Friday, April 19, 2013

Why AKC Dogs Tend to Be Useless

Mark Derr, a lover of dogs who has written a few books on the same, writes in The New York Times:

Ideally, a breed standard describes the physical, mental and psychological attributes of representatives of a specific breed of dog, cat or other domestic animal.

Many breeding standards have led to the creation of dogs with severe problems, especially among those certified by the American Kennel Club.

Unfortunately, in the dog world, many written standards have led to the creation of dogs with severe problems rather than shining examples of the breeder’s art. This has especially been the case among breeds certified by the American Kennel Club, or the A.K.C., the largest dog registry in the world.

Breed standards for A.K.C. registered dogs are largely based on physical characteristics — weight, length, height, coat type and color, gait, bite, ear configuration and head shape among them. The standards usually carry some language about temperament, intelligence and traditional use, but dogs are not tested for those attributes before they can become A.K.C. champions. Many breeds of working dogs have distinctive styles that tend to be concentrated in that breed through selective breeding. Often a working dog will not show its talent until it is mature -- around 18 months or 2 years. So too a dog's adult temperament -- whether it is overly aggressive, for example, or shy or fearful or anxious or bold and eager to work -- cannot be predicted when it is a puppy.

Arguably these and similar characteristics should be in all breed standards and dogs should not be bred until their conformity to those standards can be judged. But the A.K.C. will judge a show dog a champion before it has reached that age with the result that over time those characteristics are lost. Thus, when the military here and in England were looking for dogs for World War II, they specified farm collies, bred for working ability, and bluntly said that "show collies" need not apply because they had lost the ability to do anything.

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