French Bulldog breeder and veterinary assistant Chantal van Kruining is on a mission to change the mindset of pet owners and breeders around the world as she seeks to spread an important message: “Breed for health. Not show.”
Passionate about the French Bulldog, van Kruining isn’t alone in her belief that their skyrocketing popularity has led to breeders trying to make the dogs look more appealing, putting their health at risk in the process.
“Boundaries are fading within what is considered normal,” she says. “It is not normal that a dog can’t do what he likes most because of his body type. It is not cute when a dog can’t breathe without making noise. It’s not normal that 80% of French Bulldogs are born by a planned caesarian section.”
The impact of human interference into the breeding of French Bulldogs was something van Kruining first noticed years ago when she and her partner adopted their first Frenchie, a six-year-old girl they named Quinta.
“On the French Bulldog Forum, we found her. She had FCI pedigree but she was bred in a totally different way than we had in mind. She was kept outside in a cage and only allowed indoors when she had puppies”
After just two years of having Quinta, van Kruining began to notice problems. “The consequences of her poor breeding became obvious. She couldn’t run for an extended period of time. Halfway through our daily long walks, she needed help. She couldn’t get up anymore.”
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It was then that van Kruining realized there were issues in the way French Bulldogs were being bred. In order to make them look more attractive, Frenchie’s have been bred in such a way that has left them with a condition known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS).
The syndrome is caused by a skull malformation that’s a consequence of selective breeding, causing the nostrils to be too small and their trachea too narrow. The result is breathing difficulties that can prove fatal.
As a veterinary assistant, van Kruining has felt her heart break numerous times as she watched Frenchie’s in pain because they’d been bred with humans in mind instead of health, their short muzzles a design feature to make them look more aesthetically appealing.
It’s watching them suffer that has led her to jump head-first into the breeding world, creating Hawbucks French Bulldogs, a breeding program that seeks to reengineer the faces of Frenchie’s to make them healthier.
“We would rather breed a Frenchie that might look less like the breed standard but is healthy from inside and out than a French Bulldog true to type that is collapsing under its misery. We believe that the current breed standard does not support better health for the breed,” van Kruining explains.
“We strive for a French bulldog that is built a little more athletic,” she adds.” A French bulldog how they were meant in the beginning of the development of the breed. A dog that can run and play for several hours without trouble. A Frenchie that does not make a sound when breathing, under any circumstance.”
With many breeders being frustratingly tight-lipped about their breeding processes, van Kruining is determined to be transparent, answering any and all questions potential Frenchie owners have and making all the health tests and results she carries out available on her website.
“Our kennel is born out of frustration. Frustration about the mysteries that are kept in breeders, about the overall health of the breed, and even about the individual dogs. Frustration that one seems to find some abnormalities totally normal. Frustration because often there is no transparency about the diseases that are within the breed.”
So, what is it that sets Hawbucks French Bulldogs apart from other breeders? Van Kruining is humble in her answer: “We do not claim to know it all. The only thing we can do is promise that we will try our utmost best to breed healthy French Bulldogs. That is what we aspire to. That is what we stand for.”
Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.
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