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Extreme breeding: Dogs like dachshunds deserve a healthy life

In the heart of the debate over “extreme dog breeding,” the iconic images of flat-faced French bulldogs and dachshunds with their distinctively short legs capture the public’s affection. Yet, beneath the surface of these endearing traits lies a concerning reality.

Animal welfare advocates across the United States and Europe are raising alarms over the health issues faced by dachshunds and other breeds, including severe breathing difficulties and musculoskeletal problems. These concerns have sparked a contentious dialogue about the ethics of breeding practices.

Legislative leash on dog breeding

The debate has reached legislative halls. In New Hampshire, legislators are considering a bill aimed at prohibiting the breeding of dogs with traits that lead to suffering. This includes the short noses characteristic of certain breeds.

Similarly, in Germany, proposals to ban “cruel” breeding practices underscore a growing concern over the well-being of dogs subjected to such genetic manipulation.

These legislative efforts highlight a critical question: Should breeding practices that prioritize aesthetic traits over health be allowed to continue?

The ethical divide on dog breeding

Mark Wells, an assistant professor of philosophy at Northeastern University, emphasizes the ethical dilemmas posed by breeding for extreme physical characteristics. He points out a troubling trend: breeders may not intentionally harm animals, yet the normalization of health issues indicates a problem.

Conditions such as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome in bulldogs and intervertebral disk disease in dachshunds highlight a disconnect that lies between breeders’ goals and the welfare of the animals.

“It’s not pleasant to be a pug in many ways,” said Wells, advocating for a shift away from breeding practices that prioritize harmful physical traits.

Kennel clubs bark back

Kennel associations, however, vehemently oppose these regulatory efforts, labeling proponents of such legislation as “extremists.”

The American Kennel Club and the German Kennel Club have been especially outspoken. In response to what they perceive as threats against breeds like dachshunds, the latter has launched a petition to “save our favorite dogs.”

Yet, as Wells clarifies, these legislative proposals do not aim to ban breeds. Instead, they seek to steer breeding practices toward healthier outcomes.

The concept of torture breeding

The concept of “torture breeding” (qualzucht), as described by Wells, is associated with the breeding of dogs with extreme physical traits.

The drive for certain physical traits in dogs has intensified over time, as noted by Terri Bright, an assistant psychology professor at Northeastern and a clinical behaviorist.

Subsequently, she has observed significant changes in the appearance of dog breeds over the past century. This observation points to a broader trend: breeding for aesthetics at the expense of health.

This shift raises questions about the role of dog shows and the influence of popular demand on breeding practices.

Imagining a healthier dog breed

Bright and Wells suggest that outright bans may not be the sole solution. Accordingly, education and a shift in public perception towards prioritizing health over aesthetics could be key.

Wells suggests reimagining breed standards for better health. “Can we imagine French bulldogs without labored breathing?”

This debate on extreme breeding amplifies the call for responsible practices prioritizing dog health and welfare. It challenges our beauty ideals and urges us to reflect on the ethics of our preferences.

More about dachshunds 

Dachshunds are a distinctive breed of dog known for their long bodies and short legs, which give them a unique, elongated appearance.

Originally bred in Germany to hunt badgers, their name literally means “badger dog” in German. These dogs are courageous and tenacious, which makes them excellent hunters despite their small size.

Types of dachshunds 

Dachshunds come in two sizes, standard and miniature, and they can have three types of coat: smooth, wirehaired, and longhaired. Each type has its own distinct grooming needs.

The dachshund breed is known for being playful and friendly, but they can also be stubborn, which can make training a bit of a challenge.

Potential spinal problems 

Their elongated body makes them prone to spinal problems, particularly intervertebral disk disease, which is why it’s important for them to avoid activities that could strain their spine like jumping from heights or climbing stairs excessively. 

Protective companions 

Despite their potential health issues, dachshunds are beloved for their loyal and protective nature, often forming strong bonds with their owners.

They are also known for their deep bark, which is surprisingly loud for their small size, making them good watchdogs. Dachshunds enjoy being part of the family and can be great companions when properly cared for and trained.


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