Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stupid is as Stupid does.

The UK Telegraph shouted this headline a few days ago: "Pedigree dogs are becoming stupid as we breed them for looks, not brains"

Now if you think it is just too convenient that studies would suddenly reveal this insight right on the heels of the Pedigree Dogs expose', wweeelll, you might be right.

The article seems to be based on studies done / reported between 2002 and 2005.

At least one of these papers by Dr. Svartberg is available online.

"Breed-typical behaviour in dogs—Historical remnants or recent constructs?" published in 2006, offers some stunning insights into show breeding.

"Why are they stunning?" you ask.

Well, if Ms. X may be permitted to quote herself, this study supports something she wrote in June 2005:

One thing they all agree on is that most dogs today are pets. Not working dogs. So most dogs today should be bred for that calm, easy going, non-aggressive temperament that pet owners need.

But not one of them, Jane, Tom, Mary or especially Elizabeth, would EVER accept crossbreeding to produce a star in that most important job - being a pet with a calm, easy going, stable, friendly temperament.

Now Dr. Svartberg doesn't discuss hybrids in this paper - Ms. X was referring to the part about the importance of breeding for a fabulous "pet" dog. Most dogs are sold as pets, so why on earth don't more people focus on breeding pets?

"Responsible" breeders say breeding for pets is just plain wrong.

Please remember, in every litter bred for show or working, there will be puppies that do not meet the high standards a good breeder sets. These pups will go to pet homes. Rarely are all puppies in a litter "show pups." Since the rest will be available to pet homes, there is no need at all to go to someone "just breeding for pets."

So there you have it. It's wrong to breed for the perfect pet, because then a show breeder would have no place to dump their 'misfits'.

The argument the show breeders make, of course, is that the "pet quality" dogs are just as good as the "show quality", only having perhaps one or two minor flaws that the average owner will never be able to spot anyway.

"With both parents meeting their certifications for the standard, pet puppies will share the same genes for good health, temperament and longevity, as their show- and performance- oriented littermates." - Richard and Melody Greba, German Shepherd Dog breeders, Walton, Kentucky

And that has been the accepted answer for a long time now. True, yes. Good enough? NO.

Ms. X wondered why she had never heard of Dr. Svartberg before.

So what exactly does Dr. Svartberg say? Take a look. I'll hold the truthlight for you.

The breeds’ use in dog shows, the dominating use in general, was negatively correlated with all investigated traits, both in sires and in dams.
Thus, these results suggest that selection for dog show use is positively correlated with social and non-social fearfulness, and negatively with playfulness, curiosity in potentially threatening situations and aggressiveness, whereas selection for Working dog use is positively correlated with playfulness and aggressiveness.

The author only looked at differences between breeds that were bred for the show ring, and breeds that were bred for working trials. He didn't look at any breeds designed to be optimal pets. (Of course, there aren't any...)

Furthermore, correlation analyses show that popular breeds have higher sociability and playfulness scores than less popular breeds, suggesting that a positive attitude towards strangers is an important characteristic of a functional pet dog and desirable by dog owners. This indicates that selection towards use in dog shows may be in conflict with pet dog selection.

Wow. Stunned now?

Furthermore, these results suggest that basic dimensions of dog behaviour can be changed when selection pressure changes, and that the domestication of the dog still is in progress.

It is still possible to produce a star at that most important job - being a pet with a calm, easy going, stable, friendly temperament.

The showring isn't doing dogs any good. It isn't preserving structure or improving anything. Most dogs live as pets. In this expensive, litigious day and age, people need healthy, good tempered pet dogs. They don't need rejects from the showring freakshow.

We pet owners are consumers, and we have demand on our side.

Let's demand the best.

Pet Owners Unite!


1 comment:

  1. In fact several of Dr. Svartbergs' papers are available here Some are in English (look for the English titles) and many more are available if you read swedish!