Take the German Shepherd Dog for example. One of my favourite breeds. The first photograph is an example of the type of dog seen in the show ring. Note the deeply sloping back and the elongated weak looking hind legs. The second picture is slightly more robust, with more balanced front and hind quarters and is an example of the so called 'working GSD' that many breeders are trying to produce to save the breed from crippling extinction. I have a GSD so I know first hand what problems these dogs can suffer from - hip dysplasia, early onset arthritis, skin problems, ear problems, self mutilation, stomach problems, twisted bowel... the list goes on and on. I can understand the desire to produce dogs with large shoulders and tiny hips - it gives them an attractive silhouette - but the increasingly narrow hips and wobbly legs that are winning rosettes in the show ring are ruining what should be a robust, intelligent, sensitive, loving dog. When is function over appearance going to be applauded? When will dogs that are dogs - strong, healthy and good tempered - be rewarded over the in bred?
Then there is the Basset Hound. The top picture shows the Basset Hound of today - its heavily folded skin and long ears highly prized by judges. How different this once active hunting dog is from his ancestors of 60 years ago, pictured below getting ready for a hare hunt. Modern Basset Hounds often trip over their own ears and are plagued by skin infections due to their many folds. Who first thought that this type of dog was attractive? I much prefer the lean, muscular healthy lines of the former model to the modern version. Not that I think this dog is ugly, he is a cute creature, but when I look at dogs like the Basset, the Daschund or the Peke I can't help but wonder have people gone too far? When a dog has been bred to such a state that it impairs its ability to be a dog, then things have gone too far. Take the English Bulldog for example. Apparently it can no longer mate without human assistance nor give birth naturally. It makes you wonder.
The Pug is undeniably cute, and has been around for a very long time, but apparently in the quest for an even flatter face modern Pugs are suffering the consequences. Breathing problems as well as difficulties with their eyes, dislocating patellas and a host of other problems bring them close to equalling the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - arguably the unhealthiest dog breed in existence - in the list of genetic faults they can suffer from. Despite - or because - of being so popular, the Cavalier is beset with one congenital disease after another. They are a beautiful dog, both in appearance and temperament, but are so unhealthy that practically all of them will be victim to one genetic disease or another. It is a horrible thing to hold a puppy in your arms and know what is going to kill it.
With adherence to human whims dominating over an animal's health and happiness, and the very body which is supposed to protect the breeds encouraging deformity and in breeding, it is hard to see how there is a way out of this mess. Personally I think breeds like the Cavalier have no hope unless new blood is introduced to them, crossing them back to the spaniels and pugs they originated from. Whether this will happen or not, I don't know. Perhaps cloning of champion stud dogs will become common practice to further lessen pedigree dogs chance of survival.