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