Sunday 18 September 2011

Toller x pups 6-8 weeks old

They didn't arrive in time to include in my last post, but here are the latest pix of the Toller x Aussie pups bred by Alexander Dauber in Germany, growing up fast and hybrid-vigorously so far.

Now there's a caption opportunity I am going to have to resist


  1. J, this seem to be a cross without any purpose.

    Even if we set aside the fact that the Toller's history is complete nonsense (I note now that the Ducks Unlimites web site says they originated in Maryland!) and that the dog is really nothing more than a slightly odd looking Field Spaniel, and that this breeder (from looking at his site) does not seem to work his dogs.... What purpose does a Toller X Aussie serve?

    The dog's being crossed here have no working relation (not even close), and the cross may be cute (what puppies aren't?) but they serve no purpose other than as pets. I love pets. Full applause for pets! But do we need people breeding more pet dogs?

    As for the notion that this cross helps the breed, it does not. This is not a breeding made for work or for show, and therefore it's a line that will go nowhere. It is garbage in and cute garbage out. Cute dogs that cannot work and are not worked are a dime a dozen at the pound. Please have people run to a rescue -- including Black Retriever X, which you run!

    In all this talk about inbreeding in Tollers, have you once mentioned the bullshit history of this breed, the lack of field work done by this breeder, or the complete illogic of crossing this dog with an Aussie (another breed with a nonsense name, as it was created in America)?

    Screw the fuzzy genetic math which is mostly nattering by people who do not understand it anyway. If the dog is a fiction, does not bring anything new and special to the field, and is not being worked, who cares what happens to Tollers? Another inbred dog invented wholecloth and embraced by the KC. No news there!

    And who cares about this cross if it is not a field working bird dog? Seriously. Why not cross a Toller with a Chihuahua and a Great Dane if all we want is genetic diversity?

    The claim of Tollers is that they were created and are bred for a purpose. It's nonsense, of course, but it's nonsense on stilts when the breed is being "saved" by an outcross to a Aussie.

    I have seen this kind of thing quite a lot, by the way -- young people rushing into dogs, mixing breeds left and right, claiming they are "saving" a breed by crazy outcrossing, or creating a breed for some reason. These kinds of folks wash in and they wash out, and they generally leave nothing other than dogs in the pound. If you want to profile a few people with that history, I can send you names and histories.

    For the record, stupid crossings are NOT the general rule in the world of saving dog breeds. The Dalmatian outcross was careful, planned, and made compelte sense. Dozens of other smart outcrosses can be similarly detailed and I have full applause for those. But this cross? Seriously???


  2. I cannot tell if they are vigorous, but they are very good-looking, well-balanced little dogs.
    I really don't understand what all the fuss is about. The future owners of these puppies will probably get great pleasure from them.
    It will be interesting to see what sort of work they will be able to do---retrieving or herding or both?
    In a year's time these temperament traits should be developed.

  3. Well, they are cute. To me they look like baby tollers but I'm not a baby toller expert. As Dorothea says the important bit will come later in assessing their conformation physically, mentally and behaviourally before it can be decided if they are kept in the outbreeding programme or if they just become a nice litter of mongrels.
    Interesting PBurns mentions the Dally/Pointer project; were the dogs ever tested to see if they had pointing behaviour or were dogs kept in/ out of the breeding programme entirely on physical appearance?
    Vicky Payne

  4. I bet most of the Toller pups would go as pet dogs anyway.
    Anyway, its the fact that a breeder is so publicly out-breeding which is great with these dogs. If you know the health status of two different breed pedigree dogs and can use that to improve the health of a line of dogs then we have the responsibility to improve their lives. The loss of a little phenotype is worth the gain of good health.

  5. whats the point? they are mongrels that only pet homes will want...silly.

  6. you can find dogs like this everyday in any shelter.. why the fuss over these crossbreds? want a Toller? buy one.. want an Aussie? buy one.. want a mutt? go to the shelter

    and honestly who can say what the health of the dogs will be? they are PUPPIES only 8 weeks old.. of course they look "vigorous". the hybrid part is pure junk science.. these are mutts.. cute ones but still mutts.. why the big fuss..

  7. I have to agree with Patrick Burns. There is more to doing a successful outcross than counting haplotypes. I also wondered about why an Aussie was used? Not the best choice to maintain the working function of the breed, but it seems the breeder isnt very interested in whether these puppies will work. Seems very different from the thinking behind the Irish Red and White Setter outcross, which is also primarily about increasing diversity in the breed, but in three years of planning, the need to maintain both working ability and the working style of the breed has never been lost sight of. One of the criteria for selecting red Irish Setters to mate to red and whites has been proven working ability of a high standard, as well as similarity in phenotype and being clear of serious health and genetic problems. Some more input from geneticists in the IRWS outcross would have been helpful, but genetic input is only one part of the planning. And focussing entirely on appearance is not enough either, if it produces a dog that looks like the desired breed but doesnt behave like one.

  8. Dalraich said..."Not the best choice to maintain the working function of the breed..."

    Thank you. That is part of the issue with Jemima's heralding this mutt breeding as "saving" our breed (versus the idea some of us are looking into, which is going back to the unregistered dogs in Nova Scotia, and doing real work of breeding healthy, quality dogs).

    A couple of factoid for the anti-purebred, AR's on this blog (including the blogger, best friend to H$U$ since Hurricane Katrina):

    Eukanuba Invitational last year. 13 Tollers entered.

    SEVEN had titles at BOTH ENDS! That's more than half, for the AR's who have such trouble with math.

    The dogs ranged in age from 17 months to seven years. They came from the US, Canada & Australia.

    AKC Best in Show Tollers: Five - ALL have performance titles. Four of the five have hunt test titles and the one who doesn't is hunted over each season.

    Think these pups have "hybrid vigor" (Isn't that nonsense?!)? Try the real thing... lots of Toller breeders are working very hard to preserve the function of the breed, and that includes extensive health testing AND field/performance testing. Our dogs don't walk on their hocks, don't have trouble breathing, don't have pinched skulls - they are overall balanced working companions or they couldn't do their jobs (of which the history is well verified, btw).

    Yes, we have our share of health issues. And my last rescue mutt had hip dysplasia at six months and died of cancer. They live and they die. All of them.

  9. But Tollers die rather sooner than some, don't they? Is there a more recent health survey than the one in 2002 that found an average age of death of 6.4yrs? This is very low for a retriever breed.

    I do understand that Toller breeders are health conscious; I appreciate that some have working titles too and, yes, the Toller is a conformationally normal dog that can walk and breathe freely. The point that is being made, however, is that that might not be enough given the limited gene pool and the incidence of immune-mediated disease.

    Very pleased to hear that some breeders are exploring the unregistered dogs in Nova Scotia and I hope that you won't be deterred by those in the breed who trash them as "Toller-like mutts". It is a really good idea.(Actualy, probably better in the short-term than crossing with an Aussie or a Golden Retriever - although I support those options being explored.)

    Finally, hybrid vigour is a real-enough phenomenon. Ah, and I'm neither anti-purebred (the opposite in fact) nor an animal rights activitist. I come from a fox-hunting family (my uncle was Master of the Cheshire Foxhounds) and I have a working gundog.


    1. Based on several decades of experience with Tollers, this age at death of 6.4 years has to be skewed. Certainly in Canada, nearly all of the Tollers I have known and known about lived past 12. Many lived past 14 and quite a few to 16 or even beyond. I think the oldest I heard of was 19.

      This is the first I have ever heard, in all these years, that Tollers were a short-lived breed. I have been involved with Tollers in one way or another since 1974, so I have known a lot of Tollers, Toller owners and Toller breeders during that time.

  10. In my experience Tollers generally live longer than you are indicating. I would say 12-15 years, some longer, is more common than the number you are quoting which is not a statistic based upon the entire breed population, but based upon a survey looking for illness related deaths.

  11. I wouldn't even cite Duck Unlimited as a reputable source. It's already pretty well-known they are full of factual errors, which are largely ignored because they are one of the only well-founded organizations we have dedicated to conserving the marshlands.

    In fact, most of our organizations are pretty shoddy. Canada Blood Services had the Japanese myth of blood-typing personalities up on their website for a long time. Does that means the endorsement is factual? Of course not. The error was largely ignored until recently the intellectual community raised a stink about it about two or three weeks ago.

    So be careful before citing non-profit organizations. Their priority is to attract donators and volunteers, not accuracy.

  12. Jemima is not an Animal Rights supporter, and not an HSUS supporter (and I'm definitely not either). Read further back in this blog about her doubts over whether she should accept an invitation to speak at an HSUS Conference. But in the end she decided to go, together with an impressive list of other speakers, including Patrick Bateson, most of whom are not Animal Rights or HSUS supporters, but distinguished professionals in their own fields. For goodness sake, the AKC sent representatives to the conference , and even their worst enemies wouldnt claim the AKC are AR supporters! The conference wasnt about animal rights , it was about health and genetic issues in pedigree dogs
    Now back to the Toller outcross. Jemima doesnt herald just any outcross as "saving a breed", she takes an intelligent and informed look at outcrossing as one possible means of increasing diversity in breeds which are in trouble. The Tollers are another example of how outcrossing could be used to help solve some of their problems with autoimmune disease. Personally I find it interesting, particularly the contribution from the geneticists on haplotypes, but to me this particular attempt at outcrossing isnt entirely well thought out, so lets learn from it about how outcrossing can be used positively and done better. Isnt that why this discussion here is worth having?
    If a breed is to benefit from an outcross, it is better to get wider support for doing it, especially getting a breed club behind it. That way, more breeders are likely to accept the use of outcross dogs in their breeding programmes. It is very helpful to have geneticists available to provide the genetic reasons to justify doing the outcross, and to follow up later to see what has changed genetically, but I wouldnt like to see an outcross managed by geneticists alone, there is more to outcrossing than counting haplotypes, and breeders themselves are the experts on breeding dogs! And finally, even when the reasons for the outcross are about improving health and increasing diversity, the whole dog has to be taken into account, appearance, temperament, behaviour, function , so that the end result of the outcross still conforms pretty well to the breed standard and the traditional function of the dog (without getting too hung up on "purity")
    So lets discuss the Toller outcross in Germany , without digressions into animal rights, or being diverted by photos of cute puppies, and see what can be learned which could help other Toller breeders who might want to be involved in a better planned and more purposeful outcross, or help other breeds who are in trouble

  13. Just two remarks:
    1) If correct, the average longevity of Duck Tollers is simply shocking: only 6.4 yearsfor a breed which is by no means a giant one, and has a "standard" construction! If that is truly the case, how come that the breed is not on the K.C's list of 15 high-profile breeds, whereas - for instance - the rustic Basset Hound, which is much heavier and has fewer health issues and a life-span of well over 10 years, is? I could make a case for the list to be revised!

    2) A true hunter would normally select for purpose and hunting ability over type... Like P. Burns, I cannot understand why the breed used for outcrossing Duck Tollers by this breeder was a herding dog, rather than one with a similar purpose (if there is another one, of course...)

    PS: I suggest that this new designer breed be called German Sheep Tollers or Down-under Duckers. Perhaps we should also create a new sport , i.e. duck herding or attracting sheep by frisking about;-))

  14. This breed was actually bred to hunt, despite what has been posted above.

    This is their likely history-- they actually did toll--

    There is also a story that in 1860, a man named Allen bred a red or liver wavy-coated retriever to a St. John's water dog in Nova Scotia to found the breed, which is also a possible source for the breed. It's not mutually exclusive.

    Nova Scotians adopted this technique of duck trapping from England, where it was adopted from the Dutch. The ducks follow the dog into the funnels-- the traps are called decoys-- from the Dutch word for cage. No one ever accused ducks of being particularly intelligent. The Dutch still their decoy dogs, which are called Kooikerhondje.

    However, the last English decoy dog died in 1979, and the ones in Nova Scotia are the only survivors.

    But that doesn't mean they can't be used for work. It just means they aren't Labradors, and unfortunately, some think the only retriever worth having is a Labrador if they want to use it to hunt. There are plenty of tollers that are used for regular retriever work, even though that's not their original shtick.

    Breeding collies to retrievers is old hat. Rawdon Lee's favorite retriever was half collie, and he thought that wavy and flat-coated retrievers had a lot of collie in them. That has not been confirmed in any genetic studies, but it's something that needs to be explored.

    Tollers are known for being a bit naughty, and it's likely that some Aussie might settle them and focus them a bit.

  15. The last of the decoy dogs at the Nacton decoy in Suffolk:

    The dogs looked like smooth-coated tollers.

  16. More historical information:

    The Decoy Dog:

    "Now we come to the genius who really does the work, the decoyman's dog or 'piper'. This is usually a small, reddish-coloured mongrel. The more he looks like a fox the better. The reason for this is that, since foxes have the unpleasant habit of sneaking up to wild ducks while they are resting or sleeping on the banks and pouncing on them, ducks have an implacable hatred of foxes. The moment a fox shows himself on the banks of a pond, every duck on the water will swim after him, quacking the worst of duck bad language at the top of his voice. Hence the reason why the birds follow the decoy-man's dog when he appears from behind one of the reed-screens, trots along his little towing-path, jumps over his dog-jump, disappears with a flourish of his tail behind the next reed-screen, and then reappears from behind the screen a few yards further up the bank."

    The only difference is that the NS toller was used to draw them into the gun, and not the decoy.

  17. "growing up fast and hybrid-vigorously so far."
    jee whizz you sure are clutching at straws for someyhing to write by the above statement. The bloomin pups are only 6-8weeks old lol What a joke

  18. @Mr. Burns,

    I'm surprised you say this considering your support for the Dalmatian outcross project, another breed with no modern function, and even less potential for function than the Toller.

    How do you reconcile these two things?

  19. The death statistic includes most adult sources of death, including accident, acquired illness (lyme side effects), poisoning as well as genetic illnesses. Of the 1180 dogs surveyed and 141 with death recorded, 2% (3 dogs) had addisons disease and a further 6 dogs had some autoimmune issue. Yes that is 9 dogs with autoimmune. 84% of the living dogs were in good or excellent health. Look for yourselves (

  20. I have - thank you.

    The average age of dogs in the survey was just four years old - one would hope that in the main they would be healthy.

    It's hard not to keep coming back to the average age of death of 6.4 found by the survey and it does NOT include dogs that died in accidents. From the survey report: "Once the accidental deaths and pups euthanized for birth defects had been factored out, the average age at time of death was 6.4 years."

    This is low - truly - and lower than for other retriever breeds in similar surveys (ie with all the same potential flaws).

    Taken from Kelly Cassidy's Dog Longevity website (

    Labraodrs - 12.04
    Golden Retriever - 12.04
    Portuguese Water Dog - 11.42
    Curly Coated Retriever - 10.75
    Chesapeake Bay Retreiver - 9.48
    Flatcoated Retriever - 9.02

    This is why I asked if there was more recent data available - or perhaps a current health surey due to report?

    Average age of Tollers that died from cancer - the biggest killer - was just 5.5yrs. My own breed, flatcoats (which have a far worse cancer problem than Tollers) typically make it to 9 before succumbing to it. In Goldens, meanwhile, cancer is primarily an old-age cancer.

    Cancer is another potential immune issue.

    I'm not "attacking" the breed - really. I am just not sure why there isn't more worry in the breed than there appears to be.

    1. One of my Tollers died of cancer (confirmed by necropsy) at age 12 years 2 months. Another I suspect died of cancer, but not confirmed, died at age 15 years 3 months. That is not dying young. Both became ill very suddenly and died within 2 to 3 months after the first symptoms appeared. Prior to that, they were healthy.

      Cancer is not necessarily caused by autoimmune disease. Pollution can play a significant role. If you live near a highly industrialized area as I did at the time (several steel mills and other factories 15 minutes' drive away, with the wind carrying contaminants towards where I lived) then that, too, can be a serious factor in the development of cancer and other diseases in animals as well as people.

    2. I honestly have no reason to WANT to doubt this information, because if it's true I would want every Toller breeder to damn well know about it. But this really is not my experience at all, having been involved with many many Tollers in the UK I can't see how this statistic can be right. I can see how Terry is confused because something just rings false, it really is bizarre. Yes, there are problems with SRMA (autoimmune) and I have seen a fair few mast cell tumours popping up in certain lines but this is nothing compared to the cancer incidence I hear of in flatcoats (as Jemima says).

      I really hope my comment isn't taken as a typical toller owner defensive stance, as I'd be incredibly worried if this was true. I'm just struggling to believe these stats when I have had very different experiences

  21. Stoutheartedhounds, I AGREE with you that the Dalmatian serves no work purpose.

    In fact, I have said the dog only exists to carry its own spots despite attempts to find some sort of unique and special work.

    That said, the dog does serve its purpose as a SHOW breed, and the purpose of the SHOW outcross was never to create a working dog, but to create a healthy SHOW dog.

    In order to do that, the outcross (or backcross if you prefer) was: 1) logical, and; 2) limited, and 3) maintained for more than 25 years in order to reestablish the "breeding true" purity and stability standard that ANY show dog outcross will have to have in order to be embraced by the show ring community.

    Was the Dal cross successful? After 30 years of careful science-based breeding and testing, the answer is YES. The backcross/ourcross has been accepted by the KC and the AKC. Hard work, long work, serious work, and true stewardship. Full applause!

    So what do we have here with this Toller cross?

    Nothing of the sort.

    This is NOT a logical cross. The crossed dogs are not just genetically unrelated, they are purpose-UNrelated and they are appearance-UNrelated. In short, this is like mixing oil paint and latex paint and thinking you are a genius for doing so. Right. A genius until the first two weeks of rain!

    While the goal of the Dalmatian cross was to maintain purpose (i.e. a show dog that would its own carry spots) there is NO mention of a Toller purpose with this breeder at all.

    If you are breeding working dogs, then you need to WORK them. No evidence of work is in evidence here. For the record, working dogs is NOT an intellectual exercise done with a keyboard nor is it done with a string leash in a ring; it is done in the field, and in this case under a gun and dead birds should be in the hand at the end of the day.

    We are told by this breeder that he has no intention to breed back to Tollers to maintain the breed. Instead, there is going to be another outcross to another (non-Toller) breed, which means even less Toller in the next generation.

    What's the goal here? It's never said. I suspect this is a dog that is soon to be imbued with extraordinary abilities and named after the breeder. That's been done before, eh?!

    And finally, this is a very young person doing the breeding. A commitment to dogs does not start with racing to breed them. It starts with at least a decade or two working them, showing them, or training them. Too many people rush into dogs without having done any of that, and the result is the wreckage we see today where so many show breeders and puppy peddlers "hump and dump" before abandoning dogs altogether. The simple truth is that anyone who has not yet buried their first dog from old age, is still very new to dogs. An no, dog your mommy and daddy bought you as a child does not count ;-).

    As for Tollers, yes they work (or *can* work if people will take them out). My friend Dick, who I was out hunting with yesterday, has worked Tollers and most other gun dogs. But the history of the breed (dancing with ducks) is nonsense. This is simply a decent cross that someone decided to write up an absurd romantic history for in order to sell a few more dogs. This is how most breeds are created -- as dog dealer dogs. The chief attraction of the Toller is that it is "rare," and it is rare because it is not better than other gun dogs that have been doing the job for a very long time. There is nothing wrong with a "Toller type" but where it went wrong was in closing the registry (what dog dealers do to maintain price), and now in abandoning ANY nod the work the dog was supposed to do.


    1. "ut the history of the breed (dancing with ducks) is nonsense. This is simply a decent cross that someone decided to write up an absurd romantic history for in order to sell a few more dogs."

      Sorry, P, but you are wrong. Foxes toll. It is a characteristic of some prey species that they will be attracted to a predator behaving strangely. Tollers toll ducks and geese, and this trait is bred into them after some 200 or more years of selection for it. I have watched my own dogs do it. One of my Tollers actually lured a flock of Mallards right up out of the water and onto the bank.

    2. Oh yes, it definitely happens. All you have to do is watch how they play, even more exaggerated when their over excitement for water kicks in. And for some reason it does fascinate the ducks.

  22. It does seem to me that quite a lot of the current dog problems stem from the idea that no-one should be breeding primarily with the aim of producing animals who are suited to life as companions. This in spite of the fact that providing companionship is far and away the most common job done by dogs in the developed world.

    Failed working dogs are likely to be too high-powered for the average "pet-quality" owner. Reject show dogs with health issues are going to be an expensive heart-ache.

    Why does it seem to be anathema to aim to breed dogs which a non-expert owner can enjoy and so reduce the number of dogs who end up in rescue because their owners cannot cope?

  23. @Mr. Burns,

    I had assumed that the Toller outcross project had the same purpose as the Dalmatian backcross project (i.e. to make a healthier show dog).

    Admittedly I don't know much about this particular project, but I assumed it centered around show dogs since I haven't heard of a lot of people using Tollers to hunt. Every single Toller I've met was bred for show, so that's where my assumption came from (rightly, or wrongly).

    That being said, if this cross were being done for the same reasons as the Dalmatians then it wouldn't really matter what breed they used as long as it produced the desired results.

    Evidently that is not the case here, so it's a moot point.

  24. And Kelly Cassidy agrees those numbers from the survey almost a decade ago are likely very different than the real story now. The survey was pre-AKC approval, and there are now many more Tollers, more breeders, more of them online too (though still there are some oldsters who do not put all their pups & health info in Tollerdata, unfortunately).

    Maybe we aren't worried because the vast anecdotal evidence points to longevity of 12-14 years. And because we have two excellent researchers guiding us.

    Btw, many hailed Dr Bannasch for her research on the LUA Dals - and now you vilify her for her research in Tollers. Yah, that shows intelligence.

  25. You are free to offer anecdote but you can't use it to counteract hard data. Yes, perhaps in the intervening 10 years Toller longevity has doubled - so let's see the data. It would be something truly worth celebrating - and may I say unprecendented in the dog world. I'd be delighted to blog it. So come on, prove it. Not to me - but for the breed and those that love them. I'm interested but of course it doesn't really matter other than that it would make me happy if every purebred dog lived long and prospered.

    I am among those who applaud Dr Bannasch for her work with Dalmatians and I have not vilified her now - just questioned some of her views and the logic she used to argue that low genetic diversity in Tollers wasn't a problem.

  26. "We are told by this breeder that he has no intention to breed back to Tollers to maintain the breed. Instead, there is going to be another outcross to another (non-Toller) breed, which means even less Toller in the next generation."

    wow cannot wait to see the Tollerdoodle being praised here as the next best thing for "hybrid vigor" at eight weeks..

  27. dalriach said...

    "Jemima is not an Animal Rights supporter, and not an HSUS supporter"

    LOL you must be her mother... where do you think the money went that this conference made?/ back to the welfare of pure bred dogs.a donation the to Canine Health Foundation???. or into the coffers of the HSUS..where it will be used to make sure none of us ever have a dog again in the future?

  28. "This is NOT a logical cross. The crossed dogs are not just genetically unrelated, they are purpose-UNrelated and they are appearance-UNrelated. In short, this is like mixing oil paint and latex paint and thinking you are a genius for doing so. Right. A genius until the first two weeks of rain!"

    First off, all Australian Shepherds, Scotch Collies and English Shepherds are descended from one landrace of American Collies. The reason for their divide is largely due to the politics of people.

    So what does that means? Nova Scotia also has a strain of farm collies very similar to the original Scotch Collie.

    Now it is foolish to say Tollers are Nova Scotia Farm Collies. They are and they are not. Confused? When our ancestors immigrated to the New World, they brought along a great many variety of dogs. They contributed to the admixture of a new landrace. It is very likely the Red Decoy Dogs of England and Holland contributed to the gene pool of the new landrace.

    Now, take into consideration most dogs interbred with other dogs in the region before kennelmen came along and isolated them. Like with many kennel strains, they took a handful of dogs, which are snapshots of the greater landrace, wrote the standards and demand all registered dogs to conform to the written standards. That's how a registry works, you see.

    A breed is an extract of a landrace. The purpose of a breed is to try and preserve them like a typewriter. Unfortunately, parts break down and original parts must replace broken parts. As time cannot replace old parts without throwing in replicas of old parts. That's what this project is.

    The Australian Shepherd is the most easily accessible breed originated from the greater American Collie landrace one can find in Germany. Personally, an English Shepherd would be more ideal, but when one considers why people don't consider the Australian and English as the same breeds, then it just seems petty.

    Furthermore, retrieving instinct is not new, nor is it special. Most farm dogs have it. Most gundogs have this instinct. What makes the Retrieving family different from the other gundogs is they are more eager to please people-- just like how a Border Collie is more eager to please their owners compared to other herding breeds. We call this trait "biddability"

    So arguing the two dogs don't have the same functions is nonsense. For example, for a long time in British Columbia, the province I resides in, the farm collie were the only gundogs, substituting as retrievers and hounds, until about the 1950s because those were the only dogs people could afford. All the variety you see such as Coonhounds, Labs et cetera were dogs only the affluent could afford to import. So, the whole idea of specialization is bulk.

    I neither condemn or damn the project, but as someone with a background in historiography and biology, I can understand why. Personally, I would had took a trip back to Nova Scotia and see if there were any unregistered dogs left. But the politics of dog-world is stranger than fiction.

  29. "Condemn or condone", my apologies.

  30. Stoutheart -- Yes it would make sense if it was just a SHOW dog, AND if it was done in a way that was designed to bring the dog back into the world of the show.

    But even here this cross is a failure, as you are NOT going to get the show people to accept a cross to an "Australian" shepherd (which is, in fact, a breed recently created in America).

    If an outcross project was started by someone with a long time in Tollers (i.e. they knew their own genetic stock for 20 years and they had hunted the dogs at least three seasons and knew their performance in the field), and they announced an outcross to a light-bodied working retriever or spaniel with the intention of re-crossing these genetically diverse dogs back in to more healthy Tollers, that might be the start of something **provided there was a serious health problem here to start with**.

    For that to be the start of something, however, the person doing the breeding would have to be respected in the Toller community as somone who had spent a lot of time time in the field with the dogs and in the show ring too -- a couple of decades would be minimal. Walk-on breeders and instant experts who do not hunt are not going to be able to impress anyone in a club where there are owners and true hunters with decades in this breed!

    On another matter, it needs to be said that a retriever is a retriever, not a shepherd.

    This last point is one that Dave does not fully understand. YES, I agreed with him that the average backyard retriever is not doing much of a job -- any dog will retrieve a ball. But a game-bred retriever is NOT retrieving a ball, and to be unclear on this is to have never seen a true working retriever in the field. Yes, the dogs are trained, but there is also a powerful genetic component here beyond mere biddability, and understanding that genetic component is why a retriever breeder who is serious MUST hunt his own dogs and should never breed a dog unless it's seen three very active seasons under a gun. You do not paint blindly without looking at the paints, and if you are a serious hunter you are not going into the field with a farm shepherd as your retriever. There is a reason dogs are bred for purpose, but of course if you have never done that purpose you have NO IDEA what that means. Hunters do, which is why no hunter is going to salute a cross of a toller (a type of retriever) to a shepherd. It's like pouring water into gasoline -- even if you could get it to spark, you are not going to get the kind of compression and performance you need.

    Dave mentions landrace breeds, but I am afraid he does not understand the term. A landrace is not created in 50 or 100 years, and there are no landrace retrievers and very few landrace herding dogs. A landrace is an ancient thing, it breeds loosely true to type over a wide area (the only standard is the work and the land), and its breeding reflects specialized work for specific lands. There are no landrace breeds in North America -- just kennel club creations and various strains of cross dog. The number of true landrace breeds (they are actually types that simply breed fairly true to form) is very small and NONE of them need to be protected or preserved in a closed registry BECAUSE they are landrace breeds -- still doing their work in the land of their creation, and in no small supply as a consequence. The true landrace breed never disappears any more than the land does. A landrace breed is not a kennel club creation and does not need to be protected in a closed registry in the Kennel Club! In fact the true landrace is always outside the Kennel Club!!


  31. "Landrace" and "breed" don't belong together as a single noun. One would be extremely stupid to think otherwise. One is derived from the other. Hence "a breed is an extract of a landrace".

    In addition, a landrace doesn't have to be ancient at all. We think of them as ancient because it seems like dogs have always been around.

    However it can be newly formed. All it requires is an admixture of genes within a geographical area reflecting the value of the people inhabiting in the area. In other words, it is the system of freely-breeding dogs and cultural selection which makes up a landrace.

    Plott Hounds or Coon Hounds could hardly be called crosses, nor any of the Feists or Curs. Many of them now have pedigrees behind them.

    Also, one would be poorly educated on genetics as well to assume a natural population cannot be recently formed, because the differences between individual breeds is so minute, it's astounding. No wonder why domestic dogs can easily revert back to looking like an Arabian wolf (see feral dogs) within only a few generations. I don't think anyone realizes how many characteristics are controlled so few genes.

    However leash laws imposed steadily since the '60s pretty much eliminated any chances dogs mingling with others. Apart from reservation dogs and Carolina Dogs, you would be right to assume freely-breeding dogs no longer play a large role in society today. However there are still places today where dogs can still roam.

    So before sprouting misinformation about how there is no such thing as a landrace in North America, learn about genetic admixtures first.

  32. David, a breed is NOT an extract of a landrace. Try to learn what a landrace is and what a breed is. Most breed do not come from landraces. Do you think there is a landrace for a Pomeranian?

    Second, you clearly do not know much about hounds if you think hounds are not all crossed and without much distinction between them. Do you actually know any houndsmen or the history of American hounds? I know a bit -- a distant relation brought the first foxhounds to North America!

    And a breed is a piece of paper? Please, let's not go down THAT road. You are starting to sound like the Kennel Club.

    As for dogs "reverting back to Arabian wolves" when they interbreed, they do not. Dogs left to interbreed do NOT devolve back to wolves. This is firmly established in a thousand Third World dumps across the globe. Dogs are not wolves -- they do not share the same estrus patterns, vocalizations, or hierarchal cues.

    As for lessons about genetics, I am all ears. But be warned that I have an advance degree in population science, and I am not new to dogs. I sense you are pretty new if you do not know what a landrace is and you think dogs devolve to wolves when left to interbreed.

    As for the core points I have made about SHOW dogs (and preserving a breed) and working dogs (and preserving a breed), you appear to have nothing to add. I take it you do not show or work your dogs?


  33. Are you talking about the original German Spitz? The landrace for Pomeranian is now extinct. It has been displaced by hounds introduced in the region about 300-700 years ago. There is nothing left for the Pom, the Keeshond et cetera to go back to. The original dogs are virtually gone, and what we see now are on life-support. Pull the plug on any of the related breeds (Keeshond, Pomeranian, American Eskimo, Japanese Spitz, Mittelspitz et cetera), and there won't be any blood left to revive them because the original landrace has been displaced. One could recreate them by mashing other breeds like what was done with the Irish Wolfhound, but they cannot claim they are descended from the original dogs.

    Yes, Coonhounds are indeed descended from the Foxhounds from Britain, but the the cultural differences found in American society have different selection pressures. Add in that some of the Coonhounds have Plott Hounds and other breeds in their ancestry, which are descended from German boarhounds, one can't really claim the Coonhounds are still directly descended from the Foxhound stocks. God knows what else is in there with all the "holes" in their pedigrees. Not to mention how all the pedigree frauds and lies about whose the sire.

    Yes, pedigree. The piece of papers don't means much to you and me, but it means everything to the Pure-Blood Brigade. Without them, it is pointless to argue with the ones who value papers above all else because they tune out any alternative views. Yelling at a brick wall is not an effective discussion.

    The word "devolves" is horribly distorted view of evoution. Yes, there are traits which we would consider as "regression", but it is not devoution. From the gene's point of view, those traits are best and most resistant to micro-changes for the environment they are in.

    Secondly, I never made the claim they are wolves. They descended from wolves as genetic evidences prove this; but they are not wolves. However in absence of cultural selection, they usually takes on the same form. This is the form best adapted when one isn't directly depending on a human to feed them.

    "Population science" in what? It is such a nebulous term. What specific field of "population science" are we talking about here? Conservation biology? Statistics? Throwing around such broad term doesn't means anything.

    The whole debate really does contribute a lot to the discussion because the Toller people are looking at Golden Retrievers and other British gundogs which don't have ANY relations to the Tollers. They are the ones who assert their dogs must be kept pure, which seem self-contradictory when one considers the history of the dogs themselves. So it would make more sense to look in the Tollers' very own backyards, which would be the American Collies, than it is to outcross to a Retriever breed which have been geographically isolated from the Americas for at least 200 years. It doesn't makes sense to head in the other direction.

    As far as the straw-grasping ad hominem regarding "don't show or work your dogs", I am actually in the market for a second dog to revive a lifelong hobby which has been put on the back-burner for a little over 5 years now since the last dog was crippled by a big tom. I could work the one I have now, and he will participating in a pack this fall to learn the rope, but he is not a natural sky-watcher so his choice of quarry is much more limited than what I was hoping for. The whole "do you show or work" line does not invalidate someone's opinion or truth.

    Sorry, but if the discussion boils down to: "do yah work yar dog" then it is clear the discussion is running dry.

  34. Dave wrote: "They descended from wolves as genetic evidences prove this; but they are not wolves. However in absence of cultural selection, they usually takes on the same form."

    Perhaps more correct to say that dogs and wolves shared a common ancestor. Dogs left to their own devices would, I believe, end up like pariah dogs, not wolves.

  35. Actually dogs do revert back to wolves when outside of agricultural societies.

    Dingoes arrived in Australia as phenotypically distinct dogs-- their ancestor was something like the Balinese street dog (the closest relative of the dingo and New Guinea singing dog), which has street dog behavior and looks like a Shiba Inu, and they are now quite similar to Arabian wolves in their social structure. They pair-bond and hunt in actual packs.

    A dingo is a dog. Just one that has returned to its wolfish form in terms of phenotype and behavior. Just as goldfish return to something like the Crucian carp, dogs outside of agricultural societies do return to the wolfish phenotype and behavior. It's not exactly the same- to be exactly the same would be a violation of Dollo's law of irreversibility.

    Dingoes and New Guinea singers group with East Asian domestic dogs whenever their DNA is analyzed.

    Let's not parrot Coppinger flawed theory that dogs are not wolves. Dogs are wolves, just a unique subspecies of wolf, just like an Arabian wolf is a unique subspecies of wolf.

  36. Just out of curiosity, why do you believe Coppinger's theory is flawed?

  37. His domestication date is off, first of all. He puts the domestication event at 12,000 years before present in the Levant, but we have dog remains from Germany and Russia that are around 14,000. People were not sedentary farmers or even early agriculturalists 14,000 years ago. They were hunter-gatherers. The dog is an invention hunter-gatherer man, not farming man.

    There's a great book on the topic coming out in the US in just a few weeks by Mark Derr called How the Dog Became the Dog, and it really explodes a lot of Coppinger's theories. The domestication process for the domestic dog happened over tens of thousands of years. Here's the book:

    Also, there are real questions about whether the dog a neotenized wolf is actually valid. There was a recent study on St. Bernard skulls that discovered that their supposed neoteny-- the rounded skulls-- were the result of selective breeding for the show ring, not any process of neotenization.

    Further, I think his stuff about dogs being less intelligent than wolves has largely been falsified in the comparative cognition literature. Namely, that there are dogs that have abilities that no wolf has. Border collies that respond to hundreds of words are clearly not 'less intelligent' than wolves. In fact, the whole framing is screwy-- because it's like comparing neanderthals (wolves) to modern humans (dogs). Neanderthals had bigger brains for their body sizes than we do, but they exist only as a vestige in non-Sub-Saharan Africans' DNA. We made it to the moon.

    The fox farm experiment on which Coppinger relies is also a bit faulty. The non-selected foxes also produced white spots and floppy ears, but at a lower rate than the selection group.

    No one has found any genetic basis for tameness in dogs, and there have always been wolves that have been almost exactly like dogs in their behavior when they have been imprinted on people. They aren't the majority of the wolf population, of course, because most wolves that are socialized to people are very hard for the average person to keep. One of the most amazing wolves was Wags, a wolf that Adoph Murie kept as a pet during his study of wolves at Mt. McKinley (Denali). He as the "friendliest 'dog' he ever knew," and she as a gentle with children as a Labrador.

    Here's Derr's early critique of Coppinger, which has been expanded into a book:

    Also, check out John Bradshaw's Dog Sense, which is much more current book. It also has a domestication theory in it, but it goes against Coppinger's contention that ancient wolves would have been impossible for ancient man to domesticate. Essentially, wolves may have had longer critical periods for socialization which they have since lost as a consequence of centuries of persecution. If you read the fox farm experiment carefully, the fundamental change is that the critical period for socialization was extended in the selection group. It seems to me that what we've done to wolves is a Belyaev experiment in reverse.

  38. Another critique of the Fox Farm experiment:

  39. I think that unfortunately a few years ago there was this paper by a researcher named Janice Koler-Matznick:

    Much of what she says in this paper has been found to be incorrect. It's not just widely accepted, but it has been confirmed time after time that dogs are part of Canis lupus. To say otherwise is essentially to deny phylogeny.

    She's part of a group that is trying to get New Guinea singing dogs recognized as a full species, Canis hallstromi.

    In reality, both singers and dingoes are derived from domestic dogs, and the subspecies to which they currently belong, Canis lupus dingo, is probably invalid. They would both be Canis lupus familiaris.

    There is some debate on how long dingoes have been in Australia. But it is generally agreed they got there after Australia became fully separated from New Guinea. A dog as wild as a dingo would never have been brought on a canoe or a boat or anything like that. A fully domesticated dog, though, would have been.

    These dogs were introduced to Australia from Indonesia, where they populated the countryside. Some followed hunter-gatherer camps, while the majority went fully wild in the bush. Because wild dogs cannot reproduce efficiently without engaging in a pair bond, they developed that system of reproduction. There was selection pressure for stronger spines, so they lost whatever curly tails they may have had when they arrived.

    Dogs don't revert to wolfish behavior because wolf behavior is largely learned. Not all wolves form packs. Wolves living near urban centers have been known to from groups no larger than a mater pair, and there are plenty of examples of wolves living near cities in Eastern Europe that raise their pups on their own. There are plenty of male wolves that never gain their own territories or mates, but instead wind up mating with lots of females that belong to other packs. They aren't pair bonded to another wolf, so they might not have access to the communal den, which makes the strategy risky. But these Casanova wolves have proven to be an important part of the genetic make up of some wolf populations, such as Yellowstone. Dogs typically reproduce in the Casanova wolf/single wolf female strategy. They can form pair bonds, and I've known dogs to this. But that's not how they normally behave.

    Wolves are not born knowing what to hunt. They merely have the motor patterns for predation. If you raise wolves in your house and turn them loose, they will starve to death just as readily as any domestic dog, if they can't find a good place to scavenge.

    This stuff is much more complex than neoteny. You're dealing with animals that have intelligence and much of their behavior is actually learned. We can't assume that all differences are genetic.

  40. Thanks for the links. I don't agree with your or Mark Derr's writing (most of it anyway), but it's nice to read different opinions. :)

    PS: Is Mark Derr a biologist (MSc or PhD)?

  41. Well, Coppinger has a huge date problem. If he's correct, then dogs would not be older than 12,000 years before present.

    And we have definite dog remains from 14,000 year ago, how does ol' Ray deal with that? When there were no villages.

    He doesn't.

  42. Mark Derr has a degree from Johns Hopkins. I don't know what it's in, but it's really a wasted question to ask. He's done the research. Coppinger's dates do not add up. It's that simple.

  43. Read Chapter 10 of dr. Coppinger's book, he explains it there.

  44. Please send me the one that's waving to me. Gotta love cute puppy photos.

  45. Great comment at 15:09 Dave !

  46. Humans share a common ancestor with apes. Does this make us apes? Just to say a dog shares a common ancestor with wolves DOES INDEED NOT MAKE THEM WOLVES!

  47. Has anyone read the book "A Wolf in the Family" by Jerome Hellmuth? It was originally published in 1964. There are some copies knocking about on Amazon. It's about Kunu, a she-wolf, who was adopted from a US Zoo as a tiny cub and lived with a family. I read it when younger and am just about to read it again. Can't recommend it highly enough.

  48. Actually, humans are apes.

    Dogs are wolves in that an Arabian wolf is a wolf that lives in the Middle Eastern Desert and an Arctic wolf is a wolf that lives in the Arctic. Arctic wolves form large packs to hunt large prey and live in very cold climates. Most Arabian wolves form family groups no larger than a mated pair and scavenge. Are you going to say that they are separate species, too?

    I read all of Coppinger's book. He has no good answer at all, because the actual date that the dog genome project found for the separation between dogs and wolves in 27,000 years before present. Exactly how does he handle that early date? He doesn't!

    I'm sorry but Coppinger has written a highly reductionist, highly inaccurate piece of drivel that does not comport with any other evidence, except that which he picks and chooses. Unfortunately, it is simplistic, which is why graduate students all believe it.

    Robert Wayne of UCLA considers Mark Derr to be an expert enough to have brought him in as a lecturer at his dog domestication symposium.

    Wayne is the leading molecular geneticist who has examine domestic dog and wolf natural history. His only European counterpart is Peter Savolainen-- who is primarly an mtDNA expert.

  49. I know this might be your pet theory, Nanook, but there is very little evidence for it.

    Especially if you look at it from a multidisciplinary perspective, as Mark Derr has done.

    Biologists generally don't know much about anthropology or historiography.

  50. BTW,

    Just because I'm saying dogs and wolves belong to the same species doesn't mean that I buy into the discredited dominance model for dog behavior, unlike PBurns above.

    When I am saying dogs are wolves, I am saying that they are a type of wolf that has been domesticated, in the same way that Yorkshire hog is a wild boar that has been domesticated. Coppinger uses Canis familiaris. I am very uncomfortable about this, because, with the exception of the alpaca and guanaco and the domestic guinea pig, we don't say domestic species are a different species from their wild ancestor.

    Coppinger suggests using Canis familiaris because dogs have a different ecological role than wolves. Well, which wolves? And if we take it this far, then we have a bunch of species that make up Canis lupus, even if they are related by phylogeny. Different wolf subspecies live very different lives depending upon where they live-- and they vary in size from the 25-pound Arabian wolves of Israel, which have the same small dog gene that most small dogs have, to very large wolves in Alaska, that might be 140 pounds.

    There are also wolves that when socialized to people have behaved like dogs, and have even been used as working animal. There was a police officer in Vienna who took a wolf cub from a den in Bosnia, while he was in the army. This wolf cub proved to be a better police dog than the German shepherds in the Vienna police department. That's an unusual animal. So was Wags, the wolf that Adolph Murie kept as a pet at Denali. He trusted her with his children, and she was very social and friendly with all people and all dogs. Jess, who comments on here, has an Azawakh that is very reactive and trusts only a few people. Yet, he clearly looks like a dog, and was raised just like a normal dog. He is still quite feral in his behavior, despite being a fully domesticated dog.

    Coppinger has no answer for dogs and wolves outside his dichotomy.

    He is right in being skeptical of mtDNA studies that say dogs are 135,000 years old, but he got nothing to answer on the nuclear DNA studies that say they are more than twice as old as he posits.

    He also has nothing on the cognitive research that has happened at Eotovos Lorand University, except to make a weasly statement about the Clever Hans Effect. If you read the studies, they clearly did control for Clever Hans, as has Brian Hare of Duke University and as Michael Thomasello and Juliane Kaminski of the Max Planck Institute. Domestication has enhanced certain cognitive abilities in dogs, which is the opposite of what Coppinger posits. Dogs are just stupid, developmentally delayed wolves in his model.

    It is simply not so.

  51. Put Coppinger's book with Lorenz's Man Meets Dog. Nice reading. Not exactly accurate.

  52. The analogy is not that someone is saying that dogs are to wolves what humans are to chimps.

    I'm not even saying that dogs are to wolves as chimps are to bonobos, although that is much closer. Bonobos really are very closely related to chimp, and might be a subpscies. But we're kind of wedded to them be different for scientific reasons. Genetically, calling them separate species doesn't make much sense. And I would argue the same for polar bears and brown bears. You may laugh at that one, but all polar bears alive today descend from a single Irish brown bear, which crossed with a polar bear in Ireland and then bred back into the polar population. However, polar bears likely evolved in North America from brown bears in Alaska. It's jut that the only surviving polar bear matriline is from an Irish brown bear.

    I am saying that dogs are to wolves what we are to Neanderthals and Denisovan hominin. We might as well be considered the same species with those two creatures, because all non-Sub-Saharan Africans have Neanderthal DNA, and people in parts of the South Pacific have Denisovan genes.

    Those creatures might have behaved very differently from us. They don't exist anymore, but it's really kind of hard for us to grasp what they were.

    The truth is they were another form of human, just as dogs are another form of wolf.

    Interfertility isn't the main metric of species. Coyotes, golden jackals, and Ethiopian wolves can all cross with dogs and produce fertile offspring. But they clearly speciated, for not all hybrids with these animals and dogs are fertile. But if you breed a dog to a wolf, it's just like breeding a Labrador to a golden retriever.

    This has had some effect on wolf populations, for all wolf populations that carry melanism tha are alive today, especially in North America, are the result of cross-breeding with domestic dogs. Black and unusually colored coyotes are also the result of interbreeding with dogs. That means that the majority of dog-coyote crosses must be fertile, for it was also determined recently that virtually all coyote populations have some dog or wolf contribution to their genome.

  53. Here's the answer to it all:

  54. I'm not going to debate here with you and post links and/or titles of different studies, or explain basic biology. I don't have time for that. I do believe the self-domestication is the most probable origin of dogs as a species, you don't - so I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

  55. This discussion is fascinating. I liked Coppinger's book because it brought forward a new theory that could be thrown into the pot in relation to the ancestry of our dogs. The fact that his theory has allegedly been disproved is even more interesting. I will have a look at the links given by Retrieverman. I always say there is still much for us to learn about our dogs. Thank you.

    Annie Macfarlane

  56. Is it me or have we veered off the original idea of this post?

  57. Yes, but I think it is an interesting veer...


  58. Cute Puppies!

    However, I am a bit perplexed about the outcrossing with an aussie shepherd.
    Would have though crossing with another type of retriever, or at least a gundog would be more useful, especially for working qualities.

    I'm not a strong believer in "hypbrid vigor" where simply crossing two purebreds is invloved. Firstly, the parents themselves need to be healthy. Working at a vet clinic, I see many 1st crosses with significant health problems that stems from one or both of the breeds that make up that particular cross. Eg. Crosssing a lab and poodle can still result in PRA, Elbow and Hip dysplasia, these are present in both breeds.
    In my experience it is the true "Heinz" variety mutts that tend to be more hardy and have characterisitics which could be attributed to hybrid vigour.

  59. Jemima, I trust that your forthcoming documentary will cover this subject?