Criticism of purebred dogs is all the rage these days. Breeding pedigree dogs can be harmful to the dogs’ health, as documented in a BBC program titled “Pedigree Dogs Exposed.” There are two significant issues that they point out:

Criteria for selecting pedigree dogs that are harmful to dogs are used in their selection.

-Genetic disorders are more likely to be passed down through inbreeding.

If Cavalier King Charles have a short nose that prevents them from breathing correctly, the standard should be altered to allow them to grow a longer nose. The tiny legs of some breeds, such as the Basset Hound, have sparked concerns that selective breeding for dwarfism could lead to joint problems; yet, the short legs of these dogs are not just for show; hunting and companionship have both benefited from dogs with shorter legs.

Secondly, it appears that many dog lovers’ mindsets are to blame for the difficulties they’re experiencing. As a marketing ploy, the purity of pedigree dogs has been used so frequently that people no longer doubt it.

People were unable to search for the relatives of their dogs in a database or verify a dog’s paternity through DNA in olden times when pedigrees were done manually by breeders. So, breeders were introducing new genetic material into their lineages by crossing with other breeds. Customers were delighted as long as the dogs didn’t cross too much and looked and behaved the way they were meant to. It wasn’t until some English hunters arrived in Brittany at the end of the eighteenth century with their highly effective English setters and pointers that the Brittany Spaniel became a household name. Breeding their dogs with those English champions was a dream come true for the proud owners of French Brittanys (the English had been the first to select pointing dogs on ability). Brittany spaniels have become France’s most popular breed thanks to this.

Ninety percent of pedigree dog aficionados now call breeders who cross Brittany spaniels with setters or pointers “crooks.” How is it possible that a hundred years later, the same thing is viewed so differently?

There’s the Boxer case, isn’t there? As a result of both aesthetic and practical considerations, the tail of the Boxer has always been docked. Many countries, including the United Kingdom, have prohibited tail docking for the better part of the last decade. Dr. Bruce Cattanach (www.steynmere.com/BOBTAILS.html), a well-known English breeder, revealed that some breeds naturally have a short tail. He began an experiment to see if the Boxer may inherit a short tail from one of those breeds. It took several generations, but eventually he produced Boxer-looking canines with naturally short tails by breeding naturally short-tailed Corgis and Mongrels together and then crossing their offspring with Boxers. In order to grant a pedigree to an impure breed of dog, he used a unique and challenging technique devised by the Kennel Club (as the first of his line).

Short-tailed Boxers with less than one percent Corgi blood were shipped to several countries when the experiment was deemed a success. Prior to a decision made by the German Boxer Klub to prohibit any Boxer born with a short tail on the ground, these pups were not considered pure Boxers. On this basis, a desirable characteristic (short tail) was prohibited. Hasn’t something gone awry, has it?

Another problem is that new breeds are constantly being introduced. The desire to have a unique breed of dog, usually a descendant of a more ancient breed, is a major factor in this phenomena. Once this new breed of dog is recognized, breeding it with members of the original breed will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. In other words, as new breeds are recognized, an ever-increasing number of dogs within a small population are being created.

There is a quiz on the 313 breeds recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale to prove that there are too many breeds. So you may make an educated estimate as to what kind of dog a photo depicts. The “tough” version of this quiz has been shown to many people, including some all-round judges (judges who are allowed to judge every breed), and none of them could correctly identify all of the breeds.