Vets play an important role in helping to educate breeders on prioritising good health and a good quality of life above physical appearance. This includes advising breeders to avoid selection for exaggerated features that compromise dog welfare.
Here’s a checklist of some of the key issues to include when communicating with breeders.
- A number of breeds have exaggerated physical features that cause pain and suffering and compromise dog welfare, leading to a poor quality of life.
- Health and welfare problems caused by exaggerated features can be prevented.
- Every breeder has an important responsibility to ensure their puppies go on to live a happy, healthy and long lives.
- Breeders can proactively prevent these problems by:
- Ensuring they do not select for exaggerated features that compromise welfare, such as avoiding selection for flat faces to prevent breathing distress
- Choosing parent dogs that have more normal and moderate physical features
- Considering outcrossing with other dog breeds, which may be necessary to effectively moderate exaggerated features and restore breeds to a physical type that is healthy. Outcrossing may also confer hybrid vigour in the puppies.
- Calling for urgent changes to:
- the breed standards so that exaggerated features are no longer required and each breed standard is consistent with good health and welfare.
- the judging criteria in the show ring, such as rewarding for health as the priority (rather than rewarding for physical appearance).
- litter registrations, which would require mandatory veterinary health certificates for both parent dogs prior to breeding.
- The breeder should encourage prospective owners to visit the breeding property and to meet both parents as well as the puppy.
- Breeders should be clear with prospective owners about the potential problems associated with the breed, and extra veterinary and daily care the puppy will need over its lifetime.
- Responsible breeders should offer ongoing support and ask for feedback about the health of their puppies so they can use that information to inform future breeding practices and improve their selection choices over time.