Posts Tagged ‘dog conformation shows’

CH K-Run's Park Me In First ("Uno") won last year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

CH K-Run's Park Me In First ("Uno") won last year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The owner of the winner of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show lets PETA have it in the LA Times. This article is a response to a PETA demand that the USA networks stop showing Westminster. This debate is between two extreme positions.

I have already said that PETA has jumped the shark with their “Sea Kittens” campaign. They also have a vendetta against domestication, which is, sadly, not logical. But for domestication, dogs wouldn’t exist at all. Further, dogs have co-evolved with people. We need each other. We co-evolved.

PETA’s solution to ending domestication is to kill 97 percent of all dogs that enter its shelters. This position very obviously causes problems with the mainstream of the American body politic. What is worse is that PETA has used good science, science that people like me also use, to promote their views. That’s okay, but it seems rather bad that PETA gets to be the only promoter of these views in the media. And if the American people already have negative views of PETA, I am found guilty by association, even if it is that we merely used the same information.

However, Uno’s owner’s position is also extreme. This is what she said about the unhealthy conformation in some breed standards:

 “Those are breed traits!  Those breeds have always looked like what they look like.  No, those traits come naturally when breeding dogs of the same breed…Peke to Peke produces all puppies that look like Pekes.”

No. Those so-called “traits” are exaggerated deformities. They are not natural in the least.  Most pekes can’t even breathe properly. They can’t whelp or breed naturally. They are the result of “artificial selection,” not natural selection.  They are not functional conformation either. Pekes don’t have any function other than to be held and cuddled.

So the media is able to set up a straw man using PETA as the main spokesperson for reforming the dog fancy. It is because PETA is the straw man, that I can’t even converse with some conformation breeders about breeding for greater diversity and a greater emphasis on health and working ability in the conformation standards. They will just say, “You’re one of those PETA extremists,” and the conversation ends.

The truth is I am not opposed to selective dog breeding or to breeding for some conformation, after all a dog does need good conformation to be a good working dog. However, the conformation shows have all become about glitz and glamour, finer points, and unusual mutations. It’s not about working function. (There are a few breeds that still have good working conformation as part of their standards, including the flat-coated retriever.)

Conformation is just one way of determining a dog’s quality. It must also have the working ability and temperament, and those breeders who focus more on those things deserve as much respect as the conformation breeders. Working ability, health, and temperament are  still far more important than adhering to very finely delineated breed standards. But I’m not opposed to conformation judging, provided that this is the main focus of the show.

I would also like the closed registry system to updated to allow from some intelligent outcrossing. I don’t think we’re doing our breeds an service by maintaining closed registries, when we  need to increase some genetic diversity in our breeds, just to make sure that genetic problems are less concentrated in our lines. I don’t think its possible to eliminate genetic diseases from dogs (Have we done so in people?), but greater genetic diversity prevents these disorders from becoming too concentrated.

Further, some of these breed classifications were originally quite arbitrary. I usually mention the golden/flat-coat split, which was originally on color alone. But there’s also the cain terrier/West Highland white terrier split, which was alson on color. The Norwich/Norfolk terrier split, which was on ear carriage (and that’s still pretty much the only difference). And there are certainly others. These are the breed splits with which we could use some intelligent outcrosses.

These are modest proposals, designed to work with creating a better dog fancy with healthier dogs. It is not PETA extremism. It is simply better animal welfare. PETA wants to destroy the dog. I want to save it, and that’s the difference.

PETA does not speak for me, and if PETA and I agree on something, it will be by accident.


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