John Burchard, Sir Terence Clark, some coursing salukis, and a falcon were filmed in a chase by the BBC for the show “Pedigree Dogs Exposed”, showing healthy alternatives to most purebred dogs. Most of their footage (all but a half minute I’m told) ended up cut, but what is left is more than valuable. Patrick Burns has it in six video links here. You should also read his pungent commentary on the issues here and here.

Update: impressive and depressing– the level of denial among show people is astonishing. The salukis, sadly, are only on for about five seconds as the announcer says something to the effect that “some breeders try to breed sound dogs but often they are penalized..” Well, yeah– currently my Asian tazis cannot be dual- registered as salukis, though it would be better for both “breeds'” genetic diversity, because of such imagined and prejudiced ideas that brindles are mongrels…

Closed genetic lines = genetic death.


  1. I saw it and for all there was nothing really that I did’nt already know about the fiasco that is dog showing.

    What was unfortunate was that in the case of the dachshund, the Basset, the Bulldog, the golden retriever etc etc. The hunting world could of offered healthy functional dogs still identical to the original ones from the pre showing 1800s.

    The attitude of these people is truly unbelievable I just cannot get my head around the way they think!!

  2. Steve;

    I posted a bit on this subject on my blog some time ago. Maybe worth sharing here…

    f you think about it a bit, you realize that a ‘breed’ is an arbitrary boundary drawn around a ‘type’ of dog – usually with shared ancestors that more or less define the gene pool.

    The unfortunate aspect of this is that the Darwinian component that constrains the passing of non-functional genetic traits has been removed from our domestic dogs. So any dog, no matter how dysfunctional, has a chance to pass its genes along in the gene pool.

    Breed clubs have tried to make the decisions that would imitate, in some ways, the natural pruning that Darwinian evolution does in nature. Mostly, they fail.

    In my mind, the point of a sporting breed (or herding, or other working breeds) is performance of the work tasks they are given. Dogs have a richer genetic tapestry than humans – they are more dependent on innate abilities and characteristics than we are. So breeding must be tempered by culling based on performance. Without breeding based on performance, we are letting breeds go in the wrong direction.

    Does it really matter? I would argue that it should matter to people who want their dogs to be intelligent, physically capable and trainable. Defining a gene pool (provided it is large and diverse enough to sustain breeding that is true to type) is useful when the breeder is striving for consistency and improvement in dogs when line breeding. There must, however, be enough genetic diversity within the type to sustain breeding for many generations without the effects of inbreeding.

    On the other hand, I have no problem with those who, for a number of reasons, are trying to change or resurrect a type of dog (as was done with the field bred red setters) and who go outside the breed boundaries for contributions to type. THIS IS THE WAY ALL MODERN BREEDS HAVE BEEN DEVELOPED.

  3. To be perfectly honest, I had to turn it off after the three seizure dogs, what I assumed to be a hydrocephalic King Charles and the Lab with serious orthopedic problems. I didn’t make it through the intro. (grin)

    I don’t think the show provides new revelation for anyone who has been involved with the show world or breeders in general, but I do hope it promotes a new level of awareness for the puppy purchasing public as to what might be behind the glossy show ads and outrageous puppy prices. An informed consumer would be our best defense against ignorant and irresponsible breeders.

    But as much attention as the show has received, I don’t hold out much hope that things will improve any time soon. We can talk diversity and expanded gene pools, as well as the necessity of form following function, until we’re blue in the face. And the sad fact is that most of the show breeders will tell you that they agree and that they are breeding for healthy, functional animals with an eye toward expanding their options (in the whelping box) down the road. And I feel that many are naïve and ill-informed enough to believe it. They continue to bottle neck on inferior animals (usually group, or specialty winners) and sell puppies on worth garnished from show titles and alphabet soup pedigrees. That’s what I call a registered name that is followed by several entry level titles acquired while participating in various AKC sponsored games; an example might be “CH Covenants Guinevere..CGC, CD, RN, W-BBFD”…etc (I made the name up, but the titles are real)

    What really concerned me was reading some of the reviews the show received on the UK newsgroups.
    Several of the people commenting were calling for more/tighter government control!!

    Yep, that’ll solve the problem…


    Oh, two good follow up articles might be, “Omerta: Breeders Code of Silence” by Sierra Milton and
    “Making Sense of Form and Function” by Gretchen Bernardi

    Show breeders with right attitudes.

  4. I think the main obstacle to improving the health of certain breeds (or dogs in general) is simply indescriminate breeding, rather than solely the show folks. With pups fetching such obscene prices as they do now (1500 dollar pet yorkies as an example) the trend will continue. Pure bred dogs are not the only victim of this trend.

    A breeder up in northern virginia where I used to live sold golden doodles ( golden retriever x poodle) for 1500 dollars a pup. Unfortunately the pups would develop bilateral hip dysplasia before the age of 2. So much for hybrid vigor.


  5. Gregg- where can I find these articles?

    Zac: the genetic problems with inbreeding cannot be fixed without adding new genetic diversity. That doesn’t mean all crossbreds are sound. A cross of, say, two dysplastic breeds would still be dysplastic.

  6. Continued inbreeding an have deleterious effects – smaller litters, lower puppy survival, etc. CHD is present in the genes of all dogs, and can show up in any litter. Looking at the hip ratings of individual dogs when selecting for breeding is no guarantee that CHD will not show up in the litter.

    If one was to look at the hip ratings of both the parents and ALL the pups in the litter that produced the dogs being considered for breeding has a better predictive capability.

    In an analysis of OFA hip ratings 152,589 progeny of dogs (multiple breeds) in the OFA database, the following was demonstrated:

    Breeding OFA excellent to OFA excellent dogs (5,835 offspring) – 3.5% were dysplastic

    Breeding a dysplastic sire to an excellent dam (362 offspring) – 14.9% were dysplastic

    Breeding OFA fair sire to an OFA fair dam (3,957 offspring) – 16.3% were dysplastic

    Breeding a dyplastic sire to a dysplastic dam (309 offspring) – 36.2% were dysplastic

    Some breeds have higher levels of dysplatic genes than others. Breeding dysplastic to dyplastic dogs within a line over several generations would probably result in even higher levels of dysplastic dogs.

    Likewise, line breeding OFA excellent to OFA excellent (basically, culling and selecting for excellent hips) one would expect the succeeding offspring to yield normal offspring as an increasing percentage of puppies.

    Line breeding is akin to inbreeding in that related dogs are bred (but not brother to sister or father to daughter), and incorporates both strict culling (not breeding animals that do not measure up) and going out to other proven lines every few generations. This requires a lot of money, breeding, and dogs over many years, but is a proven way for an experienced and educated breeder to produce sound and consistent litters of pups.

    Inbreeding is not a responsible breeding strategy, and usually ends in disaster.

  7. Hi Steve,

    I’m sorry, I should have added the links, and I appreciate you covering, Zac!

    Bernardi draws a lot of inspiration from Dr Belkin’s article. I just assumed that it would be sacrilegious to even attempt to participate here without having read it first…but just in case.

    A University of Florida professor always deserves a plug! (grin) ( the link for Sierra Milton’s article)


  8. While I appreciate that you found my article, Omerta: The Breeders’ Code of Silence, to be of value, you might wish to note that the article is not a condemnation of show, field, or working dog breeders, but rather of those who fail to understand that we are guardians of the breed and as such we, ourselves, are not of primary importance and that the lines of communication amongst breeders is of utmost value.

    Being a person who not only shows, but actually does work dogs, I abhor the snobbery by *both* sides in trying to gain one-upmanship over who has the most entitlement to the breeds. It is exactly this type of ‘ugh, show dogs… ugh, field/work/racing dogs’ division that makes those people like Passionate Productions – the very Animal Rights extremists the ability to divide and ultimately conquer us.

    If you truly believe that these folk will stop with the show dogs (and calling it a fiasco is simply buying into their emotive division), you are very sadly mistaken. In fact, the field/working dogs are very much in their sights (as the Foxhound packs found out when they went after fox hunting). If they ban hunting, and there is a vast chasm between the show and field people which prevents them from joining together, we surely will all fall.

    My article speaks to the wisdom and, what I feel, is absolute necessity in maintaining open communication without fear of villification or ostracization. That includes *both* field/working and show owners/breeders, as well.

    For what it is worth, the producer of that BBC sensationalistic (because it failed to consider both the good and the bad, I do not, as a journalist myself, consider it journalism) programme also failed to understand that the article is not a condemnation, but rather a call to openness.

    She has a very definite agenda – and it is that all purebred dogs be damned. I assume that would include your breeds also.

    She also failed to mention that many health tests, much research, most of the medical advancements, and indeed even the eradication or diminishment of some diseases and illnesses within breeds (such as the Otterhound Club working very hard to eradicate or nearly eradicate one of the problems within that breed) has been done by the show breeders and owners that she and apparently some field people find despicable.

    You are right though – the attitude and superior ‘never could happen to me’ of some people is truly unbelievable and I despair for the future – and that includes also the field and working world.

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