Guilt in dog ownership


It seems there has been alot of talk lately about how unhealthy some breeds are. The current furor seems mostly directed at kennel clubs that are considered to have perpetuated unhealthy ideals in certain breeds. Breeding dogs with shortened noses that are hard to breathe through, or long backs that are prone to injuries are just a couple of examples. We humans have made some breeds so far away from a natural body type of a canine that they need to be born with the help of man through cesarean section operations.

While kennel clubs may have some standards that do not help breeds keep a body type conducive to good health, they are not the only offenders. Puppymills churning out dogs to supply a market for money are also to blame. They use the fact that many people still believe registration papers equal quality in the product. In this case the product is a live puppy. Born as a cash crop for some people looking to cash in on buyers ignorance. Many of these "breeders" are simply throwing two dogs together regardless of health or temperment because neither of those issues will prevent a puppy from being registered. Just like registering a car that is a lemon. Because of the cycle of supply and demand they remain in business as we try our best to educate future puppy buyers toward other avenues.

But this article isn't about them. It is about the dog owner (or guardian if you prefer) that has and loves the squishy face, or long backed, or otherwise deemed unhealthy breeds. I happen to be in that camp.

I had always been a person that loved the more natural looking dogs. Upright ears, long muzzles, and curly tails were all traits that appealed to me. And I argued that they were healthier. When my husband had expressed an interest in a bulldog after we first married I told him I already had something in my bedroom that snored and farted and we didn't need the walking vet bill.

Cut to many years later and enter our first smush face onto the scene. A 4 year old french bulldog named Missy. Upon researching breeds, because my daughter wanted a dog of her own, we ended up with a frenchie to downsize from the akitas I already had. It was also one of the only smaller breeds we all agreed on and thought would be a good match for our family. Because I have always been aware of health issues in dogs, we found a breeder that was conscientious and did health testing of her frenchies. This means Missy can breathe just fine. (though she does fart copiously making her a true bulldog)

Of course then our son wanted his own dog. Not sticking to the program he wanted a pug. For some reason the breed appealed to him and we could not sway him otherwise. (we tried) We held him off a couple of years to be sure he was serious and made him save his own money like we did with our daughter. Of course by now we already had one smushed face dog so what was another right? Not being able to find a breeder in pugs that did the health testing I thought necessary, we ended up with one from rescue. For me it is a reputable breeder or no breeder. I refuse to support anyone not doing it properly. (and I have earned the nickname Dog Nazi by a acquaintance of my husbands who thinks breeding any two dogs together is just fine)

Fortunately Jenny can also breathe well. She does have a slightly longer nose than some of her breed which might help. Would you believe she is actually a fabulous tracker?

All the talk about unhealthy breeds makes me feel slightly guilty because I happen to love and own some of those dogs mentioned. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has felt this either. I certainly wouldn't want to see them go away altogether. Perhaps some may need to go back to their earlier developmental phase when the issues weren't a problem. Or perhaps those issues weren't a problem because vet care was minimal back when they were developed? I do think health testing should be standard in some way to prevent avoidable problems. (and every pure breed dog has them) I know in some rare breeds (like the Leonberger) they require health testing and temperment testing of the parents by the parent club before they ae allowed permission to breed a registerable litter. Not a bad idea.

Patricia McConnell PhD talks in one of her books about how we humans fall in love with round headed dogs or dogs with big eyes because they mimic the baby look that humans can't help but feel nurturing towards. Maybe. I have to admit I wasn't as "into" frenchies or pugs until they came to live with me. Now they are some of my favorites.

So I am one of the guilty. Guilty of supporting breeds that some consider unhealthy by the very nature of being alive. Know however that there are many of us owners (guardians) who do support finding ways to make them healthier. Changes in the kennel clubs standards certainly will help towards that endeavor. Lets keep the pressure on and make our voices heard for our smushed face friends. It is the way towards their healthy future.