Should owning a dog be illegal? On today’s episode of Thinking in English, I’m going to explain why I think that owning certain types of dog, in particular “purebred” and flat faced dogs, is cruel and should not be allowed! Let’s learn about the history of dog breeds and the serious problems modern dogs experience, all while learning new vocabulary and practising your listening comprehension!
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Opinionated (adj) – an opinionated person is certain about their beliefs, and expresses their ideas strongly and often
He was opinionated and selfish, but undeniably clever
To breed (v) – to keep animals for the purpose of producing young animals in a controlled way
Some dogs were bred to retrieve birds shot during hunting trips
Breed (n) – a particular type of animal or plant
What’s your favourite breed of dog?
Characteristic (n) – a typical or noticeable quality of someone or something
Having a big nose is a characteristic in my family
To bark (v) – (of a dog) to make a loud, rough noise
I can hear a dog barking outside
To herd (v) – to make animals move together as a group
Farmers use dogs to help herd sheep
Stocky (adj) – a stocky person or animal is short, wide across the chest, and strong looking
He was stockier than I remembered
Squashed (adj) – flat, soft, or out of shape due to being crushed or squeezed
He ate some squashed sandwiches for lunch
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A few weeks ago, I received an instagram message from a listener of Thinking in English who wanted me to discuss some more controversial topics and in a more opinionated way. So I thought I’d start with a topic that probably affects some of you – pet dogs.
Here is my controversial opinion. I think owning and breeding certain types of dogs should be illegal. Let me clarify this and be more specific. In particular, I think owning “purebred” dogs should be banned.
What is a Purebred Dog?
“What is a “purebred” dog?”. A purebred dog is a dog from a family of completely the same breed! For example, a pure breed Labrador has parents that were both Labradors, grandparents that were all Labradors, great grandparents that were all Labradors, and so on. In contrast, if a dog is bred from two different breeds of dog, it is described as a mixed breed!
Many of you probably own a dog, or have owned a dog in the past, and there is quite a high chance that you own a purebred breed. There are literally hundreds of different purebred dog breeds found in all corners of the world: think about the Afghan Hound, the Akita Inu from Japan, the Alaskan Husky from North America, the Australian Cattle Dog, or an Austrian Shorthaired Pinscher. These breeds come from completely different parts of the world, and I just looked at the letter A on the list of purebred dogs.
Something you may not necessarily know, however, is that dog breeds are not natural. The husky, the Akita inu, and the Australian Cattle Dog did not evolve naturally – they were designed and bred by humans. Our ancestors chose dogs with certain physical characteristics that they found useful, bred them together, and created modern dog breeds. The story of how dogs transformed from wild animals to modern pets is not completely understood, but I’ll tell you one popular theory.
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Dog Breeds are Not Natural
In early history, wolves or early dogs were likely attracted to human settlements by leftover food. Over years a relationship between humans and dogs was forged – humans would allow the dogs to eat rotting food and the dogs would help keep the village clean. The dogs would live at the edge of the village, and also helped provide security by barking whenever an animal or strange human approached the houses.
We don’t really know how dogs moved from the edge of the village to inside the houses of our ancestors, but somehow they made the move. And once they were living side by side with humans, humans began to influence how the dogs evolved. Dogs can have a lot of puppies, and humans likely kept only the dogs with the most useful characteristics. For example, at first maybe only the puppies with the loudest barks would be kept because these were the best at scaring off other animals.
As dogs became more common and closer to humans, the characteristics they were bred for became more specific. Some dogs were bred to be excellent hunters – fast and aggressive. Others were bred to herd animals – meaning they were chosen for their ability to listen to commands, obey humans, and not attack animals.
Most of the breeds we know today, however, have their origins in the 19th century. Rather than just keeping hunting dogs, lap dogs, or herding dogs, people began to trace the bloodlines of dogs and concentrate on developing specific breeds. And this was especially common in the United Kingdom – the Victorians at the time were influenced by the work of Charles Darwin and motivated to breed the perfect version of a certain breed.
Some breeders wanted smaller dogs, dogs with squashed faces, or dogs with stocky bodies. Just compare pictures of bulldogs, dachshunds, or German Shepherds from the beginning of the 20th century with now – they have changed dramatically. Purebred dogs, in particular, are now bred to meet certain standards.
Health Problems of Modern Dogs
However, breeding purebred dogs has had a number of serious consequences for today’s dogs. Selectively choosing characteristics for breeding has created painful and deadly health conditions that are now passed on through new generations of dogs. While searching for the perfect or ideal appearance of dogs, humans have created severe health problems. According to Time magazine, one in four purebred dogs has serious genetic problems.
Furthermore, in trying to breed the perfect dog, there is a common issue of inbreeding – breeding dogs from the same family together. This is incredibly unhealthy and dangerous, and leads to a whole variety of genetic issues and disabilities.
Earlier this year, Norway banned the breeding of purebred English bulldogs and King Charles Spaniels due to health concerns. The UK is also apparently considering banning the breeding of pugs and similar dogs.
Let me give you some examples of medical issues commonly faced by popular breeds. English bulldogs have been bred to have flat faces and excess skin… because people think it is cute. However, flat faces have caused breathing problems, excess skin causes infections, and their small bodies commonly suffer cancer. In fact, bulldogs often are no longer able to give birth naturally as their heads are too big and hips too narrow.
German shepherds are an incredibly popular dog. However, in trying to create the perfect looking German Shepherd, the dogs now regularly suffer from blindness, hip problems, over 8 different heart conditions, and knee pain. And poodles, another very popular breed, are incredibly cute but now commonly suffer from vision loss, diabetes, seizures, and breathing problems.
Perhaps the best example of the medical problems caused by selective breeding is the pug. Pugs are loved by people all over the world for their cute faces and small bodies. But, in my opinion, buying a pug is actually cruel. A recent study from the UK suggests that pugs face such serious health conditions that they can “no longer be considered a typical dog from a health perspective.”
In the UK, pugs are twice as likely as other dogs to experience health issues. The reason is quite simple – over the past 200 years the dog has been bred to have a smaller head and skull, but the pug’s brain is still the same size. Their brains are squashed into a small head, and so is much of the rest of their body.
If you think of a pug, you probably imagine a cute smiling face with their tongue always sticking out. The truth is, however, that pugs struggle to breathe and are forced to use their mouths instead of their noses. You probably think the skin folds are attractive – but they lead to infections. People love pug’s small tails, but this is actually a deformed spinal bone that can result in back problems. Pugs also suffer from an increased risk of heart problems.
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Don’t Buy Pugs
These health issues are so common and severe in pugs, that there are suggestions that the dog should be banned. Many people consider it to be cruel to own a pug – they live their lives in constant pain.
Moreover, according to the president of the British Veterinary Association, vets now “strongly recommend that potential owners do not buy brachycephalic breeds such as pugs.” In a Guardian article from a few years ago, a vet told of the first time his university class were shown the picture of a pug’s skull. Most students thought the dog had been involved in a car crash or born with a severe deformation – the truth was that it was just a regular pug. The same vet talked about how the only time a bulldog can breath well is when a vet uses an oxygen tube during an operation.
While pugs are the most extreme example, so many different purebred dogs struggle with numerous serious health complications! These dogs are born into a life of pain and health complications. Because humans want small cute dogs like dachshunds and French bulldogs, or elegant large dogs like German shepherds and Labradors, we have caused a great deal of suffering to dogs.
So what does this mean?
What does all of this mean? Should it be illegal to buy a purebred dog? I don’t think that all dogs should be banned. But I do think we need to stop dangerous breeding practices and discourage people from buying purebreds like pugs. Vets in the UK already discourage people from buying dogs with flat faces.
When it comes to buying a dog, we should be focusing on the health of the animal rather than the desires of the owner. Just because you think the small heads, flat faces, and stocky bodies of certain dogs are cute, does not mean we should keep producing sick and deformed animals. Why do people buy pugs? For the big eyes, squashed faces, and curly tails. But these are the same things than cause a lifetime of suffering for the animal
On the other hand, most dog owners buy their pets with good intentions. Rather than punishing owners, we should be regulating and punishing the companies that breed and sell purebred dogs!
On today’s episode of Thinking in English, I have discussed an important but controversial topic – pet dogs. The dogs we know and love today are not natural animals, but have been created through generations of breeding. Humans think some dogs’ small bodies, curly tails, big eyes, and short legs are attractive – but these are the same things that cause massive pain and suffering to certain dog breeds.
I believe that we need to ban the breeding and selling of certain purebred dog breeds. We need to think about the health of the dog rather than the desires of the owner when it comes to breeding dogs! And when it comes to buying or getting a dog, you should consider a dog with a healthier genetic history.
What do you think? Should certain dog breeds (like pugs and bulldogs) be banned? Do you think it is cruel to own a flat faced dog?
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