So, I’ve run across another person who says that they are ethically against the breeding of dogs. As a newly minted dog person, I haven’t had to consider this idea before.
Are you against people living with dogs altogether? That boat sailed more than 15,000 years ago. Check out the Wikipedia article on dogs, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog .
Both dogs and humans are highly social. The packs of wolves and bands of early humans that learned to live together both benefited hugely. The wolves got a steady supply of food and protection, and humans benefited from the wolves’ much better senses for warning and hunting. The point is that wolves and people evolved into this relationship over generations, people did not go out to enslave wolves.
Dogs have certainly evolved to interact with people. There’s a lot of fascinating research on how dogs can read people in ways that no other animal can. But you can equally argue that people have evolved to live with dogs. Research is also showing that dogs give significant emotional and physical health benefits to the people they live with. As a new dog owner, I’ve learned a lot about handling my emotions in “training” my dog (which is really training myself). My dog communicates with emotion and I’ve had to learn to loosen up, be enthusiastic, be calm, be reassuring, basically be more aware of myself. We are a two-species team and there is no going back. Studies of feral dogs show that they do not recover the complex social structure of wolf packs. We are simply better off together.
If you allow that dogs and people are better off with each other, are you against dogs being bred into different breeds?
I’ll agree that developing breeds that aren’t healthy simply for looks is wrong, but that makes it all the more important for people with good intentions to breed dogs for health. I find it amazing how the different dog breeds have very different personality traits. Cats are cats, but a dog’s energy level, prey drive, protectiveness, etc. are very dependent on genetics. More recent research shows that dogs have a very flexible genetic code, with sections that can easily swap, or lengthen and shorten, which explains how breeds have become so different in relatively few generations. Cats, not so much.
Large dogs are powerful animals with instincts to defend their pack. Having stable personalities that integrate well into human families is very important and something good breeders seek. Also, since dogs are very social, they can be socially damaged by bad experiences as they are growing up, just like children. Dogs raised by large scale commercial breeders and sold through stores are badly socialized. Dogs raised by individuals who love them and know their personalities can be matched much better to the home environment of their new families. While rescuing dogs from pounds can be tremendously rewarding, my own dog is a rescue, they are often not as well adjusted as a dog raised by a committed breeder.
I’m really looking forward to breeding dogs and especially being part of the Shiloh Shepherd community, who are reversing some of the health and personality problems introduced by breeding German Shepherds for fads. I know that my life is much more rich for having my companion dog, Topaz, in it.
Right now our youngest dog is licking my hand and wiggling because I’m a little upset at a guy who’s acting like a jerk on a reality show. More research (it’s what I do) is showing that dogs help people with conflict resolution. People are better people with dogs. Humans have long, rich relationship with dogs and I don’t understand people who want to turn their back on that. More to the point, dogs can’t turn their back, they have evolved to be part of our families and we’re the better for it.