I am often amazed at what people think they are doing with dogs.
No one has demonstrated to me what is essentially an article of faith or at least a current mantra of the AKC-apologist set:
That breeding to a breed standard means that the dog is healthy.
And from what I’ve seen in the actual scientific literature, it’s actually something that is probably not true.
At least not always true:
Now, if you’re breeding a vizsla to its breed standard, you’re really not producing any exaggerations that might cause the dog to be unhealthy.
But the same logic that produces the athletic and svelte vizsla– that is healthy because it is bred to a written standard– simply cannot apply to a dog like a pug.
A vizsla is a gundog. It was developed in Hungary as an HPR, and it actually prospered quite well during the communist years as it was the Hungarian equivalent of the German forester’s drahthaar.
Vizslas, like many continental gundog breeds, were only recently allowed to be sold to people who were not hunters. Thus, through most of the history of this breed, it was always a performance dog that was bred to a performance standard that also was as much about the dog’s behavior and aptitude as its conformation.
You cannot say that about pugs.
Or a lot of other breeds.
What use does a pug have?
Well, it’s a pet dog. A pet dog doesn’t have to bred to any sort of performance standard like a vizsla would be.
And this is precisely where things start to go off the rails.
In the case of a vizsla, a written standard has to have some basis in the real world.
In the case of the pug, it can be as convoluted as the human imagination will take it.
And that’s the big problem with saying that breeding to a breed standard makes a dog healthy.
To breed a dog with as many health problems as pugs have that call all be traced to its various exaggerations in morphology is perhaps the most stupid thing we’ve ever done to dogs.
It’s also unusually counterproductive.
The claim is that modern show dog breeders are selecting for the healthiest dogs ever, but this claim doesn’t even pass the giggle test when you start looking at dogs like pugs.
There are lots of claims that pugs have ancient Chinese origins, and although I will admit they do have some ancestry from dogs imported from China, most of their development actually happened in the West, first in the Dutch Republic and then in the UK.
And it’s in those countries that breed took on its current form.
In the early nineteenth centur, this is what an English pug looked like:
It’s still a brachycephalic dog. And yes, it has cropped ears.
But it still has a relatively normal dog body.
And in 200 years of “breed improvement,” we’ve produced a dog like the modern pug, which has too many health problems to elucidate in a single blog post. Almost every single one of these problems can be traced to its phenotype, which has been the result of human ignorance mixing in with human caprice and vanity.
The story of the pug is the story of everything that is wrong with dogs in the West.
It’s a tragedy masquerading as virtue.
Breeding to the standard has done nothing good for the pug.
And these people ought to be ashamed of themselves.
But they aren’t.
They twist it all around to blaming it on puppy mills and the mass production industry.
But that’s nothing more than an obfuscation.
If the public were fully informed of the problems that come from breeding a dog with a muzzle like a pug’s, I don’t think the breed would have one tenth of the popularity it now has.
At the very least, there would be demands to change the standard or maybe bring in new blood to make a more healthily conformed dogs.
Of course, the bastards lambaste the puggles, which are not terrible idea. However, the entire puggle concept has been based upon a puppy mill economic model, so at least right now, it’s a bit doomed to failure.
But that doesn’t mean the concept is wrong. It just means that puggle and pug cross-breeding for health would have to take more human approach.
Because that’s one thing the modern pug fancy doesn’t have going for it– they really don’t care about how much suffering they cause the dogs.
They delude themselves into thinking that if they just win ribbons, they are being ethical
Instead, they are breeding dogs that have obvious problems. These problems are obvious to anyone but a pug breeder, of course.
They’ve bought into the cult.
And there is no reasoning with them.