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Ask a Vet: Not-so-natural looks on canines
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My dog is immune to the figure-four leg lock.

It’s not because she’s especially accomplished in the field of professional wrestling, although she does fight dirty when she plays with my son. But it is more so because she only has one rear leg.

Plus, given she is a mixed breed with who knows what for a genetic background, one might assume every dog of her breed has only one rear leg.

But would that make it a breed standard? After all, she wasn’t born that way. Her leg was injured, making it nonfunctional. Thus her leg was amputated in the name of comfort.

So what exactly is a breed standard?

In the past, when breeds were developed by dedicated individuals who were seeking healthy dogs to do very specific jobs, certain standards were accepted. Some hunting dogs had their tails docked to avoid injury when running through dense brush. Some breeds had their ears cropped to give a more aware, or maybe even menacing appearance, all in the name of security.

If you’ve ever seen a Doberman pinscher with intact ears, you know they look a lot like a black-and-tan coonhound. Which of those brings the idea of high security to mind?

Still, many of our breeds today are far removed from their original purposes. Sadly, many bulldogs are doing well to walk from one side of the street to the other without becoming winded. Fighting a bull? Come on.

So please consider my position on the matter: If it’s a characteristic of the breed, it should be bred into the line.

If your dog works and his natural anatomy puts him at risk, that’s one thing. Another thing is if you choose to show your dog and certain anatomical standards are required. (Although part of me balks at those standards in the second case.)

So please consider aesthetic procedures for your pets. Are they for the dog’s own good? Or are you giving in to archaic peer pressure?

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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