Extreme Conformation

What is conformation?

Conformation refers to the physical characteristics, appearance and structure of a dog.  ICECDogs defines pedigree dogs as those with a known and recorded parental lineage and are registered with a kennel or breed club.  Most pedigree dogs are bred to meet breed standards that define lay down a prior human plan for the expected conformational characteristics of dogs within that breed or type.  Non-pedigree, look-alike and crossbred dogs also each have a set of physical characteristics that may be defined as their conformation but that are often more variable.  

What is extreme conformation? 

Conformation can adversely affect the health and welfare of a dog, particularly when an emphasis is made towards selecting for unhealthy exaggeration of certain traits.  For example, a flat-faced (brachycephalic) dog may have difficulty breathing in average day-to-day situations and may be especially challenged in warm weather or when exercising.  A dog with extensive skin folds may have partial obstruction of the eyes or nose, and may show infection and inflammation of the folds.  Features such as these that are associated with reduced health and welfare are viewed as extreme conformation.  Some types of dogs and breeds show more extremes of conformation that impact their health and welfare than others.

Extreme conformation in dogs describes a physical appearance that has been so significantly altered by humankind away from the ancestral natural canine appearance that affected dogs commonly suffer from poor health and welfare, with negative impacts on their quality and quantity of life.

ICECDogs works from the position that “Maximising good health, welfare and temperament overrides all other considerations for dogs.”

It is important that efforts are made to produce the next generations such that dogs are bred towards conformations with progressively reduced exaggerations.  When thinking of purchasing a dog, prospective buyers should actively seek out individual animals or breeds that do not show extremes of conformation that may impact their quality of life, lifespan or enjoyment as a family pet.  

As a global multi-stakeholder group, ICECDogs will work together with our members, national multi-stakeholder groups and partners to minimize welfare issues resulting from extreme conformations in dogs by seeking out and applying evidence-based canine and human approaches.

Do only “pedigree “dogs suffer extreme conformations?  

No, any type of dog may have conformational characteristics that are exaggerated and can impact the health and welfare, quality of life and lifespan of the dog.  

It is important for breeders, veterinarians, kennel clubs, breed clubs, the media, authorities, Non-Governmental Organisations including welfare organisations and the public including present and future dogs owners to work together to help ensure that dogs are bred away from extremes of conformation regardless of breed or type of dog.



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