Brains vs. Beauty

This was the hot topic on Sheepdog-L last week.  There was an on-line article from a UK publication that said that purebred dogs are becoming dumber and dumber …

Is the dumbness (if it indeed exists and I think it does) truly the result of breeding for purebred dogs or is there more involved here?

What about vaccinations?  Something that purebred (and other) dogs get lots of.  There’s no question that the additives in vaccines can cause brain damage, not to mention damage from the virus itself (as in the rabies and distemper vaccines).

What about diet?  You are what you eat and there are studies that show that certain amino acids, only found in meat, improve brain development.  Some high end kibble manufacturers add these amino acids, but are they as bioavailable to the dog in their altered form?

What about environment?  Is sitting in a crate or kennel most of the day conducive for brain development?

The brain of the domestic dog is considerably smaller than that of its ancestor, the wolf.  Why do wolves have to be smarter than domestic dogs?  Because they have to take care of themselves and survive or is it because they are not receiving an annual cocktail of vaccinations and consuming real food (meat)?

When this topic got going, I unsubscribed from daily e-mail from that list.  I just couldn’t stand reading the holier-than-though posts from the self-proclaimed sheepdog Gods that were appearing.  Of course the AKC vs. ISDS-style herding trials got into the discussion.  What does trialing have to do with dumb dogs?  Of course, I will admit that it doesn’t take much of a dog to run an AKC herding trial and it takes a lot more dog (training, ability and yes intelligence) to run an ISDS-style trial, but are these people who are breeding for the ideal working Border Collie doing them any more justice than those breeding for looks?

I’m not sure … but quite frankly, I am not sure do not think breeding dogs, cats or even horses, for anything that a human wants or desires these days is in the best interests of the animals involved.

There’s been so much going on in my life lately that I had forgotten about this discussion and about unsubscribing to Sheepdog-L.  This morning, it came back to me and I realized, shit, I don’t miss reading those posts, I truly don’t.  I don’t miss reading any of the Border Collie Boards.  It’s all just one person’s opinion over another that often ends up in mud slinging.  I truly wish for a simpler existence, one where I work my dogs for the joy of working them, watching them progress, knowing that they are doing what they were bred to do.  I will not deny that breeding for working Border Collies is something that was, at one time, a good thing and of course that they should be preserved, but there’s too darned many people doing it these days and many of them are breeding for all the wrong reasons.  The days of true working farms are getting numbered.  There are going to be fewer and fewer homes for these dogs, why breed more?

Oh, I forgot, for the money and prestige.

6 Replies to “Brains vs. Beauty”

  1. “I’m not sure … but quite frankly, I am not sure breeding dogs, cats or even horses, for anything that a human wants or desires these days is in the best interests of the animals involved.”

    Well said :o)
    Lee C

  2. True breeders breed dogs to their breed’s standard and for their ability to perform their original purpose. Intelligence is critical for many of these purposes and selected for just like health, soundness and breed type. True breeders will be working to improve intelligence, not diminish it. I know it is an important virture in my breeding program.

  3. Well, I went to your web site and all I saw was pictures of Collies in the breed ring. Is that their original purpose? Somehow I thought that Collies once were working dogs, not foo-foo things that trot around a show ring.

  4. I would encourage you to do some research on the titles achieved by:

    Am./Can. Ch. Wyndlair St. Germaine Mystique, CDX (Am./Can.), TD, HT, PT, RE.

    That should explain what our dogs are bred to be capable of doing. Additionally, Lance lives a very loved life on his owner’s couch.

    Please visit these pages to see pictures of Lance in action:

    http://www.wyndlaircollies.com/collie.cfm?cid=32&c=5

    http://www.colliesonline.com/march2008/feature-lance1.php

  5. Well, that’s nice that you have one dog who can move sheep around, but as I said, it appears that the primary focus of your breeding program is for the conformation ring and I think that’s incredibly sad.

  6. Wisconsin sure does get around! I think this is at least the third blog I’ve seen you on.

    I agree with Michelle that it’s fair to question how well “working” people are doing in their breeding activities. And it’s also fair to drive a clear wedge between working and trialing. It’s a very fair question to ask if trialing is really serving the working community, and the pet community.

    But this doesn’t get asked much because the attacks against fancy showing is deafening.

    SO much of the debate is simply “the show people are doing it soooo poorly, don’t look at me, they are horrible.”

    The fact that someone else does it worse is no excuse.

    And Wisconsin, this statement is hilarious “True breeders breed dogs to their breed’s standard and for their ability to perform their original purpose. ”

    (1) Standards are arbitrary pieces of paper. In some cases the people who write these standards never even owned the dogs in question, and if you’re talking about Collies and the AKC, none of them work a dog or trialed a dog. Ever.

    (2) The original purpose thing is a joke. No they don’t. Why would you tart your dog up and trot it around a ring to determine if it can herd sheep… when you can ACTUALLY GO AND HERD a sheep!?!?!

    The “original purpose” BS is for other breeds that never had an original purpose (most breed histories are totally lies) or where that purpose is now passe or impossible or exceedingly rare. Breeders tell themselves they’re doing the original purpose thing because no one will call them on it. No one is going to ask you to go bait a bull, for example. And as Terrierman has pointed out hundreds of times, most modern terriers can’t even fit down the holes to kill vermin, so no one is really asking those breeders to live up to the whole original purpose thing.

    But YOU have NO EXCUSE. There is no shortage of sheep and no shortage of avenues to actually show your breed’s “original purpose.” And I’ve been to a lot of dog shows and the only sheep there are stuffed and 3 inches tall.

    By everything I’ve found, your flavor of collie hasn’t been a decent working dog for more than a century. The first and last time your “collies” entered a working trial they lost all the working challenges AND all the beauty challenges to some scruffy border collies from Wales.

    The one and only KC sponsored sheep trial was a resounding failure and your breed clubs on both sides of the Atlantic have stayed as far away from sheep as possible ever since.

    And if you still want to put up the lie about O.P., then I must declare all of you rank failures. Why? Because no one actually uses your dogs for work. And that’s what you claim your goal is. The original purpose. A century of “improvement” and what? You have dumb, ugly, and talentless dogs that are absent from any venue of their original purpose.

    Give up and admit that your goal is to win ribbons for fads like “massive hair” and “squinty eyes” and “massive noses that don’t stop until the back of the head.” At least then we could declare that you were successful in getting what you wanted. Misguided, perhaps, but good at it.

    If you insist that your goal is original purpose, then you’re still misguided, but rank failures across the board.

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