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The Most Troubling Truths About the Industry of Dog Breeding

Purebred dogs today may not be as perfect as you may think.
IMAGE Xidrep/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Dogs have been with humans through a history of 40,000 years of domestication (cats have only cuddled up to people 8,000 years ago, which explains their independent and sometimes wild behavior), evolving much to co-exist and depend upon humans for survival.

While the domestication of dogs can be traced 40,000 years ago, breeding dogs is relatively recent, with pieces of archaeological evidence from 9,000 years ago suggesting that the first selectively bred dogs were sled dogs and hunting dogs in Siberia. Today, purebred dogs are some of the most popular pets in the world, with over 330 recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Organization) or FCI. However, purebred dogs today may not be as perfect as you may think. The following are some of the most troubling truths about the industry of dog breeding you need to know.

 

There are no “teacup” breeds

“Teacup” or “toy” breeds are not recognized by FCI or any of the over 80 dog associations around the world. These dogs are actually stunted versions of other small breeds of dogs (terriers, bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, etc.) and not all of them are produced from adult small dogs. 

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In fact, if there is anything that angers veterinarians most, teacup dogs would make it to their top three. That is because to produce a “teacup,” unethical breeders would purposefully feed the pups very minimal amounts of food so that their bodies will become malnourished and not grow to full size.

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Aside from the horrific “miniaturization” process that these dogs undergo, their internal organs and bones do not develop perfectly. Because their organs, such as the heart and lungs, are so tiny, they become overworked with little exercise, resulting in shorter lifespans. Additionally, their bones are weaker and more prone to fracture. Prospective dog owners are urged not to buy “teacup” dogs.

Purebred dogs may be prone to genetic disorders

A widespread belief is that purebred dogs are “high quality” and are therefore very healthy when the case may actually be the other way around: The less purebred a dog is, the healthier it becomes. This is based on the fact that purebred dogs come from a long line of inbred dogs that were artificially selected to enhance and maintain certain behaviors and physical characteristics.

In fact, purebreds are more susceptible to genetic disorders and prone to diseases because of the inbreeding in their pedigree. Understand that dogs were bred in the past primarily to serve a specific labor-related purpose, and not to be kept as pets at home. For example, terriers were bred for their very aggressive behavior, useful for hunting down small animals, particularly rodents. German shepherds were bred for the purpose of protecting sheep and assisting shepherds. While they are very good at performing their specific jobs, they come with one or two health deficiencies because of the way they are usually bred and their limited access to a diverse gene pool. One of the most common genetic diseases in large breeds of dogs is hip dysplasia.

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Puppies are “culled” if they do not possess a certain physical trait 

Many kennel clubs around the world practice culling of pups if such pups lack certain characteristics. For example, the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club’s code of ethics states that ridge-less puppies shall be culled.


Today, unlike in the past, “culling” simply means being neutered or separating them so they cannot breed, although culling by slaughter may still persist in some breeders.

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Breeds today are very different from those from 100 years ago

“There are breeders who are more worried about getting the perfect show dog than the dog’s mental and physical health,” says Beverly Ulbrich, a California dog breeder and trainer.

Breeders tend to select physical features and exaggerate these features in breeding, while and ignoring certain health and behavioral characteristics. As a result, purebred dogs today have stockier figures than those from 100 years ago due to certain breeding practices. 

This website shows the physical differences between purebreds today and purebreds 100 years ago. You will notice how the dogs became stuffier from being tall and slender in the past. Because of this type of artificial selection, the many purebred dogs today have less physical mobility due to their size and shape.


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Brachycephalic or "flat-faced, short-nosed" modern dogs such as pugs, shi tsuzs, and bulldogs, for instance, are considered by some veterinarians "anatomical disasters." According to an article published by The Guardian, as breeders desire for flatter, cuter dog faces, something is sacrificed: "Every structure that should make up the nose has been squashed flat. The only time these dogs are not in some degree of respiratory distress is when you have them intubated under anaesthetic."

Pedigree papers are not a health guarantee

In 2008, a documentary film by the BBC called Pedigree Dogs Exposed aired in the U.K. and exposed the lamentable practices of dog breeding. The overall theme of the documentary is how purebred dogs are suffering acute problems because looks are emphasized over health when breeding dogs for shows. The most alarming discovery in the documentary was how “champion” breeds have had serious health problems, and yet were still allowed to be bred that way instead of addressing health and behavioral aspects of the breed. 

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What are the some of healthiest dogs, then?

Aspins, the Filipino term that refers to non-purebred dogs, are some of the hardiest dogs on earth. The impression that they are sickly most probably comes from images of stray dogs covered in mange and the fact that many of them are left malnourished on the streets without anyone to care for them.


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As regards the aspin’s survival ability, Dr. Wilford Almoro, a resident veterinarian for Philippine Animal Welfare Society or PAWS, says that “In terms of health, they’re more resistant because they have adapted to the situation, the climate, and the environment” in an article from Inquirer. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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