Friday, June 19, 2009

Preserving Working Lacy Dogs



Sometimes a letter comes in over the transom that is so well written and spot-on that I have to give it space and quote it verbatim. Such is the case with a letter I received this week from Julie Neumann in Texas:


I'm a huge fan of your site and read both the blog and your articles quite often. Thank you for taking such a firm stance on the maintenance and promotion of working breeds as just that... working breeds!

I own a Lacy Dog, a compact and gritty cur breed developed in Texas to work free-range hogs and cattle. Unfortunately they come in a unique blue variety and were named the State Dog of Texas in 2005. (Visit http://www.nationallacydog.org for more info and this flickr set for pictures.) This has lead to countless pet homes acquiring them for their good looks and Texas panache. And because some people have marketed them as rare blue pets, many new owners realize too late they've made a mistake, including myself. I was a very active person, I liked to job and hike, but lived in an apartment in Austin. When I researched the Lacys and contacted breeders, I was told that lifestyle would be perfectly acceptable for a Lacy. WRONG! It started out with baying children and dominating dogs at the park and turned into serious human and dog aggression by the time Sadie was a year old. None of the obedience training we tried made a difference. After getting kicked out by my roommates, I was faced with two options: get rid of the dog, which would likely mean euthanasia at the vet or the pound, or take drastic measures to save her.

Luckily a hog hunter offered to train her to hunt wild boar, the job that was ingrained in her genetic code, to see if a job could make a difference. Despite being a vegetarian hipster chick that wanted nothing to do with hunting, I drove Sadie out to the country and left her with the hog dogger for a month. It made an incredible difference. Suddenly my uncontrollable dog had an outlet for all that drive. She was allowed to chase and bark at hogs as much as she wanted. Her needs as a working dog were finally being met and everyone was much happier. Now she hunts once or twice a month and competes in hog baying competitions. We also do agility, which is a nice way to get her mental and physical exercise during the week, but it's no substitute for pigs. I try to educate anyone that is interested in this unique breed about the realities of owning a Lacy Dog.

Of course there is the flip side to this, and that's the degradation of Lacys as working dogs. Because the trend towards pets is fairly recent, it is still reversible, but people are already breeding pets to pets, ignoring working traits and simply producing more pet puppies. This is compounded by a misguided belief in some circles that drive will be there no matter what. But other breeds have demonstrated that if you don't use it you lose it. And it's likely these breeders are actually selecting against working instincts, because Lacys who do well in pet homes probably don't have the drive needed to get the job. This breed excelled as a working dog for over a century, but it will take a concerted effort by dedicated breeders to preserve that.

Julie has put up a new blog post
of her own entitled, Are you a good match for a Lacy Dog?

Perfect! Read the whole thing!

6 comments:

retrieverman said...

This breed has such a fascinating history, and it's a good thing that there are breeders and fanciers of this breed who are working to preserve it as a working dog.

The Dog House said...

Well said.

It takes a lot of drive, determination and honesty to not only live with such a dog, but also to understand and *accept* that your pet pooch may have needs that clash with your own.

A finger wag to anyone who would sell such a dog to an unprepared individual - but a HUGE pat on the back to anyone who put in the effort needed to turn a potentially dangerous situation around.

Thanks for the link, Patrick, and thanks to Julie for coming forward to share her experience in a positive fashion.

yucatec said...

Interesting. While Border Collies are often difficult pets (Of my six only three would tolerate the average pet owner), the pet quotient of trained sheepdogs is much higher and trial dogs are often retired into pet homes. Once the world makes sense to the dog he'll tolerate human eccentricities more readily.

Donald McCaig

Cat, Tessie, & Strata said...

Great letter! Reminds me of the various bully breeds that have earned a bad rap simply because they were purchased by owners who do nothing with them and, when left to their own devices, do things that are "socially unacceptable".

Good for you, Julie, for finding a way to do right by your dog! (I'm vegetarian, too, and not too long ago came to terms with the fact that it maybe it wouldn't kill me to let my English Springer retrieve a dead bird or two every once in awhile.)

Steve said...

Very well written as usual, Julie. And to be published by someone whom you respect so highly, whose active promotion of performance dogs parallels your own in so many ways, must be not only flattering but vindicating as well. And it should be. (You should take that as a compliment too, Mr. Burns)

This has been, and will remain, an uphill battle to save a working breed and its traditional excellence from those who would destroy it for profit and notoriety; both knowingly and out of plain naivete. Thanks in large part to your un-dieing devotion to education and PR, we are winning many small victories along the way.

Your devotion to Sadie, the breed and your convictions is nothing short of spectacular as you continue through adversity with no potential for personal gain. Neither Sadie nor the breed will ever be able to thank you for that devotion, but the rest of us involved can.

Thank you again, I'm proud to be waging this battle with "the Vegetarian Hogdogger" as my sister in arms.

The "other" hog dogger

Steve said...

Very well written as usual, Julie. And to be published by someone whom you respect so highly, whose active promotion of performance dogs parallels your own in so many ways, must be not only flattering but vindicating as well. And it should be. (You should take that as a compliment too, Mr. Burns)

This has been, and will remain, an uphill battle to save a working breed and its traditional excellence from those who would destroy it for profit and notoriety; both knowingly and out of plain naivete. Thanks in large part to your un-dieing devotion to education and PR, we are winning many small victories along the way.

Your devotion to Sadie, the breed and your convictions is nothing short of spectacular as you continue through adversity with no potential for personal gain. Neither Sadie nor the breed will ever be able to thank you for that devotion, but the rest of us involved can.

Thank you again, I'm proud to be waging this battle with "the Vegetarian Hogdogger" as my sister in arms.

The "other" hog dogger