AKC: Hierarchy of Pedigree Smugness


There are few things more smug than pedigree dog breeders who drink the AKC koolaid.  Not only do they believe that they are achieving high art through mindless ribbon and fad chasing, they think they’re actually producing ideal dogs and are thus ideal people.  Artists.  Platonic sculptors of flesh and hair.  It’s vicarious achievement through social climbing.

The structure of dog shows perpetuates this attitude by giving out ribbons like candy at Halloween.  Classes at shows are broken down by Best in Show, Group, then Best of Breed, you’ve probably heard of these.  But they hand out so many ribbons within the breed that at least a dozen people who didn’t win Best of Breed can still walk out of the ring knowing that they’re at least better than someone else that showed up!

Dogs that you’ll never see on a televised dog show that still go home with ribbons are the first through fourth place in the following inner-breed categories:  The runners up for Best of Breed, the Best of Winners, the Best of Opposite Sex, the Reserve Winners Dog and Reserve Winners Bitch, then Best Puppy, Best 12-18 Months, Best Novice, Best Amateur Owner Handler, Best Bred By Exhibitor, Best American-Bred, and Best Open class.

It’s not enough to be smug just within your own breed though.  That’s where the hierarchy comes in.  If you’ve got a high maintenance breed that requires serious hairdressing skills like the sculpted Standard Poodle, the Rastafarian Komondor and Puli, or the Pantene commercial  ready Afghan Hound, Lhasa Apso, Pomeranian, or Pekingese you’re instantly better than people who have pedestrian dogs that are low-maintenance. You can blame this entry-level-smugness for the sudden proliferation of hair once a breed is captured by the show world. No one but a ribbon chaser would bother to keep a Yorkie in a show coat with individually wrapped coils of hair or pluck the dingleberries out of their Shih Tzu’s terminal-length hair after every movement, or fashion snoods for their Afghan’s ears and belly bands to keep urine from soaking their belly hairs.

People who have dogs that are still functional are clearly bourgeois.  A dog is art because it exists, not because of any existential ability.  Herding dogs are for peasants.  Working dogs are for brutes.  If the dog is actually tasked with some performance, it better be in the pursuit of leisure and preferably something you have to get dressed up for. Bonus points if there are horses or estates involved.

This of course is predicated on popularity.  Even if Golden Retrievers were once bred on Highland Estates and used for blue blood sport, they’re now tainted by being a favored companion to the hoi polloi.

It’s much better if your dog is functionally obsolete, so that there is no one but the show breeder who can make grand claims about “preserving” the breed.  Better to “preserve” it for absolutely no purpose whats-so-ever, then there won’t be those pesky “working” people and their crazy ideas about function trumping form.

The next level of smugness is the cultivation of an obvious deformity.  Any sort of dwarfism instantly makes you an arteur-on-the-edge.  Short and bowed legs, truncated spine, compressed faced are like the Gold Package on that luxury sedan. Show types have bred snouts and tails so short they’ve passed the zero-mark and are becoming ingrown, eclipsed by folds of yeast-harboring rolls of skin. Deformities that are rare or even unique to your breed are even more fodder for smugness: the eponymous ridge of the Rhodesian Ridge Back, the Chinese Crested’s hairlessness, or the abundant folds of the Shar Pei, and the missing tail of the Corgi.

Some breeds like the Pug combine so many of these issues their poor little eyes bulge and fall out, their skin festers in infectious rolls, their noses recede into their skulls causing their soft palates to pool in their throats, and their fragile little limbs have to bend around their rib cages or protrude from their hips which are insufficiently wide to birth naturally. Collecting nearly every form of dwarfism in one package makes the Pug owner quite smug.

They’re really only trumped by the likes of the Pekingese.  Not only are Pekes also endowed with every form of dwarfism, they are fur-bound and “Ancient.”  Now this claim doesn’t have to be verifiable, it’s good enough if your dog merely looks like it could pop off of an old piece of parchment from Asia or papyrus from Egypt, like the modern-recreation of the Pharaoh Hound.  The junior class in this category trace their dogs back to some famous royal, like Queen Victoria, but the real go-getters strive for something much further back in time.  Dalmatian fabulists claim that medieval frescoes in the Balkans show their dogs and Basenji owners claim that African Pygmies gave their breed to the Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs as tribute.

While there’s not a single dog breed on the planet that can trace its actual pedigree back more than about 120 years — and most far sooner than that — there’s no shortage of people who will claim that their “breed” has been “pure” for many hundreds, if not several thousand years!

Double special bonus smug points are awarded for any breed which was not high maintenance, obsolete, disfigured, nor ancient 100 years ago but has been “improved” into one or more of those categories through breeding and creative breed history myth building.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.