Monday, 11 April 2016

BREAKING NEWS: Norwegian KC admits "we went too far" and pledges to revolutionise 'brachy' health

In an extremely strong statement regarding brachycephalic health, the Norwegian Kennel Club (NKK) has today admitted that the breeding of short-faced breeds has gone "too far" and has pledged to reverse the damage.

In response to what it refers to as  the "well-documented" health problems associated with a short nose, the NKK has committed to exploring/initiating the following measures for Bulldogs, Pugs, French Bulldogs and other brachy breeds:

  • outcross projects designed to improve anatomy of the most extreme breeds without compromising genetic diversity
  • a further "extensive" revision of breed standards to remove clauses which predispose for health problems/reduced functionality - to include those breeds that are edging towards being brachycephalic
  • a pre-breeding endurance test for brachycephalics (treadmill and heart-monitor).
  • registration of puppies dependent on a statement that neither parent has undergone airway surgery
  • profile photographs of all dogs being shown in order to monitor trends.

The NKK has also determined to ensure the issue is discussed at FCI level and says it may contact the UK Kennel Club direct as the KC is the country of origin for several brachycephalic breeds (including, of course, the Bulldog).

It is a very happy day here at the PDE Blog and I want to say a big fat "well done" to the Norwegian Kennel Club for this brave and far-reaching statement - especially coming so soon after the ill-tempered denial from the Australian Kennel Club about the extent of the suffering in brachycephalics. (See here.)

There also needs to be a big well-done to all those who have worked so hard to secure change for brachycephalic breeds - including researchers, dog-welfare campaigners and those vets who have been brave enough to stand up and say enough is enough. Very significantly last year, over 1000 veterinary professionals in Sweden signed an open letter demanding change - something that has triggered a lot of discussion and a brachycephalic conference hosted by the Swedish Kennel Club a few weeks ago.

I'm delighted, too, to see the recognition that teeth/oral health is an important issue for brachycephalics. The PDE blog has taken a lead on documenting this oft-overlooked issue, largely thanks to the campaigning work done by Canadian veterinary dentist Dr Fraser Hale - see here and here.)

Pug skull  © Gina Gray

The NKK statement in full (available online here):

From veterinarians, concerns are frequently raised regarding suffering and reduced functionality among the brachycephalic breeds. The fact that a shortened nose creates a predisposition from problems are by now well documented.

The Norwegian Kennel Club has for a significant time focused on the problems regarding respiratory issues and problems with temperature regulation for the brachycephalic breeds.

The Norwegian Kennel Club’s work has so far consisted of the following:

  • Spreading information and raising awareness among owners, breeders, breed clubs
  • BSI (Breed Specific Instructions regarding exaggerations in pedigree dogs) – this includes both providing general information to judges as well as incorporating BSI as a part of the education of judges), to prevent exaggerated dogs being awarded
  • Breed standards have, in general, been modernized in recent years. However, there are still descriptions in several standards that will make dogs predisposed for reduced functionality and health problems
  • In 2015, the NKK sent a letter to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, encouraging them to make registration of surgery to improve respiratory function for brachycephalic breeds mandatory. The Norwegian Kennel Club offered to manage the register of dogs having undergone this type of surgery. The Norwegian Kennel Club has no information of which dogs, or how many dogs, are currently being operated on. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority declined the suggestion to register these operations.
  • The Norwegian Kennel Club is currently part of a working group for dog welfare, with several other animal welfare groups in Norway. This group has worked extensively over the past six months on concrete suggestion to improve the health for these breeds
  • The Norwegian Kennel Club wants to establish an endurance test for the brachycephalic breeds – this work is well underway 
Recently, the Norwegian Kennel Club board voted unanimously to intensify the work to improve the health for the brachycephalic breeds. The intensified efforts will begin this spring, and will include the following:

  • The Norwegian Kennel Club will raise the issue during the Nordic Kennel Union meeting in April 2016
  • The FCI will be contacted to ensure dialogue with the countries responsible for the breeds in questions. The Kennel Club may also be contacted directly regarding this matter, as they are responsible for several of the brachycephalic breeds. The dialogue with the various countries will include:
  • Outcross projects, with the intent of improving the anatomy of the exposed breeds, without reducing the genepool
  • Extensive revision of the breed standards with descriptions predisposing for health problems/reduced functionality
  • Revision of breed standards for breeds where even shorter noses are likely, or who are close to being at risk (nose/skull=1:2)
  • The Norwegian Kennel Club will establish a voluntary register where owners can report that their dog has been operated for respiratory problems. This will be registered in DogWeb, the Norwegian Kennel Club health database, open to the public. Letters with information regarding surgery may also be sent to breed clubs and breeders
  • Statements from the owner(s) of parents that these dogs have not undergone surgery for for respiratory issues will be registered when the litter is registered 
  • Profile photos of all dogs being shown at dog shows will be taken and registered.

Dedicated breed club

The Norwegian Bulldog Club has already done solid work to improve the health for their breeds, and have, in their Breed Specific Strategy, begun work to develop an endurance test.

This test is a tool to measure whether the dog has problems breathing and/or regulating temperature during activity, so that the healthiest individuals may be selected for breeding. Endurance testing has also been attempted by other clubs, but the Norwegian Kennel Club now wants to improve this test by using treadmills and measuring heart rate to establish a more standardized test. The treadmill is ready, as is the customized heart rate measurers, and the testing of the equipment will begin already this week. Shortly, the Norwegian Kennel Club and the Norwegian Bulldog Club will being the actual testing of dogs.

We hope that this test will provide an objective and scientific measurement of health, and therefore suitability for breeding. Hopefully, this will become one of several tools in the ongoing work to reduce the problems and suffering for brachycephalic breeds through selective breeding. We are aware that the short-nosed breeds also have other significant health issues as a result of anatomy, particularly with eyes and teeth. We believe that the improvement in anatomy as a result of the measures now being taken will also help in these areas, and this will be considered part of the evaluation process for all initiatives.

Key focus area 

There is no doubt that several short snout breeds have major challenges when it comes to health, and that the challenges in this area is not consistent with good dog welfare. This is an important health issue we are going to sharpen the focus on in the future. The development of certain breeds should not have gone so far. Nevertheless, this very unfortunate development has occurred, and measures must therefore now be reinforced. It goes without saying that NKK should lead the way in this effort, and we have great expectations that our work will give good results, says CEO Ms. Trine Hage.


  1. The Norwegian Kennel Club deserves worldwide recognition for setting this kind of precendent.

    This is a cause for celebration.

  2. Bravo Norwegian Kennel Club! Love for breed type and common sense can be wedded, for the sake of the dogs.

  3. Wow, that sounds almost too good to be true! What a huge step towards truely responsible breeding and animal health. Bravo to the Norwegian Kennel Club for this strong and clear statement!

  4. In the US, there's a silly habit of bragging that one has an "English" golden retriever, or an "Australian" labradoodle -- because these must be more bettah than the regular kind something something reasons that's why.

    I hope to see pet owners here bragging that they have "Norwegian" pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers, toy griffons, etc.

    Because whether or not their ancestry is Norwegian, that would reflect a market for healthier pet dogs and breeding practices to meet that market.

    A girl can dream.

    1. Golden Retrievers are Scottish not English!

  5. Brilliant news. Well done all. They have now set the precedent of the standard of breeding expected. Health and welfare first and foremost. UK KC and AKC response to this?

  6. I'm really delighted to hear this news. Thank goodness one Kennel Club in the world has decided to make a stand. Will the others be shamed into doing something, or continue to stick their heads in the sand?

    1. Good news cewrtainly, but I share your pesimism in thinking the other KCs may stick their heads in the sand. Don't forget over here the KC is dictated to by the breed clubs (those that know everything about theire breed and of course are qualified to state what that breed should or should not look like - in short they're qualified in F... A...), so at least let's hope that our KC does hang their head in shame by being led by the nose by these breeders.

  7. If only the UK KC would follow this example.

  8. Fantastic news. What a breakthrough! Perhaps we can hope that the winds of change are turning towards common sense. Let's see the UK KC now grow a pair and stand up to bad breeding practices...they have every opportunity....will they take it?

  9. Well done NKC and their members!!

  10. Well, this was great news! Thanks, NKC, and may all other national KC:s just scramble to follow your example...

    Bodil Carlsson

  11. Could you provide the source announcement please?

    1. I have now added it above.

      It is here:

  12. Wow! Great powerful statement, hope they can bring the breeders along with them.

  13. HUGE round of applause for the Norwegian KC!

  14. Tolv poeng, twelve points, douze points! Well done Norway!!!! The winner by far.

    Its a renaissance no other word for it.

    The bridge between the old and the new in dog breeding. Hope other breeding issues in other breeds are swept into the same action as this takes off.

    Im almost sure all the Nordic countries including the Netherlands and possibly even more wont bat an eyelid and jump aboard. They are also working within the FCI for change.

    Countries not involved will be seen internationaly as producing unhealthy dogs....more vital pressure absolutey yes.

    It's terrific news. Well done Jemima!

  15. The Dutch Kennel Club and both breeding clubs, de Engelse Bulldog Club Nederland and de Bulldog
    Club Nederland, signed an agreement which will take effect on June 1st, 2014.
    The Dutch Kennel Club, in cooperation with both breeding clubs, established rules which eventually
    should lead to an improvement of the general health of the Bulldog.
    These rules apply to all matings taking place on and after June 1st, 2014. No pedigrees will be issued
    to litters if the parents do not comply with these rules. The rules apply to all litters born in the
    Netherlands, which means that these rules also apply to foreign stud dogs. The rules apply to all
    litters, whether or not the breeder is a member of one the breeding clubs.
    Requirements for Bulldogs used for breeding as from June 1, 2014:
    1. Breeding Suitability Test: fitness test, patellar luxation(physical exam), physical appearance
    2. ECVO eye test
    3. DNA test-HUU
    4. Restrictions for in-breeding
    5. Natural birth, caesarean section

    1. Thanks... I'd forgotten about this. I think the Norwegian endurance test will be quite a bit tougher than the Dutch one.

      Do you know what the rules are re natural birth/C-sections?

  16. Actually this is a translation of a statement NKK made on April 6:

    This statement has not really surprised the dog community in Norway, at least not the ones I’ve spoken to. NKK has taken a aggressive stand on health and ethics within Norway and elsewhere. As mentioned in they’re statement they have tried to make information about respiratory surgery available to the public. But sadly this request was denied by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) in 2015.

    The Norwegian Food Safety Authority are responsible for animal welfare (among other things). In 2013, when a renowned Norwegian newspaper wrote a series of articles focusing on brachycephalic breeds, the spokesperson from The Norwegian Food Safety Authority suggested that the breeding of such dogs may be against the law. This was taken as a hint of a possible ban of breeding certain breeds in the future.

    Some of the articles: The title is ”Dogs are suffering for looks”. The title: “The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) does not exclude banning more dog breeds”.

    Today there are six illegal breeds in Norway, deemed ”dangerous”. If any breeds would be banned on grounds of animal welfare this would be unprecedented. But the Norwegian legislation states that breeding animals for suffering is illegal:

    Law of animal welfare § 25 (translated by me)
    “Breeding should produce robust animals with good function and health. There should not be breeding, included by means of genetic technology, that will: a) change genes to affect animals physical or mental functions in a negative way, or continue such genes, b) reduce the animal’s ability to perform natural behaviour (…)”.

    In Norwegian: Lov om dyrevelferd, § 25
    «Avl skal fremme egenskaper som gir robuste dyr med god funksjon og helse. Det skal ikke drives avl, herunder ved bruk av genteknologiske metoder, som: a) endrer arveanlegg slik at de påvirker dyrs fysiske eller mentale funksjoner negativt, eller som viderefører slike arveanlegg, b) reduserer dyrs mulighet til å utøve naturlig adferd (…)”

    The Norwegian alliance of animal welfare celebrated the statement with this tweet:
    ”Mattilsynet vurderer forbud mot bl.a bulldog, pga avl som bryter med dyrevelferdsloven”. Translated: The Norwegian Food Safety Authority contemplating ban on bulldog, among others; breeding not in line with animal welfare laws.

    But alas, this was back in 2013, and the refusal to register respiratory surgery seems to counteract the Norwegian Food Safety Authority supposed dedication towards animal welfare. In this case, NKK seems to be the progressive organisation with a honest wish to improve, and the government body in charge of animal welfare is the roadblock.

    1. Really useful info, thank you. Yes, it is disappointing re the FSA. I wonder if more pressure could be put on them by Norwegian vets.

  17. NKK makes me proud to be a Norwegian dog fancier once more. They've really stepped up on dog welfare and dog health lately. Love it! I do really hope they will achieve their goals in all areas.

  18. Nils Juel Blix
    I am proud of NKK - this is a brave stand to take.
    The next obvious step to take is to stop the dog shows as we know them today.
    Stop the rankings at the shows - just do quality judgments - no ranking.

    1. Yes each dog should be appraised completely on its own merits, not one against the other. They should be given a score which in effect can act like a "ranking" but it's set minimum a requirement to enter the open stud book or breed register. All hold pedigrees but a pedigree is just a record, an important one but not entitlement to registry into the studbook. In fact even a half a pedigree or none at all can still be appraised and enter the registry ......etc.

      All dogs required to be appraised this way and their off-spring to enter the stud book.

      Least it would be a good idea to open the studbook in a meaningful way and leave it so forever.

      Show breeders and exhibitors are it's true often more concerned with winning than dog health and function etc. So to satisfy the scores can still be used to give merit or title but they will in effect mean very different things, of course.

      I dont think this will go so far but it would be for the best if it did.

      Ordinarily I would say the breed clubs should hold the registry but in the case of the NKK under this system I wouldn't be the slightest bit concerned if they did, and the pedigree data base.

    2. The dog shows are not the problem. Neither are the rsnkings. The problem is the judges who reward unhealthy dogs. That must change.

    3. Yes judges are also to blame, but they are just part of the whole rotten scheme of dog shows. The way they are orientated at the present solely towards phenotype, uniformity and then secondly to extremes plus very limited movement on a leash is causing havoc. What becomes acceptable under that system is ever more literal interpretations of an exacting standard, until before you know it what stands infront of you is a freak.

      No dog should have an absolutely flat skull, egg shaped head, flat between the ears, no discernible stop etc etc for just a tiny few examples. The idea that they should have and absolutely, is purely diabolical even if they can just manage to breath, piss and bark without a nose, or the ability to even cock a leg.

      The showing model has to be changed to make a difference. It's a proven failure to eliminate all variation and dogs not absolutely conforming within very narrow parameters, then choosing the three most extremes to award within closed registers.

  19. The post states "The Norwegian Kennel Club will raise the issue during the Nordic Kennel Union meeting in April 2016."
    Please update us on the NKU meeting outcomes. Fingers crossed that this action will be generalized across the Nordic countries . . . and beyond.

  20. If only all could have the scales fall from their eyes....what a dream that is.

  21. Are the breed clubs going along with the NKK on this? Can it go anywhere without their cooperation?

    1. I imagine for absolute die hards opting out of NKK registration is always a possibility. In that case breeding laws will have to be investigated as an option.

  22. I don't believe its the buyers fault, or the breeders fault or even just the judges fault that dogs like this are being bred.
    I think its the registry systems fault for promoting a closed culture whos priority is NOT providing a service for man to breed better dogs, but in putting the Pedigree BEFORE the dog.

    The value is in the pedigree, not the dog.
    Thats inarguable while selection of dogs is based before any other consideration on "does it have a pedigree" and not any value the dog may have to contribute to humanity. That is environment. Environment MUST select the values that it favors. Environmental selection is a value seeking system. It will promote, or favor the values that serve it best for purpose.

    A pedigree has undeniable value to breeding dogs. It is a value worth promoting and the reason the registry Orgs. have not been rejected out right long ago.

    But it is not THE value. The dogs are the value and the purpose. That fact is not recognized while ANY value is measured 1st by conformity and certification of a pedigree before any other consideration. Thats not breeding for humanity, thats breeding for a closed culture with limited values.-Limited to what is already there, for a purpose of conformity only.

    Making it a value reduction system. A purpose reduction system. DEMANDING it be favored by the environment on the basis of a pedigree, not any values demonstrated.

    Purpose is environment specific. there are many environments that support the species dog for many purposes. Many values to support those many purposes.

    We have a large selection of the environment grouped together, with a resulting increase in the influence they are able to exert on the environment, saying the only value worth promotion is the pedigree. The dogs it represents have no obligation to bring value to humanity. Just the judgement of a single, closed culture.

    Purpose and value is lost to conformity to a pedigree while any org. indoctrinates that a pedigree is equal to purpose and value.
    A pedigree is one of many values able to contribute to a purpose. It is not the purpose. It can never demonstrate the purpose. Only a dog can do that.
    We have increasingly fewer dogs ABLE to do that.
    A dogs need ability to demonstrate their purpose to man, so that man understands what values to seek and emulate.
    Demonstration of value and purpose to environment is a biological law of physics.
    With out that ability, the species WILL loose purpose and value to its environment.

    That ability to even demonstrate value for a purpose is more often than not limited to dogs of pedigree. And what values do they demonstrate for the environment to emulate?

    No Org. tasked to breed 'better' dogs should be able to claim a pedigree is the 1st requisite before demonstrated value is recognized. Value and purpose are specific to environment. K.C orgs. are only one environment of many and the values relevant to the K.Cs can not hope to meet the demands of all others simply by not recognizing they exist and are valid.

  23. Step in the right direction, Hope other kennel clubs will follow suit.

  24. NKK is keeping up with their work for canine health. September NKK published (in Norwegian) the following update:

    Here a translated version:

    Measurement of nose and shell length completed

    In the recent times, the debate about the brachycephalic breeds and their health challenges flared up, and NKK has previously adopted a number of measures to improve the situation for these breeds. One measure to improve the situation is to establish a good method to measure nose and shell length in the dog breeds with shortened muzzle. The tools for this measurement is now almost completed.

    Company Aninova in Hamar, in collaboration with NKK health department has previously received funding for a pilot project (feasibility study) to evaluate various methods for measuring of nose and skull length in the dog breeds with shortened muzzle. Research shows that the ratio of length of muzzle and skull says something about the risk of BOAS (brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome), which ultimately causes breathing problems.

    - It is not always easy to measure this in conscious dogs, and the pilot project should therefore evaluate which methods may work and which ones that are too inaccurate for practical use, says NKK Veterinary Officer Kristin Wear Prestrud.

    Results will bw ready in October 2016.

    - The plan was initially to make measurements on the three breeds; pugs, English bulldog and French bulldog, and thus include only the Norwegian Pug Club and Norwegian Bulldog Club. However, there also came wishes from several other clubs to be included, which is welcomed as a positive response, says Prestrud.

    The measurements are now finished and the results will probably be ready in October.

  25. Thanks Eli-Ann.

    (: No DNA testing , health testing, Im shocked! (: (:

    Yes I'm truly shocked that no other kennel club can see that these breeds have been bred into horrifying, crippling dysfunction, that any number of health tests can never change.

    I wonder what rambling insanity Mrs Kisko will come up with to stop the KC following this uber practical test to save dogs a life of utter tragic misery. Oh yes I forgot they're all puppymills over there in Norway, breeding their dogs to squished anyway. British KC Pugs, Pekes, Bulldogs etc etc are all natural birthing, free breathing, genetically robust superior dogs in every way. They must be cause we register them! And unless your part of the rich and famous dog owning public just forget it, you cant afford the superior crippled hot mess anyway.