The Purebred Perception Problem

Purebred dogs and dog breeders are often seen in a negative light. Here's how you can change that perception.

By Stephanie Hunt-Crowley | Posted: September 29, 2014 11 a.m. PST

Purebred Collie and Puppy
The public is led to believe that purebreds are all "inbred" and will live unhealthy lives. This is, of course, not true. Photo by Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio.

The general public is being assaulted from all sides with negative propaganda, from the animal rights legislative organizers who want public support in their efforts to eliminate purposeful dog breeding in this country, to groups that believe dogs that come from a dog breeder will "take away” homes from deserving shelter dogs. The activists use tear-jerking commercials about sick and abused dogs, and the media grab on to anything "shocking” — a favorite word in advertising these days. As a result, the public is being brainwashed into thinking that all dog breeders are money-grubbing cousins of Cruella De Vil, who pop out puppies with no regard to their health or well-being. Dog breeders are now faced with new regulations that limit established breeders to selling puppies only to people that they can meet face-to-face, the reason ostensibly being the number of sick and dying puppies sold over the Internet. The only problem with this is that there are no statistics to prove it! No verifiable data — not even in the Office of Inspector General (OIG) report quoted by the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) when proposing the new regulations. But it was posted on the Internet, so it must be true — right? WRONG!


Misinterpretations and Misrepresentations

The most obvious attacks on breeders of purebred dogs have come from the media — any news story that you can read online and that allows comments can be scary to read! How many comments are from actual believers and how many are written by paid hacks, we have no way to know — but either way, it is not good news. Then we have TV — the hatchet job in the UK "Pedigree Dogs Exposed” and the latest here in the US on HBO Real Sports [Go to for more information — Eds], both carefully edited to preserve the "shocking” material while leaving the positive pieces on the cutting room floor. The poor public is led to assume that purebreds are all "inbred” and grotesque examples of their breeds that will have a lifetime of problems resulting in huge vet bills for their unfortunate owners.

I like to go to the source of knowledge — and who would know better about the health of new puppies than a local general practice vet clinic? I called a few out of the phone book, and they were surprised at my questions. What percentage of puppies that came from out of the area were sick? There would be a pause — none! What about congenital deformities? Outside of things like umbilical hernias and missing testicles, such problems are rare. And lifetime health issues? No more than would be expected, nothing like the media portrays.

So why do so many people assume that there is a problem and that purebreds are not as healthy as mixed breeds? Are we an unwitting partner in creating this? Sometimes it is all a matter of how information is presented and the way some people write these days. Outsiders could easily get the wrong impression. In any discussion on the Internet, we see references to testing and getting "clearances” before even planning a breeding. We do have the benefit of modern technology: DNA testing in some breeds and phenotypic examination (e.g., eye checks and hip X-rays in others), and many of us do make use of these tools. The question is — how are we presenting it to the public? Does it sound as if the tests are being done to find something worthy of breeding because they might just as easily have a hereditary problem, or do we do it so that we can prove that our dogs are in fact healthy? I look at it as getting the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, and not like taking the car into the shop, afraid it will not pass the emissions test, and heaving a sigh of relief when you leave! Are we implying that breeds are in such bad shape that without these tests, puppies are inevitably going to be born with defects, or to show that they have a family history of good health?

There is another issue right now:  a movement within the show dog world to doubt the safe future of closed stud books all based on what might happen, implying that all breeds are at risk. People who believe this use words like "inevitable” instead of "hypothesis,” and apply their theories to all purebred dogs. These comments can, of course, be snatched up by the media and given the required "spin.”


What We Can Say

So how do we fight this? How do we get the word out that Mixed Breeds are not healthier than purebreds? What are we doing to bring the word "breeder” out of the shadows and given back the respect it once enjoyed? We may not have the opportunity to tell our story to millions on morning TV, but we can always talk to the people we meet, just one at a time.

Remember the story of the starfish? A man walking along a beach was tossing stranded starfish into the sea, and his companion asked why he was doing it. It didn’t matter because he couldn’t save them all. His answer was that it mattered to the starfish! If we all spoke to one person per day or one person a week, how many people would that be? If one in 10 of those people told his or her friends, who told their friends — how many more would there be? We do have a story to tell, and the important thing is to spread the word. Purebred dogs have predictable personalities and come in predictable packages — there are no guessing games as to what size or coat or abilities they might have, and they have known parentage with known health histories. If you convince just one person, remember the story of the starfish...


From the October 2014 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine, or call 1-888-738-2665 to purchase a single copy.


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Darlene   Suffolk, Virginia

7/7/2015 10:40:09 AM

just because they are Breeders of Merit...akc really does not monitor their kennels anymore than any other of them to
I refused the BOM I am one, do not need akc to tell me I am...there are many byb on that "good"
you want a breeder to be honest, Health test their pups (not just vet checked and get copies of ALL records on the dog, see the pups and both parents if possible, do not meet them on the side of the road, do not give any money until you have done that. I want an owner who has done their homework, who is willing to be honest, who does not want instant gratification, who will wait if a pup is not available and appreciate the care, work and socialization that goes into a nice well bred pup...I also want the owner to have a vet, whom I WILL contact to make sure they care for their pets. and guess what, YOU can contact my vet to make sure I do what I say I do...Good breeders do not have to have anyone verify that they are good breeders. Most programs are put out so that akc can make more money on
but my pups are akc registered and purebred, trained and home raised...and do not leave here until at least 12 wks of age...with all the pertainent information needed...and I do NOT ship...if I cannot meet you, talk to you, feel good abt. what type of owner you will be; and the same goes for you to is a no go...

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Linda   Sedalia, Missouri

4/20/2015 3:39:31 PM

Well, honestly, if you study genetics, the fewer in a specific group to breed with the more health problems there will be. Look at the "Spanish Habsburg Dynasty—also known as the House of Austria—bred their own blood line out of the history books" Quote from https://www.themedicalbag. com/article/impact-of-europes-royal-inbreeding?hc_- location=ufi

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Chris   Persia, Iowa

4/18/2015 11:23:57 PM

I agree that there has been gross misrepresentation by the media and by AR folks of purebred dogs and breeders. At the same time, we have not been good to ourselves, either. While I disagree with some points in your article, there is one I think you should do some more detailed research on, and that is the danger of closed stud books. Genetic diversity is now recognized as a necessary component for healthy survival of a species. Closed stud books are not good for any animal. Uncontrolled breeding is NOT the answer - but judicious and wise addition of breeding animals to a "partially closed" or "restricted" studbook is going to have to happen in order to keep our dogs healthy. This does not destroy purebreds. It does take advantage of scientific advancement to keep them as best we can as stewards of our breeds - as does health testing and DNA testing and many of the other recent advancements.

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Scarlet D   Medina, OH

2/18/2015 7:20:16 AM

All of this is true...But purebred breeders share some of the responsibility for their negative reputation. We spent 3 years looking for a breeder through AKC. Most did not respond to our emails, a few did. 2 that did, agreed to sell us a puppy (we need less allergenic dogs and have been around this breed for years) and both of these breeders of merit pulled some very unethical stuff - like both trying to do bait & switch with the puppies and more. The 1st time we walked away. 2nd time we stuck it out, bought our puppy with the assurance of a full registration for showing and possibly 1 or 2 litters at most. After much money, grooming, training and trickery on the part of the breeder (even though our pup won her class in both of her 1st shows which the breeder told to enter!) the breeder refused to grant full registration without us basically raising the dog with all costs, she had all breeding control and she got the only registered puppy from any litter! It was stated as a threat - give me this or else no registration. THAT is why you have such bad PR. Worse AKC charges people to file a complaint & refuses to listen or do anything about it. The show reps said, "AKC is not going to fight your battles for you. Cut your loses, go home and enjoy your dog." This is the elite protector of ethics in the sport of purebred dogs??!! And, all the other breeders at the shows said, yeah it's really wrong, but it happens too often. So, who is going to do anything about it? We do not condemn all breeders but we do not believe AKC or breeders of merit are out for the best. By the way, this breeder has 25 dogs, and at minimum 4-5 litters every fall and spring. Do you really believe this is for the betterment of the breed? We do not!

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