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Top Dog

  • Key Stage 3
  • GCSE
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Case study
Topic: Variation

With Crufts behind them for another year, breeders and judges are now preparing for smaller dog shows all over the UK. Many of these rely on the strict selective breeding of pedigree dogs. This can lead to chronic genetic problems and diseases. Is pedigree breeding ethically acceptable? This activity gives students a chance to decide for themselves.

This activity is designed to be used in conjunction with Simpletons: a tool for teaching ethical thinking. We suggest using Simpletons to teach students how to think from different ethical perspectives. Top dog then allows students to practise the same ethical styles in a different context.

11-16 How Science Works:
4b: consider how and why decisions about science and technology are made, including those that raise ethical issues.

Published: 19th March 2007
Reviews & Comments: 23

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Learning objectives

Students will:
• Learn about selective breeding in the context of dog breeds
• Learn to apply different ethical approaches to making a decision about pedigree breeding of dogs

Try the activity

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11-14 Variation, classification and inheritance QCA module 9A
• 4c: Selective breeding can lead to new varieties

14 – 16 How science works: data, evidence, theories and explanations
• 4b: consider how and why decisions about science and technology are made, including those that raise ethical issues.

14 – 16 GCSE specifications

Edexcel additional B2 2.14
• Explore evidence for the uses of selective breeding.

OCR Gateway additional B3g – new genes for old
• Research examples of animal breeds that have been produced by selective breeding

Running the activity

changed considerably as a result of selective breeding. Tell students that they will consider whether pedigree selective breeding is ethically acceptable.

Display page 2 describes the science of pedigree breeding.

Give each student – or pair – a copy of page 3. Ask each student to complete the speech bubbles, bearing in mind the ethical approach of each person. It may help to remind students of the ethical approach of each 'Simpletons' character ('Hiram' – utilitarian; 'Lucy' – rights-based; 'Madge' – care-based; 'Brad' – self-centred) and ask them what that character might say. Students then choose the view they most closely agree with. Then get students into small groups – each representing a variety of views – and ask them to debate the issue for a TV-style discussion, or lead a whole-class discussion on the question: Is pedigree dog breeding cruel?

Note: this activity assumes that the ethical approaches described in the Simpletons activity can be applied to animals besides humans (a whole debate in itself!).

News links

Daily Telegraph
Recent news about Crufts – useful background
Daily Telegraph
More on Crufts – useful background
Canine genetics
Canine genetics – this link is part of a very useful site for teachers and more able students
Siberian Husky
Interesting informatoin on the Siberian Husky

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

download problem

Mar 14th, 2013

1 Star

teacher sheet does not download

Reviewer: Carol Brogden

Top Dog review

Feb 25th, 2013

5 Star

Not downloading :(

Reviewer: Samantha Dobson

cannot open pdfs

Feb 7th, 2013

5 Star

I have tried sevceral times to open the pupil sheest without success.

Reviewer: Nicole Johnson

Top Dog review

Jan 22nd, 2013

5 Star

Very good will use it for a mixed ability group.


I am unable to download this activity - please help, others are working so its not an issue with the computer I am using

Nov 14th, 2012

1 Star


Not sure what the problem is for you as it's downloading fine here. If you let me have your email address I am happy to send the activity pdf to you.


Reviewer: Kelly Dalkin


Oct 10th, 2012

4 Star

An excellent and fun lesson, the pupils really enjoyed their debate


Reviewer: Zahid Butt

Incorrect pictures

Jul 12th, 2012

2 Star

I hope that the incorrect dog breed will be corrected.

The picture is a Basset Hound rather than Bloodhound, although they share some facial characteristics they are quite different dog in size and shape.

A good activity but a shame the basic information is incorrect.

This was something pointed out to me by students as well as noticing it as soon as I viewed the resource.

Reviewer: charlotte richards

Top Dog

Sep 14th, 2011

5 Star

Nice little activity.
Doesn't take too long and is good for the lower groups. Some of my year nine were able to think up some really good arguments.
NB I didn't use the Simpsons thing; I just asked the students to say how four different people might respond.

Reviewer: W Davies

Facts wrong

Nov 14th, 2010

1 Star

I've always found the activities on upd8 great to use but I'm rather disappointed with the science facts in this activity and the bias.

Possibilities have been presented as facts - particularly for the Chow Chow and Bulldog. Should a science website be perpetuating the myth that Bulldogs can't self- whelp or that every Chow Chow gets entropian .I dislike the definition of pedigree breeding as being the breeding of 'closely' related dogs when in fact you've descibed line -breeding (in-breeding). Pedigree breeding by definition is simply the breeding of one KC registered Bulldog to another and although some breeders carry out line breeding(!!) most know that it would only be storing up problems for the future and wouldn't do it.

This was clearly not devised by someone that knows about dogs.

Reviewer: Irene Nickerson

Shaping Life

May 20th, 2010

4 Star

Good activity - provoked lots of discussion with my Y8's. The lesson actually ran over as they debated selective breeding and all wanted the last say!

Reviewer: Sarah Robinson

top dog

Feb 28th, 2010

5 Star

it was fun all the way ...for the kids and me...and ofcourse the learning outcome was fantastic


Variation and inheritance

Dec 13th, 2009

4 Star

This looks like good material to stimulate a discussion. i will use it with a year 9 group.

Reviewer: Royston Adams

Top Dog

Dec 3rd, 2009

4 Star

very useful with my year 9 class and led to good debate and opinions

Reviewer: sophia bidwell

selective breeding

Mar 19th, 2009

4 Star

this worked really well as an activity with my year 8 class. got them thinking about the ethical implications of what selective breeding may involve.

Reviewer: Natalie Yarnell

selective breeding

Feb 12th, 2009

4 Star

got kids very interested, as theyall have dogs/know somebody with a dog and have lots of opinions on the subject

Reviewer: ana teresa cerdan-malo

top dog

Oct 16th, 2008

4 Star

Good activity.
I adapted it a little with starter & plenary, so its a lot to fit in to a 50min lesson but the kids found it enjoyable and challenging.

Reviewer: Paula Heaney

Top Dog review

Jun 12th, 2008

4 Star

This worked really well with my lower ability group. It really got them thinking about ethics.

Reviewer: sophie fossett

Inheritance and selection - year 9

Jun 10th, 2008

5 Star

My students really enjoyed this approach. The less able ones where immediately stimulated by the dog theme and both classes really enjoyed the group work. We shall undoubtedly teach this again to our KS3 classes.

Reviewer: Phil Matthews

Top Dog review

May 16th, 2008

4 Star

I used this with my year 10 class and it provoked a very interesting discussion. Pupils were able to appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of selective breeding.

Reviewer: Natalie Chapman


Oct 7th, 2007

2 Star

Hi I'm a student.
Can someone post some answers for the pedigree ethics activity. The link articles do not give you a real insight into the different opinions.

Reviewer: blank blank

Top Dog review

Oct 7th, 2007

4 Star

Adapted this with my Y9 - they loved it. It really did get them thinking; only wish we'd had more tiime to explore, in greater depth, the moral issues surrounding selective breeding. Great stuff.

Reviewer: Dawn Jepson

Top dog

Jul 30th, 2007

4 Star

Haven't used this yet but though it looked really good. Have written it into the scheme of work for GCSE Additional Science B3 (OCR) so we will see next year how well it works!

Reviewer: Katherine Swinson

top dog

Mar 22nd, 2007

4 Star

i used this with my year 10 entry level science class and we had a very interesting ideas forwarded about the science and ethics behind selective breeding even though they are very low ability. i extended it by them choosing a particular animal to selectively breed.

Reviewer: debra johnson

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