Bill Shelton on Positive Messaging in Purebred Dogs
Bill Shelton imparts his wisdom in part one of a three-part series from a wide-ranging conversation about positive messaging in purebred dogs.
People respond to positive messages, Shelton said, which will allow us to change perceptions within the general public. Words like preservation and purpose bred dogs change the paradigm of purebred that can have negative connotation.
“Look what shelters have done,” Shelton said. “They used to be known as the dog pound and mongrels. Look at it today, shelter, rescue, adoption. What fabulous words they use. We still use all these draconian words like kennel, breeders and purebred. They are accurate, but we need to move past them. Even the boarding industry has recognized the anthropomorphized words and have day care and stylists instead of kennel runs and groomers.”
We as breeders and exhibitors have the responsibility to take back the conversation and can’t rely exclusively on the American Kennel Club to do the work for us, Shelton noted.
“I don’t use the word responsible any more because 30 people have a different understanding of what that means,” Shelton said. “Purpose bred means that not only are the dogs bred for intellect and the way they look and predictability, they are bred intentionally by people who care about them.”
The term preservation breeder opens up the opportunity for conversation in the community, Shelton said.
“The paradigm has to change,” Shelton said. “We’ve focused so much on dog shows, that we began to believe that is the most important thing. What’s really important is that you and I as dog breeders supply the demand of happy, healthy family companions.”
“As breeders we are taking accountability,” Shelton said. “We are the ones taking responsibility from cradle to grave. Rescue started in the halls of the AKC and parent clubs. This is one of the reasons we find only five percent identifiable purebreds in shelters.”
We have to assimilate different perspectives rather than pushing against them, Shelton said. We need not to demean people but rather encourage them to understand what preservation breeders are doing, including producing a quantitative predictability of health.
Coloring the Future: Artist Creates Purebred Dog Designs
Sandy Mesmer is an artist, Silky Terrier breeder and purebred dog enthusiast who has designed and published the first of a planned series of coloring books for each group.
“Color Me Canine: a Coloring Book for Dog Lovers of All Ages!” is Mesmer’s debut book in the series, this one covering the toy group.
Mesmer provides great insight about Silky Terriers in addition to her discussion of the coloring book, responsible breeders, taking back the conversation on purebred dogs and so much more.
“This book is a celebration of purebred dogs,” Mesmer said. “This is a viable alternative to the ‘adopt don’t shop’ message for children.”
“I am planning 7 more volumes of Color Me Canine, one for each AKC Group and Miscellaneous,” Mesmer added. “There are two areas that I could use help with:
- Part of the description I do for each breed is a crowd-sourced “In Three Words”. It can be helpful for someone to hear how the breed is very briefly described, it gives a snapshot of the breed’s temperament. You are very welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org your “In Three Words” for your breed. After all very breed is “great”. But is it independent? Sweet? Elegant? Feisty? All these adjectives can help a prospective buyer. As a matter of fact, as a thank you I’ll put you on our mailing list (if you’d like) so you can get the latest news about my coloring books.
- I have done over 160 headshots so far, these are the detailed drawings I use to model my coloring pages. They can be seen at the store (sandy-bergstrom-mesmer-designs.myshopify.com). I am working on the remaining 40+ as I work my way through each Group and am open to receiving photos of breeds I haven’t done yet. If I have done your breed, please feel free to check out your Headshot — I try hard to be an expert on each one but I know sometimes a detail slips through the cracks. As I can often easily correct such errors, I welcome experienced advice.”
Mesmer includes in the book, amongst a treasure trove of valuable information, this outstanding description.
What Makes a Responsible Pet Owner?
My friend and I got on the subject the other day. She volunteers at an animal shelter. We were having coffee. “I gotta tell you what happened.”
“Right before closing, I had this lady at my counter with a small black dog.
‘It’s not my fault,’ the lady told me. ‘This dog is obviously over-bred. I was promised that he wouldn’t shed, but he does – everywhere. And he pees everywhere too.
‘The kids begged and begged for a dog. I gave in but I told them, you’ll have to take care of him yourselves. And of course, they agreed. But did they? Of course not! It all got dumped on me. As usual. Never wanted the stupid thing in the first place.
‘Last night I got up to get a drink of water and stepped straight into a big pile of dog poop. That was the final straw.
‘I’m sure you understand I did all I could. The dog is obviously over-bred. It’s not my fault!”
My friend gave a deep sigh. “The woman so floored me, I couldn’t think of what to say. I came through the counter, took the dog’s leash and led him away. He’s a sweet little boy and no trouble at all. I took a long walk afterward.
“How can people get it so wrong?”
I shook my head. “No one ever tells people how to be a responsible pet owner. Instead they get their ears and eyeballs filled up with stories of Evil Breeders. Victimhood is so much simpler than to stand up and take responsibility.
“It’s way too easy to put a solitary bulls-eye on all breeders as the blanket cause of shelters full of abandoned animals. A good dog breeder is part of the solution, but so is a responsible pet owner.
“The popular press is curiously silent about this. It is loud about titillatingly horrific videos of stomach-turning breeding facilities, and we hear a lot these days about “over-bred” problem dogs.
“But what about the other side of the coin?”
I thought about our conversation over the next several days. What makes a responsible pet owner? I figured there were ten things to watch out for.
- A responsible pet owner is not in a rush to get a She knows that she is purchasing a companion who will be with her for the next 15 years. She does not try to get a dog for under the Christmas tree or for a birthday.
- A responsible pet owner never gets a dog just “for the kids”. She knows that at least one adult household member must be willing to be fully responsible for the
- Unless she is a responsible breeder, a responsible pet owner does not She never wants to “just have one litter” so the kids can see “the miracle of birth”.
- A responsible pet owner realizes that even with busy modern lifestyles, dogs need This is including regular walks. She knows that many canine behavior problems can be eliminated or at least mitigated with enough exercise.
- Whenever possible, she takes her dog with She knows that a happy dog is one with lots of stimulation and interaction.
- A responsible pet owner microchips her dog and has him registered with one of the lost and found She also has him licensed with her county.
- A responsible pet owner keeps up with her dog’s She checks him weekly for possible health issues and makes sure her dog gets regular wellness exams.
- A responsible pet owner trains her This can be in formal classes or from a book, but dogs love to learn; they become more sociable and excellent companions through training. If her dog has behavior problems, she is persistent in looking for help and answers and keeps going until she finds workable answers. She also realizes that if there is a persistent problem, most likely there is something that she is doing that is perpetuating the problem.
- A responsible pet owner continues to educate She keeps on learning about her breed, possible health issues and the latest in training protocols.
- A responsible pet owner knows that once she has made the original commitment, her dog is her responsibility for Like a child or a marriage, there are no give backs because the dog is no longer convenient or entertaining. It’s in sickness or in health, ’til death do us part.
I gave my friend the list. “What do you think?”
“I’m framing this and putting this on the wall behind the counter.”
“That would be great. If it helps just one dog have a better, more responsible owner, it’ll be worth it.”
I’ve heard about the excellent responsible pet ownership program they have in Calgary, Canada. Maybe that’s why that city has the lowest kill rate (how many pets are put to sleep) in North America.
Maybe this is the missing puzzle piece in the problem of pets in shelters. Just maybe.
Commentary: Fun Matches and Rethinking Rankings
Host Laura Reeves sat down with Lori Wilson-Paust to talk about fun matches, the need for “picnics in the park” that build the sport from the ground up and rethinking the “rankings rat race.”
For more thoughts on the topic, following is a reprint of an article Laura wrote for the online magazine Best in Show Daily a few years ago. Sadly just as applicable today…
As the Wheels Turn
by Laura Reeves, PHA
The latest statistics, for the first half of 2015, hit the airwaves today. Everyone from junior handlers to owner handlers to the top dog in the country of any breed is ranked in every possible format.
While I acknowledge the appeal, and certainly am not immune to bragging on the success of the dogs I show, I wonder, along with almost everyone I know, if this system is not a huge part of the problem we are all complaining about in modern AKC Conformation dog shows.
Simultaneously, I received an unexpected gifty from AKC in the form of a Grand Champion certificate for a dog I own. I am terrible about counting GCH points and frankly tell every one of my clients to count themselves or simply wait until the certificate shows up.
At this point in my life, I have a giant file full of certificates I never even look at. So what was special about this one? First, I wasn’t expecting it, even remotely. Second, the dog was shown a *total* of 16 shows (days, not weekends) since finishing his championship in January. He was shown three weekends to earn his championship, all at specialties or supported entries. He also earned a group placement at a large show in January and is still ranked, from that one day, #11 in all-breed competition.
This story isn’t about bragging, but rather about percentages. This dog was shown eight weekends out of 56 (May 2014 – June 2015). As this is a breed and group well outside my norm, in many cases he was entered under judges I had never even heard of, never mind shown to previously. Of the 28 entries, he won points toward his Championship or Grand Championship roughly 50 percent of the time.
Which begs the question — if a dog wins 50 percent of 30 shows, should it be ranked higher than a dog with 20 or 30 wins which was entered in 100 shows (ie only 20 or 30 percent winning average).
This also applies to the concept of stud dog/brood bitch success. For example: Brood Bitch A (an actual case) was successfully bred once. She produced, out of 12 live puppies, a BIS/BISS/DC/AFC/JH/CD (a breed first), a Ch/MH/RN/TD/MX/MXJ, a BISS/CH/group placer and a CH/regional specialty WD/BOW. This bitch, in her breed club, is not eligible for a Register of Merit award as there were not seven titled get, even though the allotted point total is more than sufficient. Brood Bitch B (fictional), who would theoretically qualify for the ROM, is bred four times, makes 32 live puppies, of which six become champions (perhaps by beating four or more of their littermates), three with a Junior Hunter, one with a Companion Dog and one Novice Agility titled dog. So, seven titled get out of 32 live puppies is a 22 percent “success” rate, versus four out of 12 which is 33 percent.
While perhaps a bit belabored, you begin to see the point. Statistics are great fun. Who doesn’t want to be #1? Are they particularly useful in identifying the “best” or most successful dogs being shown or bred? Maybe not so much.
As with anything else, take your month-end stats reports with a grain of salt. Better yet, perhaps AKC or even one of the dog sport mags could invest in the computer programming skills required to create a “percentage-shown” ranking system, which addresses so many of the issues in today’s fancy. All it takes is registration numbers and a good algorithm. The basic information necessary is already utilized in the existing rankings.
In such a system, successful owner-handlers with a really great dog who can only make it to a couple shows a month could well rank higher than dogs campaigned week in and week out who win less consistently. This at least attempts to provide for the long sought level playing field in the rankings race (which, sadly, is never going away). This novel concept could lead to increased satisfaction and overall improved entry numbers and fancier retention that does nothing but benefit the sport as a whole.
Living the dream out here on the left coast, to be sure, but still, something for the “powers that be” to ponder.
As always, this is JMHO.
Bird Biologist’s Wildlife Research is Aided by Purebred Dogs
Dominic Bachman, wildlife biologist, uses his German Wirehaired Pointers to help him conduct research on migratory bird species and habitat management. Bachman spent his childhood with dogs at a wildlife management area in northern Utah, where his father was the manager.
“Any chance I get, I try to bring my dogs into my life,” Bachman said.
Bachman spent his days with his father in the WMA. He watched his father incorporate their dogs into the work.
“Dad would send a dog after a hunter’s lost wounded game,” Bachman said. “The dogs would search hunters who dad suspected had more than their limit. Our dogs would even collect birds killed by disease.”
GWP’s diverse and versatile working ability appealed to Bachman’s father, so he grew up with the breed. He has continued living with the breed and incorporating them into his daily life and work ever since.
Purebred dogs are useful in a variety of wildlife management tasks, Bachman said, including:
- Locating wildlife and assessing populations
- Locating dead bodies, antlers or bone
- Locate scat
- Capturing birds for banding
Bachman specifically used his GWP while working with sandhill cranes in northeast California. He convinced his boss to let him incorporate the dogs into locating the baby cranes, called colts, in order to band them.
Host of his own podcast, Western Bird Biologist, Bachman’s description of capturing baby cranes that are 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall while the crane mothers are attempting to distract the dogs to protect their babies is laugh out loud funny.
Bachman’s research, using dogs, was able to provide valuable information supporting the habitat management plans.
German Wirehaired Pointers are particularly well suited to the work due to their development as very versatile field dogs, Bachman said. They work on land and in water, they track wounded game, they adjust their range to the terrain.
“The versatile hunting dog is a perfect dog for a lot of wildlife research,” Bachman said. “It blows my mind what they can do. There is a dog in biology that has been trained to smell a plant pathogen.”