Friday, March 16, 2012

This Is A Must Read For All Responsible Dog Breeders . . .


Why Crufts Should Worry Us

by Susi on March 15, 2012
The hair has been standing up on the back of my neck since several breeds were disqualified at Crufts last week following the introduction of the new scheme calling for veterinary checks for the Best of Breed winners.
This is a very, very slippery slope and as dog fanciers, we’re standing at the edge of it. I keep thinking of Martin Niemoller’s quote which I’ve shortened and paraphrased to save space: When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent because I wasn’t a communist. When they came for the trade unionists, I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews,I remained silent because I wasn’t a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out. Now substitute a breed in any of those sentences above: When they came for the American Staffordshire Terrier, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t own an Am Staff. When they came for the Peke, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t own a Peke. You see where this is going.
How long before “someone else” decides that the corded coat on my breed is excessive? One doesn’t see a Puli herding sheep in a show coat, or jogging with their owner in the summer. A Puli in a fully corded coat sinks like a rock if it falls into water. How long before “someone else” decides that my dog can’t possibly be a normal dog because of the “strain” the coat inflicts upon their heart, or because it compromises their ability to regulate their internal thermostat? How can Puli in coat possibly be comfortable?

This is my Grand Champion a couple of years ago. Is his coat "excessive?"
And who should decide this? Someone like me who’s been in the breed for 30 years, or “someone else” who may never have seen a Puli in person?
I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss that it will never happen. I never dreamt that bully breeds would be outlawed in certain cities. I never dreamt that by driving 45 minutes north of where I live, I would magically transform from “dog owner” to “dog guardian.” I never dreamt that the AKC would accept mixed breeds for any reason. I never – in my wildest imagination – ever conceived of the day when people would be “guilted” for owning a purebred dog, or that “breeder” would one day be a dirty word, or that people with placards would stand on the Best in Show platform at Westminster and inform the audience that they are all dog killers.
If any of the aforementioned had happened overnight, we would have been outraged. But such things happen by inches over time and now here we are, living at a time when everything I mentioned in the paragraph above is a reality. What happened at Crufts is simply another tick in the ruler that edges us closer to the Animal Rights vision, and we’ll continue to be the chumps of the world if we can’t piece together the logical consequences of where all this is going.
Had the documentary, Pedigreed Exposed” written with an animal rights thrust not been broadcast in the UK, we wouldn’t be talking about DQs at Crufts right now. But it did air, complete with what many felt were misleading, if not inaccurate statements that caused a backlash. In the view of many, the Kennel Club failed to defend good breeders after its broadcast, and then added injury to insult by bowing to pressure from animal rights groups. This year, Crufts instituted compulsory health checks for all dogs that won Best of Breed in fifteen “high profile breeds,” and any dog failing the check was withdrawn from the remainder of the competition. For several dogs, this is exactly what happened.
The system’s “underbelly” is frought with vulnerable spots, not the least of which is that the decision of the vet who used appearance as a standard for health was as subjective as a dog show judge’s opinion. In truth, many of the biggest health threats in dogs can’t even be seen with the naked eye.
If you don’t think this can happen here, consider that on the heels of the fuss caused by “Pedigree Exposed,” the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) convened “The Purebred Paradox” conference in 2011 which featured many of the same players who brought the issue onto center stage in Great Britain. Do you really think they’ll stop until they get results similar to what happened in England? And do you think they’ll stop there?
This is not to dismiss the fact that in some breeds, there aren’t concerns. But where there are problems with a breed, I don’t believe it’s up to people who don’t know a thing about that breed or even the fancy to dictate to rest of us how to remedy it. Who better to know what rears its ugly head in a breed than the breeders, exhibitors and owners who’ve devoted their lives to that breed? Every breed (including mixed breeds) has issues and BREEDERS are working on them. The AR bunch didn’t work to eliminate Storage Disease. Breeders did. Some might offer as a rebuttal that until Crufts, breeders weren’t policing themselves. While this point is taken, it’s akin to offering as a remedy to a broken arm an entire body cast.
Indulge me for a minute as I digress. The February, 2012 edition of National Geographic contained a cover article on Purebred dogs which I was sure was going to be another “hit piece” on pedigreed dogs. I read it reluctantly, but I did read it. The thrust of the article was that breeders in the Victorian era assumed that the vast differences of phenotypes in dogs, from the tiny Chihuahua to the grandeur of the Great Dane, also extended to their genes. As we learn more about our dogs, however, we’ve learned that in fact, few genes separate our breeds.This is a boon for people, less so for dogs. Why? As the article asserted, breeders have unwittingly supplied science with the perfect models through which to study human disease because we share many of the same diseases with dogs.
We’ve long known the untold benefits dogs have on our lives, and science studying the rich variety of breeds to cure what ails us is just one more thing dogs give us. But I interpreted the main point of the article differently. Now that breed type has been established and identified in each breed standard, allow the breeders to partner with science to eliminate issues out of their respective breeds, such as Storage Disease, while preserving breed type. But WE do it, the breeders. Not people who’ve never owned or bred a purebred dog. Not people who don’t share our love of what a purebred dog brings to the table. And certainly not Animal Rights zealots leaning on Crufts.
Guess who else benefits from the hard work that breeders do to ensure sound dogs. The mutts. It’s a fallacy that mixed breeds are sounder than purebred dogs. The incidence of disease may seem higher in purebred dogs because their owners and BREEDERS report it to their vets. Breed clubs gather annually at National Specialties to “check in” with their breeds. When was the last time the owners of mixed breeds convened to ensure the future soundness of their, um, breeds? I can’t tell you how many unsound mutts I see walking down a street, their owners oblivious to what is an obvious hip issue. But it’s the breeders and their clubs that fund research. It’s the breeders who sound the alarm if a disease shows up in their line or their breed. And in the end, it’s breeders who must solve this situation by policing our own, not the animal rights groups or even a registry like the Kennel Club.
Coming full circle, it is true that fanciers in some breeds needed to be nudged, and in that regard, there is blame to go around. As fellow fanciers, we should have been policing our own. As fanciers, we value balance in our dogs, and as a rule, it’s how we approach the world. But animal rights zealots have tipped the balance to an extreme and what happened at Crufts is a symptom of it. It’s not too late for us to take over the throttle of this runaway train and slow it down to where reasonable people can act – but we’re running out of time. In my perfect world, we’d be doing a little leaning of our own on the organizations which have portrayed themselves as our advocates by urging them to be more visible in the fight. They need to do what Crufts didn’t and stand up for the responsible purebred dog fancier.
As my children were growing up, I used to tell them that they had better learn the lessons I was teaching them because I was teaching them those lessons with love. If my kids didn’t learn, the world would teach them the same lessons but not give a whit about their feelings or self esteem. I suspect this is where we are now. While we were minding our own business, the AR bunch was sucker punching us. How long do we keep taking the hits?

Looking For Mr. Right

Pauli getting a recent Group placing

Husband hunting for Miss Pauli!  She'll be four this year and should have her first litter if she's going to be bred at all.  Just can't find Mr. Right.  I know exactly what I want him to look like, but can't find a dog that matches that image.  In addition to having the correct physical traits, he needs to have the right pedigree, the right temperament, and all his health testing.  That's asking for a lot, but I keep hoping he's out there.There are a few things I'd like change or improve on Pauli, and a lot of good things I don't want to lose. 

Pauli is from an fine litter with an excellent pedigree.  She's a Best In Show & multi-group winner, and her brother "Krash" is a multiple Specialty Best of Breed winner.  Her sire "Argus" is a multi-Best In Show and National Specialty winner and her dam "Aruba" is a Best In Futurity and multiple specialty Best of Breed winner.  Both Argus & Aruba are Register Of Merit winners  (for being top producers of champions).  Additionally, Argus, Aruba and Pauli have their CHIC numbers because they have completed all the appropriate health testing - all the basics, plus a lot of "extras" in Argus's case.

My priorities in doing a litter are 1) temperament, 2) health, 3) show potential.   My feeling is that if the dogs do not have outstanding temperaments it does not matter how beautiful they are.  Temperament and health have to come first.  All litters are full of surprises, no matter how carefully we plan them, but we need to go into a breeding feeling confident about the basics.  Pauli is very bold and outgoing, excellent with people and other dogs, and I don't want to lose that.  On the other hand she is very active, determined, and more than a little stubborn.  I'd like to breed her to a mild mannered dog, a more willing dog.  I don't want to lose her wonderful "show dog attitude" but I don't want to add any more attitude than we are already working with here!

Last year I had the search narrowed down to two handsome, sweet tempered black spotted boys but was not quite convinced either was Mr. Right.  Now I am looking at an additional dog who seems to fit the criteria.  Wish I had the money to fly off and visit a few other dogs - there are probably even more suitable dogs that I have never seen, who I don't even know exist!   Every breeding is a crapshoot.  No matter how carefully you plan, things can happen, but I'd like to find the most suitable dog before I let the genes fall where they may

Every breeding can be considered a "link in a chain" and the decisions we make now can affect future generations.  We owe it to the breed we love to make the best possible decisions, based on the information that is available to us.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Good Feet Don't Just Happen

The AKC Dalmatian Standard reads -
Feet are very important. Both front and rear feet are round and compact with thick, elastic pads and well arched toes. Flat feet are a major fault. Toenails are black and/or white in black- spotted dogs and brown and/or white in liver- spotted dogs. Dewclaws may be removed.

Feet have generally been good in Midwest Dalmatians, but at a recent Dal Specialty many of us noticed a large number of poor feet in the entry.  Did this sneak up on us and we just didn't notice what was happening, or is this a recent thing?  The dogs with the poor feet represented a variety of bloodlines, so it could not be attributed to the influence of one popular sire with poor feet, or a single breeder whose line needed improvement in that area.  Whatever the reason, it was very obvious as well as very disturbing.

Typical Dalmatian problems include high/hooked tails, too much size, too much color (this is a spotted breed, not a blotched one) - all very much evident in the entry, poor top lines, bad fronts, far too much variation in type, and poor temperaments (shyness and occasionally aggression).  But feet have never been a real problem in the Midwest.  We normally see an occasional dog with poor feet, but never very many, even in large shows.  Are breeders getting careless about feet, or do the newer breeders/exhibitors not understand the importance of good feet?

Both front and rear feet are round and compact with thick, elastic pads and well arched toes. Flat feet are a major fault. 

Because Dalmatians are "road dogs" they require feet that can hold up to many hours of trotting over rough surfaces.  The standard describes the proper foot for that job.  Sporting breeds require good feet for exactly the same reason. 

Foot faults include long toes, thin pads, splayed toes, and a lack of arch. We also noticed several dogs standing on the backs of their rear pads, rather than standing well up on their toes, again a fault, but this one generally tied to excessive angulation and sickle hocks (a discussion for another day).

Good feet "don't just happen" but must be bred for, just as we breed for good markings, proper temperaments, and sound movement.  Without good feet, a Dalmatian can not be a sound dog. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Catching Up With Lucas

Lucas (now Louis) at 8 weeks

Tonight I'll be dropping by our obedience school to take a look at Louis, who was Lucas in the Arbok (Argus/Reebok) litter.  His owner Eloise reports that Louis is doing well, and is a lively, happy, outgoing fellow.  Really anxious to see him again.  He was sold "with strings" - Louis is their family dog, but I have the right to show him if I wish.  Louis is the family's third Dal from us and we knew they would do a good job with him.  We showed their Watson son Pepito for awhile, but Pepito was a quiet laid back sort of guy who didn't really enjoy dog show weekends, so we decided he'd be happier just living as a companion.  Since Louis is a son of enthusiastic outgoing Argus, and was such a cheerful outgoing puppy, it's likely that he'll also enjoy dog shows.  Time to take a look at him and evaluate him for soundness, and to see how his bite, tail and size look at 8 months.  We probably won't start him 'til summer, perhaps getting him ready to show in June at the Chicagoland Specialty.  Louis and his sister Letty may both make their debuts that weekend.
Bennett/Crystal liver boy

Wish I could find a home like Louis's for this handsome liver boy from the Bennett/Crystal litter.  He's larger than his littermates at 7 weeks and because Crystal is a rather tall bitch, this boy might possibly be too big to show, but if his size holds he could be spectacular.  What he needs is what we call a "watch home", where he could go as companion, but be shown later if he lives up to his promise.  Anyone looking for a super sound, very handsome and well marked liver boy, preferably in the Chicago area (near Meg & Cheryl) or in the Twin Cities (near me)?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy Shedding

First swim of the year

Who would have thought that Argus would be swimming in the Mississippi on March 11th?  Temperatures due to be in the 60s and 70s here this week - this is so NOT Minnesota.  No doubt the snow showing on the far bank of the river will be gone by the end of today.  It was in the 60s when this picture was taken on Sunday.

Dogs are starting to shed now. Watson is the worst, with hair coming out in "gobs". He's always the worst shedder here and has a very thick coat.  Josie's coat is longer now, but still tight, and she sheds the least.  Her coat is a bit coarser and seems to be made up of fewer but thicker hairs, so she has less to shed out.  Coral's coat is short and fine and soft, but a bit thinner, so she doesn't shed as much as her son Watson does, but her spring shed has also begun.  Argus's coat is thick and dense, but the hair is very short and fine.  It's still tight now, so I hope he doesn't wait to do a major shed just before the National. Letty has a very soft fine coat, a bit longer than her dad's. It feels more like rabbit fur, like her mother Reebok's coat, but not as long. Dog hair is a way of life when you own Dalmatians.  I'll start brushing Watson daily, and give him a warm bath this weekend to hasten the process.  Might as well get it out of the way before the next one starts serious shedding.  

Pretty soon I'll start to find puffballs of dog hair in the corners.  Ugh.  It's a good thing the dogs are such fun otherwise!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Too Early!

Oh, how I hate to Spring Forward.  The extra daylight in the evening is nice, but I really hate losing an hour of sleep in the morning.  Takes my internal clock a week or more to be ready for bed on DST, which makes getting up a real chore.

Record highs in the forecast for the whole week.  I find that frightening.  Weird Weather makes me uncomfortable.  Sort of a "looking over my shoulder feeling", wondering What Next.  Summer heatwave?  Continuing drought?  Unaccustomed insects?  Water shortages?  Power grid failures?  Ever higher food prices?  I guess the latter is inevitable anyway, since everything except my salary continues to go up.

A quick down and back to Chicago to see the Bennett/Crystal pups.  We left Friday after work, stayed overnight with Meg, visited the pups on Saturday and then came home.  Letty rode along and behaved very well, enjoying the extra attention.  We came home by way of Milwaukee, stopping at one of my favorite aquarium stores where I purchased Bumblebee Gobies, Panda Garra & a few more Amano Shrimp (excellent algae eaters).  And we did not bring home a puppy.  My favorites were the boys and the uni girl (who was already promised).  Not the right time for another boy, although I'd love to find someone local to purchase the handsome liver boy.  He's a very big puppy and may to too large to show, but if not he could do really well.   If anyone in the Twin Cities area is interested in a very handsome liver boy, let me know and perhaps we can work something out.

Love this picture of Mariah, who used to live here.  She's enjoying her life in Arizona and doing well in the show ring for Kay.  So pleased with how that worked out.  Hopefully we will see her at the National in May.