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  Separation Anxiety

 

Food for Thought

For casual consumption only; not to be ingested without the proverbial grain…

                                                                    Lisa Warren

                                                          SEPARATION ANXIETY

                                       Separation for Our Miniatures? Some Points to Consider

                                         .

      I  have  recently learned of  a new movement  to  have  our miniatures recognized as separate varieties or breeds.   As I understand  it,  a  thoughtful  approach to the matter has been proposed: that DCA form a committee to look into the whole idea, with an eye toward petitioning AKC for its position on the issue and initiating a revision of the breed standard that would take the evolving global nature of breeding and judging 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.

"The  Dachshund  Review"  recently  published  an  article  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  coats,  giving  a  total  of  six  dachshund  breeds,  (not varieties,  breeds)  in the Hound 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 exhibit  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 AKC 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 Best 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 privilegeunless 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  half  and  ounce  over  the  limit,  without  fear  of disqualification.

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.

   

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