the sheltiechick blog

Ruining My Breed

This post is about DOG POLITICS.

There was a recent BBC piece called Pedigree Dogs Exposed that talks about the ugly side of pedigree breeding, particularly as it relates to showing and breeding to “the standard.” I didn’t see the piece and heard that it wasn’t a very pleasant watch at times, and being pretty weak stomached I decided to not seek it out and watch it later, so I don’t know everything that was showed or talked about. BUT – this is not about that particular piece, but about the issues it raises about showing.

I have heard, in my relatively short amount of time being seriously involved with dogs (about four years), a confirmation dog show referred to as a beauty pageant. I have been told owning a pedigree dog is a “status symbol,” and dog shows are just a way to confirm your “status symbol” by showing that you have the prettiest dog.
I have had people in multiple breeds complain to me about how the AKC/CKC/enter your registry of choice here has “ruined the breed.”

Now, I certainly feel the pain of GSD enthusiasts, who have a serious health problem on their hands with dogs who now suffer back and hip problems thanks to breeding towards a ring trend of a sloping back. THAT is severe damage done to a breed that will take time to recover from, and I would never ever dream of putting the issues surrounding the breed of sheltie anywhere near that level of “ruining” a breed.
HOWEVER. I submit that it is NOT the AKC, CKC, the UKC, or any other pedigree registry that has actually done this damage to any particular breed.

The damage is being done by breeders. Not every single breeder out there – don’t get me wrong, I do eventually desire to breed shelties myself – but it is the individuals who are breeding dogs that are to blame, not the registry itself. If anything, you can blame the judges in events sanctioned by a particular registry who were driving towards those ring trends (the complication comes when you realize that all judges have their biases, their likes, their dislikes…)
The difficulty is that confirmation is, to a point, subjective. I don’t think there is a way to make it a non-subjective “sport.” Judges are supposed to be judging each dog against the standard, but people can certainly come up with their own conclusions and interpretations of the standard.

So now we get to the real point here. Anybody that knows me has likely heard me talk, at least once, about how much I’m a supporter of the all-around dog. I do not want my shelties to just be able to herd. I do not want my shelties to just be able to run fast and jump high on the agility course. I do not want my shelties to just look cute and pretty in the confirmation ring.
I WANT IT ALL. No – I do not just WANT it all. I take it one step further.
I DEMAND it all.

The key word here is JUST.
I will never support the breeding of any breed of dog on one aspect alone, no matter the aspect. Temperament, movement, working ability (for working breeds), health, accurate representation of the standard… it’s all part of a total package, and every single time you breed you should be striving to improve on the representation of the total package. Not just breeding for a dog that jumps a hurdle good; not just breeding for a dog that looks good in the ring.

So what happens when you start to see a split? What happens when you come face to face with ring trends? Imagine the dilemma of a GSD breeder who is starting to find they cannot put confirmation titles on their dogs because they aren’t breeding for the extreme sloping back that is winning. They face a few options: keeping showing and hope to still be able to title your dogs, despite ring trends – or just quit showing and abandon the pursuit of confirmation titled dogs, instead having to rely on your own judgment and the judgment of others, outside the ring, to tell you if a dog is confirmation quality; alternatively, the option is to give in and start breeding along with the ring trend just to maintain the confirmation titles on your dog.
It’s overly simplistic to explain it that way, but in a way, that is what it boils down to. Keep trying, give up, or give in.
We already know, with GSDs, what happens when people give in. The results are not so good.

I also know what happens when people give up. They take their dogs and go home. They change how they breed. “I ONLY breed for working ability,” or “I ONLY breed for temperament,” or what have you. Health testing is a factor for some, but you wouldn’t know it – you might be told “Well, the dog works, so it must be healthy!” To me, that sounds a bit like “Well, this bitch is healthy and HER parents were healthy… so she MUST be healthy!”

So what, then, should be done with the people who keep on? You’re doing what you know is right. You’re producing dogs with the proper temperament, working ability, so on and so on, and just because you’re not breeding towards a ring trend, you’re finding it hard to get confirmation titles on dogs that you KNOW are not only within standard, but a good example of the standard – a dog worthy of being bred, a dog worthy of passing their genes on to produce more quality, healthy, in-standard dogs that can do it ALL.

It’s like running into a brick wall, hoping that it might eventually crack and crumble.

I gotta admit that I somewhat see the argument for those that take their dogs and go home. Showing is not cheap, and when you know that you’re staring down a brick wall, it’s pretty daunting, and can feel like shoveling money away.
But I also have a lot of admiration for people who stick it out. You know, I wonder if dog showing is kinda like the stock market. Yeah, it’ll go down. But if you wait – if you just stick it out – it’ll come back up. Ring trends might go down, and if you can resist the panic and pulling all of your money out… eventually, it WILL come back up. You just gotta stick it out and continue to fight for what YOU know is right… for you, for your dogs, and for your breed.
That is, of course, assuming it’s like the stock market.

I have no real solution to the dilemma. I fear a split for shetland sheepdogs is coming, the way there’s a split with border collies. “Show border collies” versus “working border collies.” I want to have it all… I will be very unhappy if a split occurs and I have to make my choice. Don’t get me wrong, I know in which direction I will choose… but to HAVE to choose one or the other is a terrible shame and certainly no testament to the incredible versatility these little dogs are so capable of.

Two Little Puppies

If you’re having a bad day, I challenge you to do this:
Imagine a sheltie puppy. A pretty small one – tightly curled up it’s just about smaller than a volleyball. It’s fuzzy and fluffy, covered in super soft downy puppy hair. They go “yarf yarf!” in little high-pitched squeaks instead of barking.
Got the mental image?
Now double it.

TWO little puppies. Soft and snuggly, they fit so nicely in your arms. One of them is a little snotty and every time you pet her she goes “AAAARRR RARR RARR” like she’s going to bite your hand off with her tiny (but sharp!) little puppy teeth. The other one keeps giving you kisses as you hold her, and you can feel her little puppy tail wagging away in your arms.

This was my yesterday.
It was a wonderful, wonderful evening.

No, neither of the puppies are mine nor will they be. Mom desperately wants one of them, though. She couldn’t stop talking about them all night long. Auggie rode home snuggled up in my lap because I was so very nostalgic for the first day I brought him home, a small fluffy ball of puppy.
I put Auggie down next to them (they were in an ex-pen at first) and let him sniff them through the bars. He wasn’t very interested. I picked one of them up and held her out to him outside of the pen and he still wasn’t very interested. He went off exploring J’s yard, peed on a tree, and looked for forgotten cookies in the grass while we talked about the dogs. I got to touch tiny little puppy feet and itty bitty puppy toenails, look at teeny tiny puppy teeth, feel little puppy ears… oh my God, now *I* have puppy fever.
After agility practice J got the puppies out of the ex-pen and let them prowl around the yard with Auggie. NOW he was interested in them. They were playful and feisty and that got him all excited. He bowled one of them over (she was being called Bullwinkle) playing chase, it was hilarious. I opened his water bottle and started to pour water into his travel bowl, and he was drinking from the stream coming from the bottle (as usual) – and Bullwinkle came over to see what he was doing, and he backed up to let her drink from his water bottle! It was soooo cute, this tiny puppy with her nose shoved into his water bottle and Auggie waiting patiently for her to finish so he could get a drink next…

Now I have a pretty good idea of how Auggie will react once I bring a puppy home. He acted much like I expected… we just have to make sure he plays gentle, because I don’t think he realizes they’re very small and he needs to be careful!

The Auggles Return

For those of you that have George Thoroughgood in your music library, I recommend you put some on now.

I stopped at PetSmart to pick up a tiny harness for The Mythical Harley since they are on sale this month, and while I was there I spotted something that I absolutely, completely, and totally NEEDED for Auggie.
It was this:

So I took Auggie outside, dremelled his toenails, clipped his whiskers and trimmed up his feet, then stuck this shirt on him. Well, the shirt just needed something more… so… I brought out the Auggles.

Ahhhh, my Auggles!

Pretty nice day for a motorcycle ride, actually. A bit warm, but overwise lovely.


Grimly surveys his backyard… I mean, his turf. (Oh God, his dreadlocks… he needs the hair behind his ears thinned out again…)

All is well on the turf! Smile time!

He could do with a shirt that reads “Bitches Love Me” too. Right after I get that one that reads “I’m A Boy Dog.”

People don’t believe me when I tell them “Bad to the Bone” is his theme song – but YOU guys understand… don’t you? DON’T you? I mean, c’mon. Just look at him.

Tuff guy.

This is like some kind of badass Elvis lipcurl. I am related to Elvis, so maybe it rubbed off on Auggie.

He came up on the deck to get a cookie.

Can has cookie plz?

And now I present to you the newest Favourite Auggie Photo/Best Representation Of Auggie’s Personality In One Photo Ever:

There you have it. Auggie in a nutshell.

Farmer’s Market Photos

Well, no Farmer’s Market this weekend. I did take Auggie to a remote for work and could have slapped myself for not taking my camera (I seriously seriously ALMOST took it and decided at the last minute to leave it at home.) There were bales of hay set up and pumpkins EVERYWHERE. Also lots of small children, many of which asked to pet Auggie, and he just ate up all the attention. Some guy took photos of him while I was holding him and asked me a bunch of questions about shelties – then declared “My next dog is going to be one!”
Auggie – Sheltie Ambassador.

Anyway, these are the very few Farmer’s Market photos from last weekend. If the weather stays nice there should be several more weekends of FM trips for us to go socialize and train in public settings with lots of people around.

Waiting patiently while Grandma buys some bread.

Somebody had just said to him “Oh, aren’t you a cute little puppy!”
“Why yes, yes I am!” Auggie says. “Thank you for noticing!”

He kept looking at those flowers, then looking away every time I snapped a photo. Brat!

Positive results from positive training

My little Auggie Doggie is having positive experiences with little kids.
And he’s doing AMAZING.

He still doesn’t like them running around or moving awkwardly, but he barks when adults run around too… that’s likely just herding instinct and I’ll never get it to go away.
BUT… last week we went to the farmer’s market and several small children approached, asked if they could pet him, and were so nice and gentle with him. Towards the end of our circle of the market, two young boys came RUNNING in front of us, bursting through the rows of tables. I nearly freaked out and thought for sure Auggie would lose it…
but he just wagged his tail and pranced forward. He wanted to PLAY with them!! You could have knocked me over with a feather… my little guy wanting to play with small children!

Today I stopped by a remote for work and there were children EVERYWHERE. At first I held him, not sure how he’d react (it was crowded and LOUD) but after being there for a while and he seemed totally calm, I put him down. He did so wonderfully… so many children came up, ALL of them asked if they could pet my dog (!!!!) and they were ALL so nice and gentle. He was just a happy little guy, enjoying all of the attention.
Swung by to grab some Chinese before going home, and I sat outside the restaurant with Auggie. Put him in a down-stay and there he did, indeed, stay, as two small boys slowly approached and politely asked if they could pet my dog.

I’m just so proud… I never thought we could have so many positive experiences so quickly, and have it make such a fast, positive impact on my little guy. He is really getting to LOVE little kids… it’s just amazing and wonderful and EEEE SO PROUD OF AUGGIE.

Farmer’s Market

Have pics but haven’t gotten around to uploading them yet.
Took the Auggie Doggie to the Farmer’s Market this Saturday. It was a somewhat short visit because the Dog Treat Lady was not there, but still a really great visit. (I, on the other hand, got a lovely pecan pie; my mom picked up some sunflowers and a few other yummy treats.)
First we practiced a nice sit and look both ways before crossing the street. (Okay, I look both ways. Auggie just sits there and looks cute, patiently waiting for me to say “Okay, cross!”) Then we met a few nice dogs and had some little kids ask to pet him. Fielded the usual questions about what kind of dog he is, what their temperaments are like, how often I have to brush his coat, and the not-so-usual “How much do miniature collies (*cringe*) cost?” whereupon I very quickly started blathering about sheltie rescue, dropping a plug for CISR. Oh yeah, and we got lots of “LOLOLOL MINI-LASSIE!” comments.
Auggie needs a shirt that says “I Am Not A Mini Lassie” on one side, and “I Am A Boy Dog” on the other side.

Had some very positive experiences. I was standing at a fudge tent waiting for my mom to buy herself some fudge (which Auggie was very interested in) and turn around to suddenly find a large collie looking at my little guy, tail wagging. Auggie was VERY interested in this potential playmate that looked a lot like him, except at LEAST twice his size. This display of Collie + Sheltie attracted some attention from passers-by, including from a few children who were interested in petting both fluffy dogs. Little Auggie could NOT have cared any less about the children, because he was so interested in the big collie, so there went that opportunity to socialize with some kiddos. Whoops!
Still, he learns super fast and it seems he starting to associate little children with “If I sit near this small person, I will get petted.” He headed over to a little kid towards the end of our round of the market, sat, and then looked back and forth at the kid and at me expectantly. Like “Look, Mom, I’m sitting! Now I get petted and you tell me I’m a good boy, right?” Well, it only works like that if the kid is LOOKING at you and WANTS to pet you, bratface. This kid had her back to him and never even noticed he was sitting there. Silly dog.

Pics later if I get around to getting them off the computer… there’s only a couple of them.