an almighty campaign, including by this blog).  Via a reciprocal agreement with the FCI, these dogs have now been bred and shown across Europe and elsewhere for some years now - including in Croatia.

It is true that there were issues with the breed's all-too-important spots not being perfect enough for the show-ring in earlier generations, but today's top dogs are indistinguishable from 'normal' Dalmatians and are winning well in the show-ring, with the added bonus that they do not suffer from the painful and at times life-threatening bladder stones that effect at least 10% of 'normal' Dalmatians. Affected Dalmatians have to be fed a low-purine diet and find it difficult/painful to pee. At worst they can die from a blockage/burst bladder.

Now, the breed's country of origin has taken the insane step to ban them.

On the Dalmatian Club of Croatia's Facebook page they state:
"...we want to improve the breeding, breed healthy dogs and there's no place for mix breed... We just wanted to all let you know that LUA Dalmatians are huge NO in Croatia, mother land of Dalmatians."

Motherland. Fatherland. Vaterland...

Any similarity to German wartime rhetoric is of course, entirely coincidental.

The scrap is being played out on Facebook here and, rather amusingly, having stated that the dogs are 'inferior' and not to the standard, it turns out that one of Croatia's top breeders and judges gave one a great critique at a recent show.

No, no response yet to this proof offered two days ago..

Sadly, Bulgaria has also recently taken the retrograde step to ban LUA Dalmatians.

Let's be clear.  There is zero scientific rationale for not accepting these dogs - and considerable scientific and ethical reasons why the decision by the Croatian Kennel Club is retrograde madness.

Does it matter?  After all, aren't Bulgaria and Croatia minor Kennel Clubs?  Perhaps we should just let them be and get on elsewhere with breeding beautiful, healthy Dalmatians?

Well yes it does matter. Croatia IS the official breed's country of origin (disputable in fact if you really dig into the breed's history) and there is real and genuine concern that this anti-science nonsense could spread.

The fight to get the LUA Dals recognised was a long and fractious one, particularly in the USA. Unfortunately there are still those in the breed outside of Croatia who believe these dogs are mongrels and unwelcome. (Still no mention of the LUA Dals on the British Dalmatian Club website either....)

What we need now is a virtual scientific delegation to write to the Croatian Kennel Club asking them to reconsider on scientific and welfare grounds - and in particular to counter the extraordinary supporting statement written by a Croatian biologist called Krunoslav BrčiΔ‡-KostiΔ‡.

You can read that here and frankly I don't know where to start. The man should be ashamed of himself. But basically, these are the reasons for advising that allowing the LUA Dals would be a bad thing.
  • the high probability that the LUA population possess Pointer genes closely linked to the SLC2A9 gene, and among them are breed specific genes responsible for the development and quality of spots
  •  the possibility of introducing some deleterious alleles from Pointer
  • and the well known fact from population genetics that it is very difficult to eliminate deleterious recessive alleles.
I've already addressed the spotting issue, above. Re the possibility of introducing some deleterious alleles... well nothing has popped up yet and the outcross was done 45 years ago.  And finally, if he was a conservation biologist worth his salt, he would know that there is no need to "eliminate deleterious recessive alleles" - every living thing has them and they really are just fine unless you increase the chance of them meeting up by inbreeding inside a closed gene pool.  For a start, these alleles are rarely discrete entities that only code for one thing (eg the mutation for sickle cell anaemia also confers protection against malaria). 

Nope. This has nothing to do with health and no one should be fooled.  It is all about purity at all costs.  

And as for this...
"The Dalmatian Dog breed was not established in 1975 nor in 2005. It is a historical breed which traces to a distant past, and this should be respected. The formation of the Dalmatian breed was accompanied with the acquirement of genetic load for deafness and metabolism of uric acid. This was the only option since without that the Dalmatian breed would not be possible."
Makes my skin crawl. The reasons so many Dalmatians are deaf is because of human selection for a dog that is too white - and a specific requirement that they should not have coloured patches on their ears (which would be protective against deafness.) Plus it's perfectly possible that it is relatively recent selection for ever more perfect spotting that resulted in the the HUA gene in normal Dals becoming fixed. Historical images show a very different-looking dog.


Brenda Bonnet and the team at the International Partnership for Dogs would be well-placed to do this - perhaps with the support of Danika Bannasch who did so much of the original gene research on this issue, plus any veterinary associations willing to add their name?

Hopefully it will be possible to get this decision overturned.

Further reading: