As I was zipping around the TV options recently, I happened on the Westminster Dog Show where a Petits Bassets Griffons Vendeens—whatever that is—won Best in Show. The pup’s name was CH Soletrader Buddy Holly, so the dog’s sobriquet was as ostentatious as it’s breed.
Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs and have shared my home with many of them over the years, but the folks at the Westminster Kennel Club have me annoyed. If you are unfamiliar with the group, here’s how they describe themselves.
“The Westminster Kennel Club, established in 1877, is America’s oldest organization dedicated to the sport of dogs. It hosts the iconic, all-breed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the second-longest, continuously held sporting event in the U.S. The annual dog show—a conformation competition for purebred dogs—and the Masters Agility Championship and Masters Obedience Championship— where dogs from all backgrounds are eligible to compete.”
That last part about the agility and obedience championships was added in 2014, after animal rights activists complained that mixed-breed dogs were barred from competition, because, well, they were mutts.
Just about all my dog friends were mixed-breed creatures, most from the streets or shelters. I’m not looking for a pat on the back here, just stating a fact. It never occurred to me that any of them might be lacking because they didn’t have a breed nametag affixed to their lineage. Some of us can look past the droopy ears, mishmash of colors, and uneven body parts mutts often display and see the beautiful creature beneath the surface. But for some reason other folks feel the need to go all designer doggy, which leads to the problem of breeding dogs to display certain characteristics.
Before I go any further, note that humans and canines presumably got together about 30,000 years ago, probably when wolves discovered that those odd-looking, biped creatures were known to kill things and sometimes left juicy bits of meat and bone lying about. So, being clever creatures, they started following humans around. Somewhere along the line someone—I’m guessing a woman, mom-type—maybe found an abandoned wolf pup and raised it, which no doubt had other cave dwellers agog, after which the woman was probably named president of the clan.
Later, dogs were bred to perform services for humans, the canine version of singing for one’s supper. We’ve trained dogs to guard and hunt and herd and find lost humans in disasters. There are service dogs that help disabled people and police, and dogs that sniff out bombs and contraband at the airport. Important work.
Today, however, most dogs don’t have jobs. They’re just pets. Don’t believe me? All you beagle owners, when was the last time you were out hunting rabbits with your dog? Most of us do not contend with flocks of sheep or herds of cattle, nor do we need our Dobermans and pit bulls to protect us from random robbers. When was the last time those of you with Great Danes went stomping through the brush, trying to flush out wild boar? And all you fans of chihuahuas—I probably shouldn’t even mention this— but do you know what you’re little darling was bred for? Food! Yep. The Aztecs herded those wee dogs along with their warriors so they might have fresh meat when they were off doing warrior stuff. I mention this because I’m guessing you’re not sipping a nice Cabernet as you prepare to sauté your little pup with garlic and onions.
So, the question is, why are we still breeding dogs when millions go unadopted in shelters every year? Why are we breeding dogs with traits nature never intended, purebreds that suffer from genetic conditions. I’m talking French bulldogs, pugs, and Pekingese whose “adorable” features can lead to breathing and eye problems, as well as infections. Why are we willing to shell out big money to backyard breeders who prioritize profit over animal welfare?
I know some of you may be looking at your canine friend and thinking I don’t know what I’m talking about, because your dog’s breed is the best breed ever.
But is it? Really? Here’s hoping the next time you’re looking for a pet, you open your mind just a little. Maybe that shelter dog is a bit funny looking, but that’s doesn’t mean he won’t be the best friend you ever had.
Give it a try.
Anne Montgomery’s novels can be found wherever books are sold.
2 thoughts on “Here’s an idea! Let’s stop breeding dogs”
Great post, Anne! When I worked at our local animal shelter, mixed-breed dogs were by far the smartest. When we’re ready to have another dog, that’s where hubby and I will visit. Cheers, fellow dog lover!
Glad we’re on the same team, Sharon! 😉