Wednesday, June 15, 2016

And What is the Work of Your Dog?

Where are we going in the world of dogs?

In every direction under the sun
, and often straight to hell.

Dogs are entirely man-made, a function of human choice, and often a choice made by specific people in specific locations.

The farmers and huntsmen of the fields and fells of Great Britain made working terriers.

The native people of the Arctic made the sled dogs of the northern snow and ice.

The stock men of Europe made the hard dogs that could stop angry bulls or wild pigs.

The Bedouins and Tuareg made the running dogs of the Middle East.

The shepherds of the borders and highlands of Scotland made the dogs that love and live to herd.

And what has the Kennel Club made?

Not much, though they have destroyed quite a lot.

The terrierman with dirt on his hands has been replaced by the overweight matron with gold lacquer on her finger nails.

The musher with 13 dogs dogs in harness has been replaced by a fellow with a sled dog on his passenger seat, and 200-horses under the hood.

The bulldog man
now owns a wheezing wreck that can barely waddle to the edge of the field where it is trotted out as the team's mascot.

The running dog is now sprawled on the couch, and instead of a night lamping it might get a slow walk around the block.

The border man with stout legs and calloused hands has been replaced by a suburbanite whose dogs chase frisbees rather than herd sheep.

Fantasy and fraud have replaced true work and accomplishment.

Go-to-ground in wooden tunnels has replaced honest digging in the hedge.

Chasing plastic bags has replaced lamping.

Doggie ballet has replaced herding on open range.

And throughout it all, there is the claim that some show dog somewhere (it's always a bit vague) is still working at something, and never mind how that work is defined.

But are real sheep men and women running to "barbie collie" theorists for stock or advice? 

Are real gun dog men going to backyard Kennel Club puppy peddlers? 

Are honest terriermen with sharp shovels and worn locator collars going to AKC pretenders?

Do the Inuit get their pulling dogs from the Lower 48?

Do the gaunt men of the desert care what is said on a piece of paper when the dog cannot return a hare to hand after a swirling chase in the dust?

No, nope, and never.

Which is not to say that there is no place for dogs that are mere pets.

But if it's a pet you want, might I suggest the pound? 

There are perfectly fine dogs to be found there, and each is -- quite literally -- dying to fill your emotional needs.

And isn't filling emotional needs the real work of most pet dogs today?


John said...

> But if it's a pet you want, might I suggest the pound?

Or even better, a rescue organization, who has evaluated their foster dogs and can make a reasonable effort to natch their need with yours.

Peter Apps said...

Pets filling emotional needs - you got it in one.

But isn't that what the show dogs are doing as well ? - the emotional needs of their owners for recognition, pride, one-upmanship or whatever are filled when their dog is judged "better" than another owner's. Not that this justifies for a moment the damage done by show dog breeding, any more than it does the wheezing, overweight pet that got that way by filling the emotional needs of its owner to have something to baby.

Liz said...

What kills me is that many breeds of purebred dogs are far less functional in the "fufilling emotional needs" job category than shelter mutts.

The highly-reactive, anxious Bernese Mountain dog I know that's been diagnosed with lymphoma just before his 7th birthday is the prime example. He's very well-loved (perhaps too much), but his mental and physical state has caused much emotional hardship for his owners.

Even with breeds and breeders that emphasize temperament, there are so many variables in developing puppy behavior. The Bernese that anxiously barks at *everything* and takes weeks of knowing someone to approach them has a sibling from the same litter that now works as a nursing home therapy dog. Go figure.

The adult shelter mutt is far more temperamentally stable and less likely to have a dooming health condition. A great shelter will even have Dog Behavior staff that can tell you all about a dog's personality. (disregard the color-coded personality stuff, though - I find it's wildly inaccurate under the stresses of the shelter)

And yet, week after week I see exactly the wrong families passing over perfect adult dogs in favor of puppies. I'd say the appeal of cute is the biggest problem dogs face.

geonni banner said...

What I want to know is, what is the deal with the picture of the two Pit Bulls and the bull? This is work? Or is it simply two strays hassling livestock when all three were rendered homeless by Katrina. Cattle dogs do sometimes employ nose-bites, but Pit Bulls leaping 5 feet in the air to grab the lip of a bull seems a bit suspicious to me. And WHAT is that thing on the bull's tail? A padlock? A giant safety pin? Where did this picture come from?

PBurns said...

Not sure, but swapped out the picture. We have hundreds of pig working folsk in this country and the picture I replaced it with is from Australia. More here >>

Jen said...

Well, I confess, my Doberman isn't trained to be a man stopper. She doesn't have the temperament for it, and I would not have gone with her breeder had I been more informed. Live and learn. She's a good visual deterrent, at any rate, and that works wonders for my personal space when we're out and about.

She also does a good job of alerting me to impending migraines (mine, not the migraines of others), and while that isn't any kind of traditional work, it's pretty useful to me.

seeker said...

I do NOT have lacquer on my nails, more likely horse poop under them. Seriously, I guess I do fulfill that role for my three rescue Jacks. Two are shorties that want desperately to hunt but can't pass the muster and the wild child that can't be owned by an ordinary person cause she kills everything except her pack members. YOU really would be the better owner as she is a hunting fool at 12 inches and 15 lbs but at 7 years she won't come to call so would probably get lost right off in your world of trained hunting.
So we all sit at home, go for long walks and dream of what might have been for them, the illbred, the illused and the thrown away...My rescue dogs.
Keep on doing what you're doing and spread the word so more don't end up like my 3 Texas Jacks or worse at a kill shelter for being what they really are.


jeffrey thurston said...

Love this comment by "seeker". I'm pretty much in the same boat- two rescue JRTs- one a stone killer hard-mouthed maniac and the other a perfect hole dog- well-trained who has no place to hunt in California. I give them a rich fantasy life with our canned daily walk "hunts" where they get an occasional rat or squirrel and the little guy can go down holes in tree trunks or culverts. THEY think they're hunting and being useful- that they have jobs. That being said I wouldn't have it any other way- having the real deal even if they can't actually work is fine with me- the JRT is such a great creature in personality and eagerness- I see purebred show dog types and just see shadows...