As that annual parade of the pedigreed known as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show unfolded at Madison Square Garden, there has been a debate over purebred dogs going on in the pages of the New York Times, at least its digital ones.
It’s worth checking out, especially, in my view, two of the opinion pieces from two of my favorite dog experts.
Alexandra Horowitz, professor of psychology at Barnard College and author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know,” hits on several important points in a piece focused mainly on the link between breed standards and inherited disorders.
She cites research showing that, among the most popular breeds, almost every one has developed some type of inherited disorder stemming from breed standards that prescribe how a dog should look.
Bulldogs and pugs have broad and shortened heads that lead to obstructions in breathing. Many large breeds have debilitating hip and elbow dysplasias. Shar-Peis, because of their wrinkly skin, are prone to eye ulcerations. The Cavalier King Charles spaniel may have a brain that grows too large for its skull, an extremely painful condition called syringomyelia.
By changing the breed standards — making them more health-contingent than looks-contingent, the health of dozens of breeds could be improved, she notes.
Horowitz also addresses the matter of personality. Although AKC breed standards make it sound like a dog’s personality is genetically determined, that’s not the case, she says.
” … A dog is not merchandise whose behavior (outside of a few hard-wired ones, like pointing) can be predicted ahead of time.
“While many owners may see breed-typical personalities in their dogs (we humans do tend to spot just the evidence which supports our theories), there is simply no guarantee that a dog will behave just so. Witness the cases of cloned — genetically identical — pets who have, to their owners’ great surprise, quite different personalities.”
Making it sound like the personality of all dogs can be predicted by what breed they are is problematic, she notes.
“When a dog does not behave in accordance with her ‘billing,’ owners call this a ‘behavior problem’ — the single greatest reason for relinquishment of a dog to a shelter. Thus, inadvertently, breed standards lead potential adopters to treat them more like products with reliable features.
“Dogs are individuals, and should be treated thusly.”
In another piece presented in the Times “Room for Debate” feature, James Serpell, the Marie Moore professor of animal welfare at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, looks at what kennel clubs, dog shows and the breed standards they espouse, has led to.
For one, inbreeding, as a way to produce dogs that most closely fit the written standards, or in some cases the interpretation thereof.
“Not only were the original gene pools of many breeds very small to begin with, but breeders have also accentuated the problem by selectively breeding from relatively small numbers of “champion sires” and/or by mating together closely related individuals.
“Nowadays, many breeds are highly inbred and express an extraordinary variety of genetic defects as a consequence: defects ranging from anatomical problems, like hip dysplasia, that cause chronic suffering, to impaired immune function and loss of resistance to fatal diseases like cancer. The only sensible way out of this genetic dead-end is through selective out-crossing with dogs from other breeds, but this is considered anathema by most breeders since it would inevitably affect the genetic “purity” of their breeds…”
“When standards do more harm than good, they should either be revised or abandoned altogether. We owe it to the dogs.”
A compelling argument is also made by Mark Derr, an author who was among the first to bring attention to the problems that have been created in the quest for purity and predictability: “It is long past time to make changes to standards that improve dogs’ lives or discontinue their breeding,” he concludes.
Less in line with my thinking — but I”ll point you to it, anyway – was a piece submitted by Lilian Barber, who breeds, judges and writes about Italian greyhounds.
Barber, president of the Kennel Club of Palm Springs, Calif., argues that breed standards are about more than appearance.
“Breeding dogs that fit a written standard isn’t just about appearance. Different breeds have different traits. It’s like choosing a vehicle. In many cases a two-door sedan will suffice, but sometimes a truck is needed.”
She continues, fortunately shifting out of the motor vehicle analogy:
”Most breeders of purebreds support research regarding the genetic health of their breeds and plan their matings carefully to insure that the offspring will be healthy. It would make little sense to put time, effort, money and passion into breeding unhealthy dogs … Those dogs are a huge and vital part of our lives.”
You can find links to all the opinion pieces here.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 14th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alexandra horowitz, animals, breed standards, breeds, cloning, debate, dog, dog shows, dogs, experts, genetic, genetics, health, inbreeding, inherited, james serpell, kennel club, mark derr, new york times, opinions, personality, pets, problems, purebreds, room for debate, standards, traits, westminster
A couple of Psychology Today bloggers are arguing over whether dogs can indeed soothe the savage breast — or at least help keep the heart that’s ticking inside of it from imploding.
We’re not a scientist — we’re not even a we – but it’s our firm belief that dogs lower blood pressure, unlike blogs, which raise it.
So, in our view, Alex Korb and Hal Herzog, the dueling bloggers, would both be better off, healthwise, to quit looking up and reciting old studies and spend that time bonding with dogs.
Korb, a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA and a scientific consultant for BrainSonix, says scientific studies have clearly shown dogs are good for the human heart — not just in mushy romantic terms, but the actual pump itself, and all the conduits leading to and from it.
Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University and author of “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals,” says no they haven’t — at least not with any consistency.
Scientific studies, we will point out here, are like courtroom experts — you can usually find one that supports your cause (and, if not, you can always fund one).
We think studies have produced piles of evidence on the health benefits of dogs; we think further that — while such studies are important — they don’t tell us dog owners anything we don’t already know.
Studies have looked at how simply petting a dog can lower blood pressure, and how it can also lead to increased production of oxytocin, sometimes called the “love hormone.”
But I think it goes far beyond petting. Playing with a dog, observing a dog at play, even watching a dog peacefully snoozing, all do the same, I’d bet. And I’d suspect eye contact is even a bigger factor. When Ace looks into my eyes, I can sense my blood pressure dropping. I can almost feel the oxytocin gurgling through my .. whatever it is oxytocin gurgles through.
On his Psychology Today blog, “Pre-frontal Nudity” Korb cites several studies showing dogs reduce the likelihood of death by a second heart attack, lower blood pressure and prompt us to produce oxytocin.
Korb points out that rats produce oxytocin when they are licked by their mothers, and that rats that are licked a lot grow up to be more well adjusted rats — or at least less anxious and stressed.
“Oxytocin works similarly in humans, and while it may be particularly necessary in childhood, even during adulthood it is important. Oxytocin is released by physical touch (hugs, kisses, handshakes, massages, breast-feeding … that sort of thing), and possibly even through social interaction.
“Humans are social animals. So I guess it’s not that surprising that having support from other humans, and other animals, has positive health benefits. Hopefully you also take away from this article the fact that there is not always a clear divide between physical health and mental health.”
I’d add to that maybe there’s not such a clear divide, either, between the mushy romantic heart and the actual pump mechanism — that maybe what keeps the metaphoric one happy and content, also keeps the real one pumping.
“So if you have a heart attack, reach for your poodle,” Korb concludes. “Well, reach for the phone first (or your LifeAlert), then maybe reach for the aspirin, then reach for the poodle.”
Herzog doesn’t see it that way. ”It’s a nice tight package – just the sort of science writing that makes for a good Psychology Today blog post,” he writes in ”Animals and Us,” his blog for Psychology Today. ”The only problem is that the story is a little too good to be true.”
Herzog goes on to cite studies that found conflicting, and sometimes opposite results, and concludes that the evidence is not conclusive.
“The $50 billion dollar pet products industry wants you to believe that playing with a dog or cat will ward off depression, cure autism, and cause you to lose weight. Unfortunately, the evidence for these claims is not nearly as strong as “the pet industrial complex” would have you believe.
As for oxytocin, he adds, while a South African study showed impressive increases in oxytocin of subjects who had engaged in petting sessions (with dogs), other neurochemicals also spiked during tests of the subjects.
“Who is to say oxytocin was the critical hormone, rather than, say, dopamine or endorphin – neurotransmitters which are also associated with pleasure and reward?
“… The fact is that many studies of the positive effects of pets on people do not pass the replication test. Further, pop science writers (of which I am one) are often guilty of only covering the good stuff when it comes to the animals in our lives.
“So you might want to dig a little deeper the next time you read that playing with a poodle will unclog your arteries and heal a broken heart.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alex korb, animals, animals and us, benefits, blog, bloggers, blogging, blood pressure, debate, dogs, hal herzog, health, heart, licking, love hormone, oxytocin, pets, pre-frontal nudity, psychology today, rats, science, scientific, studies, study
Whether you’re Catholic, Presbyterian or just plain gullible, you might have seen and fallen for this series of photos that seems to capture two neighboring churches having a theological debate, via their church signs, on whether dogs go to heaven.
But nay, my friend. Do not be decieved. See the light, which, you might notice, is exactly the same in each shot, as is the cropping, as is the background — including one car that is parked in the same place the whole time the alleged sign debate is going on.
Yea, verily, the devil’s workshop (now available online).
This particular one — the place where these false images are fashioned — is called Church Sign Generator. You can find it on the Internet, should you care to venture into that sinful rat’s nest of temptation, deception and pop-up ads. (May God strike me down if I ever resort to them.)
We (by which I mean me) are not truly bothered by Internet-generated church signs, though we’d argue that being able to put any words you want on one takes away some of the thrill of spotting real church signs that contain humor, wisdom or interesting typos. (Like seeking kudzu dogs, that’s one of my hobbies.)
Some of the Cumberland Presbyterians — especially since they seem to come out on the losing end of the debate — are less than thrilled with it though, calling the text that appears on the signs “inappropriate.”
The misleading series of photos is most often passed along via the forwarded email — forwarded emails being the Internet equivalent of swarming locusts.
“This forwarded e-mail continues to rear its ugly head time after time,” writes editor Pat White in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church newsletter, “so I am resurrecting this message that explains that this is not a theological issue for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.”
“These signs are a prank,” he adds. “If you receive one of these forwarded e-mails, please respond to the sender to be sure they understand that this is not a true Cumberland Presbyterian church sign.”
Alas, his remarks are too little, too late.
As with with locusts, once forwarded emails go viral, the damage is done, and the Presbyterian Church, or at least the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, or at least the Beulah Cumberland Presbyterian Church – if there really is one — is left looking God-fearing but dog-hating.
White does not address whether all dogs go to heaven, but we are quite certain they do.
We read it on a church sign once.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 27th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: all dogs go to heaven, beulah, catholic, church, church sign generator, church signs, cumberland presbyterian, debate, deception, devils workshop, dishonest, doctored, dogs, email, engineered, forwarded, hands, heaven, idle, internet, misleading, our lady of martyrs, photos, photoshop, presbyterian, religion, sign, signage, signs, viral, website
When is the world’s tallest dog not the world’s tallest dog?
When there’s quite possibly a taller one, but that one’s owner doesn’t get the paperwork into Guinness World Records officials in time.
Titan, left, was crowned the world’s tallest dog Thursday by Guinness World Records officials. But Arizona Realtor Dave Nasser, who has been campaigning to get his dog George, right, named the world’s tallest, says his dog, by some measurements at least, is three-fourths of an inch higher.
After his dog was measured at 42 inches, Nasser got a second and third opinion on his dog’s height, which, respectively, showed George to be 42.625, or 43 inches tall at the shoulder.
Proving, I guess, that the top of the shoulder is in the eye of the beholder.
As a result of all the measurement seeking, Nasser didn’t get the application into Guinness in time to compete with Titan, who is owned by Diana Taylor of San Diego, and is 42.25 inches tall.
“It’s just bad timing. I can’t say anything bad about Guinness,” said Nasser. “We sent the paperwork to them Tuesday and they got it Thursday. The winner had a plaque in hand Thursday. … we were just late to the game.”
Nasser said he wasn’t aware of a deadline, or that Nov. 12 was Guinness World Record Day, Phil Villarreal reported in the Arizona Daily Star.
Nasser said he spoke on the phone Friday with a Guinness representative in London, who said the company was verifying George’s application and that there was no time frame as to when a decision will be made on whether George will displace Titan..
“Guinness World Records received a massive influx of claims after the death of Gibson (the previous world’s tallest dog) this year. The organization is familiar with George’s claim but is still assessing proper evidence before properly authenticating,” a Guinness spokesman told the Star on Friday … Verifying record proposals is a meticulous process that is not done overnight. It could take months for the research team to make the decision. ”
Nasser says he has offered to bring George and Titan together to see which dog is bigger.
For an update on this story, click here.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 15th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: dave nasser, debate, diana taylor, disagreement, dog, dogs, goerge, great dane, great danes, guinness, height, pets, records, tall, tallest, titan, world, world's tallest dog
A British physician, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says, all in all, dogs may be privy to a better health care system than humans — at least in his part of the world.
“In the last few years, I have had the opportunity to compare the human and veterinary health services of Great Britain, and on the whole it is better to be a dog,” Theodore Dalrymple, a pen name for British physician Anthony Daniels.
“As a British dog, you get to choose (through an intermediary, I admit) your veterinarian. If you don’t like him, you can pick up your leash and go elsewhere, that very day if necessary. Any vet will see you straight away, there is no delay in such investigations as you may need, and treatment is immediate. There are no waiting lists for dogs, no operations postponed because something more important has come up, no appalling stories of dogs being made to wait for years because other dogs — or hamsters — come first.
“The conditions in which you receive your treatment are much more pleasant than British humans have to endure. For one thing, there is no bureaucracy to be negotiated with the skill of a white-water canoeist; above all, the atmosphere is different … In the waiting rooms, a perfect calm reigns; the patients’ relatives are not on the verge of hysteria, and do not suspect that the system is cheating their loved one, for economic reasons, of the treatment which he needs. The relatives are united by their concern for the welfare of each other’s loved one. They are not terrified that someone is getting more out of the system than they.”
The only drawback to the superior care British dogs receive is they, or their owners, generally have to pay for it.
Still, even for those dogs, and owners, without means, there is the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, or PDSA, which serves as a safety net, providing free veterinary services for the poor.
The PDSA, he says, more closely resembles the National Health Service for British humans. “There is no denying that the PDSA is not as pleasant as private veterinary services; but even the most ferocious opponents of the National Health Service have not alleged that it fails to be better than nothing.”
The rest of other comparisons and conclusions can be found here.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 10th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: britain, british, care, debate, dogs, health, health care, humans, insurance, medical, medicine, national health service, pdsa, people's dispensary for sick animals, physician, services, socialized, systems, theodore dalrymple, treatment, veterinarians, veterinary
As Rhode Island debates the fate of its only greyhound racing track, an advocacy group is planning a weekend rally calling for an end to the sport in the state, the Associated Press reports.
The group GREY2K USA, a chief proponent of a successful ballot question in Massachusetts last year to ban greyhound racing at the state’s two tracks, is planning a Saturday rally in Providence to urge Rhode Islanders to ban the sport as well.
The Massachusetts ban takes effect in January. And New Hampshire’s two remaining tracks plan to end live racing.
“The handwriting is on the wall, and it makes little sense for lawmakers to stand up and buck this trend,” said Christine Dorchak, president and general counsel of the organization.
In Rhode Island the debate has focused more on the sport’s profitability rather than on the treatment of dogs. Legislators awant to expand greyhound racing. Over the objection of Gov. Don Carcieri, lawmakers have moved to force a bankrupt, state-licensed slot parlor to run 200 days of live racing at its greyhound track even though current law only requires 125.
Carcieri, a Republican, vetoed the legislation, but lawmakers in the Democratic-dominated General Assembly say they expect to override it. Supporters of the dog racing bill say it’s necessary to save 225 jobs, including pari-mutuel clerks, bartenders and security workers, and preserve tax revenue. They also argue the public shouldn’t be penalized for what they say are the bad business decisions of the owners of the gambling parlor, called Twin River.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 16th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: debate, dog racing, dogs, gambling, governor, grey2kusa, greyhound, greyhound racing, legislature, massachusetts, racing, rhode island, tracks, twin river
The debate raging here on ohmidog! – and in the rest of the world, too — just had a little more fuel thrown on it: A new British study says dominance-based dog training techniques such as those espoused by Cesar Millan are a waste of time and may make dogs more aggressive.
Researchers from the University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences, after studying dogs for six months, conclude that, contrary to popular belief, dogs are not trying to assert their dominance over their canine or human “pack” and aren’t motivated by maintaining their place in the pecking order.
One of the scientists behind the study, Dr. Rachel Casey, in an interview with ABC News, said the blanket assumption that every dog is motivated by some innate desire to control people or other dogs is “frankly ridiculous.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 22nd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggression, aggressive, behavior, behaviorists, british, cesar millan, critical, criticizes, debate, disagreement, dog, dog training, dog whisperer, dogs, dominance, leader, mentality, methods, noise, owners, pack, pinning, rewards, ridiculous, study, techniques, trainers, training