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Bad Dog
December 16, 2008 6:48 AM   Subscribe

After forty years, the BBC has suspended coverage of next year's Crufts, the UK's premier dog show. The event's major sponsor had already pulled out. This is in reaction to a documentary - Pedigree Dogs Exposed (1hr, possibly NSFW surgery) - showing how years of inbreeding of pedigree show dogs has resulted in many suffering from genetic diseases and disabilities.

Dogs and monsters. Pedigree dogs: How breeding has changed them.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (76 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shame, Crufts is hilarious.
posted by fatfrank at 6:53 AM on December 16, 2008


years of inbreeding... has resulted in many suffering from genetic diseases and disabilities.

So I guess the Beeb is suspending its coverage of the royal family next.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:59 AM on December 16, 2008 [55 favorites]


I knew a family that had a bunch of terriers that they would spend nearly a thousand bucks on, bring to dog shows, and all that. Their precious darling dogs were kept in crates in the basement. (the lady was also truly nutty and was overbearingly controlling of her kids.)

Unless you're herding sheep, I feel like people should have dogs because they enjoy their company- not as a commodity.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:06 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, my family was looking to get a dog for me and my brother. We went to the pound, and we wanted a little dog or a puppy, which were always in demand. We'd return on Saturday mornings with our hearts set on one little dog, only to lose the raffle. Since we had a small yard, my parents didn't think it would be fair to stick a large dog in a small space. After getting one dog who didn't want to spend time with me and my brother and chose to follow my mom around, we looked at "well-bred" puppies and decided we wanted a toy poodle. When we first had Pierre, he was too small to walk up our short driveway, and decided to sit down after a short while. We were all in love with this little ball of cute fuzz.

After a few years, he started to develop eye problems. We had enough money to take care of him, so he had a few surgeries, and his eyesight kept declining. He had glaucoma and some other issues, resulting in the majority of one eye being replaced with a rubber ball (the doctor bounced it on the table to show it was rubber), the other having limited sight. This was his life at age 3. He still bounded around, would chase toys and made it around most furniture and people. Sometimes he'd miss something, and we'd laugh a bit, but we made sure that whenever we threw something for him it would make sound. He lived 14 years, and his eyes were the worst of it until he got really old.

We were told he wasn't interbred at all, but once his eyes started failing, we knew there was something wrong. I'm glad he lived such a full life, when compared to some of these worst-case breeds. But I will never get a pure bred dog, not when there are plenty of animals who need care and company at animal rescue centers and the like.

And suddenly, Best In Show is a bit less funny.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:10 AM on December 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


I for one would be very, very happy to see the purebreed industry decline. For all the impassioned defenses of "responsible breeders" and "for the love of the breed," it's an industry that hasn't found a way to deal adequately with puppy mills, overbreeding, disgusting surgeries, and all the other nastiness.
posted by Forktine at 7:20 AM on December 16, 2008


That's a shame - the Mrs and I look forward to Crufts every year. But I didn't know much about the downside of these shows. Or maybe I just wanted to focus on how much I love watching dogs and didn't want to acknowledge the issues I have with the business of dog breeding. Sometimes while watching dog shows you get a sense that some handlers have a great bond and relationship with the dog and think of it as part of the family, while for others it seems like they're with "show dog #24".

I'll agree with dunkadunc that dogs should be part of the family, not part of the profit center.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:26 AM on December 16, 2008


Joe Beese: "years of inbreeding... has resulted in many suffering from genetic diseases and disabilities.

So I guess the Beeb is suspending its coverage of the royal family next.
"


The King Charles Spaniel must be doubly fucked then.
posted by mandal at 7:34 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Doubly/royally*

[*delete as applicable].
posted by mandal at 7:36 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


What's next, doped carrots in kaninhoppning?
posted by fleacircus at 7:41 AM on December 16, 2008


Doggone.
posted by Elmore at 7:51 AM on December 16, 2008


For all the impassioned defenses of "responsible breeders" and "for the love of the breed," it's an industry that hasn't found a way to deal adequately with puppy mills

What, exactly, do you think that "responsible breeders" could possibly do to "deal with" puppy mills, beyond not sell them puppies (which they don't)?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:55 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


that slideshow of pedigree dogs then/now just killed my 'fuck you penguin' buzz.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 7:58 AM on December 16, 2008


These people are monsters, plain and simple.
posted by Manhasset at 8:02 AM on December 16, 2008


Wow, that documentary is just tragic.
posted by RussHy at 8:24 AM on December 16, 2008


ROU_Xenophobe Nothing, of course, but I question whether there's actually such a thing as a "responsible breeder". I mean, to get the perfect pedigree look, isn't it pretty much impossible to avoid genetic problems?

Hell, some of the pedigree breeds, dachshunds for example, have genetic problems by definition. Is there a responsible way to breed a dachshund? I can't think of one, the long spine and short ribs are simply going to cause problems no matter what.

I'm leaning towards the conclusion that the "responsible breeder" is a myth. I'm fairly sure that the only real solution is to give up on the pedigree breeds.
posted by sotonohito at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


I thought I heard of an attempt to "diversify" the gene pool of pure-breeds by breeding back in some of the "source" breeds, but I can't find a source for this.

Crofts vs. Puppybowl: Dog shows seem so odd, as they display such rigidly un-doglike dogs. Any sign of enthusiasm or individuality seems to be a negative thing. Puppybowl is just a room full of puppies being puppies. Puppybowl wins.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:39 AM on December 16, 2008


Can we segue to "bobbing" tails for fashion? Cause I think that could be the cat-declawing/circumcision crossover we've been waiting for.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:40 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Puppybowl?! That's sounds fantastic.

Or monstrous, depending on your mental bent.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:41 AM on December 16, 2008


I don't see anything wrong with breeding per se, so long as the dogs are looked after properly and you're breeding to good criteria which include health and fitness, rather than competing to see who can produce the most exaggerated example of some supposedly picturesque deformity.
posted by Phanx at 8:45 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


The American Border Collie Association has steadfastly resisted all attempts to define a "standard look" for the border collie, precisely because they're afraid of the same thing happening to the breed. Instead, they judge border collies on their herding ability, which means they're judging stamina, intelligence, and discipline. All of which make for healthy dogs.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:47 AM on December 16, 2008 [17 favorites]


You know, I hate to be that guy that comes in and talks about his greyhound in *every* dog thread that shows up on the blue, but I think they're a particularly fine example of what's right with breeding. They're the very definition of "purebred," but they suffer from essentially no genetic health issues. Because owners are stuck with the dogs for at least a year, the motivation is high, even among the worst owners, to have healthy dogs. Every single dog that races is tracked, and in addition to the racing stats, there's breeding information, going back in some cases 185+ years. The main idea, of course, is breeding for health, rather than for arbitrary and damaging physical characteristics.

I have no doubts that this is possible among non-racing breeds. I just don't know how to do it.

And please, don't think that because I agree with the NGA's breeding practices, I think dog racing is acceptable - I don't. And that's another thread, anyway.
posted by god hates math at 8:48 AM on December 16, 2008


We were told he wasn't interbred at all, but once his eyes started failing, we knew there was something wrong.

filthy light thief, you might be interested in Rolling Dog Ranch, an animal sanctuary in Montana that gives homes to many blind (and otherwise disabled) dogs who would otherwise be destroyed. They've been involved with some groundbreaking work researching blindness in (standard) poodles. There is a type of blindness called Early-Onset Photoreceptor Dystrophy that is unique to the breed (a little more here), but its not really the result of "inbreeding" per se. It also occurs in certain breeds of cats when both parents carry the gene.
posted by anastasiav at 8:53 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've always and will always be a Mutt Man. I love me some mutts.
posted by doctorschlock at 8:57 AM on December 16, 2008


I'm just happy that we're 20+ comments in, and still have yet to hear anyone defend this practice on the grounds that it's a tradition, and we can't impose our thin-skinned PC sensibities on other cultures.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:01 AM on December 16, 2008


Perhaps responsible breeding could be promoted through oversight via the Internet. Instead of allowing breeders to get away with crating their prize-winning show dogs in their basements, why not require them to install publicly accessible video feeds of their canine charges?

MeFi's experience with the Box o' Puppies webcam suggests that they'd be monitored 24/7.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:03 AM on December 16, 2008


I'm fairly sure that the only real solution is to give up on the pedigree breeds.

So you're saying the only solution is for there to be exactly one kind of dog in the world: the medium-sized, short-haired, prick-eared, spitz-tailed dog you almost always get with free-breeding domestic dogs.

I mean, to get the perfect pedigree look, isn't it pretty much impossible to avoid genetic problems?

Only if the same gene controls some desirable characteristic and some malady at the same time. Otherwise, no, it's possible if time-consuming. Doesn't mean that breeders of a particular breed will do it, only that it's eminently possible. As a compare and contrast, check out the near-eradication of "springer rage" from English springer spaniels to the Cavalier community's refusal to weed out mitral valve defects, which would be simple to do.

There are hosts of problems in the nominally responsible dog world. Breeding for exaggerated characteristics, like with bulldogs, is one. Breeding animals for conformation alone is another. Both of these are reasons why some breed clubs have actively resisted being brought into AKC; border collies are the most prominent example. Breeding animals without clear health is a third.

But none of these problems are inherent to anything, and none of these problems are "because of" inbreeding or selective breeding. They're because of selective breeding selecting on the wrong stuff. The way out from most of the genetic problems breeds have is more selective breeding, not less, for health (and temperment and so on) as well as conformation.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:10 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


What, exactly, do you think that "responsible breeders" could possibly do to "deal with" puppy mills, beyond not sell them puppies (which they don't)?

When you ask a question you think is rhetorical it's a good idea to spend a moment thinking about possible answers first.

What did doctors, lawyers, dentists and the like do with similar problems? They set up organizations of reputable professionals, created standards, labelled practitioners as being compatible with their standards, advertised these standards, and pushed for laws to prevent unlicensed practitioners from operating.

There's absolutely no reason that they couldn't set up the "Responsible Breeder's Association" and do exactly the same thing. And for breeders who are truly responsible, it couldn't help but be good; they're financially taking a hit for their moral stance right now (it's cheaper to be irresponsible) so the publicity would have to be a good thing.

Based on that logic, you'd think the reason that they aren't doing it is that none of them are so "responsible" that their treatment of the animals could stand in-depth examination.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:10 AM on December 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


You know, I hate to be that guy that comes in and talks about his greyhound in *every* dog thread that shows up on the blue, but I think they're a particularly fine example of what's right with breeding.

Yeah, Greyhounds are traditionally well bred. Makes it easier to punish them for our amusement and entertainment and profit once they're on the track.
posted by Manhasset at 9:11 AM on December 16, 2008


They're the very definition of "purebred," but they suffer from essentially no genetic health issues.

Awful teeth.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:14 AM on December 16, 2008


So you're saying the only solution is for there to be exactly one kind of dog in the world: the medium-sized, short-haired, prick-eared, spitz-tailed dog you almost always get with free-breeding domestic dogs.

What you have just done is set up a straw man. Did he say that breeding or training should be banned? No, he said that the Purest Aryan theory that drives dog shows today should be abandoned. There is no logical argument against this except a eugenic obsession.
posted by shii at 9:16 AM on December 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


They set up organizations of reputable professionals, created standards, labelled practitioners as being compatible with their standards, advertised these standards, and pushed for laws to prevent unlicensed practitioners from operating.

Breed clubs already do these things.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:18 AM on December 16, 2008


Did he say that breeding or training should be banned?

Yes. That is what "we should give up on the pedigree breeds" means. If sotonohito meant something other than that, he should have chosen different words.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:22 AM on December 16, 2008


I see a bit of this in my own puppy. We heavily researched the breed and the breeders to reduce to possibility of known breed flaws, and we are happy with her as a pet. The problem lies with the fact that she is physically on the larger end of the scale, and we want her to be healthy. As a result, she is a few pounds overweight by breed standard, but is does not even look overweight unless you place her side by side with the show dogs. We have looked into entering her in competitions after proper training, but more on the skill based side (agility competitions) rather than appearance.
posted by Badgermann at 9:24 AM on December 16, 2008


You know, I hate to be that guy that comes in and talks about his greyhound in *every* dog thread that shows up on the blue, but I think they're a particularly fine example of what's right with breeding.

Well, apart from, you know, the whole breed 'em for the track and then kill 'em if they don't perform thing going on.

Yes. That is what "we should give up on the pedigree breeds" means. If sotonohito meant something other than that, he should have chosen different words.

I wish him luck trying to convince sheep and cattle farmers to lose collies, kelpies, blue heelers, etc, and replace them with random mutts.
posted by rodgerd at 9:46 AM on December 16, 2008


Awful teeth.

The teeth thing is actually more a second order side-effect - they're extremely sensitive to anesthesia, so they end up not getting dental treatments, and their breath ends up stinking like all hell. This is sadly combined with the fact that unless a dog is winning consistently, it's just not worth the money to the owner to have preventive dental care done. The economics of dog racing are unfortunately responsible for a lot of unpleasantness. Dental issues are generally minor, especially with responsible owners once they've been re-homed.

You could argue that the sensitivity counts as a genetic deficiency, and I'd probably agree - the problem is, it's because of their low body fat ratio. A fat greyhound, though, like any other fat dog, is a lot more prone to worse problems, like arthritis. So there's not really a solution there.

Makes it easier to punish them for our amusement and entertainment and profit once they're on the track.

Listen, if you want to make well-reasoned and informed arguments against dog-racing, I'm certainly not going to stop you. There's plenty of good arguments against dog racing to be had. If you need help thinking of one, I'll be glad to point you in the right direction. I don't want to make this thread about racing, however, and knee-jerk OMGDOGRACINGISBAD reactions don't really help anybody.
posted by god hates math at 9:54 AM on December 16, 2008


Breed clubs already do these things.

Not particularly effectively, nor in any way that might constrain their own excesses.

Look, it's an issue about which you obviously care a lot more than I do. To say that the alternative to the current system is a free-for-all, where every dog will look like a generic third-world street dog, is beyond silly into dishonest.

Breed for ability, breed for disposition, breed for utility. That's a wonderful way to do it, and is why herding dogs look different from lap dogs, and that's the way it always should be. Hell, breed for looks and for dog shows, why not?

The exagerated, formulaic nature of mass-market dog breeding, however, is extraordinarily distasteful, and you can't shrug away the problems (from genetic defects to puppy mills) by wishing it were someone else's problem.
posted by Forktine at 9:55 AM on December 16, 2008


Their precious darling dogs were kept in crates in the basement.

Crating is not abuse, just by itself. Nor is being chained up outside with just a doghouse to protect from the wind, but people are used to that.
posted by dhartung at 9:57 AM on December 16, 2008


In general this:

the whole breed 'em for the track

is done very well, and this:

and then kill 'em if they don't perform

totally blows, and breaks my fucking heart.
posted by god hates math at 9:59 AM on December 16, 2008


This documentary shouldn't be a surprise. Or rather, in an ideal world it would be a surprise, because that kind of animal abuse would be extremely rare and prosecuted. But it shouldn't be a surprise becase every pet owner I've talked to knows very well about the problems of breeding, so I thought the public awareness was high.

And Chocolate Pickle, your news about border collies is excellent; I remember hearing of ranchers who used border collies being worried that the smarts would be bred out of them.
posted by happyroach at 10:04 AM on December 16, 2008


The problem is that we no longer breed dogs for function. Instead we breed them for looks and they end up not being functional as dogs. The same thing happens with horses, fish, pigeons etc.
posted by fshgrl at 10:07 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pug faced dogs are extremely functional. It's just the whole eye-pop-out thing is a cost of that functionality.
posted by Artw at 10:30 AM on December 16, 2008


fshgrl - And roses! Roses without scent seems so silly (though I am fond of some of the brilliant shades that have been achieved, so I guess I'm a hypocrite, or just not all that against rose-breeding).

anastasiav, thanks for the info!

Durn Bronzefist - I'm not sure if you get Puppy Bowl up in your neck of the woods, but it's a couple of hours of televised puppy romping, with a kitty half-time show. It's available on DVD, if you are intrigued, and only about $10 USD if you shop around.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:36 AM on December 16, 2008


I think Crufts should be replaced with "The Naughty Mongrel Show", in which thousands of non-pure-bred dogs are allowed to run amok in the NEC arena and just do what they want. And, of course, the pedigrees would be allowed to join in the fun, just so they can show their owners that they're capable of having a helluva a lot of fun.
posted by hnnrs at 10:47 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


The same thing happens with horses, fish, pigeons etc.

And in the case of cats, you end up with crippling deformities in the name of someone else's definition of cute, or the nature to fight back bred out of them so someone can have their own docile zombie cat.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:52 AM on December 16, 2008


Not particularly effectively

They don't have the legal authority to do anything more severe than remove bad breeders from their list of breeders.

Breed for ability, breed for disposition, breed for utility. That's a wonderful way to do it, and is why herding dogs look different from lap dogs, and that's the way it always should be.

Sure. But the histrionic comments about dog breeding go well beyond that. Again, if that's what people mean, they should say that instead of something a whole lot stronger.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:01 AM on December 16, 2008


Did he say that breeding or training should be banned?

Yes. That is what "we should give up on the pedigree breeds" means. If sotonohito meant something other than that, he should have chosen different words.


How does giving up pedigree breeds mean no selective breeding of any kind, and how does that imply no training? I was joking about turning this into a political thread. I had no idea it already was one.

I'm not sure if you get Puppy Bowl up in your neck of the woods, but it's a couple of hours of televised puppy romping, with a kitty half-time show.

I think you just mainlined endorphins directly into my brain.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:09 AM on December 16, 2008


their own docile zombie cat

I CAN HAZ BRAINS?
posted by Joe Beese at 11:16 AM on December 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


All domestic animal threads are political threads.
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


How does giving up pedigree breeds mean no selective breeding of any kind, and how does that imply no training?

If you think sotonohito meant that selective breeding was just hunky-dory, fine. I think it is clear from his post that he does not, though of course now that this is pointed out he might well back away from what seems to be clearly his earlier stance.

It does of course say nothing at all about training. Nobody mentioned training except shii, who seems to believe that a physical description of free-breeding mutts somehow implies "training would not happen."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:41 AM on December 16, 2008


That documentary was really hard to watch, but I'm glad I did. Thanks for the post.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:49 AM on December 16, 2008


the medium-sized, short-haired, prick-eared, spitz-tailed dog you almost always get with free-breeding domestic dogs.

In what universe? Every dog I've had in my adult life was the product of unintentional breeding and none of them looked like that description. And one whose parentage I knew had "prick ears and a spitz tail" on one side of the family but you would never guess it.

But I also don't buy the claim that blue eyes among humans is "disappearing" - a recessive gene in a diverse population isn't going to appear in half of new births, but it will keep appearing - coming soon to up to one-in-eight dark-skinned people. Personally, I have the lightest hair-and-eye combination seen in my family tree tracing back four generations. Maybe I'm just too emotionally attached to Our Canine Companions to avoid relating dog breeding with Human Eugenics...
posted by wendell at 11:53 AM on December 16, 2008


or the nature to fight back bred out of them so someone can have their own docile zombie cat.

huh, so that's what's wrong with my neighbors cat. The thing is a pillow that breathes.

No more pedigree breeding does not mean losing the ability to selectively breed. A lot of horses belong to "registries" rather than breeds. This means that individuals are inspected to make sure they conform to the desired use and bloodlines are recorded (and DNA verified) but a registry may contain individuals of a great many "breeds". Many registries have performance requirements for breeding individuals or award performance in a way that breeders can easily access it and make breeding choices based on that. Doesn't always work but in general it does. Most of the horses you see at the Olympics these days come from these kinds of programs as well as a lot of horses bred to be amateur friendly or for other traits. Racehorses do not, btw, they are a "breed", a closed gene pool since the 1800s or so and a tiny one at that.
posted by fshgrl at 12:06 PM on December 16, 2008


ROU_Xenophobe I'm not into the whole purebred thing, so I don't know the proper terminology. I was working on the obviously false assumption that "pedigree" referred exclusively to the showdog syndrome.

I meant merely that the aesthetic, breed-for-a-deformity, type breeding appears to be inherently irresponsible and that the concept of having an animal that matches, as exactly as possible, some odd definition of perfection should be abandoned.

Selective breeding for healthy traits, working animals, etc I've got no problem with.
posted by sotonohito at 12:13 PM on December 16, 2008


I have 3 yorkies, 1 of which is a teacup breed. They all had small issues when we bought them - my first one has a slight overbite and the other two had extra little toes.
We got all three dogs at a serious discount - my wife found a breeder who was selling 'purebreed teacup yorkies' for $1400 each with a health guarantee... and even though that's still a serious discount from what they usually cost, we still couldn't afford that. I called the breeder who turned out to be the son of the actual breeders, his elderly parents, and offered him (this was a little over a year and a half ago) my xbox 360, 27 games, 4 controllers, and a bunch of extras for a puppy. He, to my complete joy and suprise, took me up on my offer. Hence, my first yorkie is named XB. Over the past year, we've ended up picking up two more dogs from him, always the runt of the litter when he's sold all the rest and at a discount.
I think the only really upsetting thing about it is that they all had awful skin problems when we got them as well as kennel cough. When we picked up our last one, Ruxpin, the one that ended up being the only real 'teacup' of the three we have, we vowed to buy no more from the breeder. His skin problems were so bad it nearly killed him - scabies nearly killed our puppy. He had chewed his own tail into a bloody stump. It was so sad and so awful, and the scabies spread to all 3 dogs within a week. We ended up having to get them all dipped, keeping them seperate, and washing them constantly with several different medicated shampoos and conditioners, et cetera, as well as giving them two different meds for over 6 weeks.
I'm sure these are problems you could have with any dog, I guess, but since ours are purebreed and they had so many problems, I found this documentary very enlightening. I think I'm going to stick to my guns with my wife when it comes to the next puppy and have it be a pound puppy. A big dog this time too, damnit.
posted by Bageena at 12:53 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


American Border Collie Association

Our two guys are ABCA border collies, and they're awesome. Both the dogs and the ABCA. PLEASE do not patronize an "AKC border collie" breeder, the dogs bred there will eventually suffer the same fate as any other AKC breed. Look for a breeder who is a member of the ABCA and endorses their principles.

Also, as long as we're talking border collies, fuck Jon Katz (nothing to do with this thread, really, but, still, fuck Jon Katz and his awful animal stewardship and dill-weed ideas on animal care, training and husbandry.)
posted by maxwelton at 12:54 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is in reaction to a documentary - Pedigree Dogs Exposed (1hr, possibly NSFW surgery)

If this had aired in the United States, someone would have released a counter-documentary: "The Makers of Pedigree Dogs Exposed Hate America."
posted by JHarris at 2:31 PM on December 16, 2008


Chocolate Pickle : Instead, they judge border collies on their herding ability, which means they're judging stamina, intelligence, and discipline. All of which make for healthy dogs.

I believe Australian cattle dogs have gone the same way for many of the same reasons. I like that between my rat terrier and my cattle dog I can say that I've got a couple of professional, pure bred mutts and kinda mean it.
posted by quin at 2:34 PM on December 16, 2008


I thought I heard of an attempt to "diversify" the gene pool of pure-breeds by breeding back in some of the "source" breeds, but I can't find a source for this.

I've seen this in action back in the farming community where my uncle lives. However, it's less motivated by responsible breeders than it is by farmers who simply want a good cattle herding dog and could give fuck all about breed purity. Farmer A has a border collie bitch who is good at herding, that he will mate to Farmer B's dog, an Australian Shepard male who is also good at herding. Farmer B will also mate his dog to Farmer C's Old English Sheepdog/Collie mix bitch, who is good at herding, etc. The farmers will buy/sell/trade/breed dogs according to reputation and temprament, not looks. It makes for some beautiful and freakishly intelligent dogs from what I've seen.
posted by echolalia67 at 2:47 PM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


What we need is an group to breed dogs for abstract problem solving. see what kind of dog that produces after a few hundred years.
posted by Iax at 3:07 PM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


If this had aired in the United States, someone would have released a counter-documentary: "The Makers of Pedigree Dogs Exposed Hate America."

Oh you'll easily find them on Youtube...

One of the more shocking points, I've just remembered - not sure if was in the doc or just in the news coverage - was when a vet was talking about that some breeds could be on the point of collapse, due to a recent development of sperm from top winners being sold and used to artificially inseminated a large number of bitches at once leading to massive drop in genetic diversity over a few generations.

It makes for some beautiful and freakishly intelligent dogs

My gran had a collie/cross and I swear it could understand everything you said to it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:13 PM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Echolalia67, what you're describing is the process by which various breeds of working dogs were originally developed, hundreds of years ago. And that process leads to healthy and useful animals, because that's what the people making the breeding decisions are looking for.

But it doesn't lead to a consistent look, because the people didn't give a damn about that.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:18 PM on December 16, 2008


Every dog I've had in my adult life was the product of unintentional breeding and none of them looked like that description.

Every dog you've had was, presumably, not the product of unintentional breeding for the past 20 generations or so. Freebreeding dogs end up looking more or less like dingoes, but usually smaller than that and with more color variation.

I meant merely that the aesthetic, breed-for-a-deformity, type breeding appears to be inherently irresponsible and that the concept of having an animal that matches, as exactly as possible, some odd definition of perfection should be abandoned.

Selective breeding for healthy traits, working animals, etc I've got no problem with.


I hear you, but at some level a description of the dog has to figure in. If you've got a dog that's 25 pounds, white with brown spots, and born tailless, I don't care how healthy that dog is, it's still a very bad example of an Irish Setter.

Likewise, some of the features that people here have described as deformities are actually functional features, but for functions that are rarely performed nowadays. Dachshunds are so weirdly shaped because they were bred to go into burrows and eat badgers, which is a hell of a job. Corgis (and vallhunds) have stumpy little legs because they're cattle heelers, and you want to be short to be harder to kick. Of course, in none of these cases are wonky knees and bad hips and backs a requirement.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:36 PM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


dhartung: Crating is not abuse, just by itself. Nor is being chained up outside with just a doghouse to protect from the wind, but people are used to that.

keeping a dog in a crate for more than 4-6 hours at a time is cruelty. pure and simple.

and as to your other comment -- wrong again. many communities have animal cruelty laws which state that a dog can not be continuously tied up outside for more than 12 hours.

i don't understand how people (like you, apparently, given your comment) can't seem to understand: dogs are social creatures. very social. tying them up or crating them for extended periods of time are both cruel - or at least neglectful - practices.
posted by CitizenD at 3:51 PM on December 16, 2008


Freebreeding dogs end up looking more or less like dingoes, but usually smaller than that and with more color variation.

Interestingly, stray dogs in Balkan cities I've seen tend to look like dingoes, too, only bigger. I always thought this was because while dingoes have pretty much all of southeast Asia and Australia to roam in, these city dogs have a much smaller territory and competition for it is that much fiercer. Or maybe because in some cities, they began a widespread sterilization program (look for the blue plastic tag on the ear), making the dogs fat, lazy and complacent.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:57 PM on December 16, 2008


The American Border Collie Association has steadfastly resisted all attempts to define a "standard look" for the border collie, precisely because they're afraid of the same thing happening to the breed. Instead, they judge border collies on their herding ability, which means they're judging stamina, intelligence, and discipline. All of which make for healthy dogs.

I bought my border collie from a member of the Border Collie Association. She was a great dog and we loved her to death. But she had many problems, some clearly genetic. In the first year of her life, she needed a triple osteotomy on both hips because of severe hip dysplasia. She also had a pathological hatred of other dogs (She wasn't much better with kids). I can't swear that the behavioral issues were genetic, but they were present from a VERY early age.

Because the hip dysplasia was genetic, we contacted the breeder, the Association and the AKC. We were eventually awarded the cost of the dog (Many thousands less than we spent on the surgery to fix her hips) by suing the breeder in small claims court but the Border Collie association and the AKC could not have cared less.

Even after we produced documents that proved that the breeder mated a female border collie with the female's own son to produce our dog, they just didn't want to be bothered.

So whatever, the association is doing, monitoring the people who breed border collies is certainly not one of them.

FYI, Sammy lived to be 12 and even learned to herd sheep. But this was clearly in spite of the genetic inbreeding.
posted by cjets at 3:59 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


My dog Quinn is a result of some inbred Fraser Valley douchbag attempting to create a new fighting dawg by breeding dingos with pitties. What he got was stubborn plus stubborn, as well as charming rogue. Well, I got that. I will never fear skateboarders nor panhandlers, and due to his one floppy ear, blonde coat and exuburance with the mascara is quite the the chick magnet, much more then I am. I came to realize this when the hot goth, lesbian at the cafe offered to walk him instead of me.
My favorite breed I've come across is the mighty Bassoweiler. A keg-like body, strong jaws and legs like art deco pseudopods. And an owner who is forever explaining it.
My dog, better than prozac.
posted by qinn at 5:04 PM on December 16, 2008


ROU_Xenophobe wrote If you've got a dog that's 25 pounds, white with brown spots, and born tailless, I don't care how healthy that dog is, it's still a very bad example of an Irish Setter.

I guess I just don't understand why it would be important to have an "Irish Setter". What's the matter with just having a dog?

Obviously some people do care, but I can't figure out why. At first I thought maybe it was something you had to be a dog person to get, but then I remembered that some cat people have the same sort of breed obsession. I've got a cat, she's nice, relatively clever (for a cat), and while I suppose she's probably an example of some breed (likely a really bad example) I've never cared enough about breed to see which she most closely resembles.

And, really, my question is not really important. As long as the concern about breed doesn't result in genetic abuse I say let people be concerned about breed. I think its silly, but lots of things I do and care about are silly so as long as its not causing harm I figure its their business.

Unfortunately it is causing harm, and I wonder if its possible to care about "breeds" without producing some people who get so obsessed that they start causing genetic abuse. Obviously not all breed conscious people are genetic abusers, but I'm beginning to doubt that its possible for the concept to be viewed as valid without the abusive minority springing into existence.
posted by sotonohito at 5:44 PM on December 16, 2008


Sotonohito, breeds do matter for practical reasons.

Breeds as AKC museum pieces are a bad things. (I've always despised the AKC.) But among working dogs, there are substantial differences between pointers, retrievers, herders, and guard dogs. They look a lot different, but that's mostly accident. They also act different, and that isn't an accident.

If you need a working dog to perform one of those jobs, you'll do much better to use one of the breeds which was created for that job. You don't use a retriever when you need a pointer; the retriever's instincts are all wrong and it'll flush the birds before you're near enough to shoot.

People who go hunting for pheasant or grouse take both a pointer and a retriever. The retriever is taught to stay with the hunters until specifically commanded to go get a bird that's been shot down. The pointer is singularly uninterested in dead birds; all it wants is to find, and point to, live ones that are hiding in bushes or trees. You need 'em both.

People who breed for a specific look get no sympathy or liking from me. But people who are breeding dogs to do specific jobs are doing something quite legitimate, and it's something humans have been doing for thousands of years. Most major non-miniature breeds were originally created to do specific jobs. They weren't created to look pretty.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:07 PM on December 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


I guess I just don't understand why it would be important to have an "Irish Setter". What's the matter with just having a dog?

One answer is that it's nice to be able to pick up an eight week old puppy and be reasonably confident of how large it will be, what its exercise needs will be, what some salient traits of its personality will be, what its strong drives will be, and so on. That is, it helps people figure out whether that eight week old puppy will fit into their lives instead of getting dumped off to a rescue or shelter.

Another is that many, but not all, breeds of dog are a part of the economic, social, and cultural history of the world. Living things that tell a little story about what people in a time and place needed help doing, and what their conditions were like, and to some extent how they viewed their animals. The vast majority of dogs now are "just" companions instead of doing their intended job, but the ability remains within them. Or, at least, it should, except that the bone-and-coat, bone-and-coat idiots manage to breed it out of them.

But, anyway, these breeds are out there, living bits of history, and it would be a shame for them to disappear or just get blended back into the generic muttdom they came from. (Yes, we do have a rare breed that almost disappeared in the early postwar era)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:45 PM on December 16, 2008


But people who are breeding dogs to do specific jobs are doing something quite legitimate, and it's something humans have been doing for thousands of years.

Definitely the case with Shar Peis. Or at least, the Shar Pei a neighbor of mine owned. I'd heard they were bred in China to be watchdogs, and he was a formidably sized creature. But the first time I met him, I was struck by how friendly, how genuinely affectionate he was. That was until I decided to head home - then he blocked the door, holding his ground, staring at me intently, growling if I tried to approach. Not sure how much of this behavior is trained and how much of it is bred into them, but I thought it was pretty clever that a watchdog would try to keep you from leaving the property.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:05 PM on December 16, 2008


Even for pets, it's nice to know what breed characteristics you can expect. My parents' friend used to have a sighthound; she once caught sight of some prey (the neighbor's cat), broke free, and chased that cat right into the fence. The cat made it over the fence. The dog, so intent on its prey, missed the fact that the chain link fence was in her way. She died as a result of her injuries.
I got a herding dog -- although she has no sheep to herd, I love her intelligence and how communicative she is. She understands a fair amount of what I say to her, and she lets me know what she needs in return. And she herds her toys. Of course, as Chocolate Pickle points out, many herding dogs are bred for temperament, health, and ability, and not for looks. Breeding unhealthy dogs just to achieve the right look is disgusting and inhumane. Culling healthy dogs because they're mismarked is similarly sickening.
I was fascinated to see how much less deformed the dog breeds were just a hundred years ago. The man in the documentary was right when he referred to the dog show as a parade of mutants.
posted by katemonster at 10:03 PM on December 16, 2008


One of my friends works for the NEC, and is a little surprised that the show is off.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:07 AM on December 17, 2008


hnnrs, what you want is Scruffts. Although I thought in the past it was a dog show in it's own right, rather than the regional heats that it is now, and I thought it was started by The Dogs Trust, but maybe I was wrong there too.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:30 AM on December 17, 2008


ROU_Xenophobe Heh. I'm so completely not a dog person I hadn't considered the size/exercise issue. Thanks.
posted by sotonohito at 6:45 AM on December 17, 2008


Chocolate Pickle : But people who are breeding dogs to do specific jobs are doing something quite legitimate,

Absolutely. And as katemonster pointed out, knowing the animals expected behavior can be a huge plus in integrating it into a household with other animals. As much as I love them, I wouldn't ever get a Pharaoh hound because their sighthound tendencies mean they would be a possible threat to my cats, birds, and rabbit.

It doesn't make them any less wonderful as pets, just maybe not as my pet.
posted by quin at 8:50 AM on December 17, 2008


BBC to consider Crufts TV comeback - Broadcaster to review decision to quit dog show after Kennel Club changes breeding rules
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:06 AM on January 14, 2009


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