I'm a big fan of the "campsite rule" in most realms of life. You should be too. You're going to tinker with something for fun or profit? Make sure you're contributing positively in both the long and short terms, and above all, do no harm. Seems pretty straightforward, right? So when I stumbled across a series of "then vs. now" photos of dog breed development through the ages my Aghast Button got a good poke. My conclusion was this:
Many purebred dogs are the product of idiotic aestheticized design sense, and engineered to fail.
This might provoke some internal knee-jerks. Whether you're thinking "Well, MY [favored breed] is happy, healthy and recently rescued a bus full of children from a fire," or "Sure, all breeders are immoral and should be shot," I'm not here to argue the meta point on animal husbandry. In fact, I'll cop to being both a shelter-only wonk and a big Viszla fan. Rather, I'd encourage you to consider the purebred dog as a heritage brand product that has lost hold of the function side of the scales and any vision of the object as a whole. (Think PT Cruiser.)
No denying it, some beloved purebred dogs are terribly configured, and it's hardly surprising. When you allow aesthetics or a single praised trait to dictate form, you run the risk of compromising overall quality, usability and durability. If there's one thing pedigreed breeding is all about, it's single-minded dedication to very specific traits, and when you multiply that dedication over the course of generations... the results can be bizarrely out of touch. Here are a couple of examples.
The new, improved, even more horrifying bloodhound
Bloodhounds: Bred as a practical purpose-built dog for game chasing and savvy sniffing as far back as medieval France, the bloodhound dipped deeply in popularity around the early 1900s (as pictured above) and may have disappeared if competitive dog shows hadn't taken off around that time. Subsequently, their prized scenting skills have been "improved" on with increasingly unreasonable physical characteristics: a tall peaked skull, ears like grandma's caftans, sunken eyes, and lots and lots of wrinkly skin. The jowelled face on these guys could belong to an aging president. While handsome to a bloodhound fancier, some of these bred-in traits are in direct conflict with the dog's hunting nature. What's worse, they now commonly suffer from eye, nose and ear problems, cancer, and high instances of bloat. Some surveys report an average lifespan as short as 6 or 7 years. Planned obsolescence? Pretty sure that's unethical.
I can hear the labored breathing from here.
Pugs: No subtle complaints here since this little guy's issues should require zero explanation. I'm fully aware of their so-bad-it's-good charm, but it's worth noting that the prized smashed wrinkle face ratchets up the list of likely debilitating health problems so high you should feel bad for even finding it so horrifically cute. That desirable curly tail is actually a genetic defect, leading in extreme cases to paralysis. What the hell is wrong with us?
Great Dane: Not sure exactly what they were aiming for, but they started with a very old, noble hunting breed and turned it into one of those gigantic novelty teddybears. Once a sleek and effective boarhound, now you have to be careful not to over-exercise these gigantic sweethearts due to chronic bone and muscle problems resulting from being built too damn high. These problems can include the amusing-sounding but heartbreaking "Wobbler's Syndrome" where excessive pressure on the spinal column results in the inability to walk normally, and HOD (Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy) a COMMON bone disease that can lead to necrosis, cancerous bone growth and sometimes early death. Think about that. That is actually incredibly sad.
Bull Terrier: Once upon a time, in the late 19th century, this was a reasonable and doglike dog, bred for fighting and catching small game. They were later adopted as a fashionable accessory pet for gentlemen. Fast forward a century and the bull terrier is now one of the creepiest dogs I've ever seen. It appears to be part naked mole rat, part burn victim, part over-the-hill boxing champ. In addition to just looking weird, they also have notable health issues. Most common are poor hearing, kidney problems, susceptibility to heart disease, and patella luxation—a condition where a leg's joint is effectively built to dislocate, which sounds pretty dang unpleasant but is common among small boutiquey dogs. This is what happens when you get high on your own supply, folks.
Form factor, while vital to the user's emotional interaction, is only one piece of a very complex machine. Of course disposition and context make up an enormous part of why we love things (pets especially), but the physical design has to function well in order for those factors to be able to shine and last.
In short, consider the end user. Whether you take that to mean the dog itself or the human stewarding its pathetic and deformed existence, this is the kicker. If your dog can't breathe under completely normal dog-life circumstances (i.e. excitement at treat time; tree and butt sniffing) or is unlikely to live past dog-adolescence without extensive medical intervention, you've got yourself a fancy lemon. If the pedigreed pup in question is meant for looks rather than living, the whole product needs to be reconsidered.
To apologize for my function-minded crankiness here are some very serious dog pictures, just because: