Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary??
The old nursery rhyme went “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells and great big awful eggplants!” (The eggplants were my idea)
Just as the modern rendition of the nursery rhyme has been tweaked by this dinosaur, so has breeding and exhibiting dogs changed over the years. We used to breed our bitches to the one stud we considered most suitable based on a careful study of what we expected both sire and dam to bring to the party. What they each showed in outward physical type was weighed, as was their ancestry, and any record of past producing tendencies.
If we shipped a bitch to a stud somewhere far from home and could not witness the breeding, we had the breeder’s integrity to trust as to the breeding. Some breeders furnished a photograph of the tie, but there was no DNA testing. Some studs were dominant to the point you could pick out their offspring, but basically trust was what you bought when you shipped. Shipping a bitch today has also gotten very expensive compared to years ago. Airlines would really rather not handle live animals.
Today we have people breeding bitches to more than one stud and they use DNA testing to straighten out the parentage. I have no idea what all this costs, but obviously all the animals involved must have their DNA recorded somewhere. If you really can’t decide who the best match would be for your bitch I suppose this type of Russian Roulette has some merit. You can test your bitch with multiple studs and decide which to go back to in the future. Of course, if none of the pups turn out to be exceptional, it’s back to the drawing board or the sperm bank.
This method reminds me a bit of handlers who show many specials at the National. In the old days good handlers used to pick out the dog or bitch that they thought had the best chance under that judge and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t know if what we see today is just a result of not being able to decide which one is best, a desire to pick up more money, or having no idea what a judge may like. In any event it lets people cover more bases just like breeding to multiple studs. I suppose if you do that you may seem smarter, at least in your own estimation. We have lots of changes in dog shows just as we do in breeding dogs. Back in the old days you could find two shows a week (Saturday and Sunday) and often with a drive between shows. The only circuit I can recall was in Florida in January each year. In fact in the East the show season pretty much shut down after Philadelphia and Camden in early December and didn’t start back up until The Garden. Dogs and people got a break unless they went to Florida.
Today we have dog shows which have sprouted up like mushrooms. The old rules which governed the spacing between shows seems to have gone by the boards. As these many, many shows compete for entries, some will inevitably fall by the wayside. The cost of judges, venues, and superintendants will weed out the excess. As the shows go belly up that can’t compete so will the legion of judges who cannot do multiple breeds, groups, and Best In Show. Registrations of purebred dogs have been falling at an alarming rate as the public has become less concerned with owning a registered dog and more enamored with rescues.
In the attempt to survive shows are banding together to hold multiple shows in one place and also morning and afternoon shows each day with specialties or match shows squeezed in between. I don’t know what this does to humans, but the dogs must get tired. No wonder some dogs can pile up records with such vast numbers. The numbers seem to be rather hollow when your BIS had less than 400 dogs. Some years ago I said that dog shows would not look the same in fifty years. It’s not taking that long.
The dogs are changing as much as breeding and dog shows. The ones who win big are more on edge (alert) and must be to hold up under the pressure this often give us temperaments who show endlessly, but aren’t fun to live with at home. We’ve learned to fix so many things with judicious fakery that we expect almost every puppy to finish. Of course, finishing isn’t a big deal when it takes less than 10 dogs for a major. Long range breeding programs are often replaced by plans to win the next points. Instead of taking a chance to breed a once in a lifetime dog people seem content with breeding nice mediocre dogs whose faults are easy to doctor.
Can these things be reversed or does the dog fancy even have the will to do so? The final outcome will not be decided by this old dinosaur. The only way I see things getting better is by putting the dogs first. Not the records, not the glamour, not the parties with fancy clothes, not the human egos, but the dogs.
Think about it!!