Nothing has been more destructive to the health of dogs than the Kennel Club promotion of bizarre breeds, fake histories, contrived standards, and extreme show ring exaggerations.
That said, following the showing of the BBC's Pedigree Dogs Exposed, the Kennel Club has taken some small steps forward, mostly of a remedial nature, and I applaud that.
Father-daughter and mother-son incest has finally been banned, and a few small changes were made to a few breeds standards, though the Kennel Club continues to allow breed judges to award top ribbons to dogs that are outside those breed standards.
So why this new round of applause?
Simple: The Kennel Club has taken an important step forward, this time to send a message to breeders of show-line German Shepherds that the animals they have been saluting in the ring -- canines best described as "half frog and half dog" -- will no longer cut the mustard.
German Shepherd at the Manchester Show, 2008
In a July 28th notice, the Kennel Club let it be known that it was no longer going to allocate Challenge Certificates to German Shepherd dogs until certain basic health matters were cleared up:
The Kennel Club has recently completed the overall allocation of Championship Status for 2012 (published in the August issue of the Kennel Gazette) but has declined for the time being to allocate Kennel Club Challenge Certificates for that year to German Shepherd Dogs (Alsatians) until it has resolved various matters with the GSD fraternity.
The Kennel Club has been in contact with representatives from the German Shepherd Dog Clubs and Council to discuss concerns raised by judges over the conformation of the breed as frequently seen in the show ring.
During the course of these discussions it has been stressed that the Kennel Club is aware of sensitivities within the breed, but is also acutely conscious that there is a clear need for the KC and breed clubs to work together to resolve health issues of all kinds and put an end to the practice of double handling.
The KC Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group is particularly keen to ensure both the proper application of the Kennel Club Breed Standard – and the avoidance of exaggeration – by judges and breeders alike. The Kennel Club notes the level of valid criticism from all quarters; not only within the world of dogs, but also from the veterinary profession and from the general public. The KC is aware of similar concerns in other parts of Europe.
GSD breed representatives were asked, in the discussions that have taken place, to help enhance the reputation of this well recognised breed. There was agreement that there were problems with the hindquarters of some dogs, and that dogs with hocks touching or almost touching were most unsatisfactory. It was felt by some that the tendency for this stemmed from the length of the second thigh. Concern has also been expressed over the potential adverse effect on health both of exaggerated toplines which seem in some cases to be almost roached, and of toplines which fall away in an exaggerated manner.
Breed representatives agreed that during their training, judges must be made aware of the need for overall soundness and, in particular, strength in the hindquarters.
Well there's progress!
It is almost the one-year anniversary of Pedigree Dogs Exposed, and still things are moving along.
Of course, things are only moving because of fear that unless The Kennel Club steps up and shows it is capable of implementing real change, that change will be imposed from without. As I have noted in the past, those who will not fence up for themselves, generally find themselves fenced in by others.
The real concern, I believe, is Patrick Bateson's report, which The Kennel Club itself has commissioned. That report is not expected before the end of the year, but if The Kennel Club is taking action now to deal with the poor movement and roached backs of German Shepherd's (not a new phenomenon!), it must mean they have real fear.
Meanwhile, the American Kennel Club continues along, with its fingers in it ears and its eyes shut, its own roached-back and nearly-lame showline German Shepherds the laughing stock of the dog world. The U.S. Secret Service will not even consider using an American German Shepherd. Look at the quality, and it's no wonder!