Posts Tagged ‘pekingese’

And your solution is?


A quite a bit of social media buzz about the pekingese that won the AKC National Championship last month. The show was televised on Animal Planet this week, and the pekingese won it.

Pekingese are, to put it mildly, an extremely derived form of domestic dog. They are brachycephalic and achondroplastic. They are not my favorite kind of dog, and if you go through the old posts on this blog, you will see that I generally hated them. When you’re doing the angry dog blogging, this breed is great cannon fodder.

But the truth is I have very limited experience with pekingese. I have spent some time with a backyard-bred one, but I seriously doubt that he is representative of the top-level show dogs in this breed.

And this is a problem. Most of the people making these health claims about this breed have never been around one.  This backyard-bred one does have some health and  grooming challenges. He also does not possess the best temperament, which these show dogs clearly do have.

Most of the commentary I’ve seen suggest that we return to the days of yore, when the British were smuggling pekes out of the Forbidden City.  You know, the time when the dogs had less coat and more muzzle, and we could all be satisfied and happy if we just went back to those days.

This is a common trope in this sort of commentary. The original dogs were always better, because they are less derived, less exaggerated. It’s a trope that I once parroted without considering the dynamics as carefully as I should have.

Someone might want to return to that older style of pekingese, which is interesting. Very few pekes are show-bred. The vast majority of them are bred as pets, and most of those have that desired Forbidden City phenotype.  If you want one, you can buy one.

But the idea that we can somehow force the show community to accept that aesthetic as the new standard of excellence is a bit off. It is the case of someone thinking they know better than someone else and then forcing that opinion into some sort of edict.

And that is a recipe for any concerns to fall on deaf ears. There are issues with pekingese. There are issues with all breeds. To address them rationally requires a certain understanding of the subculture of the breed, and the social media and internet commentary takes almost no time to do this.

Instead, it’s a game of playing with aesthetics.  If your aesthetic is a dog that is only barely derived from a wolf, like a West Siberian laika or a basenji, then a pekingese will never match it.

But not everyone has that aesthetic, and grown-ups in free societies are okay with others having aesthetics that differ from our own.

We also need better science around the issues of dog welfare and conformation. Studies about the welfare issues surrounding brachycephaly do exist. We need more of those, and we need better ones, ones with large sample sizes and even more rigorous statistical methodology.

But even if we had all the science in the world that suggests the pekingese phenotype is somehow cruel, the breeders would want to produce them. They would be open to suggestions, I’m sure, but I don’t think they would want to change the pekingese fundamentally.

And this raises a simple question. We have all these people spouting about dog health and conformation issues these days, but not a single one has come up with a practical solution to the problem, other than, of course, shaming the breeders who produce those dogs.

And you know what those breeders do with those shaming rants? They ignore you, and they double down. They will not take you seriously.

The solution, then, is more nuanced. The solution is understanding that we don’t know everything and that our chest-thumping will lead us nowhere.

So in my long apology tour for the damage I once did here, I offer yet another mea culpa.

I don’t think I served the dogs very well, even though I thought I did. I was just spinning my wheels and asking for adulation. I got the adulation, but I did so without considering the impact of my words.

And for that, I will always be sorry.







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What is Gobi?

This little dog was discovered in the Gobi desert in China on 155-mile race.

The thinking that this dog is a “chihuahua cross” is a bit wrong, I think. I think she’s something a bit more special than that.

I think she is a landrace East Asian toy dog, the ancestral form that leads to the Pekingese, the original pug, the Japanese chin, and other dogs of this type.

I don’t there are many chihuahuas in the Gobi Desert, and she certainly should have her DNA tested.

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A pekingese with a profile like this:

Anyone who can say that dog shows are solely about selecting for improvements within breeding stock clearly needs to have their heads examined.

And even if we accept that some breeds do have functional standards, it is the same piece of paper that says the sleek German short-haired pointer is of breeding quality that also says the same about the deformed pekingese.

Why would anyone who breeds functional dogs want anything to do with an organization that rewards pekingeses, bulldogs, and pugs?

This is why I think multibreed registries really don’t have much of a place in the future of dogs.

And if breeders of functional breeds had half a brain, they would walk out of these registries that celebrate deformity en masse.

What good is to say that you breed dogs to functional standard when in the ring next to you there are all these dogs struggling to breathe and cool themselves?

These dogs defame dog breeding as a respectable activity. They are not worth defending in the least.






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Ti Ti, a pekingese painted by Maud Earl in 1913.

Ti Ti, a pekingese painted by Maud Earl in 1913. 

And here are photos of the winner of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 2012, Ch. Palacegarden Malachy:

palacegarden malachy

palacegarden malachy profile

The great “breed improvement” contests that have gone on for the past century have certainly done their magic.

What was once a pretty hardy little dog is now a little lion trying to be a marmoset.

It’s now so short-legged that it waddles around when it walks, and we’ve now seen the creation of the ultimate heat-retaining little dog that has both the extremely distorted respiratory/cooling system of the flat-faced dog and a thick undercoat of something we’d expect to see from the arctic.

I don’t know how sane people allowed this to happen, but my word, it is has.



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A nice little dog with a brain, a muzzle, and a good temperament:


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What lies inside no one knows.

This beast has slain many a noble and courageous knight.

And now all fear the giant shag monster!

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So says the Team Jenneh “We Was Robbed” Facebook Group. 

I’m gonna have to call BULLSHIT on that one! Yeah, bulldog bullshit. It’s not what happens when you cross one with a shih-tzu.

It was well known 10o years ago that bulldogs were radically different from what they once were. This painting by Cresswell H. Desmond from The Twentieth Century Dog Vol. I by Herbert Compton.  The image comes from the 1904 edition. What does the symbolism of this painting suggest?

(Source for image.)

The “Old Order” is the long-legged, long tailed bulldog, and the “New Order” is the squat monstrosity of canine flesh that is the modern bulldog.

This image denotes change in type.

I don’t have to show you more images. I could go through Stonehenge’s work and show you all the old-type bulldogs.  I could dig up bulldog paintings of yore.

I could do all of that.

And the Team Jenneh acolytes would still parrot the line about bulldogs always being like this. I’ve actually been through that Robert Leighton book, and he doesn’t say that bulldogs are fine. Quite the opposite. In fact, the Leighton book just shows how long bulldogs been unusually delicate animals. Puppies died all the time. Bitches had trouble whelping. If only bulldogs had only those problems to worry about today!

The Team Jenneh folks are looking like a bunch of spoiled children who just got their dessert taken away from dinner.

When I was a kid and got in trouble for that sort of thing, we got put on the chair and told “Shamey, shamey!”

Well, here’s your “shamey, shamey”  for acting like a bunch of spoiled brats.

Your dog didn’t pass a health exam that you knew it would have to face if it won BOB.

It didn’t.

The ref called a foul.

Get over it!

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Although treated as cute on the internet, this Ohio bulldog is actually suffering from its reduced ability to cool itself through panting. That's why it has situated itself on a pile of ice.

This comes from the wonderful post by the Dog Zombie, a vet student and excellent dog health blogger:

From the other side of the fence, in anesthesia lecture we got a moment to think about the welfare of dogs. Dr. Bonne talked about managing brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs when they recover from anesthesia. When a dog is under general anesthesia, it has an endotracheal tube (“trach tube”) put down its throat to help it breathe. Most dogs need to have the trach tube removed before they are fully awake. Not brachycephalics. Dr. Bonne showed us a photo of a bulldog: “Look, there he is, wide awake with the tube in, breathing wonderfully. They will do that for an hour or so.” Brachycephalics often have tracheas the width of a tomcat’s, just 5.5 mm in diameter. It is not really enough for them to breathe. When they wake up with a trach tube in, it may be the first time in their lives in which they can breathe easily. Dr. Bonne expounded: “Can you imagine, they must spend so much energy every day, just to breathe. They are perfectly happy with the trach tube in. You should leave it in until the last minute, until they are almost ready to walk out the door. Nobody else tolerates the tube the way that these dogs do.” To my mind, she didn’t go quite far enough — she didn’t ever suggest that perhaps brachycephalics should be bred with a little more care to whether or not they can breathe. But I still appreciated the rant, as far as it went.

Now, if that’s not a welfare problem from poor breeding practices, then I don’t know what is.

The Dog Zombie also talks about a type of tumor that is caused by the reduced oxygenation that these brachycephalic breeds experience:

This is actually the veterinary fact of yesterday. During small animal medicine and surgery, a surgeon was discussing chemodectomas, tumors arising from chemoreceptors. A chemoreceptor is a cluster of cells which measures chemical changes in the body, such as oxygen level. The surgeon asserted that brachycephalic dogs (flat-faced dogs, like pugs and bulldogs) get chemodectomas more often than other types of dogs, possibly due to “chronic asphyxiation.” In other words, in his opinon (and that of other veterinarians), the fact that flat-faced dogs can’t really get enough air in through their tiny noses can actually result in cancer.

I’m not going to talk about the physiology behind how this would work, because we didn’t cover that in class. I will say that I think it is a failing of the veterinary profession as a whole to not discuss these kinds of issues more with people who are deciding what kind of dog to get. “That breed of dog is more likely to get this form of cancer” is a very different statement from “that breed of dog can’t get enough air into its system, which can cause all kinds of problems, including cancer. We should be encouraging breeders to breed a little more snout into these dogs so they can be healthy.”

So even if the dogs have relatively clear airways, there are still health and welfare problems associated with the phenotype.

This phenotype is a major scandal. How would you feel if you didn’t have the ability fully oxygenate yourself? I have been around lifelong smokers who have had issues with COPD, and I can tell you it’s not fun.

How would you like to have a reduced ability to cool yourself? How would you like if you had no sweat glands at all and were out running around in 95 degree heat?  You wouldn’t last.

Now imagine you’re a dog with a 102 degree body temperature and already compromised ability to shed excess heat. How do justify breeding something like this?

But because established breeders and their clubs have decided that it is “correct,” no one has called them out on it.

Until now.

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