Columns: No Margins, No Limits, No Kidding!
Proactive Ethics In Dog Breeding
Poodle breeder looks at lies, dyes, and size, and then there’s snip and clip, using wigs and otherwise affecting genetics in Toys, Miniatures and Standards.
Vickie Haywood, Dog Sports Editor
Are you an ethical breeder?? Are you ethical in what you show and honest about it?
I have a tendency to ask loaded questions, not to slay the dragon but to make it a better mythical creature. Since I have poodles and everyone knows it, lets start there because it is the most artificial breed (in my opinion) and I can speak about them with some authority. For example, Poodles come in 3 sizes:
Toy: a max of 10 inches
Minis: a max of 15 inches
Standards: a minimum of 21 inches to be competitive.
Now in Toys it is difficult to get the "look" at less than 9 inches so we have about 1 inch to work with. It is a near impossibility to breed within that limit. Many Toys finish at over 10 inches.
Minis? Not unusual to finish a 13 1/2 inch mini but not common. Most are at 14" and the best ones are at 15 and (my opinion) difficult to breed, again with about 1 and 1/2 inches to play with and be competitive.
Standards: In modern Times I know of no one who will dare to show a standard less than 20 inches and only personally know of a few who have finished at 21 inches - the average is 22 /23 for a bitch and 25/26 for a dog. There have been some exceptions - a dog named Alekai Zuess finished at 30” and it was a case of the judges either loved him or put him at the end of the line.
Bear in mind that the standard says each size should look like the other, and the win should go to the diminutive when all other things are equal.
Any solid color at the skin is permissible. Let’s admit our short comings. Poodles are an enhanced breed, artificial in nearly every way. We snip and clip and put on this product and that product and color here and there, and Yes Virginia we use WIGS (gasp) and hairspray (gasp) and stuff them to get them fat enough to get the round ribcage and drop in the chest. Then we put them on a tread mill to get the beautiful muscles in their naked butt, cut their toenails extra short to keep feet (or make them), and lets face it ,we can change the entire look of the dog with a pair of scissors. Don’t like the eye? Just put the top knot in tighter. Don’t like the color? Dye it. (horrors you say? Sally's sells a LOT of "water works.") Whites stained and dingy? Bleach it. Go to any national or regional and sit in the stands and you can see for yourself that the vast majority of blacks look like they came out of the very same bottle.
Not enough hair? Well just sit around the grooming area and watch the hair pieces come out after show time. Don't blame me.. I didn’t invent them!!! But I sure as hell know how to use them because I have had to learn all the tricks of the trade.
Why? Because I am an owner handler who has to compete every weekend with the top pros in the nation and If my grooming is not as good as theirs, if my conditioning is not as good as theirs, if my dog is not BETTER than theirs .. I have no chance of winning!
I used to be a purist (years and years ago) but now all I ask is that everyone play the game the same way... and be honest about it.
If your dog is dyed and I ask to breed to it, just tell me.
If your dog finished and is over, fine by me, just tell me.
If your dog has a white patch or white toes... fine, just tell me.
If you had the curled tail fixed, ok by me -just tell me.
If you had dental work done...well ok, then TELL ME!!!
Don't let it be a surprise when I breed to your fine dog, and all my puppies come out with patches of another color, have squirrel tails, grow to be 16 inches tall, and have stained or crooked teeth. Don't let it be a surprise when my 9 year old Standard has toe cancer, is auto immune thyroid and sterile, bloats and has seizures. (Fortunately he doesn't have SA or VWD, addisons or cushings, not ...yet.)
But can I be SURE that the dogs in the pedigree I breed to are REALLY the dogs I believe I AM breeding to?
A very, very well known handler years ago said to me...it is an artificial breed but under it all is still a dog, flesh and body that the judges can feel and see move. The rest is top dressing; we fool the eye into seeing what we want it to see.
Should we Slay the Dragon or can we make changes that will bring us back to where we need to be? I believe it is worth the effort, but lets clean our own house first. I believe it will take a huge outpouring of show people to make the changes that need to be made, or a huge bunch of us to leave, even for a little while, and play in other venues.
Maybe the powers that be will then get the idea that THEY are not the AKC. The AKC is US, like the founding fathers who were dedicated dog men one and all.
In the 1960's when I was but a girl and sat outside the show rings watching beautiful poodles strut around, I would look down at my obedience poodle, a brilliant but ugly bitch, and I would dream of the day I would own and breed poodles that were brilliant and beautiful, warm and loving, that could perform circus routines or sit in an old lady’s lap, warm a sick child’s heart, or win a BIS.
I have taken the lives of thousands of unwanted dogs and cats as an animal control officer. I have taught thousands of people in obedience classes on how to have better pets. I have bred a few good dogs, accomplished many goals; but the one thing that eludes me is getting people to see that their destiny in the dog world is in their own hands.
You must be proactive in the world of politics and poodles. Get involved; get informed; GET BUSY. Clean your own house so that we can all clean the dog world. We must promote and respect ethics and apply them in our breeding program, in the show ring, and in our daily lives.
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