Will the Crufts Lab be as Heavy as the Westminster Lab?

Share Button

A few weeks ago, we created a bit of a furor in the Labrador Retriever world when we wrote a post about the overweight Labradors who won Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex in the 2014 Westminster show. Our concern about the overweight appearance of these dogs is due to the health related problems that obesity brings, not just to Labs but to any dog that is overweight. SlimDoggy’s mission is to help ensure your dog is as fit and healthy as possible and it saddens us to see a dog’s overall health neglected in this manner.
We took some flack from a few Labrador show dog folks who insisted these dogs were perfect and absolutely met the “Labrador Standard.” After providing some historical, photographic evidence to the contrary and some insight from a noted expert, the denial stopped or at least they stopped communicating with us.


This week the British version of Westminster, Crufts, sponsored be the Kennel Club (the UK’s version of the AKC) begins in Birmingham, UK. We are very curious as to what the Labrador entrants will look like.


Pedigree Dogs Exposed – BBC Documentary

Through the course of our research into the Labrador standard and how it’s evolved, we uncovered a much deeper and more disturbing trend in some dog breeding practices for show dogs. We knew there were issues with a few breeds and the manner in which the standard was evolving into an unhealthy state, i.e. Pugs and Bulldogs with their flat noses, German Shepherds with their sloping backs and hind leg issues, but we had no idea the depth of the issues, the denial of the breeders and authorities or the pervasiveness of problems among other breeds.


A documentary called Pedigree Dogs Exposed aired on the BBC in 2008 so clearly this “breeding for show” is a long recognized issue. The video is almost an hour, but it is well worth your time as it is eye-opening for any dog lover. The director of the documentary, Jemima Harrison also writes a Blog worth following if you share her concerns.


The program did generate some action in the UK. The Kennel Club adjusted some of their judging practices, they revised their Standards for a number of breeds and they now deny registry to closely-inbred dogs. But perhaps, most significant, the BBC stopped airing the Crufts Dog Show.

What has happened since 2008?

A follow-up to the documentary was presented three years later:


    • The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) published a Five Year report last fall examining what has been done to change some of the abuse and bad practices uncovered by the original program as well as outline what still needs to occur.


    • An important study called Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding, conducted by Sir Patrick Bateson and funded by Dog Trust and the Kennel Club published in 2010, fully endorsed and supported the findings of the BBC documentary.



As a result of these continued efforts, there is movement in the UK to put a stop to this treatment and they are seeing results as evidenced in these reports. But efforts continue, up to and including a call from PETA to boycott this year’s show.

How is the US Addressing the Pure-breed Issues?

What’s happening in the United States you ask? Sadly, not much as far as I could tell. I did not find any evidence of a concerted effort within the United States to address the breeding practices or problems identified in the Pedigree Dogs Exposed documentary. And make no mistake, the issues are just as prevalent and serious here in the US as they are in the UK. Here’s a few items I did find that are worth reading.

What can we do to get some activity here in the US to address this situation as the BBC documentary appears to have done in the UK?

Unfortunately, there is no central agency with the wherewithal to launch such a broad effort. PETA has tenuous relationships with the dog community and they would likely not be welcome as leaders of the charge. ASPCA and HSUS while certainly strong advocates, are very focused on the puppy mill problem in this country – admittedly a huge and important issue. So we’re not even sure where we would start and how we would get the AKC to rethink their guidelines as the Kennel Club has in the UK.  Possibly a letter writing campaign, or maybe a petition? Would a petition get a sufficient critical mass to raise the attention of the AKC?


On of our primary goals at SlimDoggy is  to fight pet obesity and promote the health and fitness of your dog.  Breeding dogs for beauty versus function and vitality certainly flies in the face of that mission, so it’s hard for us to just let it go.


What do you think – would enough of you get behind an effort to try and make a difference? It would mean sharing the petition, getting your friends and family to share it, posting it on FaceBook and other social media in order to get as many signatures as possible. A few hundred voices won’t make a difference, a few hundred thousand just might. Are you in?


Meanwhile, we will watch Crufts this weekend and see what the Labs look like.



We are joining the new Thursday Barks & Bytes Blog Hop Co-hosted by our friends at 2Brown Dogs and Heart Like a Dog. Grab the badge and join the fun!



Share Button


  1. Crufts is not in mainland Europe but the European dogs are there. Having lived in Europe we find that those dogs are in generally much better behaved and more fit. People really walk their dogs, get them out, take them places. Part of the reason is that so many folks don’t own homes so they can’t just send a dog to the yard, but dog walking is huge! We are betting on a more sleek version at Crufts. The world views Americans in general as fat and lazy and our dogs are becoming the same way, sadly. I may not win popularity points with this comment, but it is true.
    emma recently posted…Special Wooden Shoes | GBGV | Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    • We agree with you Emma. I think Europeans themselves are generally more fit than Americans, and it follows that their dogs are as well. In addition, there has been much more awareness placed on the health of the dog over the beauty since the 2008 documentary and many changes towards that goal put in place.
      mkob recently posted…Will the Crufts Lab be as Heavy as the Westminster Lab?My Profile

  2. Well, having proudly exhibited my own dog Biddy at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club, after reading the article about WKC in its entirety, I found very little I could agree with or that was actually accurate. In your article you suggest PETA? These are the same folks that at a dog event, will release other people’s dogs from their crates, to run free? Run away…etc due to their own political agenda. Rather than starting a petition agains “all people” that you probably don’t know, to stop something that you think is wrong ….have you considered joining your local, regional and national Breed club? I am proudly a member of mine. At WKC and other national specialty events we gather, share information on our breed, we are active in forums to discuss our breed, how to preserve and maintain it. We DNA test, health certify and other forms of assessment as well. I’m not going to go on and on…I just suggest connecting with your local/regional breed club, share your concerns there, find out what they are really doing…vs what you think they are doing….as on owner of a sporting breed…be an advocate for what your dog is breed to do….share what you know on canine fitness (which you do an amazing job of!)…this weekend I am taking off in my RV to spend the weekend at an AKC sanctioned Hunt Test for my dogs, hosted by my breed club, the Mid Florida Brittany club and can’t wait to get on the road….there are a lot of anti-purebred breeder arguments out there…many valid…as unfortunately there are a lot of not so great people out there.

    • We were very careful to state these concerns pertain to SOME breeds and breed practices. It is not presented as or meant as an indictment against purebred dogs or all dog breeders. Rather, we would like to see the integrity of individual breeds maintained, just not at the expense of their health. In no way did we suggest PETA as a solution, to the contrary we noted that PETA is not a viable representative of the dog community. You are correct in stating working within your local breed clubs is a simple alternative and I agree with you. Since my dogs are rescues and not considered purebreds I was looking for other broader measures to raise awareness to the obvious health related concerns identified in the documentary, especially since they are not limited to Labs. I understand you may disagree with the overall content of the piece, but the accuracy of the research and medical findings represented is factual.
      mkob recently posted…Will the Crufts Lab be as Heavy as the Westminster Lab?My Profile

  3. Thank you for talking about this problem and not being afraid to. People get a little defensive when your talking about their breed but the truth hurts. I do believe the crufts dogs will be just as big. Thank you for the post and the resources.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Thursday Barks And BytesMy Profile

    • Thanks for the support. I know it’s a sensitive topic and we have to be a bit thick skinned. Not everyone is a loving and caring breeder like you and someone has to speak for those other dogs.
      mkob recently posted…Will the Crufts Lab be as Heavy as the Westminster Lab?My Profile

  4. I agree with you, some “trends” are just awful and sometimes it’s scary to see what happened with some breeds during the years. I can only speak for France, here I noticed more attention and responsibility by SCC for dogs in an unhealthy state at shows. That’s just a small step, but in a right direction, I hope.
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog BUTT…My Profile

  5. Thanks so much for joining Barks and Bytes. This is an important topic.

    I am not sure I can get behind PETA or HSUS to solve this because their real goal is no more pets. Sounds extreme, but if you look into it, you will see the truth. I am not sure they have the best interest of the dogs as pets at heart. And yes I was at a show once where someone (suspected PETA member) released dogs from crates.

    I also think there is a big slant to the BBC documentary that undercuts the message. Yes there are issues when you are talking about selecting for an unhealthy structure, but it is too bad they do not present a more balanced view. For one example: they discuss health issues that are present in even mixed dogs.

    That being said, I agree there needs to be change. But I do not think a petition is the way to go. I think getting involved with the parent club or a local bred club: join, write them, attend shows to see what is really out and winning in the ring, write again. Be vocal. Be loud. Be persistent. You don’t have to own a pure breed to join a club, just be a breed fancier.

    I mentioned before some changes that some of us felt our parent club was trying to make to our breed without of changing the standard. Well some of us wrote and were very vocal about it. Some long time breeders even contacted the board of our parent club and we were able to get get them to rethink what they were doing. But it took time and persistence, not a petition. 🙂
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–It’s So ColdMy Profile

    • Thanks for your comments, it’s helpful to get perspective from those of you more involved as admittedly we are not – having just stumbled into this due to our health concerns. I agree about PETA and HSUS, even toss in ASPCA. My thought was that it’s the AKC that needs to drive the change as the Kennel Club is now starting to do and the petition would be directed towards them. Breed clubs are good, and I commend the work done within yours – you made a difference. You are probably right – as Easy said too, small steps may be the best option at this point. Thanks again for your insight.
      mkob recently posted…Will the Crufts Lab be as Heavy as the Westminster Lab?My Profile

      • Good luck with AKC. They were pretty much a dead end for us. They are not that helpful aside from being a breed registry. I am not sure if the English system is structured the same as it is here, because here, the breed club rules. They set the standard and educate judges. But hey, if you move the AKC then let me know the secret. 🙂
        2 brown dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–It’s So ColdMy Profile

  6. I am eager to see what the Labs look like in this event as well. I think it’s great that you have brought some attention to this issue. It’s an important topic to be discussing, even if it makes a couple breeders feel uncomfortable.
    Lindsay recently posted…I’ll be watching Cesar Millan’s new show, Cesar 911My Profile

  7. These videos are great! Today’s German Shepherds look NOTHING like the ones my Daddy had in the 60’s-70’s. What we had looked more like today’s “Shiloh Shepherds,” http://www.shilohs.org/ of the shorter-haired variety. When someone wants a pure-bred dog, they really DO have to do a lot of research. Of course, despite what some say, mixed-breeds can carry down all the bad health issues that the breeds they’re made from have, and in some cases will be even sicker if it carries several “bad” genes from every breed in its makeup. Getting a mixed breed isn’t any guarantee for better health. It’s sad that groups like the AKC allow the breed-clubs to make the standards for the breeds instead of hiring medical specialists to write the breed standards. If vet/orthopedic/neurological/cardiac/optical specialists were the ones writing the standards, I bet things would be a whole lot different at dog shows.

  8. I loved the original article you wrote about the labs at Westminster and found it very interesting the comments that followed. I too can’t wait to see the Crufts dogs.

    I was at uni when they started the campaign to end tail docking in Australia, and I remember speaking to pet owners who thought that these breeds were born without tails. For quite a while after we were still seeing docked dogs, which seemed to be due to people wanting a dog that looked like the breed was supposed to. So I think the consumer always drives the product, and why I think the UK campaign was so effective.

    I see dogs every day with breed problems and their owners are simply devastated that their new family member has been sentenced to a lifetime of breathing problems, joint disorders and inevitable surgery. They often had no idea before they paid thousands of dollars for their pet. Very sad. When people research the breed they want, I’m not sure how much information there is about the health issues that breed faces. How do we make this information more accessible?

    With hip dysplasia, consumers are so much more aware of the disease, so they will go to a breeder and ask about hip scoring. Pug owners need to be able to go to their breeder and know what to look for to buy a healthy dog.

    Thank you so much for your passion on this issue. Perhaps one day those poor little pugs that need surgery to correct their noses, soft palates and skin folds will be a distant memory.

    • Thank you for your support. All we can do is continue to raise the level of awareness and see if folks will help spread the word. I share your hope that one day we let dogs be dogs – they could care less about fitting a standard, right?
      mkob recently posted…Will the Crufts Lab be as Heavy as the Westminster Lab?My Profile

  9. Kate, I’m behind you and Steve 100% in whatever way you ultimately decide to handle this issue. I KNOW SlimDoggy — as the business and as the individuals who are the business — is very concerned about what appears to be an unhealthy trend for our dogs.

    As you know, I have a problem now and then with keeping my Golden Girls at a healthy weight now that they’re both seniors. I haven’t bothered checking the “breed standard” for their weight guidelines. I have learned over these last 9 years what is best for my girls, and the vet agrees with me. So we’re working together to come up with a plan to get both girls there and keep them there. Hopefully it will help to keep them disease-free too.
    Sue recently posted…Daddy’s PrincessMy Profile

    • Thanks for the support. We have seniors too and know the challenges. You don’t have to follow a breed standard to know if your dog is at a healthy weight – just look at them, right – ask your vet or better yet, ask one of your honest friends 🙂
      mkob recently posted…Will the Crufts Lab be as Heavy as the Westminster Lab?My Profile

  10. PS Shadow’s thyroid panel came back borderline but not low enough to start her on meds, yet. Her triglycerides were a little elevated though, so I want to find some foods that aren’t so high in fat. I will spend some time researching this weekend. Any suggestions?
    Sue recently posted…Daddy’s PrincessMy Profile

    • Yes, we can help. Tell us your preferences:

      Dry or Canned?
      Any allergies?

      Also did your vet provide any other food concerns that we should know about?

      With this info, we can search our DB for lower fat foods.
      steve recently posted…Will the Crufts Lab be as Heavy as the Westminster Lab?My Profile

      • Q: Dry or canned?
        A: A mix would be preferable.

        Q: Any allergies?
        A: None that I’m aware of.

        Q: Any other food concerns?
        A: My own concern is that it be organic if not cost prohibitive. I’m even considering making my own but am concerned about providing balanced nutrition.
        Sue recently posted…Daddy’s PrincessMy Profile

        • Sue- we did a quick search on our food data to find dry or canned foods with a low Fat content. It looks like an average dog food is about 19% Fat. Below is a list of a few foods that have estimated fat content (on a dry matter basis) at or near 10% or less. (C= canned, D = dry).

          All of the listed Brands are of relative high quality. We use or have used everyone of them except for one.

          Start here, see if you find one or two that are in your price range, and give them a try and see how Shadow reacts to them. BTW- none of these is “Organic”, but there aren’t many completely organic foods to choose from and it is not clear to me that it would make much of a difference.

          Last question to you: what food have you been feeding Shadow recently?

          Hope this all helps.

          C- Fromm – Four Star Shredded Chicken Entrée , Shredded Beef Entree
          D- Petcurean, SUMMIT Holistics Australian Lamb and Rice Dog Recipe, SUMMIT Originals Three Meat, Adult Recipe
          SUMMIT Originals Three Meat, Reduced Calorie Dog Food Recipe
          D- Honest Kitchen, Verve, Zeal
          D- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula w/ LifeSource Bites ,Healthy Weight Recipe Chicken & Brown Rice
          D- Canidae ,Platinum (senior & overweight)
          steve recently posted…5 Tips to Help Keep Your Dog Fit and HealthyMy Profile

          • Hi Steve! Yesterday was a bit nuts around here so I didn’t have a chance to respond. And it looks like today will be just as nuts, but at least I’ll have hubby at home ftto help keep Ducky entertained.

            Anyway, to answer your question about what I’m currently feeding the dogs, specifically Shadow: Right now I’m feeding them the Fresh Pet Select Chicken (the one in the pouch), with about a quarter cup of warm water at each meal time. A few weeks ago, when Ducky’s tummy was so upset, the vet suggested adding about 1/4 cup of canned food to her meals because she was a bit constipated (and to tell Sam to STOP giving her little bits of his chocolate cookies because the chocolate was adding to the problem). I realized then that both Callie and Shadow were also a bit constipated, so I decided to add the canned food to their meals as well. Fast forward to this past week when we ran the complete CBC and T4 panel on Shadow. The canned food I was giving them was Newman’s Organic Chicken Formula. I had decided on it based on its 5-Star rating from the dog food advisor website. When the report came back with the triglyceride count, I decided to substitute the water for the canned food.
            Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Daddy’s PrincessMy Profile

  11. I have to say that video has impact, and is one of the reasons why we chose to adopt a mongrel born of strays/street dogs over here. They are generally perceived to be healthier because of their mixed gene pool without human intervention. I had a friend whose mongrel lived to 18 years of age. But of course there’ no guarantee 😛

    But honestly, that video works not because it pointed out which breeds have severe congenital defects, although it needs to do that to really grab people’s attention. But it gave me a better understanding of how breeders choose to breed certain breeds of dogs, versus no understanding at all. In other words, it made the world of dogbreeding more accessible and understandable to laymen like me and made me aware that I need to look into the potential health problems, and in detail the breeders notes of which ever pure breed or mixed breed dog that I want to get.
    weliveinaflat recently posted…Looking back the last 12 monthsMy Profile

    • The video is powerful. I agree with you mostly about mixed breeds – unfortunately, the opposite can happen and they inherit the bad traits from both parents instead of the good. But I also believe in survival of the fittest and real mutts, tends to have had the bad things bred out. Our Tino was a good example. He survived living in the wilderness and having distemper…now that’s a tough constitution!
      mkob recently posted…5 Tips to Help Keep Your Dog Fit and HealthyMy Profile

  12. I just found your blog and app today and I’m very impressed. I love that you’re not afraid to discuss this issue. I’ve joined your blog hop (I’m new to blogging so please feel free to let me know if I’ve gone astray!) I’ve really enjoyed your three posts on this topic and have included links in my post (I hope this is ok – I’ve not duplicated any of your posts simply provided your links).
    Great work! I’ll be referring clients to your website and app
    Dr Belinda Parsons recently posted…Reflecting on Ruth’s weekend of vet bashingMy Profile

  13. We are more involved in rescue than shows or breed standards but we do know about being over weight. We are working very hard at the moment to shed those extra pounds we have packed on in the last few months.
    Stacey recently posted…Bringing Home Baby – Introducing Dogs to a NewbornMy Profile

  14. Thank you for joining the blog hop.

    I think change is slow to come in this country, and people are very passionate (as you can tell) about their dogs. I don’t really know what the solution is but I’ll be following along as you determine what the best course of action is. And if I can help, I certainly will.
    Jodi recently posted…Follow-Up Friday – March 7, 2014My Profile

  15. My heart breaks…
    Miranda recently posted…WW: “Oh, so I shouldn’t jump the fence then?”My Profile

  16. I would get behind and sign and share a petition if you came up with one. It’s obvious something needs to be done, and I appreciate that you are planning to try to do that something.
    Jan K recently posted…FitDog Friday – An Unexpected SurpriseMy Profile

  17. I have had 16 labs in my life time ,yes I\’m an oldy !! In 1981 I bought a book THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER by LORNA Countess Howe (Dual Ch. Banchory Bolo)and Geoffrey Waring ,considered experts in their day .there are many photos in the book ,only one of a dog that could be considered as large/fat as todays dogs .The breed standard was the 25kgs to 32 kgs 60-70 lbs for English in America even then was slightly heavier 60 to 70 lbs dogs 55-70 bitches lbs.The Countess also stated that all labs should be capable of being both working and show dogs to a greater or lesser extent

Comments are now closed on this post.