‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’: Comment

On Wednesday I was flattered to have been asked to cut the red ribbon at the grand opening of ‘Waggy Tails’, a local doggy daycare service that not only provides a crèche for boarding dogs, but also offers grooming, and a chance of socialization for any type of dog in their care.

With walls painted all different colours, and doggy toys lying around everywhere, this is a fun place designed with love for animals and an obvious sensitivity for their feelings to match.

But the reason I’m telling you all this is not to advertize ‘Waggy Tails’, but because it’s just restored my faith in dog-loving human beings, and just about got me out of the depression that last Monday night’s BBC1 programme sunk me right down into.

And I so needed a positive after sitting through all that. Wednesday morning morning was such a pleasure to help-out and be around fellow like-minded animal-loving individuals, so committed to the welfare of not just their dogs, but equally of the dogs of other people.

I’d like to try and find some good in that horrific and incredibly one-sided documentary ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’; the shocking and distressing look into canine breeding in the UK.

What annoyed me was the amount of blame put on the Kennel Club and nowhere near enough on those ‘breeders’ who openly and in some sick way proudly told us how they consider it normal breeding practice to kill, or continue to breed from ‘imperfect’ or diseased stock respectively, kill slowly in other words.

In their cases, surely replacing the word ‘breeder’ (a person committed to perpetuating life) with the word ‘killer’ (someone who ends life) is more fitting? Killers, who in my view, should be so ashamed of themselves – a bunch of unscrupulous greedy individuals that only view animals as money-making units and not as beloved pets, and totally unacceptable in this, or any other day and age.

Such a shame that these bastards have now needlessly tainted and unfairly vilified the majority of breeders out there who are responsible and genuinely care for the puppies they breed, doing everything in their power to ensure that their dogs are both healthy and happy.

On Monday night, all the recent progress made by the Kennel Club and these responsible breeders was not recognized; and indeed the public were emotionally force-fed a scandal that is not only a decade out of date but had no sign of any positive spin on the issue.

I really feel for you proper breeders out there who are doing everything right for your dogs, and also the Kennel Club who, working with responsible and caring breeders, are making huge inroads into the problems facing many pedigree breeds today.

And what about those backyard breeders, puppy farmers and pet shop owners, who also treat dogs as nothing more than money-making commodities, selling puppies to the unsuspecting public without a sniff of a health check for neither parent nor pup? For me these are the people this programme should have targeted, the biological parents of most pedigree problems.
I do however hope that something positive does eventually emerge from this shambles, and that it does at least ensure that shocked potential owners are now encouraged enough to research the health problems of the breed of their choice.

Furthermore I hope this new-found ‘media-pressure’ will highlight the importance of finding a responsible breeder who does in fact carry out every possible test on their dogs, who has healthy animals, and who works to ensure the health and happiness of their puppies – and in turn the happiness of their future owners.

The Kennel Club’s Comment

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8 replies

  1. I enjoyed your sensible comments about this programme. Over here in Sweden I was forced to watch it on YouTube.

    I did feel the show was rather one-sided. However, sometimes you need to do something to get a reaction. Now lets take the discussion further. I personally would like to see stricter guidelines. For example, some breed clubs here in Sweden kick you out of the club if you use your male at stud more than five times. In a small breed like basset hound ( we have just over 100 in Sweden) one or two males dominate at stud. There are those of us, though, who focus on outcrossing in the hope of keeping the gene pool as wide as possible.

    Here in Sweden we are also on the point of changing the kind of comments a judge can give at a show. For example, it may well be that a judge can now state that a dog is “over typed”. A caricature of a breed. This will help certain features of pedigree dogs being over done, I hope.

    I think, bottom line, the Kennel Club and breeders all need to work more openly to ensure the health of our breeds. There’s so much secrecy and dishonesty at the expense of animal welfare that it can be very disturbing.

  2. Sadly Marc, the voice of reason is usually drowned in the clamour of excitement and shock tactics. Certainly Pedigree Dogs-Exposed was a long overdue wake up call to both responsible breeders and the Kennel Club, both of these groups work hard at improving the health of pedigree dogs but you have to realise that any health problems haven’t just appeared in a short space of time and it’s going to take effort and years to put it right.Will public pressure force the Kennel Club into a sedate canter instead of a steady trot? I hope so, only by enforcing proven health plans specific to each breed can we hope to ensure the public get the best that’s available.
    In my informed opinion the making of the programme and using rather seedy media tricks was truly unecessary, if the Producer had used better research the story was enough to reach a big audience and generate faster improvements.

  3. I agree that a lot of the blame for the interbreeding in dogs is due to bad kennels and puppy farms, but the blame also has to be taken by the Kennel Club as they are still allowing very sick animals to be entered and accepted in to a show because they “look right”. The health and welfare of any animal should always be more inportant than cosmetic appearance. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  4. Hi Marc, I do agree the breeders are more responsible for the dogs’ suffering than the Kennel Club, but they have been weak on this issue. Why are breeders allowed to show dogs which are not fully healthy? I also feel that many breeders are negligent about how many puppies they produce – when there are already far too many cats and dogs sitting in shelters.

  5. The BBC did everyone a favour with Pedigree Dogs Exposed. As a dog trainer, I have been aware of these defects for 30 years. It is because of them that serious dog trainers get working strains of particular breeds (cocker spaniel, collie, GSD (especially GSD), Malinois, etc. I used outbreeding and worked Lab/Collie/GSD crosses for years, with success.
    My reaction on seeing a pedigree dog is to wonder what is wrong with it.
    The Kennel Club (pretty inbred itself) needs to start with a new broom.
    1. Unless a dog passes a breed specific health test it should not be registered.
    2. Unless a dog passes a breed specific temperament test it should not be registered.
    3. Only after 1 & 2 have been passed should “looks” be taken into account.

    Oh yes, and all dogs used for breeding should be required to re-register and pass all 3 tests.

    It will take a long time to sort this mess out, but that would be a good start.

  6. I haven’t yet read or heard anyone from the GSD “world” explain how a champion dog earns that title when he is off his hocks and cannot even walk normally.

  7. I believe strongly that the Pedigree Dogs Exposed program predominantly was unbalanced and Jemima used sensationalist journalism to get the point across – which has alientated the people who needed to be “on-board” to make the changes required. More often than not, and mostly not for lack of caring, it takes someone from “outside” to see that things need to be changed. We follow what our parents did, what our grandparents did, etc, and most breeders are following in the family tradition. Yes, in-breeding needed to be banned, that is for sure. Yes, more needs to be done regarding the inherited diseases SOME breeds have – though it is true the Kennel Club had been working on these issues – in a manner that they felt would actually keep the breeders “on-board”. Yes, it is wrong to cull perfectly healthy dogs and it shocks me that this is still done and people still believe it is right – the same for in-breeding. If breeders decide not to stay with the Kennel Club (especially if buyers do not see the importance of buying a Kennel Club registered puppy) then all that will result from this is the increase of Puppy Farms and un-checked breeders as well as unwanted animals – people who as a result of the film feel ashamed of their dogs and therefore abandon them. When we decided on a breed of dog that we knew we wanted to breed and show, but firstly as a pet, the deciding factor was the results of the research we did on health. Any pet website that can come up on the first page from Google will list dog breeds and their characteristics and their common health ailments – someone would not need to have done much looking to see that to buy a Pug was to enter into the high possibility of sickness and vet bills – the owners themselves must therefore take some responsbility for purchasing a puppy from a breed that is prone to illness – this is like supporting Puppy Farms. Not enough responsibility has been placed at the owners feet – like Puppy Farms, if people only ever bought from the Kennel Club’s Accredited Breeder Scheme Members, and assured themselves of the quality of breeding of the dog before they bought it, those using sick dogs or ill-bred dogs would not be able to so easily sell their dogs, thus ensuring the survival of their ill-thought breeding methods. People are too easily carried away by the looks of a dog, or finding a cheap puppy, that they forget that they need to do their research, and quite probably spend more money to buy a quality animal, from a breeder who abides by the KC’s relatively strict rules relating to the number of litters that can be bred, etc. We went to Crufts on the Hound Day, and I can tell you that it is the healthiest group, putting aside the few breeds of questionable conformation. Breeders within our breed whom we speak to and know of, love their dogs, and abide strictly by the KC’s rules regarding to breeding, and in-breeding has not been used for many decades. The BBC Press Office says – “Seventy-five per cent of the seven million dogs in the UK are pedigrees, and they cost their owners over £10m in vet fees every week” – for a start, we like our Pedigree dogs because we know what we are getting (e.g. the size, temperament, and maintenance our puppy will need) and of that £10m I wonder how much is in routine vaccines and health checks (because if you spend hundreds of pounds on a pedigree dog, you are more likely to look after it) and how much of that is profit that vets make from us Pedigree dog owners! People will continue to love Pedigree dogs, and if they truly do love them as us Brits say we do, we will be only too happy to put the extra effort, and where applicable money, into ensuring that we find a healthy puppy. The RSCPA, PDSA, BBC etc should not have withdrawn from Crufts – you cannot, for example – announce to the world that someobody is an alcholic, and then withdraw from helping them recover or letting anyone else help them. The KC needs as much support as possible, and broadcasting the progress that is made can only help. Plus, let’s not get started on the questionable methods often used by the RSPCA. The best way forward for potential buyers is to do their research and ensure they find themselves a good healthy puppy. Breeders and Showers will follow the KC when it leads strongly and with purpose and reason. People who do not know as much as they should before passing comment should perhaps consider a few of the dilemmas that have brought breeders to this current mess – for example, if the Giant Panda were to go extinct unless the two remaining individuals (a brother and sister) were allowed to mate – it would take a strong minded individual with knowledge of genetics to realise that the species would soon to be extinct anyway, to allow both those Giant Panda individuals to die without producing an offspring – and this is what happened with several of the breeds in question.

  8. Want health, loyalty and gratification? I’ve found them by rescuing two dogs of unidentifiable parentage and the biggest personalities – and hearts – imaginable. Sometimes I say they’ve rescued me.
    I admire purebreed dogs, but it’s twinged with a painful knowledge that people have so far removed domestic dogs from their evolutionary birthright of health, adaptation and disposition.
    Marc, I appreciate what you do.

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