Archive for May, 2013

Smiley dog


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Miley treed a squirrel today, but after it took to the trees, it let loose quite few alarm calls:


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They are almost twice the size they were last week.

And they are so messy. That water is the same color as their starter/grower mash, which they ferry from their food tray to their bathing/drinking pan in their bills and on their down.

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(Not one of the anti-Obama catahoula breeder's dogs!)

(Not one of the anti-Obama Catahoula breeder’s dogs!)

I admit there are some dogs I’ve just not qualified to own.

I’m not going to try an ovtcharka of any sort. That’s just way outside my area of expertise.

Ditto on Fila Brasileiros.

I don’t think I would be a good fit for a pet coyote either.

Now, all of those are based upon what I know and what I know I don’t know.

My political views have little to do with it.

Now, the dog world is quite political– about the dogs.

And those politics are often amusing, and if they were ever to stop, I’d run out of material for this blog in very short time!

But I’ve noticed in recent years that the actual human political scene has worked its way into dogs.

Many dog breeders are radical libertarians or paleoconservative. Many dog rescuers are vegan leftists.

I’m actually neither, though I’d be closer to being called a “leftist” than a libertarian.

I left a well-known list on Yahoo! groups because all they did was Tea Party this and Tea Party that and conspiracy theory this and conspiracy theory that.

And no one ever talked about dogs.

But politics aside, most dog people don’t really care who you voted for.

At least I hope not.

It has come to my attention via a reader in the Blog Readers’ Group today that there is one kennel that is denying placing any puppy or adult dog with Obama voters.

This is Oak Hill Catahoulas in Townsend, Georgia. The owner of the kennel is Kyle Duncan.

Judging from what it says on the bottom of his website, he’s not a big fan of Obama. And if you voted for him, you aren’t getting a dog from him!

oak hill catahoulas

Click to enlarge.

The page says:

If you voted for Obama, or you are a Registered Democrat I will not sell you a dog, You have proven that you can not take care of an animal, there are no food stamps or Obama care for animals!!! Please do not call or Email me, you are a loser!!!

Well, I did vote for Obama, even though even though almost no one in my state did, and I’ve been a registered Democrat as soon as I was old enough to register to vote.

I think this fellow is also operating under the assumption that the only person who would want a Catahoula, which are very good hunting dogs, would be conservative hunter types.

But not all American hunters are conservative, just as not all white Southerners are.

I can see the idea that you only sell to working homes as a tradition that exists in so many breeds, but why cast the net so small that it gets only the conservatives?

We live in a strange country. And at a very strange time.

Even the effing dogs are caught up in the spectacle.

It’s a shame.

A damn shame.

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Just get a couple of Great Danes.

Photo courtesy of Nara U.  From a 1933 kennel advertisement.

Photo courtesy of Nara U. From a 1933 kennel advertisement.

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featherquest Rocky with grouse

This is Featherquest Rocky retrieving a grouse in either Massachusetts or Maine.

He was bred by Rachel Page Elliot, who was one of the first people to introduce golden retrievers to New England.

She was also one of the driving forces in the golden retriever breed in North America, and all the dog show people know about her work on canine gait and structure, which is called Dog Steps (1973).

This image comes from From Hoofbeats to Dogsteps: A Life of Listening to and Learning from Animals, her memoir of her life raising golden retrievers and Connemara ponies, as well as her research into canine gait.

This dog is only nine months old. Most likely, the dog flushed the grouse, for this particular species is unlike the various grouse species of the British Isles. It is usually solitary and is only found in the densest of thickets. The notion that one could drive them the like the British do red grouse is simple folly. To hunt one of these birds, most people use pointers or setters of some sort, but those who use a flushing dog use one that ranges in really close.

That’s because these birds will hunker down and won’t move until the very last second, and they are so well camouflaged that you can’t see them until you’re very close.

Some dogs are very keen about flushing them. My first golden retriever would always flush one if she could find it.

Miley has flushed only one and that was on accident.

I should note that one can tell this is a ruffed grouse by the banding on the tail feathers. In most of the Eastern US, the ruffed grouse is the only species of grouse one can find.

In my part of the country, it is the only native game bird that still exists in decent numbers. Wild turkeys, which are much more common, are actually considered “big game” by my state’s DNR, and they are regulated in much the same way that white-tailed deer and black bears are– very strict bag limits and a requirement that they be checked in at an official game checking station (which is usually a convenience store or gas station!).

The bobwhite quail that thrived during West Virginia’s agrarian age now exists only in very small relict populations. I’ve never seen a wild-born bobwhite quail here, and the only wild ones I’ve ever seen were coming out of a cornfield in eastern North Carolina.

My grandpa told me that the last ones he ever shot were in a sweet corn patch behind his parents’ house in the late 1970’s.

The late 70’s and early 80’s  were years of harsh winters for most of the Eastern US, and when the fur market collapsed at about that same, raccoon and fox numbers shot up.

And there simply weren’t enough cornfields and old brushy pastures to hold the bobwhites.

A few years ago, my uncle tried to stock bobwhites on my grandpa’s property. He bought 96 of them from a breeder in Georgia. He turned them out, and we soon were surrounded by singing little birds that weren’t much larger than pigeons but tamer than virtually any domestic chicken.

The local foxes, feral cats, and hawks were very appreciative of this fine repast!

Ruffed grouse, though, are hardy survivors.

Natural selections has forced them to become very good at hiding in this mesopredator-infested world.

The decline of the bobwhite and its empire of fields has been met by the rise of the brushy redoubts of the thunder chicken.

They live like little avian outlaws, largely undetected until someone goes out in pursuit of them with a dog and shotgun.









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Dalmatians are a breed that drives me crazy in many ways.

One of them is I don’t believe for a second that they are from Croatia, Ancient Greece or Egypt, or Neptune. All of the images of supposed Dalmatians from Croatia that date from several centuries ago are very unconvincing. The paintings I’ve seen show dogs that would clearly be called proto-Great Danes, Istrian hounds, or perhaps something akin to a Croatian podengo.

My own take is that these dogs are nothing more than aberrant pointer or pointer-setter crosses that became fashionable running along coaches of country gentlemen in England during the middle part of the eighteenth century.

I don’t have much evidence for this theory, other than the genetic studies on Dalmatians have nested them within the pointing gun dog breeds.

We have no smoking guns in the form of pedigrees or kennel records.

Now, if the dubious breed origins story about this breed weren’t  enough, there is another myth that has long existed about Dalmatians.

Dalmatians, of course, are famous in several Disney movies, including the original animated 101 Dalmatians film, its live action version from 1996, and the live action version’s sequel.

These films were said to have caused a massive boom in Dalmatian popularity. AKC registrations skyrocketed. Puppy millers made great fortunes selling the puppies to families who wanted them.

And then when the families discovered that Dalmatians are very high energy dogs and some of them are somewhat aggressive and are inappropriate as family dogs, the shelters filled with lots of poorly bred and poorly socialized dogs.

But did Disney really deserve the blame?

Well, Chris, over the BorderWars blog, has decided to test this hypothesis empirically.

Using the time in which Disney released its films and AKC registration statistics, Chris tried to figure out if any correlation existed between the release of these movies and a rise or fall in Dalmatian statistics.

He found no correlation.

Despite the prevalence of claims that Hollywood drives fads in dog breed popularity, there’s little evidence that this is true. In fact, actual data sharply contradicts the unthinking mantra that popular movies make for popular breeds. The converse is the more likely scenario: already popular dogs get featured in moves. Hollywood mostly follows trends, rarely does it set them.

The often repeated conventional wisdom is that Dalmatian puppy popularity spiked following releases of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians: from the original in 1961 through the re-releases in 1969, 1979, 1985, and 1991; and the live action film in 1996 and its sequel in 2000 with a TV show between them.

The registration data just doesn’t support the idea that every time Disney comes out with a Dalmatian movie the breed experiences a popularity boom as we see just as many declines in popularity or stable runs of popularity as we see increases. If Disney is a factor at all, it’s clearly contingent on a other factors coming together that simply aren’t present during most of their releases.

So Disney gets blamed for a whole series of welfare issues that it didn’t likely cause at all.

To be honest with you, having known a few Dalmatians over the years, I know they aren’t what I like in a dog.

Even if they do look like snow leopard pointers.

Which I think is a better name for them.

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Golden Retriever Edwin Megargee 1942

This painting is by the well-known dog artist and dog fancier Edwin Megargee, and it appeared in his book that was simply called Dogs (1942).

In the 1940’s, golden retrievers were quite uncommon in the United States. The only ones that existed were hunting dogs that were largely derived from the darker-colored, more lightly built stock that was common in the UK during the 1920’s and 1930’s. For most of their history in the United States,  this is what most Americans would associate with golden retrievers– lithe, wiry, fox-colored retrievers.

In 1942, the received wisdom is that the golden retriever was an off-shoot of some Russian dog crossed with a bloodhound, as Megargee’s text clearly explains:

Megargee text golden retriever

Of course, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that the Russian story was finally debunked. The golden retriever is just an offshoot of the wavy-coated/flat-coated retriever type.

Also of interest is that Megargee mentions that the dog can e used as a “combined setter and retriever.”  Many golden retrievers do point, and some people have trained them for them for this purpose.

Of course, most golden retrievers are used as combination “duck dogs” and flushers. There has never been the strong separation between retriever work and spaniel work in North America as there has been in the UK.

Our hunting culture is more egalitarian, and our waterfowl seasons are more strictly regulated.  It’s always been a bit of a tradition in America to keep a retriever for waterfowl but also use it as a spaniel in pursuit of other birds. That way, you don’t have to buy and keep two dogs. One dog can do both tasks.

In the 1940’s, golden retrievers were holding their own with Labradors in retriever trials.

But the golden retriever is a very pretty dog, and it wasn’t long before it became consumed by the pet market and the show ring.

And as a result, working strains of golden retriever are quite a bit less common than working strains of Labrador.

This type of golden retriever still exists, but it’s most common in North America, where, for whatever reason, we’ve been able to hold onto it. Many European working golden retriever strains now include outcrosses to American or Canadian imports.

Most European breeds bred in North America wind up degenerating rapidly. There are no German shepherd breeders importing North American GSD’s to cross with their dogs. I know of no British border collie breeders who are importing American stock to improve their lines.

But you very often see working golden retrievers in Europe with American and Canadian ancestors.

It’s not just with dogs that Europeans shun American-bred domestic animals. The only European-derived domestic animal breed I know of other than the America working golden retriever that has been in demand to improve native European strains is the Vermont strain of the Merino.

This says a lot about American priorities in animal breeding.

Just as Hollywood and much of our new media is a sensationalized distortion of reality, maybe our entire culture is nothing more than a sensationalized distortion of Western civilization.

Maybe that’s why we’re in so much trouble. We can’t even breed domestic animals right!




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Startled Grouse-Golden retriever Owen Gromme

This scene makes me quite nostalgic.

I had a dog that looked just like this one who loved to flush ruffed grouse. If there was a grouse in the woods, she’d find it!

Americans have no real problem with using retrievers as spaniels. In fact, because our hunting culture is much more egalitarian than that of the UK, it would make sense that Americans would prefer to have a dog capable of doing multiple tasks.

After all, waterfowl hunting in the United States is very strictly regulated by federal law, and the limits and seasons are quite finite.

Why own a dog that only hunts those birds?

All of these retriever breeds are very easy to train dogs, so we’ve usually let them moonlight as spaniels (and other things, including coonhounds!)

In fact, golden retrievers in particular are often used solely as flushing dogs in parts of the Midwest, where their prowess in hunting grouse and pheasant and very high trainability makes some people prefer them over traditional spaniels.


 According to The Art Barbarians website, where you can see a much higher resolution image of this painting:

This flushing Rough [sic] Grouse And Golden Retriever was painted by and released as a signed and numbered Artwork on sale by Owen Gromme. Born in 1896 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Owen Gromme went to work at the age of 21 as a taxidermist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. After World War I, Gromme worked at the Milwaukee County Museum as a taxidermist, collector, photographer, movie editor, background painter, botanist, geologist, sculptor, and finally curator of birds and mammals. He retired in 1965 to devote full time to his painting. He first gained acclaim in 1945 when he won the Federal Duck Stamp competition. In 1963 Gromme completed to world acclaim a volume of scientific paintings called “Birds of Wisconsin,” He is referred to as the “Dean of American Wildlife Artists.” Owen Gromme died on October 29, 1991, at the age of 95.

Wisconsin and Minnesota were early bastians of the golden retriever in the United States, and a lot of working line dogs can be found in those two states today.



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Interesting little color phase:

It looks to me that it’s one of those erythristic mutations that makes it unable to produce black pigment.

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