Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Tradition of Tail Docking

I don't have a docked breed. I have friends who do, and who feel passionately about the matter. Sometimes this passion is beyond my comprehension, I have to admit.

For instance, the current kerfuffle in the world of Rottweilers, apparently, is whether or not the AKC breed standard should include a description of a correct undocked tail. Personally, I think they can either say nothing and end up with every European Rottie with a rotten tail over here where the judges don't know what's wrong with it, or they can ban undocked Rotties from the ring altogether and lose pretty much all international competition, because most of Europe has now banned the practice of docking. Either one seems like a bad outcome to me, since it's all about something non-genetic in a forum that's supposed to be all about fitness to breed, and I doubt every tailed Rottie in Europe is completely devoid of good genes. However, I'm not a Rottie person.

I've asked what the justification for docking is, and I've had a couple of answers, but the upshot is that traditionally the Rottie pulled carts and was a cattle drover. Now, there are carting breeds with tails and cattle dogs with tails, but--okay. Tradition has spoken. We have here an argument from tradition. I herd sheep with my shepherd, which is about as traditional an activity as you could want.

However, I have some problems with arguments from tradition, and the big one is that traditionally humans can be a pretty rotten species. For instance, if you have one of the large South American breeds that descended from the Spanish mastiff types, you might have trouble feeding it a traditional diet. You see, they were fed the quartered remains of the Inquisition as it took place on this side of the Atlantic. If you want to run down to Pet Supermarket and see if they have a nice bag of kibbled unbeliever in between the no-grain lamb and the Olde Fashioned Midden Heape special, go ahead. I'll wait here and you can report back, but I suspect that's a special-order item.

Given that we've abandoned traditions before, it may be time to find a fresh argument for things like tails. I can understand cropped ears: many breeds have very delicate ears that are easily shredded if they gallop through a thorn bush as dogs seem to be crazy to do, and cropping toughens the edges. Docking a Dobe I kind of get, as they have very slender tails which are easily broken when they clear something too solid off your coffee table. But a Rottie tail? It's just like a shepherd's tail. Solid, nice curve, normally carried low enough that if it was interfering with a cart, the dog's trotting hocks would be, too.

So I still don't get it. Comments are welcome if you think you can explain it better, honest. I'm open to being convinced. I'm not militantly anti-docking or anything, I just don't understand.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Back to Tracking after Hiatus

We're working again! Now the toddler is old enough to scout along and take an interest. He may be a serious mantracker by the time he's old enough to do it for real; he likes to range ahead and find the articles before the dog does.

Dustin didn't forget much while he was working a track every month or two, at least. He still prefers to work on oak leaves rather than grass and still hates to work on pine needles. He is beginning to dislike his mini-tracks and look at me as though it's time for the articles to be more than 25 paces apart. I may have to expand out of my couple-acre yard for him.

Bruce still hates to lie down in wet grass and still likes to track. He tried to steal the puppy's track today after running his own. He's houndy in his preferences -- finding an article, no matter how marvelous the reward, is still not as great as going on down the line and into the wild blue yonder. He still needs the occasional anchor point, though, or he'll forget what he's after and crusade on squirrel scent instead. Something has to keep him on the same line.

Then there's the puppy, called variously Bronwyn or Bronnie. She was in a box of puppies in the Wal-Mart parking lot, officiated over by two young men claiming to have pit-bull/bullmastiff mixes "worth $200" but they were only asking $20. I picked up the coal-black one, who was going limp with heat exhaustion (this was August, and the security guard had chased them out of the shade by the door, and they weren't about to retreat out of the main thoroughfare for the next nearest shade), petted on her a little and discovered she was sweet, and handed over $20. I thought finding her a new home once she was hydrated, wormed, and obedience-started wouldn't be all that hard.


However, even on very fresh trails, she sticks her nose down and finds footprints. I found this interesting. She's very keen to learn as much about the world through her nose as possible. She's also a climbing, jumping, rough-terrain fool. So, lacking any better ideas, I've started her on formal tracking. She's not showing any signs of being an AKC breed or some reasonable approximation, though she's emphatically too small and narrow-muzzled to make bullmastiff ancestors deeply unlikely, so we probably won't be titling. Perhaps we can do some SAR track-trail certifying instead. I also started her on the game of Find My Old Wisdom Tooth, which she likes a lot. Pseudo is on order from Sigma. The pipe dream is that she'll be good enough at all this that someone will go do SAR work with her. I don't expect to be deploy-able anytime soon.