Here's What 100 Years Of Dog Breed 'Improvements' Has Really Done To Our Loyal Companions

January 3, 2015

This is a really interesting article we found on Science and Dogs that needs more exposure. First off, there is nothing wrong with owning "purebreds" because all dogs need loving homes, but a dog should never be bred with intentional defects.

The dogs on the left are from the 1915 book, Breeds of All Nations by W.E. Mason. The examples on the right are modern examples from multiple sources. To be able to make an honest comparison, I've chosen pictures with similar poses and in a couple of cases flipped the picture to get them both aligned in the same direction.

Bull Terrier

dog breeding improvements hurting dogs
Credit: Science And Dogs

It seems incredible that at one time the Bull Terrier was a handsome, athletic dog. Somewhere along its journey to a mutated skull and thick abdomen the bull terrier also picked up a number of other maladies like supernumerary teeth and compulsive tail-chasing.

Basset Hound

dog breeding improvements hurting dogs
Credit: Science And Dogs

The Basset Hound has gotten lower, has suffered changes to its rear leg structure, has excessive skin, vertebra problems, droopy eyes prone to entropion and ectropion and excessively large ears.

Boxer

dog breeding improvements hurting dogs
Credit: Science And Dogs

A shorter face means a host of problems. The modern Boxer not only has a shorter face but the muzzle is slightly upturned. The boxer – like all bracecyphalic dogs – has difficulty controlling its temperature in hot weather, the inability to shed heat places limits on physical performance. It also has one of the highest cancer rates.

English Bulldog

dog breeding improvements hurting dogs
Credit: Science And Dogs

The English bulldog has come to symbolize all that is wrong with the dog fancy and not without good reason; they suffer from almost every possible disease. A 2004 survey by the Kennel Club found that they die at the median age of 6.25 years (n=180). There really is no such thing as a healthy bulldog. The bulldog's monstrous proportions make them virtually incapable of mating or birthing without medical intervention.

Dachshund 

dog breeding improvements hurting dogs
Credit: Science And Dogs

The Dachshund used to have functional legs and necks that made sense for their size. Backs and necks have gotten longer, chest jutted forward and legs have shrunk to such proportions that there is barely any clearance between the chest and floor. The dachschund has the highest risk of any breed for intervertebral disc disease which can result in paralysis; they are also prone to achondroplastic related pathologies, PRA and problems with their legs.

German Shepherd

dog breeding improvements hurting dogs
Credit: Science And Dogs

The German Shepherd Dog is also a breed that is routinely mentioned when people talk about ruined breeds; maybe because they used to be awesome. In Dogs of All Nations, the GSD is described as a medium-sized dog (25 kg /55 lb), this is a far cry from the angulated, barrel-chested, sloping back, ataxic, 85-pounders  (38 kg) we are used to seeing in the conformation ring. There was a time when the GSD could clear a 2.5 meter (8.5 ft) wall; that time is long gone.

Pug

dog breeding improvements hurting dogs
Credit: Science And Dogs

The Pug is another extreme brachycephalic breed and it has all the problems associated with that trait – high blood pressure, heart problems, low oxygenation, difficulty breathing, tendency to overheat, dentition problems, and skin fold dermatitis. The highly desirable double-curl tail is actually a genetic defect, in more serious forms it leads to paralysis.

St. Bernard 

dog breeding improvements hurting dogs
Credit: Science And Dogs

Once a noble working dog, the modern St. Bernard has been oversized, had it's faced squished in, and bred for abundant skin. You will not see this type of dog working, they can't handle it as they quickly overheat. The diseases include entropion, ectropion, Stockard's paralysis, hemophilia, osteosarcoma, aphakia, fibrinogen deficiency.

It is unrealistic to expect any population to be free of genetic diseases but show breeders have intentionally selected for traits which result in diseases. Conformation breeders claim they are improving the breed and yet they are often the cause of these problems. If "improvement" in looks imposes a health burden then it is not a breed improvement.

Condemning a dog to a lifetime of suffering for the sake of looks is not an improvement.

This article was written by and  originally appeared on Science and Dogs.

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