The Kennel Club has decided to change the breed standard for the dachshund. They decided that over the years breeders have gone for a more extreme look which means shorter legs to the point where ground clearance is inadequate in terms of protecting the future of the breed by keeping it in a form that can continue to be fit and active. Breeders will have to breed less extreme dachshunds which means breeding dogs with longer legs.
Breeders have a tendency to breed to extreme. They do this because they focus on the features which make the animal attractive. They try and enhance these features. In doing that, and in competition with others, they may end up going too far. They don’t know where to stop. In the case of the dachshund, going too far means that the legs become so short that the dog lacks ground clearance.
Another issue is that the dachshund might be becoming slightly longer to create this exaggerated sausage look. This puts more strain on the back. It is a well-known fact that dachshunds can suffer from back problems because of their abnormal shape. Research from the Royal Veterinary College found that “long and low dwarf breeds” were prone to painful and debilitating slipped discs and intervertebral disc disease.
The miniature dachshunds, whose backs are two-thirds longer than a shoulder height, have double the risk of slipping a disc by the age of five, the study found.
A fifth of all dachshunds show signs of intervertebral disc disease at some point in their lives. A lot of weight is being carried on a very long part of the body. And when their backs go, they can no longer walk.
The Kennel Club is changing their breed standard. The dachshund body used to be (per the breed standard) “moderately long and low” and is now “moderately long in proportion to height”. The change has been provoked by the dramatically increased popularity of the breed over the period of the Covid pandemic. The club has also stated that dachshunds should have “enough ground clearance, not less than one quarter of the height at the withers [shoulders] to allow free movement”.
The dachshund is the breed of choice of celebrities. They have won the hearts of famous figures such as Princess Margaret and David Hockney, Adele and the Kardashians. And if you walk in a park in or near London you are very likely to see a dachshund or two on a lead.
The breed standard was last changed in 2014. The new standard referred to above was drawn up in consultation with the Dachshund Breed Council. Dachshunds were originally bred from a genetic mutation thousand years ago. What I mean is a genetic mutation occurred to create dwarfism in a dog and the breeders selectively bred from that to create this overly-refined companion animal we see today.
A breeder, Jean Forbes, 60, said that there was often unhealthy competition at dog shows. Some competitors criticised some dachshunds with legs that they considered to be too long. Another breeder said that some breeders were misinterpreting the breed standard and dachshunds were getting longer and lower. Lynn Black said that “they’ve got to have good ground clearance otherwise they can’t move correctly”.
The Kennel Club registered more than 14,000 pedigree puppy dachshunds in 2020 compared with 7,220 in 2016. And their popularity has resulted in prices rising rapidly. Before the pandemic you could buy a dachshund for £970 but they cost £2000 today. And many buyers spend far more than that.
There is always pressure on cat and dog breeders to push too hard and breed to extreme. In the cat fancy, the flat-faced Persian is a classic example as is the long-faced, slender Siamese. And now, the Maine Coon is being bred to extreme with huge muzzles and gargantuan ears with very long lynx tips. Also, the size of some individual Maine Coons is astonishing. And it should be said that the breed standard for the Maine Coon does not say that they should be extremely large or even large. It is just the way of the cat fancy and the dog fancy.
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