Buck Up Britain

Buck Up Britain Poor conformation in dogs is a major reason that canine welfare is compromised and concerns have been voiced since the 1960s.

It beggars belief that 65 years later, the situation has only got worse, with many breeds of dog suffering hugely.

The Nordic countries are leading the way in tackling resistance to better breeding and purchasing practices. In Sweden, all dogs and cat breeders must be registered and if breeding three or more litters per annum or keeping 10 or more animals must hold a permit. Permits are recorded on a national database. The code of practice covering welfare is compulsory. It is illegal to breed dogs and cats that have genetic conditions such as inherited diseases, inherited disabilities or behavioural disorders.

Breeding dogs with extreme conformation is also illegal in the Netherlands, Norway and Finland.

Research from Sweden covering show judges, breeders, vets and owners of French bulldogs, Boston terriers, pugs, and English bulldogs and Cairn terriers reveals that there is still resistance to improving conformation in dogs that have the potential to suffer from BOAS.

Significantly, all respondents except for show judges were largely in favour of banning breeding brachycephalic dogs.  Only 8.5% of the show judges involved in the study agreed with a partial or full ban. The study found that:

“The majority of show judges agreed fully or partly that it is essential to follow the breed standard even if it can be associated with health issues related to their physical appearance, while all other stakeholders mostly disagreed “.

Whilst it was mostly felt that breed standards should be based on knowledge about the relationship between health and conformity, significant numbers of participants from all categories surveyed disagreed that brachycephalia threatened dogs’ health, including 27.4% of judges of affected breeds. 59.3% of the show judges surveyed agreed, totally or partly, that it is essential to follow the breed standard, even if it is associated with health problems.

Breed standards and instructions have been altered in many kennel club to pay lip service to welfare, but the authors of the study felt that interpretations of, often vague standards, were subjective and may lead to promotion of anatomical exaggerations.

Just 57.7% of breeders of brachycephalic breeds were in favour of banning individual dogs from being bred compared to 87.5% of breeders of non-brachycephalic breeds. Nearly a third of of breeders of brachycephalic breeds disagreed that health problems related conformation posed a threat to the dogs’ health, possibly because clinical signs of distress have been normalised. 35.8% of the breeders of brachycephalic breeds disagreed with proposed improvements to welfare compared to 8.6% of the breeders of non-brachycephalic breeds. 

More worryingly, the study found that the appearance of the dog was an important factor for owners acquiring a brachycephalic dog, in spite of consequential  health concerns.

Until this is addressed, many dogs will continue to suffer and the UK is well behind in even making minimal improvements.

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