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The All American Mutt VS. The Purebred


AKC's All American Dog designation for mixed breeds (mutts, mongrels) is a slap in the face to purebred dog breeders even though we are the backbone of the AKC!


Mixed Breed dogs can be as charming as purebred dogsFebruary 2017

Robyn Michaels, Guest Columnist


Let’s look at the causes and effects. When the AKC as an organization, decided that it was ethical to breed and sell puppies for resale - without even addressing what we all feel - that ethical breeders who love their dogs don't do this, that we always want to meet the buyer and SCREEN THEM, that was the first nail in the coffin of the dog fancy.


About the same time, we started addressing genetic defects, veterinarians, along with many humane activists, started the whole 'hybrid vigor' theory of mixed breeds. The irony that we know many defects are genetic, the dogs being used to produce DESIGNER DOGS are not tested for genetic defects. Thus there is still the conventional wisdom that mixed breeds are healthier than purebreds.


If you've had a poorly bred purebred dog from a backyard breeder or puppy mill, that is going to shape your mindset about the breeders of purebred dogs.


When this dynamic of middle-class people getting involved in the fancy began, the Viet Nam War had ended and we were going through what was, in the USA, hyper-inflation. That started actually over 40 years ago in the Nixon years and was quite dramatic during the Carter years. When Reagan became president, he calmed it with trickle-down economics, which was the start of the demise of the middle class - our target market.


I learned from studying development economics that, more than anything, land rents (housing costs), energy costs, and health care were eating so much income, that now the average American adult has $20,000 in credit card debt. So what did people start to do during the Reagan years? As cash was still not worth anything, some people started investing in real estate and mutual funds ... and some people became fanciers of purebred dogs.


The late 1960s and early 1970s were the heyday of dog shows as most of us remember them. Many people could afford a house with a basement and a yard. This is no longer true of most middle class home owners.


Purebred Afghan Hound circa 1960I remember dog shows where it would take 15 or more Afghans to make a 3 point major. You notice that not many of those people who got an Afghans got a 2nd Afghan as a pet. Their temperaments (not cuddly dogs) and the cost of maintenance just not what most people had in mind. This is not to say that all breeds don't go through a time like this (example: Frenchies, Yorkies and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels), but---when you don't really screen buyers, and you don’t explain that you want a pet to be a pet and not bred, and that you will co-own the dog until neutered (or titled), this is what happens. You notice that, after the Obamas got their didn't see Portuguese Water Dogs popping up at Petland, or on Craigslist. The Porty breeders steward their breed.


It took the crash at the end of the 2000's, the perfect storm of the housing bubble and fancy financing schemes, joined with the still pseudo-scientific idea that you only get the best when you breed 2 breeds together (the doodles), and hobby breeders having also been affected by the crash. That meant not as many Poodles or Goldens would be available from ethical hobby breeders, and this is what we have now.


I groom dogs for a living, and I ask people how they decided on a mixed-breed rather than a purebred.


The responses are always about the cuteness, hybrid vigor, best of both, and they didn't want a show dog. Sometimes they knew someone who had a very sickly dog which happened to be purebred, or a purebred dog bit a child. So many illogical explanations.


The middle class has shrunk. Even where housing was becoming affordable again, property taxes are rising to cover government malfeasance (mostly on pension funds). Also, the Health Care and the Insurance industries truly believe that Congress will never enact single payer and put a bunch of greedy bureaucrats out of business (pardon me---but were they your target market?). I was asked to come in to a clinic...and pay for an appointment, just for a doctor to hand me a piece of paper authorizing a mammogram! That's outrageous but here’s the point - that's the expendable income people might have for a purebred dog or for an entry fee.


How do we fix this and change the dynamic? First, we can't be afraid to say we are dog fanciers, and why we are fanciers. Second, we have to let people know that every dog in a shelter wasn’t bred by a breeder - because ethical hobby breeders meet their buyers and have them sign a contract that the dog will come back to them if, for any reason, they can't keep it. No, those dogs in shelters all came from BAD BREEDERS. The owner of the mommy dog is the breeder whether they have 1 dog or 1,000.


We can educate people on social media. We can do this at the vet's office, at the dog park, at training classes, and just being out with our dogs.


But we have to do something else: we have to encourage and welcome pet owners of our breeds into our clubs, and we can't just be all about conformation. In my area, many of the specialty clubs are now run by pet owners. The Greater Chicago Whippet Club is mostly pet owners who are involved. They keep interest in our breed out there, sponsoring play dates, racing, race practice, and other activities. The Greater Chicago Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, intertwined with Cavalier rescue, breeders and pet owners also is quite active.


We have got to get the AKC to change the misleading designation "All American Dog" to "Mixed Breed Dog". I mean, what a slap in the face that is to all purebred dog breeders! We are essentially the backbone of the AKC.


If we are stronger as a fancy, networking with other parent clubs, we can strategize to get on the AKC board and also to let the field trial people know they are part of the problem. We can demand that the American Kennel Club quit using our money to prop up those people who are breeding pets as though they were only livestock.


Or, we can take our studbooks back and hope for the best. EST 2002 1702


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