Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mutts in the Ring

**A little disclaimer: This post might touch on some sticky topics in the dog world. All remarks are my opinion only and are brought up because they, in my eyes, are relevant to the discussion of the AKC Canine Partners Program. If you'd like, you can ignore my ramblings, and just look at the cute photos. :)**

Everyone at the AKC trial last week was extremely nice and welcoming of the handful of mixed breed dogs that were at the show. Both judges included a special "welcome" for the new dogs in their briefings and seemed genuinely happy that we were there competing.

It didn't really feel like Marge, as a mixed breed, was any different from the other dogs there. That's how I hoped it would be. Perhaps I'm biased as the owner of a mixed breed, but I see no reason why there is an issue with having all dogs compete in Obedience, Agility, and Rally competitions in the AKC. In those events, a dog is a dog.

Some people - mixed breed and purebred owners alike - have said that this is just another way for the AKC to make money. To that, I say, who cares? They are giving me an opportunity to compete locally that I otherwise would not have had. I couldn't care less about the corporate reasons for the decision. What matters is for me to be accepted and welcomed by the majority of my fellow competitors. I hope that the AKC makes a million bucks from it.

I'm a little sad to go to the American Kennel Club's Facebook group to find some negative comments among the many positive ones. One woman said (I'm paraphrasing, the comment was deleted) that she was angry that she would have to "wait in line behind mutts" to get her paperwork filed. Not every person is going to support the Canine Partners program - I completely understand that, and respect opinions that differ from my own. But, in my opinion, a comment such as this gives absolutely no valid reason for disliking the new program, and I think it sends an awful message to mixed breed owners like me who are trying to do something productive with their dogs: You don't belong here.

Another argument advocating against this program is that it gives people an incentive to breed mixed breed dogs, since they will now have AKC titles. In general, I do not support the intentional breeding of mixed breeds. However, I don't think this program really benefits "breeders" of mixed breeds, or at least it shouldn't; dogs listed as Mixed Breeds with the AKC are required to be spayed or neutered. Of course, not every dog can be checked to find out if it has been altered, but I'm sure the AKC will not hesitate to revoke a particular dog's listing number if it is being used for breeding when it shouldn't be.

Besides, as I've found, the world of dog shows is generally all about protecting those who haven't done anything wrong. The reason why no one likes BSL, for example, is that it punishes good owners and dogs for the actions of a select few. Many people do not like mandatory spay/neuter laws because it complicates the work of reputable hobby breeders who place their puppies in proper homes and remain responsible for them for the entirety of their lives. So, how should this be different? Perhaps some will exploit this program for the wrong reasons, but should it not be implemented at all just so those corrupt few can be stopped? (I don't think it will stop them, anyway.) What about the responsible mixed breed owners who don't want to breed, and just want to have fun? What about the rescue dogs like Marge, who want an opportunity to compete close to home? - doG knows, without that opportunity, we wouldn't be able to attend very many trials at all.

Over all, I think this program can do a lot of good. The American Kennel Club is, and always will be, a registry for purebred dogs. This was their original purpose, and it should remain as such. They oversee a great deal of things that uphold the integrity of the purebred dog fancy, something I, one day, will benefit from (I'm sure I'll have both mutty-mutts and purebreds in my life). This decision to allow mixed breed dogs to compete does not undermine the importance of good purebred breeding practices - it only opens a larger population of people to the world of dog training, dog sports, and, most importantly, responsible dog ownership. How can that possibly be a bad thing?

(PS - I ordered the first and third of these photos. Can't wait to get them!)


D.K. Wall April 8, 2010 at 1:05 PM  

Great comments. I look at this as a great opportunity for the AKC to educate even more people about the importance of genetics, health testing, and the joys of canine companions.

While I have the AKC paperwork on two of The Herd, I do not on the others because of how they came to be rescues. All are altered, so no puppies will be produced here. Thus, I do not qualify for membership in the breed specific club because I do not show or run in organized breed sports (sledding - not exactly a lot of organized sledding here). I do think I would make a heck of an advocate for the breed, though.

Always interesting to me how some members of some groups miss the power of attracting more people to their worlds.

P.S. - the pictures are great.

Cyndi and Stumpy April 8, 2010 at 1:11 PM  

AWESOME photos! The 3rd is my fav.

Valid points, too. If someone is concerned about having to wait in line behind a mixed breed dog, they can just patronize specialty shows.

Besides making some buck for the AKC it encourages people to do something productive with their mixed breed dogs, and as you states makes for more knowledgable and responsible pet owners. I think i remember hearing that mixed breed dogs must be spayed/neutered to compete, yes?

Amy / Layla the Malamute April 8, 2010 at 1:13 PM  

I LOVE the pictures! She looks so happy!

I think the people who are against mixed breeds are in the minority. They're the kind of people who just enjoy complaining. If mixed breeds weren't allowed to start competing at the same time as introducing the 24" weaves, they'd be having a fit about the weave poles.

Most of the people I know are also involved in conformation, and even they think mixed breeds in performance events are a good thing.

The only thing that I did agree with was the potential for the trials to run so much longer, but that was back when they were going to have separate classes and separate rings for the mixed breeds. Now that they're included towards the regular trial limit, that's a moot point anyway.

I think the real reason so many people were having a problem, is they'll be embarrassed to have their purebred be beaten by a mixed breed. But, it's going to happen, many many times!

Sam April 8, 2010 at 1:14 PM  

Yup, Stumpy's Mom, mixed breeds are supposed to be S/N before they compete. My one issue is that they didn't request any documentation of that on Marge - so, people can certainly get away with it (especially with a female). But, like I said, I think that if someone was breeding their mixed dog and it had AKC titles at the end of its name, I think the AKC would be livid. There's also a pretty heavy presence of field representatives at AKC trials, and most of them are no nonsense - they'd kick an intact mutt out of the trial without a second thought.

Anonymous April 8, 2010 at 1:15 PM  

Firstly, I luvs the pictures!

Secondly, while I don't gives it much thought, it makes my momma sad about peoples discriminating (whew! That's a hard word to spell!) against me cuz of how I looks and cuz I don't have some fancy-schmancy papers.

But this is what I thinks. I thinks change is hard. (Believe me! I know!) And being one of the first ones to do something is hard. But peoples will get used to it and one day they'll think how silly it was that dogs of questionable heritage weren't allowed in the ring all along! Oh, and maybe if you handed out cheese to those cranky people, they'd be happier.

Wiggles & Wags,

Sam April 8, 2010 at 1:17 PM  

Yeah, Amy, I was SO totally not in to the whole separate class thing. I wasn't going to run AKC if that stayed. It would have complicated things for everyone, and would be definitely unfair to the purebred owners who had already been competing for a long time and had their "system," so to speak. By just kind of integrating the mixes, I don't think any one is really affected negatively. Most trials aren't even filling up anymore, so it's not like entries are being taken away.

T April 8, 2010 at 1:20 PM  

First, the photos are PERFECT!! Love them.

Our club was also one of the first clubs last weekend to allow mixed breeds. It was a success. My husband and I have many mixed breed dogs as our students and they have always wanted to compete but couldn't. only because of being mixed breed. Now, they can. This gives many people with mixed breed dogs an opportunity and a reason to get out there, train and most importantly, 'have fun' with their dogs.

Excellent post!

Cheryl, Indiana, Shingo and Molly April 8, 2010 at 1:25 PM  

I'm so glad that they allow mixed breeds to compete the AKC! I really do feel that mixed breeds are truly a gift and a blessing healthwise too! The pictures are fabulous too! I'm so proud of her!!

Woofs and Kisses!
The Fiesty Three

Two French Bulldogs April 8, 2010 at 2:14 PM  

We have no problems with your comments, it's all good info. Awesome action shots
Hope you have a relaxing day
Benny & Lily

Sue April 8, 2010 at 2:19 PM  

First, the pictures are great. Glad you're getting them to remind you of a special day.

I'm so in agreement with you. When the AKC was first considering the changes to the rules, they contacted the breed clubs for input. I was saddened to see so many people who didn't want their purebreds competing with mixes.

I love dogs, all dogs and I love the idea of getting more people involved in activities with their dogs. Of course they should compete. If I've done my job and my purebred is good enough, what do I care who the competition is? I wish my two mixes were up to Rally training. Maybe someday I'll compete with a PWD and a mix in the same trial.

Sara April 8, 2010 at 2:23 PM  

Good for you having such a positive attitude. I mean really, the sport is supposed to be about having fun with your dog. Who cares about all that other stuff? I swear, people love controversary. I hope AKC continues to be a positive, supportive environment for you and Marge.

I love all the photos of Marge!

LauraK April 8, 2010 at 3:37 PM  

Marge looks so joyful in all of her pictures- I love it!

I'm so glad that you wrote this post, because being in the same position as you with a mixed breed getting ready to compete in AKC is a little daunting at first. It's good to hear about your great experience, takes some nerves away from me :)

I can't believe that lady said that about waiting in line behind mutts- what a snob! If anything, we're the ones who saved a life and like you said are just trying to do something productive and give our dogs jobs. People like that shouldn't even own dogs!

I was a little hesitant about the separate classes too, but around here there are like 90+ dogs in a class, so it would have been nice to be in a smaller class. But overall, I think it was a better decision to have mixed breeds competing against purebreds. I think the snobby purebred owners are just a little nervous that our mutts just might kick their purebred dog's butt in the ring :)

I'm doing AKC as well, because there are so many trials that are so close to home, so it's nice not to have to drive so far. Thanks again for posting, I'm right there with ya!

houndstooth April 8, 2010 at 3:40 PM  

I love that last picture!

AKC does a lot of things that I don't understand, but so much of it is controlled by politics that I don't worry a lot over much of what they have to say.

PICKETTTTTTTT April 8, 2010 at 4:21 PM  

Stella's mom Jen here.

I'm so glad you said that woman's comment had been deleted. I wanted to send her puppy mill pictures. Grr.

I actually have someone in my family who believes in purebred only. I make sure and mention that 5 million dogs and cats get euthanized in the US every year for lack of homes. Then too this is the woman who doesn't believe in hybrid vigor. *headdesk*

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a crank about everything but that seriously gets my hackles up. What makes the nasty commenter woman's very expensive dog better than your Marge or my Stella and Sarah? For that matter our other dog Maddie is a purebred cocker that we rescued from a backyard breeder. She has a cherry eye that is recurrent and a hernia that solved itself. She also had a littermate that had a *bad* hernia. So much for pure bred dogs.

Okay /rant.

Anywho the pics as everyone has said are AMAZING. Marge looks *ridiculously* happy. I bet you guys had so much fun. :-)


Natasha April 8, 2010 at 5:01 PM  

Love the photos!

I do understand that some people are angry because the AKC's goal has always been to promote the purebred dog. I personally don't have any problem with the Canine Partners Program.

Thanks for your comment! :) I think a CCL injury could be likely because the main causes of a CCL injury are what Wall-e used to do on an everyday basis; turning on a dime as he chased cars, and leaping up vertically in the air, landing on his back legs. He's never had problems with his rear leg before though. If I hadn't read that article, I never would have thought about it!

Sam April 8, 2010 at 5:21 PM  

Well wait, let's back up a sec. I have NO problem what so ever with purebred dogs. There are many good breeders out there who do their part to ensure that their puppies are good examples of their breed in health, temperament, and many other areas. So, I don't think it's fair to rat on purebreds as a whole - the majority of my dog-owner friends have purebreds and are totally accepting of any dog, including mixed breeds, and their dogs are stellar in every sense of the word.

Rather than saying mixes are this, purebreds are that, I believe in the unification of all dogs; both have their part, and neither works for everyone.

Diana April 8, 2010 at 5:42 PM  

Great pictures. I think the AKC was just trying to do what people wanted. When they took the survey on allowing mixed breeds, anyone one could answer it, not just people with AKC registered dogs. So I think that says something. Dinaa

Carolyn April 8, 2010 at 6:23 PM  

First of all, great pix!

Second, awesome post! I'm a big believer that all dogs should have a job, be it agility, or whatever.

It's great that the AKC finally realized that they should include all canines in their competitions. These registry organizations should be "Pro-Dog" not just "Pro-Purebred".

Keep up the good work!


kissa-bull April 8, 2010 at 7:00 PM  

we love all the pikshures they are full of most cuteness and we eshpecially love how happy she looks which ish the most important fing of all
it makes ush all furry sad about the meanie comments as we have to deal wiff mean comments all the time because of how we look
we wish humans were more like ush and just love everyfurry for how their hineys smell
pibble sugars and wee wags
the pittie pack

Muttsandaklutz April 8, 2010 at 7:02 PM  

Oh I especially love that third photo!!

You're the only blogger I follow who has participated in the AKC's Canine Partners program, so I was especially interested to hear how your experience would be. I was very pleased to hear that the atmosphere was so positive and welcoming. There will always be those who disagree with something...

BRUTUS April 8, 2010 at 7:21 PM  

I have to agree with you, Sam, on so many of your musings about the AKC. I'm on the other side of the coin, but feel the same way in most respects (Brutus being a purebred, but from an unregistered litter - he has a PAL number). If the mixed breeds can push the level of competition higher, than maybe that should tell us all something about what the "pure" breds should aspire to! I also agree with your thoughts on "designer" dogs of intentional mixed breeding - selling those sorts of dogs for thousands of dollars when the same beings are sitting in shelters awaiting euthanization!!

Oh, and thanks for your comments on our videos today - we really appreciate your compliments!!

Michelle & Brutus

Kathy Mocharnuk April 8, 2010 at 7:33 PM  

I LOVE the pictures, the last one is so awesome!!! Marge is gorgeous.

There are always people that are going to fight change, any change tooth and nail, and there are breeders that are just worried about people not having to buy puppies from them if they want to compete to a high level, but I think the vast majority of people just think that it is about time. Here our usdaa trials are probably more popular or at least as popular as AKC so we have all been competing together for years and years, and it is all good.

PICKETTTTTTTT April 8, 2010 at 8:53 PM  

Eeep! In case I came off the wrong way, I *definitely* support purebred dogs as well. There are so many amazing breeders out there who are committed to their particular breed standard. For years my father had AKC beagles and to this day the AKC holds a special place in my heart. I was actually really excited when I learned that they had expanded their competitions the way they had. It just upsets me when I run across people who think that mutts aren't as good as their dogs. If I sounded off put by purebreds in general I'm SO sorry!

-sheepish Jen

The Army of Four April 8, 2010 at 10:00 PM  

What a load of .... um... what mom and dad police up in plastic bags. Technically, we're all mixes if you go back far enough! We loved your comments - and of course the pictures of Marge!!!
We're behind you 100%!!! Actually, we're probably out front pulling ... but you know what we mean!
Tail wags,

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! April 8, 2010 at 10:08 PM  

I khan't begin to top the pawesome khomments here!

We've had our own enkhounters with Sibe 'show' people - and let's just say they ruined some otherwise pawesome days...


Thanks so much fur sharing them AND fur sharing your thoughts!


LauraK April 9, 2010 at 12:27 AM  

I in no way was meaning to put down purebreds either! Sorry if it came across that way :( I love purebreds, I think they're great. I'm sure I will own many purebreds and mixes in my lifetime. We were just talking about mutts, so I added my two cents about how amazing they are :) I just don't like the hard core purebred snobs that think our mixed breeds aren't worth anything- especially the lady who, heaven forbid, has to stand in line behind one. I'm so thankful that AKC came to the decision to appreciate all dogs for the amazing creatures that they are.

Golden Samantha April 9, 2010 at 12:27 AM  

A beautiful essay, Sam. Wow - can't agree with you more. I'm such a rookie, that, when a couple of months ago, I ran into a pal at our obedience training place (she has a labradoodle)and informed me that she couldn't compete (still the case then), I was shocked. Thank you so much for articulately writing about the injustices of the AKC. LOVELOVELOVE those pix of Marge and look forward to seeing many more of her competing!

Hugs xoxoxo
Sammie and mom

Sam April 9, 2010 at 12:51 AM  

PS - my comments about people disliking purebreds weren't directed at any one in particular. I just wanted to make sure (since there are several purebred show people who read my blog) that they knew that *my* post was not intended to incite pure vs. mixed debates from either angle. Like you all said.. neither is better! I'm happy I made this post - I think all of you have brought up a lot of great points! It's rare to have a blog post where all of the comments are so long and insightful!

SissySees April 9, 2010 at 9:49 AM  

As a junior handler who learned so much about being a good dog lover from those AKC shows, like you, regardless of THEIR motivation, I'm glad the AKC has opened some of their events to dogs not registered with their registry program.

That being said, I'm also the owner of a JACK RUSSELL TERRIER. (Yep. Screaming. Sorry...) I'm currently snipping with my vet's office, because she's NOT a Parsons Russell Terrier. Gretchen is too small, and comes from a strong line of JRTs, now supported through the UKC registry. Yes, because of her "pretty" family tree, I could have also paid to register her with the AKC, but why? She's not a Parsons Russell, and I don't feel inclined to pretend she is.

Poor ol' Sissy (the basset) comes from a line intentionally bred to be healthier hunters, also registered with the UKC. This is no endorsement for the United Kennel Club; it's pure chance that both dogs came with their registration papers. You've visited my blogs and know enough about dogs that I'm sure you noticed Sis's legs are too long and her body, too slim for her to come anywhere close to the AKC basset standard. However, three different vets have told me Sis is a healthier (bone-structure wise and all) build than the version the AKC is endorsing...

Just my own little rant. I'm very sorry you and Marge heard/read unkind comments. I actually remember as a 13 yr. old trying to get someone to explain to me why a dog needed AKC papers to compete in anything other than conformation classes...

BlackDog's Photographer April 9, 2010 at 11:39 AM  

Cheers to all the mixes! And I love the pictures. :)

Chris and Ricky April 9, 2010 at 12:32 PM  

Terrific photos of Marge in action!

I enjoyed all your thoughts about AKC and mixed breeds and it is really a shame that there is controversy at all (but like Sara said, people love controversy). I was glad that they didn't make separate classes because I thought that was insulting. I'm really glad you had a good experience at your AKC trial and that now you can participate in more local trials. That's why we do AKC agility - it's what we have the most of around here.

Anna the GSD April 9, 2010 at 2:09 PM  

Can't we all just get along?? I think it's great to let all doggies compete in anything their little doggy hearts want to! Dogs don't see "mixed breeds or purebreds" so why do peoples have to?

And, BTW, Marge you look marvelous darling! Great pics!!

KB April 9, 2010 at 5:49 PM  

I found myself speechless that purebred dog owners could EVER take the kind of attitude that you ran into.

I've always been against the AKC. They seem to have rigid rules about the way a dog looks but nothing else. Although I've had purebred labs for my whole adult life, I've never registered them with the AKC... that is, until R got elbow dysplasia. Then, I wanted to put him in the databases as having this genetic issue (to help figure out how it's inherited) so I was required to register him.

Since I've found it to be nearly impossible to find a young Lab in a shelter and make it there in time to adopt that dog (they are adopted almost instantly), I've taken the approach of searching far and wide for breeders who are doing everything scientifically possible to eliminate genetic diseases. R's breeder was beyond mortified about his elbow dysplasia. She refunded our full price, and has enthusiastically participated in genetic testing of his parents and him to help with studies trying to eliminate his type of disease. That's the kind of breeder who I like to support.

But, in the big picture, I love ALL dogs, not just Labs - and I'm thrilled that the AKC is making mixed breed dogs welcome at trials. For me, the simple truth is that a Lab's physical capabilities and temperament suit me perfectly. That's my only reason for being a "Lab person"!

Dexter April 11, 2010 at 9:07 AM  

Why shouldn't all doggies be allowed to compete in those events? Conformation showing is for humans who want to select the best doggies to have puppies (although some of the conformation breeders are really not good to their doggies). So let them do their thing, but when it comes to dogs showing off their bond to their people and having fun, there should be no rules.

Fab photos, by the way.


Kari in Alaska April 11, 2010 at 1:46 PM  

I love that the AKC opened up to "mutts" I love my mutts more than anything and never have any intentions of owning a pure bred. Heck, the AKC doesn't even recognize the Pit Bull as a breed.

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