Sorry Churchill, You’ve Got To Go

The Sun, January 2008

THE Kennel Club is changing the rules governing dog breeding after stinging criticism in a BBC1 documentary last year.

Critics say many pedigree animals are born with deformities because of extreme inbreeding.

The bulldog - a symbol of Britishness and the emblem of a leading insurance firm - is one of the dogs affected.

Under new guidance, it could lose its famous Churchillian jowl and appear with a shrunken face and sunken nose instead.

Here, top dog trainer VICTORIA STILWELL argues the changes are not before time.

IT is high time the Kennel Club's changes were made.

The bulldog breeds are some of my favourites and there is no doubt the jowly face is pretty stunning.

But it is also highly compromised.

Bulldogs suffer all sorts of breathing difficulties and infections under their folds of skin.

They have other health troubles because of that telltale underbite, as well as back, hip and shoulder problems.

Their heads are also too big for their bodies, so that most of them have to be born by Caesarean section.

But the breed changes are not the end of the bulldog as a symbol of Britishness.

I remember seeing pictures of what the British bulldog used to look like at the end of the 1800s and it was a dog that was powerful and fit.

It was the result of what it was bred to be and recent ideas of "beauty" do not need to be part of that.

We should go back to having pedigree dogs that are fit and bred to do what the original breeders intended.

Obviously I wish the new changes had been made before the BBC documentary and before the BBC decision not to cover Crufts this year.

Now it looks like those BBC decisions have spearheaded a panic move by the Kennel Club to change the breed standards.

But the changes were necessary for some breeds in particular - not least the bulldog.

Of course, it is going to take a long time to implement those changes.

The Kennel Club has said it has set about educating the competition judges about the changes.

But Crufts is just two months away and the breeds this year are going to be the same as they have been previously.

I shall believe the changes are being made when I see them put into action.

But while the Kennel Club should have done this a long time ago, it is doing it now and it is a step in the right direction and one which should be applauded.

I don't think people should carry on the criticism of dog breeders. If all of us are really eager to protect the integrity of our breeds and get them back to what they were supposed to be, then everyone needs to work together - all the breed clubs and all the dog owners. I see the current bulldog and think, "Wow, that looks good," because it appeals to the eye.

But I also feel dreadfully sad for it because the breeding has brought horrendous problems, both physical and mental.

If a dog feels pain, it could be disposed to respond aggressively because of that pain.

And that is not the bulldog spirit we want.

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