Thursday, November 02, 2006

Danger for Dandies: Market Forces at Work

A Dandie Dinmont: Sway-backed, expensive, and now generally too big to go to ground.

In a shocking turn of events, it turns out that market forces work ... even in the world of dogs.

Two once-working terrier breeds (at least according to history) are now teetering on the edge of extinction.

The UK Kennel Club has officially designated the Dandie Dinmont a "vulnerable native breed" after it figured out that more giant pandas were born last year than Dandie Dinmonts. In the last three years, fewer than 100 Dandie Dinmonts were born in the UK - the lowest number since records began.

Hilary Cheyne, a committee member of the Caledonian Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club, says urgent action is required to reverse the decline. "These are difficult times for the Dandie Dinmont terrier," she said. "Although our breed is steeped in history, we need to tackle the breed's survival and revival in a modern and progressive way, which I believe we are doing."

Of course "urgent action" does not mean actually working the dog (that would not be very "modern and progressive," would it?).

No, the urgent action required is to -- wait for it -- hold a special show to encourage more people to own the breed and "raise awareness of its plight."

In short, the "urgent action" is going to be more rosettes, pets and puppy peddling.

Don't improve the product -- double the advertising budget. Talk about the hair of the dog that bit 'ya!

Only 33 Dandie puppies were registered with the UK Kennel Club in the first half of 2006. In the United States, only 51 Dandie Dinmont terriers were registered with the American Kennel Club during 2005.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the Skye terrier, the dog immortalized in the story of Greyfriars Bobby, is also facing possible extinction, with only 30 born in Britain in the past 12 months.

A Skye Terrier: A dog for hair dressers and frustrated Barbie Doll collectors.

The Dandie Dinmont was named after a fictional character in Sir Walter Scott's 1815 novel Guy Mannering.

It appears the Dandie Dinmont was never very popular as a working dog (there is no record of it being much used by anyone, anywhere, ever).

Rawdon Lee, writing in 1893, describes the dog as:

"[P]perhaps the most crooked legged of any of our terriers; he is not an active dog, and is little use for work in a 'stone wall country,' nor is his 'crook' the slightest advantage in any way."

Rawdon Lee goes on to note that the best working dogs, even in his day, were not found in the Kennel Club:

"As a matter of fact, those [terriers] best adapted for hard work either with foxhounds or otterhounds are cross-bred, hardy dogs, specially trained for the purpose, although many of the 'pedigree' animals will do similar duty to the best of their ability, but their 'pedigree' and no doubt inbreeding to a certain extent, has made them constitutionally and generally weaker than their less blue-blooded cousins."

Yes indeed. Is it an accident that most American working terriers are found in a Club that prohibits high levels of inbreeding? I think not.

In America the Kennel Club (the largest in the world) is stumbling financially as the fog has lifted and dog owners have begun to realize that not only are AKC dogs not higher quality than other dogs (including so-called "mutts"), they are frequently lower quality due to long histories of inbreeding within a closed registry system.

As a result, the American people are beginning to turn to dogs registered in more open registries or planned hybrids.

Show ring snobs refer to planned hybrids as "designer dogs" under the mistaken belief that show ring dogs (with their cookie-cutter standards) are something else.

In fact, while most AKC breeds are bred by design for no higher purpose other than snobbery, some planned hybrids (such as the "labra-doodle") are being bred for a specific reason -- tractability, to avoid problems within a deeply inbred show ring gene pool, or to decrease shedding or improve coat quality.

The AKC response to people voting with their pocket books, of course, has NOT been to jettison the closed registry system which has resulted in sicker dogs that are more expensive to own -- it has been to strengthen it's long-term relationships with puppy mill operators and Pet Stores, and to enter into the crooked business of selling pet insurance and recommending veterinarians (is there a kickback to the AKC?), while working to require mandatory micro-chipping (the AKC sells the most popular brand).

In addition, the AKC continues to try to sweep non-AKC breeds into their folds in order to boost numbers -- dogs like the Jack Russell Terrier, the Border Collie, the Coton de Tulear, the Argentine Dogo, the Bluetick Coonhound, and Black and Tan Coonhound, the Catahoula Leopard Dog, the Cesky Terrier, the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Leonberger, the Plott Hound, the Tosa and the Treeing Walker Coonhound.

Can the Patterdale Terrier and the Fell Terrier be far behind? Only a fool cannot see it coming.

1 comment:

retrieverman said...

I've met two Dandies.

My impression is they aren't actually terriers. They are more like a variety of basset, like Petit basset griffon Vendeen or the Fawny Brittany Basset.

Dachshunds are more terrier than these dogs are.

Maybe if they used the Dandie as a pack hound, it might survive.