Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pure breed issues

First check out this blog about Hurricane Ike and the animals in need of help.

If you have a few extra dollars or equipment to spare please consider sending it their way to help out. This will be a mess for a long time and I'm sure they will need all the help they can get. If anyone has other websites that may be useful to the animal disaster and rescue relief please feel free to post them in the comments section. (NO PETA posts/links please.) Our thoughts are with everyone in the area.

*For the record I am not a breeder and have no plans to ever be. I know how much work it is to do it right and I can't afford such an endeavor. My vet makes enough off me already thank you very much. These are just some of my thoughts on the subject having dealt with many breeders in the past and thinking about it as a general subject in the dog world. These are just my observations as a self proclaimed "dog nut".*

There is much broo-ha-ha going around about a British documentary that has shed light on the health problems of pure breed dogs. Anyone who stops and thinks a moment knows this is true in many cases. It is not new information for anyone who has been in dogs for any amount of time. We have taken dogs and selectively bred them for a specific look and not always bred for health first. Just look at breeds like the bulldog, a breed that needs to be born c-section because the heads are to big for the mothers pelvis. It cannot surprise people that they then have issues being able to breathe with their shortened nasal passages.

The sad part of the story is that they were developed back before there was so much vet intervention. Does this mean we have created a different breed than when it was developed? Looking at old photos can show you how much we have overdone it in some cases to change breeds to fit our standard.

Consider also that breeders save puppies who might not make it without that medical help, and then sometimes breed those puppies. So much for survival of the fittest. Now I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't save a fading puppy, but I have to wonder if then breeding that dog later isn't adding weakness to the gene pool. Got a bitch that can't seem to get pregnant naturally? Well lets do artificial insemination. Does anyone else wonder if the maybe shouldn't get pregnant if she can't on her own? Could this be more weakness to be passed on?

Speaking of gene pools there are breeds out there with pretty small ones to chose from. I'm sure that doesn't help when it comes to trying to find a good pedigree match. Should we consider not splitting so many breeds when we have gene pool issues already? Is shrinking the gene pool now going to mean drastic measures later?

I used to think that a person that showed their dogs in AKC conformation events was the earmark of a good breeder. While it CAN be, I am here to tell you that isn't always the case. It seems there are some show breeders out there with only the standard of the breed in mind, even it is goes against the health or temperament of the breed.

Take the standard for the akita for instance. This is what it says under temperament:

From = Alert and responsive, dignified and courageous. Aggressive toward other dogs.

Now in this day and age, shouldn't we be breeding a dog that can live easily in our society that INCLUDES other dogs? Or am I crazy? I have heard about breeders using this in the standard as an excuse to NOT breed away from that trait. I have also been told, by several breeders "If you want a golden retriever temperament in an akita, get a golden retriever". All I want is for breeders to consider breeding away from traits that makes a breed tough for an average person to own. Otherwise, what is the future for that breed going to hold? While we fight BSL, shouldn't we also help dogs not become easy targets of it?

That is just one example. To me a reputable breeder is breeding to improve their breed, through health and temperament as their number one and two concerns. Because without these you could end up with a pretty good looking dog, and a soon to be dead dog. Bad temperament will get a dog euthanized as quickly as a serious health issue. Just check in with any local animal shelter to see for yourself.

My new litmus test is to ask why they are breeding and if they don't show to ask what sport or working trait they are breeding for. If they DO show then my next questions will all be health and temperament related. Tell me about the health tests the parents have had prior to breeding. If it is a working breed that they show, can their dogs do the work they were originally bred for? Or are they just breeding for the ring look? A good breeder will not be upset with questions, and they should be able to answer them with no problem.

So what happens if you end up falling in love with a "man made" breed like bulldogs or pugs? Well you try to find a breeder that does as much health testing as possible before breeding, or you go to your local shelter or find a breed specific rescue group to get a dog from realizing the challenges the breed can have medically.

(Interestingly there are imports of french bulldogs that are free whelpers so it is possible within the breed, NOT conforming to our AKC standard of course. To my untrained eye they look like the frenchies in the old photographs. The reason these people developed free whelpers is to keep vet costs down. Unfortunately they most times have horrendous health and temperament problems IF they survive the flights. Do NOT support those breeders/brokers please!)

That's how we ended up with our pug Jenny. I went onto a pug breeder e-list and asked about health testing and got ZERO responses. Why would I support ANY breeder not trying to produce healthy puppies? The short answer is that I wouldn't, and didn't. I'm sure there are some out there but it seemed at the time I had a hard time finding one. (I of course also live somewhat in the boonies which may not have helped.)

I am all for supporting responsible breeders. Buying from a responsible breeder gives you the benefit of a support system for questions and drastically reduces health issues that can crop up in the puppy of the breed you have chosen. (ALL breeds have health issues specific to that breed. Do your research BEFORE buying.) Puppies being produced from untested parents are a crapshoot. If health isn't a concern for you then don't support a backyard breeder or puppymill, (which feeds supply and demand and keeps these idiots in business) check out breed specific rescue instead. They are the ones cleaning up the messes most commonly caused by those type of breeders. And in some cases taking the "extras" produced by show breeders. (which I find vile and those breeders should be ashamed of themselves)

I think breeders have a challenge in front of them. One of them being to reconsider what they are producing for our society. Is this a healthy dog? How do you know, are you doing as much health testing as possible BEFORE breeding? Are your dogs sound in body AND temperament? Are you raising them in a good environment to give them the best start possible? Those first 8 weeks are pretty darn important in their behavioral development after all.

The buyers out there also need to take more responsibility. Do some research before getting a puppy. First make sure the breed you choose is the best one for YOUR situation. Not sure? Try fostering for a shelter or rescue. Try it on for size. Talk to rescue people before breeders (or visit their websites) to find out the NEGATIVES of the breed you think you want. Some breeders might forget to tell you all the downsides, especially if they are just looking at the sale.

Put your ego aside, a good breeder is going to question the beejeepers out of you to make sure the puppy THEY created goes to the most appropriate home. If this upsets you get over it. This means they are in for the long haul, not just to sell you a product. They will be there for the LIFETIME of that puppy! This includes if you can't keep the dog later. They will either take the dog back or help you rehome it if something happens and you can't keep it. If you buy a puppy as a product be prepared to go it alone and have many vet bills ahead of you. (Do you really think if they are breeding for money they are going to cut into their profits by testing the parents before breeding?) You will get what you pay for.

STOP and think before you get a puppy or a dog. This is a HUGE decision that shouldn't be done spur of the moment. I'd love to hear the statistics of shelter dogs that were gotten on impulse.

So those are my thoughts on the subject. I do think responsible breeders will admit the issues their breed has, and work to correct them whenever possible. Breeders NOT working for the betterment of their breed should be run out of it. Unfortunately there will always be uneducated puppy buyers for them to prey on. I guess our job, as the educated, is to help spread the word so we can save them from those breeders.

There are to many dogs out there needing homes already for people to continue adding to the supply and demand chain for irresponsible breeders. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.


katie said...

Interesting post with many worthy points.

On the topic of breeding for dogs who are easy for the average Joe to own... well... what about those people who are *not* the average Joe and don't want the average Joe dog?

I have no problem with breeders who breed dog-aggressive pit bulls provided that they are looking at the entire picture and breeding healthy, sound, proven dogs. Is dog-aggression "outdated"? Sure. And yeah, dog-aggression can be a pain in the neck, but how much of the breed's temperament are you going to alter if you work toward breeding that aggression out? Will you lose that spark and intensity and confidence that makes them so attractive to me? Will you lose that drive and determination that is what the bulldog embodies?

There are plenty of breeds out there who are not dog-aggro, so if you don't want to deal with it, get one of those dogs.

I just don't think "dumbing down" our breeds is for the good of the breeds that we're altering.

Marie said...

Hmmm good points too.

I am not convinced that drive is linked to dog to dog aggression. If that were true wouldn't more of the herding breds show dog aggression? And they certainly can't be considered dumb.

I suppose we would need to see the results of a breeding program to have solid info on the possible link.