Monday, 15 February 2016

AKC: a nose for flummery

To mark this year's Westminster Dog Show, the national newspaper USA Today has waded into the dog-breeding debate with a strong editorial arguing for change. It refers to the shape of the current Bulldog as "tragic" and  calls for "sustained commitment and action to demonstrate that the AKC and U.S. breed groups can earn the title of dog’s best friend." (Read the whole thing here.)

The paper has, in return, given the AKC a right of reply, written by the AKC's chief veterinary officer, Jerry Klein. It is, I'm afraid, the usual blah, blah, blah.

It includes the erroneous claim that line-breeding is not inbreeding (er, it is) and the claim that dog shows preserve function (er, they don't).

It also includes this little gem:
"The AKC works with breed clubs that are responsible for creating and maintaining a standard of integrity and tradition for each breed. Breed standards define ideals in appearance, structure, movement and temperament for a breed. For example, if a standard describes a dog’s nostrils as being wide and large, a dog with narrow nostrils that inhibit its breathing should not be rewarded by a show judge, and responsible breeders would not breed from it."
Sooo... how about we have a little look-see at the AKC standards for the extreme brachycephalics (short-faced breeds) - the ones who most need wide open nostrils. While we're here, let's have a look at the pictures the AKC uses to illustrate them, too. 



Sadly, the AKC standard makes no mention at all of what a Pug's nostrils should look like (see here), so a Pug's pinched nostrils cannot be penalised in the show-ring. The standard needs to change as this breed is the worst for respiratory problems, in no small part  caused by stenotic (pinched) nostrils that are endemic in the breed.  The Pug pictured has narrow nostrils and is over-wrinkled.


French Bulldog: :"The stop well defined, causing a hollow groove between the eyes with heavy wrinkles forming a soft roll over the extremely short nose; nostrils broad with a well defined line between them"

Again, no mention of the nostrils needing to be "wide", "large" or "open". This needs to change.


The AKC's Bulldog standard includes this: "The nostrils should be wide, large and black, with a well-defined line between them."

Good to see the words "wide" and "large" but it needs to add the word "open" - and next time try to find a Bulldog without stenotic nares - and, for that matter, without ectropion (those sagging bottom eye lids).



From the standard: "The nose is black and wide, with a well defined line between the nostrils... " No mention of nostrils there but listed as a fault separately is: "Pinched or wide nostrils."

Eh? Now they're saying that 'wide' is a bad thing? Come on AKC, this needs sorting. And, again, the AKC has illustrated the standard with a dog with pinched nostrils.


The AKC's Peke standard is the only one of the extreme brachycephalic (short-faced) breeds that spells it out. 

It specifies: "Nose - It is broad, short and black. Nostrils are wide and open rather than pinched. " 

Well done for that. 

However, the nostrils on the Peke the AKC uses to illustrate are neither wide nor open.

None of the nostrils on the dogs used by the AKC to illustrate their brachycephalic standards are acceptable.  

In fact, according to the AKC's own words above ("a dog with narrow nostrils that inhibit its breathing should not be rewarded by a show judge, and responsible breeders would not breed from it") none of the dogs above should ever be bred.

Here, for comparison, is a great-looking French Bulldog with good, open nostrils.

And here's what a normal dog's nostrils should look like, front view and side view. 

Remember that while dogs pant through their mouth, they breathe through their noses. It's really important that those pipes are open - especially when you've been bred with a very flat face that has already compressed and buckled those airways on the inside.

Over to you AKC...


  1. An excellent post. It really makes it exceedingly clear that the parent clubs and AKC may be talking the talk, but they continue to avoid walking the walk.

  2. "For example, if a standard describes a dog’s nostrils as being wide and large, a dog with narrow nostrils that inhibit its breathing should not be rewarded by a show judge, and responsible breeders would not breed from it."

    This is a total misrepresentation of the way dog judging works - interesting that it comes directly from the AKC!

    Unless a trait is a disqualification, or described as "to be severely penalized", it is just one of many traits that a judge evaluates. Dogs are made of many parts, and even a very good one will have faults. It is not at all difficult to imagine a dog that, when judged to the standard, is "very good" - so much so that the judge will forgive pinched nostrils (or a soft topline or a short tail or whatever else). Unless it's a disqualifying or "severely penalized" fault, it's just one piece of the equation.

    To summarize: a dog with narrow nostrils - even if they are mentioned as a fault in the standard - WILL be rewarded by judges and WILL be bred to by breeders, IF it has many other good points. This is how judging and breeding dogs works. It's preposterous that the AKC is claiming otherwise.

    To be clear, I'm not saying it's right! Just saying that's how it actually is.


    1. Yes and in fact so many of the disqualifying traits themselves are completely and utterly not geared to the dogs welfare but to some random throw back to how the original type was created using assorted other breeds.

      In short it's a cover up to any kind of real genetic diversity that ever existed. The hall mark of "quality", pedigree is after all no genetic diversity at all, or as little as possible.

      Here is PETA's version of the same...rather good I thought.

  3. I agree -- this is an excellent article. We all should rub AKC's nose in it. AKC and its breed "parent" clubs have allowed this slippage in their breed standards (and in some cases ignoring the breed standards entirely) without any concern for the health of the dogs. And they combine this attitude with the nonsense about line-breeding not being in-breeding. In the USA, fun is made of certain European royalty for being in-bred, but when it comes to "pedigree dogs", such an issue does not exist in the minds of many, many AKC breeders. Appearance of the dog is ALL that matters in several AKC breeds. -- Rod Russell, Orlando, Florida USA

  4. Besides pinched noses The Pug and the Peke especialy but all in fact are also bad for face wrinkle rolls. I would expect to find dead flesh and rotting hair in those recesses. Just how do breeders etc think hair and skin can function properly in anaerobic conditions like that.


    an article on exageration , using a pekinese to show moderation . further down in the article he gushes over the dogs large open nostrils and moderate type.
    I can't see that description fitting the dog illustrated even if it is better than modern type

    1. It's a good articel though (andrew Brace's) pointing otu hwo teh exageratiosn happen. I am sure no-one set otu to have al teh dgos with closed nsotrils, ro even realised that the BOAS syndrome wopudl coem about by going ever shorter muzzled. Now breeders have to move away from these exagerations, and they ahve to use the material they have got but it can't be done in a blink of an eye, as it took generations to get here, it will take generations to get out, often with a step forward only to step back. The average canine inter generational gap is around 4 years, so expecting massive changes between PDE1 and PDE2 was disengenious at best.

    2. The link isn't working on the Brace article, think the end bit is missing.

  6. Jemima keep your dang nose in your own dang business you pompous,arrogant Brit. American business is none of your concern so put your big nose back in your tea & crumpets and bloody well bugger off. Didn't we kick your pompous butts twice to get you out of our affairs?

    1. A trapped animal lashing out in fear. I think Sweden got it right ban the Frenchie!

    2. "Celtic Warrioress" ? More like Wankie Doodle. You do know of course the Celts were in Britain by the mid Ist millennium AD.

    3. Of course the Swedes haven't banned anything but unless things change...

    4. River P yes I'm an American of Celtic descent (Scottish) born in Germany. BTW, Don't call me no dang Yankee (Northerner), I'm a Reb (Southerner)thanks lol. That doesn't change the fact that American affairs are nobody elses concern but our own. Do I like the look of modern brachy's no,do I wish the breed clubs would change the standards yes. Blame the parent clubs not AKC. The parent clubs are over the standards not AKC, AKC only tells them how often they can be changed. The breed clubs (DCA in my breed's case) tells them what they want it to say.

    5. Trish, not for nothing, you need to get your head out of your ass. If YOU don't work to fix your messed up breeds, you know who will do it for you? PETA. They are very eagerly eyeing torture breeding laws of Europe and seeing how they can use that 51 million dollars they have to stop us from being able to breed our dogs..
      This is NOT an American/British thing. After all, The Brits eventually let a LUA dalmatian in, forcing the AKC to allow them, and that was something that was NEEDED in the breed.
      But it's hard to get through to the pure blood brigade sometimes..
      Let's face facts. If the AKC said FIX THIS or we will stop issuing championship certificates or delist your breed, you damned well better bet the breed clubs WOULD fix it. Especially if the AKC stopped sneering down their nose long enough to work in conjunction with the UKC on this.
      The breed clubs don't have the money or ability to run the show circuit any more, and they wouldn't want to lose the respectability of being an "recognized" breed.

    6. Because America has done so well in leaving their noses out of the world's problems haven't they?

      Oh wait.

  7. If PETA can do it where everyone else has failed good for them! Why wait?