The Perfect Dog?

A few weeks ago, I examined a little French Bulldog puppy and posted a picture of him on our Facebook page.  Of course it was a really cute picture and it got plenty of likes.  It wasn’t until someone posted the question of what kind of dog he was that I started thinking about the implications of that picture.  Although he is a really cute puppy, I have to admit that I wouldn’t typically recommend this breed of dog to my clients, family or friends.

And before any French Bulldog aficionados chastise me for picking on their breed, let me tell you that my net is cast fairly widely with regard to breeds that I am concerned about.

Let’s go back in time, roughly 20-30 thousand years ago when dogs are estimated to have first been domesticated.  Quite logically, the original dog probably looked something akin to a wolf but some traits that would normally have been seen in wolf cubs.  Floppier ears, soft facial features and smaller muzzles would have set these animals apart from their wild kin.  For the next 19,900-29,900 years, dogs didn’t stray a whole lot from that original model.  In that time, dog population exploded from small numbers in eastern Asia to virtually covering the globe. One can only assume that Mother Nature was on to something.  A virtually perfect complement to the funny looking, hairless, two legged animal that also seemed to be making inroads just about everywhere.

No doubt, these dogs looked something like this

And it was good.

And although there were variations to the theme, the basic structure of the dog was unchanged for millennia.

As humans became increasingly urbanized, the nature of dogs changed as they became less about function and more about fashion.  This trend really took off in Victorian England and sets the stage for where we are today.

And this is where it gets difficult.  I love dogs.  I love Pugs and Bulldogs.  I love Yorkies and Malteses.  I love Shar Peis and Boxers.  But I advocate for animal health and I believe that all animals should be maintained in a state which is free of pain and disease.  Although it may not be nice to hear it, none of the breeds which I listed (and I could go on and on) about which breeds have which problems) are made to be free of pain and disease.

Think about it this way.  If you knew someone was breeding Labs who were guaranteed to get hip dysplasia, you would probably think that person was unethical.  Yet most of the Pugs and Bulldogs we see have such abnormal upper respiratory tract anatomy, that they are unable to breathe through their nose at any level of activity.  All breeds with pushed in noses (aka brachycephalics) have dental crowding which predisposes them to painful dental malocclusions and periodontal disease.  All the “microdog” breeds have teeth which are too big for their jaws, which predisposes them to the same problems of painful dental malocclusions and periodontal disease.

The more I do this job, the more uncomfortable I am with the idea of breeding dogs to be unhealthy.  It’s good for my pocketbook but it’s not good for my soul.

So what’s my advice?

Take a cue from Mother Nature.  She has already told us what a canine species ought to look like.  No smaller than common fox species but not bigger than a wolf.  A muzzle which is long and robust but not too long and not too skinny.  Legs that are long, muscular and straight.  Above all, a dog should be appropriately proportioned.  While it’s no guarantee that a well-constructed dog is going to be healthy, the odds of that dog being healthy are much better than when we stray from the perfect model.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

All My Best!

Dr. Joe

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