We’re half way through the “answers” portion of my Dog Stereotypes! Only one more to go after this but some would say that the final two points, one here and one tomorrow, are the most difficult and frustrating stereotypes against Dog Shows.
5.) Behavior of the dog doesn’t matter at all, they could be neurotic and aggressive.
This misconception comes from the importance given to the dogs conformation and how well it fits the standard. Another point that people bring up is that many breed standards have very vague personality markers. Some examples of temperament markers in breed standards are, as stated on the AKC website (newly updated as of 2/12/2015)
Australian Shepherds are “Smart, work oriented, and Exuberant”
(American) Akitas are “Dignified, Courageous, and Profoundly Loyal”
Basset Hounds are “Low-key, Patient, and Charming”
German Wirehair Pointers are “Affectionate, Eager, and Enthusiastic”
Siberian Huskies are “Loyal, Mischievous, and Outgoing”
To some people it would seem that these distinctions of how a dog should be were pulled out of a hat. That they are assigned at random with no actual importance to the dog. This is not the case though. As with anything in the breed standard, the temperament markers have to do with the jobs these dogs were made to do.
Aussies that aren’t work oriented and smart wouldn’t be as happy herding their flocks and might go off leaving the animals to roam on their own. Their exuberant nature also helps them in bonding with their people and encourages them to find ways of entertaining themselves in the fields.
Akitas were bred as protectors and so they needed to bond with their people, being loyal to them at all costs. Being courageous and dignified gave them the strength to do this job as well because in addition to not running from new experiences, by not being as exuberant as the Aussie would be, they have an air of importance and status that fit’s their job.
If a breeder did not keep these temperament markers in mind when breeding a pair of dogs, then the breed would slowly change over time eventually being nothing like the animal is now.
If a dog in a show is neurotic or aggressive it will not show well and so will not move up in the show circuit. This is important because many breeders will not breed dogs until they have shown to a certain level, some not breeding a dog until they earn a title in the ring, whether it be in conformation shows or in skill shows such as agility, herding, etc.
6.) It’s the racism of the animal kingdom.
This argument is one which frustrates me a little more than I think it should but I feel the need to preface this answer with that.
To say that dog shows are like a kind of racism, or “dogism” as some people call it, is completely untrue. On the same level, to say that dog shows encourage “dogism” is also completely untrue.
The first reason why this is incorrect is because dogs are not judged against one another but against the standard of their own breed. When a Shar-Pei wins best in show, it is not saying that it is better than a German Shepherd or Terrier or anything else in the show but it is saying that this Shar-Pei better fits the Shar-Pei standard than the Shepherd fits their own standard and so on.
Another reason why this is incorrect is because of the implications which it brings up. To say that this is the racism of the animal kingdom would make one believe that it is putting one breed of dog above another. That is not the case. For example, in the 138 years of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, the most any single breed has ever won is 14 wins, that is the honor of the Wire Fox Terrier.
Tomorrow I will be talking on the seventh and final point of my “Dog Show Stereotypes”.