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Dog Eugenics – An Ongoing Epidemic

Photo taken by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

Last updated on August 16, 2022

Dogs. The long titled best friend of human beings. Their existence has benefitted us for decades as companions, hunters, or therapy animals. It is far too easy to say that they have done so much for us humans, but have we done as much for them? 

Nowadays, one dog might be living the high life in their penthouse while another is abandoned on the streets and has to scrounge for its food. That may sound like an unfortunate reality for many, but this article isn’t about adoption. Because chances are likely that the first dog is suffering as much, if not more, than the second. The reason for this goes back deeper than surface-level – it’s genetics. 

The attractive, adorable dogs often owned by wealthier individuals tend to have far more health problems than your average mutt. That’s not by coincidence. Because these dogs are often labeled as purebred, known for their better looks and genetic inferiority. These dogs are often inbred, or at least have limited gene pools. Essentially, dogs are bred with their family members to ensure that any offspring are pure and not mixed with another breed. 

But why would someone do such a thing?

Money and prestige. Since the dog show’s start in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1859, nothing has been done to dissuade the infatuation for purebred dogs. Especially not with their strict judges and neat guidelines on how a dog must look. For the most part, people get purebred dogs because of their aesthetics. They look a certain way and have a recognizable trait that makes them cuter. 

If we zoom out on dog breeding, the general ideas and practices used for these animals have another name. The reproduction of a human’s best friend to get a cuter, distinctive, perfect dog is a form of eugenics. Eugenics is a practice that has long been criticized for its racist roots, particularly in how it’s been used to justify genocide. It’s an unscientific belief claiming that those who have quality, superior traits should populate the world. While those who do not shouldn’t have children at all. Thus it furthers that one should prefer a specific trait because it’s’ better than other, less pure, traits.

Now, that sounds familiar! 

A widely known example of this issue is seen through the beloved pug. While pugs have adorable eyes that always seem to be looking up at you, the truth of the matter is that such dogs are most likely in constant pain. Their squashed-looking face leads to severe breathing problems, which has often been attributed to why pugs faint. This means that humans have reduced an animal to its peak fragile state to the point where it can’t breathe. Yet, human beings are not desperate to get rid of this trait anytime soon. Using cuteness and aesthetics as an excuse, these conditions only worsen. 

It’s important to note that the same effects don’t impact mixed dogs to such a high level. It’s because a lot of health conditions specific to each breed can’t be passed down to a dog that is made up of many breeds. Of course, mutts can still have genetic health conditions, but at least it isn’t a guarantee like it is with purebred dogs.

If anyone were to use these same practices with human beings instead of dogs, there would be an outcry over how immoral such ideas are. In fact, historically, any attempts to do so have been completely condemned. Forcing any living creature to endure the conditions dogs have had to face only to achieve a certain look is beyond cruel. Without facing these realities and at least taking a step to realize how horrible these acts are, there is no hope of repairing the future and righting the endless wrongs committed against a species. 

Most dogs nowadays are a hodge-podge of different breeds. Yet, some dogs remain as purebred as their parents and grandparents long before them. These kinds of dogs have seen disproportionate health effects. Of which will never stop anytime soon. Driven by aesthetics, specific desired traits, and even the industry of dog breeding. There is no other label to put this under than dog eugenics. So next time instead of ordering a purebred dog and being put on an extensive waitlist, find an alternative. Rescue, Adopt, or give a home to a dog who needs one. Because otherwise, can we truly say that a dog’s best friend is humankind? 

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