Approaches to Responsible Dog Breeding | Crufts 2022
For those of us interested in dogs, Crufts can seem like a really exciting opportunity to see dogs excel in things like flyball, agility and more. The first Crufts was held in 1891 in London when Charles Cruft created a dog show for all dog breeds and 2,000 entered. Fast-forward 131 years and the programme is shown all across the globe, and over 20,000 dogs compete for the top titles. Though the show has millions of admirers, there has also been a lot of criticism of Crufts over recent years. In fact, organisations such as the RSPCA and Dogs Trust are so concerned about the impact of pedigree dog breeding practices on the animals welfare that they haven't attended Crufts since 2009.
Many charities and news outlets have highlighted the dangers that can come from pedigree breeding. The BBC made a documentary that suggests Crufts promotes "breed standards which can have detrimental effects on a dog's health, such as dangerously flat faces and excessive skin folds, which can cause major health problems and seriously impact on the dog's quality of life." It is true that for many popular pedigree breeds, breeders will select 2 dogs of the same breed that are also often closely related to one another and breed them in order to maintain a very specific look. This narrows down the gene pool and rapidly increases the risk of hereditary disease becoming more common in these breeds, such as hip dysplasia, cancer and heart disease. The Kennel Club has acknowledged these risks and offers some guidance to breeders wishing to breed high-risk dogs such as pugs, German shepherds and bull dogs.
The main problem comes after Crufts. The popularity of certain breeds sky-rockets, meaning lots of uncaring, irresponsible breeders start cashing in on the public demand for a certain breed of dog. Not only does this pose a serious risk to the animals health and welfare, it also leads to a surge of certain breeds being handed over to rescue centres when the owners realise they are unable to care for the complex needs of a dog they simply liked the look of. This is why it is so important to not only research the breeder you are getting a dog from (if you choose to buy a puppy rather than adopt), but it is also vital to research the breed you are interested in and see if they are predisposed to any health problems and assess whether this is something you are able to take on. Dog breeding has come a long way in recent years, with many more reputable breeders around the world who make the long-term health of their dogs priority.
The dog on the left is award winning show dog. The dog on the right is one bred in the Netherlands by Hawbucks French Bulldogs (image via @rifatucarr on Twitter)
A breeder in the Netherlands has been working on making French Bulldogs healthier for some years now. In fact, the Netherlands have had strict laws about the breeding of brachycephalic dogs since 2014, when they outlawed the breeding of any dog with a muzzle that was less than 30% of the size of their head. This is to help improve the health of dog breeds such as pugs and French Bulldogs who commonly suffer from skull malformations and troubled breathing. However, Hawbucks French Bull Dog's motto is "we breed for health, not show." They believe in giving French Bulldogs the best quality of life possible by improving the overall health of the breed through careful, considerate breeding. They are paving the way for a world where a dogs health is put first, not the aesthetics.
Similarly, there has been an increased interest in the 'Retro Pug'; a cross-breed of a pug and a Jack Russell. This breed came about in an attempt to create a healthier version of the modern pug. The Retro Pug has a longer snout than a purebred pug, reducing health issues associated with brachycephaly. Pugs have not always been as flat-faced as they are today, in fact this was a trait that was deliberately bred into them as it was seen as desirable, however it greatly impacts upon their health. The cross-breeding of Retro Pugs hopes to return pugs to the way they used to look, reducing the risks of health complications. As a mixed breed, the appearance of the Retro Pug can be unpredictable. Mixed breed dogs can inherit any mixture of qualities from their parent breeds, including health issues, but they will likely be healthier than a pedigree dog due to the size of the gene pool.
No matter which breed of dog you choose to welcome into your life, be sure to do your research and choose a responsible breeder. The RSPCA has some good advice on finding the right puppy breeder, as does Battersea. You can also find some great advice via the Government website here. And remember there are hundreds of breed-specific rescue centres all over the world, so you may just find your new best friend is already up for adoption! We wish everyone a very happy & safe Crufts 2022.