Marmite and mud-wrestling with pigs

marmiteI always look forward to reading Kevin Colwill’s articles in Dog World and find myself either violently disagreeing, or violently agreeing with his views.  His articles prompt a “marmite” response; you love them, or hate them.  This week, I think he’s spot on.  His title is Looking at our dogs in the round.  You should read the full article, but I’ve pulled out some of his quotes that seemed to be particularly relevant:

  • The array of problems we face are eclipsed by one big deep seated problem. The show world prized (and some still prize) features that quite frankly make for a poorer dog. Of course it wasn’t every show dog, wasn’t every show breed and wasn’t every show breeder. It didn’t need to be. The fact that we were rewarding any negative exaggerations was enough to tarnish the whole concept of dog showing.”
  • Nowhere in the KC’s history is it presented as the defender of breeders or dog shows. It’s consistently presented itself as being about the improvement of dogs.
  • “For me a drawer full of CCs isn’t necessarily a sign of a good breeder…
    …This means developing judges to look with that old-fashioned stockman’s eye. Look past the handler, past the reputation and past the flashy presentation that can hide constructional faults. It also means acting more fundamentally to get breeders to address issues of exaggeration or any area where welfare is compromised.

The reason the article struck me as relevant is that I’ve been following various online discussions about health screening, where opinions are often particularly polarised.  That may just be because it’s the people with the more passionate views that tend to express their opinions, while the silent majority lurk in the background and don’t put “pen to paper” (or keyboard to screen).

The discussions feature what some might describe as the health zealots and those in health denial (not necessarily in the same conversion; in fact more usually in completely separate online conversations).  As with most things, there is almost certainly a normal distribution of reactions, with some people really passionate about canine health at one end of the curve and at the other end we have those in denial.  The two groups will never see eye-to-eye.  Those who are perhaps over-enthusiastic need to aim for what is practical and implementable in today’s world, rather than “perfection”.  Those who are in denial will eventually feel the effects of either peer pressure, or the market (puppy buyers).

Kevin’s article says: “Someone has to step back from the fray and consider the dog in the round; its welfare, the breed’s original purpose and its general health“.  If we don’t, the risk is that all of us will end up with some form of external regulation that none of us wants, whatever our current position on canine health.

A final thought from me: trying to persuade either the health zealots, or those in health denial, with logic is like mud-wrestling with a pig: you both get dirty, but the pig enjoys it.  As Kevin says, we need to step back and see our dogs in the round, whether we are breeders, exhibitors, judges, or simply, owners.

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