Originally Posted by she
A dog's drive purebred vs not, as I have experienced it, is purely from dogs I have known. If that is the correct temperament for the breed, I'll accept that, but a much milder dog makes for a better family companion. Most dogs are pets, not working animals, and it only seems fair to me that there *are* dogs that have the temperament to make good pets. If the current roster of breeds does not apply and can't be changed, I'm willing to go with dogs that haven't been bred for "correct" temperament ie, mutts, crossbreeds and not-for-show purebreds.
The current roster of breeds, between the AKC and FCI and UKC, is about 350-400. Each of these has a dedicated group of breeders working to improve health, preserve or improve structure, and preserve the original and correct temperament of the breed. The variety and nuances of personality, temperament, and upkeep means that there really is something for just about everybody.
The problem is that dog ownership in the US has become all about looks and about emotional fulfillment, not about purpose or the job the dog is to do. People want dogs to be furry children, or Disney animals that always behave well and never use their teeth or claws or brains. And they fall in love with looks, and they want whatever dog whose looks they've fallen in love with to be a Paramount Pictures prop.
A typical family decides they want a dog. The dad wants a big strong macho dog; mom says no shedding. The kids love the look of the Airedale. So off they go, looking for an Airedale. The first ten breeders they contact find that they have no experience training dogs, don't want to attending training classes, want to groom the dog themselves because groomers charge too much, and don't have a fenced yard. So the breeders say "This is the wrong dog for you." But the family won't be told that the breed is bad for them, because they want this look; they just keep looking until they'll find some breeder who either cares so little about her dogs that she'll sell to them OR some breeder who cares so little about the breed that she's basically turned them into saddle-marked Golden Retrievers. Neither of those is the correct scenario.
If you want a dog that requires very little training, no grooming, won't challenge you, never bites, can be exercised via an occasional walk, and doesn't need a fence, the best place to get it is at the Gund store. If you can provide at least a couple of those--for example, you are willing to do puppy kindergarten and you will put up a good fence--there are several breeds that really WOULD be ok. But you've got to be willing to go from your requirements to the breed, not the other way around, and you've got to be willing to take the appearance that serves that purpose. You're NOT going to get a Malamute that doesn't need exercise, unless that Malamute has been so bastardized that it would die the first day out in the arctic. And someone who would breed a Mal that would die in the snow has no business breeding Malamutes.
As for the other, genes need to be matched to be expressed. The more faulty genes there are in a closed population, the more it will get expressed. If the population is open, there are fewer opportunities for expression. All I'm saying is that out crossing is good. For dogs, maybe that means a sire that isn't a great champion if he isn't wretched, he brings fresh blood into the pool and all is well. From my experience with Siamese cats: show bred Siamese "wedgies" are unhealthy, temperamental creatures, and traditional Siamese are stable healthy critters. Reason being, the show bred ones have some major genetic bottle necks that have changed them (disfigured I say) from the normal shape they were to the extreme body they have now. Those few males that attributed to the bottle neck had genetic flaws that are being highly expressed in the current population. This includes trouble birthing and smaller litters as well as genetic diseases. The traditional cats on the other hand, although less populous don't have the same bottlenecks and are more genetically diverse.
And I just spent the last 15 minutes trying to find a link to prove what I just said, but only came up with non-referenced articles that said near verbatim the above, so I give up. If dog genetics are so different that cats, than I give up.
Here's the way it usually works: Mixed-breed comes into vet. Vet says "I'm so sorry; your dog has osteosarcoma. These things just happen sometimes." Boxer comes into vet. Vet says "I'm so sorry; your dog has osteosarcoma. It's because he's a Boxer." Labeling plays a HUGE part in our perception of purebred health.
The other thing that happens is that people's experience with purebreds tends to be almost exclusively with poorly bred ones. How many actively showing, health-tested, hunt-tested Labs have you ever met? How many World Sieger Shepherds? If all you've ever met are badly bred purebreds, of COURSE you think they're all unhealthy and squirrely--they probably are, because they've been bred for nothing more than an AKC certificate of registration, and with no more care than you'd use in choosing a pair of socks.
There is absolutely no such thing as hybrid vigor in dogs. Hybrid vigor is a term that means that when you breed two TOTALLY unrelated breeds, or even two species, the resulting babies are bigger, taller, stronger, healthier than either parent. So Brahma-Limousin cows, for example, are heartier than either Brahma or Limousin purebreds. In order to take advantage of hybrid vigor, you have to keep breeding the originals--in other words, you don't keep breeding the Brahmousin to each other or they become just another purebred with no advantages; you're constantly producing new ones using the two unrelated breeds.
All purebred dogs are about 150-200 years old, and they all came from the same place (Europe). Aside from a few primitive breeds like the Chow, genetic testing has proven that even the breeds that look old are modern European creations (much to the chagrin of the Ibizan hound people). Until 200 years ago, there was no notion of pure breeding and a closed stud book, so while you had some lines that were relatively pure, the fact is that if it could herd and looked mostly like a corgi it WAS a corgi, and the same dog in another part of England would possibly have been labeled as desirable Shetland Sheepdog breeding stock.
So when you breed a Labrador and a Poodle, you're not accessing any "hybrid vigor." You're putting back together two breeds that were probably freely exchanging genes no more than a couple hundred years ago. The hip dysplasia in Poodles is the same hip dysplasia as is in Labs. The genes for thyroid disorders in Dobermans are the same as the genes for thyroid disorders in Rottweilers. You're right that the genes have to meet to be expressed--and they're quite as likely to meet when you cross-breed as when you breed two purebreds, except in the relatively few breeds that have genuine issues with a few cancers.
Last but not least: There is no body of individuals more dedicated to stamping out canine genetic disease than the ethical purebred breeders. Every year, the purebred clubs donate literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund studies to identify genes, they are 90% of the customer base for the genetic testing companies, they are the ones pushing for health registries, they rigidly police their own ranks and disavow anyone who is knowingly breeding unhealthy dogs. I've never met a single cross-breeding breeder who will volunteer their dogs for studies, but it's commonplace in the show world. I have a friend who has driven her Danes hundreds of miles, twice a year, on her own nickel, for years now, just so the researchers can do serial ultrasounds on a related family of dogs. When the call goes out for cheek swabs and blood tests and x-rays and echocardiograms, show breeders consider it their duty to respond--never seen a Puggle breeder do anything of the kind.
I have three dogs in the house, all of which I love dearly. The Cardigans represent the best lines in the US. They have strong, enduring structure, their backs are not too long or too short (won't break down under stress); their teeth have a perfect bite so they'll always be able to eat, even in old age; their front feet turn out no more than 30%, so they won't get arthritis. They've been genetically tested for PRA, heart, hips; I know exactly how long their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and gg-grandparents lived and what they died of (actually, thanks to the great good health of Cardis, most of those dogs are still alive). I also have a "designer dog," a crossbred Papillon-Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She has cherry eye, a congenitally deformed jaw, and bowed front legs, and for her whole life I'll have to watch out for glaucoma, epilepsy, spinal disorders, brain disorders, etc., because none of those have ever been tested for, as far as I know, in her generations of puppy-mill ancestors. So from my point of view this is not even close to an argument.