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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.