Implications: What’s next?
1) We must have good, logical, specific, TRUE, and ethical answers to the following questions, remembering that most people have little or no experience with the well-bred purebred. Don’t lose sight of this! Most people go through their entire lives and never meet even a single show dog. They already think of show breeders as a group of weirdos who don’t like normal dogs, and this recent criticism has fueled the “us” (owners and dogs) versus “them” (breeders) view. If we avoid these questions, or don’t have well-thought-out answers to them ( “because you just don’t understand” or “because that’s what makes a good show dog” are NOT good answers – we have to have answers that focus on the good of the dog and its suitability as a pet), we will only fall deeper into this hole.
We must also willingly and proactively admit that these body shapes ARE mutations, and DO require a lot of care to breed properly. We should immediately tell our prospective owners that the unhealthy short leg, or short face, is a legitimate danger to the dog.
Individually and as clubs, we must consider:
Is the brachycephalic head an unhealthy head? Does it disqualify the breed as a pet? How much does it affect normal quality of life? How does it change the care the dog must receive? How can you recognize an unhealthy brachycephalic head as opposed to a healthy one?
Is the achondroplastic leg an unhealthy mutation? What is its purpose? What is a sound achondroplastic leg as opposed to an unsound one?
Is it cruel to breed dogs with a lot of hair (or no hair at all)?
And so on–carefully consider anything that could legitimately be called a mutation, whether of skin or hair or bone or ears or head or whatever.
Are we doing absolutely everything we can to respond to genetic disease? If we are, how do we communicate that in a clear and succinct way to our puppy buyers?
Is our breed in a genetic corner scary enough that we need to consider cross-breeding with another breed? (Listen, I know how unpopular this is, but this decision will be made for us if we’re not proactive about it.)
2) We must realize the implications of buying the lie that mutations are bad. If we try to toe that line, purebred dogs as we know it will end. A three-inch leg will NOT satisfy this requirement better than a two-inch leg. A short muzzle will NOT satisfy this requirement better than a flat face. The only logical outcome of this kind of philosophy is that all dogs end up looking like wolves again.
3) We must make sure that the public sees the truth – that we got into this activity because we are knowledgeable, careful, passionate dog owners. It’s tragic that the opposite is usually assumed. We need to emphasize the nature of our involvement with dogs as being 98% pet owners and dog lovers and 2% exhibitors, that we show dogs to enjoy time with them, that we don’t make money on litters, that we are heavily involved in rescue, that we sponsor research and homeless dogs, and every other great and good thing show breeders do.
Get out there! Show breeders should be walking dogs through town, should be coming to the street fairs, should be bringing dogs to groomers, etc. Don’t let your dogs sit in the backyard while every other human on the street is walking a Labradoodle and enthusing about what a great dog they are.
Danny, the Peke so unfairly featured in the Pedigree Dogs Exposed program, is now nine years old and healthy and happy. Why wasn’t this emphasized in the Kennel Club response? Why wasn’t Danny immediately shown, running happily around his yard and flirting with his bitches? Instead, the world is left to believe that he probably walked off the green carpet at Crufts and fell over dead.
The best defense is a good offense. This cannot be said more clearly. Breed clubs need to take firm control of this issue and present a TRUTHFUL picture of their breed and their practices, or they will have that picture painted of them-and it will not be flattering.