SINCE the annual general meeting of the UK Kennel Club back in May there has been growing speculation about whether the KC was about to recognize some of the more popular crossbreeds, like the Labradoodle..
Therefore when its readers received their copy of the KC’s official magazine, The Kennel Gazette, this week I suspect many of them will have been relieved by the first two sentences in Kennel Club chairman Steve Dean’s column, he wrote: “Is the KC considering recognition of popular crossbred types as breeds? The answer is quite simply no.”
That is pretty unequivocal.
The idea of Labra and other ‘Doodles’ competing in their own breed classes at our championship shows is anathema to many of those who have devoted their lives to breeding dogs within the existing breed register – though even they would have to admit that many, perhaps most, of our current breeds were developed by deliberate crossing of pre-existing types of dog with a specific purpose in mind.
It is understandable that there has been some confusion about the KC’s intentions. It has over recent years expressed its willingness to register dogs with outcross blood, if a very good reason can be given for the need to crossbreed. On occasion this has led to clashes with individuals or clubs within the breed. Now we also have the unverified parentage scheme which takes us back towards the old days when dogs could be registered as a particular breed if certified as such by some championship show judges.
In addition increased prominence has been given to the KC’s inclusiveness to all dogs, and the holding of the Scruffts final at Crufts, while in itself hardly earth-shattering it could easily be seen as a symbol of the KC’s future intentions.
Then, what with the unfortunate way coat-testing was done at Crufts 2011, and veterinary checking at Crufts 2012, one can see that an impression was emerging that the KC no longer particularly liked its core clientele.
With pedigree dog breeding under attack, or at least under review, from so many directions, one might at least hope that our own governing body would stand up for the pedigree dogs and those who breed and compete with them.
Rightly or wrongly, there has been a perception that this hasn’t always been the case in recent years, and suggestions that the club was moving towards full recognition of designer crosses might have been the final straw.
So Professor Dean’s statement was timely and should help clear the air.
He is of course quite right that, even though some might find this uncomfortable, the KC does have to engage with the entire dog-owning community if it wishes to be regarded as the principal source of information on all dogs. He feels it important that the KC does not turn its back on those who own non-purebred dogs, or ignore their existence.
Indeed, as he points out, such dogs have been able to be registered on the activity register for many decades, and to compete in some of the disciplines the KC governs. More recently, the companion dog register has also been open to all, as of course is the Petlog identification service and the Good Citizen Dog scheme.
So, what is going to be the future KC policy towards non-purebred dogs and those who breed them? On this the chairman is not quite so definite. He suggests that providing a means for ALL dog breeders to access relevant health tests as well as breeding and rearing puppies is an important part of the KC’s role. No one, presumably, would object to any dog, whatever its ancestry, being tested for any potential problem, so that is likely to be relatively uncontroversial.
What about the Assured Breeder Scheme? The KC has for some time hoped that this will become ‘the national standard for all dog breeders’, and of course its basic principles can apply to anyone who produces any sort of puppy. But were the scheme to give equal status to the production of non-purebred puppies, that would surely be a step too far for the KC’s core community.
Prof Dean concludes by saying that “… as the KC we must continue to support everybody who has signed up to our high standards aimed at ensuring our world is populated by healthy, well socialised dogs. If this includes responsible owners of crossbreeds then surely we should embrace this too.”
Surely, though, it all depends on what he means by ‘support’. This he has left vague. I suspect that many will want to know exactly what this ‘support’ implies. I appreciate that the KC has a difficult tightrope to tread in this area. How can it ‘support’ all dogs and yet at the same time still promote pedigree dogs as the ideal? It’s something the chairman might clarify in his November column.