Thoughts on Breeding

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Bella the pit/lab mix and Guapo the pit/american bulldog mix.

Since the day I was born there has never been a moment I have not shared with a dog. I’m the oldest of my human siblings, but the true first born was Nicky, a border collie golden retriever mix, who my parents adopted a couple years before I was born.  Nicky was a good, loyal dog with the classic retriever personality, especially in his later years when he was less energetic.  When I was about eight we adopted our second dog, a rat terrier, named Penny.  Nicky died at fourteen, when I was twelve.

After Nicky passed, Penny became an only dog, and my family went through a series of dogs to replace her lost friend and the new hole in our family. First was a black and white pekingese.  The second was a puggle, a pug and beagle mix.  Both the puggle and the pekingese were puppies bought from a pet store (something I’m now strictly against) and proved to be too much for my mom to handle and were later adopted by family friends.  We decided to look for an older dog, this time from a shelter.  We ended up with Rocky, a chow, shepard, retriever mutt, who is as loyal as Nicky was, but has also bitten three people since we adopted him. We still have Rocky, because giving him up at this point would mean his euthanasia, but four more dogs came after him as well.  My stepdad’s purebred sharpei, also named Rocky, moved in with us. We found an un-collared hound mutt on the highway and not long after I found my best friend, a pit bull lab mix puppy in a parking lot (who I ended up bringing to college with me). I’ll never forget the chaotic experience of coming home from high school to five dogs of all different breeds, ages, and sizes excitedly charging the door.

I have never lived without a dog.  However, that doesn’t mean that my family has always made the best choices when it comes to being responsible pet owners.  However, it’s their choices and my personal experiences living with mutts as well as purebreds, that have helped develop my opinions on things like breeding.

I believe that, at one time, breeding had a purpose.  Dogs were bred for hunting, herding, and defending.  But now, as people have progressed and found alternatives, breeding dogs is not a matter of widespread survival or financial stability.  With few exceptions, dog breeding is actually incredibly obsolete and unnecessary.  So why do we still do it?  The answer is simple but impractical.  With mutts filling up shelters and roaming the streets all around the world, purebred dogs are the canine upper class.  They come with a specific recipe. We know what they will look like and what they will act like (generally).  We breed because we like what we’ve created and we want to know what we’re getting, whether we just want to own one out of our own desire or to compete and show them.  In addition, we’re curious what else we can create.  We see two appealing dogs and can’t resist seeing what their litter would look or act like.  It’s just too easy to resist.

Breeding occasionally does makes sense.  If you own livestock, it would make sense to get a breed specifically designed to herd.  And the easiest way to ensure you’ll get a dog that will do it’s job is to get one with a purebred pedigree. In addition, I believe that sustaining the integrity of some breeds is incredibly important.  For example, I believe that it is very important to continue to breed dogs that are bred to search through smell, either for safety, medical, or search and rescue.  In those fields, we still need help that only dogs can provide us with. And if we are not selective with our breeding for these purposes, we will not get the results that these dogs have been proven to give us.

But those types of dogs are such a small percent of what is being bred out there.  There are purebreds in houses all over the country.  Most of them aren’t doing what they were bred to do, and some even do it in undesirable ways (like herders nipping at the heals of house guests). And some weren’t bred to be anything other than a lap dog (I’m looking at you, pugs). In other words, we have let our desire for tiny, aesthetically specific companions rule over the health and well being of a living creature (still looking at you, pugs).  Some people breed simply out of their own selfish love for their current pets.  They can’t stand the thought of losing their current dog, so they breed with another to fill the void.  And it’s incredibly unfortunate.

It’s not news that there are millions of homeless dogs being euthanized in shelters every year due to over crowding.  While many of these dogs are not purebred, they’re most likely healthier in the long run and their personalities and abilities cover all the bases because the gene pool is not as small and selective as it is for purebreds.  For every prospective dog owner, I am positive that there is a shelter dog out there that fits their needs, whatever those may be.  It saddens me that dogs are being killed to make room for purebred puppies that might not be able to fully enjoy their lives due to health complications and mutations that people have accepted as necessary for the breed to exist.

Overall, I learned some things from the documentary we watched in class. Although I know a lot about dogs already, I hadn’t known why they were so easy to cross breed. I found that section of the documentary very interesting and I’m glad we watched it for that purpose. But the film also reaffirmed many of the reasons that I am almost exclusively against breeding.

– Jay

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One thought on “Thoughts on Breeding

  1. I completely agree. In my opinion, breeding isn’t necessary anymore and to choose to do so without a valid reason for needing a specific breed, while leaving the mixed breeds in shelters throughout the world behind, is somewhat selfish on humanity’s part. Honestly, I wouldn’t consider it that huge of an issue if it wasn’t for the medical issues that come with selective breeding. Most purebred dogs grow to have a large array of medical issues that are the result of such a small bloodline that limits genetic material and thus causes problems. But with the combination of keeping shelter dogs out of homes and purposefully breeding dogs that will likely have ailments, breeding shouldn’t be as common as it still is today.

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