What — if anything — will redeem and reform the American Kennel Club?

December 8, 2010

Over the weekend last — and for the second weekend in a row — I hopped a Southwest flight a lot south and a little west and once again found myself in not-so-sunny Southern California.  While the previous weekend was staying with one of the puppies I helped to raise, to find out how well he was doing, this weekend just past was a trip to say good-bye to Zenyatta, the massive mare who is the retiring and undisputed queen of racing, and to check out the American Kennel Club’s National Invitational Championship, casually known as Eukanuba after its dog-food sponsor. (Aside: Check out the Daily Racing Form’s Glenye Oakford, a/k/a one of the Full Cry houndbloggers, video of Zenyatta’s arrival in Kentucky.)

My first-pass impressions of the “Meet the Breeds” booth — an idea the AKC borrowed from its U.K. counterparts’ Crufts show — triggered predictable responses. Patrick Burn, a/k/a Terrierman, was first into the fray, muttering about the canine “freaks” and the human “frauds” who show them. (To be fair, I had goaded him more than a little, sending him a picture from the “Parson Russell” booth of a trio of terrierists. “Ask any of them if they own a locator collar,” he snarled back.) Next in, Heather Houlahan of Raised by Wolves, her wrath prompted by the image of a smiling Leonberger. The Leo, like the border collie and others, is a breed that was “recognized” by the AKC over the intense objections of many of its breeders, who (quite rightfully) saw the move as a money-grab by an ailing organization that (quite accurately) has shown itself an institutional supporter of puppy-mills and a lip-service advocate for better canine health.

Thereafter followed “discussion” that mostly consisted of the desire to see the American Kennel Club bombed into tiny fragments, the pieces then bulldozed into a very deep pit  and covered with concrete. Seriously, if you think PETA hates the AKC, you haven’t listened to non-AKC breed advocates. Funny thing is, except for the bombing, bulldozing and cement-covering bits, I agree with these non-AKC breed advocates. The AKC, instead of changing its game to actually be what it pretends to be (‘the dogs’ champion”), is instead doubling down on the same bad bet that has plunged it into a state of financial retreat and increasing irrelevance.

But if you don’t want to toss all the reputable, ethical breed advocates who are more or less forced to work within the confines of the American Kennel Club, how can that organization be changed to do what’s right?

Mind you, I’m also not sure it can be. One need only look at the AKC/Eukanuba link at the top to see what the problem is: The marque event is the beauty pageant. You have to navigate back to the AKC home page to find information on the ugly stepchild championships, agility and obedience, that were also in the convention center (agility in the corner, obedience in the attic). And while I have put show championships on my dogs, it’s sort of because I have to do so  to be considered “reputable,” not least of which is by my county, which will not recognize my boy retriever’s hunting work as an acceptable excuse to allow him to keep his testicles under the breeding ban but happily considers his show championship as sign of his value to the future of his breed.

Believe me, I’m far happier with Woody’s ability to mark where a game bird falls, crash through cover and swim through anything to get there, locate the bird with his nose and bring it back than I ever could be with a few people’s opinion on how he trots around a show ring. Sadly, I’m forced to play the cards I’m dealt here.

As has been pointed out in discussions here many times, the fix is pretty easy for working dogs: No “beauty” titles without proving working ability. Throw in a well-planned outcross program to break genetic bottlenecks that make many breeds (including mine) tragically predisposed to cancer or other health disasters and ban “stud of the month” popularity-contest inbreeding and there you go. A performance requirement, along with a change in the beauty blueprint that is the breed standard, after all, would deny championships to the worst excesses of fashion in breeds that previously were working dogs, eliminating, for example, the shameful low-slung disaster that is the AKC’s show-quality German Shepherd Dog. (I tried to get pictures of these dogs walking on their rear heels instead of their toes at the show, but the light a ringside was just too dim.  And I was retching, which didn’t help.)

Other working breeds haven’t strayed as far afield. Aside from the cancer in flatcoats (and note: that’s one big hairy and completely unacceptable aside) you’ve still got a pretty damn good retriever, a great companion for an active home that can still do not only the work for which is was developed — hunting — but also excel at modern dog sport such as agility. (Above is my friend Teresa Rodney and her dog Sprint, who is my dog McKenzie’s littermate. T-Rod and Sprinty are world-class agility competitors, and at the AKC Invitational they blasted to second place in the most competitive division, a split second away from taking it all. Thanks to our mutual friend Debbie Best for the picture.)

But what do you do with a breed that has been developed for companionship only, like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel? Or a breed whose purpose has long ago disappeared, like the Bulldog, a breed so utterly and completely destroyed by fashion that last summer at the American Veterinary Medical Association conference, I listened to a presentation where a top specialist said the only way to offer Bulldogs (and Pugs, too) a shot at a life not full of oxygen-deprived, overheated misery is to have their nostrils surgically widened and their soft palates clipped at the time they’re in for a spay or neuter, before the age of one year.  Otherwise, noted the veterinarian, many will have to be euthanized young when the build up of scar tissue from their struggles to breathe finally blocks their ability to do so. If, that is, they haven’t dropped dead from overexertion already from walking around the block on a mildly warm day. Folks, if breeding for an appearance not compatible with breathing or walking isn’t animal cruelty, it’s hard to imagine what would be.

Every time this topic  comes up here people with working dogs advise going to someone who breeds working dogs if you want a puppy from a certain breed or another. But as regular commenter Lis points out, where does that leave people who want a companion breed? Where do they go? And how can we fix breeds who have no working standard?

And more to the point: Is it possible to fix the American Kennel Club to force those fixes?

Sometimes I’m in the “blow ‘em up” crowd. Othertimes I’m not. Today … I don’t know. You?

Filed under: behavior and training,media,pets, connected,veterinary medicine — Gina Spadafori @ 9:19 am

140 Comments »

  1. The AKC is a mess! I know that I alone have made a rather significant donation to them in the past 10 years and they are always crying broke and coming up with some scheme to make more $! Try selling all that pricey Manhattan real estate … maybe some of the wall street barons will buy it!

    As for the companion breeds … if you don’t pay it to the breeder, you will pay it to the vet! It’s that simple! BUT working breeds like GSDs and Labradors, for that matter, have being bred to not do their job anymore! The Labs need a neck … geese can be heavy! None of the police GSDs at the show had patellas dragging the ground but at the show ring … they would be dumped if they did not.

    The AKC could do something … but chooses not to! I’m with you Gina … And I do all dog sports! The whole ILP/mixed breed thing is another fiasco as far as I’m concerned. My list goes on and on…

    Comment by Keli Martin — December 8, 2010 @ 9:45 am

  2. But what do you do with a breed that has been developed for companionship only, like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

    What about, “Pretty much what the CKCSCA was doing before its breed was hijacked?”

    What is so hard to get about independent, member-owned, single-breed clubs and registries that sponsor or recognize activities and promulgate rules that are appropriate to that single breed?

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 8, 2010 @ 9:47 am

  3. Nuke ‘em from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

    <just kidding>

    I think the preconditions for redemption are pretty clear.

    End appearance standards that require amputation of healthy animals. That means abominations like tail docking and ear clipping.

    Let working dogs work. What this means is that breeds made for specific jobs shouldn’t require an appearance standard. The gap between what the AKC requires in a herding trial and the USBCHA requires is, I understand, vast, and this because the AKC demands appearance before performance.

    Open the closed studbooks. There is no evidence that I can tell that the “ancient” breeds are in fact so; the current explosion thereof seems to largely have been a consequence of explicit breeding programs that started in the 19th century. Genetic diversity will alter dog appearances, but it will also help to solve genetic and genetically-influenced problems like hip dysplasia, polyneuropathy in Leonbergers, and the incidence of cancer so prevalent in many breeds (Labs, Goldens, and Scotties for instance).

    Stop requiring non-AKC dogs to be neutered to compete in sanctioned dog sports. There’s absolutely no reason for it, other than self-promotion.

    But if those things happened, the AKC would cease to be what it is. I’m not sure they would survive it; certainly, the superstructure of highly-paid officers wouldn’t survive it. And so they fight it.

    Comment by Rob McMillin — December 8, 2010 @ 9:52 am

  4. Heather … I was considering a Cavalier before they were taken over by the AKC. I even flew to Atlanta to attend the non-affiliated club’s national championship show.

    I found the folks there to be just as dedicated to the idea of ribbons over health as the AKC club is now. I flew back to California in utter disgust, having NEVER before met such a shallow, cliquish and utterly rude bunch of folks.

    Lovely, sweet breed (health issues aside, goes without saying) but I wouldn’t have taken a puppy from anyone I met there.

    And while small clubs can work, they are not without risk. I was previously blown way by the working hounds of the Iroquois Hunt (see previous post), but that pack has been developed for their terrain and quarry by a single man, and when he’s gone … I wonder what will happen to his amazing legacy of healthy working dogs.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 8, 2010 @ 10:02 am

  5. As for the companion breeds … if you don’t pay it to the breeder, you will pay it to the vet! It’s that simple!

    Comment by Keli Martin — December 8, 2010 @ 9:45 am

    I’m confused – are you possibly saying that all companion breeds are less healthy than the working breeds?

    If that is what you mean, I assume you have the proof to back you up, right?

    Comment by K.B. — December 8, 2010 @ 10:06 am

  6. To Rob’s list I would add “Allowing breed clubs to set breed-specific health criteria as a condition of registration, and sanctioning breed clubs that refuse to address enzootic genetic health issues in their breeds.”

    Also, “Refusing to register any puppy sold through a pet retailer or broker.” (Think that’s not possible? Virtually all single-breed registries I’ve looked into have that rule.)

    A mandatory and toothy code of ethics for all breeders who register with them.

    For companion breeds whose clubs decide to continue conformation shows, judges must be actual long-time owners of those breeds, and may not judge more than one breed.

    No more all-breed dog shows or “best in show.”

    No more hostile takeovers of breed clubs, including creation of bogus wedge “clubs.” Revert to the old system, whereby an established club had to decide to ask according to its bylaws that it wanted recognition, and then provide the studbook.

    Just off the top o’ my head, mind you.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 8, 2010 @ 10:12 am

  7. No more all-breed dog shows or “best in show.”

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 8, 2010

    This, I love. It will in one move eliminate professional handlers and judges who don’t know the breeds they’re looking at — so they point to the professional handler they do!

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 8, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  8. Lovely, sweet breed (health issues aside, goes without saying) but I wouldn’t have taken a puppy from anyone I met there.

    That’s too bad. It was not my experience with the Cav people I knew back in New England. But perhaps they were not the ones who were focused on winning the national specialty.

    A few years ago I briefly met a Welsh springer x CKCS cross. I would totally support a program to develop a new companion spaniel breed from that cross. Outstanding little family dog from what I could see, perfect small-medium size, and owner said healthy as a mule. Basically, what the cocker should be.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 8, 2010 @ 10:18 am

  9. What is so hard to get about independent, member-owned, single-breed clubs and registries that sponsor or recognize activities and promulgate rules that are appropriate to that single breed?

    You explained what the problem is, in the previous thread, when you were expressing your gladness that English Shepherds are an American breed without a substantial foreign breeding population that you could be cut off from by refusing to deal with an AKC splinter club.

    Comment by Lis — December 8, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  10. You know, if a breed club is ruled by screwheads, it can ruin a breed — destroy its health or temperament or working ability or all of the above.

    If ALL the breed clubs are ruled by one pack of screwheads, they get to ruin ALL the breeds.

    And in the case of a single errant breed club, there’s a lot more opportunity to set up a rival organization and be judged on the merits before the damage is irrevocable.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 8, 2010 @ 10:24 am

  11. Back when the AKC engineered its hostile takeover of Cavaliers (and three other breeds that year), I asked Betsy Siino to cover it, with the angle that the AKC was the Borg. It has only become more Borglike since then. And every time I interview people in rare breeds and ask if they aren’t afraid that becoming AKC-recognized will ruin their breeds, they are sure that it won’t happen to them. Might be interesting to go back and see if they still think that way.

    Comment by Kim Thornton — December 8, 2010 @ 10:27 am

  12. But if you don’t want to toss all the reputable, ethical breed advocates who are more or less forced to work within the confines of the American Kennel Club, how can that organization be changed to do what’s right?

    You know, the conundrum is, without that “forced to” thing (and I’ll happily argue about what is, and is not, “force” in this instance — in fact, I’ll happily argue both sides of the question depending on the phase of the moon) — without the “force,” the other reforms are unnecessary, or would naturally follow from the grassroots, and the 500 pound gorilla would slip into irrelevance.

    With the “force,” the substantive reforms would require the engagement of the full coercive power of that illegitimate authority, and might be what ultimately destroys it. (That’s assuming the will to change, which is, of course, a fantasy.)

    Having got into the habit of taking what it wants and dictating its edicts, the organization has no other way of being.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 8, 2010 @ 10:35 am

  13. I know this is about what people hate about AKC and how to fix that (believe me I cry every time I see a GSD at a show). I am not sure if it is possible to fix what needs fixin’. I sort of see them like our current Congress, they have so many rules within the organization that even when someone proposes a good idea, it is nearly impossible to get it passed. They need to present it, then they need to form a committee to look into it, then they need to present it to the members, then they need to let the members look at it, then they need to vote, they need so many votes to move on to the next stage, blah, blah, blah. By that time 2 years has already passed. It is ridiculous. Like Gina, I find that I am forced to work within the confines of the AKC, just to be “reputable.” That is what everyone teaches that reputable means, and yes there are always people that would buy a puppy, but those buyers aren’t the ones that I want for my puppies (when I have them). I want a home that is going to research the breed, and ask questions, and know about health testing that should be done.
    Sorry I got a little off topic, but I seem to need the AKC, but dislike them at the same time. I don’t hate them because there are things that I am grateful for. I am grateful for all the wonderful people that I have met through showing my dogs, some of whom are my closest friends now. I am grateful that they have a legal department that has the money to fight PETA-esque dog laws that could make it very difficult for me to keep my pets. Anyway, I am interested to see what others have to say on the matter.

    Comment by Jess — December 8, 2010 @ 10:42 am

  14. As to performance events, AKC is pretty much the only show in town in my neck of the woods. Although agility has other venues which lots of folks prefer, if you want obedience, rally, tracking, it is AKC.

    What I would like to see is a requirement of performance and conformation. A dog can not be listed as a breeding dog (or discouraged, but that is another topic) unless the dog is conformation in addition to titles in agility, obedience, etc. The more performance work, the higher the rating of a dog for breeding. Like many here I do not like the looks of many of the “show” dogs, the GSD as one example, I just cringe every time I see one. My dogs are all rescue bullies, that I have in performance. They are what I would describe as “classic” old style, leaner, leggier than the big head, big body, massive bull breeds that one sees in the ring now.

    Performance should be the stronger criteria, the ability of the dog in athletic events seems to me to give a better impression of the overall health, temperament and longevity of the dog. The conformation title only a second.

    Comment by Terry — December 8, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  15. So you think flat-coats don’t need outcrosses to increase MHC haplotypes?

    I think goldens do, and there are far more of them than flat-coats are.

    Comment by retrieverman — December 8, 2010 @ 11:16 am

  16. One other rule that must be enforce are rules on COI– like the JRTCA has and rules on how often a sire can be used within any given strain. More bitches should be allowed to produce more ltters and more dogs used at stud besides “an elite.”

    Comment by retrieverman — December 8, 2010 @ 11:21 am

  17. When the AKC’s hostile takeover of Australian Shepherds happened, my husband and I said – on more than one occasion, in print, and in public – that it would have devastating effects on the breed. And it has.

    My Aussies are not AKC registered.

    Comment by Liz Palika — December 8, 2010 @ 11:30 am

  18. So you think flat-coats don’t need outcrosses to increase MHC haplotypes?

    Comment by retrieverman — December 8, 2010

    From the post:

    “… Throw in a well-planned outcross program to break genetic bottlenecks that make many breeds (including mine) tragically predisposed to cancer or other health disasters.”

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 8, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  19. For those who believe that the answer is to require show dogs to have working titles, please take a look at the history of the top GSD show dogs in the breed’s home country of Germany. http://www.pedigreedatabase.com/german_shepherd_dog/siegershow_winners.html

    This is a MUCH more important population to the breed internationally than the AKC show GSD population, which is almost totally ignored outside the US and Canada.

    The Germans have been requiring working titles for top show GSDs for many years. Their show GSD population deteriorated into “a dog in front, a frog in back” DURING the time that a working title was required. German showline GSDs also have some required health testing for breeding. These things cannot and did not stop the degeneration brought on by competitive conformation show ring selection.

    The required working title does insure that a small percentage of German showline GSDs can still work, though the fraction that can do so declines each year. Breeders of German showline GSDs do not strive to excel in the test to achieve the working title, buy merely to pass it. Those who breed to excel in this test have European working line GSDs.

    This mandatory working title has also made German showline GSDs generally more suitable as pets than AKC showline GSDs. The former have gradually taken over the global GSD pet market, a shift that is well underway in America. The last time the AKC show GSD population had significant selection pressure for work was in the 1970s, when many top show GSDs were still being imported from Germany. The continual infusion into the mainstream AKC GSD population of imports from Germany where they had been selected for work maintained the GSD breed in the USA. This largely stopped toward the end of the 1970’s. Americans who are old enough to remember recall that AKC GSD breed temperament was generally better during and before that era than it has been in subsequent years.

    Comment by LauraS — December 8, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

  20. Ah.

    I apologize.

    Comment by retrieverman — December 8, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

  21. My two favorites, as they strike close to home:

    By Rob McMillan: “Stop requiring non-AKC dogs to be neutered to compete in sanctioned dog sports. There’s absolutely no reason for it, other than self-promotion.”

    By H. Houlahan: “To Rob’s list I would add “Allowing breed clubs to set breed-specific health criteria as a condition of registration, and sanctioning breed clubs that refuse to address enzootic genetic health issues in their breeds.” ”

    Honestly, it’s nice to have so many sports under one “roof” with both AKC and UKC. But there are serious drawbacks with giving one organization that much power. AKC Conformation is viewed with scorn by many, AKC Agility doesn’t hold a candle to USDAA in terms of quality, Obedience has a strong competitor in UKC with other organizations growing, and AKC Rally is almost a joke, and scrambling to keep up with APDT and UKC.

    I don’t have any masterkey ideas…and I don’t despise the organization simply because I don’t see the need to demonize everything with which I disagree, but change is needed, and sooner rather than later.

    P.S. That the 20″ division of agility is the most competitive is entirely a matter of opinion. Each height class faces it’s own challenges…that’s why there are height classes.

    Comment by Michelle — December 8, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

  22. Terry’s Comment:
    “What I would like to see is a requirement of performance and conformation. A dog can not be listed as a breeding dog (or discouraged, but that is another topic) unless the dog is conformation in addition to titles in agility, obedience, etc. The more performance work, the higher the rating of a dog for breeding.”

    This is one those things that sounds good on paper but can be tricky…at some point you’re exhalting a few high-titling dogs whose owners happened to have the money to send them off to various professional handlers to rack up titles, so you’re limiting the gene pool anyway. Anectdotally, I would want nothing to with pups from some of the “most-titled” dogs I know.

    With working breeds, as many have said, the case is easier to make…a certain level of decent build is needed to do the work, the work itself is a test of instinct, and health testing for relevant medical issues should be done. If the AKC had a way of allowing individual breed clubs to set standards along that line, that would be a huge step in the right direction.

    Comment by Michelle — December 8, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

  23. Laura S. wrote: “The Germans have been requiring working titles for top show GSDs for many years.”

    One problem that she failed to mention is that the working tests have been and continue to be watered down. As the show dogs become less and less capable of passing the tests the show folks gather the political power necessary to weaken the test so their show dogs can pass. This has a knock on effect on the working dogs unfortunately. Sigh.

    The best way forward for the AKC would be as follows:

    1) Admit all single-breed and performance clubs that wish to join including multiple single-breed clubs for a breed.

    2) Remove all requirements on members clubs other than they pay their dues, have a sufficient number of members, and have transparent governance. No one man bands.

    3)Offer registration services to member clubs that want to take advantage of the service. No requirement to use the AKC registry.

    4) Offer their services for putting on performance events, single-breed shows, and dog fairs. A “dog fair” is two or more single-breed shows and/or performance events held in parallel. No requirement to use AKC services. No multi-breed shows.

    Thus the AKC becomes an umbrella organization for single-breed and performance dog clubs providing optional services to those clubs. Clubs can join if they pay the dues and leave when they wish. It is vitally important that AKC not impose lots of requirements on clubs. That’s what got us into the mess we are in now.

    Comment by Grahund — December 8, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

  24. This is one those things that sounds good on paper but can be tricky…at some point you’re exhalting a few high-titling dogs whose owners happened to have the money to send them off to various professional handlers to rack up titles, so you’re limiting the gene pool anyway.

    Comment by Michelle — December 8, 2010

    You’re absolutely right, and I’ve seen this phenomenon myself. But it’s not always a function of money: Some people are just more determined to compete in as many sports as they can, and they make it a priority. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t mean their dogs potentially contribute more than the ones whose owners spend their weekends running, hiking or hunting with them instead of competing.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 8, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

  25. True…and some people, try as they might, just aren’t good trainers and their dogs are very much so limited by their people.

    Comment by Michelle — December 8, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

  26. If you’re looking for perfect you’ll always be disappointed because a registry is only as good as the most greedy / kennel blind / idiotic breeding behavior it allows.

    In my opinion large all breed registries like AKC and APRI are a big problem because they act primarily (only?) as a central repository for pedigrees. Few checks and balances exist as the goal is simply to collate data and collect fees.

    While AKC and APRI represent near polar opposites when it comes to the idea of the importance of breed purity they have similar ideas about giving breeders free rein as long as a given dog’s parentage is provided with reasonable accuracy.

    Independent registries (they do not, btw, need to be limited to ‘working’ breeds) can, and often do, require more in the way of documented health testing, temperament testing, tests of working ability, inbreeding coefficients, out crossing requirements and more.

    And because independent registries tend to have strong (albeit sometimes dysfunctional) social networks it can also be easier to identify trends in health problems, millers / hoarders and other issues.

    Comment by Janeen — December 8, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

  27. Why the selective focus on the AKC?

    Even Patrick admits that (nearly) no one is using the JRTCA to bring in new blood. Despite its working focus, this is still a closed gene pool in effect.

    (Nearly) no one is bringing in new blood into the ABCA, so the Border Collie gene pool is effectively closed as well.

    I say nearly because I have yet to find documented cases of this, but I will not assume that no such case exists (the absence of proof is not the proof of absence).

    In the ISDS BC gene pool, all of the ROM dogs combined make up for only 0.16% (that’s 0.0016) influence on current stock, compare that to the 17% influence of a single popular sire (100 times as much in just one dog).

    This is a problem with DOG CULTURE at large. The AKC makes an attractive target, and perhaps some or many breeds are doing down that track faster in that registry, but all the breeds that your favorite sources mention, Flat Coats, English Shepherds, JRTs and PRTs, Border Collies, etc., are ALL on the tracks in the same direction.

    Perhaps the speed is different and some breeds are at a greater distance from the cliff, but the direction is the same.

    I’ll note that you’ve missed some excellent blogging on this issue by bloggers you deem controversial or unworthy of a link on your blogroll, while certain denialists are still there.

    Myopia is not going to bring about change.

    Comment by Christopher@BorderWars — December 8, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

  28. I’ll note that you’ve missed some excellent blogging on this issue by bloggers you deem controversial or unworthy of a link on your blogroll, while certain denialists are still there.

    Myopia is not going to bring about change.

    Comment by Christopher@BorderWars — December 8, 2010

    Controversy never keeps a blog off the blogroll. I’m admittedly capricious in my additions, and will revisit those I’ve thrown off and haven’t looked at for a while. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 8, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

  29. I have to second what Christopher said. The AKC is not a great organization, but a lot of problems that exist in dogs are rampant across the dog culture, regardless of which fiefdom or principality of this culture one examines.

    The AKC is low-hanging fruit. I think people tear into justly, but too many people use it as a foil under which they hide realities within their own cultures.

    We need real open registries. We need to test for MHC haplotypes. We need to understand that concentrating any breed or strain around just a few stud dogs is detrimental, and the only way to breed for genetic diversity is to breed for genetic diversity.

    There are no panaceas.

    Of courses, if your bitches whelp outside in steel barrels, you get away with a high COI.

    But I don’t think many breeders want to do that.

    Comment by retrieverman — December 8, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

  30. Blogged ya!

    “Gina Asks the BIG Question” at >>
    http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2010/12/gina-asks-big-question.html

    As for the answer to “where do you go for a companion breed” the answer is simple:

    RESCUE, THE POUND, AMIMAL CONTROL, THE SHELTER, THE POUND, SHELTER, RESCUE, ANIMAL CONTROL

    Repeat it again… and again… and again.

    The motto should be simple: “A good dog needs a home more than your weak ego needs a ribbon.”

    Patrick

    Comment by PBurns — December 8, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

  31. I’m going to take that as a “no, the AKC can’t be fixed.”

    As for shelter dogs … as has been mentioned many, many times here in discussions of the no-kill movement, a SMALL percentage shift towards shelter adoption will snap up every adoptable dog in the country. And then what?

    And what about people who are not well-suited to the dogs most common shelters: Chihuahuas, pit bulls and Chihuahua mixes and pit mixes?

    The vast majority of AKC-registered dogs never come near a competition, much less take home a ribbon. People get these dogs because they like something predictable about the breed.

    For this vast majority, choosing dog has nothing whatsoever to do with “weak egos.” It has to do with the difference between a terrier and a retriever, or a guarding breed and a lapdog breed. They’re looking for attributes they hope fit their lifestyle.

    And retrieverman, I wrote about the AKC because I went to their show over the weekend, which was the “news hook.” I didn’t write about the entire spectrum of controversies in the world of dogs because: 1) The AKC is the dominant player; and 2) I was writing a blog post, not a book.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 8, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  32. The motto should be simple: “A good dog needs a home more than your weak ego needs a ribbon.”

    And I need a dog who actually fits my home and my life more than you, yes, even you, Patrick Burns, need to feed your ego.

    I could go to any shelter around here and adopt any number of Lab mixes and pit mixes, and they’re mostly fine dogs–but not for me. I can’t provide the level of exercise and activity they need to be happy, sane dogs. Can’t do it.

    Instead, I have a dog not available at any shelter within reach, but who is also a fine dog, who enjoys walks (not runs) with me, and playing fetch in the living room (not field trials). She’s healthy, fit, well-balanced, friendly, good with cats (which was critical for me), and is currently curled up on the couch with me.

    And, yeah, really, healthy and fit even though she’s AKC registered and of a breed you’d like to kill off because your twisted notions define it as a genetic freak which must be unhealthy, miserable, and doomed to a short life of unbelievable suffering.

    Comment by Lis — December 8, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

  33. I have nothing against conformation shows. I’ve entirely changed my mind on this, just because I know a lot of people get enjoyment from it.

    That said, it does bother me that a certain level of denialism exists within the closed registry system. I have yet to get a single answer from a closed registry defender on MHC haplotype diversity.

    Yes, this does feed my ego. It should.

    We need a holistic system for evaluating potential breeding stock. Conformation can be a leg, especially in companion breeds, but conformation that is causes inefficiency in rgw movement working stock should be scrapped.

    I don’t care if anyone shows or breeds dogs for the show ring– that’s fine.

    But please look carefully at all the evidence before defending closed registries and very tight breeding of any animal.

    Comment by retrieverman — December 8, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

  34. I am not interested in engaging either Lis or PB on this issue. I fall somewhat in between in my need for a dog to share my life and my condemnation of AKC as well as support of Rescue & Shelters. I have rescue dogs, and they are much loved and treasured companions. One rose to the occasion to become a superlative performance dog before his ideopathic epilepsy, likely induced by my believing what the vets via the drug companies told me what my dog needed, cut his career short. The others are just fabulous companions whom I love dearly. So I have turned to a responsible, ethical breeder my latest dog. Why? Because like my dogs who prefer their own kind above all other dogs out there, I am an effete, intellectual Breed snob. So shoot me!
    I wanted a dog who comes from known lines, both in temperament/drive/trainability (whatever that means) and conformation/structure, and I really have to ask, what the Hell is wrong with that? Why does that condemn me to some lower than a slug stature because I don’t want a mongrel from a Kill Shelter in Alabama?

    Comment by Deb — December 8, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

  35. I’ll say my peace about working dogs as pets.

    I am very leery of suggesting JRTCA Jack Russells and ABCA border collies to people, simply because they have been bred for a particular temperament and drive that is really antithetical to the average person’s home.

    Breeding working strain dogs will not save the species.

    We have to have a system that produces companion dogs that are bred with health and genetic diversity in mind.

    That’s the problem as I see it. A set of anti-AKC people exists because they breed working dogs, but what about others who are concerned?

    At some point, breeders who are concerned are going to have to say “No mas.”

    And there are consequences for doing so.

    But as much as people complain about the AKC, why isn’t there a “Breeders’ Rebellion”?

    If this many people are concerned, why aren’t they trying organize within the club to overthrow the old order?

    Comment by retrieverman — December 8, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

  36. Cogitating in the car on the way back from client today. (“Champion line” “rare white” Lab puppy who will be having eye surgery soon to try to save her vision, because CERF testing is “too far to drive” for the greeder.)

    Several people — and myself chief among them — have spoken of two kinds of reform:

    The kind where AKC uses its illegitimate power to force change that will benefit dogs.

    The kind where AKC gives up its illegitimate power.

    I don’t think we can have both.

    The first kind backfires, inviting resistance, and legitimizing it.

    The second kind only comes when forced from outside.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 8, 2010 @ 6:11 pm

  37. I am not interested in engaging either Lis or PB on this issue. I fall somewhat in between in my need for a dog to share my life and my condemnation of AKC as well as support of Rescue & Shelters.

    Where did you get the idea that I am either a defender of the AKC’s practices (especially the closed registry) or opposed to rescue and shelters?

    I’ve had pets from shelters in the past, most of my cats and some dogs, when I was better able to enjoy and give enjoyment to the types of dogs found in shelters around here. The kind of dog I need now, though, either isn’t there, or is there briefly before being snatched up–sometimes before even getting posted to Petfinder.

    And as Gina pointed out, if even a slightly higher percentage of “everyone” than currently does so, went to the shelters for their pets, the shelters would be empty. For all the self-righteous prattling, there actually aren’t enough pets in shelters to satisfy more than a small fraction of the total demand. That more than three million pets die in shelters every year is an indictment of the current shelter system more than it is of the general pet-owning, or pet-wanting, public.

    And I’ve said here before that I don’t like closed registries, that they are bad for the dogs, for the breeds, and for dog lovers.

    Disagreeing with Patrick Burns’ mindless condemnation of all AKC dogs as “fakes and freaks” and all those who breed, own, or don’t shoot them on site as “frauds” with “weak egos” is not the same thing as whole-heartedly endorsing the current AKC system or denouncing shelter pets.

    Comment by Lis — December 8, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

  38. Patrick:

    Here’s the link to my local shelter:

    http://www.forteriespca.org/dogs.php

    Note the SEVEN dogs currently available.

    Think those seven dogs can fill the needs for every person in my area looking for a companion breed?

    Comment by K.B. — December 8, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

  39. I didn’t, but you both went on a trip about shelter/rescue. I wanted to point out that shelters/rescue aren’t the answer for everyone in what they want in a companion animal.
    Personally, I regret the loss of the Old Guard in AKC, they being the Old Money, who had the means and time to devote themselves to their ‘hobby’ of dog breeding. As they declined, AKC filled their spots with Corporate businessmen to whom dogs were pleasurable adjuncts. They brought with them their corporate attitudes, and AKC has gone downhill ever since. For me, that’s when AKC went off the track.
    I recall meeting a delightful couple at an AG trial about 7 years ago. He was in a navy blue blazer, white shirt, grey slacks ( can you smell the old money?). She was in a lovely grey blue suit. They wanted to talk to me because I was running 2 members of an uncommon breed in AG, and he was instrumental in getting AKC to recognize the importance of the sport for AKC’s future, thanks to Ken Tausch et alia who introduced the sport to the US.
    I don’t loathe AKC, but i don’t like them much. I don’t see my performance pup and myself taking part in any AKC events in his future. There are enough UKC, APDT, and LGRA events within a reasonable drive to keep us busy and poor from the premium cost without AKC even being a factor.

    Comment by Deb — December 8, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

  40. Oops. I missed the header. Lis;…..

    Comment by Deb — December 8, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

  41. I don’t think dogs are going to be saved by suggesting that everyone get a random-bred animal that is require to have its gonads removed by law.

    The gene pools of some many breeds are in trouble.

    We need more people breeding dogs, not less. More puppies being used for breeding, not less.

    We do need open registries.

    Yes, it is magnanimous to rescue, but the issue here is how to we save dogs from us.

    And in terms of health and genetic diversity, the only ways to do so are as I have just outlined.

    Comment by retrieverman — December 8, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

  42. The entire shelter/rescue population is what, 5-15% of the demand for dogs? Simply not enough for this to be the only solution put forth.

    That also ignores market forces to incentivise good breeding (I want a cancer free dog more than a ribbon winner) for the pet market:the largest market.

    The truth is that no working community is large enough to support a healthy gene pool all by itself, and as I have shown, the desire to win (ribbons or trials) leads to the same breeding choices that dry up the gene pool.

    I’ve seen people comment against the “2 years and done” sort of breeders. But we need more of them. We need more small time breeders making diverse choices instead of entrenched breeders making inbreeding and linebreeding for ego and “clearly recognizable lines” sorts of choices.

    For the most part, we don’t have professional human breeders. Only royalty makes the sorts of harem breeding choices we see in dogs. In humans, who are not inbred for the most part, we see lots of different people having a few children. This is more healthy than dog culture breeding.

    Patrick has misrepresented my own breeding choices. I have not purchased two AKC dogs, I have purchased one dog from the AKC and another from the ABCA. And even then, the AKC dog is a mix of conformation and obedience and agility lines and the ABCA dog is a mix of sheep and cattle lines. They are from distant ends of the breeding pool and diverse within their own areas. Very low COIs on their offspring for this reason.

    And yes, someone whose income depends on solid working stock not only bought but bred my stock. My dogs’ descendants are working on several large scale working ranches. They could have bought a puppy for less money and with fewer restrictions from a trial champion, but didn’t. Not everyone is a ribbon chaser, even when livelyhoods are on the line.

    I’m sure Patrick’s own buying choices would reflect a low COI dog, but I wonder, why he’s so harsh against conformation showing but the dog he just bought has conformation showing on its resume?

    Can you tell us the last non JRT/PRT to be added to his pedigree? I can tell you the last non-BC to be added to my dog’s pedigrees and they are more than 20 generations back. Perhaps it’s time to change that, and I’ve considered doing so. Sadly, neither registry makes that an easy process.

    If we want to remove impediments to a change in dog breeding culture, it has to be across the board and a lot more significant than paying lip service to open registries.

    We can’t pretend it’s only the AKC. It’s all of dog culture.

    Comment by Christopher@BorderWars — December 8, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

  43. Here’s the link to my local shelter:

    http://www.forteriespca.org/dogs.php

    Note the SEVEN dogs currently available.

    Think those seven dogs can fill the needs for every person in my area looking for a companion breed?

    Comment by K.B. — December 8, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

    *********

    Actually, I was pleasantly surprised to see what a nice cross-section of different sizes and types of dogs were available at such a small shelter.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 8, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

  44. “AKC Agility doesn’t hold a candle to USDAA in terms of quality”

    sez who?

    Comment by EmilyS — December 8, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

  45. “This is a problem with DOG CULTURE at large. The AKC makes an attractive target, and perhaps some or many breeds are doing down that track faster in that registry, but all the breeds that your favorite sources mention, Flat Coats, English Shepherds, JRTs and PRTs, Border Collies, etc., are ALL on the tracks in the same direction.”

    Lumping ALL breeds cultures and registries together as equally messed up makes for a convenient smoke screen. It’s also untrue.

    The English Shepherd Club breed registry does not track in the same direction as the others. We have an open registry, and we have registered ES from unregistered lines.

    Comment by LauraS — December 8, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

  46. I didn’t, but you both went on a trip about shelter/rescue. I wanted to point out that shelters/rescue aren’t the answer for everyone in what they want in a companion animal.

    No, I didn’t. What I said was:
    I could go to any shelter around here and adopt any number of Lab mixes and pit mixes, and they’re mostly fine dogs—but not for me. I can’t provide the level of exercise and activity they need to be happy, sane dogs. Can’t do it.

    If you consider that to be “went on a trip about shelter/rescue”, you’ve got a problem, and your problem isn’t me.

    Comment by Lis — December 8, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

  47. LauraS –

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that the English Shepherd had a very small gene pool. It’s a breed at risk of extinction, or at least a marginal ability of staying healthy with current population levels.

    And I’ve seen ugly from the ES people. I don’t know them well enough to say which corner of the breed it’s coming from, but I’ve read their hate mail against the blogger here:

    http://www.oldtimefarmshepherd.org/

    And hasn’t the ES already had at least one major schism, dividing the already small gene pool?

    Narrow focused special interests dividing up the gene pool into small fiefdoms is what I’m fighting against in my own small breeding program.

    I was under the same misconception as you, that it was all well and good in my breed, until I ran the numbers and did the research and looked at the history.

    If the ES is great, so be it. I haven’t seen enough evidence that they are any different. Certainly no better.

    Comment by Christopher@BorderWars — December 8, 2010 @ 9:07 pm

  48. “AKC Agility doesn’t hold a candle to USDAA in terms of quality”

    sez who?

    Comment by EmilyS — December 8, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

    Just an opinion, certainly not an absolute, and depends on one’s point of view, goals, and what impresses them about the sport.

    Comment by Michelle — December 8, 2010 @ 9:17 pm

  49. The English Shepherd is a rare breed, but many of us suspect that the population may have more genetic diversity than breeds outnumbering it by a factor of 100. There’s no evidence that the ES breed had a small founding population as is the case for many other breeds. And we know for sure that dogs from other breeds were incorporated into the ES breed at least into the 1980s, and probably more recently as well.

    As a population, English Shepherds are relatively healthy dogs.

    Breed communities are made up of people, and people sometimes have disagreements. No surprise there.

    There are no major schisms in the ES breed population. We don’t have a working/show split, or a split based on registries. The English Shepherd Club Registry registers ES from any of the other three ES registries.

    Comment by LauraS — December 8, 2010 @ 10:27 pm

  50. “And hasn’t the ES already had at least one major schism, dividing the already small gene pool?”

    “Narrow focused special interests dividing up the gene pool into small fiefdoms is what I’m fighting against in my own small breeding program.”

    “If the ES is great, so be it. I haven’t seen enough evidence that they are any different. Certainly no better.”

    So sweeping conclusions are warranted even when you have no evidence?

    Comment by LauraS — December 8, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

  51. Not Laura, but I’m happy to correct Christopher, as he IS wrong. I guess when he wants “evidence” he must have it served to him in pre-chewed spoonfuls.

    The English shepherd has a small population, and what appears to be a healthily large gene pool. Yes, that dichotomy can cut both ways.

    A history of secret studbooks (the commercial registries) makes it currently impossible to crunch definitive numbers, as few pedigrees are complete for ten or even seven generations.

    The registry IS open, and unregistered dogs are stepped-in regularly via a committee review process. There are some very old family lines of ES that have never been registered, or have not been for many decades.

    What the commercial registries do is their business (literally). The breed registry pretty much ignores them, though we do record all known registration numbers and variant names, to avoid future confusion. Our online pedigree dB is second to none in the animal registry world.

    Since Christopher invokes unquoted “hate mail” from what he claims to be unnamed “English shepherd people” about a website that I have never before seen or heard of, I cannot comment on that. Rather like the list of communists in the state department that I have right here. She seems to have a conflict with the board of AWFA, which fails to shock me; AWFA is NOT an English shepherd organization, and has its own leadership and its own agenda.

    There has been no “major schism” in the breed. Two or three families trot their dogs around the UKC ring and come home in a weekend with a new “champion.” Everyone else utterly ignores them. The gene pool hasn’t split, nothing has been lost. Hell, I even own the daughter of a UKC “grand champion.” Not something I generally advertise, but it’s not Pip’s fault that her sire’s owner lost her damned mind some years after I bought her.

    Total dogs exhibited in the pageants in recent years? In ’07 — seven (three families). In ’08 — zero. In ’09 — four (two families – one of those owners is already “out of the breed” after a whole year “in” it). In ’10 — zero.

    The UKC-controlled club’s membership has generally hovered in the high single digits since its inception, and one point featuring a board with a single member who had ever owned a member of the breed. About 3/4 of its members join to get another internet listing through which they hope to sell puppies, leaving two or three true believers. Average time someone stays a member seems to be about two years. They have not achieved full parent club status with their overlords in dogs yet, eight or ten years out.

    The registry does not record these on-a-string “achievements.” In a few years of operation, the Club registry has made tremendous strides in uniting the gene pool under one studbook, cleaning up a head-thumping mess that resulted from the historical rivalries of three commercial registries, none of them recently owned by anyone who still knew or cared what an English shepherd was. Breeders are still free to double or triple register, but fewer choose to do so because of the poor service, high prices, and nonexistent benefits of the commercial options.

    English shepherds are owned by human beings, so if you think we are claiming perfection, you are a willful idiot. But the breed is most emphatically NOT on the tracks “in the same direction” as any AKC breed.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 8, 2010 @ 10:45 pm

  52. Sweeping conclusions? Not really. You’re throwing out statements like “many of us suspect that the population may have more genetic diversity than breeds outnumbering it by a factor of 100″ … where’s the evidence or proof of that?

    – Show me a registry that publishes their stud books and what genetic analysis has been done on those books. How much genetic diversity has been lost over the last 50 years?

    – Show me some scientific studies that show how heterozygous the English Shepherd is, how diverse their MHC halotypes are, and if they have a population size that is large enough to continue as a healthy breed.

    I think it’s dangerous to think that your breed is well off and that you don’t need to be aware, to plan, and to see the risks that are there. It won’t hurt me to be wrong, to be over cautious, to assume the worst, but if you’re wrong, it could doom your breed.

    Comment by Christopher@BorderWars — December 8, 2010 @ 11:03 pm

  53. Yes, I want evidence. Not just nice statements like “what appears to be a healthily large gene pool.”

    Appears? From what perspective? What are the numbers? Where’s the evidence?

    Have some COIs for me? Some epirical heterozygosity studies? MHC Halotype lists?

    Having a really open registry or an “open” registry is only one part. The important thing is that people use it and that new blood is actually brought in.

    Are you willing to do a true outcross? To bring in a different breed?

    Can I register my Border Collies with your registry?

    Comment by Christopher@BorderWars — December 8, 2010 @ 11:11 pm

  54. H. Houlahan –

    I don’t know how you can consider the ES gene pool in good shape when you, yourself, have said:

    “the English Shepherd Club Registry recorded twenty-nine litters anywhere in 2008″

    and one downfallen breeder in Montana owned a huge percent of the total population:

    “That is, by seat-of-the-pants estimates, around 5% of the world population of these dogs.

    Ms. Kapsa started with, we think, eight foundation dogs about five years ago.”

    This doesn’t look like a genetic safety net to me, it looks much like the Panda. They might be cute and fine now, but there simply aren’t enough of them, no matter how much round robin breeding happens, to sustain the population.

    Dead species walking? Probably.

    If you’re operating on the assumption that your breed is NOT so bottlenecked, then please provide evidence that can be cross examined.

    If it’s all roses, then all the better. You can brag about being a model. But I’d like to smell those roses first.

    Comment by Christopher@BorderWars — December 8, 2010 @ 11:59 pm

  55. “Actually, I was pleasantly surprised to see what a nice cross-section of different sizes and types of dogs were available at such a small shelter.”

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 8, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

    And you think those seven dogs will fill the needs for companion animals for all people in my area?

    Because they certainly don’t fill mine.

    And if you are so pleasantly surprised, bookmark the site, and keep an eye on it. Because that range of diversity is not the norm.

    Comment by K.B. — December 9, 2010 @ 3:34 am

  56. Dear Doggers,

    Gina’s important question “Is it possible to fix the American Kennel Club to force those fixes?” presumes that dog owners and dogs actually need a powerful, undemocratic all breed registry.

    I favor democratic single breed registries. Should, for instance, the English Shepherds require a competition of some sort with the Border Collies, the two registries could work it out. Should the Cavaliers wish to compete in fluffiness with the Pekeneses, that too could be arranged.

    This is no cure all. As someone noted, the Cavaliers had severe heart problems before the AKC stalked them.But, in the western world at least, democracy seems the better alternative.

    In its founding meeting at Delmonico’s in New York City, the Westminster and Westchester Kennel Clubs insisted on a “club of clubs” organization rather than a “one owner, one vote” model. The New York fanciers realized this would keep power in their hands. It did. It does.

    Like them or not, the AKC and the Dog Fancy have nurtured most serious dog people today, even the apostates. Very many influential dog people accept Dog Fancy mantras as revealed truth. Vibrant working dog cultures whose important owners have never competed in AKC conformation or any other AKC event exist but, except as a critique, don’t have much influence on the dominant pet dog culture.

    Wobbly, discredited, paranoid and hopelessly stuck in the 19th century, the AKC does have influence and sucks up most sponsorship money and television time. I’m not at all sure there’s any way to put it out of its misery.

    “Is it possible to fix the American Kennel Club” to force those fixes?”

    Perhaps. One owner one vote.

    Donald McCaig

    Comment by Donald McCaig — December 9, 2010 @ 4:30 am

  57. Lis wrote: “For all the self-righteous prattling, there actually aren’t enough pets in shelters to satisfy more than a small fraction of the total demand.”

    Where is this magical shift in shelter adoptions going to come from when people who are most invested in dogs have so many pressing reasons why shelter dogs don’t cut it.

    Shall I post links to the shelters and breed rescues in my area to show the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dogs available within a 4 hour drive?

    Pretending there are no shelter dogs available is ludicrous quite frankly.

    Comment by Sheyna — December 9, 2010 @ 8:15 am

  58. Sheyna, that’s NOT what’s being said here, nor is anyone trying to turn people away from shelter dogs. But shelter dog are not the choice for everyone, just as getting a purebred, even from a reputable, ethical breeder isn’t the choice for everyone.

    And once again, a very slight increase in the number of people choosing a shelter or rescue dog over a dog from another source will more than wipe out the entire population of adoptable dogs.

    The numbers of shelter dogs have been falling for decades, and the cannot come close to meet the demand for pets in this country. Lis is absolutely correct in this assertion. The problem with shelter adoptions is a problem with shelters — the demand for shelter pets is more than there, if the shelter industry decides to reform its attitude and practices to get those pets to people who want them.

    But that is an other discussion, not this one. This is NOT about “are purebreds better?” It’s a discussion about the problems with purebreds, period.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 9, 2010 @ 8:25 am

  59. Clever quoting trick, Sheyna, plucking one sentence out of the middle of a paragraph. What I really said was:
    And as Gina pointed out, if even a slightly higher percentage of “everyone” than currently does so, went to the shelters for their pets, the shelters would be empty. For all the self-righteous prattling, there actually aren’t enough pets in shelters to satisfy more than a small fraction of the total demand. That more than three million pets die in shelters every year is an indictment of the current shelter system more than it is of the general pet-owning, or pet-wanting, public.

    Not that there aren’t any pets in shelters, or even that we couldn’t have more people getting their pets from shelters–but the simple, plain fact that there are not enough pets in shelters to satisfy more than a small fraction of the total demand for pets.

    More people could get their pets from shelters–and would, if shelters were more user-friendly and more interested in actually adopting out the pets they have, rather than standing in righteous judgment on the Irresponsible Public. Do that, and many fewer pets would be dying in shelters.

    But there aren’t enough pets in shelters to satisfy the total demand, or more than a small part of it, so even with perfect performance and perfect success by shelters, a majority of people would still be getting their pets from some other source than shelters. If you want to keep bringing down the shelter population, you’d want those other pets to come from responsible breeders, and not from pet stores, internet puppy mill outlets, backyard breeders, or careless, accidental breeding by pets whose owners just didn’t bother to speuter them or manage them responsible.

    But who knows what you really want?

    Comment by Lis — December 9, 2010 @ 8:45 am

  60. I’m sorta like you Gina, except some days I want to dismantle the AKC and stomp it into the dirt, while other days I feel like getting drastic.

    In a sort of throwing-my-hands-up way, I sometimes think I’d rather take my chances with a puppy from a neighborhood dog.

    Comment by YesBiscuit! — December 9, 2010 @ 8:48 am

  61. Gina,

    I agree with you very much on shelter dogs.

    What has happened is the following aspects have had a major impact upon domestic dogs in this country:

    1. Leash laws.
    2. Fences.
    3. The ascendancy of closed registries.
    4. The neutering of the vast majority of domestic dogs.

    Most aspects have been generally good for animal welfare, but they have come at a genetic price. No longer do we have the genetic diversity we once had, and domestic dogs are fairly genetically diverse for a domesticated animal. We’ve just squandered it– sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for stupid ones.

    I agree with Donald McCaig that we don’t need an all-breed behemoth controlling. Most of the 15,000 year + history we have had with this animal has been without a closed registry and without conformation shows.

    However, I am willing to accept that some people get pleasure from showing dogs in conformation and that this is as legitimate an exercise as anything else.

    How do we provide an answer for those people?

    I don’t think it does much good to make fun of them or their dogs.

    Yes. I’m pro-open registry and pro-functional conformation, but I don’t think we’re doing much good by attacking show dogs.

    Comment by retrieverman — December 9, 2010 @ 8:52 am

  62. And you think those seven dogs will fill the needs for companion animals for all people in my area?

    Because they certainly don’t fill mine.

    And if you are so pleasantly surprised, bookmark the site, and keep an eye on it. Because that range of diversity is not the norm.

    Comment by K.B. — December 9, 2010 @ 3:34 am

    *********

    Well then hie on down to Petland and see what is in stock I guess.

    Why is patience a virtue when someone finds just the right breeder of just the right dogs and then waits for just the right puppy, but a shelter sucks if it doesn’t have a deli-case assortment of exactly what you want on the day you get peckish for a pup?

    Anyway, aside from the occasional drop-in robo-troll, nobody here is parroting the “never buy, always adopt, until there are none line.”

    You may have noted that several of us are actually breeders. No? Yes.

    I was simply pleasantly surprised to see that your terrible line-up of dogs was not what I expected, which was seven teenage male Rottweiler x chow x blacklabs all flagged as “no kids, no cats, no other dogs, no fingers.” (Not that one can’t do a lot with such a pupper with the right training …)

    I’d be willing to bet, as well, that there are other shelters and rescues within a few hours of your house.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 9, 2010 @ 8:56 am

  63. Heather … K.B. … I think you’re lost in translation here. I know you both, and I KNOW K.B. is making the same point you are, not suggesting people patronize Petland.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 9, 2010 @ 9:04 am

  64. Yes, indeedy, KB. was responding to Patrick Burns’ intentionally idiotic “solution” that anyone who wants a strictly companion dog, and not a working dog of some kind, should hie themselves off to a shelter, or do without.

    Comment by Lis — December 9, 2010 @ 9:09 am

  65. Ah Christopher. There’s a difference between being a heroic iconoclast and a smug ignoramous.

    And that would be a haplotype dearie, but no matter.

    As I’ve no intention of ever selling you a dog, or registering your Barbie collies as something else they are not, nor have you in any way presented yourself as someone genuinely interested in learning anything from anyone, I’m not terribly interested in your “cross examination.”

    Visitors to this site who actually read what has been written about what is, and is not, known about our breed’s genetic history and current status, and what the breed club’s registration practices have been for the five years of registry operations, seem to be satisfied.

    I’m satisfied that my ten-year-old bitch, whose five-generation pedigree includes a known outcross, reads as five to most savvy working dog handlers, and that I can’t definitively tell puppy inquirers about the longevity of her first and second degree ancestors because, with one sad exception, they have declined to die.

    I know it’s important to you that every person and institution that has something remotely to do with dogs be dragged down into the mire of the AKC and other multi-breed “just a registries.” No sale. The way forward will be various and diverse, but I have a pretty good idea of what will be left behind. The reality is far cheerier out here free of the overlords.

    As cheery as, for example, the new lives of the 200+ rescued ES that you imperiously proclaimed a pathetic waste of effort less than two years ago. One of whom is cuddled up beside me and his adopted dog family after morning chores, charging up for a long day of helping with client dogs, working the goats, SAR training, chasing off whatever that is at 2 am, and generally impersonating a happy, healthy, resilient animal.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 9, 2010 @ 9:32 am

  66. How do we provide an answer for those people?

    Are they so helpless they can’t provide their own damned answers?

    We say “Here’s how we do it. Also, here’s how that other guy does it. And there’s another way that those dudes over there do it. None of them are perfect for your situation. You’re the expert on your breed, right? Cogitate.”

    And what comes back is some version of “That’s too haaaard! And I don’t get to be on teevee in a sparkly dress if we do that. Plus, you’re mean and your dogs smell like goat poo.”

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 9, 2010 @ 9:40 am

  67. My problem with show dog breeders is their misguided belief that no one should breed “nice pets”–the only valid reason to be breeding is to “improve the breed” by breeding for appearances ONLY. What the dog world needs in my opinion is more honest, ethical people breeding NICE PETS–healthy, genetically diverse dogs with good temperaments, that are easy to live with…all of these considerations are secondary when you are breeding to WIN in the show ring!

    Comment by Kate — December 9, 2010 @ 9:49 am

  68. Heather,

    I certainly agree with you that they could come up with solutions, but because we are approaching this from such antagonistic angle, that we might be a stumbling block.

    I say this as someone who can be antagonistic and ego-driven as anyone.

    But I’m just wondering how we’re going to approach this in a way that doesn’t turn conformation people off entirely.

    I have written things in the past that probably were too over the top. I don’t think they were helpful to those people who still want to do conformation shows. And in that respect, I regret them.

    A lot of conformation stuff is rotten– and it’s easy to write screeds against it– but not all of it is evil.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an AKC apologist or any kind of apologist.

    BTW, I do know someone who is providing answers for two AKC breeds and is getting the monkey poo thrown at all angles.

    The problem with the closed registry system is that people forgot how to selective breed from a population that produces a diverse set of phenotypes, and one reason (very vapid one) to hold onto the closed registries is to keep phenotypes from going sideways. I have an interesting find on flat-coated retrievers that the flat-coat nearly fell apart when the show fanciers began to cross in borzoi. Borzoi are many things, but they aren’t retrievers. I also have another that talks about the wide variance in show collies that changed from year to year.

    Those are the reasons why the breed standards were written and why the registries closed– to keep consistency in the dogs. Of course, that didn’t work very well at all!

    Comment by retrieverman — December 9, 2010 @ 10:38 am

  69. Heather:

    Lis has it right, I was responding to the fact that, because I don’t want a “working” breed, I’m apparently NOT ALLOWED to get a dog from a breeder.

    You still haven’t addressed my main point about my local shelter – the fact that there are only seven dogs available.

    So I checked the other three shelters in the area:

    Niagara Falls: 18 dogs (4 of which are from Louisiana)

    Welland: 14 dogs

    Lincoln County: 9 dogs

    For a grand total of 48 adoptable dogs, for a population of well over 250,000.

    There is one rescue I’m aware of, that specializes in small breeds (chihuahuas, etc.). They actually serve a larger area, and within an hours drive, take in a population of over 4 MILLION.

    13 dogs available there.

    So, I can’t go to a breeder, I WON’T go to a pet store (and would like an apology for that comment, BTW), there are not enough dogs, of the sort I want, available as rescue…

    I’m trying to make a point, that your (and Patrick’s, etc.)criticism of kennel clubs provides no viable options for breeds that either don’t have working trials, or can’t do the work they were bred to do, due to changes in society.

    You leave NO options for the dozens and dozens of breeds that don’t “work”.

    I know there is agility, and flyball, and scenting, and a whole other range of “sports”, but what about people who don’t want to do those sports (and the breeders of those dogs, who are reluctant to sell to someone who doesn’t trial?)?

    They don’t want a sport dog, they don’t want a working breed, they DO want a healthy, sound, reliable dog… but aren’t allowed to have one, simply because the vast majority of good “non-working dog” breeders also belong to a kennel club (AND their respective breed club)?

    Really?

    Because, based on your, and Patrick’s, and other comments here, and on other similar posts, lead me to believe this is what you are saying.

    If this is a misinterpretation (and I can’t believe it is, since Patrick came right out and said my only option was a rescue), then please clarify.

    If it isn’t a misinterpretation, could you please let me know how it came to pass that non-working breeds are seen as lesser beings?

    Comment by K.B. — December 9, 2010 @ 11:00 am

  70. Christopher —

    “That is, by seat-of-the-pants estimates, around 5% of the world population of these dogs.

    Ms. Kapsa started with, we think, eight foundation dogs about five years ago.”

    It might comfort you to know that one hundred percentum of the 225 dogs salvaged from Linda Kapsa are now gonad-free. Or not. I own two. They have nothing whatsoever to do with this discussion.

    Comment by Rob McMillin — December 9, 2010 @ 11:39 am

  71. Clarification: the “or not” refers to Christopher being comforted, not to the dogs’ spay/neuter status; all ONB (ex-Kapsa) dogs have been spayed or neutered.

    Comment by Rob McMillin — December 9, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  72. “If you’re operating on the assumption that your breed is NOT so bottlenecked, then please provide evidence that can be cross examined.”

    No one needs to provide evidence to shoot down your strawman. You are the one who is making sweeping proclamations about “ALL” breed cultures and registries being in the same pathetic boat. The burden of proof is on you.

    Population size and population genetic diversity are not the same thing. The ES breed population is large enough to both possess and sustain a healthy degree of genetic diversity. Also, this is not a closed studbook breed.

    The English Shepherd breed gradually formed out of the North American farm shepherd landrace. That landrace was once the most numerous type of dog in the USA, and was formed from many breed types.

    This is a very different from the origin of many other modern dog breeds, which formed when a small number of dogs were walled off from their relatives and were inbred amongst each other in order to “set type”. There is no evidence that the ES breed ever experienced a founding event such as that. There is documented evidence that other breeds have been incorporated into the ES population throughout most if not all of the breed’s existence. And the ES registries are open. ES from unregistered lines can be and are incorporated into the registered ES population. It’s still happening. Today.

    An AKC breed club is barring the gates against the incorporation of dogs that are 0.006% of another breed. A dog from another (similar) breed, 14 generations back. They are doing so even though it could correct a genetic defect that 100% of the dogs in their breed have.

    A few years ago, the English Shepherd world let out a big yawn when we learned that a recent popular ES stud was 25% Border Collie.

    Comment by LauraS — December 9, 2010 @ 11:45 am

  73. Exactly how often are unregistered (as in never registered to any registry) ES brought into the gene pool?

    I have known several of these dogs in my life and not a single one has ever been registered.

    I always thought of them as mongrel collies, because they were often bred to both farm and fancy collie types.

    I have a photo of me as a two-year-old being licked by my dad’s farm collie type named bull. I’m standing in the snow and have all my snow duds on.

    Comment by retrieverman — December 9, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

  74. “When we learned” = when the people who had been denying what the rest of us had known all along actually asked the owner of the dog’s dam.

    I’ve got three of those healthy mongrels. Almost certainly four, but Cole ain’t talking.

    I WAS inspired to have a look at the registry dB and the dogs that have been stepped in recently. What a wonderful and diverse group they are, and what fine qualities they bring to the table — and yes, being bred.

    And they are still English shepherds.

    One of the reasons I’ve largely removed the word “purebred” from my vocabulary, and now refer to “purpose-bred.” Because purity is not a purpose.

    It’s just not that scary, folks.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 9, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  75. I have an ES in the family right now:

    http://retrieverman.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/charlie.jpg

    Comment by retrieverman — December 9, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

  76. So an ES is like an Alaskan husky?

    A “performance-bred mongrel”– one of the nicest phrases in the English world.

    Comment by retrieverman — December 9, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

  77. I actually found recently that there was a prominent curly-coated retriever sire in the foundational pedigree for the golden retriever breed. Some of the best early goldens, which were all dual purpose in those days, trace to Ch. Tiverton’s Best Lad, a very well-known curly-coated retriever stud. Ch. Michael of Moreton, one of the early popular sires in the golden, traces back to Tiverton’s Best Lad.

    Comment by retrieverman — December 9, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  78. The English Shepherd Club registry has a 3 generation step in program for ES that lack a documented registration history. You can read about it here (start on the bottom of page 4)
    http://www.esc-registry.org/ESCR%20Rules%20and%20Regulations%202007.pdf

    More ES from unregistered lines have been brought into the registered ES population via the other ES registries. That provides another pathway into the ESC registry.

    Comment by LauraS — December 9, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

  79. LauraS,

    That’s a really good system. That’s a true open registry at work. Thanks for passing it along.

    How many dogs are brought in through this process every year?

    Comment by retrieverman — December 9, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

  80. retrieverman, I don’t have current stats, but past data indicated that more ES from unregistered lines were entering the ESC Registry through indirect routes than via the ESC’s step in program. They would enter via one of the other ES registries and from there into the ESC registry.

    There is something analogous to the ESC’s step in program in at least some FCI registries, for at least some FCI recognized breeds.

    Comment by LauraS — December 9, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  81. “One of the reasons I’ve largely removed the word “purebred” from my vocabulary, and now refer to “purpose-bred.” Because purity is not a purpose.”

    As the receiver of the “ugly from the ES people” mentioned earlier I have to say, the source of the aforementioned ugliness started with someone comparing my “crossbred” dogs to their “purebred” ES, which is just ridiculous in a breed as diverse as ES. In my experience the ES breed is genetically eclectic, if they were to separate based on looks you could probably form 3 different breeds from the ES gene-pool.

    Comment by Andy Ward — December 9, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

  82. Lis, I don’t know you from a hole in the ground, but I DO find you amusing!

    There’s an unending stream of dogs on Petfinder and more being killed all the time, but you could not find a Very Special companion pet dog just for YOU?

    You must be very special, and all those dogs musy be very common!

    Curious, I went to your blog and found what I assume is a video of you playing with your dog. >> http://liscareyslibrary.blogspot.com/2010/05/kong-rocket-for-your-mad-about-fetch.html

    This is the special dog you could find nowhere else doing the very special things that no other dog can do for you?

    Ah well. OK.

    As I said, each to his own and all amusing.

    As for the AKC, the good news is that the rest of the nation is voting with its feet and its pocket book.

    As American Veterinary Magazine suggests, at the current trajectory, the AKC will be gone by 2025 >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2010/03/akc-to-go-out-of-business-by-2025.html

    The Canadian Kennel Club is already teetering on bankruptcy (it has been there several times before already).

    Meanwhile, more Pit Bulls were killed in shelters this year than the total number of dogs registered this year by the American Kennel Club.

    And as many dogs that were NOT Pit Bulls were also killed in American shelters as were registered by the American Kennel Club.

    Right now there are 345,588 adoptable pets on Pet Finder, each of them waiting in cages for a forever home.

    But I guess not one of them is EVER going to be right for those who are Very Special Needs in terms of a companion animal.

    And, of course, these folks with Very Special companaion animal needs cannot look farther than the local shelter and they cannot wait a few weeks for the right dog to turn up.

    Oh no!

    They can drive three states and fly a dog across the country for AKC papers, but not for a mere pound dog. They can wait weeks or months for an AKC puppy, but not for an adult pound dog.

    Got it!

    Common dogs are for common people, but Special People need pecial Companion Dogs and those dogs come with magical Kennel Club papers.

    Got it.

    As I said, amusing. And very, very special. ;)

    Patrick

    Comment by PBurns — December 9, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

  83. By the way, to the person who bemoaned how few dogs there were in her local shelter in the small town of Fort Erie, Ontario (population 30,000)

    I just ran a search on Pefinder (and anyone else can do it too).

    Right now, there are 1,809 companion dogs waiting for a cohome within 100 miles of where you live — with phone numbers and pictures attached. How convenient!
    .
    And more good news: in two weeks there will just as many new dogs also looking for a new companion home. By the time you look through the first list and visit a dog or two and make a phone call or two, a new list will have been built of even more companion dogs looking for a home.
    .
    P.

    Comment by PBurns — December 9, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

  84. So Patrick … you’re suggesting a middle-aged woman with a full-time job living in a small condo get … a pit bull terrier?

    I’m not comfortable with personal attacks from one commenter to another, so let’s just stop this here. While Lis is more than capable of speaking for herself, your comment directed to her is out of line.

    Knock it off, now.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 9, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

  85. Well, since you can’t be bothered to do the basic math even with all the help Gina has given you, Patrick, I guess you must be Very Special, too.

    Although a slightly different meaning of the word “special.”

    Comment by Lis — December 9, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

  86. Back to the topic, now. I’ve had enough of the comment drift.

    Your choices are basically this:

    Can the AKC be saved?

    Should it be?

    How could it be?

    How can the AKC, its member clubs or breeders of dogs with no work function improve the health of their dogs? The answer to making companion breeds healthier is not: Don’t get one.

    Everything else is off-topic and will be dumped from here on out. I’m willing to give a lot of leeway for discussions of the advantages of non-AKC registries, open registries and more.

    We write about shelters, no-kill and related topics all the time. This is not that topic.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 9, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

  87. Forgive me, Gina, please, but a factual correction is needed:
    Curious, I went to your blog and found what I assume is a video of you playing with your dog. >> http://liscareyslibrary.blogsp…..fetch.html

    No, as stated in the blog post you didn’t actually bother to read, that’s my friend and her dog, her Briard. My friend is not a party to this discussion, but in fact she had specific working goals in selecting her dog, goals which she is pursuing even though you can’t tell from a video of them playing fetch.

    Comment by Lis — December 9, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

  88. Patrick, remember to take out all of the pit bulls found in cities like Buffalo.

    Then get back to me with the real number, k?

    Comment by K.B. — December 9, 2010 @ 6:13 pm

  89. Here it is, late on the second day of this blog. Thank you Gina, for noting we got off track, but we lost track of the topic long ago.
    We have had a lot of verbal bullying by a few folks and much of what was said in here is superfluous to your original question. How to fix the AKC.
    Anyone looking for a dog will not get any answers here, nor will anyone hoping to find a solution to the problems found in the “closed” conformation or performance groups find it here. (Just think only one letter separates closed from closet.)
    The problem is that Conformation shows have dominated the dog world for many years. Working dog are often without jobs in today’s suburban stay at home society, sporting dogs may eventually suffer a similar fate, if they haven’t already. Non-working dogs are often considered just dogs.
    However, the real problem is that today’s dog different than a dog of 50 years ago. The collies I grew up with were not expected to do anything other than lie around the house and get brushed regularly. (Something I am still to do.) They weren’t the farm collies my grandmother grew up with, nor were they the farm dogs that were relocated when the family moved to the suburbs 75 years ago.
    Today, people still want a pet, but with all the noise from everyone screaming about breeding, rescues, temperament, health, genetics and so forth many people do not know where to find the pet for them. We do not offer these folks any help So they end up searching the wrong sources for a pet.
    Let’s get back to the topic that the current state of affairs is rotten, the fish stinks from the head and everyone must stop bullying people they do not agree with or pontificating why their breed or mixed variety is better.

    Comment by Paul — December 9, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

  90. I had a look at the ES online registry and it is very impressive. This is one thing that can help the AKC. Be more like that registry.

    (1) Publish stud books.
    (2) Have online access to these stud books.

    Breeders and buyers need easy access to this information. OFA is helping hips because anyone can look up the test scores. They don’t have to rely on breeders to be honest.

    Public access (even if it’s paid) to information is important.

    For example, the ISDS publishes their stud books but they aren’t so modern that they have it online. One brilliant and motivated man took all their stud books, scanned them in, and now runs an unofficial pedigree service that is sanctioned by the ISDS.

    More importantly, he’s run the numbers on the breed. He’s looked at inbreeding, popular sires, loss of genetic information, and plenty of other metrics. This is valuable information.

    This is one step than can help change the breed clubs and thus the AKC.

    Remember, the AKC was willing to register those Dalmatians, it was the breed club that stepped in and protested. The AKC is willing to leave the Border Collie stud book open at the request of the breed clubs.

    It’s not just the AKC, we need to pressure breed clubs to change as well.

    Comment by Christopher@BorderWars — December 9, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

  91. One more thing we can do as consumers and breeders to change the culture at the AKC and with all registries, is to be more demanding and more knowledgeable.

    We can demand less inbreeding. It’s not worth it to us.

    http://www.astraean.com/borderwars/2010/10/inbreeding-screwing-yourself.html

    http://www.astraean.com/borderwars/2010/11/inbred-mistakes-i.html

    We can demand genetic testing for health, not just for disease. The Haplotype issue (I can’t even spell it right half the time, but this post demystifies it for us):

    http://desertwindhounds.blogspot.com/2010/11/closed-registries-dogs-in-handbasket-to.html

    We also need to be the change we want to see. I wanted more diversity in a border collie and I’m trying to do that. I might be controversial, but the AKC has registered my dogs. The Dalmatian breeder, a much more bold and brave breeder than I, also was the change.

    Dual registration and also living without registration until the culture changes is an option for us. We can take our business elsewhere without having to divide our gene pools.

    I think we need to make the Dalmatian Backcross project a success. We need to pressure that breed club to accept change. That should be a cause we can all get behind because one day, we all might want to do what they did, to bring in .001% of new blood to solve a major disease problem. And it shouldn’t be controversial.

    This notion of “purity” is new. Our breed founders had no such absolutisms.

    Comment by Christopher@BorderWars — December 10, 2010 @ 8:35 am

  92. I went away and thought about it for a day, adn here are what *I* think they should do.

    1. Make pedigrees much, much more available, much cheaper. While fairly comprehensive free databases (Pawvillage, pedigreedatabase, etc) exist for many breeds, they don’t exist for all. I don’t think they should necessarily have to provide this information for free, but offer a certain amount of searches per month free, and a monthly fee for unlimited searching, similar to what I believe AQHA and AHA do. (I *think* their new “Breeder of Merit” program may offer something like this? I haven’t paid much attention.)

    2. Get a “Planned Outcross” program going. The way *I* would like to see it done is that you send in an application to do your outcross litter, including documenting the reasons why and the qualifications of the parent dogs. Someone with a brain (there has to be SOMEONE there with a brain, I suggest checking whoever maintains the library collection as they can presumably at least read :D) approves or disapproves the application (reasons that would be good “to bring in a dog that is n/n for a genetic disease we can test for” or “Increase genetic diversity” or “better X ability”, where x is a traditional function of the breed. (ie, bringing poodle into labs for ‘nonshedding’ wouldn’t be allowed- but bringing it in for better water retrieving would be allowed if you could find a poodle who was better at it than most labs!). Once you have your application in hand, you do the breeding and puppies get registered with some letter before or after their names. They’d be eligable for all events, including conformation right away (probably not COMPETITIVE, but eligible- possibly create a secondary track and throw all crossbred dogs into the miscellaneous class together, for conformation.) You wouldn’t be allowed to breed a dog within 5 generations of an outcross to another dog that was any CLOSER to an outcross, and after say, 6-8 generations, that letter on the front of the registration number goes away. I’m sure someone who is better at genetics could do a better job at the number side of things than me, but that’s my idea. :P

    3. Stop letting breed clubs play politics with membership (ie, have ONE set of membership regulations that all clubs must follow- for example, some breed clubs, you must have FINISHED A CHAMPION in your breed before you can join, in others, you just need to be interested.). Include applications for membership in with all puppy packets and encourage people who connect with their national (and local, if applicable) breed clubs. REQUIRE clubs to meet their yearly educational requirement by doing things in the community- not JUST at dog shows that are 95% people who already know breed clubs exist.

    4. Don’t register puppies sold through a third party. Period. This won’t stop the internet mill outlets, but it’s a start.

    5. Revamp the title structure to devalue conformation championships in comparison to others- re-title “CH” to “S-CH” or something similar and only allow the show designation (the “S-” if it wasn’t obvious) to be removed when the dog earns a performance title or working certificate. It’s not to say a conformation championship isn’t worth something, but why should it be the default ‘champion’ when the others aren’t?

    6. Stop looking to rare breeds for expansion. If they want you, they’ll come to you.

    7. Enforce the existing rules that make the worst of the conformation show offenses possible- foreign substances, scissoring and ‘appearance of bias’. It’s not really related to the genetics thing (well, except as it encourages breeding for extremes of coat) but it’s a pet peeve of mine.

    I’m sure I’ll think of more as soon as I hit submit, but this is where I’d start.

    Comment by Cait — December 10, 2010 @ 9:52 am

  93. Darnit…

    I forgot 8. Allow breed clubs to require health testing for registration of their breed. Or link it to the ability to recieve a title, if you want. (Since that would allow dogs that were say, genetically affected with PRA to still compete as long as they were able.) I’m not sure if I’d say “those dogs may not be bred”, to be honest, because of said genepool issues, but I think I’d like to see the testing required and printed on the registration certificate so no one can say they didn’t know.

    Comment by Cait — December 10, 2010 @ 9:55 am

  94. Gina, your reputation precedes you. While still remaining polite, if you approached me at a dog show, I would do my best imitation of a rude and cliqueish GREEDER and scare you away like an AKC Doberman!

    As for being “forced” to get a breed championship on your dog to breed him, how do people that breed REAL working line dogs find homes for their dogs without conformation titles?

    Comment by Reddy — December 10, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  95. My reputation may have preceded me, but it’s apparent nothing I’ve ever actually written has crossed your path. For example, I guarantee you that I’ve never used the word “greeder” except to trash it as pejorative and unhelpful.

    As for putting conformation titles on dogs … I don’t particularly care for conformation competition, but that’s just me. I think a “Ch.” carries more weight than it should in evaluating a dog. So do a lot of other people, which is why I asked the questions I did.

    Too bad you find me asking the questions so very upsetting that you would snarl at me in person.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 10, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  96. “4. Don’t register puppies sold through a third party. Period. This won’t stop the internet mill outlets, but it’s a start.”

    As is typically the case when people try to solve the puppy mill problem by imposing new restrictions, the proposal would harm responsible dog owners. The world of dogs is a lot more diverse than many realize.

    Let’s say I want to get a good GSD puppy from Europe. If I did this via direct contacts with breeders there, I’d almost certainly get the worst pup in the litter — and pay the highest price. If I want a good one I need to go through a third party who has established relationships there. Quality GSD breeding in the USA depends on the ability to keep importing quality dogs from Europe.

    I suspect that those involved with at least some other breeds might be in similar predicaments if they want to acquire quality dogs.

    “Third party” is not some automatic indicator of bad.

    Comment by LauraS — December 10, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

  97. Laura, but that puppy is generally already registered with the registration agency in his/her country of origin, no? Not just passed along to the broker with a blank registration slip, no?

    This still wouldn’t stop all or even most mills. I think the day of the mall puppy store is, thank god, passing- but it’d make a very strong point that AKC doesn’t approve of pet stores.

    Comment by Cait — December 10, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

  98. Curious, I went to your blog and found what I assume is a video of you playing with your dog.

    That’s my dog, not Lis’s.

    For the record, I got him because I loved the temperament and working ability of both his parents, AND I’d spend two frustrating years NOT being able to adopt from local rescues/shelters.

    My other two dogs are both second-hand dogs that got to me before they ended up in rescue: Our now-15-yo beagle came to us a 1.5-yo rabbit dog that lost his original home due to “house training issues” and our now 7-yo Maltese came to us a 1-yo dog who was rehomed due to behavioral/resource guarding issues. If the Maltese had made it into a shelter, he’d most likely have been euthanized, not rehomed.

    I’m sure I could have gotten an adult dog with working potential from a shelter if the shelters/rescues had been willing to work with me instead of telling me that they wouldn’t adopt to a person who didn’t have a fenced yard (“You have really great references, but…”) or being unwilling to actually talk to me about dogs posted on petfinder (I was willing to pack up my own two dogs and travel a couple of hours to see if particular dogs would be a good fit, but not if I was going to show up a shelter with no idea if the dog I was interested in, or even a dog similar to it, was even going to be there when I arrived).

    My last shelter dog was a shep-collie mix that my MOTHER had to sign adoption papers for because, as a 20-year-old who had signed for her own loans, could drive, drink, get married, join the military, and had voted in a presidential election, I wasn’t considered old enough to sign the local shelter’s contract (they insisted that the adopter had to be 21 to sign. It was easier to get my mother to sign than fight them on this, even though technically having her adopt the dog for me was also contrary to the shelter’s policies). This was 20 years ago and as far as I can tell, the adoption process has not gotten any easier. I know of several families that were turned down by shelters for various reasons. Some of these families went to reputable breeders instead; others ended up with puppies from backyard breeders or pet stores, but it wasn’t because they hadn’t tried to adopt a homeless pet first.

    I’ve had no trouble adopting animals other than dogs from shelters, though.

    Comment by Sheila — December 10, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

  99. Cait, some imported dogs come with registration papers from the country of origin and some do not.

    Comment by LauraS — December 10, 2010 @ 7:24 pm

  100. Late to the party – but hey, I get to be #100!

    “But I’m just wondering how we’re going to approach this in a way that doesn’t turn conformation people off entirely.”

    The pre-AKC Leonberger club held conformation shows based on the Germen system (much as outlined here: http://www.rottie-l.org/germanshow.html) where each dog is examined in detail and then rated by the judge.

    In this system not only the title, but the ratings, hold value. Also the fancy attire, excessive grooming and over-stacking of dogs is very much frowned on.

    I used to enjoy handling other people’s dog (I had no intact ones) in this kind of show as it required much more in the way of what *I* see as natural handling skill to gait a dog on loose lead and do good (legal) double-handling.

    In this system one has conformation shows but the evaluation of the dog (from a long and detailed checklist) is judged – not the pedigree or professional handler. It’s not perfect but I think that it could offer the enticement of conformation ribbons along with the benefit of detailed evaluation of a dog’s gait and structure.

    Comment by Janeen — December 10, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

  101. I find P.Burns’ claim that all people who buy purposely-bred companion breeds are lazy narcissists odd, since in his Nightline interview when he laims he has no problem with people breeding dogs solely to be pets. Was there a change of heart somewhere between then and now, or is he just more comfortable expressing his loathing of nonworking/companion breeds and their owners on various blogs rather than publically admitting to that stance on television?

    Comment by Pai — December 11, 2010 @ 12:14 am

  102. My personal view is that the AKC cannot be reformed so long as the current people who run it now continue to do so. So much money and power is invested into the current status quo that the folks benefiting from it will not change unless forced, and the only force available is to opt out of playing their game (or ‘sport’ as they like to call it) in the first place.

    I truly believe that independent breeders and breed clubs who fully control their own studbooks and do their own thing according to their own personal goals are much healthier than this all-breed conformation-obsessed bureaucracy built on unscientific belief systems that dominates purebred dog world as it stands now. There needs to be room for variety (both in the dogs themselves and in clubs) rather than the closed-registry monopoly that exists in the AKC system.

    I also really think that the dog world should look at the way the Cat Fancy and other purebred animal registries work, in terms of adopting sane outcrossing options for various breed types. Other domestic animal breeders have managed to update their breeding systems as genetic science knowledge has progressed, which is something that purebred dog people have resisted for far too long.

    Comment by Pai — December 11, 2010 @ 1:33 am

  103. I would do my best imitation of a rude and cliqueish GREEDER and scare you away like an AKC Doberman!

    A scary AKC Doberman … now that is funny!

    Or maybe what Reddy meant was that he/she/it would go “boo” at Gina and she would scamper away and hide the way most “modern” Dobermans do.

    Not with tail between her legs, mind, since it would have been cut off for the well-established reason that it makes her a better police dog.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 11, 2010 @ 6:41 am

  104. LauraS, your point about high-quality imports (as a ferinstance) is valid.

    However, it just underlies the general point that different breeds have different needs — not just specific to the their genetic status, purpose, and intrinsic traits, but also their social context.

    Our own Club’s registration policy includes:

    The ESC will not record a transfer or register a dog that has been sold through a commercial broker or retailer.

    The ESC will register, record, and transfer only for natural persons, and will not do so for corporations, partnerships, or other
    entities.

    A policy could be written that allows for import brokers in each breed for which the interests of the breed are served by encouraging imports.

    For example, a GSD Club could vet and certify brokers, and require that they pass site inspections, be bonded, provide the names of their customers for follow-up, etc. This could include requirements about the way paperwork is to be done that is breed and country-of-origin specific.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 11, 2010 @ 6:52 am

  105. HH, No GSD club in the USA has the resources to do the things you outline. Nor have the brokers their members deal with have a pattern of behavior that warrants those measures.

    I’m not seeing why import brokers of working bred GSDs from Europe should have put up with those measures because brokers of GSDs for the commercial pet trade are importing GSDs for pet stores. These are not just entirely different kinds of brokers. They might as well be dealing with entirely different breeds.

    Furthermore, even if they had the resources to do the things you outline, the GSD breed clubs don’t have leverage.

    The ESC has a modest amount of leverage because it runs a recognized ES registry. The ESC can refuse to register ES that transferred through commercial brokers.

    There are no import brokers of ES since we can count on one hand the number of ES breeders outside the USA, and none of them are commercial breeders. If there are any brokers dealing with ES, they would be domestic brokers supporting the commercial pet trade.

    The GSD breed clubs in the USA do not operate recognized registries. The GSD breed clubs don’t have the leverage of denying registration to dogs that pass through commercial brokers in the pet trade. Without this leverage, any inspectors or other restrictions you mention would lack teeth.

    The only leverage the GSD breed clubs have is to deny privileges to join their clubs or participate in their GSD breed events, for GSDs that passed through the commercial pet trade. But that would be analogous to the ESC saying that those who got ES produced by Linda Kapsa’s breeding program shall not be able to participate in ESC Gatherings.

    And besides, the ESC has registered and still will step in register ES that were produced by Linda Kapsa. So the ESC won’t register dogs passing through commercial brokers, but will register those that were produced by a convicted animal abuser (who is no longer breeding, for those who haven’t followed the story). When it has came down to actually facing a real situation, the ESC decided not to penalize the owners or their dogs based on where their dogs came from.

    Comment by LauraS — December 11, 2010 @ 10:04 am

  106. HH, No GSD club in the USA has the resources to do the things you outline. Nor have the brokers their members deal with have a pattern of behavior that warrants those measures.

    Umm … sure. But I thought we were talking about possibilities in a future where registry (or at least registration criteria) functions have appropriately devolved to breed clubs. That has to come with both power and resources, or it won’t work.

    (I think the scam by which the AKC keeps all the money from registrations while the breed clubs are holding bake sales is one of the cleverest and most nefarious they have pulled off.)

    I’m not seeing why import brokers of working bred GSDs from Europe should have put up with those measures because brokers of GSDs for the commercial pet trade are importing GSDs for pet stores. These are not just entirely different kinds of brokers. They might as well be dealing with entirely different breeds.

    True. It’s a shame when legitimate businesses have to “put up with” bureaucracy that is meant to exclude exploiters and cheats. But it’s also a shame when a potential customer already has to be an expert before he can tell the two apart, because what should be gatekeeper institutions don’t help.

    And these requirements wouldn’t carry the force of law, nor even the kind of extra-legal force routinely imposed by the current “all-breed” overlords. It’s simply a matter of “If you want to play on our field, you play by our rules.”

    And the rules should be different, reflecting the different realities of various breeds.

    I’m sure the French bulldog club would be much more dubious about import brokers than would be a working GSD club, given their current realities.

    So the ESC won’t register dogs passing through commercial brokers, but will register those that were produced by a convicted animal abuser (who is no longer breeding, for those who haven’t followed the story). When it has came down to actually facing a real situation, the ESC decided not to penalize the owners or their dogs based on where their dogs came from.

    Right. But if Kapsa started breeding and selling again, after the ESC’s action, this would not be the case.

    ESC appropriately determined that it would be more harmful than helpful to take ex post facto action that would penalize people who had already bought either Kapsa dogs or their descendants.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 11, 2010 @ 10:48 am

  107. But it’s also a shame when a potential customer already has to be an expert before he can tell the two apart, because what should be gatekeeper institutions don’t help.

    Nobody is going to confuse the import broker of working GSDs with the import broker of GSDs for the pet trade. The latter deals with pet stores or other middlemen in the pet trade, and deals in GSDs bred by commercial pet producers. The former deals with working dog handlers, working dog breeders, and police departments. These are entirely separate entities, dealing with entirely separate populations. Again, they might as well be different breeds. There’s no overlap between these brokers, their customers, or the dogs.

    Comment by LauraS — December 11, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  108. There’s no overlap between these brokers, their customers, or the dogs.

    I get that.

    But when you are laying down rules for registration, putting in “Oh, everybody knows who we are talking about” does not cut it. You have to establish uniform criteria.

    Case in point that both kinds of people are called “brokers,” and we are having this conversation in the first place.

    To further muddy the waters, I’m remembering the imported high-line GSD pup I saw at a professional conference some years ago. The poor little guy who could barely get up from a lying-down position, and was walking full on his hocks and very nearly on his almost-horizontal pasterns at about four months of age. The pup would flop to the ground the moment his owner stopped moving, and stay there. No normal puppy bouncies at all. The many pro trainers in attendance were very concerned about him.

    The owner very proudly told everyone that she’d imported the pup via a broker, and that the entire litter had been exported to the US.

    Yeah, big surprise there.

    The price tag was quite alarming.

    I don’t know who the broker was, but it doesn’t sound as if he was dealing with pet stores or selling in parking lots the way the bulldog importers are. This woman seemed to think that she had been plugged in to a primo source for great dogs, and had bought the pup before it was born with the intention of training, trialing and breeding.

    So there’s a broker who had learned to ape the forms of the legitimate importer while bringing in puppies that I suspect would have been culled by a breed warden in Germany.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 11, 2010 @ 11:52 am

  109. HH, Your example points not to a problem with brokers, but to what the GSD breed club of Germany has been rewarding in their conformation show ring. Unlike the GSD breed clubs in America, the GSD breed club of Germany controls breed registrations in that country and has strict registration criteria. The breed wardens there aren’t culling GSDs with weak rears, they are part of the system that created that mess.

    Comment by LauraS — December 11, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

  110. All I meant was that there are plenty of people who manage to breed dogs succesfully with real working titles, and real world experiences, that don’t feel the need to attempt to put an AKC conformation championship on their dog just to satisfy a bunch of critics. Perhaps it’s because they are not just playing at breeding real, functional examples of those breeds and their dogs can walk the walk so they don’t have to talk the talk? Who can say. Heather Houlahan, do you get any kind of conformation titles on your English Shepherds? If not, why not?

    Comment by Reddy — December 11, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

  111. H. Houlahan, there are many GSD breeders/importers of the type you describe. It seems to be a circumstance peculiar to this breed. I don’t know of any other breed (but am willing to be corrected) that commands the extraordinary price tags that German “highline” dogs do.

    Comment by Reddy — December 11, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

  112. One other thing- I doubt that pup would have been culled by breed wardens in Germany, look at the winners of the German breed championships, at least from a few years ago, not as much now. They seem to be figuring out that their dogs are following the same path as the American show GSD albeit in a different physical extreme and are trying to put the brakes on. AKC would have nothing to do with this problem, as I am sure you are aware, German show line GSDs have their own organizations and conformation events in the US, separate from AKC.

    Comment by Reddy — December 11, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

  113. Boy as an AKC judge.. and breeder I just do not understand this line.. If you don’t want an AKC dog..don’t get one.. Don’t want to register your dog with the AKC don’t…how can the AKC “hijack” a breed.. If you don’t want to register your Wiry Coated Storcher dog.. don’t.. who cares.. saying a breed is “ruined” by the acceptance by the AKC is ludicrous.. if you feel your breed.. like Patrick does with the JRT’s is.. suffering from problems because of the AKC.. breed your own dogs..cross what ever you want.. want to cross a Skye with a Dane.. be my .. and the AKC’s guest. don’t really care..think you can improve health by crossing two or more breeds.. go for it..think you Flat Coat would benefit from breeding it to a Beagle.. no one is stopping you.. least of all the AKC..
    What you may call a “shameful disaster” may be what someone else calls a good working dog.. with excellent hip scores no matter how you see it in the ring.
    Don’t care about titles?? Don’t get one.. No one forces you at attend a dog show much less enter one for confirmation or anything else..
    want to show your dog can catch a frisbee.. take it to the park.. no need for competition..
    Why bother to “reform” the AKC when obviously so many of you have great ideas .. start your own registry with your own requirements,like no Championship without a working title too for the members and their dogs It is not against the law and some people might just join.. certainly many here would..
    Just because the AKC recognized a breed ( over the objections of the breeders of these dogs?? well some I guess,others.. not so much, or why would they be showing their dogs?) does not mean the breeders of these dogs need to register their litters..
    It is strange to me that Gina ( and a couple of others) would find it necessary to put a Ch on their dog to be considered “reputable”.. After all if the AKC is so terrible.. why do you need it to be considered reputable? Shouldn’t your health testing and field work on your dogs make it reputable enough for your puppy buyers AND for legislaotrs?

    and just as an aside as I have a breed where it is almost 100% owner handled.. I wonder if you, Gina handled your own dog to its championship and if not why not?

    oh and one other thing.. sorry there were a lot of posts.. THANK you to those who encourage more breeding of dogs in homes..I encourage all of my puppy buyers to keep their pets intact.. ( and yes show them.. even for fun) and if they test out.. to breed them. We need more dogs bred in homes..not less

    Comment by bestuvall — December 11, 2010 @ 8:34 pm

  114. sorry ..conformation not confirmation..

    Comment by bestuvall — December 11, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

  115. So Bestuvall comes down firmly on the side of “The AKC is not worth the effort it would take to reform it.”

    Looks like we actually agree on something.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 12, 2010 @ 8:07 am

  116. Heather Houlahan, do you get any kind of conformation titles on your English Shepherds? If not, why not?

    Comment by Reddy

    You very funnee.

    In order to get conformation titles (which is the same thing as stepping into the ring in the ES breed) my dogs would have to be registered with an entity that sponsors dog pageants.

    In order for that to happen, I’d have to run out of ammunition and slide off the roof.

    (Scurries off to check the ammo safe …)

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 12, 2010 @ 8:12 am

  117. No not at all.. If you do not “like” the AKC why continue to trash it.. it takes energy that could be used to further your own goals of another registry.. I think that is what you want, isn’t it?
    I don’t understand the animosity.. if I don’t want to buy a Ford I don’t trash them.. I buy a Chevy.. I put my money, and my research and my future in a car I like and I don’t waste time and effort telling people how bad Fords are.. I tell then how GREAT Chevys are. I don’t tour the Ford plant and then complain about how they look..fins too big.. engine too small.not enough or perhaps too many colors. I get a group together and say.. Hey I like Chevys.. not Fords.. let’s try to make the public like Chevys too..
    to get a “title” on your ES’s you would only have to bestow it upon yourself and your dog if you had your own registry.. heck you could even put away your ammo…

    Comment by bestuvall — December 12, 2010 @ 9:42 am

  118. What you may call a “shameful disaster” may be what someone else calls a good working dog.. with excellent hip scores no matter how you see it in the ring.

    Comment by bestuvall — December 12, 2010

    Do you REALLY believe that, since the “shameful disaster” I specifically referred to was the AKC show-quality German Shepherd? A “good working dog”? I bet that’s news to the police departments who long ago went to Tervs or the SAR handlers here who have already commented on the GSDs they use.

    Would it be possible to admit there are problems with the AKC and offer suggestions to fix them instead of defaulting to “if you’re not with us you’re agin’ us”? Would it not be better for the AKC to be reformed to be a power for good? To leverage what’s left of their brand to help?

    That would be my wish, quite frankly, for the AKC to change to become an advocate for best-practices in the conservation of our heritage breeds. I don’t think that will happen, but it’s what I would like to see. It’s a shame to see opportunity lost, especially since I know so many, many truly good people who are ethically, responsibly and intelligently breeding AKC-registered dogs.

    Interesting in that you choose the Ford-Chevy analogy, because that’s exactly what’s playing out here: While AKC advocates stick to their guns insisting everything is hunky-dory, pet-lovers are making choices to indeed go “Toyota” in hopes of finding “better” dogs.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 12, 2010 @ 10:58 am

  119. bestuvall wrote:

    “If you do not “like” the AKC why continue to trash it.. it takes energy that could be used to further your own goals of another registry.. I think that is what you want, isn’t it?
    I don’t understand the animosity.. if I don’t want to buy a Ford I don’t trash them.. I buy a Chevy.. I put my money, and my research and my future in a car I like and I don’t waste time and effort telling people how bad Fords are.. I tell then how GREAT Chevys are. I don’t tour the Ford plant and then complain about how they look..fins too big.. engine too small.not enough or perhaps too many colors. I get a group together and say.. Hey I like Chevys.. not Fords.. let’s try to make the public like Chevys too..”

    I guess for the same reason you don’t just stop talking about HSUS and write and speak convincing people that [insert name of great animal organization you support] should receive their contributions.

    Because AKC is not just a product or even a brand. It, like HSUS, lobbies and uses its resources to promote and oppose legislation, and makes internal decisions that affect the animals we love and care about.

    Comment by Christie Keith — December 12, 2010 @ 11:14 am

  120. Dear Dog Folk,
    Mr. Bestuvall inquired: “How can you hijack a breed?’

    Provided you are a near monopoly with considerable wealth and political power (general and within the dog world), hijacking a breed is simplicity itself.

    Step one:You inquire if any prominent breeders are interested in turning over the studbooks and their revenue to become the Official Recognized Breed Club, get low registration numbers and be among the breeds’ official founders/discoverers/refiners/rescuers. Although the applicant won’t have the last word, he can develop the official breed standard favoring those types/distortions/coat colors that he has been breeding for! An important plus: for a year or two you’ll get invited to the better Westminster parties!

    But as hijackers know, doggers can be a contentious lot – children really – and they might not realize what’s in their own (and their dogs’) best interests. Prominent breeders may rebuff your offers. They may assert that becoming part of your organization would actually harm their breed!

    Step two: If you can’t find a prominent breeder, if you can’t win an election of active breeders, if nobody knowledgeable wants to turn over the studbook – and its revenues – find a less than prominent breeder!

    Requirements, though real, are not steep: the person urging recognition must (a) cast a shadow in sunlight, (b) be unaffiliated with Al-Qaeda and (c) be off the ventilator.

    If the snotty original breed club won’t turn over its studbook, just accept whatever papers you can get and start your own studbook. Registration fees come in whatver their provenance!

    Lacking even this lesser breeder, you may need to invite the scruffy folk who enter their dogs in the “performace” events. “Say” you might tell them, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to cut Spot’s nuts off?” or “The first people in the new breed club will set the future of the breed forever!” Push come to shove, you can promise that Westminster dinner. Who doesn’t want to hang out with the Kings and Queens of the Dog Sport?

    I trust that pretty well explains how its done. Avoid the ventilated and you’ll be fine.

    Donald McCaig

    Comment by Donald McCaig — December 12, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

  121. The ventilator is only there for the bulldogs and pekingese.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 12, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

  122. And the pugs.

    Comment by Susan Fox — December 12, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

  123. Christi.. I suspect the decisions you don’t like have more to do with the breed clubs.. than the AKC itself..
    Mr Mccaig.. I have been breeding pure bred dogs for 30 years.. never been to a “Westminster Dinner”
    As for Spots nuts.. keeping them is one of the things the AKC fights for .. unlike the HSUS.. so yes i side with hem on that one
    What decisions does the AKC make that affects your personal dogs..
    Chrisite has a Deerhound I believe.. AKC registered.and I believe from CH stock if I read it right when she received the dog… Gina a Flat Coat.. also AKC registered and a finished CH.finished by some one.. was it a handler?? or the breeder? or yourself..? Just curious… how come you both decided to buy from AKC breeders.
    Mr McCaig.. I quite enjoyed your book about Searching for a Border Collie in Scotland. in fact I have a good friend whose brother is a shepherd in Scotland…she rasies a pure bred breed.. he raises working border collies.. working ones like the ones you were seeking in your book. They did not make it easy on you did they? Perhaps they felt you were “hijacking” their breed. By the way.. he enjoyed your book too..

    Comment by bestuvall — December 12, 2010 @ 10:50 pm

  124. I’m not sure why it bothers you that I have AKC dogs, will continue to have AKC dogs (since I have flatcoats) and yet believe the AKC needs serious change to 1) Help dogs; and 2) Survive.

    After all, I affiliate with a lot of organizations with which I do not entirely or even (sometimes) mostly agree.

    Not speaking for Christie, but I got my dogs from a fantastic breeder who happens to be an AKC breeder (also past president of the breed club and the sweeps judge at a past national specialty). “Good breeder” and “AKC” do not always go together, as you well know, especially considering AKC executive management’s ongoing determination to work with puppy mills, but when they do it’s because for many breeds, the AKC is the only game in town. (If you read the original post, click on the links for more, especially Christie’s “AKC, I wish I knew how to quit you” post.

    Not sure why you have a bug up your backside because I used a handler and the breeder/co-owner to finish my dogs. I have scant interest in being in the ring, not the least of which is because I’m not a particularly smooth mover, with bad knees, asthma and at least 50 pounds I’d love to lose but likely never will.

    You still haven’t answer the question about if the AKC can be reformed, so are we to assume you think everything’s fine? If so, that’s a shame, because a reformed AKC truly could be a force against breeding bans and breed bans, and an advocate for shelter reform, breed rescue, and laws that better integrate dogs into our lives, such as lifting limit laws and making code enforcement complaint-driven, welcoming well-mannered dogs onto restaurant patios, etc.

    These things really would make them “the dog’s champion” and transcend their fading reputation as a place for people who want to put hair extensions on poodles and say that the show appearance of this dog has a working purpose while everyone laughs. Or, yes, people who — like you — defend the appearance of the AKC show German Shepherd saying it’s a working dog with good hip scores as if the latter proves the former while anyone who actually works a dog — police work or SAR — will set you straight on the issue.

    However, I guess through this thread I’ve answered my own question. I’m not one of the “blow the AKC up” people — I want reform.

    As for you: You’re so blinded with hatred for the HSUS (another group that needs reform) that you lash out at anyone who suggests the AKC has problems and that reforming would make it stronger. You’re losing the only battle that matters: The one in the court of public opinion. The AKC is becoming irrelevant at a time when it should be anything but. And you’re helping that slide.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 13, 2010 @ 7:51 am

  125. “Christi.. I suspect the decisions you don’t like have more to do with the breed clubs.. than the AKC itself..”,

    I won’t speak for Christie, but some of the key problems I have with the AKC, their breed clubs, and the modern purebred model include:

    The closed population model for breeds. As practiced in nearly all breeds, it’s biologically unsustainable. It is dooming breeds to eventual decline from inbreeding depression. Some breeds are going downhill faster than others.

    Show ring selection based on a notion that function follows form, when biology simply does not work that way. Form follows function, meaning that to select the correct form, one needs select for function.

    Show ring selection that selects against population genetic diversity because it espouses a (false) ideal of a narrowly defined cosmetic type.

    Show ring selection that has “improved” many breeds to the point of unhealthy and/or non-functional exaggeration.

    Lack of selection for demanding function, which is still the best way — dare I say the holistic way — to select for health.

    Stubborn denial about basic tenets of population genetics. This would be understandable in the early 20th century. But in the early 21th century there is no excuse for this continued denial of a science that is decades old. “Hybrid vigor” is not a myth, many dog populations do show evidence of inbreeding depression, effective population size does matter, and excessive use of popular sires and inbreeding around a relatively small number of dogs does real damage to breeds.

    Inbreeding around a small subset of dogs to “set type” only sets cosmetic type. The essence that truly defines breeds, their character traits, is given lip service by most breeders. Selection for complex breed character traits is undermined by inbreeding around a small subset of dogs to “set type”.

    It’s a BIG LIE that breeding within a closed purebred population preserves the essential character and therefore function of individual breeds. Breed character has been as malleable and altered within closed populations as the morphological changes we’ve observed in many breeds over remarkably short time spans.

    You get what you select for, and gradually lose what is no longer selected for. Alleles that are lost from closed population breeds, collateral damage from modern diversity destroying practices, are gone for good — no longer available for outcrossing to select for complex functional traits.

    Ongoing rigorous selection for breed characteristic temperament & function tends to select AGAINST inbreeding and destruction of population genetic diversity. It tends to select FOR health and FOR the open population model.

    I would like to think that the modern purebred system can be reformed. But I see no trend indicating that things are improving. Working dog breeders and handlers have been sounding warnings for 100 years, and have been utterly ignored. The relatively small number of individuals from outside the working dog community who are sounding warnings are brushed off by the Dog Fancy with baseless inflammatory accusations that they are in league with the ARs.

    Comment by LauraS — December 13, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

  126. Working dog breeders and handlers have been sounding warnings for 100 years, and have been utterly ignored.

    And for our troubles, have also had the fruits of our labor bogarted by everyone from the AKC itself (especially the way it glommed onto the cachet of SAR dogs after 9-11) to “fanciers” who steal the stories of real dogs and try to glue them onto the forms of their kennel freaks (yeah Terhune, I’m talking to you).

    One of the many reasons I was forbidden to watch Westminster had to do with that smarmy know-nothing Caras blathering on about “merry hunters” as the apparently legless piranha-cockers floated past like the scrubbie bubbles, then a tiff with Garagiola about whether or not the OES could see through the Big Hair that somehow protected its face from sheep, and a big finish with a paen to the GSD’s prowess as a police/guide/SAR dog while the pitiful slinking freaks tried their best to stay standing and (I saw this happen in the group one year), jumped in terror at the sight of the Sheltie.

    Stop lying I would scream, and then the inevitable picture-tube/flung-object tragedy.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 13, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  127. Or, yes, people who — like you — defend the appearance of the AKC show German Shepherd saying it’s a working dog with good hip scores as if the latter proves the former while anyone who actually works a dog — police work or SAR — will set you straight on the issue.

    I’m unaware of any evidence that AKC show GSDs generally have good hip scores. The only (albeit dated) evidence I’ve seen points to the contrary.

    But your larger point is correct. The GSD has been the world’s most widely used working breed. The founder of the GSD breed wrote: “Shepherd dog breeding is working dog breeding, or it is not shepherd dog breeding.” Multipurpose working abilities is the original and current purpose of the GSD breed. Even the AKC GSD breed standard starts out “The German Shepherd Dog is hailed as the world’s leading police, guard and military dog, however, this dependable breed is more than its 9-to-5 job. ”

    The rare throwback notwithstanding, the AKC show GSD — the type of GSD the AKC says is ideal — is no longer used or useful for work. The GSDs used for work are from European lines still selected for work. Especially in law enforcement or the military, the vast majority of GSDs used for work were bred in Europe. Others are bred in America but are maintained with imports from European lines.

    Contrary to popular belief deriving from an overemphasis on appearances, the main problem with AKC show GSDs is not their structure, it’s the lack of breed character in these dogs. What’s inside dogs’ heads is the most important determinant to working abilities. The AKC show GSD has been “improved” to the point of being an essentially different breed.

    bestuvall asks why those of us who don’t show in the AKC conformation ring are bothered, and writes” I don’t understand the animosity.. if I don’t want to buy a Ford I don’t trash them.. I buy a Chevy”

    Perhaps this would be a bit more clear if a new and different manufacturer advertised their vehicles to be Fords. Ford would sue for trademark infringement, and would win. Unfortunately most dog breed names are not protected by trademarks. So entirely different dog breeds end up being marketed under the same name.

    Comment by LauraS — December 13, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  128. Dear Dog Folk,

    Ms. Sanborn’s example is to the point. Dogs are real; dog breeds are intellectual constructs. Recently, disinterested dog DNA researchers compared the DNA of AKC Barbie Collies and ABCA Border Collies. The researchers reported that (already) there were more differences than between some named “breeds”they had studied.

    As intellectual constructs used in commerce, new or unfamiliar breeds may be – as clever breeders did with the Jack Russell – trademarked. Breeds, like the Border Collie, who have found their way into the dictionary are harder to defend from those who would stalk them (a better metaphor than “hijack”), appropriate their reputation and history as their own and turn them into something very unlike the original but WITH THE ORIGINAL NAME.

    Once, in a meeting with the AKC Director’s I asked their legal council: “Suppose I rent an office in this building, call myself the Alliance Kennel Club (AKC) and start registering dogs?’

    He said, angrily, “We’d sue.”

    I said, “Of course you would.”

    Alas, if any of them got my analogy, they didn’t admit to it. Double has made the dog fancy so institutionally stupid they might not have understood.

    Donald McCaig

    Comment by Donald McCaig — December 13, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

  129. Mr. McCaig,

    I’ve looked at the study you reference. BCs are a large and diverse breed and this is a strength, not a weakness.

    http://www.astraean.com/borderwars/2008/09/breed-apart-i.html
    http://www.astraean.com/borderwars/2008/09/breed-apart-ii.html

    Comparing them to “some other breeds” isn’t really meaty without more information. Some other breeds are separated by 2 inches in height or a smooth vs. rough coat. Is the “split” because of genetic information that has been lost or information that has been gained?

    If the researchers published the pedigrees of the dogs tested and if the AKC and ABCA published their stud books, we might have a much better picture than the one provided to us in that study. There just aren’t that many “show” BCs that were tested, nor were there any sport BCs designated.

    As the name is a mental construct, why keep the “border” at all with the American Working Border Collies? If it’s simply paying respect to their heritage and origins, I think the “hijackers” might be doing the same.

    I also think that the working Border Collie has been changed from the original in America, too. There aren’t too many American working dogs that are exported to the UK are there? And has an American working BC ever contributed to the UK trial gene pool? Has an American dog or handler ever gone back and dominated the trial scene over there?

    It seems to be a one way street, much the same as working dogs into sport dogs and show dogs. In the pedigree research I’ve done, I see lots of recent UK trial winning dogs making impacts on the dogs working here. I have yet to run across an American bred dog making the same impact back across the pond.

    History and reputation are important, and since none of us created this breed, we are all inheritors of their history and reputation, no matter how we choose to use and even change them. And I think we all use and change them in our own respects.

    Respectfully,

    Christopher Landauer

    Comment by Christopher@BorderWars — December 13, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

  130. Contrary to popular belief deriving from an overemphasis on appearances, the main problem with AKC show GSDs is not their structure, it’s the lack of breed character in these dogs. What’s inside dogs’ heads is the most important determinant to working abilities.

    I agree.

    The structural defects positively selected in the US show ring are sufficient, but not necessary, to render the “GSD” incapable of work.

    I know this because I have actually known one dog of US show breeding — champion parents — that, unlike most, really wanted to work. While not a bright dog, she actually had some good drive and really enjoyed the SAR training, and was only slightly neurotic and not very fearful.

    Alas, every joint in her body was garbage. And I don’t even want to get into her GI system and its shortcomings.

    She stayed at my house for a week once. I kept thinking to myself that I really needed to trim her toenails as she tick-tick-ticked past me. Until she went ticking past in the living room, which had a thick wall-to-wall carpet. It was her knees or hocks (maybe both) clicking.

    As she approached her second birthday, her pasterns got closer and closer to the horizontal plane.

    Sometimes I think that is the cruelest thing of all, to bring into the world an animal who has the throwback desires of her ancestors, desires for challenge and usefulness and partnership, and to have deliberately ensured that that animal’s body would not be able to support those desires.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 13, 2010 @ 11:17 pm

  131. Sorry: last sentence should read: Double alas, a hundred fifty years of distortions, outright lies and smug power has made the dog fancy so institutionally stupid they may not have understood.

    Comment by Donald McCaig — December 14, 2010 @ 3:51 am

  132. I have yet to run across an American bred dog making the same impact back across the pond.

    Huh.

    And how many years has it been, pray tell, since the UK abandoned the rabies quarantine that made the movement of non-human mammals across its borders a one-way affair?

    Comment by H. Houlahan — December 14, 2010 @ 9:09 am

  133. Dear Dog Folk,

    While I believe that the Dog Fancy, its beliefs and organizations have been one of the worst disasters in canid/human history, I am of two minds about reforming the AKC.

    As I see it, the ideal would be individual purpose bred registries with a central government that would weakly guide multibreed and cross bred doggy events and strongly advocate for all dogs and their owners. The ideal cannot be achieved without dismantling the AKC. But . . .

    In an earlier post I noted that almost all truly dog savvy Americans got started in one or another AKC events. These days most novice sheepdoggers are coming out of agility and AKC “herding”.

    Dog Fancy mantras (“the responsible breeder”, the “backyard breeder”, “Correct structure”, Show and working “lines”, “Front and finish”) are part of how very many very good dog people think about dogs. Dog Fancy beliefs are how they see dogs and what they think dogs are.

    More: there are some real heroes in the American Kennel Club. When we Border Collie people fought Goliath, we found allies in some AKC Directors and top show judges. When I battled the AKC there wasn’t very much the AKC could do to me. They couldn’t make difficulties with registrations, refuse me judging assignments or fail to put me up for ribbons. Our allies within the AKC had lots to lose. They stuck their necks out because they loved dogs and wanted serious reform. They were braver than I.

    A while ago one of these allies – a prominent AKC judge _ called me. He’d finally read my “Dog Wars” and wondered if I’d be interested in working with him and other reformers to establish another all breed registry where the breed clubs would have complete control over their breeds.

    I didn’t have the heart to tell this brave soul that I had no interest in any allbreed registry centered on dog shows and conformation breeding.

    Another tale: AKC club delegates live all over the country and their dispersion makes them almost powerless. At one time – I don’t know if it’s still true – there were two annual meetings and the winter meeting drew far more delegates because the AKC grand dames liked to come to New York for their Christmas shopping.

    I find that charming.

    If change might come to the AKC, it must originate with the Westminster KC, the AKC BOD or the delegates.

    While there are notable instances of the voluntary reliquishing of power: (Gorbachev, G. Washington) the powerful usually hang on like a tick on a fat pony. If there is to be real AKC reform, it is most likely to come from the delegates: that California Grand Dame with forty years of friendships and memories and dog urns among the trophies on her mantlepiece and that agile young agility club delegate who only registers with the AKC so she can run in their trials.

    There is, I believe, little point in bandaids, fixing this or that policy in the Dog Fancy culture of determined, frightened dog ignorance. I think power must move to a new group. I believe that ordinary dog owners would make better decisions about all dogs than the Westminster KC or the AKC BOD.

    If there is to be change, the delegates must vote for a constitutional convention and their first and most important demand at that convention should be dissolution of the present “club of clubs” structure in favor of “one owner/one vote.”

    And good luck to you.

    Donald McCaig

    Comment by Donald McCaig — December 15, 2010 @ 5:16 am

  134. it would seem to me that there are enough sharp minds commenting on this blog to start an influential KC/AKC counter-culture.
    And if “why”=”money”, then it might start by inverting the income model. ie, income from events, as opposed to papers?

    Comment by eli — December 15, 2010 @ 9:15 am

  135. That is how I assumed you would answer, H Houlahan.

    My question is the same as Bestuvalls- if you detest the AKC so much, Gina, why spend the non inconsequential money getting your dog finished? I think for enough dog fanciers, a good dog is a good dog is a good dog and I am sure if your FC is as good as you say he is, a lack of an AKC championship wouldn’t harm his chances or being a successful stud dog. There are always those few who can’t look beyond an AKC title but those surely wouldn’t be the people YOU would associate with, right?

    Comment by Reddy — December 15, 2010 @ 9:57 am

  136. As always, H. Houlahan brings THE CORRECT to the discussion:

    “Sometimes I think that is the cruelest thing of all, to bring into the world an animal who has the throwback desires of her ancestors, desires for challenge and usefulness and partnership, and to have deliberately ensured that that animal’s body would not be able to support those desires.”

    Comment by Reddy — December 15, 2010 @ 9:58 am

  137. I loved Mr. McCaig’s most recent comment, which pretty much sums up my views.

    Reddy, you and “bestuval” seem to believe that if you aren’t 100 percent behind something you much be completely against it. That is, of course, ridiculous.

    The AKC is not the Catholic church, and even if it were, if I didn’t/don’t belief in the infallibility of a Pope, I sure don’t believe in the infallibility of the executive management of the AKC. I’m affiliated with any number of organizations I don’t agree with 100 percent, or even much over 50 percent in some cases. I stick with them because I have faith that there is hope for a better future, through internal pressure for change.

    What part of “reform” is so difficult for you both to understand? The questions remain answered by you while you continue to attack me: Is the AKC going to continue its slide toward oblivion (which is well-documented … it’s financially contracting rapidly), with people like you helping by insisting nothing is wrong and I’m just a loud-mouthed hypocrite? Or will it, can it step up and make a difference? And if it can change, how should it? A strong AKC supporting TRUE best-practices breeding of our heritage breeds is something we need to stop breed bans, breeding bans and other anti-pet activity, along with lobbying for true pro-pet laws, such as lifting limit laws (which helps rescues and fosters) and helping to promote the further integration of well-mannered dogs in public spaces, housing, etc.

    Yes, my dogs compete in AKC events. Why is that so difficult for you to understand that it’s not impossible to have AKC-registered and -titled dogs and respect and work with some fantastic AKC breeders and competitors — and have big issues with the management of the organization?

    It’s called “critical thinking,” and you might want to try it sometime.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 15, 2010 @ 10:12 am

  138. Apparently “reddy” stands shoulder-to-shoulder with “bestuvall,” in the belief that one must believe the AKC to be either 100% perfect and in no need of reform, or 100% awful, or one is a hypocrite.

    No institution is perfect, and AKC is more flawed than many others, but “nothing is perfect” goes both ways, and it doesn’t mean that people who find some things they want within it are not allowed to see any flaws, or that they are not allowed to criticize them.

    Comment by Lis — December 15, 2010 @ 10:17 am

  139. Gina.. no one is attacking you.. just curious as to why you would want a “meaningless” title on your dog. What does that mean to you? Seems that for the most part it means nothing to people on this list as the dog is “paraded” around the ring for essentially nothing productive. But I am actually happy you show your dog.. the AKC needs the money! LOL
    As for reform.. oh my I truly believe that the AKC could use some.. that is why I work for those goals..from the inside rather than complain on a blog..
    The AKC already works on the issues you are speaking of.. breed bans, limits on dogs , rescue and more.. I am sure you are a recipient of the AKC newsletter and Legislative Alerts.. right?
    What would I like to see the AKC do.. much more in the area of legislation..much more…
    Is the AKC perfect.. no they are not.. but they are not the devil either..
    as for “lip service” for canine health from the AKC.. take a look.. heck maybe you will even donate:
    http://www.akcchf.org/

    Comment by bestuvall — December 15, 2010 @ 11:27 am

  140. You still haven’t answered the questions. I guess your views on what reform you’d like to see will remain forever secret.

    Internal change never happens without public discussion and external pressure. Again, ref: The Catholic Church, which has been pretty happy to ignore problems with its priests for centuries until those problems became public and that brought pressure to bear on the management.

    My dogs’ show championships are relatively meaningless to me (I personally put more value performance titles, in the field, agility ring, etc.), but they’re not meaningless to the other people in our breed club who expect titles on both ends along with health certs, nor are they meaningless to the co-owner of my dogs. I have agreements and expectations that transcend my own personal views. So it goes, and so my dogs get their championships.

    And you know, I have enjoyed the occasional dog show, usually a benched variety (I try to get to the benched show in SF every couple of years) so you can actually meet the dogs and talk to the owners and breeders. I loved my trip to Crufts a few years back, and can’t wait to go again. I loved “Meet the Breeds” at the AKC Invitational, and enjoyed the agility competition. Walked over to see flatcoats be judged, but can’t say I much noted or cared who won.

    I think shows could be made relevant with requirements for health certifications and work function (the latter in those breeds that still have them) before a championship is given. Kinda like what the savvy folks in our breed club insist on already, through peer pressure — although with the horrific rate of cancer in flatcoats, the currently recognized “best practices” don’t go near far enough. The Canine Health Foundation is very nice and all that, and I have and will continue to donate both to it and to our breed club’s health foundation, but until TRUE best breeding practices are part of the show culture, such activities remain “lip service” far as I’m concerned.

    By the way, I’m kinda surprised that you don’t seem to realize the AKC doesn’t make money when I show my dog. Registrations have always subsidized dog shows — that why AKC execs have been so keen to register puppy-mill dogs.

    But I guess that’s all just more “complaining.” I really should shut up and let you and the other AKC show judges work your magic secretly from within. You’re doing a GREAT job, really! Carry on … somewhere else. I’m done with you on this post, unless and until you decide to advance the discussion.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 15, 2010 @ 11:45 am

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