The following blog post is part of a double feature! Rachel of Our Life + Dogs has written about the same thing, and I urge you mosey on over to her blog to read her thoughts as well.
For those of you who live under a rock or are otherwise not aware, The annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show just happened. As it does every year, the subject of fat show dogs has surfaced as a major criticism of Westminster, dog shows, and show-bred dogs in general. It's easy to sit at home and criticize people who show their dogs fat, but frankly it's much more complicated than just showing dogs in good condition.
One of the caveats of being considered a "good" or "responsible" breeder is to have titled dogs. In many breeds, it is preferable that breeding dogs have titles at both ends to prove that they are not only structurally correct, but are "more than a pretty face."
Without conformation titles, it is easy for breeders to be demonized for breeding unfinished dogs. Their dogs will be less likely to be used in other breeding programs, and it is less likely that they will be able to breed to the outside dogs that they feel would improve their bloodlines. Simply put, stud dog owners prefer to breed their dogs to champion bitches, bitch owners prefer to breed to champion stud dogs, and exhibitors prefer to purchase show dogs with a pedigree full of dogs that have been "proven" to be good examples of the breed. Heck, even pet buyers want their puppy to have champion parents, even if they have no idea what that even means or why it's important.
I'm going to borrow my friend Rachel's make-believe Floofenterrier breed to illustrate why many breeds are shown fat and will continue to be shown fat, despite many exhibitors not liking it.
Let's say the Floofenterrier breed standard contains this sentence to describe the idea Floofen body: "The typical Floofenterrier is classic and powerful without over-refinement, and possesses ample substance without appearing coarse or sluggish. Lack of substance is to be heavily penalized." As time goes on, the more substantial dogs are rewarded and the reedy specimens are not. The frame of reference for substance slowly shifts as people breed to the motto of "some is good, but more is better." At the same time, society's need for real working Floofens is decreasing. Floofens aren't needed to go to ground and hunt Blabbersnitches, because you can get Blabbersnitch beaks at the supermarket. Using Floofens to retrieve Gruntle eggs is an expensive and all-consuming hobby, so most Floofen owners don't have the time or resources to do it. Grobblesquirts have been hunted to extinction, so Floofens aren't used to flush them anymore. The checks and balances that previously kept Floofenterriers from becoming too beefy are gone.
But many Floofen breeders still know what a Floofen should look like. They don't breed Floofens only to be show dogs, but they do show the Floofens they breed. Unfortunately, in order to be competitive, they pack extra weight onto their dogs during the show season. That added weight makes their Floofens look more like the other Floofens, and they are able to finish their championships.
And the cycle perpetuates. Many Floofen owners and breeders begin to not realize their dogs are fat. Others realize they're fat but can't make them thinner or else they'd never finish any dogs and thus lose their status as a "responsible" breeder.
That's really the crux of it. Exhibitors are simply not able or willing to sacrifice years of hard work and thousands of dollars to get their breed back to how it originally was, especially when the very act of doing so would eliminate those efforts from the breed's gene pool. Despite showing fat dogs, some people are smart enough to take those extra pounds off once the dog is finished showing. Some people are in breeds where the "fat problem" doesn't apply. But some people really have no idea their show dogs are fat, and that is a sad reality of the dog game.
I'm not immune to the fat show dog issue. When I show my dogs at a healthy weight, they lose. My time and money is wasted, and in no way does that help me improve my breed or reputation. I follow orders; I put 5-10 extra pounds on my show dogs during the show season. But that weight comes off when we're done showing, because we have better things to do than be fat.
Hi everyone. I'm super duper sorry I haven't been writing much. I'd like to say I have an excuse, but I don't really think "being busy" is a legitimate excuse since most days I spend my free time reading Harry Potter books on the sofa in my pajamas.
I'm trying to get back into the swing of things.
I've started a little vinyl-decal business. It's called Prairiedobe Decals and currently my only website is a page on Facebook. Once I actually start making money on this venture, I'll try to get a real website started. I am slowly getting every breed represented with a standard silhouette, but I can also do completely custom designs as well.
The new fridge arrived. It is a glorious appliance and I love it more than one should ever love a hunk of metal and plastic. That is all.
Talla's neck has completely healed. She's back to being a barky, annoying pest. I told her I'm having her deported back to Mexico if she ever scares us that badly ever again.
I am finally over that cold I mentioned in my last "update" post. However, I do have some super-fun medical information I can share. Pending a super-awesome bone biopsy and other expensive tests, it looks like I have a systemic mast cell activation disorder. Basically, I produce excessive amounts of mast cells. Those excess mast cells tend to congregate in places you really don't want them to be - in your skin, around blood vessels, in your respiratory system, in your gastrointestinal tract, etc. Mast cells are usually good - they protect you from disease and aid in wound healing by releasing histamines. However.... when you have too many mast cells and something triggers them, they release too many histamines. It's like a self-induced histamine overdose.
Simply put, when too many histamines are released, your body basically has an allergic reaction to itself. Your skin flushes and itches, your heart rate skyrockets, you get abdominal cramps, and anaphylaxis can (and usually does, to some degree) occur.
So what triggers mast cells? Lots of things. For me, my main trigger is stress. I am literally allergic to stupid people. Other triggers include excessive alcohol consumption, hot temperatures, sunlight, spicy food, artifical preservatives, and sunlight. (There are more triggers, but I've only listed the ones that apply to me.)
Yes, sometimes I will turn bright red for no apparent reason. You don't need to point it out or make fun of me for it, because I can't help it. I'm not blushing - I'm experiencing an allergic response to something, so cool it with the "ermagerd you're bright red like a tomato!" comments. Also, when Iowa eventually thaws, I will be slathering on SPF 10000000 sunscreen and wearing Buffs all the time, because in essence I am somewhat allergic to sunlight and warm temperatures. Witty vampire jokes are acceptable.
Now that I've thoroughly explained that, let's move on.
I really hate making my show dogs fat. I know I have to, but I still don't like it. I don't hate it enough to make me stop showing in conformation, but it's easily one of my least favorite things about playing this game. Maybe someday we won't have to pack 5-10 extra pounds on our dogs for the show ring, but I have a feeling we won't see that day anytime soon.
There's a meat run coming up. Yay meat.
Show season is starting. AKC conformation, UKC conformation, AKC coursing. Maybe some AKC obedience thrown in there somewhere. Whyyyy am I so stupid?
The End. More later. I promise to be better about posting interesting stuff.