I wanted to address comments specifically in a post, because I know that not everyone reads comments. I am not including identities because I want to be VERY CLEAR that I am responding to issues, not people. If I use “you,” it’s the collective you and includes myself. I am making no statements about individuals or breeders with names.
I don’t know. Your posts along these lines always give me a lot to think about, and I certainly agree on some levels. For instance, the fact that every dog that is sound, mentally fit, & healthy has a place in a breeding program if so desired. And I think it takes a trained eye to be able to tell what faults will eventually cause unsoundness. But I am nonjudgmental when someone breeds a dog that isn’t “typey” or has some glaring faults, as long as the dog is sound. I could care less about a dog having the CH in front of their name. Some of the best Cardigans in history have come out of less than stellar parents, and I think that is a lesson worth studying.
Yes, I think it really is. I suspect, however, that those “best” Cardigans were not really anomalies when you look at the whole pedigree–at least in terms of soundness. You can have a bitch with a wonky topline and still breed her wisely if you know that the bad topline is not throughout her pedigree, or if you know that the stud dog you’re considering for her reliably corrects toplines. It ends up coming down to our two tests: Does it affect her life? Yes. Will it affect and hurt future generations? If you’re fairly sure the answer is no, it’s a good and ethical decision to breed her.
To a certain extent I think this mindset follows down to “fault judging” versus finding the virtues of a dog. Many people fault judge and will decide that so-and-so shouldn’t be bred because of xx fault. I also think that what you should consider for the whelping box is vastly different than what you should consider for the show ring.
Yes, yes, and yes. If you have a dog who is likely to produce well (and by “well” I mean my oft-repeated phrasing about a happy, healthy, long, pain-free life), it is a solid contributor to the next generation even if it is not shown, or shown heavily. Breeders SHOULD show, and I think it can’t be a low priority. As political and unfair as it is, showing makes you put your money where your mouth is. It’s a peer review activity, where you “show” the products of your breeding program. But it’s not invalid to say that the products of your breeding program don’t have to be every single dog you’ve ever kept. Many good breeders keep back animals, especially bitches, that they feel will produce well but would not necessarily be the best choices to represent them in the ring. Now you have to be very careful–there’s a fine line between keeping a dog back because it is a solid producer and keeping an unsound or nasty dog out of the show ring but thinking up ways to justify breeding it. Keeping dogs out of the ring can’t be an invitation to kennel blindness. But as a strategy, yes, it’s valid.
And, of course, the issue with trying to do only the “valid” and relevant tests is that it’s not always clear which are which. I’ve heard many arguments that hips are not a relevant test in Cardis, but having lived with an OFA “mild” who DID show symptoms (while his OFA “moderate” dam did not), it’s hard for me to accept those arguments. Like above, I don’t get judgmental of those who choose to breed borderline hips when the dog seems very sound, as long as they do so thoughtfully. But I also can’t accept that idea that we should give up on trying to improve hips just because the tools are flawed.
For me, the question on hips again comes down to whether it hurts the individual dog and whether it hurts the next generation. In some breeds that answer is completely obvious. In ours I really think it’s not. You saw it yourself in dogs that did not follow the “rule” of severity of dysplasia equalling pain level. And the answer to the second one, hurting the next generation, seems to be VERY poorly understood. I think we can say in Cardigans that an OFA-type view has moderate–not super, but moderate–value when it comes to analyzing the health of that dog as he or she stands there. It does not seem to have a lot of value when it comes to predicting how that dog will produce the next generation. The question is not whether the tools are imperfect–the question is whether they work AT ALL.
And I also feel that because of the AR activists, we need to be very careful about differentiating ourselves in as many ways as possible from mass-market breeders. That’s a tricky line to walk.
I want to address this one more fully below, because I think it is a VERY VERY BAD IDEA to be thinking along these lines. But since it’s repeated below, let me write about it once and not twice.
“EVERY DOG WHO IS REMOVED FROM THE POPULATION HURTS THAT POPULATION.” – No, I won’t go there. And then you don’t go there either as you go on to talk about eliminating dogs with unsound structure or temperament from the gene pool. However, structurally sound dogs with cosmetic problems (such as mismarked or coat length) need not be eliminated in my opinion as well. And color? Well, most know how I feel on that issue.
Removing any animal from a population hurts that population. That’s how it works. It’s not my personal agenda; it’s ecological fact. No change is neutral, no removal without cost. The question is whether the removal benefits the population more than it hurts it.
Nature performs this task with incredible efficiency and also with incredible conservation. She never unnecessarily removes an animal; she leaves the maximum number who can survive to reproduce. Barring a bottlenecking event like a flood or a volcanic eruption or something that kills a ton of animals in an unnatural way (i.e., in a way that doesn’t prove whether or not they would have survived in their environment), populations will stay at their maximum possible, breeding as widely as possible, maintaining the richest gene pool possible. The extent to which we screw with that process is the danger we put populations in.
I am sure you know the term “no sacred cows.” We need to make sure we’re not falling into groupthink or conventional wisdom; we have to tell the truth even if nobody else is. For some reason, breeding has become something we view almost as a necessary evil, and it’s really better to not breed. That’s how the majority of “breeders” feel, or at least how they behave. I’ve heard people brag that they’ve been in a breed for 30 years and only bred four litters in that time, and they really do think that makes them a better breeder than someone who has been producing three or five litters a year over that span.
That is, in the words of Trollope, a damnable lie. It is utterly contrary to the way you behave if you want to produce and maintain the healthiest possible population. We need to stop thinking that the best way to be good breeders is to not breed! We need to be breeding the largest possible number of dogs to the largest possible number of dogs or our gene pool will disappear. It should be “I neuter wisely,” even more than “I breed wisely.”
I strongly agree with [the above] statement about needing to be careful in today’s political AR climate. We need to be the guardians of our breeds and do our best to raise the bar, not lower it.
Now, see, here’s where I get the major heebies.
It is utterly vital to realize that the HSUS and the more generalized animal rights agenda has absolutely nothing to do with discovering who has the healthiest puppies. If you are laboring under the delusion that we have ANY kind of defense against their agendas because we do four health tests instead of one you are VERY VERY wrong.
And, if we’re honest, no matter how careful we are we can’t guarantee health. We can’t even guarantee that the puppy we’re selling is going to live a longer or better life, or have a better temperament, than the most raddled Malti-Poo from Petland.
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you know that the dog we are all foolishly and totally in love with is Ginny, a genetic nightmare of a designer dog with a mouth that can’t even close properly. If I had a houseful of Ginnys I’d be in heaven. And the worst experience I’ve ever had with a dog I owned was a purebred with a pedigree as perfect as you could ever imagine.
That’s why I think it’s a really terrible idea to even pretend we can “promise” a product, or to say that our dogs are “better” than the worst reject from a puppy mill. Owners love their dogs, and what makes dogs “better” from their standpoint has nothing to do with the way we tend to define it. We can say they are sounder, we can try to educate them about conformation, we can talk about the ability to do a job. Ninety-nine percent of that will go in one ear and out the other. And then we’ll sell them a puppy, they’ll make a hundred dumb mistakes, they’ll create a fear-biting dog, and they will be convinced that we’ve ripped them off. Promising “better” is a dead end.
What we can do is WARRANTY health, stand behind our dogs; fix problems and replace puppies. But we should be doing that just because it’s the right thing to do, not because it will decrease litigation or liability. I’m afraid that ship has already sailed, and we’re going to be in court whether we like it or not and it will have nothing to do with whether we have healthy dogs.
The HSUS and its ilk make no differentiation between responsible and irresponsible breeding; their only goal is to end breeding altogether. The HSUS is asking for lemon reports to prove that unhealthy puppies come from breeders, that breeders produce unfit animals (and they do-I don’t care how many tests breeders do, if you have more than a couple of litters you will produce puppies that die young and even horrifically, sometimes due to genetics but usually due to the fact that they’re living things and some living things die young), that breeders create animals with bad temperaments or bad behavior, and that breeders treat their animals cruelly, and therefore you should never buy from a breeder.
If we breed with the HSUS’s threat as a motivator, or with some mythical definition of perfect health as the qualification for responsible breeding, we WILL fail. Don’t forget that we’re breeding dogs with a deformity, and even though we know that their quality of life is not hurt we’re automatically viewed as sickos who like deformed dogs. In other words, if we cater to that approach we will be neatly forced into not breeding at all.
Think about this carefully: If you were taken to court and asked to prove that the puppies you’re selling are “better” than a group of ten Aussie-doodles, could you do it? Because that’s what you’re saying you can do. You’re saying that because you health-test and somehow breed only “elite” dogs, raising the bar, you’ve differentiated yourself as “better.”
The prosecutor leans over and says, “So you’re saying that none of your dogs have ever shown any kind of reactivity or aggression toward other dogs? How about kids-is every single one of the dogs you have in your house completely trustworthy with children? Will they happily approach the elderly and disabled? Has any dog you’ve ever sold bitten any other animal or human? Has any dog you’ve ever bred been diagnosed with any genetic health problem? OK, well, plainly you’re in trouble there, so let’s go on to our expert witness. Dr. Wilson, can you show us a study that establishes that the defendant’s dogs are healthier than these mixed-breed dogs? OK, well, are the defendant’s dogs able to run normally? Oh, they have a deformity, yes. Why would anyone choose to breed dogs with a deformity? Well do they have any hip dysplasia? Oh, these deformed little dogs have hips that are twice as loose as the mixed breeds’ are? So… in other words, there is a documented history of bad temperaments, bad behaviors, bad health, and they’re congenitally deformed and damaged.”
You could NOT defend yourself. You would not have a single leg to stand on. “Raising the bar” is what we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better, to tell ourselves that when someone comes knocking we’ll be safe. WRONG. This is one thing I CAN guarantee: If breeding Cardigans were put on trial according to the animal rights agenda, our breed would be shut down without hesitation.
So forget the animal rights organizations-they do not respect you, they do not make ANY differentiation between you and the guy who has a thousand dogs in rabbit cages full of filth. They will work just as hard to destroy you as they work to destroy him.
You breed for the BREED. For the DOGS. Not because somebody has a carrot or a stick. You find out the truth-about genetics, heterozygosity, soundness, movement, health, testing, all of it-and you breed to hand off the best and best-prepared population to the next generation of breeders.
Being a guardian of the breed needs to be something you take very seriously, and that means understanding and owning your decisions and working to understand the situation and the actions that will benefit the entire breed.
We’ve GOT to stop defining it as “doing more health testing than my neighbor does.” Even if that were a positive, it’s about five percent of what makes a healthy population. What about disease resistance, heterozygosity, population dynamics and geographical diversity, founding members, 200-year projections, growth rates, fecundity, fertility, lifespan, survival rates, biomechanical fitness, and the hundreds of other topics that we know about PINE TREES, for crying out loud, that every property manager has to know about his CLUB MOSS but we conveniently ignore in dogs because ooo, we’re such great breeders because we x-ray hips?
The long-term health of this precious, precious population, this endangered species, this cup of wine so close to spilling, think of it however you want. Bringing it from |here| to |there| demands every single bit of us; it demands tearing down the sacred cows and looking at the truth. It demands actions that are defensible scientifically and morally. It demands seeing the whole picture. That is the ONLY motivation; nothing else will stand the test of time and nothing else is fair to the dogs.