The evolution of dogs is a fascinating one. They have been domesticated for between 10,000 and 30,000 years – experts disagree on the specifics, but the general consensus is still “a long time”.
That means that they have gone from being wild wolves roaming the lands in packs to “man’s best friend” in the blink of a cosmic eye. They have a pretty good life from it, too. For a starters, there’s no need to hunt – not when humans are willing to do it for them. As a dog owner, you know the preoccupation with their health and diet; nights spent worrying over whether you have found quality food for your dog and contemplating the pros and cons of a raw diet. Then there is the love, companionship, protection, and their every health need tended to. Dogs have done pretty well out of their domestication.
The Problem With Purebreds
While it would be nice to think that dogs have got nothing but good from this bargain, there is a problem lurking in the shadows.
It’s thought that the wide variety of dog breeds we see nowadays stem from only a few archetypes. From there, they have been selectively bred to suit the needs of humans. We have gun dogs, guide dogs, dogs that are particularly skilled at hunting – all refined, honed, trained, for a specific purpose.
Then we have dog shows.
Dog Shows: Good or Bad?
Not necessarily a bad thing, but they have given rise to selective breeding for no other reason than aesthetics. There is a definition of what each breed should look like and people have bred them to achieve this. But it’s had devastating consequences for some dogs.
Inbreeding: It’s A Thing, Time To Accept It
To nurture the desired traits, selective breeding depends on interbreeding. That, unfortunately, means that hereditary diseases are all passed on through the descendants. Now we have a situation where this breeding (for either usefulness or just for aesthetics) has given some breeds a notoriety for specific health problems. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, it’s important to know what you might be in for if you go for a pedigree with a traceable, deliberately bred heritage.
- Golden retrievers. If under-exercised, they are prone to obesity. They can also suffer from eye problems, specifically retinal detachment.
- Huskies. For reasons not quite understood, huskies are prone to autoimmune conditions – and these can be expensive to treat.
- German shepherds. Inherited problems include hip dysplasia, which can result in severe arthritis requiring vet attention.
- Irish setters. This gorgeous breed can suffer from a raft of severe inherited diseases, including quadriplegia with amblyopia – a neurological disorder some insurers might not protect against.
This is not to say you shouldn’t get a purebred, pedigree dog if you have your heart set on one! It just means you need to be aware. If you worry about the cost of vet bills in the future, then the best bet might be a mixed breed – though they can, of course, become unwell also, at least you’re not fighting genetics the whole time.