Friday, October 31, 2008

Speaking of greyhound tracks in Massachusetts...

More interesting news about the tracks in Massachusetts.

This is the argument of the organized supporters of Mass Question 3:

The anti-racing advocates have argued that the system is cruel and/or inhumane. But we discover that in Massachusetts, racing is one the most highly regulated industries in the entire state, and the tracks diligently comply with (or in many cases exceed) the requirements of the regulations.

But let's assume the accusation is true. Let's assume that the track's do in fact operate within a regulatory framework that allows them to keep the dogs in deplorable circumstances. It begs the question, "So where did the regulations that frame the continued existence of this 'cruel' and 'inhumane' system come from?"

Take a wild guess...

You'll have to wait till the end of the corresponding video of the opponents of Question 3 for the answer, but seeing this very candid interview with a plain-speaking track owner is worth the wait:

Massachusetts Question 3 - Common Sense and Real Solutions

Vote NO on Question 3, and adopt a racing Greyhound.

Despite standing invitations from the tracks, the MSPCA refuses go to the track; they won't examine the truth of the matter. But that hasn't stopped them (and similarly focused groups) from maligning the tracks and labeling the lifestyle as "cruel" to the dogs.

Whatever you might think about the tracks and their business, the reality is that common sense and real solutions are not coming from the 'animal rights' fringe, but from the tracks themselves... imagine that.

I know two NGA breeders personally, one of them, extremely well. NGA breeders are in the business of dogs for profit. Of that there is no question. And some of them make a very good living at it. We can debate the relative morality of that all day long.

Beyond that, these men (and women) care for their dogs. Their husbandry is impeccable. Their dogs are their lively hood, yes, but apart from that, they genuinely care for their dogs. In many ways, their greyhounds actually live better than I do.

The thing people fail to understand is that NGA dogs are worth ridiculous amounts of money. If you owned a dog that you could sell at any time during its competitive career for 5 figures, would you do anything to harm that dog? If you had a high achieving NGA stud dog whose semen will be worth 6 figures over the course of his life, would you take special care of that dog?

In almost every way that counts, it's much like the Thoroughbred world. The real issue is the end game. Like so many Thoroughbred's who went to meat processors at their retirement, many NGA greyhounds were euthanized at retirement. In today's version of the game however, most NGA greyhounds are placed as house pets in retirement. A small portion are also placed in ASFA/LGRA homes.

NGA greyhounds have a great life. This is the reality. The agendized AR contingent doesn't won't to be bothered with the truth, especially when it contravenes their world-view. As long as the NGA exists, the AR activists will demonize the tracks, the trainers, the breeders, and the spectators.

So they can continue to make noise, but it doesn't change the fact that if we come back as dogs, we would do very well to come back as NGA greyhounds.

Gratuitous Hunting Pic/Vid of the Day

Today's gratuitous hunting Vid:

A good little bay-and-shoot segment from the boys down in OZ:

Saturday, October 25, 2008


In the enterprise that is canine husbandry, some of us forget that our dogs are living, breathing creatures. Conversely, others of us forget that our dogs... are dogs.

Many of my compatriots of the working dog 'ilk' are often annoyed, if not openly critical of people that 'pamper' their dogs. But we have to ask ourselves, "Is there anything inherently wrong with pampering your dog?" The honest answer of course is that there is nothing wrong with it per-se, as long as it does not cross the threshold into "spoiling" the dog. I would define "spoiling the dog" as pampering which otherwise contributes to the dog's dysfunction in the human world. To see the dysfunction of the spoiled dog in action, see any randomly selected episode of "The Dog Whisperer" on National Geographic.

So what about the other side of that coin? Can we show too much disregard for a dog's needs, its relative comfort, that we can likewise contribute to a dog's dysfunction? Perhaps. But what is more likely to occur is that the houndsman who is want for quality husbandry is going to keep the dog in a manner which may become, quite subjectively and to varying degrees, inhumane.

The problem arises from the subjective nature of the concept. As a case in point, I'll share the story of this trailer.

I bought the rolling frame from Tractor Supply at a very reasonable price. I built up the deck and walls of the trailer from scraps from the shop at my work. I then used this trailer to move my small family across the country. Some time later, I noticed a friend had an aluminum dog box that was a bit "banged up" sitting behind one of his sheds. I asked about it, he said it had been in a wreck (no dogs involved) and had been promised to another friend many months earlier, but they had never picked it up. This was followed by "You can have it if you want it." I did.

I set out to fix and straighten the box, and then re-size it - it was built to fit against the tail-gate of a full size pickup with overhangs resting on the bed rails - it was large. Too large to fit inside a 4 foot wide trailer with high straight walls. So I had to make major modifications to the frame and to the left and right doors. All told it was two days work, but when I was done, the friend (whose opinion I value immensely) commented, "That'll make you a nice little hog trailer." Coming from him, I took it as high praise.

So is it the nicest hunting dog trailer ever built? Far from it. But do you think my hounds look uncomfortable?

I don't think so either.

The trailer is what it is... the best damn dog trailer the roadways have ever seen for the relatively small amount of money I spent on its construction. The same holds true for the 'Safari Basket' mounted across the top of the family wagon towing said trailer. I built the safari basket much more recently (you'll notice from the pictures I haven't even had it powder coated yet) but it was well built at relatively low cost. What it may lack in beauty, it more than makes up in durability and utility.

Interestingly, the softer touches among us may consider the safari basket's most recent use, more medieval in fact.
A friend recently harvested this doe.

I got the call to come by the place he was hunting and help pick it up. I neglected to hitch the trailer, and I didn't think to connect the hitch-n-haul in its place. So how did we get the deer to the house? You guessed it.

But this is not medieval either, not really... a bit tacky perhaps, but not medieval. In truth the basket is merely a tool, it has not character nor intent... no 'anima' - evil or virtuous. Here it simply, once again, proved its utility.

But the soft touches should also take note that while in route to assist this hunter, I only had myself in the car. No wife, no children, and their voluminous accouterments. So the dog I brought along in case we needed it for blood tracking, rode in the wagon, on four layers of folded comforter. She slumbered through the return trip in the same manner.

So why am I even sharing all this?

Last month I went to the Rhodesian Ridgeback National Specialty in Gettysburg, PA. While officiating at the hunting trials there, a friend (of the rather cosmopolitan, 'keeping up appearances', dog show minded variety) made an off-hand comment about my dogs being kept in "That medieval trailer."

I found this very troubling. Why? Well, it was, consistent with the typical dog show paradigm, all about how it looked, and not about how it actually functioned. I could make the trailer "medieval" for use as a canine conveyance... I could remove the suspension and weld the axle to the frame, or increase the capacity from 3 dogs to 4 and load them in tail first. But instead I built it for three dogs so each would have room, the suspension helps smooth the ride, and on longer trips, I line the floor with blankets to make it even easier for the dogs to catch some zee's.

The truth is that a genuinely utilitarian tool can be used for any purpose, malevolent, benign, or charitable.

During the course of the trip to the National Specialty I also agreed to transport the Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue fundraising merchandise to the specialty site and back to its storage site - an 1,800 mile round trip - and I had to use every bit of the trailer (including the dog bays) and the safari basket and a portion of the inside of the wagon - shared with one of my dogs.

This is why I found the "medieval trailer" comment so deeply troubling. It wasn't about the person that made the comment actually, because I know them very well, they are a dear friend and an intellectual/academic dog person who actually does seem to "get it" when it comes to working dogs. But it spoke to the dog show world mentality which is so troubling, so short short sighted and prejudiced, and ultimately, so hypocritical.

Several people at the National went out of their way to thank me for transporting Rescue's store. And yet several people looked down their noses at my trailer - '... those hunting people are going to be the ruination of our breed...'

One of those ruinous "hunting people" made the Rescue store a reality... and he did it using that medieval-looking hunting dog trailer.

In fact, the stress from the weight of that load, over that many miles actually broke my dog box.

I subsequently rewelded the broken portions of the frame - hopefully this time, making them stronger.

But don't get me wrong. I'm not attempting to paint myself as some beleaguered saint for rescue, or a martyr. Ridgeback Rescue reimbursed me for the fuel expense for the trip. And if asked to transport the Rescue store to future National or Regional specialties, it will be my honor and privilege to serve. In deed, I will happily jump at the chance to help.

My angst lay not with rescue - they are fighting the good fight. My quarrel is with the condescending and hypocritical double mindedness of the dog show culture.

The sad irony in all of this of course is that while mankind has certainly proven his willingness to cause the inhumane suffering of animals (by both neglect and/or intent) he has reserved the most diabolical, villainous, perverse and depraved expressions of inhumanity, for his fellow man.

An adequately spacious and well ventilated hunting dog trailer is not medieval. The bow hunter who goes afield for the purpose of exercising the acquired skills of woodsmanship, stealth, and marksmanship to effect the quick, clean kill of an early fall doe, the venison from which will help provide sustenance to three different families, is not medieval.

Mankind's treatment of his fellow man is medieval.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

AKC BOD minutes - 10/13/2008 - AKC FSS Ridiculousness

How do you keep the best working dogs out of your registry as you accept a "new" breed into your system? Talk out of both sides of your mouth.

This will be the last of the AKC Board Minutes posts for today. I'll comment specifically on the group realignment report contained in the previous post at a later date. But I'll briefly comment on this gem today because it speaks volumes:

"Irish Red & White Setter Request - The Board reviewed a request from the Irish Red & White Setter Association, Inc. Following a motion by Mr.Merriam, seconded by Mrs. Strand, it was VOTED (unanimously) to not accept American Field Dog StudBook (FDSD) or North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) pedigrees for Irish Red andWhite Setters."

Can you hear them? "We don't want those UGLY working dogs in our stud books... but we can't just say that. We have to find another excuse. What's to do? Hey, I've got it! We must preserve the integrity of the registry! Those working lines might be 'tainted', how do we know? For over 100 years we've never had any breedings which were undocumented, falsely documented, or otherwise erroneous. Yeah, that's it... that sounds credible, people will buy that, won't they?"

Later in the minutes we find this:

"During the month of September the DNA program resulted in the correction of 190 litter registrations, affecting 237 registered dogs. Additionally, the registrations of 98 litters, including 144 registered dogs, were converted to conditional registration and the registrations of 22 litters were canceled, affecting 36registered dogs."

That's from just -one- month of applying DNA research to the AKC's unsullied, infallible registry. Good thing they aren't going to ruin it all by admitting the FDSD and/or NAVHDA stud books to help establish the Irish Red & White Setter as it gains full AKC recognition.

We wouldn't want to broaden the foundational gene pool with field proven stock... that would be crazy!!!

Report of the AKC Group Realignment Committee - October 13, 2009

On October 8, 2007, the Board of Directors of the American Kennel Club, appointed an exploratory committee, chaired by Dr. Thomas Davies, to evaluate the current alignment of breeds within the seven variety groups, to determine if a different alignment would better serve the Sport now and in the future, as new breeds become registrable.

The Committee included: Karen Burgess, Dr. Thomas Davies, Robert Fisher, Marieann Gladstone, Tim James, Dr. Alvin Krause, Dr. William Newman, John P. Nielsen, Dr. Robert Smith, Robin Stansell, and R. William Taylor.

The committee met together three times, and has discussed its recommendations via email, as well. The initial basis for the discussions centered on the increasing number of new breeds being brought into the AKC Stud Book, as well as the number of breeds awaiting acceptance currently in the Foundation Stock Service (FSS) listing.

In its deliberations, the committee considered several sources of information. The historical data suggested that the makeup of the groups for conformation judging was by no means a static listing. There were many changes in the distribution of breeds for show purposes (and for listing in AKC’s Stud Book), and, in fact, no official, recorded group judging appears to have occurred prior to 1924. Group awards became official in 1925 with competition in five groups (Sporting, Working, Terrier, Toy and Non-Sporting). In 1930 the Sporting Group was split into the Sporting and Sporting (Hound) Groups. In 1983, the Working Group was split into the Working Group and the Herding Group.

The committee also considered two (non-official, non-scientific) polls, neither of which, in and of themselves, demanded a particular realignment. The general sense, however, was that it was time to do something about the burgeoning sizes of several of the groups, as well as the actual makeup of breeds within groups. The Delegate’s Dog Show Rules Committee had conducted a short survey which indicated that about 75% of the respondents favored change. A much larger survey (1341 responders) appeared on the web site where only 17% of the respondents suggested that things were fine as they stood.

The first few months of the committee’s existence was taken up by a thorough study of the Group system and a more detailed understanding of the history, form and function of the various breeds within the current group structure. Additionally, the makeup of groups around the world was reviewed.

After careful examination of the groups and the breeds that make them up, the committee decided that two of the current groups, which in a short time span could approach 40 breeds, can easily and logically be divided into two similar components. The Sporting Group can be divided into Sporting – Pointers and Setters, and Sporting – Retrievers and Spaniels. Functionally, this split made sense to the committee. Secondly, a logical division of the Hound Group would be Scent Hounds and Sight Hounds.

The third major change would be the creation of a new group, consisting of the Northern or Spitz type breeds. To populate this new group, we took the Norwegian Elkhound (from the Hound Group); the Akita, Alaskan Malamute, the Siberian Husky and the Samoyed (from the Working Group); the American Eskimo, Chinese Shar-Pei, Chow Chow, Finnish Spitz, Keeshond, Schipperke and Shiba Inu (from the Non-Sporting Group); and the Swedish Vallhund (from the Herding Group). The Parent clubs of these breeds were contacted and asked for their input.

We also chose to rename the Non-Sporting Group, since in fact it is (in addition to non-sporting) a nonhound, non-working, non-terrier, non-toy and non-herding group. After struggling with an appropriate name, we selected the Companion Group as the "new” name for this group.

In addition to moving the above mentioned Northern/Spitz breeds into a new group, we considered the group placement of several other breeds, which we considered as possible candidates for relocation. Each of these was based on careful study of the history, form and function of the particular breed. In each case, the Parent breed club was contacted and asked to weigh in on their thoughts. Each of those contacted chose to remain in their current group alignment except two. The Italian Greyhound wished to move to the Sight Hound Group and the Dalmatian requested a move to the Working Group.

The committee did discuss the issue of varieties; however, it was felt that this was somewhat beyond the scope of our charge at this time.

Our recommendation would necessitate the addition of three groups to the listing currently in place (7 groups). This would require Delegate approval to make changes to Chapter 3, Sections 1, 15, 17, 18, 19 and 20, and Chapter 6, Section 3 of the Rules Applying to Dog Shows. It may be useful to remove the reference to the number of groups from all of the above sections, except Chapter 3, Section 1. In addition, Chapter 2 of the Rules Applying to Registration and Discipline refers to the number of groups, and would require Delegate approval to change.

The committee, by submission of this report, would request that the Board of Directors of the American Kennel Club, in accordance with Article XX of the Bylaws of the American Kennel Club, propose and submit the necessary amendments to the Delegate body, to be read at the December meeting of the Delegate Body, published in two issues of AKC Gazette, and voted upon at the March, 2009 meeting of the Delegate Body.

Attached is a listing of breeds and groups as proposed by the Committee.

Respectfully submitted,
The AKC Group Realignment Committee

AKC Group Realignment Committee – Proposed Breeds & Groups

From a presentation to the Delegates on September 8, 2008 by the AKC Group Realignment Committee

Group 1: Sporting – Pointers and Setters (11) (12)
Pointer (German Shorthaired)
Pointer (German Wirehaired)
Setter (English)
Setter (Gordon)
Setter (Irish
Setter (Irish Red & White) Miscellaneous 6/27/07; Full Recognition 1/1/09
Spinone Italiano
Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Group 2: Sporting - Retrievers and Spaniels (17) (18)
Retriever (Chesapeake Bay)
Retriever (Curly-Coated)
Retriever (Flat-Coated)
Retriever (Golden)
Retriever (Labrador)
Retriever (Nova Scotia Duck Tolling)
Spaniel (American Water)
Spaniel (Boykin) – Miscellaneous 1/1/08
Spaniel (Clumber)
Spaniel (Cocker) ASCOB
Spaniel (Cocker) Black
Spaniel (Cocker) Parti-color
Spaniel (English Cocker)
Spaniel (English Springer)
Spaniel (Field)
Spaniel (Irish Water)
Spaniel (Sussex)
Spaniel (Welsh Springer)

Group 3: Scent Hounds (14) (17)
Basset Hound
Beagle (13”)
Beagle (15”)
Black and Tan Coonhound
Bluetick Coonhound - Miscellaneous 7/1/08
Dachshund (Longhaired)
Dachshund (Smooth)
Dachshund (Wirehaired)
English Foxhound
Foxhound (American)
Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen
Redbone Coonhound – Miscellaneous 9/1/08
Treeing Walker Coonhound – Miscellaneous 1/1/09

Group 4: Sight Hounds (11)
Afghan Hound
Ibizan Hound
Irish Wolfhound
Italian Greyhound
Pharaoh Hound
Rhodesian Ridgeback
Scottish Deerhound

Group 5: Working (23) (25)
Anatolian Shepherd
Bernese Mountain Dog
Black Russian Terrier
Cane Corso – Miscellaneous 7/1/08
Doberman Pinscher
Dogue de Bordeaux
German Pinscher
Giant Schnauzer
Great Dane
Great Pyrenees
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Leonberger – Miscellaneous 7/1/08
Neapolitan Mastiff
Portuguese Water Dog
Saint Bernard
Standard Schnauzer
Tibetan Mastiff

Group 6: Terriers (28) (29)
Airedale Terrier
Australian Terrier
American Staffordshire Terrier
Bedlington Terrier
Border Terrier
Bull Terrier (Colored)
Bull Terrier (White)
Cairn Terrier
Cesky Terrier – Miscellaneous 7/1/08
Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Fox Terrier (Smooth)
Fox Terrier (Wire)
Glen of Imaal Terrier
Irish Terrier
Kerry Blue Terrier
Lakeland Terrier
Manchester Terrier (Standard)
Miniature Bull Terrier
Miniature Schnauzer
Norfolk Terrier
Norwich Terrier
Parson Russell Terrier
Scottish Terrier
Sealyham Terrier
Skye Terrier
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Welsh Terrier
West Highland White Terrier

Group 7: Toys (21)
Brussells Griffon
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Chihuahua (Long Coat)
Chihuahua (Smooth Coat)
English Toy Spaniel (Blenheim & Prince Charles)
English Toy Spaniel (King Charles & Ruby)
Japanese Chin
Manchester Terrier (Toy)
Miniature Pinscher
Poodle (Toy)
Shih Tzu
Silky Terrier
Toy Fox Terrier
Yorkshire Terrier

Group 8: Companion (11) (12)
Bichon Frise
Boston Terrier
Chinese Crested
French Bulldog
Lhasa Apso
Poodle (Miniature)
Poodle (Standard)
Tibetan Spaniel
Tibetan Terrier
Xoloitzcuintli – Miscellaneous 1/10/09

Group 9: Herding (20) (21)
Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Shepherd
Bearded Collie
Belgian Malinois
Belgian Tervuren
Belgian Sheepdog
Border Collie
Bouvier des Flandres
Canaan Dog
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Collie (Rough)
Collie (Smooth)
German Shepherd
Old English Sheepdog
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Polish Lowland Sheepdog
Pyrenean Shepherd – Miscellaneous 1/1/07; Full Recognition 1/1/09
Shetland Sheepdog

Group 10: Northern (13) (16)
Alaskan Malamute
American Eskimo Dog
Chinese Shar-Pei
Chow Chow
Finnish Spitz
Icelandic Sheepdog – Miscellaneous 7/1/08
Norwegian Buhund – Miscellaneous 1/1/07; Full Recognition 1/1/09
Norwegian Lundehund – Miscellaneous 7/1/08

Norwegian Elkhound
Siberian Husky
Shiba Inu
Swedish Vallhund

AKC BOD minutes - 10/13/2008 - COONHOUND EVENTS - Chapter 3 – Eligibility of Dogs for Entry

"Staff recommends revisions to Chapter 3 of Regulations for AKC Coonhound Bench Shows, Field Trials, Nite Hunts and Water Races to require a Coonhound, if not AKC registered, to complete an AKC registration application and pay said fee prior to competing in an event. This change is in accordance with the recent changes to Rules Applying to Dog Shows, Chapter 11, Section 1, which requires that all dogs be individually registered before an entry may be accepted at AKC events. This will be discussed further at the November meeting."

So... up till now coonhounds have been competing in AKC events -without- AKC registration???

AKC BOD minutes - 10/13/2008 - Airedale Terrier Eligibility To Compete in Spaniel (Flushing Dog) Hunt Tests

"The Board reviewed a request from the Airedale Terrier Club of America to permit the Airedale Terrier to participate in the Spaniel Hunting Test Program. The Airedale Terrier Club of America has been seeking admission into AKC Performance Events for over 20 years. The breed was developed as a versatile hunting dog. Staff recommends that the Airedale Terrier participation, if approved, be reviewed after a two year period to evaluate the impact of Airedale Terrier participation. This will be discussed further in November."

What the AKC alludes to, but for the obvious reasons won't mention outright - is that the Airedale men and women have been asking the AKC to let them field trial for a -long- time. They've written exhaustive reports, they've proven their dogs in upland work, waterfowl work, game trailing and treeing in their club's hunting trial program for years. They've jumped through every hoop the AKC has asked, and some they weren't even asked to jump through, and the AKC has turned then down. Through it all, when most others would have thrown in the towel... they haven't given up.

What the AKC may or may not know - It's too much to go into in this blog post, but suffice to say that a few years ago the Airedale Terrier Club put politics before the dogs, and alienated their hunting base within the club. This resulted in a schism which caused the then parent club's Hunting Working Committee to effectively have to form its own independent club. What was left to pick up the pieces were - with a few exceptions - hunters in the HWA on the 'outside', and wannabe non hunters in the parent club on the 'inside'.

You can see the somewhat newly independent HWA web site by clicking on the HWA logo:

You can also see the new 'wannabe' ADTC Hunting and Field website by clicking on the logo:

My hope is that one day these two factions will be reconciled.

In the meantime... AKC, how many times do they have to ask? Let them play already!!!

AKC BOD minutes - 10/13/2008 - Beagle Field Trial Rules

"The Board reviewed two recommendations from the Beagle Advisory Committee whose meeting was held in August 2008. Both recommendations are designed to give the host club added flexibility and efficiency in the running of an event. The first recommendation will change the Standard Procedures in Gundog Brace Trials to permit the running of dogs in trios in the first series if there are 21 or more entries. The second recommendation is to give the club the option of splitting a pack in Large Pack Trials if the entries exceed 25 in a class. Under this recommendation the club will have the option of running the two packs either simultaneously or back-to-back. This will be discussed further at the November Meeting."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

GARMIN gets it right this time - we hope

Garmin's new and improved Astro 220 and DC30 collar system pictured below.

Garmin's first foray into hunting dog telemetry, the DC20, was fraught with problems. Most of these problems were clearly due to a knowledge and experience gap on the part of Garmin's product designers/engineers.

I'm not saying that there aren't any hunters working at Garmin. They are after all in Lenexa, Kansas. Having lived in that particular area for many years I can attest that the hunting community in the Kansas City metro is substantial. And Garmin has in my opinion always been very friendly to its very large hunter customer base. But based on the DC20 I must wonder if any of them are real dog-men/women.
When the first Astro was released, the pictures were cliche with an English Pointer. Among the photos for the new unit, I did notice they have one with a trailing hound now.

So what was wrong, and how have they improved it? The original Astro DC20 had a bulky transmitter which mounted on the dorsal side of the neck on a collar, or on top of the whithers as part of a special neoprene vest. This transmitter had a rigid and brittle antenna... you working dog folks already know why that didn't work!

You don't even have to know anything about dogs to know why the collar option didn't work. Basic physics is what it is. If the transmitter was mounted on a collar, the collar would find it's new center of gravity by rotating until the transmitter was located under the dogs throat. With the antenna pointed straight down, its range/effectiveness was greatly diminished. LCS came up with a clever counter balance system pictured at right. Which, in theory, kept the transmitter right side up, but also made the large, bulky and heavy collar... larger, bulkier, and heavier.

But now, it looks like they took the advice of houndsmen and finally designed the collar the way it should have been from the beginning. Smaller, lighter, under collar mounted, with a longer more flexible antenna.

There is also a long range antenna available for the receiver as well now from LCS.

Only time will tell of course, but it looks like the new Astro 220, but especially the DC30 collar will finally help to realise the truly awesome potential of this GPS telemetry system.

You can find out for yourself soon enough. They go on sale to the public in 2 days at LCS.

See GARMIN's DC30 page for more information.


Monday, October 13, 2008

The UK Kennel Club - Lacing up the Jackboots

In a Dog Press (UK) article last week, there are the proposed new guidelines which ALL breed clubs MUST adhere to.

It is now compulsory for breed clubs to adopt the Kennel Club's code of ethics. Club members must agree to:
* Properly house, feed, water and exercise all dogs under their care and arrange for appropriate veterinary attention if and when required.
* Agree without reservation that any vet performing an operation on any of their dogs which alters the natural conformation of the animal may report such operation to the Kennel Club.
* Agree that no healthy puppy will be culled. Puppies which may not conform to the breed standard should be placed in suitable homes.
* Abide by all aspects of the Animal Welfare Act.
* Not to create demands for, nor supply, puppies which have been docked illegally.
* Agree not to breed from a dog or bitch which could be in any way harmful to the dog or to the breed.
* Not to allow any of their dogs to roam at large or to cause a nuisance to neighbours or those carrying out official duties.
* Ensure that their dogs wear properly tagged collars and will be kept leashed or under effective control when away from home.
* Clean up after their dogs in public places or anywhere their dogs are being exhibited.
* Only sell dogs where there is a reasonable expectation of a happy and healthy life and help with the rehoming of a dog if the initial circumstances change.
* Supply written details of all dietary requirements and give guidance concerning responsible ownership when placing dogs in a new home.
* Ensure that all relevant KC Documents are provided to the new owner when selling or transferring a dog, and agree, in writing, to forward any relevant documents at the earliest opportunity if not immediately available.
* Not to sell any dog to commercial dog wholesalers, retail pet dealers or directly or indirectly all dogs to be given as a prize or donation in any competition of any kind. Will not sell by sale or auction KC registration certificates as stand-alone items (not accompanied by a dog).
* Not knowingly misrepresent the characteristics of the breed nor falsely advertise dogs, not mislead any person regarding the health or quality of a dog.
* Breach of these provisions may result in expulsion from club membership, and/or disciplinary action by the Kennel Club and/or reporting to the relevant authorities for legal action, as appropriate.

Where does one even begin? Can these people possibly be serious? The powers within The Kennel Club are supposed to be dog people, surely they must know better. They must realize how impossible this is?

This proposes that Vets be recruited as Kennel Club "snitches"... sure, that will foster trust between breeders and vets.

Culling is not allowed for dam management?!?! Are you kidding me? This is what happens in the wild! A breeder and vet working together can make the process painless, nature isn't so kind.

Not perform a breeding which might be "harmful" to the dog? I suppose that means that British Bulldogs will no longer be legally bred in Great Britain!

What -exactly- is "a reasonable expectation of a happy and healthy life"? This has to be one of the most ludicrous of the requirements. Who is bestowed with the right to define 'reasonable', 'happy' or 'healthy'? And more importantly, whoever it ends up being, what standard do they use in the determination? Does the Kennel Club have a crystal ball, or perhaps a Ouija board that they are planning on lending out to each breeder so they can make their placement decisions?

Perhaps the most frightening bit in this whole debacle is that beyond this proposal, the Kennel Club has asked the British government for statutory authority!!!

This is not about the health nor the welfare of Kennel Club registered dogs.

Make no mistake, this is instead about attempting to -control- dog fanciers in what is supposed to be a free British society, and attempting to mitigate recent bad P.R. This is the Kennel Club's (UK) knee-jerk, overreaching and ill conceived acquiescent attempt at damage control in response to the "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" documentary on the BBC.

If the Kennel Club was really motivated by a concern for the health of *purebred* dogs, then the parent clubs should be at the helm. Not The Kennel Club.

The Kennel Club should be using good science and peer pressure to win them over, not mandate, which will only foster their resentment. If the Kennel Club really wanted to effect positive change in the health of the purebred dogs of the UK, they would be doing it in a supportive advisory capacity through the individual breed parent clubs. Not as the reactive jack-booted storm-troopers of British dogdom.

- Many thanks to Y.B. for transmitting the (UK) Dog Press release stateside.

The AKC's bad idea that just won't die

Mixed Breeds? Designer Dogs? Competing in AKC shows?

An issue many thought was permanently off the table by Delegate opposition nearly two years ago may be back, served with a new "feel good" concept - allowing "mixed breeds" to compete in AKC companion events.

Read the complete story:

Sunday, October 12, 2008


- - a rationale for lazy breeders, or following the natural model?

I've heard breeders articulate perspectives on breeding that range from highly assisted (or in some cases, totally usurped) to complete laissez faire. I suspect most breeders fall somewhere in between these extreme approaches.

But a "new" idea has surfaced that makes a case for letting nature take its course as a means of evaluating the dam's suitability as a brood bitch, but more importantly, the individual pups in a litter.

Referred to as Biotinus or "Vigor for Life", the contention goes that dams should be left to break sacks and cut cords free from human assistance, and then those pups (and their now suddenly non-interfering dams) who quickly seek out and find a teat - show greater "Vigor", and should therefore be immediately considered much more strongly for favored selection.

The argument has its merits, but thanks to our husbandry, dogs stopped being wild animals millenia ago. How much should the reproductive life of dogs in general terms, and first day of life of a puppy specifically, mirror the wild experience?

My jury is still out.

For a more thorough explanation of Biotinus, see Suzanne Clothier's article on the topic here:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bye Bye Flies

We tend to rely on artificial means of solving natural problems, which often simply creates more problems. If we would just take the time to actually look to nature for the answer, usually a natural (and often relatively side-effect free) solution exists.

Often these natural solutions are low cost or no cost, which means they are not commercially viable, and therefore, will not receive a lot of attention from advertisers. This is why you often aren't aware of viable natural alternatives.

But some companies, partly through ingenuity and partly boosted by a culture which sees anything as "natural" or "environmentally friendly" have managed to cut a niche for themselves as so called "green" companies.

Frankly, I could care less what color they happen to be. If they present the market with a natural solution, at a competitive price, they deserve the business.

One company has taken the natural solution of predator based population control, and applied it to one of the banes of those of us who keep dogs - flies.

The idea of thoughtfully and carefully using a natural predator for another species' population control is one that every conservation minded person should support. As houndsmen and women, we should all be conservation minded.

They're not paying me to write this. In fact I doubt they're aware this blog even exists. But if you're a person who keeps dogs (and if you're reading this blog odds are pretty good), I would encourage you to check out Spalding Fly Predators.

Time, Volume, or Concentration

- - Why line breeding works, and works so very well if done correctly.

There is a pervasive notion in the dog world, especially among some of the FCI countries and in some working dog circles, that canine in-breeding is inherently "bad" and should be avoided. However, in-depth study of numerous successful breeding programs makes it clear that this notion simply does not hold up to objective scrutiny.

Some working houndsmen are quick to argue that many working dog breeds have developed "just fine" into their various functional types without inbreeding. What they fail to realize is that animal husbandry has "dimensions", and fixing breed quality in any domain(s) - functional, conformational, temperamental, etc - only comes with significant investment into at least one of these "dimensions." These dimensions are breeding "Time," breeding "Volume," or breeding "Concentration."

Straight away it must be understood that all of these so-called breeding "dimensions" are simply different ways of achieving the same goal--evoking the desired traits, and then hopefully fixing them in your line (or the breed population) through what would commonly be referred to as "Depth of Pedigree."

These dimensions, then, are the proven paths to achieving that depth of pedigree.

TIME - One way to achieve positive selection is to budget copious amounts of time to the breeding program. This only works with multiple -human- generations. Let's be clear, we're talking about centuries, or more often, millennia... not decades. A classic example of this is the Short-haired Borzoi, or more properly, the "Hortaya Borzaya." A truly ancient breed selected purely for field-proven function over millennia.

The Hortaya is considered to have been perfected hundreds (if not thousands) of years ago. As a 'perfected' breed, contemporary Hortaya breeders are strongly discouraged from line breeding (in-breeding) because functional selection is forgone; modern matings are instead determined by minimal inbreeding coefficients.

For the Hortaya, this makes sense. In a breed so old - and so relatively small - a population in which only field-proven animals are even considered for breeding in the first place, determining final selections based on maximized genetic diversity is an advisable course. That said, it needs to be very clearly understood that the important "take home" from a study of the Hortaya is that the breeders do not want true and absolute uniformity of type.

Hortaya breeders expect, and indeed want, several different types within their single breed.

Beyond the fact that most other breeds' breeders strive for absolute uniformity (at least in theory), the problems in attempting to apply this approach to most other breed populations is many-fold.

Most breeds are not nearly so old, and are not therefore, considered -perfected-. That is to say, dedicated contemporary breeders believe that they can not only maintain breed type, but further refine or improve it with future generations.

There is also breeder Ego to consider. Most folks want to live to see the fruits of their efforts to contribute to the breed. Individual humans have a finite life span. This means that they aren't willing to pursue a course in which they are merely an insignificant link in the chain of the breed's history. They want to produce the best dog possible... in their lifetime. For these breeders, the option of investing in the Time dimension, is not an option.

The major dichotomy of the Time approach is that many breeds which modern fanciers might think of as old, are in all actuality relatively young. Even so, they may in fact be relatively "perfected.” The relatively perfected state did not occur due to time at all, but investment in the breed's Volume, or the breed's Concentration, not all that long ago. A fact which is all too easily neglected and/or forgotten by the modern breeder.

VOLUME - It was not all that long ago that successful kennels produced some phenomenal individual dogs. We all look back and admire these dogs, and the breeders that produced them. What we neglect to remember is that they were, in effect, playing the Law-of-Large-Numbers.

Basically it says that in any process with variable outcomes, -every- possible result will eventually be achieved at least once within the parameters of possible outcomes, if (and only if) the process is repeated often enough. We conveniently forget that the ‘Annie Clark's’ of the world used to maintain kennels with dozens, or quite often hundreds of dogs.

Now before the working dog aficionado looks down their nose at this approach as the exclusive purview of 1920's show dog breeder, don't be naive... or hypocritical.

Especially those of us who admire the "older" continental and British bird dog and hound breeds. Those Dukes, Lords, Squires and Kings who kept and bred these dogs did the exact same thing. Keeping entire staffs dedicated to nothing but overseeing and tending to their kennels and breeding programs which usually included hundreds of dogs on site, and in a few cases, thousands of dogs.

The Volume approach then solves the Ego problem; it -does- produce results, and does so inside of one human lifetime. But there are two problems with the Volume approach as well.

The first 'problem' inherent to pursuing the Volume approach, is that it necessitates mass culling. I don't suppose to stand in judgment, and I am rarely want to ever tell another man or woman what he/she should do with their own dog(s). There is a time and a place for culling. The individual must decide what that means for them... only they know what will or won't keep them from being able to sleep at night.

The other problem with the Volume approach is the lack of an end-game. Followed in its purest form, this approach simply produces hundreds of puppies a year, secure in the knowledge that perhaps one in a hundred will "turn out". This dog (if it's a d-o-g) will be added to the stud stable, and hopefully, each year, he too will produce one in one hundred that is as good as, or better than himself. The other 99 will wash out, and likely become fertilizer.

The solution to this problem is at some point, investing in the Concentration dimension. A Volume breeder can spend the first 20 years of their breeding career producing a proven stud stable, and then line breed based on those foundation dogs for the next 20 years. But if this is the answer, then it also begs the question: If you're going to end up pursuing Concentration half way through, why not simply start there to begin with?

CONCENTRATION – The best way to effect the best results in the shortest amount of time, using the least number of dogs, is intelligent investment in the Concentration dimension. Concentrating is line breeding, yes even in-breeding.

The thing that needs to be understood is that line breeding does not produce, nor does it create, deleterious genes. All dogs - all of them - have deleterious genes. Line breeding simply "shows you what you got".

Let's say you are a bird hunter and by accident or by design you have acquired a dog with truly exceptional pointing ability. You've never seen another dog as good as this one. This is what you know. What you don't know is that this dog is also a carrier for "Three Leg Syndrome" or "TLS"- a syndrome I randomly made up which causes the effected dog to be born with 3 legs instead of 4.

So, in subsequent generations you wisely decide to line breed on this dog. What will inevitably happen? You will produce some affected dogs. That is to say, you will produce some dogs with TLS. That's the bad news.

This is where everyone starts waving their arms and stomping around indignantly. "See!!! This is why line breeding is so awful!!!"

But is it really? What was the alternative? Out-cross this dog to a (presumably) high quality and completely unrelated bitch. Then what? Did the TLS gene go away? Not likely. What will more likely happen is that the TLS gene will continue to hide in the pedigree for untold generations to come. Showing it's ugly head in the odd (seemingly) random puppy, and the breeder has no real or truly confirmable grasp on where in the pedigree it is coming from.

But using the Concentration approach, as effected dogs are removed from the gene pool with each subsequent line bred generation, fewer and fewer TLS carriers are produced, and more and more genetically clear dogs are produced. I refer to this process as 'dilution' to extinction through concentration.

In the modern age, 'dilution' to extinction can also be achieved without line breeding, at least for any genetic disorder for which there is a reliable genetic marker test. However, while strides are being made every day, most genetic disorders still lack a marker test. And even for those disorders for which there is a reliable marker test, what about breed type and functional type and improvement? Even when we can "test out" of a certain disease, out-crossed breeding paradigms still force us to operate in the Time or Volume dimensions to achieve maintenance or gains in those areas.

And herein lay the true beauty of the Concentration approach.

While we were busy producing more and more TLS clear dogs, and fewer and fewer TLS carriers and effecteds, through intelligent selection, we were simultaneously able to "set" that foundation dog's type features which caused us to select him as a foundation dog in the first place.

This is to say, with each generation, we can, if we so choose, get closer and closer to producing a clone of this now long dead ideal dog - without the TLS!

But some will bristle at the term "clone". Clone is not a dirty word. In fact, line-bred near-clones exist in nature. Dr Belkin:
In wild animals, you can see specialization for function that has evolved without regard for appearance. People select dogs to be dual-purpose - they just can't help it. The Arabs have selected Salukis not only to be the best dogs for coursing and catching things, but also to be pretty. Nature doesn't work that way because nature doesn't care about pretty. If an animal comes out pretty, that just happens... I like to think of the cheetah as God's Greyhound. The cheetah can do many things better than any coursing dog can do them. The conformation of a cheetah may tell you something about what our Salukis should be like if we breed them to course hares. Cheetahs are interesting in that not too long ago the world population of them was reduced to a very small number, so genetically they are all practically clones. They are about the most line-bred mammal in the world, aside from what has been bred by man. It pleases me to think that God got what He wanted and line-bred it.

Lest anyone mistakenly thinks that this approach is embraced by bird dog breeders and gräoid hound breeders, but avoided by trail hound and tree hound breeders, think again. Richard McDuffie, an old time (and I do mean old) coon-hound aficionado from the Carolinas, and a name worth knowing, recalls the story of "Woodrow's Dogs": When Woodrow returned home in 1945 after 4 years of military service, he was without a coon dog. He saw an ad in the local newspaper, the FayetteVille Observer, for 2 coon dogs. One was a Black and Tan for $50, the other a Bluetick for $100. He asked why the difference in price. The owner answered that the Black and Tan would tree most coons but not all, but the Bluetick treed them all. Woodrow bought the Bluetick and found that the man had told him the truth. He said that the first 32 tracks struck ended at a tree, and he shot out a coon. It didn't matter how cold a track was. If the old dog opened on it, he would put a tree at the end, and a coon would be there. Woodrow bred the Bluetick to some female the first spring. All the pups turned into coon dogs. He started inbreeding and only kept pups that were bluetick in color. The [inbred] dogs he produced generation after generation retained the traits of the original dog.

But wait. This has been been the functional reality of top performing tree and trail hounds since long before the 1940's. I won't detail the points of the article here (perhaps in a future posting?) but I will strongly encourage any of you who consider yourselves to be SERIOUS students of treeing and/or trailing hounds to write to the UKC, and request a copy of the article by Guy Ormiston entitled "A Tree Is Known By It's Fruit", which appeared in the August 2005 Coonhound Bloodlines magazine (vol 32, #8) in which Mr Ormiston details how the:

- Turn of the century (1800) Irish Hounds
- Captain, the foundation stud of the Henry Hounds
- Foundation stock for many running breeds including the Goodmans, Hudspeth, Julys, Shaver, Spalding Norris, and Triggs.
- Foundation stock for many treeing breeds including the the Redbone, English, Treeing Walker and Bluetick Coonhounds.
- "Tennessee Lead", pillar of the running Walker breed
- The leading field trial hound of the 1860's
- Many top field trial hounds of the early 20th century
- The 1928 National Leafy Oak winner

were -all- the product of rather intense inbreeding.

Why would this be the case? Because, I maintain, whether the breeder is consciously aware of it or not, 90% of what breeding quality dogs is all about is the cloning (or near cloning) of the most exceptional dogs. The other 10% is about making minor improvements in health, temperament, conformation and working abilities along the way.

If we stop and consider, clones (or near clones) actually offer us incredible selection options for the future. But how can this be? A line of clones is the apex of a bottlenecked gene pool after all. Well, this would be true of an entire breed population. But in most breeds there is a large population, and a large breeder base, so individual breeders applying the Concentration approach to their individual lines does not bottleneck the gene pool if Popular Sire Effect is avoided between lines.

So each breeder becomes the steward of a Concentrated line. Each of these individual lines becomes a little genetic island of healthy, typey, near clones.

The biggest problem inherent to the Concentration approach is that sometimes the most careful, thoughtful, and intelligent breeder will eventually encounter a genetic cul-de-sac in their line. This cul-de-sac is created due to a genetic defect that despite the breeder's best efforts, simply can't seem to be avoided within the line. Cul-de-sac can also occasionally occur due to the influence of a phenomena known as "inbreeding depression." This is where various reproductive qualities - sex organ formation, milk production, general virility, etc can be adversely effected, usually at a point at which COI's are extremely high.

This can be managed in several ways. Careful "back-crossing", an especially attractive option in the age of frozen semen, or conventional out-crossing.

Conventional out-crossing actually presents the most risk to the established and productive high quality inbred line. The effect of a Concentration approach is to greatly increase general homozygosity, and by default this greatly increases the uniformity and predictability of the offspring. A breeder who has invested many years or even decades into producing a high quality Concentrated line, opens their line up to all the unknowns and uncertainty of the other genepool when doing an out-cross.

That is unless the other line to which they are outcrossing is also highly Concentrated (intensely line bred), well established, and producing quality of type and health. Provided both breeders are honest with each other about what known deleterious genetics exist in their respective lines, they will quickly and rather easily know if an out-cross between the two lines is advisable. With a single infusion of new but concentrated genetic material then, the Concentration approach can once again be applied to many subsequent generations before the previously unavoidable defect and/or inbreeding depression appears on the horizon again, if ever.

As a perfect example of this, we can again look to the breeding program of Woodrow, the old-time breeder of jam-up Blueticks:
...the only problem with his dogs was that they tended to be ill at the tree. To prevent this aggressiveness at the tree, he outcrossed on a string of hounds known as Kentucky Bobtails that were being hunted in the Fayetteville area at the time and were known to be mild-natured. The outcross on the Kentucky Bobtails seemed to solve the aggressiveness at the tree. [As of 2006] Woodrow still had 11 dogs, all bluetick in color, that traced back to his kennel for 60 years.

While numerous varying but recurring archetypes may be considered acceptable or even desirable in a few breeds like the Hortaya, the vast majority of breeds are plagued by these seemingly unshakable variances. Unshakable for everyone except those rare Master Breeders who truly understand that beginning with the highest quality foundation stock available and then investing in that stock in the Concentration dimension of their breeding program is the most advisable course.

How have the Master Breeders come to this conclusion? They have realized that what they are really doing is breeding towards a single conformational and/or functional ideal. When that epiphany is achieved, and the breeder learns to make peace with it, it becomes clear that producing clones is not a bad thing... producing the highest possible quality clones is actually the goal. These are the breeders who throughout history have achieved consistent and long term success.

Once in a great while, a dog appears which is so close to that ideal that it distinguishes itself from the rest of its kind. The 'average' breeder dilutes this dog's quality by breeding it to a worthy but unrelated dog. The Master Breeder concentrates on this dog's quality through line breeding.

Is it a coincidence that true Master Breeders, both historical and contemporary, both working and show - the likes of Dr. Henry, Col. Birdsong, Dr. Belkin, Patricia C. Trotter, Dr Claudia Orlandi, and Guy Ormiston - all advocate(d) a breeding paradigm that achieves depth of pedigree (that is to say depth of consistent quality of pedigree) by spending the requisite amount of focus and attention to the Time and Volume dimensions of breeding, but focusing the lion's share of their focus and effort on maximizing their investment in the Concentration dimension of their breeding programs? Coincidence?

Long term and consistent quality is not achieved through coincidence.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Gatekeepers - get it done with a Win-Win

A group in Washington state known as the "Gatekeepers" are volunteers in what is officially called the St. Helen's Tree Farm Access Program.

Basically these hunters man the entry points of Weyerhauser Timber Company land during periods of timber harvest work activity.

Weyerhauser has noted that illegal ATV use has all but stopped, equipment vandalism is down, and there is less Elk damage to their timber. And what do the Gatekeepers have to show for their efforts?

Access to 262,000 new private acres with an elk herd of over 13,000 which needs to be reduced by 3,000 animals over the next few years.

I wonder if they think it's worth it?

Thanks to the Orion Institute for making this story public.

The Pure Bred Hound - coursing gazelle

Some things are just right. Watching a hound, or any purpose bred dog for that matter, do what it was specifically bred to do - and do it correctly - is a beautiful thing.

This is pure bred canine perfection. This is what being a true Houndsman is all about.

Hot Irons get Cold Fast

Your mother probably warned you about early birds, hot irons, and all of that. It would appear that she was right.

A group of friends and I were thinking about going to Uncle Earl's for my birthday.

Anyway, I called a few of the closest hotels, there were of course, no vacancies.

The exchange with the closest hotel was interesting:

"So and So Hotel how may I help you?"
"Do you have any rooms availible for Uncle Earl's?"
"Those rooms sold out as everyone checked out last year."

"OK, thanks..."

I've also contemplated going to Uncle Earl's as a vendor, but haven't looked into that yet.

It's probably already too late.

The (UK) Kennel Club becomes breeding Gestapo

As a working houndsman, I've made no secret of my issues with the numerous conformation focused Kennel Club systems.

That said, those focused on an individual breed -in any capacity- typically, and rightfully, consider themselves to be the stewards of their respective breeds, at least in their respective country. For many breeds, these guardians/stewards coalesce themselves into something referred to as a "Parent Club". These Parent Clubs, ideally, become a meeting place and repository for fanciers, admirers, and especially breeders, whose cumulative decades (often centuries) of knowledge and insight into and about their breed are without question, some of the most (if not the single most) valuable resource and advocacy the breed has in that country.

Most Kennel Clubs/Registries turn to these parent clubs for direction in group placement decisions (herding, sporting, terrier, etc) and for a written standard (idealized physical description) of the breed, as well as other matters of specific import to the breed in question.

This was basically the case in the British system until a documentary recently appeared on the BBC entitled "Pedigree Dogs Exposed". The Kennel Club's response is detailed here:

The documentary made many good points, and brought to light numerous issues within the conformation side of the dog fancy that -do- deserve some scrutiny. Dogs that are bred in such a way that they can't breathe properly, or walk properly, or whelp (birth) normally, etc.

These are legitimate issues that need to be addressed through the effected Parent Clubs, not in spite of them. The problem is that the Kennel Club's plan is instead going to alienate and undermine the Parent Clubs (parent club breeders) - this is extremely unwise.

When the working-dog community gives up on the Kennel Club, you lose a lot. When the show-dog community gives up on the Kennel Club, you lose what’s left.

Then What?

If the Kennel Club wants to oversee a hodgepodge of backyard breeders and profiteers then they are right on track.

But if they want to remain in league with those that actually –care- about the form, function, and health of pure bred dogs, they need to remember who the true dog folk are, and who they are not.