Cute Little Monstrosities of Nature

Roman Mars:
This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars.

Roman Mars:
In February of 2021 at around 9:40 PM, Ryan Fischer was taking a lovely evening stroll down Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles. Fischer, a self-described “nanny to a frenzy of Frenchies” had three French bulldogs in tow as he turned onto a residential street. Suddenly, a white sedan pulled up next to him. And two men sprang out of the vehicle…

Tove Danovich:
They were armed and they demanded that he hand over the dogs, immediately.

Roman Mars:
That is journalist Tove Danovich.

Tove Danovich:
Ryan Fischer did not hand over the dogs and as a result, he was shot once in the chest.

NEWS REPORT:
Gunshots were heard, two of them. The victim falls back as the assailants race back to the car with the two dogs.

Tove Danovich:
The attackers fled with two of the three Frenchies who were named Koji and Gustav.

Roman Mars:
Fischer luckily survived the shooting, but this dog-napping triggered a wave of media attention. Because Koji and Gustav weren’t just any Frenchies, they were Lady Gaga’s Frenchies…

NEWS REPORT:
Friends of the man who was shot tell us he was constantly walking Lady Gaga’s dogs in this neighborhood…

Roman Mars:
Due to their celebrity owner, a lot of people assumed the dogs were stolen to collect a ransom from Lady Gaga.

Tove Danovich:
She did in fact offer a $500,000 reward for their return, which is a lot of money.

Roman Mars:
Yeah! That is a lot of money…

Tove Danovich:
But the truth is, if anyone had been walking down this road in Los Angeles with Frenchies at the time that this dog walker was, those dogs would have been targeted.

[MUSIC]

Roman Mars:
This whole fiasco had nothing to do with Lady Gaga. It was just a crime of opportunity. Because at the end of the day, dogs aren’t just pets, they’re commodities. And while this particular case got a huge amount of media attention, French bulldog theft is actually extremely common. Frenchies can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $9,000, and some with rare colored coat patterns go for up to $20,000. The average take in a bank robbery, by the way – according to the FBI – is $6,500. I’d wager that stealing someone’s French bulldog off the street is significantly easier than robbing a bank.

Tove Danovich:
$15,000 worth of French bulldog. It’s a pretty, pretty good day, I would say.

[MUSIC]

Roman Mars:
There is a huge demand for French bulldogs because these dogs are selectively bred and designed with human needs in mind. Frenchies are marketed as easy and friendly, perfect for millennial workers on the go. They don’t bark much or shed; they barely need walks… They’re the second most popular dog breed in America today, presumably because they don’t have the many of the needs or demands of regular dogs. But how did we get here, to this point where we’ve tried to breed the dog out of dogs? Tove Danovich wrote a great essay about the history of purebred dogs for Vox, and she says that oddly enough, to understand the modern obsession with purebred dogs like the Frenchie, you actually have to start with chickens… Victorian-era chickens.

Tove Danovich:
Someone brought Queen Victoria some extremely fancy chickens.

Roman Mars:
And soon after receiving these very bougie chickens, The Queen became obsessed with owning poultry, which eventually meant EVERYONE became obsessed with owning poultry.

Tove Danovich:
Victorians! Never met a fad they didn’t like, so… [laughs]

Roman Mars:
It became an international craze. These chickens would go for the equivalent of thousands of dollars and would be exhibited at poultry shows. They called it “hen fever.”

Tove Danovich:
And it was because of all of these livestock shows and chicken shows that people were like, “You know what, we should also show? Dogs! And we want to show off our dogs and show that my dog is better than the dog that you have bred, specifically.”

[MUSIC]

Roman Mars:
But how can you tell if my dog is better than your dog? Today we’d compare breeds. But before the Victorian era, the term “breed” didn’t actually exist. Instead, people used words like “strain,” or “variety” to describe different types of dogs. They were grouped according to the work they did — herding and protecting; hunting and retrieving; pointing, guarding; sniffing…

Tove Danovich:
And until their Victorian time when we looked at dogs, we really looked at what purpose did they serve. And the dog that would serve that purpose could look like just any number of different things. It didn’t really matter.

Roman Mars:
Meaning, there wasn’t any concept of categorizing a dog based on what it looked like, it was all based around what it could do. Any dog that was good at fetching things was a retriever. It didn’t matter if it was big or small, slobbery or hairless… And then, in 1860, dog shows started popping up in England, and they were meant to determine the best dog.

Tove Danovich:
But of course, it’s really hard to prove my dog is the best at retrieving. My dog is really good at finding rats in small holes.

Roman Mars:
Skills like “sniffing” or “retrieving” are all kind of relative and hard to judge in competition.

Tove Danovich:
So instead of that really kind of subjective way of going about things, they were like, “You know, we’ll make a standard that says a terrier should be 16 inches high. Have this color fur a tail that looks like this, this approximate body shape,” because this is really easy to judge.

Roman Mars:
A dog show was essentially a dog beauty contest with very strict guidelines. Judging was entirely based on a dog’s visual appeal.

[MUSIC]

Roman Mars:
And because of these shows, dogs started to become categorized as “breeds,” which was much more than just a language change. Dog “breeds” were something entirely new, defined by their form and not their function. The different types of dogs became like blocks on a Pantone color card – each uniform and discrete.

Tove Danovich:
So it made it so people could compete with a wide range of dogs and say, “My dog is the finest of all the dogs.” And that’s really why that change happened.

Roman Mars:
This standardization of dog breeds was driven by a group of people in England called the “Dog Fancy.” The Fancy were a loose group of urban working-class Englishmen who bred and sold dogs and, as you can imagine, the Fancy were interested in spectacle and show. But they had a problem. The Fancy felt like the judges at these dog shows were just giving the top prizes to their friends. So they came up with a kind of rubric, a standardized set of points that would determine the best dog. And, for the first time ever, there were vigorous disagreements about the correct angle of an ear or the desired curl of a tail.

[MUSIC]

Tove Danovich:
And to develop a breed, all you really had to do was get a group of, you know, probably men together who wanted to breed dogs that all looked, you know, “X” way and say, “Okay, we have now made the Labrador retriever. How wonderful. We’ve all decided that it should look in the specific way, so we are going to go to the local Kennel Club, apply for our dog to become, you know, a new breed. And the books will be closed.”

Roman Mars:
Meaning, once the Fancy has established a certain set of characteristics, that was the definition of the breed.

Tove Danovich:
And what that means is if there were 30 dogs at that time that were considered Labrador retrievers, there can never be any new Labrador retriever added to that gene pool. And that is actually the definition of a purebred dog is that it only comes from this group of genes when the books were closed.

Roman Mars:
It was the dog show that really defined the dog breeds we have today.

Tove Danovich:
I think dog shows are really the reason for the transition from function to form so all of the changes that we’ve made to dog breeds because the breed itself is a very visual standard have been aesthetic choices.

Roman Mars:
Throughout history, these dog breeds have been shifting and morphing based on aesthetic standards that change over time. Sometimes, for no good reason other than personal taste.

[MUSIC]

Tove Danovich:
The German Shepherd is a really great example of this because the vast majority of German Shepherds today can trace their lineage back to the very first dog known as the German Shepherd, who was named Horand von Grafrath — which is fantastic.

Roman Mars:
The breeders scoured different villages until they found Horand, and they bred him as the source of the original German Shepherd line, a dog breed specifically bred to herd sheep.

Tove Danovich:
If you looked at him compared to the German Shepherds that might be at Westminster Dog Show today, they’re very, very different.

Roman Mars:
That’s because people’s taste for what a German Shepherd should look like has changed since the first German Shepherd, again I’m going to say his name… Horand von Grafrath, came on the scene.

[MUSIC]

Tove Danovich:
It became a thing in the mid-century for German Shepherds to have a sloping back on them.

Roman Mars:
People began selecting for a sloping back even though it hindered, you know, herding sheep…and was detrimental to the dog’s health. And this was done for literally no practical reason, just because it looked cool.

Tove Danovich:
So over time, they’ve really changed from a dog that could herd sheep to one that, you know, maybe has trouble running because of the aesthetic choices that we’ve made.

Roman Mars:
The governing aesthetics of dog shows trickled out to the masses even when purebred owners never had any intention of breeding or showing dogs themselves. And over time, breeds started to rise and fall in popularity like fads. Purebreds would become a proxy for class and social status.

Tove Danovich:
People started talking about how purebred dogs were, you know, really healthy and dignified and so classy and always well-behaved. And the dogs of the poor – those guys — who even know what they’re going to get up to. So that became a very, very quick class distinction.

Roman Mars:
That didn’t really change until after the middle of the century.

ARCHIVAL TAPE:
The dog aids man in other ways. In time of war his work is of a serious nature.

Roman Mars:
In the post-war era, purebred dogs were being bred on a much larger scale. Like cars and guns and sliced bread, dogs became another example of 20th Century mass production.

ARCHIVAL TAPE:
Today there is no question of the dog’s place in society. He goes everywhere.

Tove Danovich:
A lot of farmers were kind of urged to treat dogs as like a side crop.

Roman Mars:
Farmers in the Midwest were facing hard times with massive crop failures. And the idea of breeding and selling purebred puppies started to seem like a fool-proof way to make some extra cash on the side. Plus, breeding dogs is much less labor-intensive than what it takes to grow food.

Tove Danovich:
The USDA even had a program promoting them.

Roman Mars:
American farmers started to pack dogs into chicken coops and rabbit hutches and sell puppies to pet stores. The supply of these purebred dogs exploded, and with this newly booming retail pet industry, a lot of middle-class families could suddenly afford a purebred dog for the first time.

Tove Danovich:
But I think throughout history, we’ve really seen this same pattern play out where rich people did something and then people who were, you know, in a class slightly below them wanted to emulate that.

Roman Mars:
Fast forward a couple decades and we have TV and movies to help us determine which dogs we think of as cool and trendy.

Tove Danovich:
So once television, in particular, became a really big medium, we started watching these dogs do really amazing things.

Roman Mars:
When I was a kid, the “it” dog was the collie because of the “Lassie” movies and tv specials. For the generation before me, it was the German Shepherd because of Rin Tin Tin.

Tove Danovich:
When I was young — dating myself — we had Wishbone. So anyone with a Jack Russell Terrier was the coolest person in school. So we kind of get this idea implanted, probably subconsciously that, “Hey, if I get one of these dogs, maybe it will also be amazing.”

Roman Mars:
Remember 101 Dalmatians? That Disney animated movie based on a novel about… 101 dalmatians? Well, after the movie came out in the 1960s, everyone wanted a Dalmatian. And when they remade the film in the 90s–

Tove Danovich:
Something kind of interesting happened which is that the same fad occurred. People went out, bought a lot of dalmatians, but people started noting that these dalmatians were then winding up in animal shelters because people were buying their really cool spotted dogs. You had dogs who had much higher energy needs than were really appropriate for the families who were going out and buying these dogs. And it was a really huge problem.

Roman Mars:
It’s such a problem, in fact, that people tend to refer to this rise and fall in dog popularity as “the Dalmatian Effect.” We see these cycles of “it” dogs going in and out of style through the years, certain breeds being sold and later abandoned. And today, it seems like the apotheosis of all this is perhaps the French bulldog. These dogs are everywhere. Which makes sense, because they’re so damn cute.

[MUSIC]

Tove Danovich:
French’s in particular fall into a specific kind of lifestyle that they’re really great for and there is a reason why they’re specifically very popular in cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, where there are a lot of, you know, wealthy people who maybe like to travel a lot. These are dogs that are about 20 pounds. They are very small dogs. Little tiny waist, giant head, big expressive eyes that kind of sit wide on their face. They have this delightful smile, big bat ears. The way they vocalize. A lot of Frenchie owners describe it as talking because it’s kind of a bit of a yodel, really, I think is the best way to describe it.

Roman Mars:
Those endearingly large rolly polly heads mean they usually have to be born by C-section. The little tiny waist can cause a lot of spine deformities and nerve pain because they’re so disproportionate. All those cute face wrinkles can make them prone to skin infections. And their squished faces lead to a lot of breathing problems.

Tove Danovich:
They’re not really good at exercising, so you don’t have to feel bad for not taking them on long walks, especially on a hot day. It’s really not good for them. So, yeah, they’re these cute little monstrosities of nature that because of all of these characteristics that have been bred into them, they’re often really sick dogs.

Roman Mars:
In a way, we are still breeding dogs for a purpose, like we were before the Victorians. But the purpose has changed. It’s not herding or hunting, it’s to fit into the modern world. Breeders will first sell you the idea of an easy dog, one that’s hypoallergenic or small enough for your purse. And then, the industry will sell you the stuff to go along with it – the timed feeders and water fountains, the motorized doggie doors for dogs to go in and out by themselves and pee on little patches of fake grass.

[MUSIC]

Roman Mars:
But it’s gotten to the point where, as Tove says, we’ve broken the dog to accommodate us. After a century of breeding dogs for looks and not for health or talent, a study in the ’90s found that a quarter of all dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club suffered at least one genetic disorder. The long list of degenerative conditions goes from German Shepherds with bad hips to Bull Terriers that spend 80 percent of their time uncontrollably chasing their own tails.

Tove Danovich:
Golden retrievers, for example, 60% of them get cancer, which is a huge issue. And I think a lot of people getting that dog, you know, that’s not on the brochure when you’re going to buy your dog and it’s… I think a lot of people would still get them and love them anyway, but I think it’s really horrible to set people up without the information of this thing that they’re buying into.

Roman Mars:
But again, it’s a matter of priorities and getting rid of encephalitis in pugs and preserving the pug’s cute squished nose can be two conflicting priorities. Geneticists discovered that the mutation contributing to widespread deafness in Dalmatians is the exact same mutation that creates its signature spots. About 30% of all Dalmatians end up losing their hearing. But will people who want Dalmations abide a Dalmatian without spots.

101 Dalmatians Clip
[They’re mongrels! No spots! No spots at all! What horrible little white rats!]

Roman Mars:
There’s a reason why we as humans obsess over breeds. We don’t have a lot of information available to us when we have to decide which dog to get. So we categorize dogs into breeds because it gives us a sense of predictability and control.

Tove Danovich:
We’re always putting, you know, people, things, feelings into categories. It’s a lot easier for us to understand the world in categories. And when you’re getting a dog, you have this for the dog’s lifetime commitment of this creature from another species that you can’t talk to you, that you’re bringing in your house. And in an ideal world, maybe you would, like, take some time to get to know each other first. But typically you have to decide I’m going to get this dog or I’m going to leave this dog behind within, you know, 30 minutes, maybe when you meet them. And that’s really tough.

Roman Mars:
And sure, your Frenchie may be cute and apartment-friendly, like the brochure said. But of course, not every French bulldog will be as advertised. And not every owner is prepared for all the health issues that might come up over time.

Tove Danovich:
I think there’s some people who are just not set up for even the most easy-going dog in the world. There are a lot of people who should maybe get an old dog and not a puppy. And I think until we start talking about what, you know, breeds can and cannot guarantee, that’s going to keep being a problem.

Roman Mars:
There’s a breeder in the Netherlands – Chantal van Kruining – who’s experimenting with breeding a new kind of Frenchie. She’s re-shaping the French bulldog’s smooshed face to try to make it healthier. Chantal’s Frenchies have all the characteristics people love about these dogs, but they look distinctly different. They have a much longer neck and a longer nose. These new Frenchies would hopefully have less genetic abnormalities. These dogs wouldn’t be accepted as Frenchies by the American Kennel Club and they couldn’t compete at dog shows. But to the average consumer, it would hopefully mean their dogs can live longer.

Tove Danovich:
From a consumer standpoint, I think people would be a lot happier with it, but it kind of goes against, like, the ethos of what the purebred dog is.

Roman Mars:
Or maybe we should move on from the idea of breeds, and think about dogs the way we did before Queen Victoria got those fancy chickens.

[MUSIC]

Tove Danovich:
The best thing to do isn’t to look at dog breeds, but to actually return to those groups, like the herding group, terrier group, because if you look within there, the traits do tend to be a little bit more accurate. You can kind of see, “Okay, does a terrier really fit my lifestyle when I have this beautiful garden and, you know, a fence that’s very easy to dig under,” and that’s going to tell you a lot more than any specific dog within that.

Roman Mars:
We could just go back to classifying dogs by what they could do, as dogs. There’d still be some sense of the predictability that we crave, it just wouldn’t be based on looks.

Tove Danovich:
I don’t know if it’s what I see as the future of purebred and designer dogs here but I would really like for that to happen. I think that we should not be breeding to a standard that necessitates the dog be unhealthy. That seems like a pretty, pretty easy shift to make from where I’m standing.

Roman Mars:
The other easy shift is to go to your local shelter and adopt a mutt because purebred or not, they’re all good dogs.

[MUSIC]

Roman Mars:
After the break, the creator of the labradoodle says breeding this dog is his life’s regret. After this.

[BREAK]

Roman Mars:
Puggle. Cockapoo. Schnoodle. Yorkipoo. I’m sure you’ve come across these dogs before – dogs that are hybrid breeds made from two purebreds squished together with a cutesy portmanteau. These dogs are often called “designer dogs.” And perhaps the most notorious of all designer dogs is the labradoodle.

Tove Danovich:
And that dog is what we consider to be the very first designer dog.

Roman Mars:
But the guy who created the first labradoodle wonders whether he bred a designer dog or a disaster.

Tove Danovich:
So in 1989, a man named Wally Conron was a breeder with a “Guide Dogs for the Blind” type organization in Australia.

Roman Mars:
Wally was contacted by a woman in Hawaii who was looking for a guide dog.

Tove Danovich:
But she had a problem, which is that her husband was very allergic to the Labrador retrievers that are commonly used and trained to be guide dogs. So Wally really wanted to solve this problem for the woman and his first thought was “I’ll take poodles which are known to be pretty low shedding, a little bit hypoallergenic breed that to one of these Labrador retrievers, and maybe I’ll find a dog that has the right temperament to be a guide dog, but isn’t going to trigger these allergies in the same way.” So he finds these two dogs to breed. Three puppies come out of the litter. He sends off hair samples from all of the dogs to Hawaii and only one of them is actually not going to trigger this husband’s allergies, so they get that puppy.

Roman Mars:
But Wally had an issue – two of the Labrador poodle puppies weren’t hypoallergenic, and he didn’t know what to do with them.

Tove Danovich:
And despite the fact that the Guide Dogs program had a three to six-month wait for guide dogs when he called people on the list, they were like, “We’re going to wait for one of your normal dogs. Thank you very much.” And he was so frustrated by this that he went to their PR department and was like, “Look, just tell the media. We’ve bred a new special kind of dog. It’s called a Labradoodle.”

Roman Mars:
It was the exact same dog as the labrador poodle crossbreed, just with a different name. It was a marketing gimmick that really caught on. The name stuck, and people started to go wild for these dogs.

Tove Danovich:
All of a sudden, he started getting all of these calls.

Roman Mars:
Wally says he realized what he had done within a matter of days. He went to his boss and said, “Look, I’ve created a monster. We need to do something to control it.” But they couldn’t put a patent on the breed, and soon breeders from all over the world joined in on the trend.

Tove Danovich:
They became so popular that like every other time a dog becomes, you know, the “it” dog, A lot of people started breeding these dogs together to make money.

Roman Mars:
And that, my friends, is how designer dogs first came on the scene. That was 1989. Today, Wally Conron is retired, and he deeply regrets breeding that first labradoodle. He’s said he feels like he “opened Pandora’s box” and “released a Frankenstein.” That’s because when a popular commodity collides with greed, things get ugly. In this case, it means a lot of these dogs aren’t carefully bred – or that they’re overbred – and they end up with a whole host of health issues.

Tove Danovich:
We had so much demand for dogs last year, in particular, that a lot of dogs have been actually coming in from overseas. And those are marketed to, as, you know, the same dog. You know, no one tells you that they’re actually coming from the Ukraine. And a lot of these dogs are removed from their mothers younger than they’re supposed to be. You know, vaccination records are falsified. It’s just any time you’re turning a living animal into a commodity and then that commodity becomes popular, there are just snowballing problems that are going to come from that.

Roman Mars:
Of course, a lot of people – labradoodle owners included – would disagree that their dogs are the equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster. And it totally makes sense that they would. Individual dogs are probably great and if they’re overall not as healthy, so be it. Your dog is great and has a cute name. How could you not love that? But the dilemma is exactly the same as it is for purebred dogs, they just have a catchier name.

———

CREDITS

Roman Mars:
99% Invisible was produced this week by Lasha Madan and edited by Vivian Le. Mix and tech production by Dara Hirsch. Music by our director of sound Swan Real.

Delaney Hall is the executive producer. Kurt Kohlstedt is the digital director. The rest of the team includes Chris Berube, Christopher Johnson, Emmett FitzGerald, Joe Rosenberg, Sofia Klatzker, and me, Roman Mars. Special thanks to Tove Danovich. Check out her article, “The Very Cute, Totally Disturbing Tale of the American ‘It’ Dog” on Vox and keep an eye out for Tove’s forthcoming book about… chickens.

We are part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM podcast family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora Building — in beautiful uptown Oakland, California.

You can find the show and join discussions about the show on Facebook. You can tweet me @romanmars and the show @99piorg. We’re on Instagram and Reddit, too. You can find links to other Stitcher shows I love as well as every past episode of 99PI at 99pi.org.

 

 

  1. SW

    There are lots of related topics that I’m surprised that you didn’t bring up about dog breeds and the greater pet dog market. Such as how increasingly small dogs are being brought up from the US South and Puerto Rico to be adopted by middle and upper class pet owners in the Northeast because of the trend towards, “Adopt, don’t shop.” But Northeast shelters are still filled with dogs, namely pit bulls, which are unfashionable because of both their association with poor people and crime, and their unfairly garnered reputation as a breed that uniformly is aggressive and unsafe.
    There’s also the issue of breed specific legislation, which is kind of wild as you mentioned in the podcast that breeds are based on visual aesthetics, so how can one or several breeds be labeled as dangerous when temperament isn’t visually apparent?

  2. Torpedo Defence

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this beholder thinks these creatures are anything but cute. They’re vile, quite frankly.

    Anyway, it is better to adopt from a local shelter. Rather than buy inbred, unhealthy and immorally produced animals from breeders.

  3. The breed “Standard” is not purely an aesthetic choice. The “standard” is based on the function or job the dog is used for. As an example, not any dog who retrieves makes a good bird dog regardless of what size it is or if it is slobbery or not. A Golden Retriever needs to be big enough to carry a goose, it needs to have a long enough neck to be able to swim with the goose in its mouth. Its muzzle needs to broad enough and long enough to hold the goose securely. It needs to have a “stop” so it can see above the goose when running or swimming. It eye needs closely fitted lids to protect the eyes when running through tall grasses. And that is just the head of a retriever. Not to mention, the dog cannot be slobbery as that would be problematic to the bird it is carrying.

    Furthermore, showing in “dog shows” is just a small part of the “dog fancy.” All breeds can compete in “companion events” including obedience, rally obedience, agility, tracking, barn hunts, lure coursing, sent work and others (mixed breed dogs can also compete in these events). Then groups of dog breeds can compete in “performance events” that test for the skills the breeds were originally bred for such as herding trials for herding breeds, carting events for breeds like the Bernese Mountain Dog, field trials and hunt tests for gun dog breeds.

    The point of getting a pure bred dog is its predictability. Are there tons of crappy breeders who produce dogs who do not look or act like the breed “standard”? Of course there are, but those people are not actually a part of the “Dog Fancy” a group which by its very definition is those people who compete with their dogs. It is also not the fault of the “Dog Fancy” that most people do so little research before they get their dog. I currently have my fifth Golden Retriever. They have all acted exactly like the stereo-type of the Golden Retriever (friendly, active, smart and trainable) and have lived to be at least 12 years old. I lucked out with one of them, but with the others I did my research and I got what I expected.

    Finally, as to cancer and Goldens. You will find that the “Golden Fancy” is the group that is most concerned with solving the problem and as a whole through the Golden Retriever Club of America’s Golden Retriever Foundation has donated millions of dollars to research cancers in our breed. Furthermore, although the majority of Goldens will die from cancer, their average lifespan is not any shorter than any other breed of a similar size. Therefore on average they are not dying younger than other breeds but that while other breeds like Dobermans die of things like Degenerative Myelopathy, Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Cancers with an average lifespan of 10 years, a Golden will die of a cancer with an average life span of 10 years.

  4. Thisfox

    As another commenter said, you left out the big business of small dog adoption and the small problem of the lack of large dog adoption (not only driven by social stigma of poor people: A smaller dog is often just easier to handle, and fits in a small apartment or house better. It can also need less exercise) and also the question of dog racing and the meat-grinder of greyhound breeding. This is not just a yank problem either. Australian dog shelters are full of larger breeds that outgrew their owners ability to take care of them, and greyhounds often get a death sentence if they aren’t as fast as their litter mates.

    Then there’s drift. Personally I loved the ~200 year old paintings of pugs, and wanted one of my own. Then I saw a modern pug, was disgusted, and never wanted a pug again. I have no idea why the two types of dog even have the same name, the historical pugs don’t look anything like a modern pug, they don’t even have the same colour, let alone the same nose.

    It’s not a dogs life any more.

    1. Raegan

      I was really disappointed in this episode. It presents a really incomplete picture of ways to acquire dogs. It spends a lot of time discussing breeding dogs for appearance in a negative way, but never brings up breeding for behavior. With an increase in population density, there is an increase in demand for small, non shedding, easy going dogs that are social with people and dogs. Dogs have always been bred to fit the needs of a time and place. There is nothing wrong with breeding dogs to suit the needs of 21st century city dwellers, particularly when there is a dog shortage so severe we are importing dogs by the planeful from overseas.

  5. Dominique

    Ummm french bull dogs and any animal that has been selectively bred with these kinds of mutations are anything but natural…

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