Dog Breeds… Human whims

by Alexandros Paraschis


The dog world is full of myths and misinformation. From the moment dogs entered people’s lives in Western civilization and became part of our daily lives, they also became a very profitable “business.”

One of those myths is that “purebred” dogs are smarter, more hardworking, healthier and in general, it is considered a privilege to own a “purebred” dog. But let’s start from the beginning.

Today the world population of dogs is close to 1 billion. Of this number, only 250 million are in our control (we choose when, with whom and if they reproduce). The remaining 850 million live freely in cities and in villages, they are usually around humans that ensure their survival, they are not privately owned and humans do not interfere with their reproduction.

So the vast majority of dogs worldwide (85%) live free, reproduce freely and survive off our garbage. But if one observes the dog populations in Africa, South America or Asia one will find many common characteristics such as size, weight and appearance between those dogs.

In other words, 85% of dogs worldwide look like each other. It is therefore understood that this significant similarity of dogs worldwide is not accidental but the result of natural selection! The specific shape and size (around 15 kg) are the traits that give them the best chance of survival.

The 15% of the dog population that are “purebred” on the other hand, if left free, have a lower chance of survival since their traits are not the result of natural selection, but are man-made instead, and were created with the main purpose of satisfying our own whims.

Many times, certain features have been exaggerated, deformities such as very short legs, very long body have been maintained and worst of all, very short to non-existent muzzles has been maintained, something that causes constant stress to the dogs and makes them suffer, keeping them in constant agony while breathing with very great difficulty, they have to fight a daily battle to breathe.

Man throughout the ages has always done selective breeding in the sense that he mated dogs with the best character and working traits to obtain the best hunters and guards depending on what served him best. Most breeds however, are a creation of recent times. If we analyze the family tree of purebred dogs we will see that they always come down to a handful of dogs that existed 100 – 200 years back at the most.

For example Golden Retrievers can be traced back to two male dogs originally, that were used to create the breed. A careful analysis of the Border Collie family tree leads us to just one dog. Siberian Huskies, which have a mythology of being an ancient breed, were actually created from a handful of dogs in a kennel in New Hampshire, USA.

The Basenji, another supposedly ancient breed, was created and recognized as a breed in 1930 from nine dogs brought from Congo to America. It’s a story that repeats itself with most breeds tracing back to a handful of 19th and 20th century dogs.

This circus with the shows and hundreds of breeds that has started since the Victorian era has done a great deal of harm to dogs. All that today’s breeders care about is the “right” appearance. Appearance based on breed standards set down in a book which in most cases are very different from the original dogs that created the breed.

It is ridiculous, to say the least, to judge a dog on the basis of his appearance alone. That is, if he has the perfect shape then he is a worthy continuation of his line and the purpose for which he was created. A judge can understand and assess the value of a Golden Retriever as a hunting dog by the degree to which he has the perfect shape and proportions according to a photo in a book…

In 2008 the BBC aired a documentary entitled ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ which rocked the world of breeding and dog shows by exposing them. Veterinarians and geneticists have highlighted all the problems caused by today’s dog breeding, leading many dogs to a life of martyrdom due to the terrible deformities they have suffered, when they were used as champions and therefore sought after for mating and perpetuating their problematic genes.

blue bulldogAfter it aired, some slight changes took place, such as banning first degree relatives from breeding, euthanizing puppies that did not meet breed standards and let them be healthy (yes you read that right) as well as cosmetic mutilations. But in general the majority continue to breed dogs with the sole criterion of appearance. We keep breeding dogs that can’t see, run or breathe just to satisfy our vanity.

The majority of breeds today are nothing more than a human creation to satisfy our selfish whims.

If we really love dogs, we can’t keep doing this to them. This circus has to stop at some point. Mixed breed dogs are in no way inferior to purebred dogs. Most of them are healthier and can be trained just as easily for any task. I can guarantee this from my experience having worked with guide dogs for the blind (the most difficult and demanding job a dog can perform) and having worked with many mixed breed dogs.

By Alexandros Paraschis, first published in the webpage “Stories of Strays”

Raymond Copinger, Lorna Copinger: What is a dog?
BBC documentary «Pedigree Dogs Exposed», produced by Jemima Harrison

My name is Alexandros Paraschis and I am in charge of the Dog Friendly Academy training school. I am the only Greek Certified Behavioral Counselor and Trainer from the global certification body CCPDT. I am a certified assistance dog trainer and a guide dog trainer for the blind.