Let’s not ruin man’s best friend

Ethical and responsible dog breeding is important

More stories from Winter Heffernan

April 3, 2023

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when you keep pushing the envelope, the quality of life and health of the dog falls to the wayside in the name of profit.

If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings, you should be familiar with the concept of orcs—miserable creatures bred solely to serve their evil master’s diabolical schemes. They are creatures that have been corrupted to serve a sole purpose, pitied among all living things.

In Tolkien’s writings, the origin of these creatures is tragic. They were originally elves, a beautiful and majestic people. Sauron, the antagonist of the trilogy, kidnapped some elves in the distant past and forcefully bred them to make mockeries of their former selves.

I bring this obscure tidbit of fantasy lore to make a point. This is exactly what some dog breeders do when they make some “designer breeds” or purebreds.

Designer dogs are a modern phenomenon that mixes two distinct breeds to give an appearance that is desirable or “cute.” The problem with this process is that its priority is first and foremost appearance. 

The health of the animals they are breeding is secondary and often ignored.

For example, Goldendoodles, when bred irresponsibly, have a very high likelihood of getting hip dysplasia. According to goldendoodles.com, this happens when either the hip joint doesn’t fit in the socket, or the socket is too shallow to begin with.

Breeders of designer dogs should do their research and genetically test the potential parents before breeding. Instead, I see many different breeders that do not test their parents and produce litters like a pair of shoes, expendable and interchangeable.

Purebred dogs are not a new concept. Unfortunately, that means their health problems are more common and extreme. When two dogs of very similar genetic make-up are bred together, it isn’t surprising that there will be health concerns. 

My example of problematic purebreds is the Bulldog. According to breedingbuisness.com, the irresponsible breeding of the English Bulldog can lead to horrible health conditions. The website mentions that at this point, most English Bulldogs have to be delivered by C-section.

A bigger head, shorter legs and a blockier build, all these traits could be desired in a breed, but when you keep pushing the envelope, the quality of life and health of the dog falls to the wayside in the name of profit. 

Now, not all breeders are reminiscent of evil overlord Sauron. Some breeders will work with a veterinarian to ensure that there will not be any genetic problems in potential parents. Not all breeders will overproduce liters, causing overpopulation. Responsible breeders exist.

Sometimes, selective breeding causes positive outcomes as well. For example, to make service dogs acceptable to a more diverse range of people, breeders may choose to breed labradoodles or poodles. This goes a long way to increase some people’s quality of life.

The problem is that sometimes irresponsibility can be a competitive advantage. Not paying vet bills saves money and selling more puppies means you get more money. Irresponsible breeders are not only hurting their animals, but the industry as a whole.

If you want a dog, the first place you should always look is the animal shelter, but if you are allergic or have important requirements, make sure you get your new friend from a responsible breeder. Don’t give puppy mills your money, support people who actually care.

Heffernan can be reached at [email protected].