Friday, July 20, 2012

Pride and Prejudice

In the world of working terriers nothing is quite as comical as the folks that are breed- and kennel-blind. For these folks, only one particular type of dog is worth a crap -- the type they own.

What these folks are doing is telegraphing their inexperience. If you do not know of a white dog, a black dog, a brown dog, a red dog, a smooth coat, a rough coat, a liver nose, and a black nose that works well in the field, you are either not paying attention to what is around you, or you are not getting out too much. The color of the dog, the color of its nose, the lay of its coat, and the gender of the dog does not mean a thing.

And yet there are a lot of people making this claim, aren't there?

To me this kind of pap sounds like the stuff we hear from the rosette chasers. How easy is it to drink the Kennel Club Koolaid and to begin thinking that the color of the dog matters? In fact, what matters far more than color is the experience and temperament of the person that a dog is given to.

A person with experience and an even temperament will try to get his or her dog from working lines and then he or she will enter it correctly and give it a lot of experience in the field. As a general rule, the dog then works out fine.

Some of the one-minute rice folks we have in this world today think that if a dog is kenneled for a year and then thrown at a hole, it should "do the job" first time out. Start them with rats? Take them out in the field and give them experience slowly? They have never heard of it.

It's always funny how a dog can be declared crap by one person (and often in a week!) and then be passed on to someone else who hunts it well for a long time. Something might be crap, but maybe it's not the dog?

Yet people do not want to look at themselves. They do not want to think that a different dog may require a different approach or require a different speed or a different way of working. Isn't that always the way?

People that dig to the dogs have always been rare. They are rare now, they were rare 20 years ago, 50 years ago, 75 years ago, 100 years ago, and 150 years ago. Always rare. And yet there have always been digging dogs and there always will be digging dogs. And the reason for this is simple: people that really dig their dogs tend to get their dogs from other people that also dig their dogs. They are not buying dogs from the general population. If you are randomly looking at all white dogs, or all black dogs,or all red dogs, or all brown dogs to find a worker, then you are not following directions or buying sensibly, are you? Working terriers tend to come from people that work their dogs. Those people have always been rare, but they have also always existed, and they have always owned dogs of all colors.

Caveat emptor, of course. There is a difference between someone who always has a pup for sale but only works one or two dogs three or four times a year, and someone who works their dogs every week but just breeds one litter every three or four years.

The former is a dog breeder, and though his or her stock may be coming from a famous "name brand" kennel, the dogs themselves are going to be almost entirely untested. You cannot kennel 30 dogs and give them adequate work, while at the same time staying home to feed and shovel poop and sell off the puppies that are advertised in the paper.

The later, of course, is a true worker who is breeding true working terriers, but the kennel may not have a name, and there are almost never pups for sale -- he or she does not breed often, generally keeps one or two for himself, and the litters tend to be small because the dogs are likely to be on the small side.

Perhaps the most tiresome bit of chatter in the working terrier world are the young know-nothings who continuously slag Plummer terriers and/or praise Patterdale terriers. Once again, we find people judging dogs by color and brand-name. Never mind that a Plummer terrier is just a color variant of a Jack Russell, or that digging to terriers was centuries old before anyone had ever heard of a Patterdale terrier. So many young people today think that the world began when they were born, and that it will end the day they die. The idea that the dogs have always been there in all colors, coats, noses, genders, and without brand names is something hard for them to fathom. Raised on brand names, they now cannot see past them.

Of course, inexperience is telegraphed in a lot of ways, isn't it? The fellow who tells me the size of the terrier does not matter has just told me he does not dig much. The person who values a really hard dog is telling me he or she is getting out only a few times a year and has a lot to prove on the few times he is out. The person who values a mute dog is simply a fool and a pretender.

Of course it does no good to point this out in a directed way. Better to simply bite your lip and state simply what you know to be true: a small dog is almost always more useful than a large one; a dog that "knows butt from breath" can move and hold more quarry with less damage than a dog that has teeth alone; a mute dog is a nuisance to all and a danger to itself; a working terrier is to be judged by what it does in the field, not the kennel names on its pedigree or the color of its coat.

Or, as J. Allen Boone once observed:

"There's facts about dogs, and then there's opinions about them. The dogs have the facts, and the humans have the opinions. If you want the facts about the dog, always get them straight from the dog. If you want opinions, get them from humans."



Ellamennopee said...

The sex of the dog! Dogs don't have genders.

But then, this only grates me because I've returned from a "queer" blog that insists that gender is a mystical ether that imbues you when you wear pearls or a necktie or engage in gossip. Which is incongruously sexist for someone who claims to be "progressive".

Dogs don't care about dollies, unless they're going to rip them apart.

PBurns said...

You are misinformed.

I assure you that dogs have sex AND gender, and anyone who has spent time with a lot of dogs knows it.

My Mountain, for example, is female but reflects every male characteristic under the sun. Similarly, I have know male dogs that exhibited female characteristics (such as squatting to pee).

Dogs and other animals also have culture -- it's why birds and other animal species (such as wolves and dogs) do not normally cross-breed. Even if the bodies fit together sexually (and even if the resulting off-spring is entirely fecund), the cultures are different (mating dances, marking, vocalization, etc.)


Ellamennopee said...

But I am unconvinced because I see these behaviors as an instance of natural variation, and a reinforcement of the fact that there is no strict set of male or female behaviors. Gender as culture, certain - but it's socially induced and not intrinsic.

Unless you're a member of a sexually dimorphic species, which dogs aren't.