A recent scandal in one of the most important dog shows in the UK, Crufts, opened up -again- the reality behind those dog shows and Pedigree standards.
In this year’s show, the dog that won Best in Breed for German shepherds, is a three-year-old called Cruaghaire Catoria but known as Tori. The dog was criticized during the Channel’s 4 official coverage because “his sloping back, the weakness of the rear and the fact that the hind legs are completely underneath it, are all points the breed standard clearly says should be considered as fault”.
So what is all the controversy about?
Because a “deformed” dog won Best in Breed in a competition?
Or because the dog actually fits the breed standards in the UK?
According to the German shepherd guide, the desired standard is “a body where the “line of the back slopes downward from the withers into a straight, strongly developed, and relatively short back… [and the] croup is long and slightly sloping”.
So this is how now German shepherds should look like. At least show German shepherds.
And there have been hundreds of complaints accusing The Kennel Club of cruelty. Even the RSPCA is questioning how did the dog qualified for Crufts in the first place and is asking for an investigation into breed standards.
The dog’s owner, Susan Cuthbert from Scotland, says she’s shocked and upset with all the negative comments directed toward her dog. “The comments made on television about my lovely shepherd were unbelievable, especially when one considers the brevity of the images. How can you judge a dog on such a brief observation?”
But I cannot help but wonder, why is she complaining about her dog being judged if she took him to a beauty contest in the first place? Or is it ok to judge her dog if he gets an award but it’s wrong to judge him if he’s criticized?
I think this controversy is bigger than why did her dog won and bigger than the breed standards for German shepherds in dog shows. It’s not just about changing the breed standards to include health, but maybe to rethink the role of such shows. I mean, why do they exist anyway?
Dogs are judged on behavior and on very strict and specific physical characteristics set out by The Kennel Club, who is also in charge of pedigrees.
The thing is that these characteristics have changed through the years and are compromising many dogs’ health. And all for what? For a piece of paper that gives the dog a status that the dog is not even aware of?
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Dogs are victims of fashion since the 19th century when dogs started being bred for appearance. The idea of creating a perfect dog or produce perfect specimens was born and it hasn’t stopped since.
And the consequences? Puppy mills, irresponsible breeding and inbreeding, perfectly healthy puppies euthanized because they don’t fit the specific standard, genetic diseases in most breeds and a high number of abandoned dogs in shelters…
That’s a high price to pay for “fashion”…
According to Dr. Fawcett, “what we like in animals, in terms of their appearance, may actually be having a negative impact on their welfare. It’s hard for people who ‘love’ animals to recognize that we’ve prioritized our interests and ignored theirs.”
There is a great documentary of the BBC, called Pedigree Dogs Exposed. You should definitely watch it because awareness is the first step to change. The more we spread the word on the truth behind these “beauty standard shows”, the more possibilities there are to stop them.
So, instead of being concerned only on the German shepherd breed standards that allowed a dog like Tori to win a show, we should be concerned on the role of those shows and maybe eliminate them once and for all.