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Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Working Chattie in the Real World

A Working Chatham Hill Retriever goes to water
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One point that Dog people always bring up is the working ability of the breed they love.  We've patiently listened to the complaints that our dogs are not worthy of respect since they've no proven working ability.  That the only portion of the hybrid we've created with any inherent working ability is the Flat Coated Retriever and that the American Cocker Spaniel part of the equation is really just a joke.  Well we always knew better than what the fancy supporters always claimed about Cockers. Pictured above is one of our Chatham Hill Retrievers working in real life as a water retrieving bird dog.  The American Cocker Spaniel breed club maintains this breed is a working sporting dog.  And it was used to flush and retrieve game fowl by our ancestors.  Of course in our modern times its easier to go to the local A&P to get the poultry and meats our ancestors relied upon their hunting dogs to fetch.  Evidence here shows American Cocker Spaniels were in the mix of dogs used.  They are a variant of the Field Spaniels and were often in the same litters as the Springers, Field, English and American variants of Spaniels.  They were sorted within litters according to type in the beginning.  And later as breeding practices became more selective for type the separation was not required as much since the phenotype typically bred true based on size.  But, variants still pop up among these Spaniel litters that type like each Spaniel of the other breeds mentioned.   Its a testament to how the histories of these dogs are very much intertwined.  And the reason why I take what many of the Dog fancy say about no working ability in American Cocker Spaniels with a grain of salt.

A working American Cocker 
In truth American Cocker Spaniels are still used today as working hunting Flushing Retrievers.  And they maintain the working ability that the doubters always said wasn't there.  Apparently they forgot to tell these spaniels that they shouldn't be working anymore.  There are even enthusiast groups that use them on real world hunts as well as trials.  But, my focus here is on real world abilities, because the true measure of a purpose bred dog is not the make believe trials, its the real world abilities of the dog and it's relationship with its owner.  And as our proof of concept we do have Chatham Hill Retrievers out in the real world doing the job of retrieving game under the umbrella of a hunter with a gun.  In this photo you see an American Cocker Spaniel retrieving game fowl on a live hunt.  Clearly not just a cute little lap dog.  And simply put, nothing that the naysayers say applies.   

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Seeking a path towards a proof of concept

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Over 150 puppies introduced into the world by Chatham Hill Dogs since 2004.   So we're pretty new at this.  But at an average of 11 dogs per year it can certainly be said we aren't over-breeding.  We're not making millions off of this journey so for the veterans out there that claim we're exploiting our dogs, Really now?  Are you serious?  Lets look at the outcome of the puppies produced here.  If according to the statistics I should have seen 30% of my dogs come up diagnosed with Cancer by the age of 3.  That hasn't happened.  I should have seen 40% of them pop up with a bad hip or knee before 24 months.  Well, haven't seen that yet either.  In fact We've had 2 dogs.  One Hybrid and one purebred turn up with congenital defects diagnosed within the first 8 months, which means they were born that way, possibly premature development, not likely hereditary.  Both were corrected via surgery.  All the rest.... are thus far fine and dandy.  So if I can say my outcomes don't reflect the miserable statistics provided by the rest of the breeders out there, then perhaps there's something different in how we're approaching this breeding process than the rest of them?  But, the stone throwers tend to stick to their guns and demand we do things their way?  Well, the results haven't really been stellar in their own outcomes.  So, thank you for your concern, but we'll continue doing things our way.

Outcomes are really all that needs to  be presented.  Because the outcomes are what really determine if the goals you've set out to achieve have been worth the journey taken and the best way to prove that the choices you've made are better than the outcomes presented by others.  A really simple concept.  So if we review how the status quo have been doing things the same way for several decades and the statistics have not changed significantly in either direction then see how their outcomes thus far have provided us with what we have today with respect to the overall health of our dogs.  Its clear the way they have done things for so long has not worked.  By focusing their priorities on the physical health tests and rolling the dice to achieve a value from these screenings that are determined to be satisfactory they find an excuse to ignore the detrimental effects of line breeding and inbreeding.  COI (the coefficient of inbreeding) takes a back seat to scores based on a physical examination.  DNA based tests do have merit as being conclusive indicators of passing on negative hereditary problems, but physical screenings are a toss up.  They provide you with an assessment of the dog being tested on the day of testing.  It is not a way to predict the future health status of this dog and definitely not a way to determine the outcome of the offspring produced from this dog.  In fact most breeders will put up a disclaimer on their websites or in their puppy contracts that will say that regardless of all the physical health tests performed there is still no guarantee that the puppies produced from the tested parents will be free and clear of any of the physical problems the parents passed.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Old school breeders believe they are so righteous when they really just suck

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The status quo of the inner circles of the dog world does a bunch of funny things, even devious, sometimes just hateful and I guess in choosing their quirky way of doing things that seem very entrenched within matters of old traditions and long practiced ritualistic behavior they feel is just the only way.  In fact they believe their way is the absolute best way because whatever idealistic fantasies of reasoning they are brainwashed into has become their religious calling on behalf of their dogs and they pass these practices off to the next person they feel worthy of their mentorship and maintaining their precious lineages.  So when newbies like my family come into the equation it tends to rock their boat and if in doing so we’ve discovered a success story unlike anything the status quo has ever experienced, suddenly we’re their target for tall tales of wrong doing and exploitive practices.  

It’s sad really, because in a real life conversation with the brainwashed segment of the dog fancy outside of their normal surroundings, they’re all likely intelligent and rational people.  So its just so odd and rather amusing to experience them when they are in their element or actually on another of their intelligence gathering hate fueled missions hell bent to conjure up so many fun filled facts from their own fantasy world to explain things happening with dogs living a sweet life on a ranch far far away from them being raised by a family with two loving parents of 5 really cool kids who all enjoy and love their dogs.  You’d think they’d actually want to help such a family instead of always trying to disparage them.  Hmmmm. Let’s just call it them being jealous.  Perhaps they’ll go away.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Moral Compass for Dog Breeders

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In conversations about the topic of dogs you find many different perspectives on the subject.  A belief system in the minds of each individual that has their own strong views, they are the champion of their chosen ideology.  And those ideologies can be very similar and open minded or extremely hardline and opposite from our own.  In an attempt to simplify this into a visual metaphor I will use the term Moral Compass.  Its an easy yet simple way to review just where we stand based on our own ideologies.  And a moral compass allows us to review just where a breeder stands in the midst of controversy.  Actually providing a measure that allows each person to reflect where they stand on a subject and put into perspective before they fire bullets without a cause.  Or without understanding where others are coming from.  Its possible that from understanding these differences it would lead to less contempt and hatred between these ideological factions.

Lets look at a simple Moral Compass.  The one pictured below shows an evenly balanced individual with no tendency to favor any of the extremes from the categories that sit around the circle of ideologies

The Balanced Breeder; The Moral Compass above shows a balance between The Trophy minded Dog Show and trial driven segment of the dog world in relation to the Extremist Rescue minded activists, the Purely profit driven Back Yard Breeders or Commercial Breeders and Advocates for better long term health of their dogs.  Depending on where you place the circle of ideology you can easily see where the underlying Morals are for each individual group.  A balance between all the extremes leaves an equal amount of concern for each category and therefore a balanced Moral compass.  This is what a breeder should strive for.  This is what Chatham Hill strives for.  However, after the jump you'll see the Moral Compass that reflects what we've had to deal with for the time we've tried to find that balance.
When we first started out in the pure bred fancy and actually went to dog shows we were just stunned at all the different breeds.   The fascinating differences and the almost religious practices that the breeders participated in prior to any showing.  It was at times very amusing and at others very concerning to witness.  Primping and preening their dogs to prance around in a show ring.  Making every effort to keep the onlookers away from their champion dogs for fear of contaminating them with germs from the curious public.

  • I'll add the AKC Dog registry to the above as Morally balanced.  You see, the AKC doesn't set the standards that can prove detrimental to many of our pure breed dogs its the breed clubs that submit these standards to the registry.  The AKC then becomes a central repository for the lineage history of the breed clubs that join them.  And although the AKC can follow the guidelines set in place by the breed clubs... they are powerless to enforce reform without losing the support and funding of the breed clubs themselves.  So the main registry is kind of stuck in the middle.  And the result is the practices that put our dogs in such a sparse genetic situation in the first place continue.  Fortunately the public awareness has forced the moral compass of many breed clubs to try and clean up their image.  But, if you consider where the situation is for many breeds.... the awareness may have come too late.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Is it Innovation Or just Common sense

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Dogs are a part of my family’s life.  Always have been, but until my family started our journey into the world of pure bred dogs and got a first hand feel for the gears behind it, the established purist clicks and the extremist animal rights groups on either side of the fence.  We never really knew just how bad the situation was for our canine companions or how blind we humans can be in our quest for a badge of honor to elevate our egos or to liberate the canine world from human cruelty by preventing dogs from breeding and punishing those who breed with threats and violence.
  • As children we grow up with our family pet and never really understood anything about how this companion to our families came to be.  Nothing beyond the fact that it was just here when we woke up and it was here when we went to sleep in our life.  We grew up, it grew old and eventually it died we mourned it and then we went on with our life.  Our parents took on the task of caring for it, deciding whether to take it to the vet when it was sick, and eventually decided on the course of action prior to its death.  Back then, our parents likely didn’t do much more homework on the choice for the dog they wanted beyond looking at what was the most popular breed, the slickest looking, the oddest looking or the cheapest one available.  And the pet stores were likely the first choice for the place to get that family companion.
Our Dogs outdoor playground
  • For clarity, dogs, as we know them today, no matter what any breed club behind them may say to the contrary, are all man made creations.  If they are in a registry, have a listed studbook and a list of standards they are supposed to meet in order to represent their “kind”.  Then they are literally man made.  They were designed through selective breeding and human vanity to be what they are in the form we see them today.  You might hear stories of the pariah breed that has existed in the wild in the form we see it in for centuries prior.  Sorry, but that’s not true.  All dogs are linked to centuries of lineages till the dawn of the existence of the Canis Lupus Familiaris species.  But, man designed all the forms we see today within the last century.  And within the last several decades they’ve been evolved into whatever form we see now.  The identities of all these breeds, as we see them today, were designed by none other than humans.  The Purists and the Extremists just seem to always deny this.
  • What the Chatham Hill Gang has learned, from our experience in the circles that revolve around the dog show driven side of the purists world, is that cosmetics are primarily what drive the decisions to breed for the dogs we see today.  In order to meet the requirements of these standards put in place by the established clubs that represent the breeds in question.  Sure there are also considerations for temperament and physical abilities based off of the adjacent category of trial dogs.  But in general, if these dogs are to be dual purpose and most of them are, they also need to meet the visual standards of an excellent representation of their kind. 
  • And just how do these breeders do this in order to maintain the look they desire and the traits they feel are required?  Well for many of them it’s a matter of breeding from the same lineages from their dogs relatives in the hopes to retain these characteristics from one generation to the next, they further try to confine the breeding to the few lines created from established champions in the dog show world.  Thus creating hundreds of offspring from the bloodline of a few stud champion dogs.  In other words they call it line breeding, however if you think about it and really understand what is involved with this process its really just a form of inbreeding.  And for some of these breeders the concept of inbreeding is absolutely acceptable.  Hmmmm.