Does anyone here have experience of dog shows, like the ones on TV over thanksgiving? We’ve watched them plenty of times because it’s fun to see all the dogs. But everytime I watch, I can’t help but think it’s all bogus. Not in a malicious way, just bogus. For starters, the contest is how close a dog comes to the breed standard. Ok, so that seems like genetics of the dog. They either have them or not. How much effect does an owner and or handler have on that, other than the initial breeding factors? And second, the judging itself seems completely subjective. If we held say three shows, with the exact same dogs, but completely different judges, if it was objective, the results should be exactly the same (or pretty darn close). But judging from watching the judges I’d predict that wouldn’t occur.
BUT all my knowledge comes from watching the shows and of course one of the best comedies ever…Best In Show. So I freely admit I could be totally wrong, and I’d love to be corrected so I can enjoy the shows even more.
You just HAD to get me started, didn’t you?
I’ve never been directly involved in breeding or showing dogs, but I am a highly opinionated vet tech. My biggest qualm with the dog-show culture (and I admit that, as a dog lover, I watched the show on Thanksgiving, too) is that the “breed standards” stipulate the physical appearance of the dogs, to the exclusion of health or any other practical consideration. The glaring example is English Bulldogs, who now must all be born by Caesarean section because their heads are too big to pass through the birth canal. Another example is the brachycephalic breeds (those with the smashed-in-looking faces). Their jaws are usually too short to accommodate all 42 adult teeth properly, so what teeth they do have are crowded together and often out of their natural place, leading to malocclusions (some breed standards actually call for underbites!) and predisposing the dogs to chronic periodontal disease. In addition, their mouths may be too short for their soft palates, leaving a lot of loose tissue flapping around at the back of the throat, which can compromise breathing under stress or while asleep (nerve-wracking to recover those dogs from anesthesia!), and, combined with a mouth that can’t open wide enough to pant efficiently, can make the dog particularly miserable in hot weather (as I believe one of the commentators actually mentioned, vis. the Boston Terrier).
I once had a vet instructor who liked to say the worst thing that can happen to a dog breed is to get popular, i.e., more demand leads to more careless “backyard breeding” leads to more congenital problems. I’ll be the first to admit there are intelligent, conscientious breeders whose top priority is the health and well-being of their lines. But I’m afraid at this point the gene pools they have to work with are hopelessly limited, and the best the good breeders can hope to achieve is damage control. Every recognized breed has its own set of congenital problems to which individuals are predisposed. Food and atopic allergies in Labrador Retrievers, cardiomyopathy and skin malignancies in Boxers, back problems in Dachshunds, stomach torsions and hip dysplasia in giant breeds, luxating patellas (kneecaps slipping out of joint) in toy breeds . . . and that’s just the genetic side of the coin.
Then there are the breed standards requiring pointless alterations after the deranged genes have already had their way with the poor dogs. For example, some breed standards call for docked tails, specifying the number of vertebrae the dog is ALLOWED to have in its tail—the remaining , unwanted (WHY?) vertebrae are amputated, ideally within the first five days of life. But the most egregious, in my opinion, is ear-cropping, most commonly seen on Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Great Danes, “pit bull”-type breeds, etc. The excuse is that the natural, floppy (and adorable, in my opinion) ears on those dogs promotes a warm, moist environment that predisposes them to chronic ear infections. But then why not crop the ears on Labrador Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels, who have more ear infections than anybody else? (Try suggesting THAT to the AKC!) The fact is that, outside the dog-breeding world, ear-cropping is considered barbaric and obsolete. It’s been banned outright in some jurisdictions in the USA, and in some entire countries, and US veterinary schools don’t even teach the procedure anymore. I personally detest ear-cropping because I think it’s nothing but a relic of historical dog-fighting.
My other major problem with the dog-show culture is that they actually forbid spaying and neutering of show dogs. While I understand the logic of allowing for “champions” to continue their lines (such as they are), it’s another example of obsolete thinking, not to mention an appalling example to set in a country where countless homeless pets are euthanized in shelters, languish in sanctuaries, and yet continue to breed like, well, like animals in every state and county.
Let’s face it. Formal dog-breeding has done all the good it will ever do, and can only do long-term harm at this point. Let’s spay and neuter every dog we can get hold of, take care of the homeless pet population we already have on our hands, switch from breed clubs to rescue organizations, and send the AKC to the pound where it belongs.
To make a long post short (HA!—too late), I think “Best in Show” (like its spiritual cousin “This Is Spinal Tap”) is the best documentary you will ever see on its subject. So I’m sorry I can’t correct you, as you aren’t wrong. Also, I’d pay to see a “Planet of the Apes”-style dog show, as deros proposes.