Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Law of Suppy & Demand

EDIT: I'm closing comments, because I think we're basically going in circles at this point. Everything that needs to be said has been said. Despite posts of late, this isn't actually a "the AKC is stupid" blog. (Even if I rather think it is.) This is more of a "there is a problem in the dog world, and breeding mutts isn't the solution" blog. If you happen to agree, fantastic; stick around. If you don't think there's a problem at all, I'm afraid you need to move along, read some literature or make your own blog, because my opinion isn't about to change and nobody's forcing you to read this stuff. Have a nice day.

'Tis officially the season, my friends, and we know what that means. Apart from the scents of smoke and gingerbread mysteriously lurking everywhere, annoyingly cheery carols warbling out from every store and a rapidly haemorrhaging wallet, that is. It means pet stores are stacking the shelves with cutesy Christmas canines, much like the one pictured. He can't even stretch out. Adorable.

We are only human and sometimes a sad puppy's gaze can have the effect of a high-power tractor beam off the Starship Enterprise. It sucks you in like a black hole with the force of its sweetly bewildered face. And isn't it so much better to think of a woebegone petshop puppy shacking up with you, rather than in the arms of somebody who thinks it would be a good idea to give the pooch to someone else for Christmas?

This law applies at all times but seems especially applicable now: The Law of Supply and Demand. Anti-puppy mill propaganda often uses the argument that buying a pet store dog just makes room for another puppy to take its place back at whatever mill it came from. That's never made a lot of sense to me; it's not like they have room for 300 dogs absolutely, no more than that. What you ARE doing when you buy a pet store dog is saying, "I want this dog, and I want more like it." And the supply (the pet store and puppy mill) will respond with glee. No matter what your intent was. If you're a bleeding heart who has to rescue the one sickly little pup, you're saying you don't care what condition they sell their dogs in. You want it anyway.

If you do your pet-shopping where puppies are sold, firstly you might want to reconsider your choice of pet store. Secondly you must stay strong! And these are the three biggest scams I see running around at large:

1. He's AKC-registered! Woohoo! Now let me tell you where you can put those papers. As we should all know by now, AKC guarantees nothing. They will tell you this themselves on their website. All it means is one parent was a purebred and so was the other parent. The resulting puppy could be a mixed-breed, deformed, unhealthy, nasty in temperament, or all of the above. You could probably sneak your dead rabbit into the AKC for all they care.

2. He's rare! Look at the pretty colours! Let me remind you that the genes for some 'rare' appearances in certain dog breeds also carry ticking time-bombs of disease. Remember the double dapple gene in Dachshunds (which is A-OK by the AKC!). Double dapple comes with blindness and deafness, among other things, like no eyes. Fantastic.

3. But he's so cute and little. Take him home. People seem to be giving puppies away younger and younger. "As soon as they're weaned" is not, in fact, the right age to give a dog away. They've only just started toddling around and socializing when they're weaning age. He needs this learning stage with his mom and siblings in order to be well-adjusted. This article will tell you about it more concisely than I can - it says 7-12 weeks is the best time to bring puppy home. So why are we seeing five-week-old babies up for adoption?

(Alas, I fell for this trap. Three and a half years ago I was woefully much less educated about pet stores than I am now, and in the market for a new guinea pig to be a companion to my suddenly-single increasingly-Elder Pig. When I met her at the pet store, Baby Angry Pig was four weeks old. That's way too young! my common sense screamed. She should have been six weeks at least. That her socialization was going to be all messed up if she ended up with a clueless child was weighing heavily on my mind, but even heavier was the way she fit perfectly in my palm like a fluffy tennis ball, and snuggled there. When I took her home I left her alone for two days; I did everything by the book - but, of course, she grew up into a bullying sociopath who routinely beats me and my dog, so I believe she was a lost cause from the start. Looks like selling too young can even adversely affect a rodent, so imagine what it could do to a dog. But the pet store has no idea that they sold me a tiny Hitler incarnate. They only know that I snatched up a too-young baby pig almost as soon as she was put up for adoption and thereby "demand" more. Damn it.)

Be strong, put your blinders on when you shop for your pets' stocking stuffers, and if you're in the mood to make life difficult for someone else and you do see a puppy for sale, give the store a heaping helping of hell. Ask them all the questions they are so not predisposed to answer. It's a unique way to blow off holiday stress. And think about where you'd rather put this Law into action - good breeders and petshops without pets, anybody?


Joanna said...

At the risk of being a rogue heavy commenter on your blog today, I wanted to help you understand the role of the AKC in terms of deleterious genes, like color genes.

The AKC is a filing cabinet. You MUST understand this, because every breeder understands this. They do not have a normative role in breeding. They make certain recommendations, a very few, and they donate money to good things, and they put on the most challenging shows and so we use them as our competition registry, but it is not and has never been AKC's role to define what dogs you're allowed to breed to what other dogs.

The reason they've never told us how to breed is that the breed clubs (the individual parent clubs, like the Poodle Club of America or the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America) generally know a whole lot more about good breeding for their particular breed than the AKC does. We have a lot of communication via delegates, but the AKC realizes that as a boardroom they cannot be up to date on every development in almost 200 breeds. So they leave a lot of the normative decision making to the breed clubs.

The breed clubs also do the vast majority of standard development; they describe the ideal example of their breed. The AKC approves the format of the standard and may ask them to clarify wording and so on, but does not come up with the standard.

So if you object to a way a certain breed is being used, whether that be color or shape or size or whatever, you need to be looking at the parent club for that breed. And you need to be communicating with the parent club for that breed.

I am totally serious about this. Every parent club has a secretary and a breeder referral team. ASK them why they do certain things. Why not give them a chance to look stupid or (as I suspect will be the case) look smarter than you originally assumed?

Now specifically on color.

First, there's no "double dapple gene." There's a gene for something called merle. Dachshund people call it dapple for unknown reasons but it's always been merle.

Merle is what's called (in junior high genetics) an incomplete dominant. If, in the space where the merle gene lives on the chromosome, there are two copies of "m" (no merle), the dog will be solid colored. It can still have white spots, of course, but where it is pigmented the pigment will be solid. If the dog has one copy of m and one of M (merle), the dog will be an interesting and rather lovely mixture of speckled and dark. This can be grey and black, tan and chocolate, even silver and grey. This is because the m and the M are (basically) fighting. M wants to shut off pigment-producing cells; m wants to allow them to do their work. Where m wins, the solid color shows. Where M is having an effect, you get the speckled/mottled color.

When a dog has two copies (MM), there is no m to make the solid color "win." The merle gene shuts off pigment cells and the dog is substantially white.

The problem comes from the fact that pigment cells, in the developing embryo, don't just end up in the skin. They also become structures of the inner ear, eye, and brain.

So when you have a whole bunch of them shut off, the inner ear does not develop properly. In very bad cases, the eye doesn't develop properly either. Rarely, you can also have some brain involvement. I know MANY double-merle dogs and most of them are healthy and happy; some are completely unaffected. A whole bunch are deaf; a very few are eye-affected.

So that's the background information. What about this "AKC accepts" stuff; what's the deal there?

The PARENT CLUB (again, this is the important body) allows dapple (merle) dogs - these are mM dogs - to be shown in the conformation ring. This is entirely proper. There's nothing unhealthy or unsound about mM dogs.

Where the sticky part comes is that a very few good breeders and a TON of bad breeders will breed these mM merles together, and some of the offspring will be MM, double merle or double dapple.

Double dapple (or double merle) dogs are NOT allowed to be shown in the conformation ring. They are NOT acceptable show dogs. The AKC (and the parent club) do NOT encourage that they be produced.

However, some of them are.

And so the breed club has a conundrum. Do they refuse to recognize that these dogs exist? If they do, then on the registration papers that each breeder fills out for each puppy, the breeder will have to pick the wrong color for those double-dapple puppies. They'll have to call them by their solid color names.

This leads to huge problems in pedigree research because incorrect colors are listed; you can make huge mistakes and produce unpredictable colors (including, yes, dapples) if you don't have the correct notations on pedigrees.

So the parent club asked the AKC to list a whole bunch of NON-SHOWABLE colors on the registration blanks that are filled out for each puppy. That way they'd have accurate pedigrees.

That's what "the AKC accepts" means. The AKC gave these colors some check-boxes on the puppy registration applications. That's ALL. You cannot show these dogs; nobody wants you to produce them willy-nilly. But, in the same way that you may have folders in your file cabinets for bad checks or for bills that went late (in other words, your filing cabinet is not normative; it is for the purposes of record-keeping), the AKC will allow you to note improper colors for your puppies.

The fact that some (bad) breeders took this as permission to deliberately breed dapples together is no reflection on AKC; it's a reflection on them as poor breeders. That's why it always comes down to the same thing. Don't blame the registering body. Insist on a good breeder.

Joanna Kimball
Blacksheep Cardigan Welsh Corgis

muttpuppiesontrial said...

That the AKC has no hand in the breeding of dogs is precisely what I'm saying. I understand this and you understand it, and most breeders understand it, but there are a lot of uninformed people out there who think AKC is a judge of quality. This is why it's listed there as a scam - because unscrupulous breeders will use AKC papers to fool a buyer into thinking the dog's worth more than it is. There are an awful lot of people out there who don't understand a thing about the AKC and believe papers = quality.

I think it SHOULD have more of a hand in breeding. The British Kennel Club decided breed standards promoted unhealthy dogs and they changed the standard for the Pekingese - why can't the AKC step up in the same way? I blame them because I don't like the example they set. I don't like how many bad things go on in the dog world while they look the other way. Regardless of the parent breed clubs, the AKC is the dog authority in the States; it just doesn't act like it.

Joanna said...

The KC made a HUGE mistake when they changed the Peke standard out from under the breeders.

The KC functions in a different way from the AKC - the KC owns the standards, for one thing. And the KC is the only game in town. The US has UKC, which is an acceptable alternate registry and would certainly become the registry of choice if the AKC changed standards by fiat. So the KC technically had the power to do what it did. But it made a stupid, stupid mistake.

The Pedigree Dogs Exposed program was factually laughable, just totally incorrect, and the KC responded by attacking a breed that is one of the longest-lived and happiest on earth. The changes they made will NOT solve the problem of palates; nothing short of abolishing all the brachycephalic breeds will. Plenty of Boxers have palate issues, so you could push the Peke face out as far as a Boxer's and they'd still have some dogs with trouble breathing. The way you fix it is by asking breeders to take responsibility for making sure that dogs that need palate surgery get it; if you're going to try to force health by changing standards then you need to erase about 99% of all known breeds.

It's like I pointed out earlier with corgi backs - it's not a back length issue. It's a cartilage issue. It has more to do with short legs than it does with long backs. Every achondroplastic dog has the potential for back issues. So do we destroy every achondroplastic breed because 2% of them end up with back issues? What if it's 6%?

Let's start toting them up: All the retrievers have to be abolished because they get cancers. Every achondroplastic dog has the possibility of cartilage issues, so get rid of them all. Every brachycephalic dog has the possibility of palate disorders, so chuck them all. The heavy spaniels have trouble reproducing and a few have heart problems, so they need to go. Where are we now? Oh, the dogs with pendulous ears are more prone to painful and debilitating infections, so they should all go. The deep-chested dogs go early from bloat, which is a very painful and often deadly condition, so anything with a deep chest and narrow body should be abolished.

Get rid of the breeds with Addisons, epilepsy, autoimmune disorders; those are just cruel to breed, right?

Get rid of all the heavy-coated dogs because the coat restricts movement and matting hurts the dog.

So I think we're down to the primitive dogs, the ones with upright ears and slender bodies, and the long-legged terriers. But Basenjis have Fanconi syndrome. Ibizans and Pharaohs have heart and thyroid disorders. The long-legged terriers have epilepsy and thyroid and eye issues.

Do you see where this is going? Every breed has some sort of weakness. Mixed breeds do too, often in much greater abundance, but because data isn't kept on mixed breeds everybody blames the purebreds. You can't look at these dogs and say "Because some percentage of your individuals have XX, we have to change you." You have to look at them and say "Is this breed in good shape; are the majority of the dogs happy and healthy, are they living out their existences in good quality of life."

Pekes are NOT a breed in crisis. They're exceptionally long-lived, stubborn, spectacularly cussed, happy little dogs. Danny the Peke, the one in the program, is now over nine years old and lives with his owners in merry good health. Changing their standard not only doesn't solve the palate problem, it removes the UK pekes from the world of purebred dogs. If they must produce dogs with longer muzzles (again, not anywhere close to long enough to solve the breeding problem) then the US and the continent will no longer go to the UK for the very best pekes in the world, and they will not send pekes to the UK. And that isolation narrows the gene pool in the UK, which only compounds the issues that the peke breed does have.

By the way, the breeds for which the answer to the quality of life issue is closer to a "no" are not the ones with weird body shapes or short legs or flat faces. They're the ones with the endemic cancers, which means Goldens and Flatcoats and Boxers and some others. But I almost never see anyone saying we should destroy the Golden breed. The funny-looking dogs are a broad target, but it's a false conclusion.

Rather than say that the AKC needs to change standards, I'd invite you to get involved. At least from the entries I've read here, you haven't had any Peke experience since childhood. Contact your local Peke club. Ask to talk with the breeder referral person. Go visit several breeders. Go to dog shows with them; watch them groom; watch the dogs interact. Talk with them about their breeding programs and why they make the choices they do. It's totally unfair to Monday-morning quarterback a breed that you've not even had your hands on, haven't watched them run like little freight trains all over the place, haven't seen them play and fight and act like completely normal dogs, haven't seen that most breeders have fourteen- and fifteen-year-old dogs still chugging around terrorizing the place. If you spend a few months with the breed, then comment about how things should change, you'll be doing so from a position of strength.

GoLightly said...

Fascinating discussion.
A knowledgeable, coherent breeder. Wow.
That said, I must ask your opinion on the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel syndrome detailed in that video you found laughable. I would ask why GSD's have had their hips bred out of them. My GSD was put down due to degenerative spinal myelopathy. I can't believe you would deny that changing breed standards can change the look and HEALTH of the dog. That's what selective breeding is all about, yes? What we've been doing, for centuries?
Any thoughts on the in-breeding that seems rampant, even encouraged, in many pure-breds?
Genetically speaking, not so good, eh?
I'm also surprised that you'd find cartilage is more of an issue in long-backed dogs, like your corgis.
Why would a long spine not be recognized as an obvious detriment to the health of the breed?

Just asking?
Yes, it's up to breeders. The AKC/CKC just makes sure you can make some $$ when you sell. Of course, with the advent of designer dogs, pure-breeders are skeered. I have zero faith in most of 'em. Sorry.

Thanks, MoT, great post!
scritches to Tip:)

Joanna said...

Thanks for thinking I'm coherent :). And wow, you all need to meet a different cadre of breeders. I know why this happens - the community (if you can call it that) of bad breeders is so overwhelmingly numerous that it really is tempting to think that everybody who lets dog gonads near each other is iffy at best.

But that's like saying that because prostitution exists, nobody has a good marriage. Some people do horrible and reprehensible things with the dogs they've been handed, but the community (and here I really mean it; we backbite and we're political and we argue, but we're very tight-knit and we agree on standards) of good breeders is very, very careful and would never dream of breeding without considering the implications of what we do.

OK, on the specific stuff you've brought up:

First, the idea that AKC registration allows us to make money. Sorry, allow me to pick myself up off the floor and wipe my streaming eyes. For one thing, good breeders don't make money. They just don't. It's literally impossible to be a good breeder and make a reliable profit unless you charge ten grand apiece for your puppies. Show breeding is roughly equivalent to throwing money into a hole in the ground.

For another, there's nothing about AKC registration that makes my puppies worth money. Many of my puppy buyers never even register the dogs; many breeders sell all pet puppies with no registration. AKC registration is no more (and no less) than a personal affidavit that I know the pedigree on the dog and am allowed to enter the dog in AKC shows. If you're not going to show or breed, the pretty registration slip is worthless. Or, to put it another way, if AKC ceased to exist the good breeding community would not, and our puppies would still be priced the same. There are LOTS of breeds that are not AKC registerable, some of the best-bred and most justifiably expensive breeds on earth. What you're paying for when you buy a well-bred puppy is the health testing and careful breeding that went into the dog, as well as the lifetime of support that a good breeder represents. An AKC registration is fun to have, but it doesn't mean squat when it comes to "worth."

The health issues:

1) Syringomyelia in CKCS. I have a Cav mix (a "designer dog" I got for $5 at the Hartford CT pound) so this is very near and dear to me. Where the television program is completely wrong is that syringomyelia is not, and never has been, the result of breeding for a small head. Cavs have substantially bigger proportional skulls than, say, English Toy Spaniels, bigger than Affenpinchers, bigger than Brussels Griffon, etc. Nobody knows - nobody has ANY idea - why the disorder has gotten a hold in the breed.

The other factual mistake (I'm going to be generous and call it a mistake) the program makes is by very strongly implying that the reason the disorder has become an issue is that Cav breeders care more about ribbons than anything else, that they've been told their dogs are in pain and they're just standing there laughing, twiddling their moustaches.

In fact, you know who brought the disorder to the attention of vets? Good Cav breeders. Who has paid for the majority of research? Cav breeders. Who has paid for ALL known genetic research into the issue? Yep, Cav breeders. Cav breeders HATE this disorder. Every single one of them can tell you the progression of the disease; when one of their older dogs has an itchy neck and scratches at her collar they get terrified. They've put into place one of the most restrictive (and expensive) breeding protocols in the purebred dog world, where they are expected to MRI every breeding dog and also not breed dogs under what most of us would consider a very advanced age.

The Cav is a breed that is very definitely experiencing some health issues. They are not the fault of the good breeding community. Whether the Cav can come out the other end of this by relying on the breeding protocols or whether it will need to do something more drastic (like use the English Toy Spaniels to get new genetics in - this can be done and has been done in the past; the Sussex Spaniel people asked to and were allowed to use Clumbers a while ago) remains to be seen. But the idea that this is the result of deliberate uncaring breeding by the responsible breeding community is just totally wrong.

2) Long dachshund backs. This is one of those issues where it is SO tempting, because it's so obvious, to blame back length. But in fact, as far as we know, a strong well-supported back (where the length increase is because the ribcage has been stretched, NOT because the loin (the space between the ribcage and the pelvis) has been stretched) is actually pretty sturdy. The two things that get the long-backed dogs are IVDD (intervertebral disc disease) and DM (degenerative myelopathy).

IVDD is actually a cartilage problem. Achondroplasia - the genetic mutation that makes the short legs of Dachshunds, corgis, Bassets, Skye Terriers, and many other breeds - makes cartilage all over the dog's body thinner and a little less healthy (more brittle) than would be seen in a longer-legged dog. That means the cartilage between the dog's vertebrae is somewhat more likely to rupture, which means a disc herniation and the back issues that are more common in these breeds.

In other words, blame the legs, not the back. You could make their backs as short as you like, change the standard willy-nilly, and they'd still get IVDD. The only thing that would change the situation is to abolish the achondroplastic breeds entirely, and again there I have to ask if that's justifiable. I'm not sure if we know why Dachshunds get injured more than the other long-backed/short-legged breeds, but most dwarfed breeds have a substantially lower incidence of back problems. And the overwhelming majority of dachshunds themselves do not get back injuries; they live happy long lives.

The second thing that happens to many of these breeds is DM. Again, this has nothing to do with back length. As you found yourself with your Shepherd (which I am very sorry about; it's never easy to lose one) DM does not attack only long-backed dogs. DM is a genetically influenced disorder that has a lot of similarity to the other autoimmune diseases, like thyroiditis and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. One of the breeds that is dealing with DM right now is the Chesapeake Bay Retriever; their incidence of disease is actually close to what it is in Cardigan Corgis, and Chessies are hardly either long-backed or short-legged! There is a BRAND-new genetic test for one of the DM genes (again, research paid for by breeders), and we're testing the very first dogs now. It is everyone's hope that this is a first step toward lessening or eradicating the disease across all breeds.

3) Shepherd hips: Shepherd hips have not changed. They're slightly (very slightly) less prone to dysplasia now than they were 30 years ago. What you're talking about is the change in pelvic angle and croups. The shaky legs and all that. I think there are two things you need to realize: one, what the GSD people have done in terms of emphasizing the huge overreach and the flying trot makes most of us (breeders of other breeds) cringe. We all stand around muttering darkly as we watch them go around the ring. It's not a look that the vast majority of us like. Second, the dog that Pedigree Dogs Exposed showed was not typical of dogs who actually win. I've watched many GSD breed rings and, while they are definitely way too close in the rear and way overangulated for me to like them, the ones I see winning are not generally crossing over and shaky like that dog was.

Whether the GSD people will get their collective brains in gear and stop breeding such overangulated dogs is a very good question. But whatever they decide, don't compare what is in the ring now with what the program did, which was a poorly bred Shepherd from decades ago. I can find you plenty of straight-reared Shepherds from 2008 too. You have to look at SHOW-bred GSDs from the beginning of the breed and compare them to show-bred shepherds now. And even when Max von Stephanitz judged Morris and Essex in 1930, GDSs were appreciably more angulated in the rear than most dogs. (As a side note, they are stacked the way they are - one foot front and one back - not because they "can't" stand normally, but because that's the traditional German stacked position for working dogs. I have a ton of pictures of Danes and other working dogs stacked the exact same way).

On inbreeding: First, stop looking at them like humans. There's nothing perverted or taboo in the dog (or wolf) world about breeding a close relative. The question is whether it helps or hurts the population when you do it. The answer is "it depends." If you have a very healthy population, inbreeding that population doesn't make it less healthy. If you have a very unhealthy population, inbreeding doesn't make it even more unhealthy. What matters is when you have some known issues and some unknown issues, and when you inbreed to "fix" the known issues you accidentally make the unkown issues meet up and you end up with health problems you didn't know about.

I personally don't inbreed. I have never seen the necessity and I prefer to get my dogs' genetic input from farther away. But I understand why breeders do it, and it's not because they don't care about health. Very often it's because they care so very much about it. They're sticking to their own lines because they have managed to either avoid or breed out the health problems that they see occurring in other breeders' lines.

Finally, on the designer dogs. Good breeders are NOT scared of them. We're grieved by them, saddened by the trend, because we know that nobody's picking up the pieces. Millions of mixed-breeds produced and then ending up unhealthy, abandoned, uncared for, matted to the bone, left out in yards or on chains. That's what we object to.

Look, you can cross Aussies with orangutans and I'll run your ad for you - IF you health test, breed only the best to the best (you start with champion or field titled Aussies and orangutans, not ones you bought out of the classifieds with zero careful breeding behind them), offer health warranties, rigorously interview owners, insist on a written contract, take puppies back without question, have a goal that you're breeding toward (and "nice pet" doesn't count, because it does not rise above any of the millions of dogs in shelters and therefore represents no reason to produce more dogs) and have opened your breeding program to peer review.

The fact is that I have never, not even once, seen a mixed-breed/"designer"/whatever pet-dog program that follows those rules, which are considered bottom-of-the-barrel for good breeders. The only people who are doing it right are the Border/Border or Border/Jack or Border/Staffie breeders who are making dogs for flyball. They're doing a good job, which is why you don't see good breeders screeching about them. But those people are not producing dogs for the pet market and they're not lying to buyers about how this cross is the "best of both worlds" and is nonshedding and gentle and obedient and loves kids and will take you to Jesus. The flyball breeders are making solid-fuel rocket booster dogs, and they're honest about that and won't lie to you about their crosses being suitable for people in elderly housing or whatever.

I think it's wonderful that you don't have any faith in the majority of dog breeders. You shouldn't. Good dog breeders prove it to you by meeting the requirements I listed above.

GoLightly said...

Thank you.
That was brilliantly done. I still firmly believe that in-breeding is worse than you think it is, and Kudos to you for not doing it. I do believe that twisting the genetic code has gotten quite a few people into a mess. Too. Ummm, hemophilia?

I have two pure-bred kelpies. I guess, I see the function in those dogs, and the inherent soundness. That said, my older Flip has grade four hip dysplasia. My puppy is fine, but she had a different beginning to Flip. I think spaying young adds to health problems, too. JMO:) Flip was spayed at 4 months, and off puppy chow at the same time. I got her at 1.5 years old.
In the Cav, wasn't the skull changes driven by the desired look for the rounder head?

I must thank you again. My old (deceased2004:(
dog Rusty, the dog in my avatar, was a presumed mutt. She had (get this) idiopathic autoimmune poly arthritis at 4 years old. Screaming in pain. I think I over-vaccinated her. But that experience, and my sister's mutt, who has everything wrong in the book, made me call a kelpie breeder when Rusty passed.
You've made me feel very much better that I did. You sound a LOT like my breeder:)
My sister with the mutt was disdainful that I paid for my dogs this time. I'm still glad I did.
Thanks again
I feel a glimmer of hope for good dogs.

an American in Copenhagen said...

The AKC is just a filing cabinet?!?!

I have to call BULLSHIT on that!

The AKC continues to NOT require DNA verification of parentage like the UKC does. If their primary function is as a "filing cabinet" they are doing a pretty poor job of it. Any yahoo with more than three intact dogs (2 of one gender and one of the other) can guess wrong or lie about the parentage of any litter they register.

In your own words the AKC "makes certain recommendations, a very few" on breeding, etc. What they also do is prevent the breed clubs from making any requirements on breeding. Want to prevent dogs with known genetic defects from breeding TOO BAD. Want to require genetic testing before breeding (with or without restrictions that depend on the results of those tests) TOO BAD. The AKC prevents breed clubs from responsibly monitoring let alone trying to improve the genetic health of their own breed.

In your own words the AKC "donates money to good things and puts on the most challenging shows". A huge chunk of the AKC's budget (dare I say, most) comes from puppy mills and backyard breeders (and not the good kind). The bulk of that puppy mill money goes to offsetting the cost of those "challenging shows". I don't know what "good things" the AKC is donating money to but as you said yourself it isn't Syringomyelia research for the CKCS.

As for your argument that every breed would have to be abandoned due to health problems (physical or genetic), I call BULLSHIT on that too.

I'm still on the fence as to how I feel about dogs with *moderately* shortened faces (i.e. boxers, Victorian Bulldogs, etc) but there is NO REASON to continue purposely producing dogs with faces so short they can die while simply lying down in on a hot day.

Your fear mongering argument that we'll all have to own identical pariah dogs is ridiculous and unconvincing. The solution for breeds with rampant health problems is not to abandon them altogether but rather to outcross and to do genetic health testing (when a test exists)--and then to act on the results of those tests!

Recently the AKC has accepted new breed clubs/breeds that CLEARLY do not represent the majority of owners of dogs of that breed and who’s number of dogs is too small to found a population on. I am referring to the recent inclusion of the Border Collie and Jack (now Parson) Russell Terrier. The vast majority of Border Collies and Jack Russels and their breeders are, were, and never will be a part of the AKC recognized clubs. The AKC has virtually guaranteed that the few lines of Borders and Jacks accepted into the AKC will end up as overcoated and overlarge (respectively) caricatures of the original working dogs. We can already see a separation of the working and AKC lines in these two breeds. What was the AKCs reasoning behind letting a minority of ribbon hungry breeders to form the AKC recognized club? Was is to provide clerical services to a group who lacked other options? I think not. Both the Border and Jack clubs do a GREAT job of book keeping. The AKC wanted more money, the breeders wanted ribbons (since they don’t actually work their dogs they can’t get them that way) and perhaps to be able to call their puppies AKC registered. Both groups are happy but it will be the future generations of Borders and Jacks who suffer.

On paper is it difficult to maintain the argument that the AKC is just a filing cabinet but in real life it is glaringly obvious that this is not the case. The AKC does a poor job of verifying the parentage of the dogs is registers (the UKC does a more thorough job with DNA testing), makes most of its money on puppy mill dogs (which is uses to offset some of the cost of conformation shows), ties the hands of breed clubs who actually do want to try to improve the health of their breed through genetic testing and mandated breeding protocols, and actively seeks out new phony breed clubs that don’t even represent the majority of thriving working breeds so that they can make money off of dogs from yet another artificially created too small gene pool.

Joanna said...

Forgive me, but what I see is you saying "How can you say that AKC doesn't make normative breeding decisions? Just LOOK at all these ways that the AKC doesn't make normative breeding decisions!"

The AKC DOES NOT MAKE NORMATIVE BREEDING DECISIONS. It never has and it views its role as wholly different.

It will not tell you that you must breed healthy dogs. That's your own responsibility, and insisting that they do it is like saying "Well, officer, it's your fault I'm speeding." If you are enough of an idiot or a scoundrel that you're breeding unhealthy dogs, that's on your own head, not the fault of an organization whose only role is providing you with an official pedigree. Ditto with falsifying pedigrees.

I am not sure what you mean by UKC and DNA; the UKC's DNA program is totally voluntary and is never mandated. AKC forces it on anyone who uses a sire more than a few times, who uses AI, who applies for a multiple-sired litter, or who imports a dog. Ergo, the AKC's DNA program is much more restrictive than UKC's.

Ah, the lovely Jack Russell controversy. I need to say it again. AKC DOES NOT MAKE NORMATIVE BREEDING DECISIONS. If you want to buy a whole bunch of my breed (Cardigan Corgis), breed them to Pointers and Leonbergers, mix them all up for a few generations, and then write a standard and start keeping track of pedigrees, as long as you don't name it something that another club is already using, you can be in AKC's Foundation Stock Service. The AKC will not poll the parent clubs of the Cardigans, Pointers, or Leonbergers before it puts you and your Transylvanian Earhunds in FSS, because (hey, look, one more time) it does not make normative breeding decisions.

Does AKC register poorly bred dogs? ABSOLUTELY. Why? Because it doesn't make normative breeding decisions!

You WANT it to be something other than it is. You want it to make quality-related or ethics-related decisions. That's fine, and your right. But it doesn't. And neither does UKC. You could go to the model of, for example, the Polish Kennel Club, where no dog or bitch may be bred before he or she is awarded in the show ring. But, hmmmm, didn't you just say that the show ring was ruining working breeds?

OK, so let's set up a system that would satisfy that. How about no Jack/Parson Russell terrier can be bred who can't go to ground and kill a rat? Oh, except then your gorgeous bitch who was injured as a puppy can't be bred. And then your dog who couldn't care less about rats but is fantastic on fox can't be bred.

Huh. That doesn't seem like it's good for a breed.

Well, then, let's set up a breed warden system, where the dog can't be bred until the wardens approve it. But no, that's no fair! The warden in my county hates me because my dogs beat his in that trial; the warden in the next county over thinks that making legs less than the full depth of the body means they're unsound. So my shorties won't pass his test.

Not so good for the breed either, huh?

You can't set up a system with those kinds of rules without it being prone to misinterpretation, corruption, and the rejection of perfectly good dogs.

You can't set up a system without rules without it being prone to attracting people with no personal or professional standards.

The AKC has chosen to follow the latter path.

The majority of show breeders in the US stick with AKC not because we like the fact that it registers puppy mill dogs, but because right now it is the most difficult in which to succeed. It is much harder to get an AKC championship than a UKC in the vast majority of the breeds, so we use AKC championship as a standard of PHYSICAL excellence (certainly not of mental or health). It is harder to register a dog AKC than UKC (UKC will accept from more questionable registries), so we tend to look at AKC. And UKC has gotten everybody mad because they refuse to recognize "limited registration" restrictions that are placed by AKC breeders. I can put a puppy on Limited because I believe it is not of high enough quality to breed, and the UKC will happily change it to Full and even let the owner change the dog's name. So the dog I bred and rejected as a breeding prospect can go on and make a hundred puppies, thus dragging down the quality of the breed as a whole.

Nobody in the show breeding world thinks that AKC means quality. We say the exact opposite. Good breeding makes good dogs; registration has nothing to do with it. We like AKC shows and they're the most difficult, so we stick in AKC. We don't do it because we think the AKC does squat to ensure that every puppy is high quality.

PBurns said...

Joanna you are a clown car of nonsense.

If you think the AKC is "just a registry" you are either very unobservant or a complete fool.

The AKC closes the registry when there are too few dogs in the door, which results in mandatory inbreeding. They prevent performance tests and health tests as a requirement of getting a championship, and they promote defective dogs like carnival barkers.

As for the notion that there is no money in dogs, you can kick that nonsense to the door too. Go to any decent magazine rack and look at the ads in the back of those magazines. Those ads cost money -- go ahead any call and ask the price -- and they are being run at a profit.

What is truly laughable about your posts, is that right after you say that the KC is "just a filing cabinet" (a filing cabinet with offices on Madison Avenue in New York City it should be said!), you then decry that "they" changed the standard on the Peke! What? I thought they were just a filing cabinet! Oh right. You were just typing nonsense, and it does not have to be internally consistent. Besides, you tell us, the AKC is VERY different from the KC. Right. Pardon me while I laugh hysterically. You claim the "KC owns the standard, but the AKC does not." This is just pure fantasy and fiction. I see you know nothing about the AKC, or you would know that they very clearly authorize standards, rewrite standards, and routinely overule Clubs.


Joanna said...

It's lovely to know that you didn't read my posts before you called them nonsense; it gives me hope.

What I'm seeing is, one more time, "How can you possibly say that the AKC has nothing to do with whether breeders are making good breeding decisions? Here are all these examples of how AKC has nothing to do with whether breeders are making good breeding decisions!"

AKC and KC are quite different in some important ways, as I clearly said. The KC is the only game in town in the UK, and they are very tough on their parent clubs in terms of what they can impose on them. When the Peke parent club protested the changing of the standard, the KC said (in exactly so many words) we own your standard. In other words, like it or lump it.

If the AKC pulled something like that, there would be a huge outcry and, quite likely, most of the good breeders of that breed would move to another registry. It would also be very contrary to what the AKC sees as its mission. The AKC can ask parent clubs to reword--like when they requested that the old point-based standards be rewritten--but a club can refuse. There are still a few point-based standards out there.

The AKC accepts standard revisions only every five years at a minimum, and most standards stay in place for 30 years or more. The KC made themselves look like complete idiots because they had to release two new Peke standards in a single week - why? Because they forgot that the Peke is supposed to have a TAIL.

The KC (UK now, not AKC) also has, or at least wants, much more in terms of legislative powers than AKC ever has or would want. The KC is now actively lobbying that you have to be a Scheme breeder (and therefore a KC breeder) to legally sell any puppies in the UK.

BAD breeders make money from selling puppies. Good breeders do not. Bad breeders will do whatever they have to to make money whether AKC exists or not; they already do. That's why CKC and APRI and APR exist. The fact that those are joke registries hasn't stopped crappy breeders from making millions and billions of dollars. Good breeders would not make money even if AKC did not exist. It is about expenses (showing, health testing, field events, travel, stud fees, food, litter expenses, etc.) versus puppy price. If you do it right, you can't make money. If the AKC disappeared tomorrow, my puppy prices would not go down, because nothing about the quality of my dogs or the support I give puppy buyers has anything to do with AKC registration.

The AKC does not require performance credentials to get a championship because that's not its job or its mission. (And I have to ask - exactly what other title is a Lhasa or a Tibetan Spaniel supposed to get? Some two-letter title that means they can sit on a couch really well?) A conformation championship says something about the appearance of the dog, nothing else. Every good breeder realizes this, which is why so many champion dogs are never bred. We all know that all it means to finish a dog is that the dog approaches the standard to a marginal degree and somebody had enough money to enter it in a lot of shows. It becomes more impressive if the dog finished in a small number of shows; more impressive still if it finished in a small number of shows owner-handled. But still, all it means in the end is that the dog looks like its breed, hopefully an excellent physical example of its breed. Doesn't say squat about health, personality, or working ability.

I have a little bitch here that just finished her championship (in sixteen shows, with four majors including two supported-entry shows, owner-handled). You know what every member of my club said to me? "Congrats! Wonderful! Her hips checked yet?" The immediate response was that she was finished, but she was nowhere near ready to breed. The AKC doesn't care if she's got two heads, which I realize and don't have any illusions about. My peers, the community of good breeders, has a dramatically higher expectation.

I don't understand why people expect the AKC to be some kind of arbiter of all things dog-related. It's not and never has been. If you want to buy a dog who can also work, then make sure your breeder works them. If you want to make sure your dog has decent hips, buy from a health-testing breeder. Don't expect the AKC to babysit you. If you buy stupidly, you have only yourself to blame.

In terms of closing the stud books, AKC does not control the timing of that action. The parent club of the applying breed REQUESTS that the AKC do so. If you have a beef, go talk to the parent club of whatever breed you're thinking of, because it was totally their action and their request. Again, the AKC DOES NOT MAKE NORMATIVE BREEDING DECISIONS.

Anonymous said...

Joanna provides a great example of how quantity of writing doesn't equal quality or even a coherent point. Muttpuppy is right on in her comments!

What the AKC cares about, as near as I can see, is maximum income from registrations to pay their executive salaries, damn consideration of function, health, temperment or, in the case of puppy mills, suffering. The responsible hobby breeder from whom I got my purebred collie talked me into a limited registration in case I ever wanted to do AKC-sanctioned agility, obedience, etc. Knowing what I know now, I would have politely and firmly declined.

What too many AKC Club breeders (who appear to be blessedly few in the collie fancy) care about seems to be impressing their peer group with how extremely they can get their dogs to conform to some dangerously irrelevant aspect of the breed standard, damn function, health, temperment and suffering.

I knew that something had become seriously unhinged in the AKC dog show world when I saw the pekinese that won the Eukanuba championship a few years ago. I was almost laughing and crying at the same time at the utter awfulness of that travesty of a dog actually WINNING. The breeders should have been arrested for animal cruelty.

And I hope, hope, HOPE that Pedigreed Dogs Exposed is broadcast in the USA Real Soon Now and that the AKC experiences the same pressure that the KC is in England. Dogs deserve better.

Joanna, is it possible for you to make any point at all in 25 words or less? Just askin'.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and your litany of how all breeds would disappear a big fat red herring.

Joanna said...

Sure. Here's my 25 words:

I’ve given facts. Your turn. Show us “recent fad” breed changes. Where does AKC claim registration=health? Why blame AKC for stupid decisions by stupid breeders?

muttpuppiesontrial said...

Breeders have come and gone, but the AKC has been one constant factor for a hundred-odd years.

The AKC does not claim that registration = health or quality, but I imagine that if they changed the qualifications to get registered, people would respond. The standards by which dog shows are judged would be changed. Barring unhealthy dogs from the ring would mean the kind of dogs that sire dozens of litters currently would no longer be in such demand.

But, of course, you would have to believe that those dogs are unhealthy in the first place. :)

I'm one of those loonies who sometimes wonders if we humans really are to blame for global warming, but that doesn't mean I think we shouldn't try to do our bit to try and improve the situation. At the least, changing the breed standard couldn't hurt. Could it?

Nothing but the pockets of the conservative breeders, I imagine.

Linny said...

Johanna says, “Pekes are NOT a breed in crisis. They're exceptionally long-lived, stubborn, spectacularly cussed, happy little dogs. Danny the Peke, the one in the program, is now over nine years old and lives with his owners in merry good health.”

Danny the Peke is only alive because of surgical intervention. Have you seen this poor deformed little creature? He can barely waddle, let alone run or jump or play. To watch him gamely trying to jog as he’s dragged into competition is to weep. It’s televised torture: literally a freak show. If this in the “Best of Breed”, then God help (or God damn) us all.

Johanna says, “Where the television program is completely wrong is that syringomyelia is not, and never has been, the result of breeding for a small head."

The program didn’t say syringomyelia is caused by a too small head. Clare Rusbridge (a Veterinary Neurologist, and the foremost researcher in canine syringomyelia in Britain) did.

Johanna says, “Cav breeders HATE this disorder. Every single one of them can tell you the progression of the disease; when one of their older dogs has an itchy neck and scratches at her collar they get terrified. They've put into place one of the most restrictive (and expensive) breeding protocols in the purebred dog world, where they are expected to MRI every breeding dog and also not breed dogs under what most of us would consider a very advanced age.”

Far from breeders being “expected to MRI every breeding dog”, neither the breed club nor the KC have any requirements for testing. It’s simply “recommended”, and breeders are permitted to compete and breed with untested dogs. And (incredibly), they are still allowed to breed with dogs that have tested positive for syringomyelia.

Johanna says, “The PARENT CLUB (again, this is the important body) allows dapple (merle) dogs - these are mM dogs - to be shown in the conformation ring. This is entirely proper. There's nothing unhealthy or unsound about mM dogs.”

Well yes actually, there is. As long as you have merle (mM) dogs in the population, you will have stupid or unscrupulous breeders, or “accidental” matings, producing deformed or disabled double-dapple (MM) dogs. If the breed standard was changed to disallow Merle dogs from competition, there would be a gradual decrease in the population of Merle dogs, with a consequent increase in the genetic health of the dog population overall. Of course, that would also mean less of the “interesting and rather lovely mixture of speckled and dark” coloured dogs, but so what? To my mind that’s a very small price to pay to avoid puppies born deaf or blind or without any eyes at all.

Johanna says “Let's start toting them up: All the retrievers have to be abolished because they get cancers. Every achondroplastic dog has the possibility of cartilage issues, so get rid of them all. Every brachycephalic dog has the possibility of palate disorders, so chuck them all. The heavy spaniels have trouble reproducing and a few have heart problems, so they need to go. Where are we now? Oh, the dogs with pendulous ears are more prone to painful and debilitating infections, so they should all go. The deep-chested dogs go early from bloat, which is a very painful and often deadly condition, so anything with a deep chest and narrow body should be abolished. Get rid of the breeds with Addisons, epilepsy, autoimmune disorders; those are just cruel to breed, right?”

No, don’t get rid of the breeds: just their health problems. If you change the breed standard to give a higher priority to health and vigor over appearance, you will start to breed healthier and more functional dogs.

Joanna says, “Do you see where this is going? Every breed has some sort of weakness.”

And that’s the just the point. Hobby breeders started off a couple of hundred years ago with a bunch of relatively healthy dogs, and have been steadily breeding them into deformity and disability ever since. Blind Freddy can see where THAT is going.

I realise it’s a complicated issue that will take many years and a lot of effort to address, but I for one thank God the KC has finally made a start.

penni said...

I stumbled upon this blog and am fascinated that "dog lovers" have found an organization to blame for all the ills afflicting various breeds. Breeding is the choice of individuals, as is criteria for breeding.

I believe there are four kinds of breeders -- the "oops" breeders who accidentally had a litter and sold the puppies for $50 each. If they could drum up registration papers for the little guys, they might sell them for $150 each.

Then there are the people who have some ostensibly purebred dogs, breed them every time they can without regard for health testing or the physical characteristics of the dogs. They often supply pet shops as well as selling the puppies on the internet. They're registered with some organization, and they're only in it for the money.

There are the dabblers. They became interested in a breed, maybe in showing it, decide to have a litter and, for whatever reason (ignorance or head in the sand), do not do any health checks or pedigree matching. They produce dogs -- maybe nice to look at, maybe not, maybe healthy, maybe not.

Finally there are the people who truly love a particular breed, occasionally breed a litter after considering complimentary physical structure, temperament, and health. I have a young male who finished his AKC championship as a puppy. His parents were selected for their strong health qualifications. We've had a number of stud inquiries, but, if all his health tests had not been good, he'd be neutered and just be my pet -- regardless of how handsome he is.

As stewards of all that live on earth, I think humans have an obligation to make good decisions about their charges. Unfortunately that belief is not universal and is not enforceable in the real world. AKC cannot enforce it and, in reality, neither can the KC. We can all sit around and decry it. We can look for some organization to blame. But it really falls on each of us.