Some phylosophy about the breeding of the healthiest dogs and what can go wrong when we breed for appearance only …
Selection on appearance
Nowadays, many dogs breeds are selected for their appearance. As a consequence, many breeds evolve to become more and more extreme. Short noses become shorter, long ears become longer and curled tails become more curled. What would happen if this trend continues? We can actually see that already. Big-headed breeds are often born through cesarian sections. Short-nosed dogs routinely get operations to ensure that they can breathe more or less normally. Some argue that tails need to be amputated to avoid that they become damaged. Clearly, this way of selecting dogs creates animals that need more and more human care to live.
Or, selection on health and longevity?
Is this really what we want? Or, would we be happier when our dogs are healthy animals with a long life span and limited veterinary care? Sometimes, when I see people walking with a small, short-legged or overweighted dog, I wonder if those owners would be able to handle a healthier animal, which can walk and run without getting out of breath. But apart from that, how should a dog look?
For that, we have to look at dogs for which appearance is determined by health. These fall into two categories: working dogs which are only selected for their working abilities and street dogs which would not survive and reproduce unless they are the most fit possible. True, there are many ill and very poor street dogs, but I am thinking about village dogs, which live on the street for many generations.
The so-called primitive breeds
It should not be surprising that all these dogs look roughly the same. The best example is the dog which lives on his own for the longest time: the dingo. But there are others: Carolina dogs, middle-sized Taiwan dogs and some shepherd dogs, sledge dogs, Akita’s. Also, some hunting dogs fall in this category but not all (because many hunting dogs have soft, hanging ears which are prone to infections and cannot be seen as the most functional ear shape). These are often called “primitive breeds”, but, if you follow the reasoning above, they are the future of the animal species dog. The modern show breeds, on the other hand, are a dead end if they do not receive the expert care of their owners.
The appearance of a healthy dog
So, how do they look? Well, short-haired to stock-haired, but not ultra short: their tail is bushy. They are middle-sized, around 15-20 kg. The muzzle is long, with a neat scissor bite and their ears are erect. The tail is straight or slightly curved. The colour is variable, often yellow but can also be also brindle, black or with a saddle pattern. Wolf-like colours also occur, as do white patches. However, there are no entirely white dogs and some other colours are also missing (no Dalmatian spotted ones, no merle). In village dogs, this pattern is regularly obscured because dogs may mate with escaped exhibition breed dogs (or just with dogs which roam free, but return to their owner by the end of the day). However, after one or two generations only the original type survives.
So, if you want to contribute to the future of the animal species “dog”, choose a dingo-like “primitive” breed, but note that some “primitive breeds” are strongly selected for appearance and are no longer fitting in the description in this blog
Written by Paul Veenvliet, 05.12.2018
The gallery below shows dingo-like Village dogs in Taiwan.