Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Purebreds and Mixed Breeds, Registered and Grade

"When you are looking to buy a horse," I asked K, "what's your order of importance?"

He walked to the fridge, grabbed two more Coronas and handed me one before returning to his spot by the stove. It was cold, the day had been long, and we still needed to feed. It was easy to dawdle in  heat emanating from the wood burner.

"Cash, preferably somebody else's."

"That's not what I meant," I said. "When I look at a horse, my first priority is my gut reaction...you know, the thing that happens when you look at a bunch out in the field, and you think, Oooh, look at that one.

"Next, I look at conformation. I like short cannon bones on straight legs, a level head set with a good natural arch in the neck, long, heavy hip, good angles...

"Then I mess with them some and check out their temperament.

 I guess I look at breeding last, earnings on the parents, that kind of thing."

He thought a minute."Breeding, gut, temperament, conformation."

"Really? How come?"

"Breeding gives me an idea how the horse will be to work and an idea of it's resale value. I need to ride the popular bloodlines, but ones I get along with.

"My gut tells me just about everything I need to know and I don't have to think it through.

"If a horse is going to fight me, then I don't want to waste my time and if the conformation is really bad, why, my gut would have weeded that out right away. The little stuff I can work around."

I wasn't convinced. My first two winning cowhorses were registered, but one was a ranch horse and the other a Foundation horse bred for color. I felt that any horse, as long as it was built for the job at hand, and had a decent mind, could compete and win in the event of choice.

I didn't disregard what K told me, I just filed it away. Good thing too, because I hadn't bought Madonna yet, or earned my way far enough up the trainer ladder to get some decent horses to ride.

When I began to experience the joy of riding a fine horse, bred specifically for the job at hand, I realized I'd been training chihuahuas to be sled dogs, and now I had me some huskies.

 I became very partial to a well bred cowhorse. Because I was privileged to ride a bunch of the best bloodlines, I learned which ones created a horse I got along with, which ones were easy to train, which produced a good non-pro horse, and which ones were going to be a lot of work.

I learned that these horses had been bred for function, and within reason, by studying their bloodlines first, I could count on getting what I wanted.

When it comes to dogs, I'm pretty wide open, I like herding breeds and terriers, but through the years my dogs have been a mixed bag. My biggest priority is for my dog to be my companion, my next is it needs to fit into my lifestyle. This means the dog needs to come when called, not bite guests or their dogs, leave livestock alone, and stay where I can find them, whether I'm paying attention or not.

Most dogs learn these things, some take more work than others, but I commit for life when I get a dog, so we have time.

Most purebred dogs have been bred for form over function for the last 100 plus years. The goal of creating cookie cutter copies of each breed hasn't worked out so well for the dogs. Hip dysplasia, cancer, inability to breathe, we've mucked things up in a lot of ways. We've bred hunting dogs that won't hold a bird, herding dogs that bite the kids but are afraid of sheep, terriers that won't go to ground, the list goes on.

Our mutts share many of the same problems, because Hybrid Vigor is bull-shit if both parents have the same genetic issues.

Here's the thing, even though the majority of purebred dogs have been bred for shape over ability, they still retain the essence of who and what they are. MOST hunting dogs want to play fetch and search out game, MOST terriers want to dig gophers out of dens and eat your kids hamster, MOST herding dogs feel better if everyone stays in a group and MOST guard dogs want to keep the bad guy  away.

So, I will keep these points in mind while looking for a dog, and add it into my basic criteria.
When I choose a dog, there are a few things I look for. Temperament, focus, amiability, and physical soundness. I like them to be pretty. I want to be able to trust my dog.

As crazy in love as I was with Brockle I still assessed his hips, elbows and attitude. I'm not a pro on the hips and elbows, but I'm pretty good at avoiding conformation disasters. He is clearly a mix of herding dogs, with who knows what else thrown in. I like herding dogs because they are less inclined to wander than a hunting bred dog, I enjoy their brain power, and sometimes I get a good stock dog out of them.

If I decide on a purebred, I'm going to fork out the dough to get a good one. I want eyes, hips, etc. etc. checked, verified and guaranteed with a blood oath. I'll still do a temperament test and I will have a specific reason to own one.

Either way, I have always found the dog I needed, without paying much attention to their form. They have all functioned as I needed, loyalty, affection and friendship being my most important requirements.

I haven't needed a specific breed or bloodline to find these things.





24 comments:

Becky said...

So... why do you think it's important in horses, but not dogs?

mugwump said...

Generally,horses are bred for the job they do, not the way they look.
I'm not talking halter horses...
Dogs are bred for how they look, not what they do.
Of course this isn't hard and fast, and there are problems on both sides, but it's my why and how.

Anonymous said...

Funny! I stay away from herding breeds BECAUSE of their brain power! Husky's and Chow's too - They are way to smart for little ole me. I'm happy with my Mastiff right now. She's as dumb as a box of rocks, but she is the perfect dog for our family right now.

Anonymous said...

I'm a purebred dog snob I suppose. I've only ever had purebred dogs. I like that I can have a general idea of the type of personality my dog will grow up with. I like knowing the potential health issues my specific breed will have. I am with you on the breeding for form instead of function and so every dog I've purchased I've made sure has come from bloodlines that are using the skills the breed was originally meant for.

When I was running marathons I wanted a running partner. I bought a Siberian Husky, I needed a dog that could handle cold snowy northern weather, that could keep up and who would enjoy running. I had a few breeds to choose from and I'm not ashamed to say that looks were a factor in the puppy I picked. His parents/bloodline were all weight pullers and sled dogs. I knew I was getting a high energy running buddy and based on his family's history I could be confident that his risks of hip issues/eye issues would be minimal.

When I was looking at getting a bird dog to hunt with I did the same thing. There were a handful of bird dog types at the shelters and I could have picked up a mutt from another hunter but I choose instead to get an English Springer Spaniel. I picked them because I wanted a dog that could hunt and snuggle and was happy doing both jobs. Again I found a breeder that specialized in field bred Springers, her dogs competed in field trials and she and her family hunted with them regularly.

Even now with my third dog, who basically has no other job than to snuggle me and wake me up in the morning because it's time for breakfast is a purebred and I got another ESS because I fell in love with the breed's personality, energy and looks. So insanely snuggly. I went to the same breeder I got my first ESS from and told her I wanted a house pet, she found me a puppy that was not even a little birdy from one of her litters.

I understand I'm not the norm when it comes to getting a dog, I spend a lot of money on them and do my research. I worked at a shelter for a good bit and I always hated watching people come in, pick out a dog because it looked cute/sad/lonely and then bring it back(or it magically end up a stray again) later because it didn't fit with their lifestyle. I'm convinced there's a dog breed out there for just about every lifestyle if people would take the time to consider what they want a dog for and choose accordingly.

Also a well bred gun dog isn't going to want to let you out of their sight. ;) They're more velcroy than wandery. Which means you deal with seperation anxiety often but they stick to you like glue.

-DogSnob Extraordinaire

mugwump said...

I'd only consider you a snob if you felt the dogs at the shelter weren't worthy of homes because they didn't meet the standards you have chosen.
I guess I might also consider you a snob if you didn't use your vast and superior knowledge about dogs to help potential adopters understand the breeds mixed into their shelter dog-and how it could affect behavior.I would definitely think you were a snob if you felt you were the only one who knows how to research. From what I understand, many people who take on a shelter dog end up there because research convinced them they could fill their needs and save a life at the same time.
If none of the above applies, then I wouldn't think you were a snob at all.

NotAFollower said...

Not all breeds have fallen to the "form over function" sickness. Weims are still very good, in fact, they were "recovered" during the 1970's from hip issues that crept in during their super-popular phase of the 1950's.

Get to know the lines of a dog breed, and you'll find the ones that are breeding for function and health. In every breed, there are people who are breeding for function.

If you find a good, responsible, breeder, you shouldn't have to check for temperament other than to make sure that you and that particular dog mesh. The _really_ good breeders, especially in the breeds that have a job, include early introduction to the 'work' and temperament tests.

NotAFollower said...

Just as you and K have learned to look at the breeding first, that's the first thing I look to when I get a dog. I've had several purebreds. One carefully chosen from excellent lines, the rest rescues of one sort or another. The best of them, all around, was the one that was carefully chosen from known lines.

I have friends who used to think that there was a shelter dog out there for every need. Today, they believe the same, with the addendum "if you have time to find it". Plus accepting that you run a higher risk of failure and having to start over when you start with a dog of unknown background. Yeah - you can go with the right breed, the right breeder, and still have a failure, but you also have the backstop of the breeder to help rehome the dog and evaluate what went wrong and how to make a better choice next time.

mugwump said...

Notafollower - Ah, you're stating a big difference in my approach to dogs and my approach to horses. I adapt to my dogs. I try to learn who they are, how they approach life and how we can make it work between us.
I have always made it work.
I have never returned a dog to a shelter or a breeder.
I'm totally OK with the adaptations I need to make, because my expectations are decidedly different from what I want from my horses.
If I wanted to compete with a dog at a top level, it might be different. But I don't think so, because who I am, without casting negative vibes at anyone who sees things differently, is a person who will give up the trophy if my dog isn't cut out for it and be completely OK with doing something else.
My horses? I'm a little different.

NotAFollower said...

Mugwump - and I would probably approach a horse for myself differently than I choose a dog. If I ever do get a horse of my own, it will be for casual trail and will be already grown up and trained, so I'll be focusing on what that horse can do today, as a trained adult. Rather like choosing a shelter dog and adapting to it. :-)

NotAFollower said...

Addendum: you are also among the rare people who think about what they're looking for in a horse or dog, the consequences of getting it wrong, what you'll do about that, and work from there. That's HUGE!

As has been said in other places, we don't have a pet abandonment problem, we have an owner retention problem.

mugwump said...

Man, I have to push this even further. Start over? No. Learn to work with the dog you have.You can evaluate a dog, any dog, if you use your head, understand your breeds, and have done your homework.
This applies every bit as much to picking a shelter dog as it does to buying a purebred.
Do you really need a Malamute because you like to jog in the snow? Maybe, if you want to justify owning a purebred beyond "It's what I want." Which is completely OK by me.
The reality is, give me two weeks and I can guarantee I will find a shelter dog that will jog you and your snowpants into the ground.
"If you have time to find it?" I'm sorry, that's one of the laziest things I think I've heard in a long time. If I'm looking for an animal who will share my life for the next 15 years or so, I'd better have time.
Again, I'm completely OK with owning a purebred dog. As a matter of fact, I'm interested in a few breeds that I will only own if they are purebred, because of the crosses that show up in the BYB variations.
If I was an avid hunter, I would look for a field bred version of the dog I wanted, it too would be well bred. But I'm not into hunting.
I'm not a boar hunter, a sheep herder, or a tracker of criminals. So I don't need a dog bred specifically for any of those things.
As far as temperament tests, you said a good breeder will have already done that for you, well, if I'm paying the big bucks I'd expect the same service. But since I have adopted my last few dogs from the 'hood, I learned how to do them myself. And it's paid off.
The dog I have now turned out to have a flair for Schutzhund. How cool is that? It never crossed my mind to participate in this sport. But my trainer spotted it, and I was given a whole new world to learn and explore. Is he the best? Hell, I don't know. Think about it, we're a decoys worst nightmare, green handler, green dog, mixed breed of who knows what...but we're having fun, and hanging with my dog. None of the highly bred, horrifyingly expensive dogs we work with seem to care, and it might surprise a few of you, but the owners of those dogs have been nothing but encouraging. They gave us a standing O last weekend...

NotAFollower said...

The more specific your needs, the less likely you'll be able to find a shelter dog to fit them. A number of assistance and working dog organizations have tried shelter dogs, and found that they were spending too much time training dogs that could almost-but-not-quite do the job. They turned to known breeding lines to save resources.

A friend of mine is seriously into flyball, a dog sport. She's given up on shelter dogs after trying to find one that would work for her, and watching a number of her competition friends try shelter dogs. Many came close, but only a bare few made the grade. She could keep trying, but every failed try is a dog being bounced around in the system and time lost in competition for my friend. (Side note: she is very active in rescue and always has a foster dog that she's working with. She takes the hard cases that can take months or years to heal.)

Just looking for a running partner? Yep - fairly easy to find. Just looking for a good dog? Yep, lots of those, too.

Just as a thought prompter: Horses live even longer than dogs - why not take the time to find that perfect horse on the cheap (rescue, Craigslist, distressed seller) rather than pay for a specific breeding? That would work for my needs in a horse - but I suspect not for yours.

You and Brockle, Jim and Snocone, are proof that shelter dogs are sometimes the RIGHT dog.

lil_peanut said...

I never would think or say that shelter dogs are unworthy of homes, they're dogs and all dogs deserve a warm bed and their own person. For the majority of the times I've gotten a puppy though a shelter dog would not have been a good fit for me, personally. I like knowing where my dog came from, what their parents were like, what the home was like. Sure, I could have picked up a long haired, active mix from a shelter or rescue but I would have less of a guess on the likelihood of his hips going out when he's 5 and me losing a running buddy. My dogs all end up with jobs that I would like them to be able to do with me for as long as possible. Even my current couch potato I'll probably try to get into field trials with because I miss showing dogs.

I know I'm not the person that would probably end up with a rescue dog of my own so I've made sure to volunteer as much as possible with the local animal shelter. I got them in contact with a long list of breed specific rescues to help get dogs out of the shelter and into fosters, I used my contacts in the dog show world to get more local fosters for the shelter and put in extra hours teaching the dogs there basic obedience to increase their chances of finding a home. I tried my hardest to talk the old women out of taking home the adorable 2 month old pit puppies. I campaigned to get more college apartments where I lived to accept dogs if they had up to date vaccinations and were spayed/neutered to help cut down on the pets that ended up back in the shelter at the end of semesters.

I've done dog shows and competitions for about as long as I've owned dogs. I like doing them and I like having the opportunity to win. I kinda equate it to when I was showing horses in 4-H during highschool. I rode a wonderful Perch gelding and we did cutting and barrel racing. He loved it, I loved it, sometimes we won and oftentimes he was sore afterwards. We could have never done more than what we did. When I was showing in eventing and wanting to do well I rode a horse suited to the disciple. My Perch would have been the 'shelter dog' my Hano would have been my 'snobdog'. Although both horses I knew the bloodlines and origins of them, which is one of the main reasons I buy from responsible dog breeders.

As for starting over with a dog, I'm torn. For the dogs I've had that I've hunted with and shown I choose them because I want to do well in the specific event and I also want a good companion. I would never sell one just because they did poorly, but I may consider rehoming them if they just didn't enjoy themselves doing something I wanted to do. Wanting to do field trials and having a bird dog that isn't even interested in playing fetch would be a difficult match up. I would do the same with a horse if I had purchased it for a specific job and it hated said job. For me it's not about winning or losing or trophies, it's about enjoying what I'm doing and wanting a dog to enjoy it, participate for as long as possible and be happy with me about doing it.

Do I love dogs? Yes. Do I think shelter dogs deserve a home? Of course. For my one dog at a time lifestyle is a shelter dog going to fit what I want in a dog? No, most likely not.

lil_peanut said...

^^ Oh hey look I have a blogger account. Who knew.

-DogSnob Extraordinaire

2 Punk Dogs said...

We have 2 New England House Dogs. They started out as Puerto Rican street dogs, one "missing crucial socialization" and one "fear aggressive and unadoptable" (according to the first shelter he was transferred from). They're wackadoos, but we knew that going in. We didn't need a specific breed to go hiking with, the main requirement is that they don't eat the cats.
People always ask what they are, and usually seem disappointed that we're not really sure. Some sort of 50lb pointer/whippet/terrier mix, not wasting the money on DNA tests.

Cindy D. said...

When ever some one new comes to my house the first thing out of their mouths every-single-time is, "Oh my! Those are the most gorgeous labs I have ever seen!" (refering to my two very well bred dogs) Mean while my dogs are carrying things around the yard, showing off what good retrievers they are. and people think it is just the coolest thing ever. My boy Mason, steals everyone's heart, every single time with his big old head, and soft eyes, and generally super happy attitude. When I first got him, I wanted his registered name to be "Talk of the Town" because I knew he would be just that, and trust me, he really is.

I admit, I love it when people are blown away by those two show dogs. They really are pretty dang awesome, and I like coming from a family that breeds the closest thing to a perfect lab that I can even imagine. It is vanity, yes and I guess that makes me a bit of a dog snob too.

But with that being said, I still have room in my life and my heart for my two pound labs of lower quality breeding, who are just as sweet, and very well mannered, and although they don't get as much attention, they are just as special to me.

I have never met a dog that I didn't love. Although I have come to recognize that loving a dog doesn't mean I have to own it. My daughter in law has an Italian Grey Hound, which i would never choose to own, but she is a sweet dog and I do like her. One of my favorite dogs that I ever owned in my entire life was all mutt. His name was Dukester my Dogster, and he was just the best. He came into my life when I needed him and he needed me, and when I lost him it hurt so much. I still miss him every day.

I promote responsible breeding, I do not promote irresponsible breeding. I promote adoption and rescue, but I don't think it is wrong to know what you want, and to be willing to pay to get it. I think it just depends on the person and what their needs are.

The same holds true for horses.

Cindy D. said...

Oh wait, I meant to say that my pound dogs don't get as much attention from visitors...they get a ton of attention from their owners.

MichelleL said...

Wellll...to each his own obviously.

I go in for the whole One Persons disposable animal is My new best friend scenario.

Got me a real purty palomino gelding that might have FABULOUS bloodlines (his Papers went MIA with his last owner before he was given to me) but he is a conformational train wreck that can't be ridden due to all of his health problems...which works just fine for me since I don't ride...thus proving the theory that there is the right horse for everyone out there IF you can find it and are willing to pay to keep it.

My dog was the end result of a wandering Husky and a bitchy Aussie. She was the last in the litter and "going to the pound if you don't take her" She was the most neurotic, emotional vacuum of a dog I have ever met. No way I could ever have another dog after her. It broke my heart when I had her euthanized two years ago due to her extreme arthritis.

Does not matter to me papers or no, I am looking for a heart connection. Accepting another being into my family is a very personal and emotional experience for me. I don't care if it is blind in one eye, can't see out of the other, with three legs, and one ear. If they "fit" they are family.

mugwump said...

Oh, lil peanut, you almost won me over until you brought up the hip problems at five in my shelter dog argument.
Hip dysplasia comes from inbreeding...purebred dogs. It is as indulgent a disease as HYPP is in horses, and unfortunately been passed on to mixed breeds from the purebreds bred for the show ring.

Anonymous said...

I fall into the category of getting a shelter dog because of the overpopulation problem, but I also took about a year to find my girl. This was the first time I had not gone to a breeder, and she is not pure bred, but I knew what I was looking for in a dog, she's been with me for 3 years now and she's just perfect for me. I know my breed and I took my time.

lil_peanut said...

I understand that hip problems have come from inbreeding purebreds, the issue is that they're so prevalent because there are so many idiot breeders. If I were to pick up a lab mix, gsd mix, husky mix it would all be a possibility and an issue. I can't expect backyard breeders or oops litters to be more responsible than the shitty irresponsible purebred breeders that breed young and often. Hybrid vigor isn't really a thing when you're mixing a husky that has shit hips with a gsd that also has shit hips.

And this isn't me saying I don't like any mixed breeds, there are a handful of responsible breeders I know that thoughtfully breed mixes for specific jobs and purposes like hog hunting mixes of ridgeback/pit and labradoodles. It's more me saying I like knowing where my animals come from. I like knowing what I'm getting into, personality and healthwise and I like pretty, shiny long coats.

mugwump said...

And anon gets a big "Yip!" from me.

Anonymous said...

Having recently bought back my (now bred, unbroke other than the 30 days groundwork she had from me 2 years ago...sigh...) Billy Black Chex / Sonita mare ... would love to hear your experience with these lines or this cross :)

On the dog front ... having inherited a breeding pair of ACD's several years ago (sire was imported from Australia), we bred a few litters before retiring them. Always sold the pups with the agreement to buy them back. Would I buy another purebred? I would if it was out of the sire's lines - he was probably the best dog I have ever owned. Other than that, I'd take my chances with a shelter re-hab that someone else didn't want to commit the time and effort to once it outgrew its cute puppy phase (that, plus the age of the pair, was why we did NOT continue to breed - too many throwaways in the local shelters). I have one of each right now - registered and shelter heeler.

LadyFarrier said...

Heelers aren't for the timid! I do truly believe that they're a breed most folks shouldn't own. I'm sure we'll be getting another one in a few years, when our current shelter dog leaves this earthly plane. Our last one was smarter than a lot of people I know! What a dog!

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