Thursday, December 15, 2005


I should probably just keep my mouth shut but I'm going to rant anyway. Nels posted a link to an article on the genetic nightmare humans have created in the breeding of purebred dogs. Now, I know all about this and the reality is even worse than the article makes out. I hate the AKC which is a very conservative, good old boys club that perpetuates the inbreeding of dogs to look a certain way, health and temperament concerns be damned. Many people think AKC papers are valuable but all they mean is that according to the AKC's records, both parents were the same breed of dog. By their own admission, the AKC is a record keeping organization, nothing more (though they do lobby Congress to keep any kind of animal welfare legislation from passing so they're a political organization too). Dogs can come from puppy mills (most puppies sold in pet stores are from puppy mills), have hideous health & temperament problems and still have AKC papers. So far I've resisted the urge to compete in AKC agility trials, even though they are the most common & popular around here. They don't allow mixed breeds (how snobby is that?) but Lola could likely pass for purebred and I could get an ILP for her to compete. Cody might even pass if I took the picture right. But so far, I can't bring myself to give them money and support their agility program. Anyway, it's a touchy subject, esp. amongst the dog people because they have fondness for their various breeds and for some of them speaking badly of a breed, or purebred dogs in general, is tantamount to insulting someone's religion.

Purebred dogs, esp. those that are bred by so called 'responsible' breeders for the breed ring, are seriously inbred and consequently can suffer terrible health & temperament problems. Epilepsy seems to be one of the most common diseases and plagues many breeds. Unfortunately even getting a mix doesn't guarantee a healthy dog because you can end up with the worse traits from two poorly bred purebreds, but in my mind you cut down on your chances of diseases common to certain breeds. The popularity of 'designer mixes' like Labradoodles (Lab + Poodle), Puggles (Pug + Beagle), BoJacks (Border Collie + Jack Russell Terrier) are more examples of humans playing mad scientist but at $1200 a pup they won't be going away any time soon (there are tons of mixes sitting in shelters at a fraction of this cost but they lack the trendy name). None of these is technically a breed and any halfwit can produce them but people are scooping them up nonetheless. And for the record, there is absolutely NO clinical proof that Labradoodles are hypoallergenic and in fact many of them are not.

There are also breeders out there breeding high drive versions of their chosen breed for agility and other dog sports. This is really a disaster because there are very few homes out there that want such a high energy, high maintenance dog so where do the unsold/returned pups end up? Do I need to spell it out? These dogs are awful pets for the average person and I speak from experience. Never mind the health and behavioral problems you start having when you start selecting for just one trait, like drive.

Now I know quite a few people who've bought designer agility dogs and they're very nice people, I don't mean to be dissing them or anyone else who chooses a purebred dog from a breeder. Personally I prefer mutts though Lola is possibly purebred and Strummer is for sure, no ifs and or buts about it. But I don't think I could ever support a breeder or spend that kind of money on a dog when there are so many great dogs sitting around in rescue. I can't control the mad scientists out there but I can try to be part of the solution.

One interesting thing to note, the article mentioned that humans 'tamed' dogs from wolves, an idea that is not so widely accepted anymore. Ray Coppinger, a Phd in Biology, and his wife Lorna (I forget her credentials at the moment) wrote a fascinating book on dog origins and the developments of the various types of dogs (herding, guarding, etc.) from a biologist's point of view. In short, he believes dogs are the result of natural selection. Wolves are typically shy of humans and the ones that were genetic anomolies hung close to human camps & villages, eating their leftover scraps & garbage. The less shy wolves started breeding amongst themselves, creating tamer and tamer versions that eventually led to dogs that humans could approach and take into their houses. Then humans started interfering, breeding for specific traits (behavioral and physical) creating the different dog breeds.

O.k., I'm done ranting. Not that I had much of a point other than that humanity sucks when it comes to the way they treat other species but, well, duh.

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