by Jacqueline Ragland
Reprinted with permission from the AKC Gazette
An issue emerging in the United Kingdom is of critical importance to every Pekingese breeder worldwide. It is also important for all of us in the dog sport to be aware of, because if breeders don’t “wake up and smell the flowers,” some of our breeds may cease to exist or be arbitrarily changed in appearance by outside forces.
It has been in the wind for some time that breeders of Pekingese and other breeds, including other brachycephalic breeds, are under public scrutiny in the U.K. for breeding from standards perceived to create health problems.
Sadly, the Pekingese is the first breed to be singled out for severe criticism in the U.K. The primary points of criticism are that the breed is considered to have too flat a face, excessive nose wrinkles, breathing problems, and excessive coat. Heart problems are also mentioned. (I do not believe heart problems are a widespread problem in the breed; I have never had heart problems in my dogs, after long years of breeding Pekingese. That said, though, if severe breathing problems exist, heart problems can theoretically result.)
We need to be aware that powers that be in the U.K. want to change that country’s standard for the Pekingese in an effort to correct these problems. (This situation is not happening here in the United States, but what happens elsewhere can affect us.)
Of course, the solution lies not in changing a breed’s standard, but in educated, responsible breeding toward eliminating any breed health problems! What is not being addressed in the criticisms is that responsible breeders worldwide always have this goal foremost in mind.
So, how do individuals help to create a beautiful, healthy, sound, normally-breathing Pekingese? The obvious starting point is to never breed a Pekingese that has obstructed breathing, be it from an overhanging nose-wrinkle, pinched nostrils, or whatever reason. Cosmetically or surgically “fixing” such faults is not only illegal but self-defeating. Prospective buyers who are sold a dog with these faults should immediately return the dog. Judges need to look for these faults and penalize them severely. If a dog in the show ring cannot breathe well, it should be excused. What I am about to say may sound harsh, but I firmly believe that if a dog cannot breathe, it should be put down. An animal that cannot breathe freely and easily has no real quality of life.
Only by following such strict measures can we ever eliminate health hazards and ensure that Pekes are able to live long, healthy lives.
I sincerely hope that breeders of other breeds will also take heed. The Pekingese is not the only breed being singled out; your breed may well be next.