A health survey of Scottish terriers that included dogs that were bred by established and backyard breeders revealed that the established breeders were not producing healthier dogs than the backyard breeders. Further, the only group that did not include 19-year-old dogs was the one that contained dogs from established breeders. The oldest dogs in that group were 17 years old when it died.
Many dog people like to throw mud. It’s just something they like to do. That’s probably because they don’t have any ideas at all, and they just yearn to believe all the Grade A Bullplop they’ve been fed all these years. People with ideas are dangerous things. That’s why totalitarian societies criminalize thoughts. Thoughts have a way of becoming actions, so they must be kept under control.
Of course, I’d be delusional if I thought I could compare myself to a political prisoner. I’m nothing of the sort.
I know I don’t write the most controversial dog blog out there, but I am very much a skeptic of much of the belief systems that underpin the various subcultures that people have created around domestic dogs. And I do catch hell every once in a while. I’ve dealt with so many vile people in experience on the dog blog world that I could have lots of reasons to be a pessimist. And some days, I really am a dark cloud. But for every naysayer I’ve dealt with, there have been a least half dozen others who make this work more than worthwhile.
So much of what I get from these odious individuals is nothing more than crap. You know, something that a certain political figure called “pious baloney” to refer to his main opponent’s near constant nattering about not being a “career politician.” I think he erred slightly in his use of words. I would have used the term “sanctimonious baloney,” for piety generally refers to belief systems that are generally positive. Sanctimony is hypocritical or feigned piety.
And boy do so many dog people have that!
In no other place does this sanctimonious baloney reach the height of its hypocrisy than when these people start making lists of what responsible dog breeders are.
It seems that every problem that exists in the purebred dog can be blamed on backyard breeders. And if they aren’t blamed, puppy mills are. Or the really evil people are– the vile, disgusting, abusive people who crossbreed!
Puppy mills are bad places. I don’t defend them at all.
But the notion that the vast majority of the problems purebred dog can be placed at the foot of these people is utterly absurd.
And there is no evidence for it.
There not a single study that says that backyard bred dogs are less healthy than those bred by established breeders.
The evidence for this claim does not exist.
Strangely, in at least one breed, the evidence suggests the backyard bred dogs are no less healthy than those bred by established breeders. This study, performed by Joseph Harvill of Great Scots Magazine, included survey of readers of the magazine. The magazine is widely read by both show dog enthusiasts and pet owners, and the sample surveyed included dogs that came from established breeders (“professional breeders,” not a very good term), pet stores, and backyard breeders. That means that the Scottish terrier’s health problems cannot be excused through blaming backyard breeders and puppy mills. The problem is both endemic and systematic to the nature of how Scottish terriers are bred. The author makes comparisons with a study from the 1995 Scottish Terrier Club of America that came from surveying show breeders in 1995. That study found the average lifespan was 11.2 years, and although it is not necessarily fair or accurate to make comparisons with these two studies, the author does make these comparisons to state that the lifespan is getting shorter.
Further, the author discovered that the longest lived dogs in the survey came from “nonprofessionally bred sources.” The oldest professionally bred dogs lived to only 17, but there were 19-year-old dogs that were in the rescues, backyard bred, and pet store groups. The ages of rescued dogs may not have been accurate, but pet store and backyard bred dogs would have had a known date of birth or purchase.
This study really calls into question the shibboleth that the health problems in purebred dogs can be blamed upon backyard breeders and puppy mills. In fact, it really shows that the systems that have maintained the Scottish terrier within a closed registry system have caused a general inbreeding depression that exists across the breed. That’s the problem, not the backyard breeders.
I have not been able to find another study that examines longevity and health within a dog breed from this perspective. The Golden Retriever Club of America has a wonderful study on health and longevity within that breed. This study came out in 1999, and it came from surveys that were sent to all members and placed on the GRCA website in 1998. It also placed the survey on its website. The study included health and longevity history for 1,444 dogs, which is a large n.
However, as good as that study is, I don’t think it can be used to make generalizations about the entire breed. In 1998, the internet was a very new and novel thing. The most Americans were not on the internet at the time, and it may have been those who had lost a dog at young age who were likely to download the survey. The sample also included a huge proportion of established breeders or those breeding for conformation and obedience trials– which is exactly what you get when sample club members.
Only one fourth had never competed in a show or trial?
That’s not representative of the breed as a whole. In Harvill’s paper on Scottish terrier longevity, he points out that 95% of purebred dogs come from non-established breeders.
This study doesn’t contain anything like that sample. 54% were bred for conformation, and 40% were bred for obedience trials. Although this survey says that 61% were bred to be pets, vast majority of golden retrievers are bred to be pets– something I would estimate to be in 85-90 percent range. Dogs bred for hunting purposes appear to be underrepresented in this survey, too, though I would definitely concede that the a small minority golden retrievers are bred for this purpose. People who breed their dogs for hunting purposes may not have registered their dogs with the AKC or even registered them at all, or if they did, they may not be as in touch with the Golden Retriever Club of America as other breeders. There are large numbers of golden retrievers in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Northern Rockies that are bred for hunting and may or may not be registered at all.
This is a good study, but generalizations about it are rampant. People think that golden retrievers live on a little over 10 years on average, when all other surveys show them living into the 12-13 year range. From that study, people think that cancer is just rampant in golden retrievers, but a multi-breed survey of 350,000 dogs insured by Swedish dog insurance company found that they were no more likely than average to die of cancer. They were actually one of the healthier breeds in the survey.
Golden retrievers were at low risk for mortality in this study – only 22% died before 10 years. Golden retrievers were significantly less likely to die of trauma and heart disease and were in the baseline (average) risk group for neurological and tumour causes of death. They were at increased risk in the first age category for locomotor problems, but this effect waned with age as demonstrated by a negative age-breed interaction.
A much larger proportion of the Swedish dog population is insured when compared to those of the United States. Lots of people insure their dogs, regardless of the background of the dog itself Sweden has a relatively large population of golden retrievers, and these dogs represent lines that are fairly common in Europe in both conformation and performance lines. And while it is certainly true that Sweden has one of the most progressive kennel club systems in the world, I don’t think it can account for the differences in findings in the surveys. It is likely that a huge proportion of these dogs are bred to be nothing more than pets from people keeping just one or two dogs for breeding purposes. It is much more likely that this study represents something like the sample in the Harvill Scottish terrier survey.
I am not saying that golden retrievers have no health issues with cancer and other disorders. They clearly do, but the issues surrounding them are more complex than most people assume.
But one interpretation of the comparing the Swedish study with the GRCA study might be that the general pet population is healthier than the dogs bred by the experts. One needs to be careful of this interpretation, of course, but there might be some reason for at least considering it.
Think about what pet breeders do.
They breed dogs to be pets. They don’t care much about conformation, and no one has taught them that line-breeding is the best way to produce puppies. Most backyard breeders would go out of their way to breed from male dogs that are unrelated. That’s something that established breeders really don’t do. They line-breed. And because they compete for titles, they covet blood from top producing sires.
And we all know what that does to animals in closed registry populations over time. It creates the issues associated with an inbreeding depression, and it allows certain genetic diseases to get spread throughout a larger proportion of the population.
Backyard breeders, if informed that breeding two dogs might result in severe deformities, would not likely do the breeding. The same cannot be said for certain show breeders. I only have to point you to the breeders who produced a double merle collie that has no eyes. This dog was intentionally bred to produce litters of merle collie puppies that would do well in the show ring.
They intentionally bred a defective dog to satisfy the fancy, yet it is these same people who will give you lectures about how unhealthy backyard bred dogs are.
We would call this the height of hypocrisy.
But then, the dog fancy is largely underpinned with theology, so actual facts don’t really matter.
And never mind that the real issues that are causing purebred dogs so much trouble are actually within the system that claims to be preserving and protecting them.
Virtually every purebred dog has issues with genetic diversity, mostly resulting from popular sire syndrome and a closed registry system based upon a very finite number of founders.
The way to solve this problem is to have more dogs within a closed registry breed reproduce. We need more sires producing litters and more bitches producing pups. If more sires are producing puppies, then the effects of just a single sire producing a huge proportion of puppies in any given generation are reduced. If more bitches are reproducing, more genes are surviving in each generation.
How do you get more dogs contributing in this way?
You encourage other people to breed dogs, including those who want a dog for a pet.
Oh my God! The heresy!
You’re saying backyard breeders can be a solution to some of the problems in purebred dogs.
You’re damn right I am.
The Norwegian lundehund has largely been able to continue to exist because its breeders decided to breed from virtually every male dog in the breed.
And this solution could apply across many breeds.
Jeffery Bragg, who has actually performed quite a big of conservation breeding with a particular strain of husky, writes about the importance of maintaining about the importance of several puppies in a litter producing litters, not just an elite one or two:
The breeder should strive to ensure that at least two of every litter (unless it should happen to be one of those litters that really had best be forgotten) contribute to the next generation; half the litter should be the ideal, though perhaps a difficult one to maintain. In every instance in which only one progeny from a given mating contributes to the next generation, automatically and infallibly half of the available genetic diversity in that line is lost permanently! If two progeny contribute the theoretical average loss is reduced to 25%, still less if more littermates contribute. This single point is a major source of losses of genetic diversity among purebreds, yet it often goes totally unconsidered by the breeder.
But this solution won’t be available to us when people do nothing but write screeds about what a responsible breeder is and continually denounce backyard breeders as if they are devil incarnate. Because everyone’s resources are finite, it will be necessary to have puppy buyers do some of the breeding, and by definition, these people will be evil backyard breeders!
The truth is purebred dogs wouldn’t exist all if it weren’t for backyard breeders. The vast majority of dogs are bred by people like this, and if that’s the case, it ought to be embraced.
Backyard breeders do need to be educated on what should and shouldn’t be done.
But they are not the cause of the problems that purebred dogs have.
The problem that purebred dogs have is the dog fancy system itself, which is overpopulated with hypocritical snots who like to lecture people about all the problems that come from dogs that weren’t bred “by experts.”
The truth is they are just diverting attention from the real problems, and in doing so, they create a scapegoat. In the diversion, they don’t get blamed for supporting the closed registry system, and in the scapegoat, they create a boogie man for everyone to hate.
Which leads to more laws being passed to control breeders.
The fancy has many sins, but one thing it uses to protect itself is to blame other people for the problems it has created.
Not a bad move.
It’s selfish and pig-headed.
And oh so hypocritical.
But that doesn’t matter, they can keep on doing what they want.
And if they want sympathy for their dogs dying of early ages from diseases that could be controlled if they would drop the entire dog fancy system, I suggest they consult a fine dictionary. There, you’ll find that sympathy can be found between shit and syphilis..
That’s the perfect location in the dictionary, if you ask me. You catch shit for calling them out on diseases that come from bad breeding choices.
Solutions aren’t going come so long as we hold onto the same shibboleths and bromides that brought us to this place.
We have to drop them, or we’re just wasting time and energy.
And if we don’t drop them, there are many breeds that simply will not last.
Extinction is forever, so the maxim goes. It is the same for dog breeds as it is for species.
And that’s where we’re heading. Slow but surely, but that’s where it ends.
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