Friday, July 07, 2017

If John Russell Were Alive Today ...

A lot of time and energy is spent by people on the show ring circuit culling through pedigrees counting the number of "champions" they can find listed. This is called "selective breeding," by the Kennel Club folks, but what is it they are selecting for?

Among show ring aficionado's working ability is never the primary selection. Since, in the world of working dogs in which John Russell lived, the second slot is selection by size, and the third slot is selection by gender, the show ring breeder is (at best) promoting fourth-string characteristics to prime. This is a recipe for ruin, and it's a recipe the Reverend John Russell watched with concern during the early years of the British Kennel Club. As he noted about his own dogs:

"True terriers they were, but differing from the present show dogs as the wild eglantine differs from a garden rose."

If you do not work your dogs underground often, you have no idea of what you are breeding for when it comes to work.

It is not a matter of working a few weekends. A dog's working qualities and abilities are not made in a day. Nor should yours be, if you are a serious breeder. You need to dig quite a while to know the value of voice, the value of nose, and the nature of the balance point between having a dog that is too hard and too soft. It takes a few dogs and a few winters to fully appreciate the value of a good coat, and to understand the value of a small well-muscled dog.

The people in the AKC like to talk a lot about John Russell, but they manage to leave off the fact that he did not create his dogs in the show ring, but in the field and by testing them in the ground and under a spade. Though he occasionally judged dog shows, he did not register his own dogs as he feared dog shows would be the ruin of working terrier. He was not wrong!

If John Russell were alive today, most of the people who own Jack Russell terriers -- including many of those with working certificates -- could not show him a day in the field with the dogs. I think Russell would be rather embarrassed by that fact, and he would certainly by saddened.

A repost from 2009


Anonymous said...

I have a classic example of what is wrong with this process. I have an oversized, "purebred" Parson Russell terrier that I got at 9 years old. Can you believe she's 35lbs and wears a harness that can fit a small Boxer? She's got a 16 inch neck, for crying out loud!

Heather Houlahan said...

Selection by gender?

PBurns said...

Size is everything with working terriers, and though the goal is small chest size, that generally comes with smaller overall size (chest size in a working terrier is height at shoulder + 2-3 inches). Male dogs are always bigger, and so if you are picking a litter, you are looking for a female, and if you breeding you are looking to breed a *TINY* male (with some bone of course) to a female of the same size or a bit larger. By "breeding uphill" (as Eddie Chapman calls it), you ensure that the bitch is less likely to have a c-section. A bigger dog on a small bitch is the wrong formula. A small male dog (under 12") out of working lines is hard to find.

There is no difference between dogs and bitches in the field as far as I can tell; it's purely a predictive size issue.


jack said...

Terriers that work regularly are the only terriers that should get working certificates. Otherwise it takes away the value of the award. It is not right to be able to work your dog just once in front of a judge and then get a working certificate that is valid for life. This is just a gameness test in most cases.



Sometimes, in some tests in the artificial burrow, gameness can not match true, the process can not be good. Several factors: 1 the prey (FOX RABBITS BOAR ) are most often bred in captivity.

2nd Abbituati or stressed by repeated attacks of dogs. (especially in official tests)
3rd Dog could be stressed by the presence of many people and other dogs, if abbituato to work alone.
I have seen many dogs in their daily work obtain good results, but may suffer from a lack of gameness their opponent locked in a cage.

There are other factors.

Is indicative!
There are many selections JRT working terriers and if you think that in England alone every village with a terrier who changes his name only by a factor of the coat color or other nonsense! How does someone decide that one or the other is the selection of pure blood? War at least friendly with each other, not as the world of exhibitions dog ;)