Breed standards for dogs

Most dog breeds were originally selected for particular purposes, such as hunting or guarding property. Humans selectively bred dogs that were best suited for the various roles required of them, based on their fitness, ability and utility.

Dog showing has since emerged as a popular hobby, and we’re concerned that many dogs are suffering because they’re bred and judged primarily on looks rather than with health, welfare and temperament in mind.

In order to win dog shows, pedigree dogs have been bred to emphasise certain physical features in accordance with breed standards set by the Kennel Club. The dog who is judged to most closely match its breed standard is awarded the winner.

Many breed standards call for exaggerated physical features, some of which have become so extreme that they can cause pain and suffering, some make dogs prone to particular disorders, and some even prevent them from behaving normally.

High profile breeds

In 2012 the Kennel Club introduced vet checks for a list of ‘high profile’ or ‘category three’ breeds. They were designated as 'high profile' due to having visible health issues that can cause pain or discomfort due to exaggerated physical features.

Introducing the vet checks was a positive first step, and we welcome the Kennel Club’s recognition that many pedigree dogs health and welfare is compromised as a result of the way they’ve been bred.

However, we’re concerned that they aren’t doing enough to improve the serious health and welfare problems of many pedigree dogs. For example, the checks only apply to 11 breeds, but a 2009 scientific study showed that all of the 50 most popular breeds have some aspect of their body which make them more likely to suffer from a disease.

In addition, these checks are very superficial, only assessing the dogs on face value on that one day. They’re not able to take into account ongoing or less obvious diseases, like neurological conditions or heart problems.

Vets are not allowed to exclude dogs because of exaggerations alone, even though it’s these exaggerations which can cause so many problems for the dogs

Thinking of buying a pedigree puppy?

To help you ensure that you're buying a healthy, happy puppy from a reputable breeder we've put together a useful guide. From finding the puppy that's right for you, to questions to ask the breeder, we've got it covered!

Find out more about buying a puppy.

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