While this article very eloquently speaks to why people should be asking for show-quality-bred dogs, pay particular attention to the last portion. And substitute “harrier” for “canaan dog”. Something we all should be seriously discussing IMO.
– Donna Smiley, Kingsbury Hounds
Response to “I just want a pet quality” statement.
Query received from someone interested in purebred, specifically Canaan Dog, rescue:
I’ve had a few purebreds, and more mixed-breeds. I’m not interested in “show quality” and never have (and never would) get into breeding or showing my dogs. I’m in it strictly for the companionship and unconditional love!
One of the shortcomings of the written medium is that humans are a very visual species,and we lose a lot in communication when we can’t include things like facial expressions and body language. I love, love, love these kinds of conversations so I put this as a caveat: I’m not trying to be argumentative, here, but I’d like to ask if you would be willing to discuss a few comments you’ve made above.
You don’t have to be into breeding or showing in order to deserve a “show quality” dog. In fact, I have made the argument on my blog that unless you are adopting a dog from a shelter, the only people you should ever consider buying a dog from are exactly the people who breed for dog sports like conformation (or the sport dog breeders who are breeding for agility, flyball, dock diving, etc). The reason for this is that for the most part, breeders who are active in a dog sport community are under a lot of (good) peer pressure to be BETTER breeders. They keep detailed records on the health of their lines,records that can only exist because they actively test and screen the dogs they breed from. That’s something you won’t get from the backyard breeders who are pumping out litter after litter just for the purpose of making money by selling puppies. People who are active in the conformation ring are out there asking their peers to actively judge the quality of the dogs they breed,inside and outside of the ring. The sport dog breeders are getting the same feedback in the sports that they compete in. The backyard breeders wouldn’t dream of doing that in a million years. The reputable, ethical breeder who has ties to their breed community not only gives their puppy owners a lifetime commitment to take the dog back — keeping it out of rescue and out of shelters — but these same breeders are often the same people who go into the shelters and pull out dogs to foster at home and put into the hands of people like you who want to become involved in a specific breed without having to go through the incredibly hard work of raising a puppy.
I often tell people that conformation is a game of degrees. Many times, the only thing that separates a puppy kept back for the show ring vs one placed in a pet home can be something as subtle as the angle of the shoulder bones, or the texture of the hair coat, or the placement of color markings. The puppies placed in a pet home are every bit as good as the puppies placed in a show home in all other respects — they just were off by a degree or two. Moreover, since you’re looking for an adult dog, I would encourage you to not discriminate against the show ring. Many, many breeders have retired champions living in their home who they realize would be happier in a different environment and they’re just waiting for the perfect home to come along. Maybe the dog would prefer to be an only dog, so they can soak up all the love and attention all to themselves. Maybe the dog has a softer temperament, and would do better in a home that had an older dog as a companion, rather than the some-times boisterous environment of a home with four or more adult dogs. Maybe the breeder has kids of her own, with all that comes with that like having friends over, and the retired show champion would do best in a home with an older couple, where life is quieter and moves at a slower speed.
The biggest benefit of adopting a dog from a conformation breeder is consistency: You know you are going to get a dog that looks like X and for the most part will act like Y. There is some variation from dog to dog within a breed, of course, but for the most part you can guess that your Doberman puppy is going to grow up to be a one-person dog and will probably not tolerate other dogs of the same sex. Your Golden Retriever is probably going to like tennis balls and be pretty welcoming to your kid’s friends and your neighbors.
There’s nothing wrong with saying you’re not interested in competing in conformation. It’s nota sport for everyone. It’s political, and people can be nasty, and it’s a lot of time and money for scant reward. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with a bunch of other people who speak DOG like you do, it’s an incredible rush when the judge points at your dog in the ring, and heck, it’s fun just to go watch all the pretty doggies! But please don’t confuse” I don’t want to show my dog” with “I don’t need show quality.” You DO need show quality. You DESERVE show quality, and so does every single other person on the planet who has done their homework, identified a breed of dog that they think will be an acceptable match with their needs and lifestyle, and found a reputable breeder.
I’m not anti-mixed-breed dog. The dog we owned before was a mix of indeterminate type (he looked like a German Shepherd mixed with a Beagle), and I loved him unreservedly. The day he died he took a little piece of me with him. There are some serious flyball competitors out there doing really interesting things with Border Collie/Staffordshire Terrier crosses and Border Collie/Whippet crosses. Dog sports are the new frontier for “working dogs” and just like people have always done, they’re going to try and breed a better dog.
Now, to address the last point, about breeding your Canaan Dog: Canaans are a heritage breed. They are also vanishingly rare. How rare? Well, according to the ASPCA, there are about 78 million dogs in the United States. To the best of our knowledge, less than a thousand of those dogs are Canaan Dogs. To put it another way, .0013% of all dogs in the United States are Canaan Dogs. They are THAT rare. [In 2012 there were a total of 70 Canaan Dogs registered with AKC, SEVENTY.] To our best estimates, there are probably 3000-5000 Canaan Dogs in the entire world. Without breeder intervention, this is a breed of dog that is teetering on the edge of extinction.
I’m going to go out on a limb here as someone who has never bred a litter of dogs in my life, and I’m going to say that the normal rules about breeding dogs take on a different light when you’re watching a breed disappear. Yes, we should only be breeding dogs who have competed and earned a championship; yes, it’s still imperative that we test our dogs for health issues so that we can be sure the dogs we pass on to the next generation are as free of genetic disease as possible, but above all else, we need to be breeding as many qualified females as we can, or else one day there won’t be any Canaan Dogs left to breed. The rarity of the breed doesn’t mean that we should expect less of our breeders, but it does mean that if you own a qualified female, you should be prepared for the eventuality that the breeder you acquired the dog from is going to be looking at you and asking you to make your dog available for breeding. We don’t have so many dogs that we can afford to shut down bloodlines without losing some vital genetic diversity within the breed.