8.14.2010

Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Tomorrow there is a show called "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" on WGBH. It's a documentary on the breed specific ailments, diseases and neurological disorders that have been bred (and inbred!) into dogs. It's on tomorrow at 4:30 on PBS. I watched it last week, and though there are times where I wanted to turn it off due to the pain / suffering some dogs were going through, I sat through it. I'm really glad I did. It makes you look at dogs in a whole new way.

If you can't watch it on tv, or record it for later viewing, this is the link to the documentary in it's entirety.

Pedigree Dogs Exposed Online

My opinion on the matter if form follows function, then we are breeding a good, sound dog that is going to be structurally sound for its job. However, when we start selecting for a physical trait, and exaggerating it, we are no longer breeding for a function, but for a mutant gene. As that continues through generations, the structural soundness of our dogs is compromised, and they suffer.

Breeders that breed for personality and for function instead of the show ring are doing our dogs a great service. Breeders that are inbreeding dogs to get a more desirable trait are literally breeding disease, unsound structure, neurological disorders, and dogs that look very different from the dogs of last century. One of the more eye opening discussion points in this documentary is when a photo of a Bull Terrier is displayed, and compared to a Bull Terrier from 100 years ago. They did the same for the pug (which didn't have such an exaggerated brachycephalic face), the Dachshund (which wasn't as long) and the Basset Hound.

A quick note on the pug. Those big eyes that they are now known for was not nearly as exaggerated in the pug a century ago. Their eyes are still the same size they always have been - but what is different is the depth of the eye socket. By breeding for a "pushed in face", and also for shallower eye sockets, the eyes appear much bigger. Not only can the dog not breathe (many pugs have to have surgery to correct congenital breathing issues), but many also have eyes that bulge out of the sockets, or stick out so far that they run into things eye-first. There is no shortage on 1-eyed pugs out there because of this "desirable" trait that is being selected for.

If you can't stomach the first chunk of the documentary (it is graphic), then fast forward to the part where they show the different skulls, and the photos of dogs then and now. It's absolutely eye opening.