Westminster Redux

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It’s that time of year again – the 140th Westminster Dog Show begins today – or at least the televised version. We have always followed Westminster since I was a kid and my grandfather raised collies. None of them went to Westminster, but Papa was quite proud of his beautiful dogs.
Our problem with Westminster isn’t the show itself, but what it and other contests based purely on ‘looks’ have done to some pedigree dogs in the pursuit of those coveted medals and the financial reward of a popular sire or dame. We are not the only ones who have expressed concern about the health issues brought about by selective breeding. It has been a controversial topic in both the US and the UK for many years. The UK Kennel Club has even begun to make changes in some health requirements.
We’ve noted it before, but it bears repeating that each breed does maintain their own standard and it is against that standard the judges are supposed to weigh their decisions. But what we have seen is a slippery slope of extremism as a result of a reward system based solely on appearance. Competitors go to great lengths to attain the extreme of whatever physical trait is winning. This is not unique to Westminster – it happens in all sorts of competitive situations. It’s why athletes take steroids, or why beauty pageant participants torture their bodies with plastic surgery, extreme diets etc.
The difference is that humans can make those health decisions for themselves. They can choose to undergo some questionable treatment or follow a crazy diet to attain some arbitrary goal of beauty or speed or strength.
Our pets, be they dogs or cats cannot make that decision themselves. Humans make it for them. Humans decide they want German Shepherds with bent legs and slopped back, or Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with smaller heads, or more heft on a Labrador. They alter their results through selective breeding practices or out aside sound nutrition to beef up their dogs for more ‘substance’ to attain an extreme that may be more likely to win in the show ring.
My question to folks that do that would be why, why do they do that? I know it’s a rhetorical question, because the folks that do it, don’t see it, they don’t recognize the harm they are doing to their beloved breed or in their beloved dogs. Just as the young female who enlarges her breasts to the point of creating back problems, or the gentleman who has nose job after nose job to the point where he can no longer breath normally – they don’t see what they are doing until it is too late.
All we can do is keeping raising the alarm, hoping that it might strike a cord with some breeder somewhere or some show judge out there to stop, think about the harm or pain they may be causing the animal entrusted to them and begin to work to reverse the problems.


Prior posts regarding pedigree dog health issues:

Are Show Dogs Fat?
Pedigree Dog Health Issues
Will the Crufts Lab be as Heavy as the Westminster Lab?
An Expert’s Concern over Labrador Retriever Standards
When did Overweight Labs Become the New Normal?
No Wonder a Lab has Never Won at Westminster

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  1. We enjoy watching it, but it would be more fun if the GBGV was represented. Hopefully that will happen in the next few years. As for showing itself we have no interest as it is very opinionated and it is not a warm fuzzy thing. At least with most dog sports you are competing with yourself and have something defined that needs to be done. It is not at the judges whim that day to say your fur wasn’t quite right or something. You either hit your goal or you don’t. Many are into showing dogs and we do find it fun to see all the different dogs out there in their best furs.
    Emma recently posted…Does Your Dog Have Healthy TeethMy Profile

    • We enjoy watching it too – but the subjectivity of the judging really turns us off.
      mkob recently posted…Westminster ReduxMy Profile

  2. I always fear for the “most popular breeds”, it mostly ends not good for the dogs… it’s scary sometimes to see how the look of some breeds changed during the years. I like it to visit and to watch dog shows, but there is a lot of bittersweetness now… I always dreamed to run Westminster or Crufts once… Easy had other plans and maybe he is much wiser than me on that front :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblogMy Profile

    • Ha – dogs usually have a better sense about these things 😉
      mkob recently posted…Westminster ReduxMy Profile

  3. Cash and I are very excited to see it this year as our friend, “Garcon,” is a brindle Berger Picard who is in the show! For those of you who will be watching online, the Berger Picards are a new breed showing this year in Ring 7 at 12:45. Berger Picards (from France) were made popular by the movie, “Winn Dixie.” And of course, we are hoping that the winning Labrador is not obese!

    • Good luck to your friend – I’ll be watching for him.
      mkob recently posted…Westminster ReduxMy Profile

  4. Ethical breeders are an invaluable part of ensuring we can enjoy healthy canine companions for generations to come. I love dog shows, but like you my hope is always that judges will pick for health, rather than looks. I almost feel like there should be a physical component of the show where the fittest dogs could really shine.

  5. I always enjoy the Westminster Dog Show. Even local dog shows are political so I’d imagine on that grand scale it is ridiculous.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB NETWoof News February 15 2016My Profile

  6. Was never a huge fan. Now if they allowed Goldendoodles…. On a serious note – I understand and agree completely. Enhancement on any intrusive level isn’t necessary for a dog show. #really
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…WINE & DESIGN #THEDOODLESPOTMy Profile

  7. I remember your posts about the overweight Labs. Such a shame.

    I couldn’t agree more with what you said about humans being able to choose for themselves if they want to undergo any kind of “beautifying” surgery – but dogs can’t choose for themselves, and we shouldn’t make that decision for them (I highly doubt that any pup would choose to have his or her ears cropped or tail docked, unless for medical reasons).

  8. I don’t watch the Westminster show; it’s a little boring and long for me. If I happen to catch it when they have herding dogs, then I might sit and watch; otherwise, I just can’t get into it too much. My biggest curiosity surrounds the sponsors. Some people say that the dogs are fed Purina while others state that the owners take Purina money, but would never feed their dogs the food. I’m really curious about what the truth is simply because I’m super nosey.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Chinese Medicine to Heal Partial Cruciate Tears in DogsMy Profile

  9. *sigh* I am not sure where to start except to say that after reading our blog and observing our dogs for the last few years, we are pretty disappointed to learn that this is what you think of them and dogs like them. Our dogs are a product of selective breeding and the dreaded line breeding and to top it off also win in the show ring. I said last year that I hoped you would attend a nearby show to see what really goes on and to meet the dogs and their breeders. I will make the same invitation this year and hope that you go with an open mind.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Correct Movement – It’s ImportantMy Profile

    • I try to be careful to say ‘some’ and not make broad sweeping generalizations about breeding or pedigree dogs. If I didn’t make that clear, then I apologize. Some breeders are conscientious and careful about their breeding practices. Some are not. We wouldn’t have as many genetic conditions overwhelming some breeds if there was adequate and conscientious health screening. We wouldn’t have the issues seen with breeds like Bulldogs and GSDs and Cavalier King Charles, etc. if all breeders were as careful and conscientious about breeding for health over conformation. When I used the phrase selective breeding in this context it was in reference to breeders who look for those extremes, regardless of the health implications and breed based solely on wanting a smaller head, flatter face, shorter legs, etc. It’s not a slam on all breeders. I would love to have the time, energy and commitment to breed dogs myself – I admire folks, like you, who are conscientious. My concern is and always will be the health of the dogs first and foremost. The results of some selective breeding practices is just not healthy. The results of some feeding programs is just not healthy.
      mkob recently posted…Top Ten Things People Don’t Know About Dog Food: Part 1My Profile

      • There are 189 breeds. It is the etc. that bothers me. People complain about 3 or 4 breeds of the 189. Chessies have been competing since 1878 and have changed very little. Other breeds are the same as the Chessies…changing little over the years. There was nothing extreme about the GSP that won yesterday.
        2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Correct Movement – It’s ImportantMy Profile

  10. The GSD makes me sad. I didn’t get to watch Westminster this year.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Eastwood Sisters First UKC ShowMy Profile

  11. I have the benefit of commenting after the fact (BOL) and for the record pretty much stopped watching because of the judging. That winner WAS a great looking dog but you’re right, dogs have been ‘modified’ over the years for a silly beauty pageant. Case in point, if people saw what Pugs looked like ages ago, they’d be horrified.

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