Tag Archives: show dogs

Blue Blue Merle

Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication aka Vinnie Westminster 2012 Best CollieWhile watching the 2012 Westminster dog show, this dog was the one I wanted. What a beauty! Then a Collie-knowledgeable friend commented that he should never have won Best of Breed because of his merle-to-merle breeding. Huh?

I started googling. 2012 Best of Breed Collie GCH Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication, Vinnie for short, is son of Wyndlair Avalanche, aka Aiden, top breeding collie in the US. Aiden was the only pup born from a deliberate merle to merle breeding, and he is deaf and almost if not fully blind. Because of that, Aiden has never been shown. But being AKC registered, his pups from a registered female can be registered, shown and bred.

The patterns of white and colour called merle are produced by a congenital glitch that might be accompanied by blindness, or partial vision, and deafness. It’s like white blue-eyed cats being deaf. Lots of dogs, including non-merle looking ones, carry the gene for merle coats, so it may or may not come out in their pups. Mixed with non-merle genetic material, the chances of getting the physical problems of the merle gene are not significantly great.

Breeders take a dog’s full lineage into account in choosing parental pairs in order to minimize congenital problems. That’s why pedigree papers go back so many generations. You do not deliberately breed a pair likely to pass on major physical problems. Well, to produce Vinnie’s dad, his kennel did.

Double Merle Collie

Wyndlair Avalanche aka AidenIt seems I’m not the only one starstruck by a dog like Vinnie. The demand for merles has increased, but getting them is luck of the draw. It goes against all good breeding practices to breed two merles together in hopes of increasing the odds of getting a greater proportion of merle puppies. Wyndlair Avalanche, Aiden, is the product of such a breeding choice. The only pup of the litter, Aiden is vision- and hearing-impaired, but he has a magnificent merle coat.

ad for all merle litterMaybe from him would come the jackpot – an all merle litter, as was advertised  by another kennel about pups sired by Aiden.

This is breeding to supply market demand. That is what puppy mills do.  A movie makes every kid want a Dalmatian? Let’s get the assembly line moving and fill that demand! Labradoodles become the new fad? Crank ‘em out! The exotic look of merle Collies becomes the new must-have? A reputable breeder takes chances with the physical soundness of their pups and the future of the breed? Apparently so. Aiden’s pups sell like hotcakes.

With his son Vinnie winning Best of Breed at Westminster, dad and son’s stud fees just went way up. Vinnie produces beautiful puppies, I’m sure, and with him Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication, Vinnie, Westminster Best of Breed Collie 2012not being a double merle, they might be physically sound. But they carry in their genetic structure the ticking timebomb of deafness, blindness and other congenital problems. That will affect the health and wellbeing of Collies for many years to come.

I had been hoping Vinnie would win the Herding Group so that he could vie for Best in Show. I am very glad now that he didn’t. Sorry, Vinnie.

darlene austin and magic sept 2010 st thomas fire musterFrom my St. Thomas Dog Blog Feb. 23, 2012, reposted with fond memories of Darlene Austin, my “Collie-knowledgeable friend”, and her beautiful Magic.

The 2017 Westminster Dog Show was held Feb 13th and 14th. Congratulations to  Rumor, the German Shepherd, and all the dogs.

(see comments below)

Puppy Mill

I supported a puppy mill.  Not directly, but I puppy mill poodle Leo May 23 2010contributed to the financial well-being of one. My Standard Poodle Leo had spent five years in a US puppy mill as a breeding dog. His adoption fee from All Breed Canine Rescue was $100 higher than the usual because the original rescue group in the States had paid the puppy mill owner $100 each for the dogs they had taken from him. I truly hope he just didn’t go out and buy new dogs. He may well have, since this wasn’t an official “seizure” of the dogs by animal welfare authorities. I am glad that Leo and his cohort got away but it breaks my heart to think about their replacements. I wonder how long they’ll have to live like these dogs did before they get out, to a better life I hope.

When I went to pick him up almost two years ago, I saw all the dogs. Volunteers from the American rescue transport group Open Arms Pound Rescue had brought them to Canada. The majority were adult Labradoodles,  so breeding dogs. They were cowering in the cars in which they’d been traveling. Some almost skeletal, matted dry hair – just laying there looking terrified. Some I was reluctant to go near – bared teeth warning. Two were outside their car. A big blonde adult male was standing defensively in front of a smaller adult female. She was pressed against the side of the car, trying to disappear. He wouldn’t let anyone near her. Some of the younger ones were happy to be petted and fussed over. A couple small pups, Poodles, were soaking up affection in people’s arms.

Meeting Leo

My chosen foster dog, Leo, meanwhile, was trotting around on the end of a leash meeting and greeting. I thought he Leo's first day home Sep 2008belonged to the man holding the leash, until that man said to me “I think this is your dog?” When I put him in my car, I realized that he reeked – dirty dog smell, urine and faeces. We drove home with the windows wide open.

It wasn’t until we were at home, away from the truly sad cases, that I realized just how weird he really was. Not just that he wasn’t housetrained and didn’t know how to get up or down steps – neither of those things are surprising in an outdoor kennel dog. He just didn’t connect with humans at all. He wasn’t overtly scared or show dislike of people – just seemed to not see them. With dogs and cats, he was fine – didn’t pay a lot of attention to them but wasn’t nasty. He wasn’t nasty with anyone, just wasn’t there somehow. I’d never seen anything like it.

Puppy mill autism?

He bonded with me right off the bat, but still didn’t really look at me. Just stayed very very close to me. I thought about naming him Velcro, but it seemed like a joke that was very sad. It was like I was his safety base, but he never really saw me even though he kept his eyes on me constantly. It seemed like a severe case of autism – man-made.

LeoWhite-haired man-made I realized the first time I heard him bark. We were at my mother’s and her neighbour came over. He’s tall and white-haired. Leo barked frantically and showed great fear.  For many months after, even after he’d settled into normalcy, Leo reacted that way with any white-haired man, especially if he was tall. So I know that much about the puppy mill operator. Leo’s only other fear/aggression reaction to people came when anyone, but especially a male, would touch his rear end. Even now, after almost two years, he still moves quickly away if a man pats his rump.

Inability to connect with humans, fear of men and of having his rear touched – those were his main psychological problems. His physical problems – I think at least one vet’s child can thank Leo for a year’s university costs. The amount of money that went just in the first few months to get Leo to a healthy state was stupendous. Parasites, bad teeth, gastrointestinal problems, urinary tract infections – all part and parcel of poor nutrition and bad living conditions.

Maybe a show kennel start

It’s been a learning process for me as well as Leo. He ate his meals well right from when he came to us. He had no idea what treats were and was reluctant to take food from your hand. That proved problematic at obedience class. His teacher said “Poodles are often fussy eaters.” Not him. Once he got the idea of treats, that ceased to be a problem!

Interestingly, the hardest thing to teach him was what is usually the easiest – sit. It took three weeks of classes, with plenty of homework done, before he would sit when asked. His teacher and other people have suggested that he may have started life as a prospective show dog. Apparently the main thing show dogs are taught is not to sit.

Sitting is the one thing they are not allowed to do in a show ring. And Leo, Leo and Charlie Dog Park Grand Opening photo John Blakeeven when he was getting the hang of all the other basic commands, would not sit. It was a wonderful moment when he did the first time. Now he plunks himself in a ‘sit’ in front of perfect strangers if he thinks he might get a treat out of it.

Dog show people have also looked at him for the stance that show dogs have or learn. It’s called ‘stacking’, where they position their legs to show themselves to best advantage. Leo does it automatically. So he may have come from a show dog kennel to the puppy mill anywhere from 4 months to a year old. He’s short, so that alone would disqualify him from show ring aspirations.

Puppy Mill ‘stock’

Dogs that don’t make the cut have to go somewhere and some breeders will let them go anywhere. So dogs that aren’t “good enough” for kennel club standards are turned into breeding machines for “substandard” pups to supply the pet store, private sale and Kijiji markets. Leo’s days of making babies are over. But I wonder how many Labradoodles and Poodles that I see on line for stud service or for sale are his descendants.

Leo really brought home for me the horrors of puppy mill dog production. Lois, of ABCR, said that these dogs weren’t bad compared to others she has seen. Her guess is that they came from a small-scale ‘miller’ operation, those with more dogs than ‘backyard breeders’ and less than ‘puppy mills’. I’ve seen the pictures of dogs seized in raids on puppy mills, I watched the documentary on Oprah. I cried for those dogs and for the inhumanity of the people responsible. But I never felt the deep pain in my heart until I had Leo, and realized just how sad it was that a sentient creature should learn to live as a means of production and have none of the joys of being alive.

Leo learns to be a dog

Watching Leo the first time he realized it was ok to sit when he was asked, the first time he picked up a toy and clumsily played with it. The first time he willingly approached a man he didn’t know to make friends. All these were moving moments for me, watching my weird dog do regular doggy things. And the day Leo first ran full tilt in a field! I’d had him loose before, and he’d just walk around by my side.

Leo running Sept 2009 photo D Stewart

But finally he took off after Charlie, a few steps. Then he decided to keep going. Charlie got tired and stopped running, and Leo just flew across the field – ears flapping, front feet high-stepping. He didn’t stop for a long time. I cried from happiness as well as sadness when I realized from his look of joy that he had maybe never done this before, and he loved it! Everyone who saw him run those first few times said that “he runs like a gazelle.” It was as if he’d just discovered that he had legs. To this day, he really doesn’t run with other dogs, he runs for the sheer joy of running.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 25 2010.

Missouri Puppy Mills & Prop B

Happy puppies, from ASPCA websiteOn November 2, 2010, Americans voted in mid-term elections.  One of the things voted on in Missouri was Proposition B, proposed legislation that would regulate dog-breeding kennels. It was passed by a small margin of mainly urban votes [update below].  The ASPCA, Humane Society and state- and community-level animal rescue groups supported it.

The American Kennel Club, at the national and state level, opposed it, as did groups representing puppy mill operators in the state.  It was also opposed by a Tea Party-affiliated group called Alliance for Truth, who argued that it was an invasion of individual rights by “big government”.  They went further, saying it would take away Americans’ right to own pets and farm animals.

Puppy mill 01-USA-PETA-wikipedia
Wire cage floor – less cleaning needed, paw damage for dogs

Minimum standards for food, water, shelter and exercise, rest between breeding cycles and a limit of 50 breeding dogs in a kennel, enforceable by state Department of Agriculture, is all that is included in Prop B.  The legislation does not apply to breeders with less than 10 dogs.

It can not, unfortunately, completely close down large-scale breeding operations of dogs for sale.  However, it is aimed at puppy mills, commercial operations where breeding is done for profit alone.  But it would apply to all dog-breeders, including show dog kennels.

I read the AKC website to see why they were opposed to Prop B.  I understand their fear that legitimate breeders will be penalized by legislation aimed at puppy mills.  That might happen; kennels might be inspected more often and some might have their size of operation reduced.  It would be good for the dogs, and other breeders, though if “reputable” breeders who do not maintain basic levels of care were made to provide adequate conditions for their animals.  It would be unfortunate for the conscientious breeders who work out of love for their dogs and the breed and take good care of both.

There is validity in the AKC’s fear that increased government standards and inspection may cause greater expense and paperwork for breeders who are already working on a slim profit margin.  Every small business owner knows that a government inspector coming in the door is never good news for your operating costs.

However, every small business owner knows that someone setting up shop doing what you do and undercutting your prices is also not good for your business.  Maybe they figure they’ll take a loss in the short term in order to drive you out of business, maybe they’re using cheaper labour, taking short-cuts, making a shoddier product but selling it to people who care primarily about the cheaper price.  Either way, it’s bad news for you.  It seems to me that breeding dogs for sale isn’t that much different.

2004 Westminster dog show, junior category winners
2004 Westminster Junior Showmanship winners

Reputable breeders show their dogs in competition in order to raise the prestige of their dogs and their kennel.  That takes time and money.  They breed discriminately, checking for genetic problems and researching blood lines in order to raise the quality of their dogs and the breed as a whole.  Time and money.

Good breeders do not breed females in their first heat or every heat thereafter.  That means “downtime” where the dogs cost the same in food and care, but aren’t generating money in pups.  Antenatal and postnatal care – special foods, vet costs, shots.  Lots of money.  Finding the right home for the pups, checking prospective buyers.  Time.  Taking back the pup or grown dog if things don’t work out.  Time and money.  (And reputable breeders make it a condition of purchase that the dog will be returned if the new owner cannot keep it.)  Making sure registration with the CKC or AKC is done properly and that “pet stock” pups are not used for breeding.  Time, money.

Now, say the breeder is you.  You sell your pups for $1000 and that’s not making a huge profit.  Down the road, a new kennel opens, advertising the same kind of pups as yours and charging $800 each.  People say, “Why should I pay you $200 more?”  Meanwhile, you’ve seen the cages stacked on top of each other with dogs unable to turn around in them.  You’ve seen there is no exercise yard.  You see an endless supply of puppies going out the door.  Immediate sales, no contracts signed, no assessment of buyers, no return of dogs.  You’ve got yourself a puppy mill beside you.  How are you going to compete?

This is why, in the end, I couldn’t understand the opposition of reputable breeders to Prop B.  At the very least, it might remove ‘fly-by-night’ competitors, whether they be puppy mills or accredited breeders who cut too many corners.

Missouri puppy mill rescue ASPCA
“The dogs were voluntarily relinquished by an owner who could no longer afford to feed them.” ASPCA

Puppy mills are a major industry in Missouri.  40% of all pet store dogs sold in the US come from Missouri.  Prop B opponents talked about the economy relying on puppy mills and therefore anything that hurt them would hurt the state.  That may be the case.  In the pre-Civil War American South, it was argued that slavery was needed in order to keep the cotton-based economy alive.  It was true then, and may be true in Missouri.  But that’s not a reason to keep an inhumane and evil socio-economic system alive.  The South survived, Missouri will too.

2016: How’s the “Missouri Solution” doing?

I wrote this post on Nov. 16, 2010 on my St. Thomas Dog Blog. In 2011 the governor repealed Prop B and instead brought in a “Missouri Solution,” which removed most of the teeth of the original legislation. The time limit for puppy mill operators to comply with the changes was extended from one year to five, so to 2016. I could find very little about whether there has been any improvement in conditions in Missouri puppy mills now. For more, see Wikipedia’s Puppy Mill (Legislative Response: US) and for details on specific puppy mills, state by state, see Humane Society US “Horrible Hundred” of 2016. There are eleven pages of entries for Missouri.

It’s another election year; the five years for implementation of the Missouri solution have passed. So how’s it worked out for the dogs?

Westminster Dogs

2012-02-14 hunter walker observer“Crategate” exploded in Mitt Romney’s campaign for the US Republican leadership, just as his Irish Setter Seamus’ bowels did when he was strapped in a crate on the roof of the family car for a 12-hour ride.  This story finally hit the media this week [Feb. 2012*].  Protestors used the publicity around the Westminster Dog Show held this week in New York City to garner attention for what Romney did to his dog.

And the winner of Westminster has caused great excitement in the once-yearly media attention paid to dog shows.  But another Westminster story got buried by the other two.

Pedigree ads

Pedigree shelter dog adWestminster dropped Pedigree as a sponsor.  Why?  Because they didn’t like the ads that Pedigree runs during the broadcast.  They were “too sad”, they said, showing shelter dogs in cages.  The wrong image of doggyness, evidently, to display while the Olympic athletes of dogdom showed their stuff.

How weird is this?  Usually in advertising, it’s the sponsors who pull out because they don’t like what the ‘sponsees’ are doing.  Westminster must be a very expensive event to put on.   Pedigree presumably has the big money needed in that it has been a major sponsor of Westminster for the past 24 years.

Shelter fundraising

I’ve been impressed that Pedigree holds a shelter fundraising drive during Westminster and that their ads show the other side of the dog world – dogs that are lucky to get any food no matter what quality, that don’t have someone worrying about tartar buildup on their teeth.  I’ve thought their Westminster shelter dogs ads are a good antidote, the yin and yang of “man’s best friend”.

Komondor in ring at WestminsterIt’s fun watching beautiful show dogs.  I ooh and aah, then look at my own.  I have a purebred who probably was born in a show kennel.  A Standard Poodle, he became a puppy mill breeding dog.  That’s behind him now and I hope he’s forgotten it.  I look at the Poodles in the ring, with their leonine hair.  “You could look like that” I tell him, in his short serviceable clip.  He could, but I’m not willing to put the time and effort into it.  I worry about ensuring he’s well fed, his coat mat-free and his body exercised.

When watching Westminster, I’ve got a purebred reality check beside me.  If I didn’t have him?  Maybe I’d think, wow, I’d like a dog just like the one on tv.  Go out, spend a fortune on a puppy, not have the interest or time to put into showing (which is a full-time job, not a dabbling hobby), and the dog becomes too much work and – that’s how dogs end up in shelters and pounds.  Not all of course, but enough.

Westminster purebreds, ad mutts

What I’d like to see in Pedigree’s ads at Westminster are the purebred Poodles, Mastiffs and Cocker Spaniels that are in pounds and breed-specific rescues.  The mongrels in the ads make no explicit connection to dog shows or breeders.  If that connection was made, Roscoe hound cross in Pedigree adWestminster might have a valid reason to object.  But would it be grounds to fire a sponsor?

Dog breeders, of all people, ought to know about the neglect and abuse of dogs and ought to be outraged about it.  Dogs are their vocation and avocation.  What’s wrong with Pedigree reminding us that there are dogs desperately in need?  The Westminster Dog Show and the AKC ought to be doing that themselves.

*From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Feb. 17th, 2012, when it seemed that the US Republican leadership campaign was as strange as it could ever possibly get. Bwahahaha!

Dog Gone

Eileen Key’s Dog Gone is about dogs disappearing from a boarding kennel.  Cleaning lady Belle wants to help her friend, the kennel owner, keep her business alive so she enters the world of dogs and dog shows.

Amazon link for Dog On by Eileen Key
click for Amazon

It’s a well-intentioned story about dog breeding and showing as well as dangers posed by a black market in purebred dogs.  But I felt important issues about pets and show dogs and breeding were muddled in their presentation.  Puppy mills, research labs and dogfighting fodder were mentioned as possible fates for stolen dogs.  The value of microchipping was stressed, as was the fact that chips are not like a GPS that track the dog.  You must have the dog in order to read the microchip.

My biggest problem was with the dog owners.  All the dogs were from champion bloodlines.  All were used for breeding and were beloved family pets.  The expected revenue from the central dog’s puppies was the means for financing the college education of the dog owner’s daughter.  Yick, I thought, are they concerned about losing their pet or an income source, one that they stress cost a huge amount to acquire?  So visions of backyard breeders recouping the cost of an overpriced puppy danced through my head.  The people who say “I paid $2000 for that dog, you know”,  “I can sell those puppies on Kijiji for $800 each, you know”.

Dog Shows

The owners enter their dogs in major AKC shows.  But they all have just one or two dogs who are family pets. However, nice as that thought is, I’m not sure it’s realistic. The amount of money involved in dog shows is made clear by Key, both the outlay required to participate at the top level and the rewards for having a champion.

Ok, there are people in the hobby or business of dog shows and breeding that do not have large kennels.  But they are pretty few and far between at the top championship levels.  Living and breathing dog shows is what most reputable breeders do, and Key’s dog-owners don’t do that.  So I wasn’t sure if I was being asked to care about pet owners who enjoy competing at dog shows or who see their purebred as a money-making machine.

Belle, our sleuthing heroine, is a self-confessed non-dog person.  Ms Key does not mention any dog in her acknowledgements, which seems de rigueur in doggy books. But she thanks kennel owners and vets. I think they gave her a good crash course in dog shows and pet care.

There is a strong Christian message in the book.  Rereading the publication details, I saw Barbour Publishing’s mission is to provide “inspirational products offering… biblical encouragement to the masses.”  It fits in easily with Belle’s characterization as a Christian and pastor’s wife.  It’s a good light read.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 16, 2012.