Designer Disaster! Is Dog Breeding Contributing to More Unhealthy and Homeless Dogs?
Desire for Dog Breeding
Dog breeding is a thriving industry and the demand for specific dog breeds has increased significantly during recent years. Celebrities are often seen sporting what are believed to be ‘designer’ dogs including breeds such as Chihuahuas, Pugs, Spaniels, Bull dog types and genetically developed miniature prototypes of many different breeds. Dog breeders are basking in a booming industry and puppy farms are more popular than ever. Is this desire for ‘designer’ dogs resulting in unhealthy animals? Could this extensive breeding be contributing to an enormous population of unwanted, homeless and abandoned dogs?
Genetic Prototypes and their Problems
Many years of controlled breeding programs have allowed for significant genetic development in many dog breeds. Breeders have designed breeding programs to produce dogs that will be purchased for cuteness, size and specific colors. This demand for specific pedigree dog types has contributed to the development of such breeding programs. Breeds such as the Pug or Chihuahua are recognized by society as cuter, more desirable pets. Breeders take advantage of this social view and continue to produce these dog types, mostly with inbreeding techniques. There are many poor genetic traits found in pedigree dogs, from bulldogs bred for large heads unable to give birth to puppies, to neurological problems in Spaniel dogs bred to have very small skulls.
Dogs are ancestors of the grey wolf (Canus Lupus Lupus). It is hard to imagine that the tiniest Pomeranian is in fact related to the wolf, but years of selective breeding and genetic manipulation has given us the many dog breed phenotypes we see today. Most pedigree dog breeds have genetically inherited health issues and it is hybrid dogs (crossbreeds) that tend to be healthier and have a longer life span than their expensive, artificially selected relatives. To achieve the desired genetic traits, many ‘ideal’ dogs are inbred to produce almost genetically identical individuals. This means that the inherited health issues of these dogs continue to be passed on.
Many dog societies and dog show enthusiasts strive to conform to breed standards. Judges of dog shows award prizes for specific traits of each breed, defined by agreed breed standards. A good example is the German Shepherd. These dogs are often bred and shown to high levels with breed standards emphasizing specific desirable traits such as very long backs, small hind legs, and a high front end and shoulders. Whilst striving to achieve these traits, people ignore the consequences of such genetic manipulation. This ignorance leads to dogs with genetically inherited health issues such as spinal problems, lack of coordination of limbs, severe pelvic and hind leg problems, hip dysplasia and epilepsy. This is not to say that all German Shepherd dogs are very unhealthy. Many original types of the breed are not sufferers of strict selective breeding are healthy, and this type of dog can often be seen working in the police force. Dogs that are bred with emphasis for a specific trait, usually for showing or prize winning purposes, suffer the effects of genetic problems. Often seen at dog shows, German Shepherds are nicknamed ‘frog dogs’ due to the severe deformity and incoordination of their hind limbs as a result of them being genetically developed to have longer, more sloping backs.
Another example of ‘designer’ dogs in peril is the Pug. The Pug has been a victim of selective breeding that has led to a much squashed face with an almost non-existent snout. As a result of artificial selection, Pugs suffer chronic respiratory problems, enlarged and protruding eyes that are prone to injury and infection, a curled tail that is a result of spinal deformity and many are known to often pass out from heat exhaustion due to an inability to pant and cool down normally like other dogs. In the UK alone, most Pugs are a result of inbreeding. With thousands of Pugs living in the country, only a mere few are genetic individuals. The Pug is a perfect representation of how harmful selective breeding for cosmetic appearance of dogs can be.
Overbreeding and Puppy Farms
Money hungry breeders are consistently breeding more and more dogs across the globe. The number of dogs being bred due to public demand far outweighs the number of potential owners. Consequently there are many dogs that are homeless and unwanted. Animal shelters are full to the brink with unwanted and abandoned dogs. There are very few shelters that have the space to take in more dogs, so what will happen to these poor souls that were simply bred for business? Many dogs will starve on the streets, get hit by cars, will be used in dog fights until they die from their wounds, or are put down because there is no one to take them in.
Dogs kept and bred in puppy farm environments are very often subjected to cruelty due to breeders overlooking welfare and cutting corners in an attempt to increase their bank balances. Puppy farm dogs are frequently kept in very small cages all day, every day. There can be far too many dogs in each cage ensuing injuries from overcrowding. Dogs lack proper exercise, nutrition and grooming, all in an attempt to cut costs. Dogs expected to breed are constantly impregnated to produce litter after litter of puppies with no rest periods. This is severely detrimental to the health of the dog and the offspring. The dogs are treated like machines that are simply there to make profit, once they stop working there is no reason for the breeder to keep them alive.
What Can You Do to Help?
Spread your knowledge! It is important that we spread awareness of the impact of selective dog breeding and over breeding. Many people are unaware of the health consequences of genetically manipulated pedigree dogs. It is our job to help potential dog owners make a better informed decision before purchasing their new best friend.
Are you thinking of getting a dog? Consider a hybrid type dog as crossbreeds are genetically healthier and live much longer too! Think carefully about where you purchase your dog. It is a fantastic idea to rehome a dog from your local shelter. This will give an unwanted dog a second chance in life and free up space at the shelter for more homeless dogs. Purchasing from shelters is much cheaper than buying from a breeder and your funds will be used to help more dogs!
Animal shelters are always in need of donations. This can be anything from spare change to help buy food, to donations of blankets, cans of food or dog toys. Do you have anything stashed away in the basement that could help dogs in need?
Avoid buying from puppy farms or breeders. The less people buy from them, the more likely they are to stop overbreeding and subsequent cruelty. Enlighten people to the damaging effects of selective breeding for specific traits at your local dog shows. The more knowledge we share, the more successful we can be in potential changes of breed standards.
Spay not stray! Get your pets neutered to help reduce over breeding and the enormous numbers of unwanted dogs
Remember, a dog is NOT a fashion accessory that you can toss aside next season!
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