I frequently hear comments from people that say dog shows have ruined purebred dogs across the world. This sentiment usually comes from owners of field bred dogs. There’s even been documentaries made on the topic. One that comes to mind is Pedigree Dogs Exposed by BBC. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend watching it. It is very interesting and they make some good arguments. Contrarily, I hear little from people regarding the good that dog shows have done for breed preservation. The St. Bernard dog is a perfect example. During the early 1800’s monks relied on St. Bernard’s for rescue missions between the snowy mountains of Italy and Switzerland. The St. Bernard’s resistance to cold and sense of direction made them ideal dogs for this job and they saved many children and soldiers. In today’s age, the dogs are no longer needed for this job. Without dedicated breeders and dog shows to help preserve the breed, where would they be? Where would the Dachshund be? How about the Poodle? Would these breeds still exist?
Organized dog shows are a vehicle for breeders and fanciers of each breed to showcase their best dogs and get an opinion on their dogs from qualified judges. These judges are considered experts and can provide non-biased feedback to help breeders and competitors. It also helps prospective buyers to find breeders with the quality of dogs they are looking for. Nothing is perfect and while there have been some breeds that likely have been done an injustice by them, overall dog shows have been good for dogs. I would argue however, that it was not the dog shows themselves that have ruined these dogs so much as it is the breeders who bred for exaggerated features to make their dogs ‘stand out’.
As protectors of our beloved breed, we must work hard to keep the American Pit Bull Terrier true to its function. Our dogs are working dogs and they must have a job. The cold, hard truth is that the conformation ring is not a job. Despite their well-meaning intentions, 'show only' folks that concentrate only on form are not helping preserve our breed. Our registry could do one important thing to save, or at least maintain some type of function in our dogs. They could require that to earn a Championship or Grand Championship title, a dog must pass at least a basic athletic test. Maybe Grand Champions should have to pass a more advanced test. I am proposing that our dogs should need to pass some basic athletic requirements in order to earn their championship titles. It would go a long way to ensuring that our dogs maintain at least a bare minimum in terms of athleticism, trainability and willingness to work. The ADBA has already implemented the Top Dog athletic events, which is a nice step towards maintaining and showcasing athleticism in our dogs. I would love to see more clubs offering these contests. Now I fully understand the Top Dog events are not directly related to the American Pit Bull Terrier’s original purpose. It is nonetheless, a step in the right direction.
I assume that my proposal will receive much backlash from breeders and owners who do not want to spend time training their dogs. I also realize that if implemented, my proposal would probably lower the number of dogs that are entered in shows. Thus, I’m certain that this basic athletic test requirement will never happen. Trust me, many current and former show champion dogs would not be able to even pass a basic athletic test! That in and of itself is a problem for the future of our breed.
In summary, it is not dog shows that are ruining dog breeds. It is amateurs ruining the breeds. Day after day I see amateurs breeding dogs. I have come to the realization that I will never understand the thought process behind these breedings. Nor will I understand the thought process of those willing to purchase or even accept a free puppy from these people. To clarify, when referring to amateurs I’m not only referring to those with inexperience, I’m also referring to those with many years of experience who mass produce dogs for popularity and profit. These people breed low percentage litters but every now and then strike gold due to the sheer volume of dogs they produce. The real breeders will always be those with small, private yards who keep and use what they breed. Real breeders maximize their dog’s potential and know each dog on an individual level that large scale breeders can only dream of. The real breeders are fair, patient and hold each dog to the same standard as the next. Real breeders do not fall in love with a dog because of its color, or because it runs the chain like a dog they liked in the past. Real breeders do not rely on assumptions. Real breeders do not rely on pedigrees they do not have first-hand, intimate experience with. Real breeders are willing to make the tough decisions that go along with safeguarding the quality and future of their dogs. Real breeders are faithful to their breeding programs. Real breeders know that generations of good breedings can be ruined by one poor breeding. It makes me think of the old hip-hop song by Meek Mill called Levels. “There’s levels to this Sh*t”. Well, you know where I’m going with this…
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