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Purebred dogs

*** Just as a note, I’ve been breeding and exhibiting purebred dogs for almost 30 years. If you’d like to see some of my dogs, please go to

I was looking at Facebook today when I saw that awful set of articles show up again. You know, that “documentary” by the BBC about how ridden with genetic problems purebred dogs are. Along with it was  another article that showed pictures from a 1915 article on dogs and compared the pictures to some dogs from today, pointing out the “flaws” in the modern dogs (tho how they can do that just by looking, I’m not sure.)

One of my friends expressed upset at the articles went on to ask if there where any “normal” bloodlines around any more.

I felt compelled to answer.

First, what do you mean “normal?”
Do you mean bloodlines full of hip dysplasia? Because that’s what the St Bernard breeders have spent the last 30 years breeding OUT of their breed.. and quite successfully, I might add!

Do you mean bloodlines full of cataracts? Because that’s what Cocker Spaniel breeders have spent the last 30 years breeding out of their dogs resulting in a vast decrease in the incidence of the disorder.

How about bloodlines full of copper toxicosis? That’s what Bedlington Terrier breeders have been working to breed out of their dogs, including working with Cornell to develop the genetic testing to identify the marker for the disorder.

Funny.. no one in those articles mentions that.

In fact, no one mentions that the purebred dog fancy, BECAUSE they keep careful records, have done more to advance health science and genetic health of dogs than any other group.

You want to talk about the “awfulness” of inbreeding? Or line breeding?  Understand that those are two VERY powerful tools in the hands of anyone breeding animals of any type. It’s how we got chickens that lay more than one egg a day, cows that give large quantities of milk or have meat that is lower in fat. Likewise it’s how we get border collies that do a magnificent job of herding, or Akbash dogs that valiantly defend their herds (and are now pivotal in the cheetah restoration programs in Africa.) It’s how we get Newfoundlands that, on instinct alone, will attempt rescue drowning humans. And it’s how we get animals that are clear of genetic health problems.

There are some things you have to understand about the purebred dog fancy before you judge us immoral or cruel.

  1. No *reputable* breeder in purebred dogs makes money. NO ONE. We put our heart and soul and checkbook into breeding high quality, genetically healthy dogs. Those genetic tests are expensive. Showing is expensive. Performance trials are expensive. Whelping is expensive. Food, housing, vet care are all expensive. We take personal time off to care for our dogs. With the exception of ONE major dog show, we do NOT win money. At best we win a 25 cent ribbon and maybe a coffee cup advertising a dog food brand we don’t use. But we do it because we love our dogs and we love our breeds. And we do it so that when you purchase a pup from us you are getting a dog that not only looks and acts like you expect but is also genetically healthy. And what do we get for it? The joy of providing you with a dog that is healthy, happy and beautiful.
  2. Dogs can not show if they do not enjoy it. Period. There is no way you can MAKE a dog like to show. You can’t beat them into it. You can’t bribe them into it. They either love it, or they don’t. There is no cruelty involved in showing dogs. There can’t be because a dog that doesn’t like to show, won’t win.
  3. There is a saying “form follows function.” Conformation dog shows are about a LOT more than beauty. When the judge has a dog move down and back for them, it’s not just to see how pretty the animal is. It is to evaluate the movement, the physical structure of the animal, as it moves. A dog that is not properly conformed expends more energy to move than a dog that is properly conformed. A dog that spends more energy to move can not hunt as long, swim as long, retrieve as long, herd sheep as long, drive cattle as long, etc., as well as a dog that is properly conformed. Thus, “Form follows function.”
  4. There are MANY types of AKC competition beyond the conformation ring. There are hunting tests and trials, tracking tests, obedience trials, herding trials, agility trials, earthdog trials, carting trials. Every weekend there are thousands of dogs competing at these events where they are tested on doing what they were bred to do. If we were, indeed, breeding animals that were so grossly malformed, they could never compete at these events, yet they do, every weekend around the country…. yes, even the German Shepherd Dogs.
  5. Not just anyone can judge an AKC competition. Dog show judges, whether conformation or performance judges, are people who have spent years studying the breeds and the performance sports. They are experts in what makes each breed unique. They do not get paid, other than a small per diem and travel. Most take personal time off from their regular jobs to attend the events.

Please do not fall for the propaganda that “mix breeds are better.” This is part of the hype the designer dog people are using to sell their mixed breed pups for thousands of dollars. First, they will tell you that their dogs are “healthier” because mixed breeds have “hybrid vigor.”

Let me quote from Wikipedia

The term heterosis (Hybrid vigor) often causes confusion and even controversy, particularly in selective breeding of domestic animals, because it is sometimes claimed that all crossbred plants and animals are “genetically superior” to their parents, due to heterosis[citation needed]. However, there are two problems with this claim:

  • First, “genetic superiority” is an ill-defined term and not generally accepted terminology within the scientific field of genetics.[2] A related term fitness is well defined, but it can rarely be directly measured. Instead, scientists use objective, measurable quantities, such as the number of seeds a plant produces, the germination rate of a seed, or the percentage of organisms that survive to reproductive age.[3] Within this perspective, crossbred plants and animals exhibiting heterosis may have “superior” production on these scales, but this does not necessarily equate to evidence of “genetic superiority”. Use of the term “genetic superiority” is a value judgement, generally in the realm of politics, and is not science.[2]
  • Second, not all hybrids exhibit heterosis (see outbreeding depression).

A clearly ambiguous counter-example to any value judgement on hybrids and hybrid vigor is the mule. While mules are almost always infertile, they are valued for a combination of hardiness and temperament that is different from either of their horse or donkey parents. While these qualities may make them “superior” for particular uses by humans, the infertility issue implies that these animals would most likely become extinct without the intervention of humans through animal husbandry, making them “inferior” in terms of natural selection.

Some modern geneticists refrain from even using the terms inferior and superior due to the association of these words with political movements that espouse genocide.

Second, mixed breeds or “mutts” can have all the same problems purebreds have, just no one tests mixed breeds for those problems. And certainly no one keeps records of mixed breeds.

Now, are there bad people out there who breed dogs? Of course there are. But you wouldn’t buy a car without doing some homework about the seller, at least getting a car fax and a clear title, You should do at least that same amount of homework when you are buying a living creature that will be with you for many years. The “car fax” would be a family history of genetic health and a “clear title” would be health guarantee against genetic disorder for the actual pup you have purchased.

Finally, it is very important to understand where that the documentary and subsequent articles are coming from. They are propaganda pieces from ALF and PETA and other extreme “animal rights” groups whose stated goal is to eliminate domestic dogs and pets in general. (see following references)

You know what really scares me? The fact is, it’s beginning to work. The public is beginning to believe the people who want to get rid of pets, rather than those of us who have spent years working with our animals. You are calling ME immoral, cruel and a crook when the organizations making the accusations have been accused of actual animal cruelty… and see no problem with it! (

Right now, there are many delightful breeds out there that are vanishing because the public has begun to believe that all purebreds are somehow “flawed” and unhealthy, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.  And if it keeps up, we will no longer be able to find a lovely Irish Setter with its gorgeous red coat  or a darling little Affenpinscher with its monkey-like face.  I don’t know about you, but I would find that a terribly sad world indeed.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t adopt a rescue or go to the shelter to get your next dog. If that’s what you want to do, by all means, please do so!  In fact, all AKC breed clubs have associated rescue groups that work very hard to rescue and place any representatives of their breed that have tragically ended up in a shelter. We truly believe all dogs deserve a loving home.

But if you have a specific type of dog in mind, either in looks, size, temperament or performance, then by all means, seek out a *reputable* purebred dog breeder. You will not be disappointed.

PETA/Animal rights quotes

“In the end, I think it would be lovely if we stopped this whole notion of pets altogether.”
Ingrid Newkirk – founder and vice president of PETA
Newsday, 1988 February 21

“The bottom line is that people don’t have the right to manipulate or to breed dogs and cats … If people want toys they should buy inanimate objects. If they want companionship they should seek it with their own kind.”
-Ingrid Newkirk, President, PETA, “Animals,” May/June 1993

When asked about PETAs goals.

“For one thing, we would no longer allow breeding. People could not create different breeds. There would be no pet shops. If people had companion animals in their homes, those animals would have to be refugees from the animal shelters and the streets. You would have a protective relationship with them just as you would with an orphaned child. But as the surplus of cats and dogs (artificially engineered by centuries of forced breeding) declined, eventually companion animals would be phased out, and we would return to a more symbiotic relationship; enjoyment at a distance.”
-Ingrid Newkirk, PETA vice-president, quoted in The Harper’s Forum Book, Jack Hitt, ed., 1989, p.223.

“Let us allow the dog to disappear from our brick and concrete jungles — from our firesides, from the leather nooses and chains by which we enslave it.”
-John Bryant, Fettered Kingdoms: An Examination of A Changing Ethic, PETA, 1982, p.15.

Published inRandom Musings


  1. Susan Susan

    I agree with most of what you said. But:

    Let’s end the myth that good breeders don’t make money. Because they might make money. They might do a natural breeding to a near-by stud dog and then have a large litter with no complications. Selling 12 puppies for $2000 each, no way the breeder doesn’t make money ON THAT LITTER. But…they also might do an AI, might buy valuable frozen from a deceased stud dog, might have complications, might only produce a singleton or two puppies, might need a C-section — in which case the breeder might loose thousands of dollars on the litter. Most importantly, there is nothing wrong with making some money breeding dogs — so long as it is the result of careful and successful breeding.

    There is no such thing as a hunting trial. In the AKC world, tests are non-competitive, pass/fail events. Trials are competitive with winners and placements. Sporting dog events in the field are Field Trials and Hunt Tests. In addition, many of the parent breed clubs offer Working Certificate or Working Dog tests. Yes, I know, a detail, but if you want to write authoritatively, you need to get the details correct.

    Can we PLEASE stop talking about “adopting” rescuue dogs. Dogs are personal property and thus are acquired. Generally by purchase, although sometimes by gift. If a person pays money to a shelter, then it is a PURCHASE.

    And lastly, AKC judges DO get paid. Yes, they have invested their own money to become a judge but (except for tracking judges) they get paid. I don’t know why anyone would think this a bad thing — these folks work hard, they’re on their feet all day, sometimes outside in bad (wet, cold, hot) weather.

  2. Well said and much needed message. May I link to your post on my sites education page? ~Deb

  3. This is an excellent article and one I would like permission to borrow with your name of course. Beautifully stated and very complete. Thank you for taking the time to write this!

  4. Brenda Young Brenda Young

    Thank you so much for this. I too saw the article and really didn’t have an answer.

  5. Wonderfully written and well said. My Portuguese Water Dogs have been genetically tested for everything. And are clear of everything. Hips and eyes are excellent. And this is because of many breeders who came before me. The Collies I bred in the 1990’s were normal eyed and hips were good to excellent because of people who lived and dreamed a healthy happy dog. We need to stand and our ground
    And I’m glad you did

  6. Susan,
    I stand by my statement. Breeders do not make money breeding dogs. if you merely count the number of pups times the sales price, it looks great, but once you start looking at genetic testing, exhibition, vet bills, whelping costs, it quickly adds up. Add to that, most breeds do NOT have twelve puppies. My breed can occasionally have large litters, but I never sold all pups in the litter for the original asking price of a show/performance quality pup. The breeders who can get that much money for every puppy in their litter have far spent more than that on exhibition, advertising, handlers, and, frankly, building a reputation for producing consistent quality. So, no. exhibiting breeders do not make money.

    There are field trials and hunt tests. Yes, I am quite aware. I have multiple field-titled dogs.. both in tests and trials (AKC and NAVDA) . I used the term “hunting tests and trials” to keep my language simple enough that non-show people would not be put off by specific jargon. If you believe that my use of that language somehow negates the validity of my argument, then I’m afraid you and I will, again, disagree.

    I find it interesting that the term “adopting a rescue dog” offends you. I do not find it offensive. Frankly, if it makes the pet owners feel good about what they are doing, then great. While I worked with my breed rescue we placed over 500 rescue dogs in the course of 10 years. Every one was a battle won and if using that terminology gets more rescue dogs good homes, then I’m all for it.

    Yes, AKC judges get paid a small amount per dog plus their travel, hotel and meals, all of which are at a rate set by the show or trial giving club. It is rarely enough to cover their expenses, which is why I referred to it as a per diem. My point was that no one can make a career out of being an AKC judge.. for either performance or field.

    Finally, I’m very sorry that you have chosen to focus on nit picking my article and not on the bigger issue here. The bigger issue here is the American public is believing PETA and ALF and other “animal rights” organizations rather than those of us in the purebred fancy. Dog show attendance is down. Litter registrations are down. This should be sending you a serious warning bell.

    Unless perhaps your purpose of this note is to distract our attention from that actual point issue. Because the more we fight within the fancy, the more we do not attempt to fix the real problem.

  7. Hi Deb,
    Certainly! I am honored that you’d want to forward it!

    Sheri Graner Ray
    Silvar Kennels

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