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The issue of breeding purebred dogs and their breed standards was brought to the forefront in the past year in Britain. It started with a BBC documentary in August, 2008 entitled Pedigree Dogs Exposed. The show claimed that decades of in-breeding has resulted in dogs with genetic deformities and life-threatening illnesses.

The BBC didn’t stop there; they then refused to televise Crufts in March, 2009 unless 14 “at risk” breeds were excluded from the competition. This demand from the broadcaster was refused by the British Kennel Club but under intense pressure from the media and animal welfare charities, the Club accelerated their review of breed standards and introduced interim new standards.

After checking out the 14 breeds that had been single out, I breathed a sigh of relief that the Newfoundlands were not affected. However the interim review turned out to be across the board and our breed was one of those with changes to the standard.

A change I have been expecting for some time was the deletion of the clause in the Hindquarters section stating “Dewclaws should be removed.” For some time Britain has opposed cosmetic surgery for dogs and this change was inevitable and made for all breeds that had such a requirement.

Two of the changes involve the word “massive”. The removal of this word seems to be another across the board change. In the interim Newfoundland standard, massive bone is now heavy bone and the broad and massive head is now broad and relatively large. Since one of the primary purposes of the revised breed standards is to avoid exaggerations that would affect dogs adversely, these changes are certainly a strong signal to breeders and judges to be wary of ever increasing bone and head size.

The final interim change involves the eyes. The phrase “rather deep set” was obviously seen as possibly prone to exaggeration but it is a shame that all reference to deep set eyes is now gone. When the first breed standard for Newfoundlands was being developed in 1880’s Britain, the projecting eyebrow was identified as a characteristic to protect the eyes when swimming in rough waters. This seems to have translated into deep set eyes in all of the modern breed standards. Perhaps they should consider the phrasing used by the FCI of “moderately deep set”.

Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979.  In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.  When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Dogs in Canada

July 2009