It’s a Mixed Up (Mixed Breed) World

by Susi on January 31, 2014

in Agility, AKC, dog show, dog shows, mixed breeds

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This piece was unsatisfying to write, and may well be unsatisfying to read, as well, because it poses questions for which I have no answers.

Sorry about that.

Everyone probably has an opinion on the subject, however, and I blame Google Alerts for having reminded me of it.

“Google Alerts” is a content detection service that automatically notifies users when new material from virtually any source on the Internet matches a term selected by the user.  It can generate hundreds of stories relevant to a keyword in a very short amount of time, especially if that word relates to a “hot” topic.  Certainly heating up on the front burner is the dog fancy’s Super Bowl this month: Westminster.

In the past, notifications related to Westminster have typically been links to articles focused on the judges panel, a change in venue, or the debut of breeds newly recognized by the AKC.  In 2014, the new breeds are the Chinook, Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, and Rat Terrier.  By my estimation, however, scarcely a quarter of the alerts I’ve gotten thus far pertain to any of these topics.

The media, instead, has been besotted with one story line, and the sample headlines below are emblematic of the majority of them:

“Mutts Compete in Westminster Dog Show For First Time”

“Westminster dog show adds event with mixed breeds”

“Change to Westminster show celebrates the ‘every dog.’”

 “Change to Westminster Dog Show gives stage to mixed-breed dogs.”

The first paragraph of one article with a similar headline went this way:  “One of the nation’s oldest sporting events, the Westminster show had a few mixed breeds in its early days but soon became purebred territory. This year, more than 2,800 pedigreed, primped dogs are set to be judged on how well they fit breed standards that can specify everything from temperament to toe configuration. That has long made Westminster a flashpoint for the purebred-versus-mixed-breed debate.”

“Purebred-versus-mixed-breed.” That stood out for me.

It never used to be a “debate,” let alone a “flashpoint” until the animal rights movement gained steam and made it one.  For an agenda intent on eliminating pet ownership altogether, the rarified world of show dogs with its breed standards, selective breeding and the element of privilege (read: money) made the dog fancy an easy target.  The bad apples that exist in any sport or hobby (in the fancy’s case, lousy breeders and obnoxious exhibitors) made the task even easier.  Adding insult to injury was the second wave of attack from groups involved in rescue, an activity breed clubs have been supporting long before it became politically correct.

I haven’t made up my mind about mixed breeds participating at AKC performance events once limited to purebred dogs.  For some reason, however, when I do think about it, an old saying that I taught my children always pops into my head: “You don’t have to blow out someone else’s candle for your own to burn more brightly.”

In 1978, the Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America was formed based on AKC Regulations. It offered titles in obedience, rally, conformation (huh?) lure coursing, retriever instinct, and versatility, but the club never really “took off,” and presently, there are no events scheduled on its website.

Why the club hasn’t gained traction among mixed breed owners, I don’t know, but as far as I can tell, mixed-breed enthusiasts been nosing around for AKC recognition of some sort for years.  Why they insisted on inclusion with the AKC when they had the Mixed Breed Dog Club of America is anyone’s guess, but it’s hard not to think about that old saying I told my kids.  Does the purebred dog owner’s flame need to be blown out for the mixed breed owner’s candle to burn more brightly?

Remember when "purebred" was front and center on the magazine?

Remember when “purebred” was front and center on the magazine?

 

Try to find the word, “purebred” now….

It’s a moot point.  Mixed breeds have been invited to AKC performance events since 2009, but I can’t help but wonder if the seismic shift in AKC’s policy was the second waft of air on the candle of purebred enthusiasts. The first would have been the AKC’s removal of the phrase, “For the Love of the Purebred Dog” from its masthead“ sometime in the last 15 years to be replaced by, “We’re more than champion dogs. We’re the dog’s champion.”  Even that has become diluted. Today, the AKC’s tag line is:  “Discover. Learn. Connect. Sharing more than 125 years of passion for dogs.”

If “purebred” has become a dirty word,  “breeder” is tantamount to an ethnic slur. Take a look at the commercial Budweiser will be airing this Super Bowl Sunday:

I have to hand it to Budweiser for touching, even remotely, the prickly topic of breeding purebred puppies in this current climate. Evidently, however, as long as sales are referred to as “puppy adoptions,” it’s okay, and perhaps no one will notice that the puppies are all the same breed?

So let’s review. Who would have thought it possible that “breeder” would become a dirty word, “purebred,” would be removed from public billing on AKC material, and the AKC would include mixed breeds at its performance events all within twenty years?  It reminds me of what HSUS CEO, Wayne Pacelle said: “…One generation and out. We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding.” Animal People News, May 1993.

By allowing mixed breeds in its performance events, did the AKC cave to public pressure and political correctness? Or will the day come when we look back at the AKC’s shift in policy and realize how prescient it was to recognize that the fight wasn’t between mixed breeds and purebred dogs, but rather an epic battle to protect dog ownership altogether?

In that light, it seems rather silly to dig in our heels as dog fanciers to protect our right to ethically breed sound, purebred dogs, and preserve the legacy of their breeds.  As one who appreciates history and tradition, and especially as a fancier, however, these goals resonate with me, and they do matter. They matter in little ways that make life worth living and connect me to my cultural past, but also in far bigger ways that implicate my rights in other areas far removed from dogs.

In the war of words to win over public sentiment, dog fanciers have returned to the roots of the sport by referring to our breeds as “purpose bred” dogs with predictable traits.  The opposition’s counter-parry has been the charge that mixed breeds are healthier than purebred dogs, but this was disproved by a five-year study by the University of California-Davis which concluded that there is no difference between the two in the prevalence of common inherited disorders.

Awkward.

In a 2010 New York Times opinion piece, the author wrote: “Dividing the world into those who should feel guilty for owning a pedigreed pooch and those who can feel self-righteous for rescuing a mutt does little to solve the two major challenges domestic dogs face today: careless breeding and an antiquated shelter system.”

Now four years later, little has been done to address any of the problems the author identified – save one.  Guilt is still a wonderful feeling to inflict on someone with a purebred dog purchased from a breeder, ethical breeders are still being blamed for an alleged overpopulation problem, and only now with the NAIA’s Shelter Model might we start seeing the beginnings of change in the shelter system. All that said, self righteous mixed breed owners remain self righteous, only now they have found validity and purpose in owning their “rescue dogs” that goes beyond companionship (which always seemed a good enough reason to me).

Enter AKC performance events.  Stacey Campbell, a San Francisco dog trainer heading to Westminster with Roo! a high-energy husky mix she adopted from an animal shelter, said, “Wow, this is a really talented mixed breed that didn’t come from a fancy breeder.”

For those owners who found that companionship wasn’t enough, there’s a new “purpose” in town for their mutts:  AKC performance events – action that an “every dog” can enjoy without its owner spending a fortune on a purebred dog (and without the stigma!)

It’s a reasonable question to ask, so I’ll ask it.  So what if a mutt participates at an AKC show, who does it hurt?

Let’s turn the question around. Who gains from mixed breeds competing at an AKC event? Certainly the AKC realizes revenue from additional fees.  Mixed breed dogs gain by having something they can do with their owners, and the owners gain not only by be able to compete with their dogs (and at Westminster!), but by earning an AKC title they got with their loveable mutt.  “Purpose bred, my eye,” says “Missy,” an acquaintance of mine who owns a mixed breed dog.  She’s won the canine lottery, as far as she’s concerned. She can do what dog fanciers do most weekends – compete. And furthermore, she’s advised me, she will never buy a purebred dog because she doesn’t see the point.

To drive home her message, she sent me the link to a newspaper article about agility at Westminster which read, in part, “The first mixed-breed dog chosen to perform in the agility demonstration is Alfie, a poodle/terrier mix from New Jersey whose owner bought him discounted at a mall pet store. Owner Irene Palmerini told the Associated Press she paid $99 for Alfie. She started her new pet on an agility course for the best reason — because the little dog was bouncing off walls and needed lots of exercise. Alfie — the politically incorrect, deeply discounted pet store mutt – now becomes a revolutionary symbol.”

This isn’t what we were told when the powers-that-be instituted the rule change about mixed breeds at AKC events.  The thinking, they told us, was that fanciers would be given a perfect opportunity to explain to mixed breed owners the virtues of predictability and inheritance in purebred dogs. The thinking, they told us, was that by exposing mixed breed owners to purebred dogs at dog shows, these folks would want their next dog to be one of those purebred dogs.

“Missy” evidently failed to get this memo.

And what do purebred dogs and their owners get out of having mixed breeds at AKC shows?

I don’t know. My entry fees haven’t gone down. I don’t feel compelled to buy a mixed breed dog.  I don’t sleep better at night, nor are my teeth brighter.  As far as I can tell, any advantage to me at all isn’t as a purebred dog owner, but as a dog lover. When any dog bonds with his or her owner through any means, including working together in agility or obedience, it’s a good thing.  It really is.

But couldn’t the same thing be accomplished under the auspices of the Mixed Breed Dog Club?

Not everyone is vigilant with their dog, nor does everyone spay and neuter their “just-a-pet” dog. No one is perfect, dogs will be dogs, accidents happen, and therefore, mixed breeds will happen, and probably always will. We can strive for prevention, but I tend to see the world as it is, not as a zealous rights activist wishes it was.

If, in fact, the battle with the animal rights movement ultimately morphs into an attack on all dog ownership, I will be blessed with perfect hindsight and view the AKC as brilliant in its thinking. There are moments, however, when I wonder just whose side it’s on. Mixed breeds have a nose under the tent, as they say.  Will it be enough?

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

mixie January 31, 2014 at 7:37 pm

I am so confused… last I heard, carelessly bred dogs sold by a broker for pocket change were pitiable, unhealthy, unpredictable, unstable creatures that need to be banned for their own protection. Next the pitch is that they’re superior in health, character, and maybe performance to carefully-planned purpose-bred dogs. Why are we banning pet store puppies if they’re ideal pets, preferable to “artisanally bred” dogs?

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Susi January 31, 2014 at 8:34 pm

Why indeed, Mixie.

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mixie January 31, 2014 at 7:49 pm

I mean, are we opposed to random-bred dogs sold by someone who knows el zippo about their health background and foundational handling, or are those the super bestest dogs?
I feel like I should be impressed that random-source dog fans have turned the folks who plan, screen, test, etc. into the villains. It’s a head-scratcher.

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Susi January 31, 2014 at 8:34 pm

A good. I’m not alone in my confusion.

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Karen January 31, 2014 at 8:57 pm

I’ve got both. Proud of my homebred purebreds, proud of the ones who came to me from other careful breeders, proud of the fosters I’ve worked with and proud of my mixed breeds from questionable sources. As a mixed breed owner, I loved the American Mixed Breed Obedience Registry, and loved even more that qualifying legs could be gained at matches, and at UKC and ASCA shows. This was long before, and may have influenced in some small way, AKC allowing mixes in performance events. As far as mixes in AKC performance, the best thing I see out of it is that families can start where they are. I work with kids and dogs and getting them to set goals for their obedience training is a great thing. I help kids who need to get PAL or CP registrations on their dogs. Some will never go further, some will go on to more competition, some will go on to other dogs and other competition in the future with other dogs from a variety of sources. Being able to register and compete my old lady mix meant that my kids and I could go to trials and compete as a family – me with our purebred from a responsible breeder, my daughter with our long term purebred foster project and my son with our grand old mixed breed. The current coverage drawing this as a conflict is driving me nuts. For me, it’s about getting people out with their dogs in yet one more way and DOING.

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Susi January 31, 2014 at 9:29 pm

And yours, Karen, has been most plausible explanation I’ve seen, and yet it still baffles me that the Mixed Breed Dogs Club of America – or even the American Mixed Breed Obedience Registry hasn’t gained more attraction, let alone traction. That said, I like your explanation that the best thing to come out of this is enabling families can start where they are. That, I get. I appreciate your thoughts!

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jackgalt February 1, 2014 at 6:46 am

I agree that Karen has found sense in nonsense that works for her dogs and her family. I have pet owners of my neutered pure bred dogs who never compete in AKC agility or obedience and go the route of teacup events offered by another registry because “AKC events are too grueling for the owner and dogs”. I wouldn’t know as I am a conformation enthusiast only.

But to your question of who wins by AKC allowing mixed breeds- my first kneejerk reaction was to remember the PETA young girl standing in the BIS ring proudly holding her large sign that read “MUTTS RULE”. She was escorted off the property, but her words were apparently correct.

I still believe that mixed breed dogs have no difference in their ability to perform, their ability to learn than pure bred dogs. However, I also still believe that any REGISTRY of pure bred dogs should remain true to its registry and only host events for pure bred dogs that are part of that registry. Doesn’t make my opinion right or wrong-just mine.

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chienblanc4csi February 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Fantastic, couldn’t have said it better!

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Sparks January 31, 2014 at 9:07 pm

I had subscribed to the Gazette since 1965 as a 13 year old. A lot of my purebred dog/dog show education was thanks to it. I stopped it a few years ago. The magazine was not much better than Dog Fancy, and even the breed columns are edited down to nothing, and haven’t been monthly in years. No wonder they had to stop printing it. Is it still available online? I can’t muster enough interest in it to find out. I have no interest in mutt dogs. I have Bull Terriers because I am passionate about them, they suit me and are a major part of my life. I do not want any other dog. Most everybody I know feel that way about their breeds. Why does that make us such terrible people?

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Susi January 31, 2014 at 9:26 pm

It makes us “terrible people,” Sparks, because the “opposition” has better PR than we do. The ethical among us do everything right, but the bad apples get the attention. Somehow when PETA euthanizes the majority of dogs entrusted into their care, that gets swept under the rug. Purebred clubs contribute more money to research that benefits ALL dogs, and yet we’re still villains. It would help if we had a popular, celebrity spokesperson, but we lack the kind of central organization that would hire would – and besides, coming down on the side of purebred dog enthusiasts would probably be tantamount to coming out as a Republican in Hollywood. It’s maddening.

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jackgalt February 1, 2014 at 6:51 am

So let the opposition and its excellent PR find a niche for its mixed breed preference. There is plenty of room for everyone irrespective of their PR target. In fact any group with strong PR should consider setting up ITS OWN events as a continued source of future income.

The only way that AKC and purebred dog owners become terrible people is when they either succumb to pressure from an illogical premise and cave in by admitting they were terrible in the first place.

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Susi February 1, 2014 at 11:25 am

Good points, Jack!

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murli nagrani February 1, 2014 at 1:13 am

I think mixed breeds should have added to performance events as it is a part of dogs animal heredity.Afterall its upto the AKC to have a firm decision over this point.

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Susi February 1, 2014 at 11:26 am

They’ve done it, Murli. Since 2009, mixed breeds have been added to performance events, and it was an AKC decision.

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Walt Hutchens February 1, 2014 at 6:09 am

Just to sharpen Susi’s comment a bit, it makes us terrible people because the opposition has discovered you can make very good money attacking what can be made to look like privilege while exploiting the truly (and cluelessly) privileged. It’s a more productive (more output per input) business model than the AKCs in the same way Wal-Mart’s is more productive than Sears: In today’s world, that’s where the money is.

Sears can’t adapt: They’re stuck with all the wrong store locations and a catalog operation that’s decades behind Amazon or even Wal-Mart. The AKC CAN pick up some parts of the AR’s productivity and the appeal of mixed breeds is one of those. Furthermore, it can reasonably expect to use that to feed its main line of business. Sure a reporter could lead with a story about a mix owner who would never buy a purebred (it wouldn’t be surprising it that were the reporter’s view …) but there are plenty of other people in the ranks of mixed breed owners.

Heck I WAS one of those people: A mixed breed owner and (UKC) obedience competitor until I married into the purebred world. Well, why not? I had nothing against purebreds; a mixed breed dog from the Baltimore Municipal Animal Shelter was just where I was at the time.

Bringing in mixed breed owners is a key part of the AKC’s discovery of CUSTOMERS as an alternative to willing SERFS. The change may not go much farther as long as we serfs remain willing — who but stumbling, cap in hand serfs would elect a BOD that cares more for details of judging than for winning against the HSUS/PETA vision that dog breeding should be illegal? — but it’s a step in the right direction.

As to the morality of mixed breeds we should remember that nearly all pure breeds started as mixes tailored to a specific job and that most of those jobs are now of mainly historical interest. There are new jobs for dogs and new breeds starting as mixes to do those jobs. Skilled breeders — mostly in the purebred world these days — ought to be applauding that, even participating and sharing leadership, rather than insisting that DOGS are really only of interest for historical reasons.

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chienblanc4csi February 1, 2014 at 11:07 am

@ Walt – ” Sure a reporter could lead with a story about a mix owner who would never buy a purebred (it wouldn’t be surprising it that were the reporter’s view …) but there are plenty of other people in the ranks of mixed breed owners.” I completely agree, why would we expect the media to be any different than any average member of the public – who probably hasn’t heard much from the fancy, or hasn’t been convinced. We haven’t had a cohesive message that can compete with the “rescue” movement. (Ironic, since breeders were the first “rescue” folks.) A training business I work for occasionally runs a specialty rescue group, and an overwhelming percentage of her clients have rescue dogs with issues. It’s her bread and butter. She does a great job encouraging bonding through performance training, but there are people there who have no interest. Instead of comparing pedigrees or structure, or bragging about titles, they compare horror stories – “my dog was starved, thrown from a moving car, with an embedded collar and forced to breed litter after litter, and look how far she has come in ‘only’ four years”. The halo fits perfectly. Eligibility for performance events is a moot point for certain folks, they seem to get enough satisfaction from a kind of martyrdom. Reverse snobs, or self righteous people are just that way, they express a lot of who they are by the dogs they choose, not all that different from any of us, so we shouldn’t expect to make converts out of them. They are perfect fodder for the media, can always be counted on to make the reporter’s job pretty easy.

But we can’t give up on the folks like Susi’s acquaintance “Missy” – if they really love dogs, they can eventually soak up valuable information. As a trainer, one of the things I have been successful with is explaining how to read dogs’ body language, gently illustrating to some folks that their dog is unhappy, or uncomfortable in certain situations, so here’s how you can help – and give specifics. Sometimes it’s a harsh reality check, but at least the dog doesn’t get tortured further, and if the owner has enjoyed training, they might make plans for a well bred dog in the future. Susi has blogged in the past about clueless people dragging severely anxious dogs through crowds at events, bag of treats at the ready to reinforce (inadvertently, of course) stress responses. These are the folks we stand a chance of reaching by including them in AKC events. They mean well, from my experience.

It is all a vicious circle – the more dogs ‘saved’ from euthanasia the more the demand for training businesses, that can attract more business by promoting really fun sports. My city’s old Yellow Pages used to have about 3 or 4 listings for dog trainers, and two obedience clubs. Nowadays, the E version of the directory has several PAGES of listings for dog trainers, behaviorists, ‘animal communicators’, dog day care, performance clubs, kennel clubs . . . rescue seems to have created a growth industry.

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Jay Kitchener February 1, 2014 at 7:14 am

I was president of my AKC all-breed club for seven consecutive years. During that time, my club clustered with a neighboring club to put together what has become Maine’s largest dog show. This was no easy feat. It took three years of negotiations between our clubs to make the show a reality. Dog breeders, at least in Maine, are a contentious bunch, and sometimes I feel that the only thing two dog breeders will ever agree on is that a third dog breeder is doing it wrong. That said, every year our clubs take a vote on whether or not to open our obedience and rally competitions to mixed-breed dogs at our shows, and every year there’s a unanimous “no” vote. It seems to be the only thing we can agree on.

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Susi February 1, 2014 at 11:24 am

Out of curiosity, Jay, what would you say are the reasons your club votes down the inclusion of mixed breeds at the shows?

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Jay Kitchener February 1, 2014 at 3:20 pm

The official line has been that because we were a new cluster, we would pass on the decision to expand to mixed breeds until a future date. We agreed, in typical Mainer fashion, to wait and see if this idea takes off with other clubs before committing to a significant change like this in our club. Our cluster is now five years old, and my sense is that there is little interest in entertaining the idea. That could change, but I’d be surprised.

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MK Welch February 1, 2014 at 7:47 am

As a young child, I discovered a life-long love of dogs. My parents were extremely thrifty people, and simply did not see the logic of paying good money for a purebred dog, when a mix would do.

I grew up with a remarkable dog. He and I were inseparable. I miss him to this day. He was a mongrel hound who could out jump, out perform and out track the majority of purebreds. He is largely responsible for my 40+ involvement in the sport of purebred dogs.

As I became aware of that world, it became very apparent that to be a participant, I needed a registered, show quality, purebred. I set my sights on the goal of getting that purebred dog.

,Had AKC allowed participation with a mixed breed, it’s quite possible my parents would have blocked my acquisition of a purebred dog. I believe they would have done just that, if nothing else to teach me practicality.

Would I have been able to sustain my interest in the world of purebred dog sports, having only a mixed breed? I do not know. However, I have no doubt that my life has been enriched by my involvement in the purebred dog fancy, by the numerous, long time friendships I’ve made and by the love and companionship of my wonderful, purebred, canine companions.

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Susi February 1, 2014 at 11:23 am

A lovely note, MK, and a good reminder to those of us who have lost sight of what it’s supposed to be like – or why we got involved in the first place.

This topic (mixed breeds) came up on the National Purebred Dog Day page on Facebook following the posting of a humorous commercial in which a Doberman and Chihuahua mix terrorizes the neighborhood. It strikes me that mixed breed owners continue to believe that those of us of the “purebred dog persuasion” look down upon them or their dogs, and I just don’t “get it.” Like you, my first dog was a mix, and I daresay that many people’s first dogs were. With these dogs we learned some wonderful lessons that carry us throughout our lives. Historically, I see the how class envy played into this, but I never dreamed that 100 years later, we’d still be dancing around the same issue. I’m glad you wrote!

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Debra Cowden February 1, 2014 at 8:11 am

I’ve never had a pedigree dog person chastise me for having a mix breed dog, but the mix breed people will sure give you a rash for owning a purebred dog. Another wrinkle in the debate are the sport mixes. It’s all insane to me-dogs are created by humans for various purposes. As long as the person breeding is finding good homes for the dogs, performing proper health tests prior to breeding I have no problem with whatever they breed.

It all still comes down to buyer beware-you may win the performance lottery with a pound puppy or not do so well with a purebred, however if you don’t understand what you are doing and what type of dog is suited for that task, the likelihood of your ending up with something not suitable is high.

I think a lot of the contention comes from “one dog people” who have a single dog and cannot stand to evaluate it against the rest of the canine world. So, purebred or mix, whatever that dog is becomes THE standard for all of dogdom.

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Susi February 1, 2014 at 11:15 am

Debra, I especially like your last comment because if I’m honest, I WAS that one-dog person in the beginning of my show life. If/when she lost in the classes, I just couldn’t understand why the judge failed to see in my dog what I did. It’s a learning process, to be sure, but to this day, I continue to believe that in the show world, most people’s ideal of their breed harkens back to their first dog. Sadly, I definitely see it in judging. A judge will select as his or her winner the most far reaching dog in the ring – inappropriate for my breed, but standard for the German Shepherd I later learn is the judge’s breed. We are, in the end, only human.

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Sherry Wallis February 1, 2014 at 9:04 am

As always, a thoughtful and thought-provoking commentary. I can address one of your questions about mixed breeds competing in dog shows vs. performance events. The issue is the criteria for selection. In performance events, it’s a quantitative standard. Did the dog go over the jump? Did it miss a weave pole. Did it come when it was called.

In the conformation ring, a judge evaluates qualitative issues, and that’s based on application of a written standard, which goes back to what the dog is supposed to do. Is it supposed to course game followed by people on horseback? Then it probably needs to be built for speed. Something built like a bulldog isn’t going to work.

I have been very privileged to judge frequently at 4H shows. Many of the kids in 4H come from farm and ranch families and they basically work with whatever dogs are on the farm or they have as pets. Many times, these dogs are not pure-bred. The remarkable kids in 4H work with one dog most of the time, and they show in junior showmanship, obedience, rally, agility, and conformation with the same dog. Pure-breds are judged by breed and group, and the mixed breeds are judged by weight and size.

So, feature yourself in a ring with 20 kids and their dogs–most of which are trained as well if not better than the ones you see in an AKC breed ring. They all weigh over 50 lbs. One looks like a mix between a Pyr and Anatolian, one looks like a Golden cross, there are a couple that clearly had a German Shepherd in their ancestry, and others give a nod to Labs. Then there is an American Bulldog, but that’s not an AKC breed so it’s here with the mutts. The dogs are all well-groomed, standing well, and some are even very sound structurally.

So, you’re the judge, looking at these dogs and you’re supposed to chose between them,….for what? Without some kind of reference points, you really can’t evaluate them. Since they’re not bred for special purposes, what makes the moderate angulation of the Pyr cross better or worse than the Shepherd-type that is better angulated but has a rose ear on one side? Is that an issue? No way to know. It’s really kind of unfair, and it does reduce the process to the equivalent of a beauty contest, where everything is in the eye of the beholder.

And when it’s over, how do you explain your decisions? You might as well say I liked the outfit the handler was wearing because it makes just about as much sense.

The problem with mixed breeds in the breed ring is they are not there for breeding. If people don’t see or understand this, it’s because we have described the breed ring too long as a beauty contest, and even many of the people competing in it don’t understand that it’s not supposed to be an evaluation of the dog in the ring, but an evaluation of the producing ability of the parents. That’s why we put their names in the catalog. It’s all about breeding, but if we’re afraid to refer to ourselves as breeders (I think it is more socially acceptable to say you’re a crack cocaine dealer), then how can we explain what we’re doing in the ring?

On another note, I’ve been inspired by that Bud commercial. My puppies are approaching 4 weeks, so they’re approaching the right age for adoption. I’m interviewing prospective parents and checking their credentials, and shortly, my furbabies will be leaving the orphanage with their new peopleparents. I’m thinking if I can’t win fighting them, I might as well take a page from their book.

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Susi February 1, 2014 at 11:10 am

Sometimes I take it for granted that readers know how a conformation ring works, so thanks, Sherry, for bringing it up here for anyone who has thought that it’s a “beauty contest.” And you’ve done a nice job of describing a 4H ring. I’ve judged them, as well, and those bright little faces looking up at me places a heavy burden on the judge. A mixed breed conformation ring is a contradiction in terms and should have SOMETHING by which to judge: longest ears, best nose – something!

So good luck with adopting the fur babies with their future guardians. You’ll be placing them with pet strollers and Snugli packs, of course.

Sherry, you gave me my first good laugh of the day!

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CathyM February 1, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Thank you Sherry for talking about the world of 4-H. I have been a leader in dogs, sheep and dairy cattle for many 4-H children and it was always a pleasure to watch them work with their animals regardless of parentage/heritage.
As you noted – if the children were lucky enough to have an AKC registered dog, they could compete in different arenas from those children without, but never were they snubbed. From the very beginning when working with animals in 4-H, you distinguish those animals that are for breeding and those animals that are for use and many times they are not the same animal. Further, you teach you breed for desired traits and though an animal may perform well, they may also not have all the desired traits to breed for, thus you go back to the parents and attempt to discover how to breed for the traits you do want for whatever purpose.
These are basic animal breeding principles and are the foundations of understanding that many outside of breeding animals and the agricultural world never get because they are no longer exposed to them. Thus, can we be discouraged because they don’t get breeders but instead rely on the negative image the AR people make up for us and for the dog show?
In 4-H livestock shows you have your breeding animals and you have your use animals, and yet they both show together at the same venue. I think for dogs we can do the same thing where the purebreds are shown for breeding purposes and the mixed breeds compete alongside the purebreds for use.
Besides – how do we know that somewhere out in the world, someone is very carefully selecting and breeding a new breed of dog that will one day have the consistency of breeding the desired phenotype and genotype to be considered purebred? All breeds at some time were mixed. It is through the diligence of selection and record keeping by the breeder for specific traits that have come to be recognized as the purebred.
Specifically what comes to mind is the breed of sheep we were showing: Montadale. This breed was developed in Missouri by an individual who decided they wanted specific traits in a breed of sheep. Namely: wool type, meat producing, mothering ability, size, wool-free bag. They couldn’t find a breed that fit what they envisioned but they did find two breeds that they believed would provide the traits if bred together correctly and selected properly for. This was the Cheviot and the Columbian. These two breeds were brought together in the 1930′s and after 7-9 years of selective breeding, the desired breed characteristics were established. Montadales are now a recognized breed in the sheep world.
Let’s not discourage a new breed of dog to be developed in which the world may benefit from just because we are involved with established purebreds. The ability to create is something to be fostered not hindered and most of what people create started out with things that others did not find any use for.
Welcome that mixed-breed owner and cherish them; for tomorrow they could be owning a purebred and keeping the breed you love so much alive.

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Jenell Brinson February 2, 2014 at 8:58 am

You’ve presented very well a real point of confusion in the matter of purebred “vs” mixed breed or mutt, that seems to be largely lost in so much of this issue. First, there should be no “vs” about it to begin with! I remember myself feeling and thinking much the same as you describe here, when many years ago, some had begun integrating a “conformation styled” competition for mixed breeds at such as 4-H, and even a few fun matches. Doing tat represents a complete failure in understanding what purebreds are, and why they exist as distinct types of dogs to begin with. As you say, it can only be some kind of beauty or judge preference contest (preference. I like big working dogs, or I like herding dogs, so that’s what I find most attractive) and that is no basis for ‘competition.’
There has ever been a gap of understanding about what purebreds are/aren’t., what it means or doesn’t mean. Those “outside” the purebred interests have tended to see it only in terms of “vs” such as is one or the other “better” which is a value judgment that shouldn’t even be in question. “Better” for what? I think this gap has widened as society at large has move further away from personal connection to nature, and animals, both domestic and wild human history of mutually beneficial and in many ways symbiotic relationships between human and animals. Attempting to preserve “breeds” of domestic animals whether dogs, or horses, or whatever, is at its core an effort to preserve a part of our shared human/animal relationships, that had much to do with how we humans evolved in our cultures, society, and even technology, as it does with how those breeds that developed alongside us did.

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Susi February 2, 2014 at 11:10 am

Thanks, Jenell – I can’t add a word to what you’ve said so well.

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bestuvall February 1, 2014 at 10:43 am

The people who control the AKC have emails.. I suggest we use them! The grassroots people have so many great ideas that could be incorporated to make the AKC vibrant and viable..

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Susi February 1, 2014 at 11:01 am

A good point, and one I hope proves fruitful. It does seem at times that the AKC has its mind made up and very little we say with sway them one way or the other – but then I’ll meet someone from the AKC and they’re receptive and open. One thing is certain. The best way to make sure we go unheard is to never communicate our ideas at all.

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julie February 1, 2014 at 11:58 am

I can see some value with mixed breed dogs being allowed in akc performance events. the value might well come from associations.

all of us have doggie ‘friends’ that we visit with at shows. the depth of the friendships can vary. some of the folks are people we only see ringside. we laugh, we chat, we catch up on stuff. I’d been ‘out’ of the dog show game for many years. it wasn’t a bad breakup (grins) but life kind of got in the way for almost 20 years. do to some unexpected circumstances. I found myself back in the game again. at the palm springs shows this month I had the pleasure of running into some people I’d not seen since 1992. it was the highlight of my weekend……but I digress. through these associations, or friends, I’ve learned about other breeds. I’ve, listened to some different perspectives, I’ve even (can you believe it?) changed my opinion on some key issues.

perhaps by newly formed associations, some of these mixed breed owners will stop seeing purebred dog owners as evil. they’ll see that dog shows are a hobby we enjoy but that it’s not the entire relationship we have with our show dogs. I know david frei mentions ‘these are not just show dogs, they’re beloved pets too’ each year during his color commentary. does the rescue-centric owner believe this? do they roll their eyes and say, ‘yeah, right’……I believe they do. by putting us all together at events, perhaps they’ll see that we’re not evil.

I think this is an opportunity if we as exhibitors don’t blow it by showing our ‘elitism’. a mumbled comment of, ‘I can’t believe akc caved and let MUTTS in’ will further the divide of us vs them. I say we embrace the new entries and build some bridges of communication and new friendships. ……..if they learn about us and know us………they won’t hate us and may well see some of the AR agenda talking points that vilify breeders in a different light. it might cause them to think, ‘hey, I MET a lovely woman that breeds poodles (and not a something-poo) and she was delightful and welcoming.

anyhoo, just a thought.

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julie February 1, 2014 at 12:58 pm

to add to my previous comment. I think it’s important for us all to remember when we’re at a dog show, or even out in public with our purebred dogs, we are an ambassador for our breed and the sport as a whole. if someone is visiting their first show, what kind of impression will they walk away with? these folks (ones that bother to attend a show as a spectator) are the very people that we don’t want to alienate. they’re at least open to seeing what the dog show thing is all about!

yes, I know many kennel clubs offer meet the breed booths, those folks that donate their time to man the booths know that they are on display. they’re typically warm and friendly folks. but they’re not the whole story at a dog show.

I mentioned above that I attended palm springs this weekend. I had the chance to talk to some wonderful first time visitors. sure, I got hung up on my way to the parking lot by a man that wanted a springer hug. I got to hear about his childhood field bred springer…….’best dog he ever had’ I heard more stories about how smart o’l spot was that I really enjoyed……but I hung in there. to be fair, it wasn’t like I was on the way to the ring, but I admit I was wanting to get on the road. the man told me about his current ‘mutt’ and that he was also wonderful…….but very elderly. as we parted, the man turned to his wife and said, what do you think about a springer for our next dog? the seed was planted. maybe it will sprout, maybe not, but at least he didn’t walk away thinking that ‘show springers’ and their owners were unwelcoming.

I met another man as we both exited adjacent portapotties. he was wanting to watch a particular breed. I pulled out my handy dandy judging schedule and directed him to the appropriate ring. when he mentioned he was hoping to meet breeders I told him that there was one set up near me……….I walked him over and made an introduction. I don’t know if they were helpful (I hope so) but hours later, during groups he spied me and came over said, goodbye, shook my hand and thanked me for my help…..

when we’re at shows, sometimes we are busy……..but remember that we’re on display for the public. always try and be a good ambassador!

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Kara February 1, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I took my Border Collie pup to Petsmart for a new harness. An employee offered to help me fit her. The employee then asked from which rescue did I get the pup. I explained she is a purebred Border Collie and I imported her from Hungary. The employee went on a rant about all of the dogs waiting to be adopted in THIS country and how terrible it was that I brought this foreign dog into the US. I didn’t buy the harness and nor will I return to that store. Not the first time I’ve gotten an earful about my purebred dogs. Sorry, I am not supportive of mixed breed dogs at Westminster. If they want to allow mixed breeds to compete in obedience/agility trials at shows, ok. Not Westminster. My first and only CH dog showed at Westminster last year. It was a dream come true that I had held onto since I was 12 years old and that was more than a couple of decades ago, I’m glad I’m not there this year. I don’t want to see some doggy-poo competing at Westminster when I worked so hard to get there,

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Tom Mahoney February 1, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Regardless of what you think about the purebred/mutt/designer dog question, the bottom line is that the AKC, and now Westminster, sold out to the very people that made them what they are today. They did it in the name of the almighty dollar. They get my two thumbs down – just like polititicians. And anyone that knows me, knows my deep contempt for those creatures.

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Verjean February 1, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Ok, I’ll chime in. First of all, I have owned mutts, purebreds, and rescues of both persuasions, my entire life. I find this argument distressing because one is NOT better than the other. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. But, in the end, they are all dogs…wonderful, intelligent, loyal, loving…dogs. In the performance world in which I exist….there are TONS of mixed breeds…and some which are VERY MUCH INTENTIONALLY, PURPOSE BRED, and many that are shelter rescued. People who adopt shelter dogs for the express purpose of competition are also wonderful, marvelous people. I know many personally. This should not be a confrontational issue. It should be a discussion of ALL dogs. But since we’re here…let’s consider…as noble as rescuing a dog from the shelter or a reputable rescue may be…and as talented and successful as that dog may become…it will never be able to reproduce itself. A highly talented rescue dog, will never be able to pass along it’s genes to another generation. And in some cases, that truly is a shame. With the advent of increasingly restrictive MSN laws, we are also seeing declines in availability of some pure breeds in some parts of the country. We already see very active increases in shelter dogs being transported to other parts of the country where shelters ARE, in fact, empty. We have seen shelter euthanasia decrease from 17 million euthanized in the 1980′s…to less than 4 million today, with 70% of that statistic being “feral” cats, NOT potential performance dogs. I know that AR proponents would lead the public to believe that there will ALWAYS be animals in the shelters…but the numbers would tell us otherwise. By HSUS’ own statistics, between 18 and 23 million homes are looking for a new pet annually. 3.4 million are not being adopted even though there are plenty of homes available. WHY? AND even if every animal currently being euthanized was placed…there would still be 15 to 20 million homes looking for a purposely bred dog. Where are those to come from?
This constant bickering over which is better, is damaging BOTH to a point of no return. A dog is a dog is a dog. Yes, I love my pure breeds…there is great joy from living with creatures that were bred for a purpose, and there is nothing more magnificent than watching a field dog work, or a herding dog work sheep, or a hound follow scent and trail…well…you get my point. And beautiful? OMG…to me there is nothing more noble, more exquisite than the Great Dane, or more lovable, entertaining, and just joyful…than a Pug. And each purebred dog owner, OWNS that BREED, because there is something that speaks to them in a unique language. But my mixes have just as much beauty, intelligence and talent, as ANY of my purebreds. At the end of the day, they are ALL just dogs. By continuing this blather about purebred vs mixed breed, we DO none of them any good. There is room for both.

Now…has AKC been bullied somewhat into the acceptance of mixed breeds into competition events. ABSOLUTELY! Does it really matter? Well, that’s everyone’s personal opinion. Quite frankly, I don’t care. I was a huge proponent of inviting the mixed breed to AKC performance events. But, it does raise the question of why mixed breed registries not been able to get their feet off the ground. I think we go back to the original purpose of the AKC and judging…to evaluate BREEDING stock. We intend to breed, and toward that purpose, we wish to have knowledgeable peers evaluate that breeding stock…and therefore there is a “real” on-going purpose to what AKC historically has represented. Since mixed breed registries and their events have nothing to do with continuing to “preserve” traits…there really isn’t a “reason” per se for the registry. At least that’s my opinion.
AND for the record, I have no problem with “designer” breedings. But I do expect the same care to occur…parents should be health-tested…and there should be a rational explanation for the breedings…and some “sensibility” in the pairings. As I said, I know of many planned mixed breedings, especially in the flyball community. Those puppies are NEVER advertised for sale. They are placed before they are born. The puppies usually have homes before the breeding even takes place. Breedings are very carefully thought out, and generally occur between animals that are very proficient at their craft. I can’t imagine a single one of them EVER ending up in a shelter, at least not among the community of competitors/breeders that I know. They are breeding for the fastest, highest drive dog they possibly can. Lots of breeds in that recipe. WHAT is being bred, is much less important than HOW and WHY it is being bred.
By continuing this confrontation between pure vs mixed…there are not going to BE any of either. Breeders will be legislated out of producing any numbers required to supply demand…and the shelter dogs will continue to dwindle, just as they have continued to do over the past thirty years. But, I guess by then, it will a moot point…there will be no more pure vs mixed…there will BE nothing at all. WHICH IS EXACTLY what the AR movement is about. AND THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT. Divide and conquer. It’s not just IN the purebred world…it’s in the pet owning world…divide “good” pure bred breeders from “bad” pure bred breeders…divide pure bred owners from mix owners. Divide, divide, divide…and divided we will all fall.

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elaine February 5, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Verjean, can you give us a source for this?
“We have seen shelter euthanasia decrease …to less than 4 million today, with 70% of that statistic being “feral” cats…”
I am not challenging this, I want to embrace it and shout it from the rooftops!

And Susi, how about a source for this one:
“Ethical breeders are not … most of them … responsible for the estimated 6% of purebred dogs ending up in shelters.”
This is a different angle from what we usually see bandied about: that “25% of shelter dogs are purebreds.” I have never believed that, because I know few shelters that identify dogs by supposed breed have anyone making that assessment who is likely qualified to do so. But where does “6% of purebred go to shelters” come from? What’s the baseline for purebreds in this analysis – dogs born to parents of same breed in a given year, according to their breeders? dogs registered with AKC or another purebred registry? number of dog owners who say they have a purebred ______?

How does this 6% of purebreds going to shelters translate into 25% of dogs in shelters are purebreds?

I hope both of you can cite sources for these data. I repeat, I am not challenging what you’ve said, I want it to be true. But I also want to verify where it comes from so I can use it in efforts to educate the public and legislators about some realities of pet ownership and sheltering..

Thanks to ALL who have contributed to this conversation. Many, many words of wisdom have been shared here. I am too often involved in discussions that shed more heat than light, and it is refreshing to get in on one where differing views impart more acceptance than argument about each others’ experiences.

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Susi February 5, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Elaine, I was talking “out of school” when I used the 6% figure; it’s the approximate percentage that an internal investigation came up with and I’m not in a position to reveal the source of that number just yet. I promise, however, that when I get the “okay,” I’ll pass it along here. I want you to be able to share numbers, but I also want you to be able to cite the source of that data for your own credibility. As they say, stay tuned.

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Verjean February 1, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Julie, the points in your first post…are very much part of the reason I was supportive of the mixed breed initiative to begin with. At the American Kennel Club, we’re not just champion dogs, we’re the dogs’ champion. Which dogs?

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julie February 2, 2014 at 7:05 pm

thank you verjean. i believe some positives can come from this. and you were right about the division. the AR groups promote the class warfare. ……and we’ve played right into their hands.

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Jenell Brinson February 2, 2014 at 10:38 am

I think there are real problems in what we, as those interested in and involved with purebred dogs, have allowed to become talking points, points of discussion and argument, in these issues, that truly should not be given validation to begin with. I think we (all involved in purebred dogs, individually and organizations such as AKC) have and are letting ourselves, and the real interests of purebred dogs, get dragged through mud willingly, when we shouldn’t be. The matter of purebred vs mutt should never have been over such things as “better” being applied to basic matters of health, soundness, or considerations of simply being adaptable as good pets and companions, or even “competitive” in some very minimally demanding performance event, such as basic dog show obedience. Why are those supporting purebreds letting this happen, instead of focusing on what really sets selective breeding of dogs for specific specialized purposes apart?
While there is no doubt anyone wanting to compete with a mixed breed in something like obedience can, either by sorting through the endless supply of mixed breeds and mutts, or coming upon by chance, a mixed breed or mutt suitable for their purpose, there are some simple realities not being addressed, and purebred supporters should be more focused on. One is that while mixed breeds/mutts can be found that are suitable for such purposes, their suitability derives from the genetics they have, which is derived from the specialized breeding of the breeds in their mixed heritage. One may indeed find a mix capable of herding livestock, but to be really satisfactory for that work, you can bet it will be a mix that includes parentage of herding dog breeding. One can surely find satisfactory mixed breed working dogs being used for many purposes, from herding to hunting to guarding and protection to whatever, but you can also bet they have breeds developed for that work close up in their heritage. To boast that one’s border collie X aussie can work sheep as well as any purebred, or a bluetick coonhound X black mouthed cur is as good an all round hunting dog as any, or even mix of unknown background that demonstrates traits and characteristics of a herding or hunting dog, which likely has those breeds in the mix, is actually an argument FOR the continued need to breed purebred for specific purposes, not against! Consistency and predictability through selection IS relevant and important, even for mixed breed/mutt owners.

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Susi February 2, 2014 at 11:08 am

Excellent points, Jenell. As for why purebred dog owners have allowed themselves to be dragged through the mud, I suspect it’s complicated. Those deeply involved in activities with their dogs are at a minimum, guilty (or naive) of thinking the animal rights movement would never impact them. They’ve been busy with their dogs, not with lobbying, writing or calling their legislators. I think, too, “we” have lacked an organization devoted just to combating the AR movement, and consequently we also lack a celebrity spokesman or people willing to pull of stunts to support our right to own the dogs we want to own. In my view, it really does come down to each of us becoming a vibrant part of a backlash. The National Purebred Dog Day page on Facebook was started to inspire the grassroots of one…..

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Kathy Graves February 2, 2014 at 11:22 am

This link explains the procedure for agility entries at Westminster:
http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/2014/show/agility.html
There are 16 mixed breeds in the final entry of 225. The agility finals will be televised on Fox Sports 1, Feb 8, 2014 from 7 pm to 9 pm EST.
This link is to a television appearance of David Frei where he explains how the concept of offering agility came about. All the demo dogs are purebred:
http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/2014/show/news/agilityWNBC_010614.html
It will be interesting to see how the mixed breeds fair in the finals and what, if any, media coverage the finals get.

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Susi February 2, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Thanks for passing this along, Kathy. I’ll be “boots on the ground,” as they say, at the agility trial and it’ll be interesting to see (or, more accurately, hear) the ringside buzz and what the media will do with it.

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Debbie Perrotty February 2, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Leaving in a week to pick up my new puppy. Own the sire. Studied the pedigrees with the dam’s owner. All health tests done. Drove to ti Indiana from Florida to do breeding. Many expenses to guarantee as much as possible a healthy litter. Litter evaluated, cerfed, wormed, first shots done before any placements. Proud to be getting my Pure Bred puppy.

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Susi February 2, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Congratulations, Debbie, I’m excited for you! And I’m glad you wrote to share what all you’ve gone through to get that puppy. I hope to hear back from you when you’ve had your baby for a time?

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Pam February 3, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Looks like another WIN for the HSUS/PETA crowd. I personally have no problem with mixed-breeds competing in performance events, but now I’m just waiting with worm on tongue for the mixed-breed crowd to insist on inclusion in conformation…even though they apparently have no idea what conformation is about. In all honesty, we have a couple of mutts and they are wonderful dogs BUT they are obviously not predictable in size or temperament in the way our purebred show dogs are. I have also been enjoying the term “hybrid dog” for the last 10 years. Really? Just wishing we could all get along…

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Susi February 3, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Divide and conquer is an excellent strategy, Pam, and “getting along” wouldn’t serve the purposes of an animal rights agenda that ultimately wants to end pet ownership. Loveable mutts ARE wonderful dogs, as are purebred dogs. It seems that “choice” is a great buzzword everywhere else BUT dogs.

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Lorraine Pedersen February 3, 2014 at 7:01 pm

I would like to clear the air here regarding the Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America (MBDCA). The club came into existence because the only other venue offered for mixed breeds to compete in was AMBOR and that group did not offer Conformation. As for the parenthetic “huh?” comment from the auther after writing that – there IS a standard, but the standard for Conformation in the MBDCA is based on a healthy happy dog that likes to work with its owner. “…GENERAL APPEARANCE: The Mixed Breed Dog is a well-balanced dog of any size and with appropriate bone. He is attentive and animated, showing strenth and stamina combined with unusual agility. Slightly longer than tall, he can have a coat of any length and coarseness with coloring that offers variety and individuality in each specimen. CONDITION: The Mixed Breed Dog should be in good physical condition, of proper weight, with healthy skin and no sores or scaling. Good grooming and cleanliness are important….” It goes on to include Temperament, Head (including Teeth, Eyes, Nose and Ears), Body, Forequarters, Hindquarters, Coat, Color, Gait (Smooth, free and easy; exhibiting agility of movement with a well-balanced ground covering stride), Surgery (dewclaws may be removed….Cropped ears and/or docked tails are allowed but not encouraged. And in boldface, Spaying or neutering is required….), Miscellaneous and a Scale of Points. Classes are determined by gender and size, with males showing first (as in AKC) and the classes being I for dogs under 15″, II for dogs 15″ and under 22″ and III 22″ and taller. Junior Handling is also offered, and a Grand Ch has been available for many years. The judging is based on AKC There are no professional handlers in the MBDCA – while people may ask someone else to handle or show a dog for a specific class, it as done as a favor and no money ever changes hands. I have been a member of this club since 1992 and I have NEVER seen or heard of anyone trying to make a purebred owner feel guilty about having a purebred dog – in fact, most of us have, have had, or only have, purebred dogs. And I did not encounter a superior attitude from people either, because they have mixes. The club has definitely “gained traction” but the fact that members are so widespread and scattered has prevented many from competing in organized MBDCA events. Then when the AKC allowed mixes to be registered, we did lose a lot of members and protably the chance to bring in new ones – and the main reason for this is the availability of AKC events, vs the scattered events of the MBDCA chapters. The chapters that thrived for a couple of decades under the MBDCA umbrella were in St Louis (still extant), California (still extant), Washington (defunct) and Oregon (defunct). St Louis and California may not exist much longer.
I do not recall the author contacting the club for any facts or information (that would most likely have devolved onto me to provide), so I am not sure where her information is coming from, other than personal opinion or conjecture. That being said, I do realize that the gist of the article is the hot debate about mixed breeds being allowed to register with the AKC and compete in their events. I do believe that idea was based on more revenue, and I am pretty sure they got it, based on the people I know who are members of the MBDCA and compete a lot in AKC events. I surely did not expect any drop in entry fees from the AKC or lower registration fees or any other show that they had another good source of revenue, and I was not disappointed.
I won’t even get into the AR discussion here – but suffice it to say, I see that the purebred world blames almost everything on the AR people. I am not saying they are wrong or right, I am just making an observation. But when it comes to things like BSL, so many people automatically jump at the AR people, saying they are driving it, when I submit for contemplation they are NOT driving that. What is driving that is people who are sick and tired of being intimidated or attacked by dogs that are owned by irresponsible and sometimes cruel people, who do not control or train their dogs. In all honesty, if you child was attacked by a dog and you appealed for help to publicize the event or bring the irresponsible owner to justice or get the dog off the street, and the only people who jumped up and said they would help were AR people, would you refuse their help? Where are the AKC and its members when people are looking for solutions to this problem?
As for mixed breed owners “nosing around” the AKC – it was a joint effort between the AKC and the MBDCA leadership at the time that brought into being the Canine Partners program. Even though we knew it would probably have a negative impact on the club’s membership, we felt it was a bigger opportunity for more of our members to have access to titling events that the MBDCA could offer. We were correct in that assumption. Our memberships have dropped and two club chapters are now defunct, with the two remaining limping along. But quite a few of our members have gone into the AKC venues and done very well, working as partners – and that is a big deal for any dog owner and dog lover.
I do think it is in pretty poor taste what was said about Alfie – how he was purchased from a pet store at a huge discount and his owner started him in agility because of his energy. It is almost like the AKC is saying it’s ok to buy pet store puppies. But here again is a dichotomy from them – the AKC counsels against buying pet store puppies and warns about puppy mill puppies, but they register these dogs. Remember a few years ago when the AKC was going to do preferential registrations on puppies bought in certain pet stores?? And how the purebred dog public went ballistic over it? If anyone thinks the AKC is not about money, think again.
At any rate, I did want to get in my 2 cents’ worth – which has stretched to at least a dollar’s worth with this wordy piece. The MBDCA does exist, we are not snobs and we NEVER saw it as a “mixes – vs – purebreds” – I don’t know where that came from, but it did not come from us.

Lorraine Pedersen
Vice President, Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America
Lake Stevens, WA

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Susi February 3, 2014 at 8:29 pm

I’m delighted to hear from you, Lorraine, as information from the proverbial “horse’s mouth” goes a lot farther than second hand information. We agree on some points, and on others, not so much. You don’t recall the author (me) contacting your club for information because in my view, this is relevant material that should be readily apparent on the web site. Also, it stands to reason that the articles I write that appear on this site are my personal opinion. My blog, my views.

If I may, I’d like to address your points as they appear. You ask where I would seek help if my child was attacked by a dog, and tacitly suggest a “what if” scenario in which the only people who would jump to help are AR people and not the AKC. You’ll note that I didn’t paint a rosy picture of the AKC either, but anyone who thinks the AR would offer help in such a scenario for the good of the family is, in my view, deluding themselves. Such a situation for, say, HSUS, would be manna from heaven. They are the figurehead for a movement which seeks to eliminate dog ownership altogether, and they’ll do it one breed at a time, through legislation, lobbying and elections, and they’ll do it with the money they get through donations, of which less than 1% actually goes to help dogs. Perhaps the biggest difference between us at this point is that you seem unsure about the animal rights movement (“AR people. I am not saying they are wrong or right”) whereas I’m content to say up front that at the heart of the movement is radical agenda that is deadly to the notion of dog ownership.

We can agree about the AKC. As much as I want to believe their ideal, “actions speak louder than words,” and you’ve provided a number of ample situations that puzzled most purebred dog fanciers (preferential registrations on puppies bought in certain pet stores, for starters, also the AKC’s counsel against buying puppies from substandard breeders, but then registering puppies from them). It’s beyond disheartening to purebred dog owners who are looking for a Super Hero to protect their interests and set the record straight: Ethical breeders are not responsible for overpopulation. Ethical breeders are not creating genetic freaks, nor are most of them responsible for the estimated 6% of purebred dogs ending up in shelters. Somewhere along the line, bad owners seemed to have gotten a pass.

That said, the “huh” comment was made by me because conformation suggests an ideal based on the purpose of the breed. When two or more breeds are involved in a mixed breed, where does one begin? The Mixed Breed Dog Club’s ideal for conformation is based on a sliding scale (my opinion). “Appropriate bone?” Appropriate to what? A big dog? Not all big dogs have bones commensurate with their jobs. “Slightly longer than tall” does not necessairly suggest balance as many herding breeds rely on short coupling and squareness to pivot on a dime.

All this said, I would be happy to promote your club with all the information you feel I left out in the original article. At the end of the day, we are dog lovers (or should be). I have no beef with mixed breeds and like the idea that they have a home in the Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America that is dedicated to their interests. Where I do have issues is when purebred dog owners are made to feel guilty for not only owning a purebred dog that isn’t a rescue, but for one that was bought from a quality breeder. Lorraine, you may not have experienced this, but I ask you to trust me that this sentiment exists, and most dog owners of a purebred bought from a breeder have felt it. Thank you for writing!

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Lorraine Pedersen February 4, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Hi, Suzi – thank you so much for replying to my post. Yes, I am a dog lover and seem to have made up for lost time since my mother wouldn’t let us have dogs when I was growing up. My first dog ever, at age 18 (far longer ago than I care to think about!), was a mix, so I’ve had purebreds and mixes. Now I have two purebreds, a Rhodesian Ridgeback (RR) and a Greyhound. The RR is a semi-retired show dog and the Greyhound is a retired racer – my second of each breed. While I have not encountered the attitude from a mixed breed owner that tries to make me feel guilty for having a purebred, I have encountered flak for my RR not being netuered. Some have even asked me why he isn’t neutered. To which I reply, “He’s a show dog.” Which probably doesn’t explain it to a lot of people. There are those who would try to make me feel guilty for buying a dog when so many need to be rescued, but I will not take on that guilt and I can explain to these people that I wanted a show dog and you will not get one from rescue. I know this to be a fact because I am active in several rescue groups. I do try to educate people whenever I can, but some people just refuse to listen to another’s viewpoint. It’s sad, because there is much to learn from other people and of course, from our dogs. The dogs don’t care if they’re mixes or purebreds and they don’t care if they have fancy names or not. They just want to love and be loved and I feel most of them are happy with jobs and/or lots of training and activities.
I realize the conformation standard is not what anyone would expect – you’re right in saying, “How do you write a standard for that?” The judges we get for our events are all conformation people with purebreds and many of them have told us they really enjoy judging conformation for us, as it’s a real challenge! Plus we’re really good to our judges! : )
What information would you like to see on the MBDCA website? I will see if we can get that up there. And thank you for your offer to promote the club!
Lorraine

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Kitty Norwood February 4, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Suzi,

I have enjoyed reading your blog and most of the comments. I would like to add my views about it all-I am the president of the Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America. Thanks to Lorraine for telling everyone about our conformation standard for mixed breed companion animals.

Why Mixed breed conformation? It never struck me as odd–since I had shown my Appy gelding in conformation–having conformation to pick the best breeding examples of the breed isn’t the only reason to show your animal in conformation. How about the ego trip when your dog wins Best Whatever? For me it was the only way I could participate in the club because my dog took ten times longer to train in obedience (off leash). But he had good looks, good structure and a fabulous gait. In fact he and another dog in our club each won Best in Match over purebred dogs. Of course we were “cheating.” Our dogs were mature and were Mixed Breed champions whereas most of the purebreds were in some stage of puppyhood(they couldn’t have earned more than 3-5 points and no majors to participate in the match). In order to be a champion Mixed Breed(MB) the dog has to get 30 points and have earned their MB C. D. or MB R. E. I had to pull Rex out of conf. Competition for two years in order to earn our “working” title.

See, what AKC should do is have MB conformation because many of our members not being satisfied with the dead-end of a MB championship went on to put championships on purebred dogs and breed them. I can think of at least 6 different breeds that our members “graduated” to and put championships on. The same goes for obedience competition– our members wanted to see how they stacked up as trainers or wanted more opportunities to trial and many went over to purebreds–it was the known qualities of the breeds that won them over.

So, yes, being able to show in AKC shows was the death of our West Coast and Northwest chapters. But our club got us through those years when there was no where else to get titles–I believe AMBOR titles way more dogs than we do but our chapter actually put on our own shows and National Specialties. We are a very small club–at one point say 2008 we had about 200 members. We are lucky if we have 100 left. The only thing we can offer MB dogs these days is a Versatility Title, MB tracking titles (tracking clubs around here are checking the box: no all-Americans allowed) and year end High Scoring Obedience Dog and High Scoring Rally Dog. With the chapters closed there will be very few opportunities to show in conformation. Several of the regular matches have dropped conformation classes due to low attendance.

So, yes, I am glad AKC let’s us show in companion events. I was hoping to take both of my dogs to the same show (my other dog is a rescue rough collie sold in a pet store), but my MB died last year. Before he died I did take him to enough AKC trials to earn his C.D. and R.A. And when he died, I was looking for a dog with characteristics that would make him a good obedience dog. I decided I wanted a GSD (had one years ago) or a Lab. But I didn’t have time to select a breeder so got a sweet 5 month old puppy from GSD rescue– no he wasn’t pure–he’s supposedly GSD and Lab. He’ll be perfect for obedience. Sometimes the dog finds you.

And, I have felt stares at AKC trials with my MB. I’ve had a person allow her male dog to bully his way to pee on a bush–really? I would never be that rude. Our MB clubs allowed members and non-members to show their dogs in our matches and even our National Specialty as FEO.

The holier than thou attitude that some commenters are attributing to MB owners is worrisome. I don’t think they are members of our club. In fact we seem to be such a amiable bunch that many members who “graduated” to purebreds are still very active on our National Board and in the St. Louis Chapter.

I hope we can all agree that we love our dogs dearly and we enjoy showing our dogs whether it is in conformation to further our favorite breed or a companion event to showcase our dogs’ abilities and our training abilities. Whether we love MBs or purebreds or both, we are all in this boat together and it will be much easier to keep it afloat (keep our sport alive) if we work together. Let MBs in your next trial. Maybe their handlers will join your club, write your newsletter, be your treasurer.

When our Calif. Chapter folded, I joined the local AKC dog training club. I am the treasurer and was acting Registrar. That’s what members of the Mixed Breed Dog Club’s of America do.

And no, I probably won’t show my MB in conformation–too few shows and he’s a pacer!

If you have made it this far, I wish you luck in all your doggy endeavors.

Kitty Norwood
President, Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America
(Redwood City, CA)

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Susi February 5, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Kitty, I’m delighted to hear from both you and Lorraine. Your collective comments have been valuable to the discussion and eye opening to more than just a few of us. I admit that many of us in the purebred world of conformation will find it hard to embrace the idea of conformation classes for mixed breeds, in part because predictability is a desired trait in purebred dogs and that would surely “go out the window” when breeding dogs of unknown ancestry.

Historically, people bred dogs with traits they liked in the dogs, even if those dogs were of different breeds (or even mixed ancestry), but ultimately a breed resulted when those traits were bred repeatedly, consistently, with purpose and became “fixed.” The Black Russian Terrier is a wonderful example of how the Russian army blended many breeds to ultimately come up with the BRT which bred “true” in the relatively short time of about 50 years. To come up with their ideal military dog, they included the Airedale, Giant Schnauzer, Rottweiler, Newfoundland, Caucasian Ovtcharka and maybe the Moscow Water Dog because each breed brought something different but desired to the table.I guess what I’m suggesting is that when an owner of mixed breeds embarks on breeding desired qualities between mixed breeds, his or her ultimate goal (whether he or she knows it or not) is a litter of puppies with fixed traits, be it an exceptional prey drive, agility or a good nose. Fixed traits, to me, anyway, mean predictable ones, the hallmark of a well bred purebred dog. You know all this, of course, and I’m thinking out loud here as to why purebred dog owners may be baffled by the notion of purposely breeding mixed breeds unless it IS to create a new breed of dogs with those desired traits – and isn’t that what purebred dog people have been doing for a couple of hundred years?

I think more than anything, it’s not snobbery that purebred dog owners are exhibiting (though some of us are very good at that, as well ), as much as it is bafflement. As others have commented here already, conformation is an assessment of breeding stock, and many mixed breed dogs are neutered, so the thought bubble over their heads might well read, “What’s the point?”

I HAVE heard from several people that involvement with mixed breeds led more of them than I would have thought into purebred dog ownership, so I stand corrected on that point (though my acquaintance, “Missy,” from the article will remain militantly pro-mixed breed), and I would agree with you, Kitty, that dog owners from all disciplines and walks must work together. I am steadfastly convinced that though the animal rights movement started with the purebred dog world, they will ultimately reveal their true agenda and go after all dog ownership an inch at a time. We can’t defeat them without you, and truth be told, “my world” can use the amiability you’ve displayed with a pleasant and informative response.

I think this is where we all link arms and sing Kumbaya.

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Kitty Norwood February 5, 2014 at 7:33 pm

All of our dogs are neutered–our members are not allowed to breed their dogs–although there are some “sport breeders” around who purposefully mix breeds looking for special traits such as the the person mentioned about fly ball and agility. They have a whole website and are mixing whippets, border collies, border terriers (?). You can get a dog 1/4 this, 1/8 that. Those people are interested in their own sports and maybe only one owner joined our club.

So Mixed Breed Conformation is about as useful as showing my Appy gelding in conformation–it is only for the fun of it and the ego thing. Most of us do not know which breeds our mixes are. And some are a combination of mixes from the Central Valley and other farming communities. But like purebred owners/breeders we take great pride in the build and gait of our Grand Champions. And it does get some people hooked enough to start showing purebreds.

The MBDCA just started advertising our club in the catalogs at AKC Obedience/Rally trials. I even talked to a couple of All-American owners at the trial but I doubt we will get anywhere because we no longer have a local presence. If people are going to join a club they want some familiarity with the members–not just hi at shows.

At any rate our three Chapters closing was a loss for us but a gain for local AKC & UKC clubs.

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elaine February 7, 2014 at 8:01 pm

I am deeply disappointed that my post requesting sources for data in comments by you and Verjean was considered not fit to print.

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Susi February 7, 2014 at 10:22 pm

I can imagine you’re disappointed, Elaine, and I’m baffled by why your post AND my reply didn’t show up. Let me look into this because I promise you, I believed I had approved it AND responded. It was a good comment.

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Stacey February 9, 2014 at 9:50 am

I’m one of those people who started out competing with a mix and then decided to purchase a purebred dog. I competed for eight years in agility, obedience and rally with my mix. ASCA, UKC, CPE, and NADAC. I was THRILLED when the AKC started the Canine Partners program. I immediately registered my dog and looked to for a competition to enter him in. I soon found out that the local clubs did not allow mixes in their shows. So I basically paid the AKC to discriminate against me. It was disappointing but not entirely unexpected. When I decided to get a purebred dog, I made sure it was a UKC dog. I have always felt welcome at UKC shows. My dog is also registered with ASCA. The ASCA people were occasionally unhappy about the mixes, but I always felt like I was treated fairly. I also have a friend who has gone from mix to purebred. She went UKC as well.

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Susi February 10, 2014 at 8:27 am

Stacey, I’m delighted to hear your thoughts. There’s no doubt that there is room for improvement in the “fancy,” and no person, especially someone new to the sport, should be made to feel unwelcome. That said, it’s a competitive sport and not always the best environment in which to make new friends because of ring nerves and tension. “Back in the day,” many exhibitors had picnic after breed judging, a lovely way to unwind and get to know each other. I’m not sure why I don’t see much of this anymore, but I’d encourage its return. Thanks for writing, Stacey!

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Harry February 21, 2014 at 9:03 pm

You failed in your information to include ALL the facts regarding the Budweiser commercial for 2014.

The still shots were done using dogs from Southern Paws Rescue. The live shots were done with a breeder from CA.

If you are going to write try to be more factual and less dramatic.

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Susi February 21, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Thanks for supplying the facts you feel we missed, Harry, but what YOU have missed is the point of the article.

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Anne Lively April 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Hi Susi!

May I reprint “It’s a Mixed Up (Mixed Breed) World” in the next “Cassette”? You make so many good points!

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