Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pure bred dogs - a good idea?

Hello Listservians! Before I begin...

I ask that if you choose to read this email that you do so with an open mind. I have no intention to offend - only to challenge a way of thinking. Please consider that :)

Let’s talk about dogs, shall we?

Have you ever wondered how dogs became “pure bred”? Did God create each breed specifically? Maybe natural selection after millions of years created the English Bulldog?

Dogs first became domesticated when they learned that they could survive more easily by working with humans than fighting against them. Once we started living with dogs we started preferring the ones that worked to our advantage. We selectively bred dogs that were good hunters, or good protectors, etc.

In the last few hundred years we decided that dogs could also be companions, and accessories. We could breed them to be tiny and portable. So we bred dogs to be what we wanted, and then we gave them names. Pitbull. Rat Terrier. Pug. Bulldog. Labrador. German Shepherd. Collie.

It is crucial to understand this: WE CREATED “PURE BRED” DOGS. Dogs did not evolve this way naturally.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right? We’ve manipulated evolution to our advantage. Sounds smart to me.

In theory - yes.

However, in the last hundred years things have gone sideways. We have placed a higher priority on appearances, and the name of the breed. So much so, that we only mate these dogs with their same breed, which has resulted in serious in-breeding, and the progressive shallowing of the gene pool for these dogs.

Google a picture of what a bulldog looked like a hundred years ago. They were tall, strong looking healthy dogs. Now, English Bulldogs can’t even reproduce on their own - they must be delivered via c-section because their heads have become so massive over the years. They have numerous health and respiratory problems because their faces are so squished. Their life expectancy is SIX YEARS. Why are we doing this to dogs??

Science is showing us that many many pure bred dogs are much more susceptible to health problems because there is simply not enough diversity in their gene pool. Cancer, anxiety, yeast infections, respiratory problems to name a few. I know an eight month old Dachshund puppy with severe joint problems due to bad breeding.

So where am I going with this?

I would like to suggest that we consider mutts and mixed breeds as just as wonderful, if not more wonderful than “pure bred” dogs. Their genetic diversity means they are much healthier overall, they live longer, and they are every bit as adorable as that Pug, or Frenchie or other “name brand” dog that is so cute in the pet store.

I would also like to suggest that Kennel Clubs are furthering damaging and archaic notions by refusing to allow the introduction of other breeds to promote genetic health among pure bred dogs.

The reality is “pure bred” is just a thing we invented.

Now I know a lot of you reading this have pure bred dogs as pets. And I in no way mean to devalue your wonderful pet and how special they are to you. What I hope is that maybe some of you will reconsider before you walk in to a pet store and purchase a pure bred puppy. Pet store puppies often come from puppy mills - which is another serious issue.

What if instead, you went to your local shelter or looked up rescues online and saw what kind of abandoned dog you might adopt? You won’t pay thousands of dollars, just the shelter fees. You won’t encourage inbreeding or puppy mills, you will rescue an amazing pet that someone else discarded. Maybe even consider fostering - so you can pick a pup that truly fits your lifestyle. There are lots of pure bred dogs who need to be rescued too.

It is my sincere hope that we can think critically about this issue, so we can all have happy, healthy pets. This is something I'm passionate about, having seen too many wonderful dogs with terrible heath problems.

Thanks for listening. I welcome your feedback.


Bethany Kanhoffen
bethanykanhoffen[AT]gmail.com
Vancouver, BC - Canada

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