From my ‘Crossing the headlines’ column in Dog World (6th November 2013) where I review more new TV documentaries on dogs and the promotion of designer dogs.

 

So, has the Kennel Club at long last decided to change direction? What with the announcement that crossbreeds will not now be registered and then the change of heart over CC allocation, could it really be true that the KC is now listening to the hardworking breed clubs and councils and, most importantly, the exhibitors?

From a personal point, it’s also been gratifying to have many of my arguments (put forward in this column and seized upon elsewhere) justified.

Maybe now the KC could look across the pond and listen to what the new AKC chairman has recently said:”We will immediately and aggressively respond to any attack utilising our partners, our supporters and our full media assets.”

This is exactly the kind of weapons needed to fend off further attacks from the BBC. Wouldn’t it be good to have our KC put a little of its recent £12m windfall aside for a similar media response or publicity venture?

Far too often, TV shows are broadcast that slate pedigree dogs and their owners and make all sorts of inaccurate statements with absolutely no response or comeback.

Hypocrisy

The oft-quoted throwaway remark of “it’s a proven fact that crossbreeds are statistically healthier than pedigrees” is banded about and goes completely unchallenged and the public – who are (now more than ever before) so heavily influenced by what they see and hear on the TV – take it all on board.

Then, when it’s time to buy a puppy of their own, is it any wonder that they heed the advice from the celebrity vets and opt for the trendy designer dog with its much touted (and incorrect) claims of ‘hybrid vigour’ and resistance to hereditary disease, shunning the KC assured breeders and heading for the puppy farmer?

I noticed a letter in DW by Diana Hudson regarding another BBC show, Ronnie’s Animal Crackers. I was particularly interested in what she had to say about it as I’d watched the same programme and shared her dismay in what I saw.

Jasper the Poodle (whose owner is an approved breeder of the Cockapoo Club – a club that still insists that its dogs are hypoallergenic) was having a party with a number of the 400 pups he’d sired to “celebrate retirement from his breeding career”. The BBC described the episode as follows: “We meet Jasper, a poodle super-stud who has fathered an astounding four hundred puppies.”

Apparently, producing 400 crossbred pups from him is perfectly admissible and even admirable. Talk about hypocrisy!

And this is exactly what angers the majority of pedigree dog lovers; the sheer hypocrisy, the many one-sided arguments and blatant untruths. All of these need a robust response and not the knee-jerk reactions or the pandering we’ve witnessed in the past. Even when the opportunity is there to get our point across, it is often sadly missed; the KC was supposed to have been a key contributor to The Wonder of Dogs. But where exactly were they?

Strangely enough, last week’s episode featured Caroline Kisko delivering the results of Ronnie’s crossbreed’s DNA results! The BBC does seem strangely obsessed with these DNA kits as they also featured rather heavily on The Wonder of Dogs.

The final episode of this programme went on to deliver the ‘coup de grace’ finishing with some heavily staged and somewhat stilted conversation promoting the benefits of crossbreeds and the rising numbers of ‘doodles and ‘poos with Steve Leonard stating: “If we want healthy dogs we have to keep mixing things up a bit.”

It’s particularly frustrating for people like myself who have had experience of working in a large boarding kennels and have seen the numbers of crossbreeds boarded with all kinds of conditions and ailments. These constant claims by the ‘celebrity vet’ brigade are false, damaging and are playing right into the hands of the puppy farmers who use such spurious remarks in their online advertisements to tempt the public.

Once again the same old, tired lines are trotted out by people who really should know better. Another renowned vet stated that by having parents from two different breeds you are “diluting the potential problems of hereditary disease” – totally at odds to research I’ve seen.

It shouldn’t have been too surprising to hear this from him as (according to my copy of Desmond Morris’ Dogs) back in the 80s he’d sung the praises of the ‘Bichon-Yorkie’ for its “hybrid vigour” and the fact that it was “less likely to have slipping kneecaps or retained baby teeth than either of its parent breeds”.

A casual glance at a leading ‘English Labradoodle’ kennel advertisement (because apparently your English Labradoodle is very different to the Australian version) demonstrates the power of celebrity and, surprise, surprise, even the aforementioned vet pops up!

‘Mongrel is king’

There does seem to be an agenda in certain sections of society that seems to say, ‘why isn’t a mongrel or rescue dog good enough for you?’ or ‘why should you own something different from the rest of society, which is increasingly becoming monotone and bland?’.

And woe betide anyone who dares to stick their head above the parapet and justify their passion for then they are slammed as elitist or practitioners of eugenics and there is no organisation or body to back them in their fight back.

Over and over again we constantly hear that the ‘mongrel is king’ but this is somewhat at odds to the numbers of them found languishing in kennels up and down the country. Why is it that the pedigree fraternity is attacked for producing puppies when, on my visits to such establishments, I certainly don’t see them overflowing with pedigree dogs. The majority of the unfortunate dumped inhabitants are Staffordshire Bull Terrier crosses, Collie crosses or Jack Russells.

Exactly the same thing is happening in the cat fancy. They are attacked for producing kittens when so many cats are “abandoned and needing homes” but, once again, the rescue catteries are not exactly filled to the brim with Siamese and Chinchillas. Many of their breeders – like many of ours – have waiting lists for stock and that is exactly how it should be.

The point needs to be made that the wilful production of crossbreeds is certainly not responsible breeding and this is the kind of breeding that should be firmly addressed.

The KC were wise to have stepped away from the registration of the ‘doodles and cockapoos as surely this is the next rehoming timebomb set to explode just as the Husky/Husky-cross one has recently done.

I totally agree with what Simon Parsons said (DW, Oct 25):  “Our KC has done so much to promote the truth but so often it’s reactive. Don’t we need to get the message out there more?”. He then went on to write about the constant advertisements by the Dogs Trust (asking viewers to consider a rescue dog) and then asked where is the KC equivalent? Exactly.

Which all goes back to my opening argument and something I’ve pressed for in past articles; our world needs to get far more media savvy and get out there and promote the benefits of owning a pedigree dog. For far too long we’ve sat back suffering attack after attack.

Yes, there is a KC presence on YouTube and it does come up with some good initiatives but what good are they if you are just preaching to the converted?

A well-placed and thought-out TV ad could drive millions of viewers to the site and much more effectively get the KC’s objectives across. We need an organisation that is willing to stand up and fight for us and our treasured breeds.

Soon, Crufts will be upon us once again. Instead of filling our all-too-precious TV slot with nonsense like ‘clothes for dogs’, why not use the time wisely to educate viewers presenting vignettes of the fascinating histories of our favourite breeds or find a celebrity who is looking for a pedigree puppy and take him or her through the ABS process? I understand a famous football manager is currently looking for a new Bulldog!

 

Read more news and articles at Dog World: http://www.dogworld.co.uk/product.php/103583

 

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