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Here’s why I’ll never get a pug or a bulldog – and you shouldn’t either

Why do dog-lovers accept, and why, more to the point, do poor mutts have to endure painful and life-threatening medical issues caused by selective breeding?

Sean O'Grady
Friday 17 June 2022 10:36 BST
Dog only drinks bottled water

Post-pandemic, WFH and all that, I’ve been giving some thought to getting a dog lately, and obviously being a busy journalist, I’ll need one that requires minimal grooming (much like myself), modest but regular exercise (also ditto) and is of a friendly disposition (mostly ditto).

I’d quite like to have a pug or an English or French bulldog because they look cute and are excellent companions by all accounts. You never hear about them mauling a kid to death, for example, or being used as a criminal’s “status dog”, there to snarl at the police while you flush the drugs down the bog. However, I will never buy such a breed because what man has done to these sweet best friends has been unspeakably cruel.

Why do dog-lovers accept, and why, more to the point, do poor mutts have to endure painful and life-threatening medical issues caused by selective breeding? A few weeks ago, the blameless pug was condemned by the Royal Veterinary College as not even a typical dog, because they have such short squashed up muzzles they sometimes can’t breathe properly – known as “brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome” – as well as suffering skin and back problems.

The vets have also called for a boycott of the English Bulldog, which has similar breed-induced ailments, until the pedigree world starts behaving more reasonably. There are also comparable arguments to be made about the breeds prone to hip displacement, such as Old English Sheepdogs and Alsatians, while the Cavalier King Charles spaniel has such a misshapen head and neck that it suffers awful compulsive scratching and great pain.

Some breeds suffer more than others – and suffer is the word – and most have some traits that can cause a bit of trouble, but there are too many cases where the welfare of the animal has been callously sacrificed, and it’s cruel and unacceptable.

A lot of it is said to be down to bad breeders and puppy farms, and there are efforts to breed out some of the genes that bring the worst distress (and biggest vet bills). Yet it seems to me that if the Kennel Clubs around the world simply adjusted the breed standards to make the creatures less of a caricature and more like their genuinely healthy, working forbears from a century or two ago, the bulldog and its pedigree chums would be much happier, healthier, more agile animals, and with longer lives ahead of them. Why not just say pugs should have a longer snout? Is that asking too much?

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By the way, the “designer” cross breeds were supposed to avoid some of the problems of intensive inbreeding, but in my experience, the popular Labradoodle is a bit of gamble. With a Labrador-Poodle cross you can either get the best of both breeds – clever and docile, but also the worst – stupid and overexcitable. The trend for handbag "teacup" breeds and the minor husky craze is also something that doesn’t seem very well through through, for all concerned.

Of course, the answer to all of this, for the individual dog buyer, is to adopt a mongrel from a shelter. If we all did that, there’d be no pedigree dogs, no health problems, fewer strays or unwanted pets euthanised and we could live together in perfect healthy harmony.

You can see the aesthetic attractions of a handsome Irish Setter, a Schnauzer or a Saluki, but I’m not sure what else they have going for them. I’d get a cat, but I’m allergic to them. Any further advice?

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