Dogs are known to be man’s best friend. Cliche as it may sound like, dogs have proven continually over the centuries since they were first domesticated, just how helpful they can be in human lives. From being mere allies on the hunting grounds during the Neolithic period to adored and prized pets of families, dogs have been trained to take on more and more roles in human society. The domestication and subsequent breeding of dogs began with their ancestors the wolves.
During the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods of human history, both man and wolves shared the same objective of hunting and gathering food, as well as the same enemy, the big cats. (Kreiner 4) Perhaps the humans at that time realized the benefits of having canines on their team in hunting and tracking prey that they began capturing wolf cubs and treating them as pets to be raised as hunters. (“Dogs and People: The History and Psychology of a Relationship”) With the evolution of dogs into many different breeds, people have also come to realize that not all dogs are the same and that is not just in reference to their physical appearance.
In terms of utility, some dogs proved to be better suited to specific jobs like hunting and herding. Similarly, an appreciation for the physical and temperamental qualities of different dogs started taking root. From being mere canine companions, dogs started to be bred to fulfill specific duties. Dog breeding started to be a quest to find and develop the perfect specimen of dog breeds according to utility and genetics.
Since humans first started noticing the high trainability and utility of dogs, dogs have started to be bred for special purposes.
These include hunting and retrieval of game, military and police service, guides for the blind, and erstwhile companions. (“Dog”) Dog breeding also finds its roots in the 19th century. Dog breeders believed that the public placed a premium on dogs of a specific size, color, physical, and temperamental qualities. This was proven true when the demand for “quality” puppies from dog breeders rose from purchases made by people seeking canine companionship or those who needed dogs for herding and hunting.
Today the “elite” and prime examples of different dog breeds can often be seen show cased and recognized in Kennel clubs and dog shows held both nationally and internationally. The year 1859 saw the first dog show in Newcastle, England where judges focused mainly on working dogs and their skills rather than appearance. Dogs of different breeds paraded on floors sprinkled with sawdust and the judging was done only by three men. Today, the American Kennel Club (AKC) is one of the largest of such organizations concerned with recognizing exemplary specimens and abilities of registered dog breeds.
Various competitions for dogs measuring their performance level at different skills are done on mostly weekend events. The competitions range from criteria based on different types of dogs or skills such as tracking and following commands. (Baldwin, and Norris 1) “There are three types of competition–conformation, obedience, and agility. The agility ring is the one many people are familiar with, where dogs go through various exercises and around obstacles,” says Adrian Woodfork, a licensed AKC judge”(Stokely 175)
The conformation competition is said to be targeted at challenging breeders to improve the quality of purebred dogs through extra careful selection of breeding specimens as well as faithful recording of bloodlines, temperament and hereditary traits. (Stokely 175) Every year the AKC publishes a “point scale” that lists the number of awards available at each show based on the number of specific breeds involved in the show. Some actually view these competitions as perfect opportunities to learn more about different breeds particularly if there are contemplating buying a dog.
Dogs bred and trained for specific jobs or purposes In addition to the traditional breeder who turns out show quality or traditional working dogs for either altruism or profit, there is another kind of breeder who caters to a market that requires highly intelligent and even-tempered dogs for modern purposes. Breeding Racing Dogs Kennel owner Maria Beck (Clarke, Wright, and Jones 250) is the owner of the Lightning Ridge Kennel in Kansas City, Kansas. It is from here that she not only breeds and trains champion greyhounds, but is the only known African American woman kennel owner in the business.
Of greyhounds, she shares: “The animals are so graceful. The excitement of seeing them race took my heart and I realized that it was what I wanted to do. ” Breeding Police or Military Dogs Dogs also contributed greatly to their human counterparts during wartime. In World War II, the American Kennel Club and a group called “Dogs for Defense” got together some quality dogs for donation to the Quartermaster corps. German Shepherds, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Farm Collies and Giant Schnauzers were trained in the new K-9 Corps between 1942 and 1945.
These dogs would later end up saving the lives of thousands of men in combat by acting as sentries, “partners” and friends to the military or civilian guard on patrol as well as being scouts, messengers and mine-detection dogs. (“Dogs and People: The History and Psychology of a Relationship”) The K-9 program remains in place up to present time with dogs employed in police work of drug and bomb detection as well as search and recovery. “We look for high-energy dogs that have a high fetch drive, mostly bird dogs, like labradors and golden retrievers,” says Steven Buzzard of the West Virginia Division of Corrections (Clayton 64).
Breeding seeing eye dogs The high trainability of certain dog breeds have also made them suitable for other jobs outside of the military and police force. Helen Docherty (“PUPPY LOVE; Ena Will” 30) is just one of the volunteer “walkers” who work with dogs at the Guide Dog for the Blind Association in the United Kingdom. Dogs like German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and Golden retrievers in addition to the occasional Boxer and mixed breeds are trained to guide the blind and keep them company. Helen describes her experience as:
“You just have to remember that this dog came for a purpose and it will go on to do what it has been trained to do. The comforting thing is at least you’ve played a part in preparing the dog for the fabulous job in life it is meant for, with a blind person. ” Breeding for purebreds Purebred dogs (“Dog”) are the products of “inbreeding” or “line breeding” which just keeps dog mating within just one family bloodline. Inbreeding means that bitches are mated with litter-mates, while line bred dogs are those that are the product or mating between a bitch and its close cousins, grand sire, and so on.
These dogs are usually bred to conform to the standards of a certain breed and whose bloodline and lineage (also called pedigree) has been recorded for a prescribed period of time. Kennel Clubs usually keep track of the lineage of registered individual purebreds in order to preserve breed standards. Breeding aimed to diversify gene pool. Some breeders focus mainly on the appearance of their dogs without much regard for its pedigree. Mating dogs that are unrelated to each other through assortative mating, breeders try to solidify positive traits.
This is also done when a breeder tries to acquire a lacking trait for his stock by mating one of his dogs with another who displays the desirable trait. Breeding hunting dogs There are also breeders who cater to buyers who need dogs for more specific and utilitarian purposes. Hunting and retrieval dogs are just one of the specialized breeds that enjoy a “niche” market. So does sporting dogs such as the retrievers, pointers, spaniels and setters. These dogs are especially useful for their ability to track air scents. Ground scent hunters belong to the hound group made up of beagles, foxhounds and bloodhounds.
Olden England saw a great demand for this particular kind of breed for their fox hunts and point to point chases. Other dogs that are held in high regard by hunters are the visual hunter greyhound dogs and terriers, which were valuable in hunting burrowing prey. Breeding sheep dogs There were also breeders who specialized in working dogs that are used as herders or guides. This included collies, the German Shepherd and the massive St. Bernard. Ladies who wanted companionship proved to be another market for the breeders.
Toy and lap dogs such as the Pekingese and the Pomeranian were elevated to “status symbols” and cuddly playthings. Other companions were the non-sporting dogs the Boston terrier, the bulldog, the chowchow and the Dalmatian.
Whatever the dog owner’s reason is for breeding their dogs, the health and safety of the dogs themselves remain at a risk. In the article “Eight Good reasons NOT to Breed your Dog” by Dr. Elizabeth L. DeLomba, DVM,(2000) she enumerates the following facts that aspiring breeders may not be aware of: 1. Not all dogs are built to breed.
Bitches can die during puppy birth. 2. With the massive rise in pet overpopulation and the numbers of dogs that need to be put down in shelters, there are just too many dogs around. 3. Dogs that are not neutered face serious risk of accidents as unaltered males have high tendencies and urges to roam in search of a female. 4. Unspayed females often attract unwelcome attention from dogs of all breeds. 5. Dog labor is not as easy as some people may think. There are instances when dogs need C-sections in order to birth the puppies. 6. Puppy health and survival are not always assured.
7. Not all dogs have the mothering instinct. Puppies can die due to neglect by their mothers. 8. Preparing puppies for sale won’t necessarily bring breeders a wind fall. There are various expenses such as de-worming, vaccine and neo-natal care that are required for newly born puppies. Some believe that putting dogs in shows are not helping them either. While some may argue that the dogs enjoy the outing, there is the stress of performing in a noisy and often tight space crowded with both humans and dogs. Dutch consulting geneticist E. L. Hagedoorn postulates:
“In the production of economically useful animals, the show ring is more of a menace than an aid to breeding. Once fancy points are introduced into the standard of perfection, the breeders will give more attention to those easily judged qualities than to the more important qualities that do not happen to be of such a nature that we can evaluate them at shows. Showing has nothing to do with utility at all, it is simply a competitive game. ” (Burns) There have been criticisms that some judges in the popular dog shows do not even know what work the dogs they are judging are capable of doing.
Most of the awards are given to dogs that are “beautiful” and “fashionable. ” Because of this, some show dog owners have taken to cropping the ears and docking the tails of their dogs for cosmetic purposes. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is opposed to trimming dog ears for cosmetic and show reasons deeming it as a medically unnecessary and stressful procedure for the dogs to undergo. The AVMA has called on the American Kennel Club and other breed associations to ban dogs with cropped ears from dog shows. (353)
Backyard breeders who join shows and obsess about winning ribbons rather than improvement and development of the breed usually last around five years before the interest tapers off according to estimates by the AKC. This often leaves dogs who are beautiful but whose functions and skills have been greatly diminished. “It is a sad but undeniable fact that breeding to a strict standard of physical points is incompatible with breeding for mental qualities. “(Lorenz 84) Because awards are given to physically perfect dogs, less attention is paid to the
temperament and intelligence of both parent dogs this contention has been proved by the fact that various pure breeds of dog did retain their original good character traits until they fell a prey to fashion. (Lorenz 86) In the article “The Westminster Eugenics Show” by Jonah Goldberg published in the February 13, 2002 edition of “The New Republic,” he criticizes the way dog shows such as the Westminster has demoted the functionality and intelligence of dogs into just prancing for a beauty pageant. “The problem is that Westminster does not judge breeds for those traits which rightly make a breed a breed.
The Pointers aren’t asked to point (even though the logo of the Westminster Kennel Club has been a pointing Pointer for over a century). The Bassets and Bloodhounds do not track. The Otter Hounds are not tested to see if they could kill, let alone identify, an otter. And so on and so on. “With the exception of a handful of breeds who were bred to do nothing but either keep your hands warm or wait until some Aztec chef could cook them, not a single breed at Westminster is expected to do what it was bred to do…”
Another issue about breeders is the level of responsibility they are credited with in the euthanasia of animals who have not been fortunate to be adopted from the shelters. Just recently, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) launched a billboard campaign against dog breeders and their patrons saying that breeding dogs diminishes the chances of those in animal shelters of being adopted.
On their web site, the PETA claims that despite whatever good treatment the dogs under the care of breeders and their buyers receive, they cannot be called “responsible breeders. ” According to PETA, if there is anything that dog breeders are responsible for, it is the deaths of the dogs at the animal shelters who could have been adopted had not the option of purchasing a puppy or dog from a breeder was available. All these issues however, have been strongly negated by dog breeders and owners alike. On the PETA message board itself discussing the new “billboards vs.
breeders campaign” buyers have stated that if they were open to buying dogs without knowledge of their backgrounds, health and temperament-wise, they would have gone to shelters in the first-place. (“What’s up now Breeders? “) Similarly, breeders have posted their defense on the message boards saying that the dogs in animal shelters are the products of irresponsible pet ownership as well as uncontrolled expansion of the dog population through “puppy mills” and feral dogs that have not been either spayed or neutered.
Nobody can take dogs more seriously than a true breeder. The selection and process of dog breeding is both an intricate and rewarding one. Before anything, dog breeders assess the physical and mental characteristics of a prospective breed of dog. These are vital for dog breeders are tasked not only with breeding and turning out physically beautiful show type dogs but also making sure that these dogs are sound and even-tempered. Everybody who has owned more than one dog knows how widely individual canine personalities differ from each other.
No two are really alike any more than human beings are, even among twins; but even in human beings it is possible to pick out individual traits and, by combining them, to explain up to a certain extent the different temperaments, though character analysis can never attain the grade of an exact natural science, owing to the infinite complexity of its subject. The dog’s personality is vastly simpler, and it is much easier to explain the peculiarities of different characters by considering the development of certain ‘characteristic’ traits, and their combinations in the individual.
(Lorenz 19). The quest for the perfect dog specimen is an intricate process. Dog breeds and bloodlines are produced by mating dogs with certain desirable characteristics with the purpose of producing young that carry a combination of all these characteristics.
While it is true that despite its noble beginnings Dog breeding has turned into something that can be exploited for financial gain, it is thoroughly irresponsible to lump all breeders under one banner. There are some breeders who truly care about their charges and seek only to preserve that particular breed.
Perhaps rather than continually blaming one organization or another for the fate endured by shelter dogs, it would be much better to push for stricter laws regarding the sales and ownership of dogs as well as measures for neutering/spaying feral canines. As for the dog shows, it would be wise to remember that it wasn’t the dog’s choice to be there. There is a need to educate both sides of the argument as to the views of the other. They may both have valid points but too radical and extreme thinking can only bring more harm than good.
There has to be some form of compromise.
Dogs as well as other domesticated animals have brought much joy and benefits in their co-existence with human beings. Whether it be for companionship or something more utilitarian, dogs have proven to be man’s best friend in ways that other human’s just cannot. People need to be aware however that the human’s mandate of stewardship includes a responsibility to all creatures under their care. Humans are the stewards of their canine companions. Caring for dogs does not stop at simply feeding them.
Bottom line however is whether human or pets, every living thing is entitled to security, protection from harm and respect. It is just a pity and a vast shame that dogs cannot talk and that they cannot be asked what they think of their status and existence in human society.
Baldwin, Cheryl K. , and Patricia A. Norris. “Exploring the Dimensions of Serious Leisure: “Love Me – Love My Dog! “. ” Journal of Leisure Research 31. 1 (1999): 1. Burns, Patrick. “From Rosettes to Ruin: Making and Breaking Dogs in the Show Ring. ” Terrierman. com. <http://www. terrierman. com/rosettestoruin. htm>
Clarke, Robyn D. , Mark W. Wright, and Chandrika M. Jones. “Running with the Big Dogs. ” Black Enterprise Feb. 2000: 250.
Clayton, Susan L. “Teaching Dogs New Tricks. ” Corrections Today June 1999: 64.
DeLomba, Elizabeth. “Eight Good Reasons Not to Breed Your Dog. “WorkingDogs. 2000 Workingdogs. com 3 Oct 2007. <http://www. workingdogs. com/vcnobreed. htm>
“Dogs and People: The History and Psychology of a Relationship. ” Journal of Business Administration and Policy Analysis : 54+. Goldberg, Jonah.
“Westminster Eugenics Show. ” National Review Online. 13 February 2002. nationalreview. com 3 Oct2007 <http://article. nationalreview. com/? q=OTYyM2Y4YzEyNDJmYWIzNjNmYjE0M2NlY2MzYzlkMDA= >
Kreiner, Judith. “A Look at Friends: Man and His Dog. ” The Washington Times 12 Feb. 2000: 4.
Lorenz, Konrad. Man Meets Dog. London: Routledge, 2002. “PUPPY LOVE; Ena Will Soon Be a Guide Dog Thanks to the Care and Training of One Woman. ” Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland) 2 Feb. 2006: 30. Stokely, Sonja Brown. “Gone to the Dogs. ” Black Enterprise Dec. 2000: 175.
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