Crufts Controversy and Tools to Ensure Your Dog’s Health and Soundness

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Most of you have probably seen the outcry this past week regarding the poor conformation of the German Shepherd Dog that won Best of Breed in the recent Crufts Dog show in the United Kingdom. If you haven’t, you can read about it here (Crufts plunged into cruelty row over ‘deformed’ German Shepherd). It doesn’t take an expert to see the issue with the dogs hind legs – a result of slow steady changes to the breed over the years in the name of magnifying the slopped back and bent hocks that seem to win the prizes. The poor thing was dragging her legs around like a bunny rabbit rather standing strong like guard dog and protector the GSD was originally intended to be.
If you follow our blog, you know this has been a concern of ours for years – not just the GSD, but many other breeds that are slowly being breed to the extremes of the standard with not enough regard for the health or well being of the animal. Just look at the winner of the Toy Group at Crufts, a Pekingese with a flat face who could barely breath and had to be carried in and out of the ring by their handler.
I’m not going to enumerate our concerns over these practices, you can read all our posts on the issue here. It’s the same story for the last 3+ years that the SlimDoggy blog has been around. Fat Labs who jiggle when they walk becasue they are carrying an extra 20lbs, crooked GSDs like this BoB from Crufts, flat-faced pugs who can’t breath, too short bulldogs who can no longer breed without assistance, overgrown Mastiffs who can barely carry their weight on their long thin legs, excessively wrinkled Shar Peis with constant skin infections, King Charles Spaniels with syringomyelia, a deadly brain disorder – a result of breeding for smaller and smaller heads…the list goes on. It’s not EVERY breed, but even one is too many and enough that it should cause all dog lovers concern.
The RSPCA and Crufts jumped to respond after significant backlash from the public, stating that the dog should not have won. British newspapers have once again taken up the cause, calling for change, much the same as when the 2008 documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed was released. The Kennel Club (UK equivalent of the AKC here in the States) did make an effort and implemented some new guidelines after the documentary, but obviously, it’s not enough if this dog not only won, but was even allowed to enter. The judges certainly bear some responsibility in all of this as well.
I wasn’t planning on writing about Crufts this year and was actually working on the following post the last few weeks. It seemed appropriate to post it today along with the Crufts review as yet another attempt to call attention to this serious issue and to raise awareness of the tools and resources available to responsible pet owners and breeders who are less concerned with winning a show and more concerned about the health and preservation of their beloved breeds.


Tools to Ensure Your Dog’s Health and Soundness

SlimDoggy’s main mission is the health, fitness and well-being of your dogs. To that end, we try to make folks aware of reliable and credible resources available to them for ensuring their pets are well-fed, well-exercised and in optimal health, sound of mind and body. Education is key to understanding your dog, their breed (even if they are mixed-breed) and what genetic issues may be prevalent.
In the past we have written about the Orthopedic Foundation of America and the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), two excellent resources to research and learn about your dogs, their breed and potential health related issues prevalent in each particular breed.
I recently uncovered some additional resources. First is the Canine Inherited Disorders Database (CIDD), a joint initiative of the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.
This resources is similar to the CHIC database in that it provides excellent and thorough information about each breed. They breakdown their reporting into several categories:

  • Most Important
  • Other disorders which have an increased incidence in this breed
  • Disorders associated with conformation
  • Other disorders which may be inherited in this breed
  • More information about this breed

We were particularly pleased to see the third category, “disorders associated with conformation”. If you read our blog, you know this has been a cause of ours in the past, genetic disorders brought about by breeding practices resulting in a detrimental alteration of the conformation of the dog. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the United Kingdom’s equivalent to the US’s ASPCA had this to say about this information:

    “These disorders are directly related to the conformation or standards for the breed. Although these conditions have in many cases become so common that they are accepted as normal for the breed, they can still cause serious physical problems and discomfort for the dog. One component of responsible breeding is to breed away from the extremes of conformation that cause these physical problems“.[emphasis added]


These two databases combined are a great resource for dog owners or prospective dog owners to help them become familiar with their breed and to know what types of inherited disorders to watch out for. It’s also a useful resource for breeders to help educate themselves on conformation concerns related to their dogs.
In addition to this resource, RSPCA has several guidelines on their website that address these concerns as well.

In 2008, after the documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed was aired, the RSPCA commissioned an independent study to investigate the findings of the documentary. Their report, Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: a major welfare concern? is informative and eye-opening.
Unfortunately, the concern doesn’t seem to be as urgent here in the US. Other than a simple position statement on best practices for responsible breeding and a single page on general dog care, there’s not much else on the health and well-being of pedigree dogs on the ASPCA website. Too bad, as this is certainly not a problem unique to the UK or Canada.

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  1. I’m with you… and it makes me sad that there are a lot criterias much more important than healthy dogs…
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog WILD WEDNESDAYMy Profile

  2. My mom always loved German Shepherd Dogs, but these days the way they are bred, they walk around like my sister Katie and are considered to be perfect. It just looks wrong and it is hard to see all these people praising them this way. We are not into dog shows and all that. A healthy dog who can enjoy life, do sports they were born to do is what we prefer to see. My mom would never make it showing dogs as she wouldn’t conform and she doesn’t like the meanness of so many of the people.
    Emma recently posted…St. Patrick’s Day CheerMy Profile

  3. The GSD that won Best of Breed at Crufts broke my heart. I showed my German Shepherd and never saw anything like that. It made me sick. Shame on them.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Dog Brush BasicsMy Profile

  4. That kind of genetically deformities borders on abuse and is appalling. I hope with constant pressure and press, it becomes extinct soon so these breeds don’t have to suffer a miserable life. ღ

  5. It makes me so sad to hear things like this. A perfect dog is ANY dog!!
    Julie recently posted…Life LatelyMy Profile

  6. OMG……. I entered my Labrador in the AKC show this week-end. The Labs are GROSSLY obese! THEY WADDLE IN THE RING. It’s not the standard, it’s the JUDGES. Although my dog is barely height minimum standard, 22 and 1/2, he towers over the other dogs. Do you think they care? Often times, the judges barely look at him. Most of the judges LIKE EXTREMES, and this is what has happened to all of the breeds. It is criminal, and the AKC, UK, Crufts, etc., have not done enough to say to the judges, “STOP!”

  7. Thank you for the resources. That GSD was sad, just sad.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Green Beer AnyoneMy Profile

  8. I do not know a lot about the breed standards or showing dogs, but when I saw the footage of that German shepherd I could not believe it won best in breed. Shouldn’t these dogs be able to physically do the work they were bred to do? I just can’t see it with some of these overweight Labs and with this shepherd. I’m sure there’s a lot of politics going on behind the scenes, as with anything else. I do enjoy watching dog shows but I’m far more interested in sports like agility where the dogs are judged on ability vs. looks.
    Lindsay recently posted…Deep Thoughts on DIY From the DogMy Profile

  9. I poked around that CIDD site. I do not think it is a very good resource. Some of their so-called breeding recommendations are horrible. They recommend not breeding a dog with PRA (a inherited eye disease in Chessies) yet there is a credible dna screening test which breeders can use to eliminate it occurrence. Entropion is another which occurs from time to time, but no Chessie breeder selects for it. They make it sound like breeders are striving for it and most I know do not. Also, it is a minor issue and by selecting against such a minor issue, are you not inviting other more terrible health issues to pop up by excluding these dogs dna? it is not an easy answer.

    In my opinion, breed clubs should be educating judges about each breed standard and stress the importance of them. Not their preference within the standard but the objective standard. That would go a long way to improve results. I will say though that a dog that looks great in a picture or on tv may be a conformation disaster. Everyone could see the GSD because of the way it moved (which was horrid), but other times it is not so obvious.

    I know you knock show labs but field labs and other field retrievers who never set foot in the ring can be just as bad when it comes to conformation. Sure they are thin, but they are bred for ability and not conformation. Last week I saw a very capable field Golden pace when returning with a bumper. Pacing indicates very poor conformation. Why do so many agility dogs end up injured at young ages? Well poor conformation and being bred for speed in the agility ring. So it is not just show dogs that are bred to the extreme.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Storm’s Exercise RegimeMy Profile

    • I haven’t seen much about conformation issue with working dogs – whether it’s hunting or agility, but it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s the human condition to have the ‘best’ or ‘fastest’ or whatever and that leads to the issues with breeding.
      mkob recently posted…Purina Dog Food Recall, March 2016My Profile

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