Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Holy Grail Fantasy

How often have you heard or read the Holy Grail statement from a dog breeder?

A breed standard is a word description of what the ideal dog of that breed looks like. It is an attempt to describe "perfection."

And the phrase that keeps it relevant... "The perfect dog has never been bred"?

Is there enough purpose to breeding if your dogs don't perform any function? All that time and money wasted on ... nothing? Effort, determination and expense must be justified by something. Nature abhors a vacuum. If there is no purpose to be found, a Holy Grail can be substituted.

In the article The Functional Saluki, Dan Belkin stated "So, I must add that not only is a Saluki a dog that looks like a Saluki, but also a dog that works like a Saluki".

You can, of course, substitute any dog breed for 'Saluki' in that statement. Mr. Belkin's article deconstructs the myth that a standard will describe the dog that works best. Indeed, at most a standard can only describe the dog that "looks" best.

So here's the question. When the original creators of a breeds' standardwrote their description of their breed, were they really trying to describe the "ideal" specimen of that breed? Or were they merely putting enough description to paper to distinguish their creation from their neighbors creation on the next farm?

Mr Belkin opined that standard drafters looked at a lot of dogs doing a certain task, and said "this is what a dog doing this job should look like". In other words, a general description of the features that could identify a "good" working dog for whatever purpose.

If a standard was really created to describe the ideal speciman, and the "perfect dog" has never been bred, why do standards change? Are the breeders admitting defeat? Or are they proving the theory of the Holy Grail... Looks are always subject to fashion and fashion changes; the Holy Grail must remain desireable therefore, the descriptions of the perfect dog must change to meet the fashions?

Working Dogs Versus Show Dogs

Ms. X never tires of reading about dogs. Particularly she enjoys reading different interpretations of standards, and (even more) discussions about differences between function bred dogs and show dogs. There are many articles on these topics posted around the internet, some by show breeders, some by working dogs breeders.

This one she is highlighting now is from a sporting dog breeder. Dan Belkin bred Salukis for coursing, which isn't exactly working, but it kept him closer to working dogs than show dogs. Fortunately Mr. Belkin was wise enough to grasp the impact of all worlds on the dogs he loved.

The article is posted here: The functional Saluki - lessons from the coursing field.

Here are Ms. X's favorite quotes:

"...things you cannot see are more important than things you can. There are many things about Salukis that a judge can't see and can't feel, and
functionally, those things are more important than the visible and palpable

"Salukis, like many other breeds, were originally bred for function. The best coursing or hunting dog, for the ground and quarry where it lived, was the one that was bred from. That makes sense. But then a standard was written describing the appearance of the functional breed, and implying that its appearance was the cause of the function. Wrong! The function led to the appearance."

"...visible, palpable aspects of conformation don't mean as much as most people think they do"

"...breeding to the standard will not preserve function. All it can preserve is appearance. That is rather obvious when you stop and think about it, because the qualities that make the dog good at its job are by and large not those described in the standard. Most breed standards were drawn up from dogs that were bred for function. What people did, and this is true for other breeds as well as sighthounds, was to obtain dogs from people who had bred them to do some particular thing. They looked at them and said ‘This is what they should look like if they perform this function,' and drew up a standard accordingly; sometimes very precise, sometimes not. Then they bred dogs to look like those which did that thing, instead of breeding them to do it. That's fine if all they wanted was dogs with that look. But, if they expect those dogs to do what resulted in that look they are going to be disappointed.

"That's the way genetics works: any characteristic which is not actively selected for will degenerate. It will go away"

Mr. Belkins' basic point is that dogs will vary in appearance depending upon the specificity of their inteded function. And, since function is at its narrowest defined as the utilitarian goal of the owner, a single breed can have many variations in looks.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Disclaimer

The contents of this blog site, including all postings and communications (public and private) from Ms. X, contain NO intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person(s).

The disclaimer, in case you didn't notice it, is new. A thoughtful courtesy from government recently signed into law by our benevolent leader to protect us children from ourselves.

Except the last time Ms. X checked, she was an adult.

Here's a link to some more scoop on our new liberties.

"Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate
telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in
whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with
intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the
communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two
years, or both."

Where will it end?

If we have any 'blessings of liberty' left, it will end here.

Ron Paul 2008 - Hope for America

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Human Parasite

So I was flipping channels yesterday on the TV. And naturally, the channels migrated to one showing videos of, you guessed it, dogs. I had been pulled into the force field of the PBS Nature Special "Dogs That Changed the World". It was the second part of the series, towards the end. After an interesting bit about a German Shepherd trained to signal her young master's blood sugar drops, an older white male appeared with a startling pronouncement. Now since I missed the first part of the show, I don't know who this individual was, but his words instantly revealed that his identity was irrelevant.

"Humans", he happily pronounced, were "Parasites of domestic animals".

There. Do you know the name of every protozoa that inhabits your intestinal tract? You wake up every morning and give your belly a rub... "Hi Fred! how ya' doin? What can I get you for breakfast? What about you, George, Abby, Irene or Fred 2 through Fred 9 million?"

So this person, I'll call him Fred1,099, holds the unevolved viewpoint that predators are parasites. Perhaps rather advanced parasites, since we have succeeded in "farming" our "hosts", but like the lowly lion and the unimpressive jaguar, parasites non the less.

And somebody thought there was enough merit in that idea to put his quote on TV.

Ms. X wisely prefers the evolved viewpoint that we are animal aficionados. We humans have uniquely advanced ourselves to the point where we can and do use and enjoy every aspect of our fellow animals. We love them, we pet them, we eat them, we wear them and we are entertained by them.

They, complete us.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Shelter Dogs and Lies

(This blog originally posted on 9/29/2006.)

Guess what?

Studies now show that people lie about their dogs' problems when they turn them into shelters (it would probably be safe to extrapolate to rescues too).

Check this link.

It appears that serious behavior problems are often the biggest reason people seek to relinquish their animals," Serpell said.

Shelter Dogs...

Here's another on shelter dogs, from the archives.

(This blog originally posted on 9/20/2006.)

I've said it before. I'll say it again, and again, and again... Adult dogs that are relinquished to shelters are there for a reason.

As Valerie DeSwart found out, too late.


September 19, 2006 -- A New Jersey woman paid $300 to an animal shelter to
have her Doberman pinscher destroyed after it bit her on the face and head,
inflicting terrifying wounds that required 58 stitches.

But three months later, when Renee Langhaar heard on the news that a
Doberman had savagely killed a 67-year-old woman who adopted him from the same
Newark shelter, she knew her dog was responsible.

More on Shelter Dogs

Here is an interesting article about dogs in shelters- Buy and return: improving outcomes for animal shelter dogs. It reviews some of the most recent studies relating to why dogs wind up in shelters, in many cases, multiple times.

Quote from the article :

While only 30% of animals relinquished to shelters are reported as having
behaviour problems, the majority (69%) of people who acquire dogs from shelters
report their dog as exhibiting behaviour problems (Wells and Hepper, 2000). Of
these problems, fearfulness, excessive activity, destructiveness and
inappropriate elimination were the most commonly reported problems. Of animals
re-relinquished to the shelters studied, over 90% had exhibited problem
behaviours as compared to 67% of those which were kept by their owners.

Ms. X wrote once before that what is really needed is free training classes for dogs and owners. If any of my furry readers know of free classes in their area, please post about them in the comments.

Dogs from Shelters

(This blog originally posted on 8/6/2006).

I think I've said it before, and I know a lot of other people have, that dogs at shelters are usually there because they had an issue someone else didn't want to deal with.

Now of course that doesn't mean all shelter dogs are bad. It's mostly a notice to people adopting an adult dog, that they need to be prepared, and willing, up front to put some extra time and effort in.

Nontheless, there are always a few naysayers who don't want ANYTHING negative said about shelter dogs. So for those naysayers, here's a fact.

Owens was attacked by a four year-old Alaska Malamute when she and her mom visited an animal shelter operated by the Humane Society of Cambria County in search of a new pet.
Owens says the shelter never put out any warning, or advisory, that the animal - a cross between a husky, and a wolf was aggressive, or, that it should not be around children.