I’ve never understood why people are so into purebred dogs – where’s the fun in that? I like to play guessing games with the lineage of the dogs I meet. This has sometimes got me into trouble with their human associates, who seem insulted by my speculations on the backgrounds of their expensive pet.
I love all dogs (occasionally I meet ones I just don’t ‘gel’ with, but it’s rare). But there’s something about a dog of mysterious origins that really appeals to me – dogs with short legs, long tails and happy faces are amongst my favourites! Especially those which trot along proudly and look you in the eye to greet you, from their low vantage points.
All our family dogs have been mutts. There was Silky, from my childhood, possibly a Beagle x Spaniel (what type of spaniel was never clear!), short-legged, awkward, with a shiny black coat and the appetite of a sludgegulper, as my English great-uncle exclaimed while watching her demolish dinner in two swallows.
And Taylor, the first dog of my adulthood, a Kelpie x Border Collie (product of an accidental mating), a headstrong brown and white girl who was consistently told by admiring strangers what a handsome boy she was. Like she cared. All she was interested in was chasing her ball, or a stick if that was handy.
My husband and I adopted Cassie, an older dog, ostensibly a Blue Heeler x Kelpie or Labrador – whatever she was, she also obsessively loved ball-chasing and food, not always in that order (see previous blog for more details).Now we have Elvis and Tillie – Elvie is definitely some sort of Whippet cross, possibly with a Jack Russell. Tillie is more of a mystery – 45kg of thick, brindled fur, a huge head, and eyes that can turn you to stone if she’s not in a conciliatory mood. Put up for adoption with Elvis, she was listed as Greyhound x Malamute. Well, I can’t see greyhound, but our vet noted that mutts are often the offspring of mixed-breed parents, so she potentially has four breeds in her. I would guess German Shepherd, Malamute, Mastiff and some form of Bear…
But whatever their breeding, they are comical, loyal, entertaining and very loving. People also say that mixed breed dogs are more hardy and disease-resistant, far different to the issues of many inbred purebreeds.
However, those sort of mutts are different again to what I’ll call ‘designer’ dogs. I know that dogs like ‘Labradoodles’ were created for very good reasons – so the trainability and friendliness of Labradors would combine with the nonallergenic, non-shedding coats and intelligence of Poodles to provide the perfect Sight-Assistance dog for vision-impaired people with allergies.
But I wonder whether the ‘fancy name’ idea has created a trend that has contributed to the evils of puppy-farming – all sorts of fancy names have sprung up in pet shops and internet sites for ‘Caboodles’, ‘Schneagles’ and ‘Cockaliers’, to name a few. It does seem like just another excuse for greedy, cruel people to make money out of breeding dogs in awful conditions, and producing poor creatures which don’t receive the proper handling to cope with life amongst humans. Which in turn means more dogs pouring into the overrun pounds and shelters.It’s comparable to the way cute animal movies create an interest in particular breeds – ‘101 Dalmatians’ and its sequel, for Dalmatians (of course); and most recently ‘Red Dog’, which caused a flood of city people buying Kelpies – a smart but sensitive working dog breed which need a huge amount of exercise to keep them calm and happy. Shelters report a jump in numbers of these breeds being dumped, usually within a few years of the movies being released, when it turns out that the pups don’t arrive magically trained like the ‘dog in the movie’.
We need a happy medium – purebreed dogs with paperwork but without inbreeding or ridiculous characteristics (like Pugs which have been bred for shorter muzzles until they can’t breathe properly – check out this clever but sad post by ‘Science and Dogs’); and crossbreed dogs that are hardy and practical, but bred with love and raised with care.
Even better – adopt a dog! Believe me, you can find dogs of ANY sort, purebreed or mutts (accidental or by design) at your local pound or shelter.
Humans created them, for better or worse, so wherever they come from, they all deserve a loving home 🙂