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A Biting History of Pedigree Dogs

and How the Quest for Status Has Harmed

Man's Best Friend


Foreword by Dr. Marc Bekoff (The Emotional Lives of Animals)


Beacon Press


Golden Retrievers, chocolate Labs, champagne Frenchies, café-au-lait Poodles—whether showing in rings or showing off on sidewalks, the "purebred" dog isn’t a time-honored tradition but a commercial invention of the nineteenth century. As much about people as dogs, this boldly entertaining social history takes an unflinching look at the sordid past of canine beauty pageants like Westminster and Crufts, and the not so fancy origins of many a status symbol with whiskers. The persistent snob appeal of brand-name pets not only explains the willingness of their biggest fans to overlook an alarming number of breed-specific health problems, it also paints an unflattering picture of the way we view fellow humans. Our faithful four-legged servants haul a heavy load of cultural baggage, including beliefs about class and race we’re no longer supposed to have.

Breeding—meaning both the disturbing legacy of bias and inequality celebrated each year at the Westminster dog show, and the ongoing production of surplus pets while millions await rescue or death—needs to be reconsidered in a major way. This landmark book will surely motivate people to begin to ask the hard questions and to answer them so that dogs benefit from these discussions.


—Foreword by Marc Bekoff (The Emotional Lives of Animals, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed)



Best book ever on pedigree dogs.


Jemima Harrison (Creator of BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed)



A Matter of Breeding addresses a critical but often ignored ethical issue—dog pedigrees. Brandow exposes the underbelly of the dog fancy industry, showing what outrageous lengths humans have gone to—shaping dogs into almost unimaginable shapes and sizes—in order to increase their own social status. This book is not only incredibly important but is a delightful read with fascinating insights into the history and psychology of the pure bred dog world.


Alan M. Beck, Sc.D., Professor and Director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University (Between Pets and PeopleThe Ecology of Stray DogsThe Health Benefits of Dog Walking for People and Pets)



Michael Brandow’s A Matter of Breeding is at once a keenly observed memoir of his days as a New York City dog walker, a thoroughly researched history of purebred dogs, and an often biting social critique of people, their dogs, and the world they have made for each other.


Mark Derr (How the Dog Became the Dog, A Dog's History of America, Dog's Best Friend)



If you’re considering welcoming a dog (or two) into your family, read Michael Brandow’s fascinating and eye-opening book before visiting a pet store or breeder. Brandow not only unearths the status driven history of so-called "purebreds," but exhorts us to love all dogs regardless of breed. A dog is a living, loving creature, not an accessory item and Brandow makes his case persuasively and with wit.

Betsy Banks Saul, Founder of



"A no-holds-barred defense of dogs that are the hapless victims of their clueless owners."


Kirkus Reviews



“A must-read for all dog lovers.”



UK Edition

Gerald Duckworth

and Company Ltd


Japan Edition

Hakuyosha Publishing Co., Ltd


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News & Events 




Pure-Bred Problems

Friday, February 13, 2015


Some French bulldogs have trouble breathing. Golden retrievers can suffer from vision problems. And some pugs have weak hind legs.

Michael Brandow, commentator on dog issues and author of A Matter of Breeding: A Biting History of Pedigree Dogs and How the Quest for Status Has Harmed Man's Best Friend, discusses the growing dangers behind today's obsession with purebred dogs. 




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