For casual consumption only; Not to be ingested without the proverbial grain…
Why is it that our dachshund stands with only one other breed in the hound group having size specified in its standard by weight only, with no suggestion for height? (We’ll return to the subject of the other breed later.) I do not know the history behind the absence of a height suggestion in our standard, and would be delighted if someone who does would inform me. Being ignorant of that bit of breed history, it is not difficult to conjecture just why ideal weights rather than heights were written into the standard at a time when the breed was not so low to ground as it is today. Imagine the controversy that might have preceded that decision when the standard was being drafted: Breeder X, with dogs a bit higher on leg and at the wither than those of Breeder Y, would have been adamant in opposition to a height limitation. But I am only guessing. What I am certain of, however, is that there is room to question whether a weight disqualification of our miniatures is the best way to keep them small, and if it doesn’t, in fact, do them a disservice. Miniature varieties in this country have made great strides in the past ten years. The breeders who have contributed to that progress have done it, I feel, in spite of the albatross of a weight disqualification in the Open Miniature class. They deserve admiration for their vision and perseverance. Most miniature breeders probably know of a few dogs who would not have “weighed in” but have thrown excellent, small stock, or made a significant contribution to their varieties a generation or two down the pedigree. Consider for a moment that it took courageous breeders who were willing to look further down the road than the next litter for these dogs to have been used at all. Without those breeders of vision (or desperation, perhaps?) those dogs would have never made their contributions because the average mini breeder, in the “weight paranoia” mode, passed them over for fear they would have thrown stock too heavy for the ring. Emphasis on a weight limit focuses on only one aspect of the miniature dachshund, distracting breeder and judge concentration from type, a far more important (and difficult) element to achieve and maintain. Now, I am the first to argue that size is an important aspect of type for a mini: he must be appropriately small to look like a miniature dachshund. But notice, I say that I will argue for size, not weight. Should we not be placing emphasis on how much space the dog occupies rather than what he registers on the scales? At least part of the point of the smaller varieties originally had to do with the game they were to hunt and the holes they were to go into, altogether a function of size, not weight. Contemplate for a moment a pair of identical twins, two dogs of precisely the same height and length, with identical rib cages. One is not fat, but is in slack, soft condition, while the other is of excellent, hard muscular fitness. Given the fact that muscle weighs more than fat, which dog is more likely to be disqualified for “excess weight”? But which one is more likely to efficiently do the job he was designed to do? Ironic, isn’t it? Let’s not forget that one of our breed’s original primary purposes was to go to ground on badger. Now, pound for pound the badger is perhaps the meanest s.o.b. in the woods, and if a dog is going to take him on in his own turf, that dog had better be packing some muscle to back up his “bold to the point of rashness” attitude. Miniature dachshunds had best not be allowed down a hole to take on so large an adversary as a badger, but they are judged by the same breed standard, and should ideally be a true dachshund in miniature. The German, English, FCI and Australian standards call for a compact animal. So did the American one until its latest revision, which continues to require “robust muscular development”; (remember, the more muscle, the more weight). A consultation with a dictionary has yielded the following: “Compact closely packed together, solid, dense”, and: “Miniature represented on a reduced scale; anything small”. Notice, please, “small”, not “light in weight”. Now, bring in the scales, and our minis are automatically penalized for compactness, a trait required by dachshund standards around the world, while no consideration is given to the animal’s actual dimensions. So breeders, adaptable, eager to win creatures that we are, keen to exhibit and therefore willing to try to satisfy whatever requirements are imposed, breed finer bone and lesser girth, underfeed (there, I said it: underfeed), withhold water, or do whatever is necessary to get around a requirement which penalizes compact muscular development while considering actual size not at all. It seems less than fair to me that a dog’s eligibility to compete on a given day can depend upon whether or not he has had a drink of water or had a productive session in the exercise pen. And consider this, please: surely it is somewhat arbitrary and unreasonable that a dog might be Best in Show on Saturday, and, having altogether the same dimensions, be disqualified from competition on Sunday! Try as I might, I cannot get the guides on my logic grid to line up over that one. Perhaps our breed standard, which is extensively specific regarding structure and the relationships of various bones to each other, could be improved by the addition of height at shoulder guidelines to the weights now suggested for the big guys and required for the miniatures. Ideal body proportions have been adopted by D.C.A., and to my mind, are conspicuous in their absence from the breed standard. Surely this is among the most important aspects of the physical appearance of any breed of dog. If the ideal proportions were outlined in the standard, the next logical step would be deal with heights at the shoulder. I propose that a suggested range of height for each size of dachshund would be of greater benefit than weights to both breeders and judges in their attempts to develop and assess this breed whose outstanding identifying characteristic is its lowness to ground! Such a suggested range just might give judges a benchmark they could better measure against, helping to slow the progression of some of our standard dachshunds toward the size of basset hounds. And someday, it is hoped, judges could concentrate on assessing miniatures for type, balance and soundness rather than being distracted by deciding which of the various faults will be forgiven on the day, faults resulting largely from a concentration over the years on the weight restriction. About that other hound breed with no ideal range of height in its standard: it is the greyhound. Try to imagine yourself going into the ring as a greyhound judge armed only with these words from the standard regarding size: “dogs, 65 to 70 pounds; bitches 60 to 65 pounds.” Which ones are the right size? Are all of these open bitches correct except for the small one, or is that smaller bitch the ideal 65 pounds and all of the others over the line and into the ideal dog range? My point is again, of course, that most people probably cannot accurately assess an animal’s weight by looking at it and touching it. Any breed standard that leaves out height and proportions misses an opportunity (neglects an obligation?) to properly inform as to the correct size of the dog it describes, and thereby under-equips its breeders and judges, the breed guardians. Having said all of that, a disqualification for weight or size makes no more sense to me than one based on sloppy rear action, upright shoulders, or a swampy topline. It is more objectively determined, of course, but dealing as it does with only one aspect of the animal, is no more reasonable, and points our miniatures, in particular, down the road towards weediness and mediocre type. Breed standards offer guidelines to judges and breeders, who then have the responsibility of deciding where to draw the line on a particular point of a breed. That is a very large part of what the dog game is about, and that is as it should be. I hope you’ll think about it. The Piano Man said it best: “I may be wrong, but I may be right.”
Author’s Note: Let me dispel any doubts that the reader
might have about where I am coming from: every
one of the five miniatures of our breeding that has finished from 1991 to 1994
has been weighed in at Roundup or Expo as an adult.)
Author’s Note: Let me dispel any doubts that the reader might have about where I am coming from: every one of the five miniatures of our breeding that has finished from 1991 to 1994 has been weighed in at Roundup or Expo as an adult.)
Food for Thought
For casual consumption only; not to be ingested without the proverbial grain…
I had the good fortune to observe the Dachshund judging by Mrs. Elaine Rigden at Westminster this year, and while this column is not meant to be a critique of her efforts there, I will comment on my impressions because the results at that show served as fodder for these musings. Mrs. Rigden did what I considered a truly commendable job. She had many good dogs to work with, and the ones she chose were in fine form that day. One thing that was notable to me was her seeming unawareness of who the "power brokers" were, and of the impressive records of some dogs that were exhibited to her. Now, Mrs. Rigden was quite likely to have been very much aware of those things since she did not, I feel certain, live in a vacuum up until she left home for New York City. Her ability to filter out those factors, along with her obvious depth of breed knowledge, made her judging of the dogs a pleasure to watch. Another thing that impressed and thrilled me, and what serves as the starting point for this train of thought, was that two of her Variety winners were bitches. These were extraordinarily lovely looking Dachshund bitches, each very much "on" on the day, both beautifully presented and well handled. From where I was sitting, each of them was as much in contention for the BOV nod as any of the males in the ring. So I think it's a pity that I am inclined to use the words "impressed and thrilled" to describe my reaction to Mrs. Rigden's choice of excellent bitches for two of her Best of Variety awards. But think about it: how often have you sat at ringside and seen an exceptional bitch go Best of Opposite Sex to a run of the mill dog? Often enough, I'll bet, that it doesn't really surprise you even if you do find it disappointing. Ask yourself how many breeders get more show quality males than females in their litters; my general impression is that it's not very many, and that's borne out by the larger number of bitches entered in the classes at the majority of shows that I attend. And if I can trust my own experience and impressions, if a judge is having a hard time making a decision for Winners, in bitches it is very likely to be due to an embarrassment of riches; in dogs, well, that's probably not the problem. So if this is a bitch heavy breed so to speak, how come, I ask you, is it so difficult for a stunning bitch to win a variety over a bunch of so-so dog specials? Is it male chauvinism, pure and simple, as has been suggested to me? That, or a judging reflex born of tradition and ingrained by habit?
If you've ever watched a judge go over a really fine bitch special, be clearly impressed, then put her BOS to a mediocre dog, you have to wonder. You can almost see the wheels turning: "Oh good! This is a wonderful bitch, an easy choice for Opposite. Now, let me go back and try to figure out which of these dogs to put Best of Variety today." extremely frustrating, whether you're sitting outside the ring as a breed loving observer, or are inside the ring, hoping against hope that today your bitch special will get full and fair consideration. If you're the breeder, you put just as much into producing that bitch special as went into any of the dogs. If you're the owner or handler, you put just as much effort into training and grooming her as you would have if she were male; if you're an owner with a handler for hire on your specials bitch, well, there's certainly no sex discount. And the fact that the girl's career in the ring is limited if she's to make a contribution from the brood box only adds to the frustration when she doesn't get equal time from the judge just because of her gender. It has often been said that a breed is no better than its bitches, and that old saw didn't get to be an old saw without being true.
The mama dog not only brings half of the genetic make up to the party, she does everything else to make a litter happen once the whoopee has been made. And no breeder reading this needs me to point out that virtually all Dachshund bitches are truly devoted and efficient mothers. So don't these ladies, the very foundation, nurturers, and future of our breed, deserve equal respect in the specials ring? This is not meant to excuse the specialing of bitches who are not in proper condition or who are badly out of coat, but can a judge not forgive, for instance, a slightly less luxuriant coat while judging longhairs when it's uncovering correct structure and sound movement? I have heard judges offer the reason, or perhaps it's an excuse, that while the bitch was exquisite, the dog was the more "impressive" animal to send on to the group. Now, I feel that a slightly smaller, feminine specimen is just as impressive as a larger dog if she is correct, equally sound, and of beautiful type. Does the judge's rationale mean "I know she's actually the better Dachshund"? If so, is there ever a valid excuse for not putting up the best Dachshund? If there were no group today, would she have been Best of Variety? There have been some notable exceptions, of course, bitches who have successfully bucked the tradition and accumulated impressive show records. And bitches do seem to hold their own at our DCA National shows, going Best of Variety and Best of Breed often enough to indicate some very open minded, even handed judging. But if that suggests that breeder judges are more inclined to recognize true quality regardless of the sex of the animal, then maybe we're not doing quite enough to properly educate the non breeder judges of our Dachshunds. Lest there be any misunderstanding, please let it be known that I feel there are some wonderful male Dachshunds currently being specialed in each coat, and I certainly do not hold the view that bitches should be chosen over dogs for the variety awards unless they are the superior specimens in a given competition. Permit me one last word regarding the Garden. This is in no way meant to take any of the glory away from the dog that won, who looked terrific and quite deserving from where I sat. But imagine the post judging buzz that would have ensued had Mrs Rigden made a clean sweep of it and chosen a bitch for her longhaired Variety as well. (It could have happened: she had at least three lovely ladies that appeared worthy of the award.) I'm certain that there would have been many comments regarding the fact that three bitches had won the Variety awards at Westminster. And if three dogs had won, would anyone have noticed?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
casual consumption only;
to be ingested without the proverbial grain…
"Form follows function." It is a term used
frequently in the dog world, borrowed, I believe, from architecture, although I
am not certain of its absolute origin. with the exception of the breeds in the
toy group, nearly all of today's breeds were developed with a purpose other than
companionship in mind, a purpose that would serve the needs of man in some very
functional way. A seriously
thought-out breed standard, as it describes the ideal form of the dog, does not
lose sight of the breed's original function, or perhaps of a purpose for which
the breed has more recently come to be used.
If these intended functions are ignored in the standard or by the
breeders and judges who shape the form of the breed as it evolves, then the
breed in question could become one of several doing a flying trot down the road
toward the loss of essential "breediness". You will know what I mean if you have sat at ringside during
group judging over the years and noted more and more breeds moving with amazing
front and rear extension, or trying to, whether that gait would serve them well
in their particular function or not, and whether or not that is the gait
described in their standard. And,
in the pursuit of eye-catching prettiness, many of these exhibits are trimmed
and groomed in ways that would make the old-time breeders do half-gainers in
their graves. one by one, it seems, breeds are becoming more and more like
"cookiecutter dogs" that may vary in shape, size, coat and color, but
otherwise could all have come from the same manufacturer, from the same cookie
cutter set. All of this is true
because these things so often succeed at a dog show; many judges are, perhaps
unconsciously, more impressed by prettiness and flashy movement than by a really
balanced, sound, correct example of a breed, complete with all of the
distinguishing characteristics and structural requisites that both design its
form and make it functional. I
suspect that this state of affairs has evolved due to the enormous emphasis that
is placed on group and best-in-show competition in this country, focusing much
of the fancy' a attention away from the subtleties and finer points of the
various breeds. Many breeders,
being adaptable and wanting to breed what they can win with, begin ignoring the
mandates of structure and breed specifics in their standards, and they get away
with it all too often at dog shows.
One hears many interesting things at ringside,
and I recently overheard a conversation between two Afghan hound breeders in
which one remarked that, while it was quite nice for a dog to have all of the
structural and breed-specific features outlined in the standard, he himself felt
that it was much more important to breed for a "look.,, Well, it is
difficult to win without a "look", but surely a correct-looking
bloodline cannot maintain that look for more that a few generations if the breeder is not
constantly considering structural excellence during both the matchmaking and
selection phases of breeding, keeping the standard's precepts in mind all the
while. I give that particular
breeder only a few years before he loses his valued "look" entirely,
unless he wakes up to the folly and shortsightedness of his point of view.
Another overheard conversation involved
dachshunds. one exhibitor was trying to console another who had not won that
day: "Well, you know that he only likes very elegant, flashy dogs with
refined heads." And when I thought about the dogs that had won that day, it
seemed to be an accurate statement. So,
that judge was consistent. He was
not, I thought, correct: the words "flashy" and "elegant" do
not appear in our standard's general description of the dachshund, nor is
"refinement" a requisite for the desired head.
And if you think about it for only a minute, you will probably agree with
me that it is just as well, since none of those "qualities" is going
to be of service to a dog who is meant to be able to go down a hole and battle
an angry badger in its home turf. Elegance
is not functional in the dachshund; substance is.
An overlong neck and narrow, elegant head will not serve him well.
Better form for the dachshund's function combines a strong neck of
adequate length and a head that is in balance on a dog of the robust muscular
development called for in the standard. That
head needs brain room, enough nasal width and depth to fully accommodate
breathing under duress in tight spots where oxygen is limited, and a really
strong underjaw which provides enough bone for the attachment of serious
muscles, muscles vital for success in close encounters with a mortal enemy.
I amuse myself by imagining a conversation with that judge who was
looking for elegance and flashiness in which he comments "I may not know
much about dachshunds, but I know what I like!"
Flashy movement alone will not serve a dog well in
the field; his movement must also be efficient, effortless and sound.
Why does the standard ask for well-angled shoulders and a ninety degree
angle between shoulder and upper arm? Not
only are these features absolutely essential for an animal that needs to fold
its limbs back upon themselves bone by bone in order to go to earth and still be
able to maneuver underground, that angulation and the equal bone lengths
specified in the standard are also major components of the efficient and
effortless movement that will enable a dachshund to put in a full day of
tracking or hunting without fading. All
of the movement faults that we recognize in dogs are faults not simply because
they are unsightly, but more importantly because they reduce efficiency and
require more of the dog's energy to get from point A to point B, thereby
diminishing his ability to perform his function.
A breed standard could be considered a work in
progress over the history of the breed, as is the breed itself.
Standards are altered and updated from time to time, sometimes to clarify
meaning or to improve format, and sometimes, for better or worse, to more
accurately describe the dog that has evolved over the years since the last revision. (For example, in our own breed
standard the eye shape was recently changed from "oval" to
"almond". A tighter eye
is certainly less susceptible to damage in combat and to injury in the bush; but
the eye opening is determined largely by the skull's shape, and danger lies in
going to an extreme that creates an over narrowed skull in an attempt through
breeding to alter the shape of the eye socket.) If the breed in question can
still be expected to function efficiently, and if the evolution it has
experienced has improved its ability to perform or has enhanced its appearance
with no detriment to function, then it is good to change the standard to reflect
that evolution. But standard
changes do a disservice to a breed when they are made in order to reflect the
taste of the show fancy while ignoring the fact that a decrease in functional
ability may result.
our breed is a race of dwarfs, ideally suited
by that dwarfism for going to earth and for working at ground level in a variety
of difficult terrains. Physical
beauty in the dachshund requires a fitness for work, good breed type, and a
symmetry of parts, that eye-pleasing, all-of-a-piece look while both standing
and moving that is the hallmark of any balanced and structurally sound animal.
The dachshund does not need to aspire to an off-type elegance in the
pursuit of beauty any more than an exquisitely-formed and accomplished gymnast
needs to aspire to the willowy attenuation of a fashion model.
We are fortunate in our breed that there are
currently many dual champions, dogs whose excellence of form makes them both
functional enough to earn field championships and beautiful enough to hold show
titles. Their breeders and owners
are to be commended and encouraged, as this reflects a balance of interest
within the fancy that is probably essential to the future of the dachshund if it
is not to become one of the many "cookie-cutter" breeds seen at
today's shows. Also essential to
that good future is that the function of the dachshund remains clearly in the
minds of those of us who breed for the show ring, and that we do not fall into
the trap of breeding to win under those judges who can say "I may not
know much about dachshunds, but I know what I like!"
casual consumption only; not to be ingested
the proverbial grain...
In my book, one of the worst things for a judge to be
called (after, of course, the very obvious undesirable labels such as
"crook" and "complete blathering idiot") is "fault
judge". By necessity, all
thoughtful judging makes note of the faults encountered.
But the "fault judge,, designation implies a reliance on finding
faults and eliminating the dogs that have them rather than a sure-minded search
for virtues and quality and then paying tribute to the dogs that possess the
best of those blessings. To be
sure, fault judging is the easier approach, a fact attested to by the number of
judges that seem to rely on it as their main operating mode, and by the number
of ringside experts always on hand to enumerate the shortcomings of whichever
dog has just won.
Faults are usually pretty easy to find since
all dogs have them. Early in our
dog careers we all learn to recognize unsound movement, bad toplines, light
eyes, dogs that are outside of the ideal size range, and other obvious
undesirable traits. Alas, many
dog-showing enthusiasts, some judges among them it seems, remain at just that
level, never learning to recognize the virtues that set the good dogs apart from
the mediocre ones or the fine shadings of type, structure and carriage that set
the great dogs apart from the good ones.
Once the vast area of easily discerned canine
faults is left behind an even larger world of subtleties is entered, and here is
where that famous "eye for a dog" becomes essential if one is to be
able to select the best animal, whether it is the judge making a decision based
upon less than two minutes of time per dog, or a breeder deciding which stud dog
to use or which puppy to keep from a litter.
Many good puppies have been sold as pets by breeders who saw only the
shortcomings and failed to believe that they might be outgrown, while
overlooking the virtues of structure that would in time transform the gangly
youngster into a fine, balanced dog of superior quality.
In the ring, time after time, a judge can be
observed ignoring a sound animal of good structure and superb breed type because
of some factor that obviously, for that judge, renders the entire animal
unworthy of serious consideration. Such
a judge is likely to end up with a winner of so-so overall quality, one with few
faults that are easily found but with no sterling virtues.
Yes, of course judges must judge the "parts" of a dog, but
problems arise when the whole dog gets lost for the judge because of a
shortcoming in one of the parts, or because of the judge's inability to forgive
a few minor but obvious imperfections. And
we see the other side of the coin from time to time as well: the judge that
so falls in love with one part of a dog, perhaps the head or the shoulders, that
the fact that the dog has serious problems of type, structure, proportion or
movement seems to get lost. In
either case, what the judge seems to lack is either basic ability or a
commitment to finding the best overall dog, the one that most exemplifies the
breed's unique characteristics while exhibiting the soundness, balance, and
condition expected in every worthy show dog.
Judging is very much about compromising and forgiving; I submit that the
shared traits of the best judges, along with integrity, courage, objectivity
and, of course, "the eye", include having a sure idea of what makes up
an all-round good dog, and the ability to weigh the importance of the various
virtues and failings found in each animal.
In the rarified world of breeding and showing
dogs, judges' opinions are a very important element, no question, and fault
judging, as well as "single part" judging, does have its ill effects
on breed evolution since breeders, especially the novices and perennial novices,
are often influenced by the outcome of what happens at dog shows.
But finding fault can be a larger problem when breeders rely heavily on
it as they make their selections of stud dogs.
Make no mistake, it is not being suggested here that genetic diseases and
disqualifying faults should be overlooked, but too much fault-finding might find
a breeder entering a state of near-paralysis, finding it impossible to locate a
perfect dog to which to breed a good bitch, or a bad bitch, for that matter.
For many breeders, venturing off the familiar territory of their own
bloodlines creates a big problem: surely any faults in that other bloodline are
worse than those in one's own! Such
a breeder might do well to consider the axiom, I believe it was Valery's, that
our best ideas are sometimes the ones that are at odds with our emotions.
Notice though, that emotion has been singled out, not intuition, a gift
which is surely shared by the best breeders, as are those traits attributed
above to the best judges.
Now, I know that this is a big simplification
of the ideal process of stud selection, but the thing to do, of course, is to
find the dog who has virtues that might achieve a genetic coup over the bitch's
failings, and whose faults are not the same as hers. Beyond that, consideration of every minor problem that might
be inherited from the breeding because of observed flaws in the dog or some of
his ancestors is probably going to contribute more to the breeder's eventual
insanity than it is to the actual outcome of the mating!
I'd be willing to bet that almost every successful breeder that could be
interviewed on the subject would remember a significant mating, one that was
instrumental to the ongoing success of the bloodline, that was done because of
the virtues and in spite of the faults of one or both of the dogs involved.
And as for the dams, have not some of the best animals and the biggest
winners in the histories of many breeds been the offspring of untitled bitches?
A gifted breeder will not let a good bitch with something outstanding to
contribute go unutilized simply because she has a flaw or two: I disagree with
the adage that "no dog should be bred from if it is not good enough to
finish." To my mind, that is a very good way to throw the baby out with the
bath water, a good way for a breeder to "fault select" the bloodline
right into a state of mediocrity, just as so many judges "fault judge"
their way to mediocre winners.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
FOR CASUAL CONSUMPTION ONLY: NOT TO BE INGESTED WITHOUT THE PROVERBIAL GRAIN…
Let me establish at the outset that I do not profess to have any background in science, or in genetics beyond what I learned about Mendel's peas in Biology 101 plus whatever I have added to that over the years through the study of dogs. What I do have, unfortunately, is quite a bit of first-hand experience with hydrocephalus. For those readers who are completely unfamiliar with this affliction, it is defined by Webster's as "an accumulation of serous fluid within the cranium, especially in infancy, due to obstruction of the movement of cerebrospinal fluid, often causing great enlargement of the head; water on the brain."
Our first encounter with hydrocephalus was in a litter of two. One of the pups was considerably smaller than a normal mini, and had a skull shaped more like that of a Chihuahua than a dachshund: domed, with an abrupt stop and a soft spot. She also had a much shorter body than one expects, and was extremely animated, probably hyperactive. Andrew and I were living in Australia at the time, and our veterinarian assured me that, while we were dealing with an abnormality of some sort, he felt sure that there was not a genetic factor at play. That puppy had an abnormal heart, and lived to be about four months old.
A second such puppy appeared about two years later, and lived to about four months. Three years later we got another similar puppy who died at about three months of age. We were living in a different part of Melbourne by then, and another vet echoed the opinion of the first one. However, I was not convinced at this point, having noted that all three of these puppies had been in line-bred litters. Questioning other breeders brought forth no one who had any similar experience, or at least no one who was willing to discuss it. I was perplexed.
The next incidence was a puppy that did not have the same appearance as
the first three. She was small, but not so small as to set off any alarms.
Her head was certainly not ideal, but no less so than many pet
dachshunds. Her only symptom was a
constant runny nose that did not respond to antibiotics as it should have if it
had been of bacterial origin, and did not clear up on its own, as it would have
if it were due to a virus. Most days she was bright and lively and altogether like a
normal puppy, but there were days when it was clear that she was sick, very much
like a child with a cold. It
was a source of considerable consternation to me that there seemed to be
no veterinary expertise available to help her, and that her affliction could not
be identified. When she was about nine months old, we returned to America.
We left her behind with a very kind friend since we were convinced that
an arduous trip would possibly be too much for her.
At this point we had made no connection in our minds between her and the
first three abnormal puppies, as she did not seem to share any of their
symptoms. We later learned that she died at about eighteen months of
age, suddenly, and probably due to heart failure.
The next incidence was a puppy that did not have the same appearance as the first three. She was small, but not so small as to set off any alarms. Her head was certainly not ideal, but no less so than many pet dachshunds. Her only symptom was a constant runny nose that did not respond to antibiotics as it should have if it had been of bacterial origin, and did not clear up on its own, as it would have if it were due to a virus. Most days she was bright and lively and altogether like a normal puppy, but there were days when it was clear that she was sick, very much like a child with a cold. It was a source of considerable consternation to me that there seemed to be no veterinary expertise available to help her, and that her affliction could not be identified. When she was about nine months old, we returned to America. We left her behind with a very kind friend since we were convinced that an arduous trip would possibly be too much for her. At this point we had made no connection in our minds between her and the first three abnormal puppies, as she did not seem to share any of their symptoms. We later learned that she died at about eighteen months of age, suddenly, and probably due to heart failure.
When we had been back in the U.S. for about a year, we did a mating between a bitch and her grandson. Both of these animals were themselves the result of out-crosses, and neither of them had been a parent of any of the puppies discussed so far. In this litter was a puppy with all of the symptoms we had encountered: extremely small size, odd head shape with a pronounced soft spot, hyper-animation, and the constant runny nose. With that one puppy, all of my doubts and questions came to resolution, because it linked the other pup with the runny nose to those that had preceded her, and all of them to this most recent one. Our vet here identified the affliction, and the pedigrees gave me all I needed to track exactly where the origin was in our bloodline.
Now, it is entirely possible that I am mistaken about what I have surmised to be the mode of inheritance of hydrocephalus, but it seems to act exactly like a simple recessive trait, and what little veterinary information I have been able to find supports that. For those even less schooled in genetics than I am, think of the afflicted puppy from two normal parents as being like a black and tan from two red parents: each parent must be a carrier of the recessive gene, and neither parent can single-handedly produce the trait in his or her offspring, as the gene in question must be married to the same gene from the other parent to produce an afflicted puppy. This means, of course, that a given dog or bitch may be a carrier and never throw an afflicted puppy, but each of that carrier's offspring has a fifty/fifty chance of being a carrier. (It should also be noted that hydrocephalus can occur as a congenital problem rather than as a genetic one, having nothing to do with anything other than that particular puppy's pre-natal development).
The range of symptoms is broad. Any, all, or none of the following may appear in a given puppy: a soft spot on the top of the head, evident in some toy breeds but not commonly found in dachshunds; extremely small size; failure to thrive; inability to nurse; appearance of hyperactivity; oddly shaped head and low, wide eye placement, the combined effect of which brings to the observer's mind a human child with Down's syndrome; heart problems; an unrelenting runny nose. I must add that our few fading puppies over the years have been from parents that could have been carriers, causing us to wonder if that too was a result of hydrocephalus, but undetected because the pups did not survive long enough for any obvious symptoms to appear.
I would like to point out that not one of these hydrocephalic puppies has seemed mentally retarded in any way. As a matter of fact, most of them have been the most outgoing in the litter and the first to do everything, thereby appearing to be the most intelligent. Each of them has been affectionate, good-natured, and altogether charming, compounding the heartbreak when they die.
It seems possible that a given dog might carry two recessive genes for this affliction and show no outward signs, and a knowledgeable and very helpful Canadian breeder has told me a story of just such a dachshund. She had been shown and was pointed, and then had a litter which produced a hydrocephalic puppy. She was later placed in a pet home with a well-to-do couple who doted on her. Her owner accidentally slammed a car door on her head one day, and while she seemed to suffer no long-term damage, they chose to have an M.R.I. done to be certain. To the great surprise of the veterinarian and probably everyone involved, she was found to have a brain which occupied only a small part of her skull, the rest being filled with fluid! She was diagnosed at that point with hydrocephalus. One of our own dogs, now just over a year old, has a runny nose, but no other discernible evidence of the disease. We have x-rayed both his chest and his head, and all seems normal. Our vet was difficult to convince, and she may only be humoring me now in agreeing that this pup is hydrocephalic. He even looks perfectly normal; I believe, in fact, that he could be finished if we showed him. So, since not all afflicted ones have the runny nose, it is not impossible to believe that there are some dogs with two recessive genes for this syndrome who display no symptoms at all.
We have had to wonder if our problems did not start with such a dog. Our first Australian stud dog, the sire of our first hydrocephalic puppy from a bitch who was related to him, was the sire of two outcrossed litters for us from another bitch. (Incidentally, there were six champions from these litters, two of them all-breed best-in-show winners and another a multiple group winner, demonstrating that this gene, like most others, does not affect the appearance of carriers.) We went on over the next few years to breed from those six champion offspring. We have subsequently traced the gene for hydrocephalus back to five of them with certainty, and cannot totally rule out the sixth. Could it have been pure bad luck that every one of his pups that we chose to go on with turned out to be a carrier, or was it inevitable because he could only pass along the recessive (bad) gene to all of his offspring, having two of them himself? We will never know, but I will probably always wonder.
Several American breeders have told me that they have had a puppy with symptoms described here, or know of another breeder who did. Most, like us, did not know what they were seeing, and the breeders I have talked to did not have a recurrence, a fact directly attributable to the breedings not having been repeated.
Our latest encounter with this problem is very recent. We imported a dog from Australia from a bloodline different from the one that we developed there. This new import had been used extensively at stud in Australia, and, to his breeder/owner's knowledge, had never produced a hydrocephalic puppy. This was, as one might assume, very important to us, as his ability to help us dig out of this particular hole was an important factor in our decision to purchase him, along with other of his attributes which we hoped to add to our bloodline. Much to our dismay and shock, this dog produced an afflicted puppy in his first litter from one of our own bitches. But this is worse: an outside bitch, from a bloodline not known to be carrying this gene, also produced an afflicted puppy when she was bred to this dog, her litter being born a few weeks prior to our own. Now, we needed to make absolutely certain that one of our other dead-keen and oh-so-clever males, known to be a carrier, had not gotten to this visiting bitch. This is something that has never happened here, and it was surely impossible, as bitches in season are housed in the equivalent of a concrete bunker. But the "impossible" does happen from time to time and, truth be told, we would have been relieved to learn that it had happened, feeling that temporary embarrassment and an unsolved mystery as to how it had occurred were preferable to learning that our new import was a carrier. We therefore did a DNA test to determine paternity, and the imported dog did prove to be the sire. (At least we now have scientific proof of our bad luck!) As upset as we are about our dashed hopes for the new dog, I feel worse for the other breeder: Andrew and I are dealing with a devil we know all too well; she is now dealing with the new knowledge that she has one of the breed's usually-lethal genes to consider as she goes forward, whether she chooses to use offspring from this litter or not. She kindly tells me that she would rather know than be in the dark, and has been completely cooperative about this whole development.
As nasty recessive genes go, I suppose there is at least one aspect of this one that makes it preferable to some others, those that evidence themselves later in the afflicted dog's life, such as progressive retinal atrophy (P.R.A.), disc disease, or epilepsy. I do realize that this is something like comparing a rotten pear to a rotten apple, but there are a formidable number of health-related genetic problems out there, and a breeder takes a chance with every breeding, whether out-crossed or within the line, and whether or not the stud's owner has been honest and forthcoming. With hydrocephalus, most afflicted animals are identifiable at about three or four weeks of age, and therefore are not incorporated into a breeding program. With other problems, a dog may have sired numerous litters, spawning a large number of carriers into the gene pool, before it is known that he has the disease.
Permit me a brief digression. There is a chronic disease in quarter horses known as "tying up" which nearly devastated the breed. Horses with this syndrome will just fall over one day, not dead, but unable to move for a period of time. It all goes back to one magnificent horse who was used extensively at stud. For quite some time everyone who bred to him and got the problem kept quiet about it, each thinking that it was unique to his own particular horse and being reluctant to deal with the gossip and innuendo that would result about his own bloodline if he were to go public with the problem. Similarly, P.R.A. became a huge problem in English mini-longs at least partly due to the breeders who were quite aware that they had the problem in their lines but were unwilling to be honest about it. Finally, the lid was blown off the whole thing by a very successful breeder who clearly cared more about the future of the breed than the reputation of his own bloodline. At that point, one of those breeders who had kept the problem under wraps for so long is reported to have said that, while she knew her extensively-used stud dog was a carrier, she had kept it a secret because she could not afford to lose the stud fees that he was bringing in. Such stories cause me to fervently hope that my trust in cosmic justice is not misplaced.
So, with hydrocephalus we are dealing with a self-limiting disease which seems not to be widely known or even recognized, with a diverse set of symptoms ranging from usually fatal to occasionally (and rarely, I hope,) totally absent. The question: how should breeders, aspiring to do more good than harm as a result of their efforts, proceed when such a gene is discovered in the line? Should the whole bloodline be scrapped? That was my initial reaction when we first sorted out what the problem was. Andrew was convinced otherwise. He felt that we were not likely to be the only ones with this problem and therefore were not necessarily going to make a significant impact on it by turning away from the line that we had developed, one which has produced many animals very pleasing to us in many ways. He also maintained that if we were to start over, we could quite easily get involved with something worse in our view, a problem that does not evidence itself so early in the puppy's life. It has taken me a long time to come around to his viewpoint, but these most recent events, along with stories of other breeders' discoveries of other diseases, have convinced me that there are merits to his arguments. This is not to say that we feel we can go forward willy-nilly, pretending that the problem does not exist. But I do believe, after long and sometimes heart-wrenching consideration, that the answer is a controlled program which attempts to contain and eventually eliminate the problem without sacrificing the desirable elements of the bloodline. And a necessary part of this effort is limiting outsider access to the bloodline to a very few people whom we know we can trust to be as conscientious about this as we intend to be.
I wonder how much of this disease exists in our American gene pool. I know of a pup acquired from a pet shop who died of it, and have heard of several other smooth and longhaired pups from show lines, both standard and miniature, who had it. It is probably not rampant, being so often fatal and therefore self-limiting. But perhaps reading this will help a few other breeders to identify the problem and thereby limit its spread.
I would welcome any information that readers might have about this subject, and will gladly discuss it with anyone who has questions, although most of what I have learned is detailed here. Our e-mail address is ElysiumDox@doglover.com
(Author's postscript) Since this article was originally published in the spring '96 issue of "The Dachshund Review", we have taken two young afflicted dogs to the University of Pennsylvania's Genetic Diseases specialists. They have confirmed that we are dealing with a simple recessive gene. They have also informed us that the runny noses are probably a result of failure of the cilia, the tiny hairlike structures that move the body's normal fluids, to function adequately. The fluids therefore build up to levels that cause discomfort to the dog, and that must be moved by coughing or sneezing.
This is a syndrome that has been observed in dogs of other breeds who were known to be hydrocephalic.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
For casual consumption only; not to be ingested without the proverbial
It is always of interest to me to note other peoples' reactions while sitting at ringside, and comments heard recently reminded me of a conversation I had while living in Australia. A friend of mine there had just returned home from a visit to America. Being a dedicated dog person, a breeder of repute and a judge who had studied long and hard on her way to an all breeds license, she naturally visited several dog shows while she was here. She complained to me that the recurring comment she heard from Americans when referring to various dogs was "He's a really pretty dog", or words to that effect, with "pretty" being the operative adjective time after time. Now, as words go, "pretty" is quite a useful one which I use myself both at ringside and with my own dogs. ("Hello, sweetie, what a correct girl you are!" isn't the exclamation that spontaneously springs from my lips when I'm sweet talking one of my Doxies.) And no one gets more excited than I do at the sight of a Dachshund who truly fills the eye. My friend's point, though, was that "pretty" does not always a good dog of whatever breed make, and I happen to agree with her. If you have been overseas and attended dog shows, you will probably have noticed that breed after breed is decidedly less refined than its American counterpart, and in a few breeds where the "look" has diverged to the extent that you have what appears to be two different breeds, one here, one over there, the American version will almost always be the "prettier" one. So, American breeders, it would seem, select for prettiness, and since that is what one probably needs to succeed in the ring, who can blame them? (Well, the field trial, obedience, and herding aficionados, for a start, but you know what I mean.) I'll return to the topic of selecting for prettiness later, but for now, I'd like to say that I believe the trouble starts when prettiness becomes more important than dedication to breed function, and therefore type and structure, in the minds and hearts of too many breeders. If we forgo considerations of function, then we will inevitably loose true breed type which, to my mind, is inexorably linked with good structure and movement and a reasonable measure of soundness. I have lived life immersed in Dachshunds on two continents (so far) and, I guess because human nature is what it is, the same phenomenon has been observable in each place in several breeds: dogs of poor structure, truly wrong for their breed, winning big because of a showy attitude or a lovely coat, a stunning headpiece, their owners win momentum or political clout, or a combination of some of those factors. And the breeders of these dogs, whatever breed they happen to be, because they can win with them and because they do not really understand breed structure and movement, think that anyone who feels their dogs are incorrect is either jealous or stupid. They get away with it because the dogs have a certain appeal due to the showiness or the head or the coat, a prettiness that attracts and traps enough judges not schooled in the finer points of the breed's structure and the movement that results from it. And the measurable success that these breeders enjoy, however erroneously awarded, serves to convince them that they are breeding good dogs. Now, this phenomenon is not likely to ever be eliminated from our sport, and that's life, but when too much of it gets around, it can do (and has done in a some breeds,) long term damage. These breeders without true understanding of what is correct in their breed, because of frequent wins and high visibility, attract people new to the breed into their fold; these new people are now hanging on the words of someone who actually has no business passing on "breed knowledge", not to mention the fact that these new people grow up in their breed looking at dogs that are incorrect in fundamental ways. And it takes a long time, if it happens at all, for the disciples to see the missing elements in their mentor's conception of the breed, because the dogs are "pretty". Who can argue with that? Some of them are very, very pretty. Well, yes, so they may be. But, I counter, they are pretty creatures who happen to be Afghans or Dachshunds or Beagles, they are not actually good Afghans, Dachshunds or Beagles! So where do esthetics meet breed function and structure and type to produce a pretty dog that is also, for our purposes here, a good Dachshund? For my money, in the dog that is the really fine example of its breed. Someone once commented to me, after a defeat where the judge seemed to have made his decision on shoulders, that his dog had to have good shoulders because his front movement was reachy, efficient and sound. Well, all of that was pretty much true about the dog's front action, but the fact of the matter was that the dog was quite unattractive structurally in the shoulder area: set too far forward, bulky boned and wide at the withers, and not especially well laid back, though not dreadful in that particular aspect. I don't remember now, but I hope that the winning dog with the better shoulders moved as well on his front as did the defeated dog, because that's what I would hope that judges know enough to look for: the balanced animal with the desired clean, flowing structure under the hand, end to end, who proves the validity of that structure on the move. And what are the chances that said dog will also be "pretty", that is, pleasing to the eye? If the eye in question is trained to the desirable fine points of breed type and balance, of how the dog is meant to fit together and of how its outline should look as it performs the trotting part of its breed function, I'd say the chances are pretty good. Okay, back to our American tendency to select for prettiness, and often therefore, I suggest, for refinement. When you have the chance, look at the back cover of your March, '95 issue of "The D.C.A. Newsletter". Now ask yourself how either of the two dogs pictured, both bred by John Cook, a man respected and revered in this breed, would fare in the ring today. If you've been to a recent specialty or the national, my point will not fail to reach you. And if you've looked at Dachshunds in other countries lately, you're likely to recognize the type you saw overseas in the dogs in the photo. Breeds evolve. It is part of the nature of things, as nothing is constant except change. Breeders have the responsibility to attend to that evolution and see that it moves in the right direction, that prettiness or refinement will not become enough, that correct type and structure and movement, all of the aspects that are necessary to the dog to best perform the job it was meant to do, accompany that pretty look and do not fall by the wayside as success in the ring is pursued.
For casual consumption only; not to be ingested without the proverbial grain.
In the last issue of "The Dachshund Review" there was a history and discussion of the recent events surrounding the controversial emergence of commercial Dachshund racing, ( "Say No...To Dachshund Racing", by Sidney Stafford and Trudy Kawami, "The Dachshund Review", Fall, 1995). The article was very well written and conveyed both the intelligence and passion of the writers along with the facts of this unfortunate development. It also did a fine job of presenting the problems that are quite likely to evolve if we do not succeed in preventing commercial racing from becoming widespread and popular. As the writers point out, it is of particular importance to educate Dachshund pet owners regarding the pitfalls associated with any commercial exploitation of the breed. If one looks at the AKC registration numbers for September, 1995,
the disconcerting figure of 3,488 stares back from the list. That is 3,488 Dachshunds registered with the AKC for that month. The number of litters registered for the same month is, get ready, 1,890. That's litters of Dachshunds, registered in one month.
And may I remind you that these figures represent only the
litters and individual dogs that AKC is counting, leaving out all of those that
go unregistered for whatever reasons. The mind boggles, then recoils; at least
mine does. Now, we know that those
of us involved with breeding for the AKC sponsored activities of obedience,
tracking, agility, show, and den and field trialing are not producing anything
near those numbers of animals. So there must be a tremendous volume of Dachshund breeding
activity going on in this country that is aimed strictly at the pet market, and
heaven knows the capacities of rescue efforts are stretched by all of this as it
is. If commercial Dachshund racing
were to become an established activity, surely the darkest and most ominous of
all of the possible results would be an upsurge in the number of rescue dogs, as
we can be sure that people who would begin breeding dogs for this purpose would
not be likely to welcome them back into the fold if they failed to succeed at
the track, or when they had grown too old to race.
So, I have nothing but respect for the people who became impassioned over
this issue, banded together to pool their energies and talents, and made a
difference for the protection of our beloved breed. There is one point, however,
upon which I must disagree with many of the crusaders in this very noble cause,
and I hope that we can agree to disagree, as I am presenting here nothing more
than a point of view, but it is one that I know is shared by
others who own and love Dachshunds.
The article to which I refer stated that "..all Dachshund racing,
under any circumstances, should be stopped. It is terribly sad that we should
have to give up something [i.e. fun racing at club events] that brought fun to
so many, but there cannot be a double standard.
Those of us active with our dogs in....AKC events cannot pursue an
activity, and then tell pet owners that they cannot do the same thing."
Well, actually, if you think about it, isn't that exactly what we do, and
with very good reason, when it comes to breeding?
Now, I think you will agree that the term "double standard"
carries a connotation of unfairness, of a difference in what is acceptable for
one group but not for another, but, (and this is important,) a difference that
cannot be logically defended. So I
do not think that the term applies to commercial racing versus fun races any
more than it applies to commercial and backyard breeding versus breeding within
a carefully planned program where breed improvement is the primary objective.
And if there were a true double standard being applied in this Dachshund
racing issue, then surely we would have to view all AKC lure coursing events as
unacceptable since they consist of essentially the same activity that occurs at
the Greyhound track, minus the betting, minus the profit motive, and minus the
exploitation of the dogs. But in
those "minuses" lies the logically defensible difference between what
is acceptable in one case but not in the other. I have an intellectual problem
with any rule, regulation or law that restricts or punishes the innocent in an
effort to curtail the activities of the not so innocent.
Would it be fair, for instance, to outlaw all motorcycle clubs because of
the unlawful actions of a few renegade motorcycle gangs?
And since the bad guys are unlawful to begin with, what makes us think
that a restriction on everyone is likely to be of even passing consideration to
them? I could site other examples
here, but I hope the point is made: it is unfair to impose a ban on Dachshund
clubs who want to continue the innocent, fun filled pursuit of racing, one that
has a tradition of being the high point of laughter, joy and camaraderie on a
light hearted day with the Doxies, simply because the potential exists for abuse
by people who have something other than the best interests of the breed at
heart. Add to that unfairness the
fact that the commercial racing promoters are quite unlikely to even be aware of
the fact that the Greater Western Podunk Dachshund Fanciers' Association has
given up its fun races. And
consider this: would knowing it would influence them to contemplate, even for a
moment, abandoning their profit motivated activities?
I think that's about as likely as it is that the puppy mill operators who
supply the pet stores are going to heed the Humane Society's call for a stop to
all dog breeding. And if the local
Dachshund club does sponsor racing on its annual fun day, doesn't that offer an
outlet for those pet owners who have learned about racing and now want to share
this bit of pleasure with their dogs? Doesn't
the club now have a way to attract these people into an environment where their
overall Dachshund awareness might be heightened?
We live in a culture that is currently imbued with a concern for "political correctness." (Excuse me, but am I the only one who thinks that the term "politically correct" is an oxymoron?) Words that have heretofore been quite acceptable and very useful are now deemed demeaning or divisive in some connotations, and one must be careful when using them not to be misunderstood. Innocent compliments are subject to interpretation as sexual harassment; any acknowledgment of existing differences between the races or the sexes might be met with derision, indignation or ire. In this climate it is easy to go too far in an effort to appear "correct", and I think that perhaps that is what has happened in this case, particularly if this ban is expected to be observed forever, and not just until the dust on the track has settled, so to speak. The writers of the racing article are right: information and the education of the pet owning public are the keys to preventing commercial Dachshund racing from developing into a continuing problem. Surely those pet owners who are well and properly educated will be able to discern the difference between racing that exploits the Dachshund and puts Dachshunds at risk, and racing that celebrates so many of the breed's sterling qualities.
Food for Thought
For casual consumption only; not to be ingested without the proverbial grain…
for Our Miniatures? Some Points top Consider.
recently learned of a new
movement to have
our miniatures recognized as separate varieties or breeds.
As I understand it,
approach to the matter has been proposed: that DCA form a committee to
look into the whole idea, with an eye toward petitioning ARC for its position on
the issue and initiating a revision of the breed standard that would take the
evolving global nature of breedin9 and judgin9 into
consideration. I do not intend to address the issue of changing the standard
beret it is a weighty issue on its own, and a revision of the standard is
probably not an absolutely essential element to our miniature varieties
garnering separate status at dog shows.
Review" recently published
I submitted on the subject of separation for minis,
an article written before I was aware of this latest effort to move
things in that direction. Most of
the thoughts that were in that article are presented below, along with some
additional ideas on the subject.
Andrew and I lived for some time in Australia, a country
where the miniature and standard dachshunds are separate, as are the three
of six dachshund breeds,
(not varieties, breeds) in the
Bound Group. This means
separate registries in the stud book and therefore no cross-coat or intersize
breeding, and it puts six dachshunds into the group at dog shows.
Being exhibitors of both standard and miniature longhairs, we found the
system to our advantage at dog shows for obvious reasons, including our own dogs
of different sizes not competing with each other in the breed ring, and points
being available for each size at a given show.
All well and good. I bring
this up to emphasize my experience with the reality of such a system and my
appreciation of the benefits before I explain why I am against the separation of
miniatures to varieties (or breeds) unto themselves.
My main objection, and once everything sifts down, my
only one, is what I fear will be an inevitable loss of soundness and type.
That will occur for two reasons, both of them due to the fact that the
American Kennel Club is currently dead set against six dachshunds in the group,
and would insist on the movement of miniatures to another group, possibly
Non-Sporting, I suppose, but almost certainly Toys.
Either group would remove them from their proper place in the Hound
Group, the group where they are at home with other dogs who perform functions
based on the location of prey by sight or scent. Hounds differ from dogs in the
Sporting Group, that group of dogs that hunt by scent and are designated as
"Gundogs" in some other lands, in that hounds ultimately bring down
the game, something gundogs are not meant to do.
The Toy Group
is the home of breeds that are meant to be small and appealing and pretty.
(If there are breeds there that you personally do not consider
particularly attractive or easy on the eye, remember that sometimes beauty truly
is in the eye of the beholder, and that there are actually a few clinically sane
human beings who do not find dachshunds beautiful.)
Unlike dogs from all of the other groups, toy breeds are meant to satisfy
only one need of mankind, that of companionship; no other function is required
by the dogs who are grouped as Toys. Now
please consider this: many toy breed judges are quite candid about the fact that
they consider soundness less that necessary in breeds whose sole function in
life is to offer companionship. I
am aware of one well-known Toy Group judge who is known to feel that if a toy
can move well enough to get from the couch to the food bowl and back again,
well, that's well enough. So,
putting miniature dachshunds into such a category is bound to impact the
soundness factor. Type is
also almost certain to deteriorate in an overall atmosphere where diminutive
size and daintiness are sought, both
of these being desirable qualities in most of the toy breeds.
I fear that the influence of the toy judges would outweigh that of the
breed specialists, creating a "type gap" that might never be closed.
Because if miniature dachshunds are moved to another group. they might
then be classified as separate breeds in the stud registry. eliminating our very
essential, indispensable practice of breeding down.
Now, even if we could continue to breed down, with weight
of such paramount importance in a breed where every exhibit1
from puppy class through specials, is subject to disqualification,
few breeders would be game. Under
our current system, a proper
dachshund (and an improper one as well!) who happens to be a few ounces over the
limit on the day can be exhibited in a class other than "Open
Miniature." With separation,
all exhibits, class dogs and specials alike, would be subject to weight
disqualification. Between the desire to breed dogs that are certain to weigh in and
look at home in the Toy Group, and the loss of the option to "top up"
type by breeding down from small standards,
I shudder to contemplate the future that would befall our miniatures.
The compact robustness that makes the dachshund, mini and standard alike,
so suited to the specific tasks for which he is utilized would surely not
survive the first decade of residence in the Toy Group.
I sorrowfully envision a race of mincing,
slab-sided, narrow-fronted dogs with weak hindquarters and perhaps even
poor toplines evolving. (If you think I exaggerate, sit at toy ringside during
the class judging someday; you will probably be able to observe several exhibits
flawed with the faults to which I refer.) The sound, free-moving, balanced
animal that we all hope to see in a miniature dachshund will be a rarity, and
type will deteriorate; it will happen gradually,
and perhaps few will notice, since
miniatures will not be in the same ring with standards for the comparison of
type to be made. As for soundness,
alas, I fear that too few exhibitors and judges will value it much in a group
where functionality is at the bottom of the list of things considered. we all
must accept that breed evolution is a fact of nature that we hope to enhance by
our involvement; sending miniatures into the Toy Group would be almost certain
to influence that evolution in an undesirable direction.
We have several problems in miniature dachshunds that are encountered more often than they are in standards. Progressive retinal atrophy, bad mouths, hydrocephalus, and megaesophagus spring to mind as problems more prevalent in the miniature varieties. Without an ability to breed down and introduce new blood likely to be free of these disorders, our mini varieties could be painted into a genetic corner. And of course, with our miniatures as separate breeds rather than varieties, in all likelihood there would be no cross-coat breeding allowed either. And then there is the "law of unintended consequences" which might (may the gods forbid it) find AKC deciding that the standard varieties should be separated into breeds as well, eliminating their privilege of cross-coat breeding! As other breeds, one after another, find themselves in truly dangerous territory regarding genetic diseases, it becomes apparent that serious out-crossing, and actual cross-breeding in some cases, will become necessary to preserve them at all. Our genetic pool in dachshunds is a bit deeper than most others due to our several varieties and also, I suspect, to a higher frequency of imports than many other breeds have experienced. Separation into breeds would eliminate our ability to exploit this genetic advantage, and I am seriously against any official moves that will limit our ability to maintain a healthy genetic viability in our hearty, truly functional dachshund.
Now, having said all of that, I would like to suggest
that if the separation is bound to occur, there may be a way to satisfy
the folks who hanker for separate sets of points for standards and miniatures at
dog shows while' keeping the ARC happy; this approach would also have the
benefit of not hampering dachshund breeders' freedom to tap into the virtues of
other varieties from time to time. Suppose
that within the Hound Group our dogs had six recognized varieties at shows, with
each variety competing for Winners Dog, Winners Bitch, Best of Variety and Best
of Opposite Sex awards. Suppose
that, upon the completion of the judging of the miniature and standard
wirehaired varieties, the judge makes a Rest Wirehaired Dachshund award, thereby
designating only one wire, and by extension of the process only one long and one
smooth which may go on to compete in the Hound Group that day.
AKC would maintain its "only three dachshunds in group
competition" policy, and we miniature exhibitors would gain separate
competition for points and variety awards.
As to the "intra-coat, standard versus mini" competition, well,
we've always had to defeat the big boys to get into the group anyway.
By keeping the miniatures in the Hound Group we could maintain status as
Hound varieties and thereby protect the privilege of all dachshund breeders to
breed freely among the coats and between the sizes.
Don't forget, though, that we would lose one very handy privilege.
unless the standard is altered to eliminate the weight disqualification,
we would no longer be able to show any miniature, class dog or champion,
that is even
A move to separation for our miniature dachshunds would
be a very significant development in the breed's U.S. history. If it is to happen during this century or ever, let us
carefully consider all of the approaches open to us; let us look ahead and be
very certain that the choices made will actually serve the long-term future of
the breed, not only the short-term whims and egos of today's fanciers.
CASUAL CONSUMPTION ONLY; NOT TO BE INGESTED WITHOUT THE PROVERBIAL GRAIN…
The tradition of the judge writing a critique after completing a judging
assignment is alive and well in many parts of the world. These critiques are
usually published in the dog press, whether it be an all breeds dog newspaper,
or a club newsletter. It may take the form of a general assessment of the
overall quality and qualities found in the breed, or it may give an assessment
of each dog judged, or only the winners and place-getters. Some combine the
breed overview and the observations of the individual dogs. Those critiques that
avoid assessing the individual animals are necessarily easiest on the exhibitors
, as one can assume that all of the negative points are about the dogs owned by
others, and all of the positive points are about one’s own dogs. These write
ups are eagerly awaited by the exhibitors, and of course, the critique itself
gets critiqued! , Alas, this practice is uncommon in the United States, and I
feel that much would be gained if such a tradition could be established at
specialty shows here. Certainly we all go away from some shows wondering just
why a certain decision was made. Often the judges notes would make that clear,
or at least offer some suggestion as to the elements that were factored into the
decision. If it is not possible to tell at ringside what elements are most
important to a particular judge, then a critique, albeit after the fact, might
give the exhibitor some ideas about whether or not to exhibit certain dogs (or
anything, ever again!) to that judge in the future.
From the judge’s point of view, it would be
a comfort to know that a decision that is carefully determined. But that is
almost certain to be misunderstood from ringside, can be explained in the
write-up. The subtleties of some important structural elements for breed function are not always readily apparent to the eye
alone, and the judge may be privy to some features of the dog that are felt
rather than seen, or seen only upon close examination. In our own breed things
like length of keel, bite and depth of underjaw, shape of the ribcage, and the
structure of the feet might be difficult to ascertain from outside of the ring.
The judge is also afforded the opportunity to make clear exactly what is most
valued: it might be soundness, breed type, balance, head, running gear, overall
structure or moving outline, but a good critique will probably give the reader
some idea of how that judge approaches the breed, and I believe that most clear
minded and confident judges would be grateful for the opportunity to make that
Now, if a judge has been asked to write a
critique upon the completion of judging, notes will probably be taken during the
judging process. Granted, this may slow things down a bit, and kennel clubs and
the AKC put great stock in getting it all done as quickly as possible. I feel
that this particular mind set is part of the American culture of dog showing, a
culture that tends to value showmanship over substance and flash over function.
It is little wonder that unsound dogs can prevail in many breeds, our own among
them. But I digress. If a judge is making notes at the end of each class, either
into a tape recorded or by hand, (at least one European judge takes his laptop
computer to the ring and types in his notes after each class) that judge’s
concentration is necessarily very focused, and a tendency to be more consistent
might emerge in some cases. And knowing a critique is expected, a careful study
of the standard is probably going to be a priority before the assignment. The
wording of the critique will probably echo phrases in the standard, so the
standard’s actual words are likely to be foremost in the judge’s mind if he
has studied it recently with critique writing as well as judging in mind.
One of the best things about critiques just
might be contribution toward keeping the judging honest. If a judge is going to
be less than objective in the ring, at least that judge is going to have to try
to justify his decisions in writing knowing that up front, some might find it
more palatable to forego the games, do the right thing, and actually judge the
dogs. And perhaps those that are
not prepared to do the right thing, whether intellectually or ethically, might
not accept those specialty assignments where a critique is expected. Wouldn’t
that be a refreshing boon to our sport? Sure, a master game player might find a
way to write up a justification of his actions, but at least he is going to have
to add lying on paper to his list of sins, and then the rest of the fancy will
actually have it in writing!
An honest critique can be hard on the
exhibitors ego. I know this well, having felt the thrust of the judge’s felt
tipped sword myself. But, you know what? He was right. He was right about
something that I had not realized about my own dogs, and I became a better
breeder for having it pointed out to me. We had a very good day under this
particular judge, so I went away from that show happily convinced that he had
loved our dogs. I would have never had the full benefit of his expertise without
having read that critique. But I do remember my initial reaction…I was
devastated. Because I had so much respect for the man’s reputation and history
in the breed, the negative part of his opinion was a bitter pill to swallow, as
good medicine often is. It is often said that an entry fee is paid to get a
certain judge’s opinion. (in
truth, don’t we usually pay in hopes of winning under that judge?) but what we
get is not an actual opinion, but a ranking. For my money, it is not the same
thing, and perhaps the game is worse off for the difference.
I was once asked to submit a critique after
judging a specialty overseas, said critique to be published in the club
newsletter. That critique was never seen by anyone but the newsletter editor,
because he did not like part of what I had observed about one of his dogs! Human
nature being what it is, I suppose that isn’t so surprising, but it was quite
unfair to anyone else who might have liked to know what the judge for the only
specialty of the year in their part of the world thought of their dogs! And
whether I as the judge was right or wrong in my observations, perhaps as a
result of the critique some discourse among the breeders might have ensued that
would have been of some benefit to someone.
Sincere breeders need to be able to accept
observations of their dogs that include the shortcomings. Why is that we all
agree that there is no such creation as a perfect dog, but so many of us cannot
accept that are own are flawed? How can we improve our own bloodlines and make
contributions to the advancement of the breed if we are unable to accept honest
evaluations of our animals? Critiques can serve many purposes, but surely their
best contribution could derive from breeders giving earnest consideration to the
judge’s observations. The judge is human and will not always be right. But
right or wrong, a good critique will give a good breeder something to think