Straight Talk from a Terrierman

I've been working on my book project this weekend and making slow but steady progress on the chapter regarding the concept of purebred dogs and the "sport" of dog shows. Surfing the net for information on the subject, I came across an excellent blog post regarding the AKC and its British counterpart, the Kennel Club.

In it, blogger Patrick Burns lays out a scathing indictment of modern dog breeding practices that are still based on failed genetic theories of the 19th century. He pulls no punches, even going so far as to point out the rather high inbreeding co-efficient in the offspring of Charles Darwin himself. Yet he is careful not to simply accuse dog show enthusiasts of stupidity or deliberate wrong-doing, saying:

" Let me hasten to say that the Kennel Club is not filled with evil people intent on doing harm to dogs. It is, in fact, filled with regular people who are different from the rest of the world only in the degree (and the way) they seek ego-gratification and are status-seeking."

And I agree. Most of the show people I've met are indeed very nice folk. I am sure that they really do care for their dogs and work hard at their "sport". They seem to have good intentions and truly believe that they are "improving" the breed, one dog show at a time. However, when it comes to breeds of dogs whose entire genetic code is supposed to be hardwired for the hunt, putting them in the hands of show breeders is like selecting marines based on their performance in ballet school.

Ballet school is not about training young men to storm a beach and dogs shows are not about dogs. Burns sums it up nicely:
"This last point is import: the Kennel Club is not primarily about dogs. Dogs do not care about ribbons, pedigrees, titles, and points. These are human obsessions. The reason a human will drive several hundred miles and stand around all day waiting for 10 minutes in the ring is not because of the dog, but because the human needs that ribbon, that title, and that little bit of extra status that comes from a win."


  1. Oh that poor, poor dog! What's his address he needs to be rescued.

  2. If you haven't already seen them look for Donald McCaig's book "The Dog Wars", Harriet Ritvo's "The Animal Estate" and "Dog Shows Then and Now" by Anne Hier.

    Hier's book is a history of dog shows and registries in Great Britan and the US; Ritvo's probes more into the sociological aspects of the increasing popularity of purebred dogs and McCaig's specifically on current politics, especially as they relate to the modern Border Collie.