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Breed for Health or The Show Ring Standard?

Updated: Jan 24

There's much evidence demonstrating that the welfare and quality of life of many pedigree and purebred dogs are seriously compromised as a result of established selective breeding practices.

Selective breeding:

Most dog breeds were originally selected for particular purposes, such as hunting or guarding property. Humans selectively bred dogs that were best suited for the various roles required of them, based on their fitness, ability and utility.

Nowadays, in order to WIN DOG SHOWS, pedigree dogs have been bred to emphasise certain physical features in accordance with breed standards set by the Kennel Club. The dog who is judged to most closely match its breed standard is awarded the winner.

As a side effect of keeping different dog breeds separate, and focussing on breeding for appearance, there's a lack of genetic diversity within dog breeds. This lack of genetic diversity can increase the risk of inherited diseases.

Exaggerated features that can cause dogs to suffer:

Below are some examples of problems that pedigree dogs can suffer from as a result of selective breeding range from irritating to life-threatening issues, or those that require risky surgery.


Pugs, French bulldogs and other similar types of 'designer' dogs have short, flat faces and therefore often have narrow nostrils and abnormal windpipes. Flat-faced dogs are called brachycephalic, many of these dogs have breathing difficulties and struggle with exercise.

Bulging or sunken eyes are prone to injury, pain and discomfort.

Long floppy ears often suffer ear infections or injury and can't move their ears to communicate with other dogs.

There's been a lot of media coverage recently about 'brachycephalic' dogs (dogs with short, flat faces) because many of them suffer from serious health issues. In recent years the popularity and ownership of these dogs had grown drastically, fuelled in part by their increased use in advertising and the media. Although their squishy faces and big eyes are often considered cute or comic, sadly these features can cause painful health problems and prevent dogs from being able to enjoy normal activities like playing and running. It can also be really distressing and expensive for owners.

The breathing problems that these dogs are at risk from are well-documented.

Here at Free Range Pooches NZ we do trachea grading as part of our French Bulldog health testing program.

But did you also know that many brachycephalic dogs also suffer from eye problems? A recent study found that brachycephalic dogs were 20 times more likely to be affected by painful eye ulcers than non-brachycephalic dogs.


Dogs with a large head and small hips have trouble giving birth which can risk their lives or require surgery.

We here at Free Range Pooches are very proud to have some lines that can birth naturally.

Very large and heavy dogs are more likely to suffer heart, digestion, muscle and joint problems and live shorter lives.

Dogs with long backs can suffer crippling deformities whilst those with ridges along the back are prone to nervous system problems.

Very curly or short tails can make it difficult for dogs to communicate as they can't raise or wag their tail.

Screw or corkscrew tail dogs can suffer with crippling back deformities.


Folded and wrinkled skin can get itchy and sore whilst also causing infolding eyelids that scratch the eye.

Hairless dogs struggle to keep warm.

Is this all cruelty to animals?

Stopping health problems in pedigree and purebred dogs:

We believe that all those who breed dogs - whether pedigree, purebred or crossbreed - should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance. This will help protect the welfare of both the parents and puppies.

What can we all do to help?

Owning a dog who has health problems can be devastating. And it can be really hard taking that leap and thinking, 'this isn't ok', especially when we're faced with thousands of social media videos of 'funny Pugs snoring'. But if your flat-faced dog snores or snuffles, or your dog (of any breed) has any issues or symptoms which you might have been told are 'normal for French Bulldogs, don't believe the social media videos and ask for some advice from your vet. Your pet may have a health problem and they could be missing out on the treatment that'll help them live a more comfortable life.

There are some great breeders out there who love their dogs and work hard to make sure they breed happy healthy puppies. They'll want you to visit more than once, won't force you into buying on the first visit and will grill you about your home and lifestyle to make sure their puppies are going to good homes.

They will talk about health testing and show you their results.

Look beyond looks, Look for Health Testing first!

Now, you might be wondering, "What is a DNZ breeder?"

In New Zealand, DNZ stands for Dogs New Zealand, the national kennel club.

To become a DNZ registered breeder, an individual must meet specific criteria.

They need to be a member of Dogs New Zealand and breed dogs with pedigrees, meaning their dogs have official pedigree papers that trace their lineage.

The process typically involves paying a fee and selecting a kennel name to represent their breeding operation.

Overseas some kennel clubs now require breeders to have health tested dogs and kennel inspections.

As a dog lover, it makes me really sad when I see dogs struggling to breathe, walk, play, or enjoy a normal, happy life due to breeding practices that prioritize appearance over health. Whether this is driven by profit or the desire to win shows, it's crucial for us all to advocate for responsible breeding practices that prioritize the overall welfare of these incredible animals.

Hopefully NZ catches up with what is happening in some countries overseas

  • Show dogs must be health tested

  • Breeders must health test their dogs

Just because a dog wins in the Show Ring does not mean it is a healthy example of the breed.

At Free Range Pooches NZ, our top priority is the well-being of our dogs. Ensuring their health and happiness is our utmost concern.

The well-being of our dogs takes precedence, making it our utmost concern.

Our primary focus is on the health and happiness.

Vet bills can be expensive 😪

Free Range Pooches NZ recommends PD Insurance, to sign up for your puppy/dog just click on this link to get started

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