Saudade

Today is National Purebred Dog Day.

At times I think it's important to visit key points that are often missed. Without domestication, we would not have dogs as we know them today. And while there is a push to select rescued dogs over bred dogs, there are some important considerations when making that choice. First... that every dog was bred. Intentionally or not, they were. The difference is whether they are bought first or secondhand, and if they were well bred in the first place. People want their dogs to behave predictably. Much behavior is driven by genetics. Predictable genetics = Predictable behavior. None of this denies the value of training, obviously.

Dogs were selectively bred into "types" and then "breeds" so that their abilities and inclinations were more predictable. "Abilities," implies that the people who owned and handled these dogs actually needed them to be able to do some sort of work or perform some sort of task. When dogs were bred for their ability to do a job, along with health (being able to do the job for a long time), and temperament (being a cooperative co-worker)... generally good things happened provided the gene pool wasn't narrowed in a way that creates common issues related to inbreeding.

I don't expect every dog owner to hunt, or do search and rescue, or bite sport, or any other work. But it would be helpful for us to recognize that having a purpose is generally a good thing, and not having a purpose generally makes one feel a bit lost. A colleague once remarked that being a "pet" (a loved member of the family) is the highest position a dog can have... the most noble work. All I can say is that I know that guy has never had a purposeful dog doing purposeful work. It's a comment born of naivety. I don't know any good dog (wo)men who don't hold their dogs as highly regarded members of the family, and also recognize and appreciate them for their specific skills. Skills that are heavily shaped by their breed/type. And I think that if you ask a dog, they would probably tell you "accouterment", couch ornament, or conversation piece is not their dream job.

There is a reason most service dogs, police/military working dogs, hunting dogs, SAR dogs are intentionally bred. I am fully aware that there are plenty of dogs doing those things who are “mutts.” The exception is not the rule. And with 70 Million owned dogs in this country right now, even a hundred thousand of those outliers is barely significant. When it REALLY matters, you leave less up to chance.

The larger point I'm making is that when dogs are intentionally bred with function, health, and temperament as the top priorities, good things happen. When they are bred, intentionally or not, for other reasons, in general the good dogs that come out of that are the exceptions, not the rule.

I love GOOD breeders. I love WELL BRED dogs.

And I hate the bad ones. Some dogs simply cannot engage in any meaningful activities because they can't engage in much activity at all. At the forefront of this trend of breeding dogs who are diseased by design, are... breeders. You generally see these things any time "looks" overshadow what should be higher priorities in breeding.

Most flat coated retrievers will die of cancer before they hit double digits. The extreme brachycephalic dogs (including many of the various bulldogs, pugs, boxers...) can barely breath. Any of the hairless breeds have teeth falling out of their heads by three years old because the same things that makes their hair not grow properly causes issues with teeth. Most great danes don’t make it past what most of us consider “middle age” for a dog. The German Shepherd Dog, when bred without regard to mental and physical capacity (or the outlet) to do the work it was bred to do is just left with unrestricted desire. It explodes in every direction instead of being channeled. It's obsessive compulsive disorder. This is why so many of them are neurotic messes. Mental and physical disease… by design.

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And a badly bred dog isn't suddenly made better by being purchased a second time from a shelter or rescue. Pure bred from a shelter simply increases the likelihood that you are getting a problem, a mess. It might imply a breeder was less scrupulous than they ought to have been, likely in both the breeding itself and the screening of buyers. Those things tend to go hand in hand.

A good dog can be found anywhere. But as your criteria increase, the desire to "luck out" falls away in favor of finding proven, predictable results.

If you buy a badly bred dog secondhand, you didn't do a good thing and they don’t transform into a good dog. You are supporting a secondary market for badly bred dogs. If you buy a badly bred dog firsthand, you did a worse thing. Not only did you fail the due diligence of researching, you paid retail. Rescue isn't good if it's perpetuating bad breeding. Breeders aren't good if they are perpetuating bad breeding. And the fact of the matter is that the market responds to the consumer.

Imagine if every consumer was well educated on how genetics play a role in instinctive behavior and temperament. That every consumer was looking at top line, angulation, and gait along with whether or not the dog was personable. That every consumer cared to know what the last three generations of parents died from and when. That they recognized that every breed basically has the same wikipedia information under temperament, and that they're all wrong. That they understood that any breed history that attempts to date back further than 100 years is contrived. And that every consumer was committed to buying what they need, meaning they get the dog that fits the purpose it needs to fulfill. Square peg, square hole. You can buy your peg where you please. Just make sure it fits the hole before you do.

And this is the ultimate reason for titling this post, "Saudade." People and dogs tend to do better in their relationship together when both agree on the purpose of that relationship and when the relationship fulfills the needs of each of the participants. And while relationship is a noun, it needs to be built... which is a verb. And maintained... another verb. There was a time when people were more deliberate about their decisions when it comes to selection of their dogs on the whole. And what if that could be worked in to modern dog ownership, and balanced with much of what we have come to understand about being compassionate and thoughtful to these amazing animals we choose to share our lives with? GOOD breeding helps people do that. Doing things "the old way" but with updated information would go a long way to fix many problems we are currently seeing with dogs and dog ownership.