Back in the pre-Christian era, Pugs were considered prized possessions of the Emperors of China and were personally guarded by soldiers. Later, their popularity spread, as they became favored by Monarchs of Europe and discerning people all over the world. This luxurious history and royal advocacy has helped the Pug remain one of the most popular dog breeds today.
Having more than 20,000 American Kennel Club (AKC) registrations per year since 2006, this little pet has commanded a lot of attention from canine enthusiasts, dog fanciers, and pet lovers in general. And now, for the first time ever, an exclusive diet customized specifically to the Pug’s unique nutritional needs is available.
With a special jaw shape, wrinkled skin, and tendency to become overweight, nutrition can play an important role in the health and longevity of a Pug’s life. Royal Canin Pug 25 is specially formulated with a unique kibble shape that is easy for them to grasp and chew, nutrients that help to limit irritation in their loose, folded skin, and a balanced protein and fat content to help them maintain a healthy body weight.
How do we find ourselves in a position where a dog breed is in need of food that it finds ‘easy to grasp and chew’?
Helps to ‘limit‘ the irritation to their loose, folded skin? Is developed to accommodate its ’special’ shaped jaw? Seriously?
This is an incredible state of affairs. But what it is, plain and simple, is a manufacturer openly catering for and marketing the advantages of a product specifically developed for disabled dogs. They call it a ’special’ shaped jaw, wow if that’s not marketing speak!
Under the marketing speak – in an imaginary product – how would this read: “We know you can’t chew, we know you struggle with your weight due to your mobility issues, we know your skin irritates you on an almost daily basis, we know your head structure is such that the simple, basic act of picking up food is different for you and we know that a variety of your physical traits makes life hard for you, so we’ve pre-mushed your food for you and specially developed it so you can perform the basic task of picking it up and chewing the stuff.”
Now, I fully appreciate that there is a degree of marketing angle applied to the wording. I mean, Pugs have survived this far without this particular product, but the reality is Royal Canin HAVE picked up on certain physical traits related to this breed and they are seeking to provide a product designed to accommodate them.
This isn’t an attack on Royal Canin, far from it. They’ve recognised some significant issues and they are seeking to capitalise on them, this is the pet product business, no complaints from me. But what this does is absolutely ring true the words spoken by RSPCA chief vet Mark Evans in Pedigree Dogs Exposed when he stated “we have begun to accept the abnormal as normal”.
It comes to something when a pet food company is developing food that is ‘easier to chew and grasp’, ‘limits the irritation to their loose, folded skin’. This is a DOG we’re talking about. A DOG. This is a marketing angle that acts as a damning indictment on what we’ve allowed to happen to certain dog breeds in the name of……….well, what, exactly?
It signifies just how recipient we are to being slapped over the head with the visible and risible fact that canine abnormalities are something we barely bat an eyelid about, in fact those self same abnormalities are even used in the marketing spiel of our pet food products now. How sad that makes me feel.
Can you imagine the reaction if a firm developed a food product exclusively marketed to the victims of Chernobyl? Think we’d notice something about that not quite sitting right with us? Think a firm as large as Mars (the owner of Royal Canin) would even dare attempt it?
A few weeks ago I wrote about how – visibly – unhealthy dogs will still be exhibited at Crufts 2010. It’s a perception problem. Some people, clearly, don’t see things the way others do. Some people are attracted to the wrinkles. Some people like the exaggerated short muzzle. I’m convinced, surely, that they don’t like the by-product of those man-made traits: overheating, difficulty in breathing, skin problems, respiratory distress and more. The same problems that seem to be the touchstone of Royal Canin’s Pug-specific dog food.
When Danny, the Pekingnese won Crufts ‘Best in Show’ he had to be sat on a bed of ice to avoid overheating. That’s not ‘normal’ – should I come up with a line of Pekignese specific cooling trays? Or what about the problems that Bulldogs have in conceiving – you know, another basic canine trait that, really, they ought to need no artificial assistance with – should I create a product to assist with that process? What should I call it? A ‘rape rack’? Oh, no need – it’s already been done (Oh yes it has).
At what point when we decided to domesticate the dog, did we decide that we’d go beyond simply shaping them to suit our particular needs and lifestyles to actively disabling them? Literally, disabling them – making them less able. If we are happy to simply allow the abnormal to go uncommented, to become ‘the norm’ then we can expect more of the same….and beyond.
It amazes me how many people will – rightly – be up in arms about the (illegal in the UK) practice of de-barking a dog (a medical procedure that takes away a dog’s physical ability to bark, a lifestyle choice for the owner) or de-clawing a cat to avoid scratches on the furniture – but we don’t bat an eyelid about the myriad of other disabilities that have been deliberately inflicted on our canine friends. We get acustomed to seeing these traits and accepting them as being OK; “Oh, that’s just Pugs. Or, that’s just the way Bulldogs/Neopolitan Mastiffs/Pekingnese/Cavalier King Charles/are – those are just their particular traits.”
Correct. They are. But WE made them that way. Not evolution. Us. It didn’t happen ‘naturally’.
Ask yourself this; which of the following two dogs would NOT require a dog food that had been specially prepared to be ‘easier for them to chew and grasp, wouldn’t irritate their loose, folded skin and doesn’t look like it would be prone to obesity by virtue of its human-inflicted physical disabilities’?
Before I finish, I must stress how much affection I have for the Pug as a breed.
I’ve met a number of Pugs and have found their character and disposition to be particularly endearing to me. However, I always, always come away feeling sorry for them. Feeling sympathy for what has happened to them, physically, and for what? So they appeal to our sense of humour more? So they connect better with our ‘Disney’ gene (awww, look at the wrinkly dog, how cute!!)? How do we get away with it? Most of the Pug owners I know are PROPER dog lovers. They adore their dogs, immensely. Well, why wouldn’t they. The parents of a disabled child don’t love their offspring any less. The problem is with the traits we seem to be attracted to – if we are going to be attracted to disability and we’re prepared to stimulate the demand for disabled dogs, then disabled dogs is exactly what we’ll get. This isn’t nature at work, this is the economics of supply and demand.
I took away a lot from the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed but what resonated most with me was Mark Evans’ claim that we HAVE accepted the abnormal as normal.
What more proof do we possibly need to verify his claim than the fact that a pet food company attempts to use the well known disabilities of a dog breed in order to shift their product?