Responsible Breeding

Is the dog fancy at a tipping point?

Meriscan 1

This blog post is making the rounds, and is being passed along from person to person on Facebook and so on. It makes some good points, and has some decent advice, but I think the attitude is totally wrong. COMPLETELY. Because it’s one more post talking about how fantastic we all are and how we’re being victimized by the evil animal rights movement that doesn’t understand us and they’ve turned the public against us.

Dude, the public understands us a little better than anybody would like to admit. And when (or if) the dog fancy goes toes-up in twenty years, the fingerprints on the knife will be OURS. So is the dog fancy at a tipping point? Absolutely. The problem is, most dog breeders are standing on the heavy end screaming at the people trying to cling to the light end that they’re abandoning the cause.

Let’s look in the mirror, people.

1) We’re insufferable snobs.

The last time somebody showed you their new puppy, that little yellowish beagle mix, did you feel, with every bit of your heart, the squeee of happiness that you’d feel if somebody showed you the offspring of two BISS winners?

You know you didn’t. Now why?

Don’t say “Because I’m so concerned about health.” PLEASE. That beagle mix is going to live longer than virtually 100% of show-bred Goldens, going to have a lower chance of autoimmune disorders than any show-bred Portuguese Water Dog, going to have better back health than my Cardigans.

Don’t say “Because I’m worried about the breeder not being a good person.” You know perfectly well that you hate Sharon’s GUTS and think she should BURN on some VOLCANIC ACID and she pimps out her stud dogs like a NUTCASE and you wouldn’t ask her for water in a DESERT. At least that’s what you told your friend ringside last week.

Heck, we’re so terrible that the last time you paged down your Facebook feed, you saw a beautifully bred bitch puppy with a white face (or substitute any mismark or cosmetic “automatic pet” thing that works for your breed), and you said in your heart, “Oh well, too bad.”

You, my friend, are holding a bag you got in a special advance advance lookbook show at Hermes, after which you side-hugged Esteban and both of you made happy little mouth shapes at the new lining this year; isn’t it wonderful what L. is up to this season? … and, right now, while your fingers are sliding just a bit up and down the stitching, somebody just showed you a Walmart clutch and asked you to say nice things about it. Or you see somebody holding an “irregular.”

We’re AWFUL. We need to stop loving our incestuous little group of perfect dogs and JUST FRELLING LOVE DOGS. We can still own dogs, still show them, still breed them. Go to Hermes and bring home the bag that your heart dreams of. But for pete’s sake, high-five somebody who has a different bag. Talk about how fantastic it is that dogs exist, their great souls, their beauty. Tell that person that you’re picking them up next week so they can visit Rally class. Tell them that  there’s a tracking club in the county. Help them feel their baby’s belly and write down the right worming medication. Give them your business card and tell them to call you anytime. And if you feel tempted to point out to them even one single thing that’s “wrong” with their puppy, SHUT IT.  If you can keep it shut for a full year, I guarantee you’ll see that owner in the vet’s office and her puppy will be neutered and she’ll be planning her next puppy (probably from you). But don’t just do it because it’s good for the fancy – shut the heck up because you have no right to disvalue her dog. You’d go in a cage match to defend your BISS winner’s honor – give her the same respect.

2) We hate science.

We HATE IT. We are the worst set of knowledge-phobic fundamentalist crackpots you’re ever like to meet.

The basic attitude of the entire dog fancy is that if it was current science in 1890, it’s still acceptable now. Anything else must be thrown out because it threatens our ability to breed dogs.

So Dogsteps? Fabulous. Still called “cutting edge,” 130 years after the technology of gait analysis was developed. Freaky German breeding legends like male-line grandfathers to granddaughters being great breedings? Eaten with a spoon. Color genetics? Don’t upset me with facts; I only believe what I was told. Hip dysplasia beyond the OFA view? Fingers in the ears. Population ecology? How dare you even mention the word.

I’ve never had people get as frothing-mouth furious at me as when I post a peer-reviewed study reference. I honestly think I could put up a picture of me naked and eating a live rabbit and I would not get the total and utter fury I get when I DARE to say that scientists have been looking at this over and over and over again for the last 40 years and every single study says we’re wrong.

WE MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO BE RESPONSIBLE TO THE TRUTH. We are being absolutely ridiculously asinine about this. It is NOT going to hurt our ability to breed good dogs to say that we have stuff to learn from research. All it’s going to do is HELP US. We won’t waste so many breedings, we will create dogs that live longer and healthier, we will have happier and longer relationships with our owners.

3) We hate each other.

Oh my GOSH do we hate each other. The behavior I’ve seen this year in terms of personal attacks and even outright threats in public forums (not even mentioning private ones) is horrifying. I’m not going to take any more time explaining this one, because any dog breeder reading this should know what I am talking about. If the dog fancy spent even one percent of the time in public outreach that it spends trying to insinuate without ever mentioning her name that Judy’s dogs produce bad underjaws, we’d be the most beloved group in the US.

4) We’ve kept breeding dogs a rich man’s game.

Everybody in the dog world except show breeders understands how wrong this is. That’s why dog parks, dog playdates, dog coats and clothes, groomers, and a hundred other facets are thriving, while we’re dying and withering and growing old and fat. Everybody I know spends more on their dogs than I do, and everybody that I know spends less on their dogs than I do. I can’t buy the cute coats, the new beds, the nice crates every year… because a single show weekend costs so much that one more time, the bed goes in the wash instead of in the trash. Think about every breeder you know – most are close to penniless. Most show crates are rusty. They skimp on dog food and buy the crap stuff so they can enter next weekend. Meanwhile, their town just effortlessly raised two million dollars to make a dog park, and every vendor in town will be there with samples.

This is utterly upside-down and backwards. Dog shows began as a hobby for the idle rich or gentleman farmers who were selling pet puppies to an eager middle class. If you want to build an organization on that assumption (and we did, and we named it AKC), fine, but it needs to change when the breeders are now the middle class and the pet buyers are invariably better off. The AKC is convinced the solution is to make us pay MORE – make us Breeders of Merit if we promise to register every puppy. Give us new titles and new shows so we will enter more. Is that the right way? Or are we going to continue to shrivel?

Here’s the end of my story:

I am the person who sighs at the white-headed bitch.

I am the person who barely manages to smile at the beagle puppy. Of course I am.

But I am going to try like all-frelling HELL to stop being that person. I want my fingerprints off the knife.

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43 Comments

  • Reply Laura "Kit" Azevedo January 7, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Well said.

    I visited a dog show a few weeks back. Of course I had Billy with me, working hard as he always does. Billy was SO HAPPY to be at a dog show, it’s clear to me that he’s had fun at them before. (To those that don’t know Billy was a champion show dog and now my service dog). While walking around looking at the dogs, I tried to talk to breeders/showers/handlers everything. I am trying to learn more about dog shows and I will be needing to buy a puppy in 2 years or so. No one wanted to talk to me. It was rather disappointing. The one person that actually got in a conversation with me about collies turned out to be someone who had a bone to pick with Billy’s breeder.

    It got back to me later that she then went around badmouthing his breeder for allowing him to retire into my home. Really this gift that I got that makes it so that I can do things out in the world was a bad decision, because I really don’t see it. Billy is a breed champion. He was not what his breeder wanted in her breeding program for all the reasons that mean he makes a great service dog. I would think that someone who claims to love collies would appreciate how versatile and smart the breed is. But because he’s a Kelso collie, she can’t admire him.

    That makes no sense to me at all.

    Finally we got fed up with the breed rings and wandered over to the sporting side of things. We got to see some awesome agility runs. I had a few nice conversations with people who were interested in being joyful about dogs. Up until I ran into the rescue Nazi who wanted to know why I was using a purebred as a SD and not a mixed breed . . . . but that’s a story for a different day.

    I do wish the dog fancy was more accessible. I would like to get a rally title on Billy but there seems to be no good way to get the information I need to get him properly signed up and through a few competitions. (And don’t tell me to join the breed club, I tried, they won’t let a SD into the meetings because they are in people’s houses.)

    • Reply Barbara Fitzgerald November 30, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Sorry the folks at the breed ring were so cold to you. Next time stop by the border collie ring. I am told we are a more down-to-Earth group of people that tend to be friendlier to each other than perhaps those of other breeds. Of course there is still a lot of, “Did you see that topline – Awful!” etc…

      You can probably Google Rally training for your area and turn up a class. Most obedience and agility training centers have Rally classes as well. Good luck with your beautiful service dog!
      Barbara Fitzgerald recently posted…Breakthrough In Pain Treatment For Dogs With OsteosarcomaMy Profile

    • Reply Lindsay December 5, 2013 at 2:38 am

      Laura… I see you made this comment early this year, but all the same I want to offer you some guidance on how to get started in rally. I am more than happy to explain what you need to know to enter. Email me… bakasaru@scrtc.com

  • Reply Rachel M. Reams January 7, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I am so, so very glad you’re back!

    The rabid anti-science movement in this country scares me, and no where is it as obvious to me as within the dog fancy. The sheer amount of woo that people will rabidly defend to the death is incredible to me.
    Rachel M. Reams recently posted…Cold Weather SafetyMy Profile

  • Reply Jo January 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    So happy to see you back!

    Agree, agree, agree.

    I have a Miniature Poodle, who I bought from the very best breeder I could find. I had very, very specific reasons for wanting a well-bred purebred dog, things that would have been very hard to achieve with a crossbreed or a rescue. My dog is neutered, and I have no interest in breeding, but want, need good purebred breeders to stick around. But breeders need to step up their game.

    Even though I don’t breed and don’t want to breed and don’t show in breed, I still have to struggle womanfully with my kneejerk nausea response when we are out walking a meet someone with some new mixed breed oodle monstrosity.

    • Reply Mike January 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      I guess you missed the point of the message.

      • Reply Jo January 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm

        ??

        I don’t think so. I thought the point was LOVE DOGS. Love all dogs. Try to make their lives better. All of them.

        My response must not have been clear. I don’t have much respect for the backyard breeder who throws a Poodle in the breeding pen with literally anything to produce a litter of Primo Extra Speshul Doodlicious puppies, but try mightily to be warm and welcoming to unsuspecting new owner of said Doodlicious puppy. They often don’t have the first clue about grooming (which Doodlicious will very likely need as much as a Poodle), about local training classes (which Doodlicious will definitely need), about exercise requirements, about the benefits of spay/neuter for a pet, etc. If I approach them with a “well, it’s not a REAL Poodle” sneer, they won’t like me, they won’t like Poodles, and I miss the chance to offer the help their “breeder” certainly isn’t going to offer.

        • Reply UrbanCollieChick August 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm

          Whether “just any” individual of any breed or mix is just tossed in to create a litter, usually does matter. It’s not restricted to poodles blended with other breeds. If the resulting doodles are healthy and of good temper as companions – which is the purpose for pretty much all of today’s poodle crosses – then any disdain towards them for not being “real” is purely a matter of personal taste, and a bit snooty to boot.

    • Reply Ron Scarborough November 25, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      Okay, oodle monstrosity? You do realize that EVERY purebred dog on the planet began with various crosses to create a breed to fill a certain niche e.g. Sporting, herding, lap dogs etc. These purebreds didn’t spring miraculously from Wolves. Nose in the air a bit?

  • Reply Shedenara January 7, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Sadly I fall guiltily into a few of the points above. It makes my heart sad to see people paying good amounts of money for mixed breeds. I am all for adopting from shelters and rescues, but to place money in the hands of people who only want your money and really could careless where those puppies go or even how they turn out or where they end up, breaks my heart a little at a time. I do try to be happy for their new addition and I am glad they found a companion. I will say that I am one of the few in my breed that is very approachable at shows. There are only a small handful that are willing to take the time. Yes, I will say that most people do approach us and the most inopportune time; like right before entering the ring. I do tell them that I am busy at the moment if they would like to talk to me after the judging I would be available. I do try and keep my comments to my self and I see a horrible down spiraling trend in my breed that only makes my heart sigh and my stomach turn. Too many bad breeders ruin it for us all.

    So I sadly have to agree, the “fancy” is a a very sensitive place and we either have to change or let this sport fall. Evolution is inevitable; you can’t hide from it.

    Dy
    Shedenara recently posted…Award Winning Siberians!My Profile

    • Reply UrbanCollieChick August 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      Most if not all purebreds from the last 100-150 years ago are just dogs made from crossing other breeds/landraces back then with some purpose in mind. Where was it ever written that this practice had to now-and-heretofore cease and desist?

  • Reply Susi January 7, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Honored as I am that you cited my article, Joanna, I think you missed the point. The dog fancy is just one subset of society and as our liberties go, so go the freedoms of those around us. We took our eye off the ball not because we’re “fantastic” and having an incestuous love fest with each other, and not because of the evil animal rights movement (though that certainly didn’t help), but because, in part, truly dedicated responsible breeders and fanciers took for granted that their positions were secure as long as they were doing what they thought was the right thing. One need only look at current headlines to see it happening in other spheres. I don’t wish to “hog” your blog, but before I leave, I might quibble with one or two of your points. To think that a mixed breed is going to live longer and healthier than, say, “virtually 100% of show-bred Goldens” is, in my view, delusional. Unlike pure breeds which report to their parent clubs and health foundations, we have no accurate reporting on mixed breeds because the average pet owner doesn’t do OFA, CERF, BAER or DNA testing, nor would they recognize signs of some of the inheritable (in all dogs) afflictions. How often have any of us driving down the street passed a pet dog strolling next to its oblivious owner and noticed its broken pasterns, a slipping patella or the indications of hip dysplasia? You also paint the people within the dog fancy as back-biting, snotty, vicious people. I would argue that you’d find similar personalities in any competitive venue (God almighty, participate in kids soccer!) and dog shows are no different. We are a mixed bag, to be sure, but I’ve also seen unfathomable acts of kindness and generosity among our own. That said, there are things each of us can do (and should) to help change the tone we find in our respective breeds if they’re as untenable as what you describe, but your blanket assertion that this describes every breed is a stretch. You won’t get any argument from me that some changes that need to be made, but now that we’ve agreed that the sky is falling, I’m not sure its helpful to vilify the other animals getting the message for according to the original folktale, in the end, a fox eats them all.

    • Reply Joanna Kimball January 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      Susi – the average lifespan of show-bred Goldens is now seven or eight. Hemangio is killing the breed. Porties have an autoimmune rate that’s an order of magnitude worse than baseline. Cardigans have a HUGE increase in disk problems over baseline. None of those are testable conditions, and none of them are OFA reported, and none of them are in codes of ethics. That’s why I used them; the numbers on those disorders are from owners bringing sick dogs to vet hospitals, not from breeders testing. Those aren’t anti-purebred statements. They’re the truth. No matter how much testing is done or how many mixed breeds are not tested, virtually every breed has at least one disorder that’s WAY WAY increased over baseline because it got fixed in the breed because it was in the founding population and was later concentrated.

      Show breeders (and I am very much one) say they will do anything to improve health… but they won’t do the one thing that would immediately and enormously improve health, which is crossbreed enough to get breeds out of genetic bottlenecks. Heck, they won’t even go to unrelated non-show lines within the same breed.

      That’s why show Goldens, where there are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of registered dogs, actually have a population that’s a scant few hundred – because show breeders are not going to go into the brand-x bloodlines.

      And neither would I, so I completely understand.

      But then we can’t lie to ourselves and say that health is the most important thing. Having a dog who looks like a beautifully bred dog is the most important thing. That’s the one we won’t ever endanger. The health stuff comes only after that is satisfied. We’ve got to take ownership of that fact.

      And it honestly doesn’t matter if there’s terrible behavior in other places. Terrible behavior is wrong, plain and simple. It doesn’t stop being wrong because it’s done widely.

      We agree on the problem – that people think that breeders are not the best place to get puppies anymore. Where we fundamentally disagree is WHY. I don’t think breeders were just going along innocently and were blindsided. I think it’s entirely our fault. Go read the minutes of the AKC BOD when they were considering adding the mixed breed performance classes, or the letters from the delegates when that motion passed, or the months and months of ads from the Rottie club telling judges to stop putting up undocked tails, and tell me those people are all dog lovers. Many of them are just plain hateful. Would you be proud to put a Rottie club ad in front of a person who was considering their first dog? Would you point them to the BOD for opinions on how to train their cockapoo? If the answer is no (and I sure hope it is), then we know who is responsible for the demise of public opinion about purebred dogs.

      • Reply UrbanCollieChick August 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm

        Jo, I’m enjoying a lot of your posts so far, but for all of your bottleneck concerns, you say you wouldn’t go to brand x.

        Could you clarify? Do you mean you still wouldn’t outcross at all? Or, are you establishing certain criteria for an acceptable outcross? 🙂

      • Reply Lindsay December 5, 2013 at 2:46 am

        Joanna I am in total agreement! I have banged my head against the wall where science is concerned for a while now. I am met with disdain and accusations. I have described dog breeding as a cult. Now I am a member of this cult, but I won’t drink the Kool-aid!

  • Reply Sarah Adams January 7, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    I agree to some degree. But I think it’s exaggeration to say that is all there is. Certainly some breeders and dog fanciers are too caught up in breed politics to take a longer view of dog ownership. But I know many people who are involved in my breed, and in others, who just love dogs. We may love our own breed best, but we love dogs in general. Maybe my viewpoint is a little different because I’m more involved in agility than in conformation, though I do conformation as well. And I breed. And I know other people who do both, and like me, just love dogs.

    I may wind up a little dismayed when someone buys a designer mixed breed, and I do have a coworker who has “doodles”, and thinks my lack of enthusiasm for them is because I just like purebreds. Which isn’t the case, I just don’t like to see the exploitation in deliberate crossbreeds for the pet/sport market. (I have no issue with deliberate crossbreeds for genuine work, or to remedy a health issue caused by a closed gene pool) I was just saying to someone at my club’s agility trial this weekend how happy it made me that we can have mixed breeds at AKC events now, because how fun it is to admire a cute dog and wonder what it could possibly be! (I was looking at a medium/large, sort of brindle/merle, heck, I don’t even know what you’d call the color! Very different, very appealing. Whatever the mix was.)

    Frankly, in agility, if you show up with a new puppy, everyone will just fawn over how adorable the puppy is. They may try to steal it (my Staffordshire Bull Terrier was stolen by a Beardie person, and I stole a Border Terrier. They make it back to their owner, eventually.) The only thing that anyone will really squawk about is if you get a Border Collie instead of whatever breed you had previously. Okay, I’ll admit to a little of that myself, but ultimately, it’s not my choice what breed someone else gets. In agility circles, though, there are those who get a little huffy about it. If you show up with any breed or mix that isn’t a BC, everyone is happy to see it. Maybe not the BC owners, they may be happier to see another BC. As long as it’s not from a breeder they hate.

    As far as breeding being expensive, I don’t think you can lay that all at the AKC’s door. The expenses of producing a litter are nothing to do with them. The expenses of competing with a dog are partly their doing, but they have to support the organization, too. And what the AKC does has expanded over the years. We want the AKC to offer these various kinds of titles, to fight anti-dog legislation, to have easily accessible records, to register our dogs, to not register puppy mill dogs. We complain if anything they do or don’t do is not to our liking. And they have to support these programs somehow.

    So, if we want that to be less expensive, we have to say that we would be happy for the AKC to drop any program that doesn’t support itself. That we don’t care which dogs they register, and if the studbook is compromised, no big deal. That health research and dog legislation isn’t it’s problem. Then, they’d be easily self-supporting, and could drop their fees a bit.

    But we’d still have all the other expenses of competing, if we wanted to show. Showing isn’t just about entry fees (only a small part of which go to the AKC), it’s about travel expenses, show clothes, handlers, etc. So ultimately, if we want to make breeding less expensive, we’d have to change our view of what good breeding is. We’d have to just eliminate competition and titles as being relevant at all.

    • Reply Joanna Kimball January 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      So many of those things – the fact that your coworker knows you don’t like her dogs, the fact that agility people get huffy that somebody bought the wrong breed because it’s a betrayal, the fact that mixed breeds in competition are a way to imagine what breeds are in it – look at them from the point of view of someone not “in” dogs. Your feelings about them are the most common feelings that “dog people” have, so I am not trying to single you out. Those are the same thoughts we all have. But, from an objective standpoint, are they good? healthy? deserving of praise? Are we allowing ourselves to accept negative thoughts and behaviors just because everybody does them?

      I don’t have any problem with the AKC. The AKC was created by the dog fancy when the dog fancy was at a certain stage in its evolution – when exhibiting was done mainly by wealthy socialites selling puppies to the middle class. It built the AKC to support its identity at that time. The AKC has done that, and done a great job at it, and will continue to do that job for as long as it can figure out how to stay alive. The question is whether the dog fancy is still at that stage. Is something like the AKC and the way it works, the way it looks, the way it represents itself, the right way to continue to be show breeders in a completely different economic reality?

      Or let’s put it a different way: If, tomorrow, the AKC and all its records disappeared, and the job of supporting the dog fancy came down to you, would you rebuild the AKC? The rents and the point systems and the necessity of advertising to finish a dog and the stud books and the AI rules and the whole shebang? Or would you say, “Well, the fact that we didn’t have a written appraisal system was ridiculous. We’re not going to make that mistake again. And working events have got to be closer in proximity and emotion to the breed rings than they are now. And we’re going to start a program where you can get a conformation/testing certificate that minimally assesses your dog’s soundness to breed, and does it in a weekend for a hundred bucks. If you want to go after that and get your championship and be ranked, yay, but you’re not ever going to have the excuse that you are breeding an untitled dog because the show ring is ridiculously expensive. And we’re going to bring back $10 entry fees and instead make our money on club-produced brag books, coats, great food, and catalogs.” And just go from there. I find it hard to believe that most people would just reconstitute the AKC as is.

      • Reply Christina January 7, 2013 at 9:55 pm

        Well, I’m going to show off how naive I am, but I’ve always wondered why advertising is necessary!? My attempts at googling it haven’t produced anything that explains. I’d love it if you could reply here or if there’s enough content do a blog on it!

        • Reply Sarah Adams January 7, 2013 at 10:18 pm

          It’s not, really, unless you want to do some serious winning. When you get to the group and BIS wins, the judges have a difficult task, of deciding what is “best” from a group of very different dogs. And they don’t necessarily know the breeds that well. So if they’ve seen a lot of advertising for a dog, it’s likely to sway their opinion. I don’t think it’s always deliberate, but it does happen.

      • Reply Sarah Adams January 7, 2013 at 10:15 pm

        My coworker doesn’t “know” I don’t like his dogs (which I’ve never seen), he thinks that, and I haven’t tried to explain it to him, because he’s a bit of an odd duck and it’s not really worth it to me to go through the complications of explaining why I don’t approve of buying doodles. I never said anything about them one way or the other, just didn’t express a lot of enthusiasm when he told me he bought them. I didn’t want to rain on his parade by telling him at that time that I don’t approve of buying doodles, but I couldn’t work up a lot of enthusiasm for it. If I’d been faced with an actual puppy, I could have cootchycooed it, and he’d never have noticed.

        I don’t honestly think that most non-dog people would care that some agility people see buying a BC as a betrayal. They might find it funny. Personally, I understand why some people have that attitude, I just don’t have it myself, because I don’t consider somebody else’s dog to be my business, unless it’s abused. From a non-dog sport person, it would be so complicated to explain the attitude, that it’s not worth trying. I also don’t think that non-dog sport people would care that I think it’s fun to imagine what breed might be in a dog. Everybody does that. It’s why those bogus genetic breed tests have been such a hit. Everyone wants to know, or guess, what their dog, or any other dog, might be. If you ask about their dog, people will tell you what breeds are in it, or that they guess are in it. And sorry, I don’t think it’s negative to wonder about what breeds might be in a dog, so I don’t see any reason why we should tell everyone they’re wrong to do so, and they should all stop right now. I might suggest they not waste their money on the DNA tests, which aren’t very accurate, and that it’s more relevant to look at the dog they have and learn it’s individual traits. But I’m not going to tell them not to wonder, and if they want to waste their money on that test, then I’m ultimately not going to tell them how to spend their own money. Same as I won’t tell my coworker not to buy a doodle, if that’s what he wants to do.

        I do guess I didn’t explain myself well enough, for which I apologize. I don’t see mixed breeds in competition as a “way to imagine what breeds are in it”. I could probably have left that anecdote out, I was just giving the most immediate specific example of me looking at a mixed breed dog and not liking it any less than the offspring of some big winner, I just liked it for what was cute about that particular dog. After commenting on how fun it was to guess, I said “That dog is cute!”, so that nobody would be in doubt that my comment about not knowing the breed mix might mean I didn’t admire the dog.

        The fact is, that even in my own breed, if someone showed me a pup that was the offspring of 2 BISS winners, I might well not like it as much as a pup that was black & tan (for instance, just picking an easy DQ in my breed), if the disqualifying color puppy was more to my taste. (BISS winners might well be heavier in body style than my preference) But any puppy is adorable, so hand me a puppy, and all you’ll hear from me is what a darling puppy it is.

        Frankly, if it were up to me to produce a registry system, it wouldn’t happen. Because I’m not that energized. Would I change things from the AKC? Sure I would. But I still don’t put all the costs of competing at their door, because they simply aren’t. For every AKC entry, a few dollars goes to the AKC, the rest of your entry fee goes to the club. Much of it goes to the expenses of the event. If we’re willing to have our shows in a big empty field, and such a big empty field is to be found, the costs of a show entry can go down. Or, as you say, they can finance the event in a different way. But that’s a ground-up kind of change, the AKC doesn’t tell clubs how to finance their events.

        Sure, I’d like to see changes in how conformation titles are earned (mainly that I don’t think puppies should be able to finish), and the advertising thing and professional handlers are out of hand. But I should add that again, you’re exaggerating. Because while it may be possible that you have to advertise to finish a dog in your breed, that isn’t all breeds. In most breeds, advertising is something you do to get further in group and BIS, and breed rankings. If all you want to do is finish your dog, that is unnecessary.

    • Reply Beth January 8, 2013 at 5:11 pm

      Sarah, as someone who dabbles in agility, can you explain the anti-BC sentiment (because I’ve seen a bit of it)?

      I love border collies but won’t have one because my lifestyle is not suited to the typical bc’s needs. If my life changed enough that I could compete heavily in dog sports, I would probably eventually get one because I love the smarts, the drive, the look, though I can do without the slightly neurotic tendencies.

      Similarly, if I had a typical beginner’s horse and eventually got heavily involved in dressage, there is a good chance that when it came time to get a new horse I’d switch to a warmblood simply because they are the best dressage horses in general.

      I see a bit of that “a border collie is a betrayal” attitude and I don’t understand it. A border collie is usually a dog for an advanced owner who competes regularly or has a working farm. It does not surprise me that as people get more skilled in a chosen dog sport they switch breeds (if I hunted rabbits I’d have a beagle, after all, and not a Corgi!). So I’m hoping you can explain it to me a little. Thanks! I’m not picking on you because I’ve seen this before but you just happen to be here in the conversation. 🙂

      • Reply Sarah Adams January 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm

        Happy to!

        It’s not so much that people dislike border collies. The same people who might view a person with another breed getting a BC as a betrayal would probably be happy to see a new BC puppy with someone who has always had BCs.

        It’s mostly the belief that people should love their dogs more than the sport. It’s an amateur sport, so the thought that somebody who loves cocker spaniels (just for an example) would then get a border collie just so they could win is disturbing to some people. (the people who get border collies don’t always have advanced skills, btw, there are people who need to work on their own skills, and get a new breed thinking it will fix their issues.)

        There’s also a certain camaraderie with people who run the “other” breeds, so when someone chooses to leave that group, it can be seen as betrayal of “the tribe”, as it were. And there’s a small sector of very competitive handlers who seem to scorn anything that isn’t a BC, so that adds a bit of bad feeling. I would guess that the amount that those factors have an effect is regional, though. I tend to see that as mostly an AKC phenomenon. Mostly because you tend to see the widest variety of breeds competing in AKC agility. AKC agility is very much designed as an all breed activity, and you get the people who are also involved in the AKC for breed stuff.

        For myself, I don’t have an interest in owning a border collie. They aren’t a breed that appeals to me to live with. I’m fond of my friends’ BCs, I’ve competed in obedience with one that belongs to a friend (I really need to go back and finish his CD, we had fun together), just not a dog I want. I’m more interested in showing what my Staffordshire bull terriers can do in agility than in being another one of a throng of border collies; and I’d rather live with the Staffs, too. I might decide I want to try herding some day, but if I got a herding breed, it wouldn’t be a BC, I’d pick a breed that was more to my taste as a pet.

        But lots of people do like the border collies, so if someone chooses to go that route, I’m not going to scorn them for it. It’s not my business.

        • Reply Beth January 9, 2013 at 1:46 am

          I can see that line of thinking to a point. But I love lots of breeds. I love BC’s and Aussies. I love Springer Spaniels. I love standard poodles. I adore schnauzers. I really like greyhounds. I love lots of different breeds for lots of different reasons. I went with Corgis (Pems) because they best fit my current lifestyle, right now; I wanted a low-maintenance dog who was good with kids and cats, would relish hiking and swimming and frisbee and walks but not demand hours of running time every day.

          So if my focus shifted, if my needs shifted, I would change breeds in a heartbeat. RIGHT NOW I can’t imagine having a better dog for my life than a Pem, but if I wanted to compete seriously in agility I’d pick a dog with more leg and less weight in the front end than a Pem. And slightly less food-motivated too, come to think of it.

          • Sarah Adams January 9, 2013 at 2:22 am

            Well, that’s why I am not on the bandwagon of scorning people for switching to BCs. Because it’s not my dog, and maybe that person really likes BCs for themselves, and who am I to judge? I guess there is a bit of judgement in my heart for those people who might get a dog they can’t bond with as a pet just to win (it’s a dog, not a piece of sports equipment), but since I don’t know that to be the case for any particular person, I don’t judge.

            As I said, wouldn’t get one myself, because the breed just doesn’t have any appeal for me. There are other breeds I’m interested in maybe owning some day, but none of them happen to be “agility breeds”. But I can easily see how if a person was interested in switching breeds, and one of the agility breeds did appeal to them, and they did agility, it would make sense to switch in that direction.

            I wouldn’t recommend you look for a dog that is less food-motivated, though. Food motivated is good. Not food motivated is a PITA. If the dog is also toy motivated, that’s even better. It’s really hard to train a dog that doesn’t want what you have. Part of the reason I’ve been able to train my Staffordshire bitch so that she was probably the first of her breed to qualify for and attend World Team Tryouts, as well as AKC nationals and the Invitational, is that she’s so willing to turn herself inside out for a scrap of pocket lint that once touched cheese, or a one inch square of fabric that we can tug with.

    • Reply UrbanCollieChick August 9, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      What’s your definition of “exploitation for the pet market?” Mills? BYBs? Lots of these produce the purebreds we’ve known and not all doodles come from such places.

      Did you happen to catch Jo’s post that said the pet market is about 99% of the market?

  • Reply Leanne January 7, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    I’m so glad you’re back to posting.
    I’m not a breeder, and I have a mixed bag of dogs scattered across my carpet; an accidental litter crossbreed, a BC rescue, a farm-bred BC with don’t-look-at-it conformation, and a pedigree Aussie. Getting my beloved Aussie pup was an interesting journey, and I’m grateful I was able to do it here in the UK and not either in Europe or the US. I have my (many, oh manymany) problems with the Kennel Club, but they do some things right. We aren’t yet at the stage of breeder vs. public warfare (although Pedigree Dogs Exposed sure helped us along the path), although breeder vs. breeder warfare seems pretty rife. Guess that’s the nature of competition, unfortunately.
    With the world a little more wide open, I hope we can see what’s happening across the oceans and act faster.

  • Reply Beth January 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Nice to see you back! I’m not involved with “the fancy” so I don’t see several of the things you mention first-hand, though I’ve seen it in the horse world so I can relate.

    My own biggest concern is the science. As a rule (there are exceptions) the fancy has come to see health testing as being interchangeable with breeding healthy dogs, and it is not. First, there are many things we can’t test for. Second, there are several (not most, but a few) breeds who are inherently unhealthy by design and a champion specimen of one of those breeds will be very likely to have one or more conformation issues that seriously impact daily living. And third, repeated close line-breeding/in-breeding will always tend to reduce health over time. One of the reasons we need to genetically test so many breeds is the same reason why most couples don’t get genetic counseling before having children, but cousins who marry are strongly advised to get genetic testing and counseling before having children. Generations of heavy line-breeding, sometimes going back to the breed founders, has heavily concentrated any number of genetic diseases in too many purebred dogs. By this piont, though, breeding away from these illnesses would often create new bottlenecks because so many dogs are impacted.

    With breed type already set in most breeds, there is a greatly reduced need to closely line-breed. I’m not saying it should never be done; it can have a place. But it should be the exception rather than the general rule, and the science backs that up. I’m not sure why it’s even controversial.

    • Reply UrbanCollieChick August 9, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Beautifully said!

  • Reply Laura McT January 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Very thought-provoking article. I will admit that I am sometimes guilty of all the bad behavior described, and I’m not a breeder.

    Two comments – first, change the word “dog” to “horse” and you’ve just described a horse world conversation that is long overdue (IMHO).

    Second, I wonder how many of you read the proposed APHIS regulations? Did you oppose them or did you fall for the “but it will stop PUPPY MILLS!” line? Or did you think, incorrectly, that the proposed regulations would not affect you because you are a “good” breeder?
    Laura McT recently posted…The proposed changes to the Animal Welfare Act do not solve the so-called “puppy mill” problemMy Profile

  • Reply Mirka January 8, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Remind me never to visit America. At least in Finland show breeders only make up about 10% of the FKC. The rest of us are just regular people who are breeding them for pet or for hunting.

    It is sad that American show-elites robbed our European breeds of their grace and refused to allow average people to have a hand in their breeding stock. While your points are valid in the English-speaking world, the scenario presented is not like that in FCI countries at all.

  • Reply Beth January 9, 2013 at 1:53 am

    I wanted to add an anecdote that I believe goes with your argument. I know a guy who breeds Beagles. I mean, mostly he loves beagles and hunts beagles but he also breeds them.

    He has the same female line going back about 6 generations. He won’t breed a bitch under about 2. He has a litter every three years or so. All his pups go to carefully chosen homes where they get to hunt or at least hike regularly. His own are kennel dogs but most of his pups go places where they live inside.

    He carefully chooses (outcrossed) stud dogs to complement his bitches. He usually keeps one bitch puppy from a litter, but sometimes keeps a dog puppy. He commented today that he found a great stud for his planned spring litter for his two-year-old, and he mentioned he loves how he hunts and he’s the color he prefers but “color doesn’t really matter, that’s just a bonus.”

    He just lost his two oldest, littermates, at 16 years of age. They died within a month of each other, both slipping away quietly at home.

    And yet I will bet that most in the fancy would consider him a bad breeder, a “backyard breeder”, something just a small notch above a puppy mill. Despite the fact that it was breeders just like this guy who helped develop and keep alive beagles since long before there WAS a fancy, or a kennel club.

    He breeds for health and drive and nose, and for the cheerfulness that beagles are known for. He places his pups carefully. He usually knows where they are going before they are born. He judges conformation himself, along with the people he knows who know dogs. But for some, this is the next thing to an atrocity. His dogs would never win in the ring, but they are nice healthy dogs who do their job with joyful abandon. I’d send a puppy-person to him in a heartbeat.

    • Reply UrbanCollieChick August 9, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      Love this comment! People like this beagle man need to be exalted more!

      Makes you think about how all dogs were always bred before the rich man’s game made headway, and about where the term”backyard” breeder came from. Not to mention”hobby” breeder.

      Most show breeders have backyards, and lots of non-show folks like hunters and ranchers take breeding more seriously than just a hobby.

  • Reply Frances January 14, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    So good to see you back – and I sincerely hope this year is better than last.

    I briefly toyed with the idea of showing; visiting a couple of shows as a spectator quickly persuaded me otherwise. The Championship Show had such a high concentration of vitriolic comments and hissed complaints about dogs, owners, breeders and judges that tickets should have carried a health warning, while the small local show, with hugely competitive owners and classes of two or three dogs, was rather pathetically sad.

    But my biggest concern is the reluctance to accept scientific evidence, and particularly the raising of artificial eugenics and overly extreme breed type above every other consideration. Too many breeders and owners of show dogs are barn blind, it seems to me. To claim to be breeding for health when it is obvious to spectators that the dog in question can scarcely breathe, has eyes that are permanently inflamed, has an undercarriage that drags on the ground, or can barely walk around the arena, undermines all breeders. It does not need Animal Rights extremists to point it out – just anyone who has the general welfare of dogs at heart. I actually believe that Pedigree Dogs Exposed will prove to be the best thing that happened for pedigree dog breeding in the past 50 years – it has shone a very bright light on practices that were long overdue for change, and has forced the KC and the UK breed clubs to at least begin to address them. If as a result we move closer to the model of the best of the FCI countries, I think that may be a very good thing for both breeds and individual dogs!

  • Reply Lynne Dahlen January 20, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Johanna – may I have your permission to reprint this in the Dachshund Club of America’s quarterly magazine? It’s an excellent article!

    • Reply Joanna Kimball January 21, 2013 at 2:46 pm

      Yes – absolutely. Thank you for reminding me that I need to put a reprint note up!

  • Reply Judith Larkin April 7, 2013 at 5:39 am

    Hi Joanna,
    This is an outstanding article that is pertinent to all breed clubs. I would like to request your permission to reprint it in our Pacific Northwest Gordon Setter News of which I am the editor. In fact…everything you write is printworthy. Thank you.

    • Reply Joanna Kimball April 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm

      Absolutely – anything can be reprinted with attribution (Joanna Kimball, Ruffly Speaking, or similar).

      • Reply Judith Larkin April 8, 2013 at 4:25 am

        Thank you SO much!!! I will keep reading your wonderful blog.
        Judy

  • Reply Claire Mancha April 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    OMG, I want you for my BFF!!! Our breed club magazine published this blog entry squeezed between glossy color pictures of winners and handlers. I laughed, I snorted, I called all my friends. I love your style and I love your comments and I am already way down that path already. I just want to give you a shout out about how great you are!
    xoxoxox
    Claire Mancha
    Goodwood European Standard Smooth Dachshunds

  • Reply TB Bikeman August 28, 2013 at 2:14 am

    First of all, there is nothing at all wrong with you being naked, or eating a rabbit. Nothing at all. I’d prefer to see you eat that rabbit having soaked it in a good marinade and grilled it over a nice hot flame, but if live is your thing, I’m not going to judge you, and no one else should either 😉

    Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to say that the term “animal rights” is an oxymoron and leads us to faulty thinking. It’s one thing to have empathy for other living creatures, it’s another thing to assert they have “rights” that people should be prosecuted for violating. People who believe in “animal rights” must know very little about animals or rights, and the worst of them, on the extreme left, love to place animals above people when it comes to rights, and sometimes violate people’s rights in the process of standing up for rights that animals simply don’t have, and shouldn’t have.

  • Reply Janis Nixon November 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    In a perfect world, everyone would be more than happy to compliment other people’s dogs and would be open to constructive comment but let’s face it, we live in the real world. I choose to hobknob with pleasant fanciers and love to chit-chat about dogs, Afghans in particular. Yes, I’ve experienced the bad, but I’ve also tasted the good in the sport.
    I’m in this for my breed; my own small pack of Afghan hounds to be exact. It’s been over forty years now. I started with a bloodline that virtually no one around me had. Yes, I heard the comments. Yes, I saw the judges’s frowns. And no, I didn’t quit! I loved my dog most of all and I enjoyed spending time with him and showing him off, regardless of what others thought of him. He finished his title and retired from the ring. I’m still showing and loving my Afghans, although I no longer am actively breeding. Regardless of what others think, I try everything I can with them, from obedience to lure coursing and whatever else I can think of. My next foray will be into agility and I won’t be there with a Border Collie! Fortunately, I have a well-developed sense of humor…..
    All ‘dog people’ should remember what got us into the game in the first place — the love of a dog.

  • Reply Lenna S. Hanna-O'Neill November 28, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Well, I feel the same way about this that you did about Susi’s blog post. (Tipping Point) I get you, I do. I know these people, but here’s the rub: it is NOT all of us. Oh, I hear you, it is indeed rampant, the elitism, the snobbery, it is. But I have been in the game a long time too; I remember when it was a lot more civilized than it is now, and for many years I worried that it was indeed on its way to the garbage heap. But recent years have seen some changes, and as much as I hate to admit it, it is entirely possible that the ARAs did us all a favor. We have begun to remember that we are a REALLY small part of the population, and are beginning to act accordingly. Science is WINNING, largely because of social media and the constant stream of information steamrolling those who refuse to step out of the past. And, uh, not all of us lost our “squee!” factor when we started breeding. I still have (gasp!) MUTTS at my house, and I will indeed frown at that white head, *but if that dog has value to his breed I will use him in a breeding program anyway and the Parent Club’s so-called Code of Ethics be damned.* And my opinion on these issues is NOT heresy any more. It used to be. For a while the Fancy did look exactly as you have painted it. But, I don’t think you are giving us any credit at all. More and more people are beginning to see the Big Picture, and I do think that people are wising up. Maybe it is too little too late, but after so many years of frustration and doubt that it would ever happen, I am willing, nay, THRILLED to see people being less judgmental, being open to other viewpoints, and refusing to dutifully line up and run their dogs through laundry lists of ‘health tests’ that are little more than feel good exercises, out of some misguided concept of ‘ethics.’ Science IS winning. People ARE beginning to talk about Impressive Syndrome, (aka Popular Sire Syndrome) and beginning to understand more about the cellular mechanics of good health. It’s happening. It isn’t the default yet, of course, but like all sea changes, it takes time. Don’t lose heart in your frustration and fail to see, and take heart, that the tide is turning. Remember your basic training: Don’t SCOLD the dog for its indiscretions when it is finally doing what you want; PRAISE the dog or the behavior might not manifest again!!

    Also, tempting as it may be to assume this, that cute beagle mix is NOT guaranteed to be healthier than the average purebred; science again LOL. Turns out after some studies pointed at the assumption that ‘hybrid vigor’ outweighs judicious breeding out of health issues, that there are some problems within specific breeds that have a higher than normal incidence WITHIN those breeds, but that all of these issues were also found within the mixed breed community as well and that on average, mutts were no healthier and lived no longer than purebreds. Also that there was a much higher prevalence of certain issues in the mixed breed population BECAUSE no one was actively engaged in trying to eradicate them. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m a curmudgeon, but I have to challenge that trope when I see it because it is harmful and wrong to give people the assumption that a random bred mixed breed is a healthier choice just because it is randomly bred. The simple fact is that until some of these more recent studies, no one was TRACKING incidence of these problems in mixed breeds, so since there was a *known* percentage in purebreds (because people were keeping track) does not mean that mutts are healthier; it just means no one was spending the money on mutts to look. ;o)

  • Reply Gina Fox December 3, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Well said.
    I have spent most of my life involved in dogs. I have finished to Ch. Over 26. There have been dogs that I have bred who under the gentle hands of their owners have acquired CD’s, JH, MACH, Tracking Titles, and have become Therapy Dogs.
    I am no longer active in the show ring…I figured 30 years and untold tens of thousands of dollars was enough for me. However, I still breed FINE companion and performance dogs, and I too have been attacked viciously by show people, most from out of state. (they don’t know me) Because I “don’t show” I have no business breeding…according to them.
    I run a Pet Resort and All Breed Grooming service and have since 1974…I learned a long time ago not to be a dog snob. I love them all.

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