Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Best in Show Daily joins the 21st Century

Link to article

For those that don't know, Best in Show Daily is an online US magazine for show-heads.  It is marked - in my mind at least - for endless scrolling ads for dead-eyed show dogs and an almost total buy-in to the show-world paradigm.

It whinges a lot about those terrible animal rights peeps spoiling their lovely hobby and continues in the main to promote damaging and unscientific breeding practices (top-winning dogs must be the best... nuffin' wrong with popular sires... hybrid vigour in dogs is a myth... line-breeding is good).

As you might imagine, it hated Pedigree Dogs Exposed. 

"Pedigree Dogs Exposed was incorrect, totally and fantastically and horrifyingly wrong, in its conclusions," wrote one of its contributors, Cardigan breeder Joanna Kimbal, who also writes the blog.

In fact, although Joanna clearly disagreed with Pedigree Dogs Exposed, she writes a lot of sense on her blog. I suspect that if we sat down over a cup of tea we'd find much on which to agree.

And it was a real pleasure to see this new article by Joanna who has been off the scene for a while.

In How we must change as breeders and why, Joanna delivers a strong piece arguing for reform in the way we breed dogs. And, specifically, she makes a very strong case for genetic diversity.
"Maximum genetic variation is essential to a population that can withstand stress. If you lose genetic variation, you end up with substantially lower resistance to disease and you stand a good chance of concentrating deleterious genes. Loss of genetic variation is why we have such huge problems with cancers in Flatcoats, or epilepsy in Poodles, or Fanconi in Basenjis."
She continues (with my bolding):
1) If you’re looking at your potential breeding stock, and your potential breeding decisions, you should add a very important criterion: Genetic “otherness.” We all know the mantra – breed for temperament, health, conformation. But we must – MUST – add non-relatedness to our list. This takes two forms: First, if a dog is substantially non-related to a bitch, their puppies will be more valuable to the breed than the puppies of a closely related dog and bitch. Second, families are best used widely, not narrowly. If there are four breedings to be done, using four sisters once is better for the breed than using one sister four times. 
2) We need more people breeding their dogs. If we’re going to make wider breeding happen, we need buy-in and breeding on a much wider scale. Please note that I don’t mean we necessarily need more puppies – we need more mothers and fathers being used, more dogs left intact, more bitches making the babies. WE NEED MORE BREEDERS. We must critically examine how we sell our puppies, how we restrict our buyers’ breeding choices, and how we determine which dogs are breedable. The current model is NOT SUSTAINABLE. Going on as we are doing now is 100% doomed to fail, as our human numbers dwindle and the dogs being shown and bred become more and more closely related. They are two converging lines, and where they meet (where our breed reaches a point at which it is no longer capable of being sustained in a healthy way) is visible. So this is not a choice we have. We MUST change enough to carry our breed forward.
Read the whole thing here.  


  1. It's crazy how people will denounce any overlap their opinions with PDE but when it comes down to it, the whole philosophy is one and the same.

  2. A lot of the bad feeling towards Jemima and PDE comes from the perceived attack on showing as a "way of life". The hard critique of the genetics of pedigree breeding was deflected by individuals who felt personally got at. Take that element away, look at the hard dispassionate science, and views tend to converge. Kevin Colwill

    1. Yes. I am keen to know where Joanna Kimbal disagrees with PED? She seems to have things more or less covered. Or is it simply more acceptable/palatable coming from within?

      As in "we in Cardigans have a wonderful, healthy breed with very few issues". Besides profound achondroplasia that is, a disease that defines the breed. As long as you don't say that out loud as an outsider to corgis then things are all going swimmingly well I suppose, no splutters and spilt cups of tea.

      I had to laugh out loud when I read "That bitch who had to be carefully restrained during her entire career because she bit judges, and you know that three of her puppies also bite people? Don’t be blaming the owners; look in the mirror for that one. Perpetuating what is in effect a mental illness is bad for the population."

      Add heavily sedated to "carefully restrained" and you have a very typy dog show scenario.

      A little titillating anecdotal evidence here but and here comes the "I knew a woman..." and I did who showed Sealyhams very successfully on the continent, it's a very small world Sealyham showing so Im not even going to mention the country. Her repeat winning champ of breed had to be constantly under sedation as he suffered from extreme "rage". I expect brought on by also being an extreme pied dog (Canine Health & Genetics, Dalmations, Dogs, Pedigree Abuses, Sine qua Non Disease, Torture Breeding, Christopher Landauer, Border Wars 31/4/13). She literally used to drag him through his paces and being the "best" out of maybe seven showing dogs in the whole of the European continent he won and won and won. Heavens knows where his genes ended up but I bet there is certainly some dragging still going on out there given their tiny gene pool.

      Things are actually looking brighter for the Sealyham these days as out crossing projects have been under way for some time both in the UK and the States. In the states just to make sure in case anyone is looking they call the outcross meantime a different breed entirely so no one thinks the Sealyham has been delibrately tainted.

      "Perpetuating what is in effect a mental illness is bad for the population". Well yes ha ha ha, rocket science it aint. Maybe doping tests should be more stringent in these breeds, the Dalmation is one such breed I believe too.

    2. I have to reserve a special mention for that bulldog "Bentley" on the E-Zine "Best in Show" it would be unethical not to. Its nose has been squarely pushed back between its eyes, I've never seen such extreme "pushback" and yes those Frenchies are suffocating as well, suffocating as we type.

      What struck me as quite comical (though it might have some serious consequences) was what has happened to the Rottweilers face "Xannon", surely no one thinks thats correct??? Its a sort of pinched push back the kind I've never seen in all my life, quite extraordinarily odd, like a humans face shrunk then flattened onto a moon cut in half. It was such a handsome functional working breed, maybe still is in Germany in some shutzhund lines.

  3. The father of economics Adam Smith showed that if each of us works honestly and wisely for our own prosperity, along the way that helps others improve theirs, and it all adds up to the Wealth of Nations. You'd think the same principle would apply to dogs, if we each improve our own breeding that ought to add up to better breeds: but it seems not to. I see no future in urging people to put the good of their breed ahead of their own dogs, we need to change what they see as "good". As a "show-head" who regularly attends the "parade of mutants", such words do not impress me. Showing is a harmless pastime if not taken too seriously. Trouble is the criteria for success there are not always what makes for happy healthy pets. Even though most of show dogs' offspring are sold as pets, that's not enough to keep some breeders honest. The KC is the guardian of breed quality, they must steer our individual efforts towards the collective improvement of our breeds.

    Thinking how that's to be done is giving me a headache, I'm off out with my dogs!

    1. I have a real soft spot for standard poodles. I honestly cant stand the showing clips, though. They looks so much nicer natural and curly. Puppy or sporting trim without the silly tail and face. Such a wonderful intelligent working dog or it was I imagine.

      Does this breed face the same major health challenges inbreeding and line breeding, closed registers etc has wrought? I guess so, sigh.

    2. River P, Google the Wycliff Bottleneck.

    3. Standard poodle, you're playing my song! Obviously good breeders and bad in every breed, including Heinz57. A survey quoted in a post on this blog a year or two back (sorry, couldn't find it) told us the SP has a healthily large breeding population, average CoI around 4.5%, so if they are doomed many other breeds will go first. The Poodle Health Registry is an online resource, and free to join, if a breeder's dogs aren't on there they've probably something to hide, go elsewhere. On the PHR you may see a "Wycliffe %" figure, referring to a popular sire a half-century ago. That really is yesterday's health scare and a poor guide, today there are perfectly healthy lines with a high %, and distinctly dodgy ones despite low figure. A poodle is nobody's first dog; high maintenance, demanding, their coats need regular grooming whatever the style, but if you can handle that, well worth it. There are plenty good ones around, just do your homework before "buying a pup". At work they are gundogs, sheepdogs, sled-pullers, all sorts. Oh dear I'm getting carried away, better sign off!

    4. Some extensive research has recently been undertaken into genetic diversity in standard poodles The early results suggest there is enough diversity within the breed for it to be long-term sustainable, but much of the diversity appears to be in outlying bloodlines, and some rebalancing would help make sure it remains sustainable into the future. There is some correlation in that individuals with high influence of the Wycliffe or OEA bottlenecks tend to have more genetic similarity amongst themselves than do most of the outliers with less influence, but there are some relatively mainstream dogs who are reasonably diverse too. Another study here seems to agree with it and found a fairly respectable range of heterosis as measured by genetic markers amongst individuals.

      Owning a poodle does not mean you are forced to have it in a show clip. The short hunting clips and the ones with just a bit of longer coat on the head are actually pretty low maintenance if you're prepared to buy and learn to use clippers, and it's certainly easier and more enjoyable to spend an hour a month washing a dog and clipping it than it is to vacuum the house every day on behalf of a dog whose coat sheds. :-)

  4. Lessons learnt then? Apparently not everywhere. The Wycliffe saga is all too typical in how dogs for the showring are bred but it must surely stand out as an example to everyone. Wonder how it found acceptance was it a struggle?

    Bob Grundy there shoud be a page just for you to get carried away on the Standard poodle. I love dog chatter. Unfortunately lifes too short to own all the dogs one would like. Im defintaley not a pedigree dog hater. If I ever get the chance to spend a day or two with a few standard poodles I wont say no.

    Are there standard poodles being bred along working lines?

    A very interesting current paper on the selection results in showing or pet dogs versus working dogs in "Canine Genetics and Epidemiology"

    1. There are people breeding poodles as working dogs responsibly, but if you want one, depending on what country you are in, you may have to look hard and wait. They tend to overlap with the people interested in breeding poodles from outlying bloodlines with less influence of the lines that the show breeders prefer to use, so the Standard Poodle Project might be able to give you some leads.

    2. I suppose this paper is the scientific proof of what a lot of people have known all along by experience, that breeding for only conformation as in showing is detrimental to any working abilities of breeds.

      As long as they are also soundly bred and the population soundness and numbers can stand a split between working and pet. Not the worst problem then. In the many breeds that don't have a function anymore as working dogs for example. Those traits for working could also potentially be a liability in a pet.

      However breeding for showing using line breeding inbreeding popular sires etc etc takes the dogs one step further away from that again as they become a liability even as pets!

      A dead end in fact?

  5. This Canadian Poodle breeder may be of interest:

  6. I loved the article and loved the comments on the article at 'Best in Show' and I'll post this here too, here is my solution:

    Here is a solution:

    Learn from the Dalmatian Heritage project:

    So walk across the line to a similar field of dogs, and cross breed in some diversity. This doubles your football field in effect, in fact if your football field is full of already very similar dogs it will have an even bigger effect. Have a look through the projects website, and you'll see that you can very quickly return to a similar dogs, such that in 20 years. You will have much more genetic diversity, but similar dogs.

    1. No, that's not quite right, I'm afraid. The Dalmatian outcross was purely to bring in the one gene that coded for normal uric acid levels *not* for genetic diversity. And it has not increased genetic diversity in the Dalmatian. And NB it took a LONG time to regain type (in terms of good spotting) in the outcrossed Dals, but actually in most other instances you can do it MUCH quicker than this. If to a very similar breed, within 2/3 gens and if a very different breed, within 4 generations.

    2. I take your point that the project didn't help genetic diversity.

      Just to be clear though, you are saying that if you took, say the pointer breeds, you could inter breed them one generation, and get back to a similar looking dog in 2,3 at most 4 generations?

      If I have understood you correctly, it still seems to me to be a good way, along with breeding widely within your field of further increasing diversity, because the dogs you get from other fields, haven't bred with that population for many generations. I am not a geneticist, but would be interested how much you could widen the genetics this way, compared to Joanna's plan alone. Which I think for some breeds is too little too late.