Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Human License to Breed?

Could you pass a minimal intelligence test if one were required for a "license to breed"?

To find out, simply answer this question:

In light of the 40,000 children dying of malnutrition each day, and considering the number of species going extinct as a result of our excessive reproduction, do you think it would be a good idea to create another of yourself?

Thank you for playing.

Leash Pressure


Welcome Home Soldier

Welcome home soldier.

The war was more expensive than we thought, and the millionaires and billionaires don't want to pay their taxes, so we're cutting veteran benefits for "government workers" like you.

Time to stop fostering dependency and a culture of entitlement.

Time for you to stand on your own two legs.

Let's convince 19-year olds to make a reckless decision. 

Let's tell them there is honor in killing, or dying, or surviving war. 

Let's not show anyone these kind of pictures on Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Continuing Crisis

My Nemesis

A Murmuration of Starlings

De-Extinction with Stewart Brand

Leash Pressure

The Continuing Crisis

I fired up the grill for the first time last night. The first real cook is later today -- after I set up the hammock. There's a small smoker barrrel on the side -- I've never used one of those before. It's not a big grill, but we're a small family with a number of vegetarians. This may not see a whole lot of use, but who knows? The good news is that this rig was pretty cheap, and I even sprang for a cover.  Next soul-crushing chore: putting up the hammock!

Every Living President Agrees

Every living American President agrees:  Donald J. Trump is a coward, a serial liar, a fraudster, and a danger to the people and economy of the United States.

No former President, from either party, supports his candidacy.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fish on Friday

Kids Today

My brother and his wife, Diane, are setting off on a tandem bicycle trek across the U.S. They started in Yorktown, Virginia and are now in the Shenandoah near Christiansburg.

Owl Tracking

Steve Huy is featured in this cool little video
about Project SNOWstorm's "Baltimore". Steve helped band Baltimore in 2014, and fitted him with a transmitter in 2015.

Back in 2012,
I was privileged to hang out with Steve while he did a little owl trapping and banding in the mountains north of Frederick, Maryland.

Snakes In the Grass?

The guy canvassing door to door to "save the bees"
found this black rat snake guarding my front door.  You would have thought he'd take it as a sign.

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made."
- Genesis 3-1

This snake was not so crafty. I grabbed him quick and simple, and let him go the other side of the yard. Hopefully he will stay out of the back yard, as the dogs will skin him quick if he ventures outside of the thick beds of ivy. 

Life With Dogs

Austin and Marley in Greenhouse

My son, sent me a picture with Marley, the Italian Greyhound, in the greenhouse with him. A note, attached to a video clip, expressed appreciation for the recent gift of an e-collar.  The collar, from E-collar Technologies, apparently solved a problem he was having with Lucy, the Pit Bull, when they went skateboarding together.

The e-collar is great! I have more confidence in myself when training Lucy with the collar. When I am long-boarding, she is generally off leash, and on the e-collar. As I was telling Mom, she is doing fine when she sees other dogs or people. 
Before using the e-collar, when she was only on a leash, Lucy would slow down and unintentionally jerk me off the board. Now she doesn't -- she stays right by my side, and knows not to tug or pull if a jogger, biker, or other dog goes by.  The communication and timing is so good with the e-collar, she is now mostly off-leash, and we are both happier and getting more exercise as a consequence. 


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Inbred Thinking 10 Years On

"Inbred Thinking" first appeared on this blog 10 years ago.
Some time after I posted it, I got a missive from a woman named Jemima Harrison. She had read the post, found it convincing, and was interested in doing a documentary on canine health for the BBC. Did I have a phone number where I could be reached?

In early 2008, a got an email from Ryan O'Meara in the U.K., who wanted to publish Inbred Thinking in K9 Magazine as an article. Would I allow that? Of course! They did a very nice job with graphics, and I was pleased and flattered.

Long story short, Jemima Harrison's documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, came out on BBC One in August of 2008, and it rocked the world of dogs. Jemima had the talent and brains to show what others had been talking about for years -- the devolution of dogs as they were intentionally selected for deformity, defect, disease and dysfunction.

The biggest hit came right out the box. After 42 years of sponsorship, dog food companies and the BBC withdrew their participation from the Crufts dog show. This was a major blow to the finances and the visibility of the Kennel Club.

Since then, the Kennel Club has tried various responses:  denial, lies, attempts to limit the indictment, attempts to change the debate to puppy farming, attempts to shift the blame to breed clubs and show judges.

None of it has really worked.  

Three separate health reports on pedigree dogs followed. One from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was summarily dismissed as little more than typing by a direct mail "animal rights" organization looking for a new issue on which to campaign. A second report by the "Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare" seemed to gather no steam and sink out of sight shortly after it was launch. Who were these people, and what did they know about dogs?

The third report was harder to dismiss.

 This report was authored by Sir Patrick Bateson, and funded by the Kennel Club itself as well as Dogs Trust, an organization that is (at least nominally) concerned about the welfare of dogs.

The Bateson report concluded that Kennel Club breeding practices were detrimental to the welfare of dogs and made various recommendations to turn things around. Did the Kennel club listen? It did not. Despite the fact that the report was commissioned by their own man, and paid for with their own checkbook, the core business of the Kennel Club has nothing to do with dogs and everything do with maintaining the value of a closed registry system based on contrived standards and closed ranks.  If change was to ever come, it would have to come over many decades, at such a glacial pace that no one would notice, and the economic base of the Kennel Club was not ruffled.

The story, of course, has continued to march on, as it has for more than 50 years.

In April of 2009, ABC-TV's Nightline did its own segement on pedigree dog health in the U.S.. and I got a short segment.

In 2010, the Humane Society of the U.S. put the issue of pedigree dog health on the cover of their main magazine, and I got a few quotes here too.

In 2012, there was a sequel to the original BBC documentary; Pedigree Dogs Exposed – Three Years On.

In the years since, there has been a great deal of research into canine health.  A review of pedigree records found alarming genetic bottlenecks in nearly every breed, while a review of canine insurance records found that, as a rule, crossbreeds and mutts are healthier than their pedigree counterparts.

Here in the U.S., the American Kennel Club has continued to swirl down the toilet bowl.  AKC memberships has fallen to about 400,000, from a high of over 1.5 million in 1992.  Today, more than half of all dogs in the U.S. are cross- or mixed-breeds and less than 7 percent are registered with the AKC.  Most American pure bred dogs are either unregistered or are registered with either a breed-specific registry (such as the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America) or a competing registry (such as the United Kennel Club or American Field ), or any of a dozen make-weight registries that sell paper to dog dealers.

Bottom line:  the American Kennel Club has never been less important than it does today. The American people continue to vote with their feet and their wallets, proving that they are smarter consumers than most of us imagine. While Americans own twice as many dogs, per capita as their British counterparts, we are far less likely to salute the sniffing pretensions of the "breed fancy".

Slowly, slowly, progress is made.


Inbred Thinking
May 26, 2006

Working border collies depend on a performance standard and an open registry.

 When pressed about the poor genetic quality of today's "pure bred" dogs, most Kennel Club breeders parrot the Kennel Club apologia: "We only register dogs, we don't breed them."

In fact, the line is pure bunk. The Kennel Club does far more than register dogs -- it sets the rules that guarantee more and more dogs will suffer serious (and often painful) genetic problems.

The problem, in a nutshell, is the closed registry system. With all Kennel Club breeds, the "founding stock" has always been small in number, and often fairly inbred going in, since breed creation is a product of inbreeding and line breeding to "set" the look of a dog. Because a closed registry never adds new blood, it becomes progressively more inbred over time.

Genetic diversity is never increased in the Kennel Club -- it is only reduced. In practice, it is often reduced quite rapidly due to the fact that show-winning males are in great demand to "cover" as many bitches as possible -- the so-called "popular sire effect."

The result, to be clearly seen by simply comparing 10-generation pedigrees for most breeds, is that many dogs have common male ancestors.

After 25 generations, the genetic overlap within all members of a breed may be complete or nearly complete with every member of the breed traced back to the same root stock.

What is wrong with this? Simple: In the world of genetics, most health-related negative characteristics are recessive. This is true because most dominant negative characteristics result in quick mortality or culling. A negative recessive gene, however, remains hidden and only becomes expressed (i.e. self-evident) when both parents carry the negative gene.

When dog populations are relatively heterogeneous (i.e. genetically diverse) the chance that any two negative genes will combine is low. Result: a dog with a very high chance of being healthy.

In a dog population that is very homogeneous (i.e., not genetically diverse), the chance of two negative recessive genes combining rises in direct relationship to the degree of homogeneity.

The result of two negative recessive genes combining is a real health problem -- the kind of problems we are increasingly seeing in Kennel Club dogs: epilepsy, dysplasia, deafness, congenital skin conditions, heart murmurs, cataracts, polyarthritis, progressive renal atrophy, allergies, hypothyroidism, and Cushing's Syndrome, to name a few.

A closed registry with a small gene pool undergoing a further tightening due to sire selection and overuse guarantees inbreeding and a steady increase in the occurrence of negative genetic issues. There is no getting around this.

The graph, appended below, shows the slow but steady rise in the coefficient of inbreeding among shelties. Similar rising graphs could be produced for most AKC breeds.

Coefficient of inbreeding, 1930-1993, for Shelties, showing trend line.

No population of animals is entirely absent negative recessive genes. Every population of animals contains at least two or three -- bits of fatal code that are "hard wired" into the makeup of the animal. A population of animals that appears to be "clean" is simply one that is still diverse enough that negative genes are not yet combining very often. If a small population is inbred long enough, negative genes will begin to express themselves.

The results of inbreeding are not a closely-held secret. Deuteronomy 27:22 reads: "Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of this mother..." Leviticus offers a similar admonition.

Human history too is a guide. Pick up any book about European royalty, and you can read about the idiot King Charles II of Spain, the product of generations of inbreeding by the Hapsburg family. This is a man whose face and chin were so distorted by the "Hapsburg Lip" that he could not eat without assistance. If his picture (appended below) makes you think of a Bulldog, Pekingese, Pug or Boston Terrier, you are not alone.

King Charles II of Spain -- a product of inbreeding in the Hapsburg line.

And yet inbreeding is not an option with the Kennel Club -- it is required. The option of outcrossing a Lakeland Terrier to a Fox Terrier is not possible within the confines of a closed registry, nor is the crossing of a Curly-coated retriever to a Flat-coated Retriever, or a Greyhound to a Saluki.

Along with an increase in the incidence of serious genetic problems within a closed-registry population, you have other problems that may not be clear to an individual pet owner, but which become obvious to those studying canine demographics: increased neo-natal mortality, shortened lifespans, and increased infecundity (dogs that are sterile or barren). All of these characteristics are endemic to deeply inbred populations, and are showing up with increased frequency in the Kennel Club.

In sled dogs, performance is king, and an open registry has proven critical to preserving honest pulling dogs with stamina, good feet, and heart.

How did the Kennel Club come to embrace a closed registry, and why does it maintain this system?

The adoption of a "closed registry" by the Kennel Club is an artifact of its history, while the continuation of this practice is driven by the economics of dog breeding and the political construct of the Kennel Club.

The Kennel Club was created in Victorian England in 1873, at a time when new theories about genetics were being promulgated by learned men who did not yet have a very good idea of what was going on in the natural world.

As noted in American Working Terriers, the "speciation" of domestic breeds of livestock began with the work of Robert Bakewell in the 18th Century, and the control of sires. Bakewell's work helped speed the rise of the Enclosure Movement, which in turn led to large estates, fox hunting, and the rise of terrier work.

Bakewell had no real knowledge of scientific genetics, and his breeding program was largely limited to the control of sires (made easier by enclosures) and the admonition that "like begats like" and that success was to be found by "breeding the best to the best".

The first stud book to document the breeding of animals was the General Stud Book of 1791 which tracked a small pool of racing horses. A stud book for Shorthorn Cattle was produced in 1822.

As more and more farmers followed the tenets of Robert Bakewell, sire selection became increasingly prevalent and inbreeding and line breeding more common. By selecting the best beef and milk producers, and pairing them, rapid improvements in cattle breeds were made.

When Charles Darwin returned from his five-year voyage on the Beagle in 1836, he discovered new breeds of cattle, sheep and pigeons displayed at livestock bench shows.

Over the next 23 years, Darwin ruminated about the aggressive livestock breeding he saw going on around him, and what isolation (enclosure) and selection (the frequent use of popular sires) might mean if some natural version of this phenomenon were driving the diversity of wildlife he had seen on his travels.

In 1859, after more than two decades of thought on the subject, Darwin published The Origin of Species -- the very year the first formal dog show was held in England.

Formal dog shows grew out of the livestock bench shows held by Robert Bakewell and his followers to display their new stock. With dogs, as with farm animals, it was soon discovered that by selecting types of dogs and genetically isolating them in kennels, homes or yards, and then inbreeding and line breeding them, a great deal of variety could be expressed.

In 1800, there were only 15 designated breeds of dogs, but by 1865 that number had grown to more than 50 and over the next 40 years it tripled yet again.

The rapid speciation of dogs that began in 1859 occurred just as Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, was taking Darwin's work and attempting to generalize it to man.

Both Darwin and Galton had noticed how many people in their own family were smart. Along with Charles Darwin and his biologist father, Erasmus Darwin, there was another grandfather who was a member of the Royal Society, and then there was Galton's own father, who was a banker. As for Galton, by the time he was four years old he could write, read any book in the English language, knew basic math (including the times tables), and had a passing hand in the basic rudiments of both Latin and French.

While at Cambridge, Galton noticed that intelligence seemed to run in other families as well. Students that did well at college had parents and sibling that also did well. From this observation Galton postulated that human intelligence was inherited, and he went to great lengths to test his theory, going so far as to invent important new statistical methods such as regression analysis and mathematical correlation.

Galton was an intellectual whirlwind responsible for advances in meteorology, psychology, and statistics (as well as inventing the silent dog whistle), but like all people he was fallible.

Galton's chief failure was that he did not understand that the elements used to create a breed could, if taken too far, lead to the breed's destruction. With an imperfect knowledge of genetics, Galton argued that "What nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly," by a system he called "eugenics".

Galton postulated that if novel organisms, or "sports of nature" could be found, these sports could be enlisted to create a new breed through genetic isolation and inbreeding.

By engaging in a "positive" system of eugenics, superior individuals could be encouraged to breed more, and by engaging in a system of "negative" eugenics, inferior types could be culled from the line.

This was, to put it simply, Darwin' theory of evolution put into hyper-drive. Surely the direction would be forward, and the road forward would be without end?

Galton's theory of improvement-without-end was embraced by the early Kennel Club. The patina of science -- and a short track record of success on the farm -- lent credibility to the idea of a closed registry of "pure" stock.

On the surface, there was no reason to suspect the seeds of destruction were contained in the closed registry system itself. The work of Gregor Mendel was still undiscovered, and even when it was discovered (around 1900) a true understanding of the nature of negative recessive genes was many decades away.

A winning greyhound is never a bad or boring color.

Conformation dog shows, of course, simply speeded up the drive to homogeneity.
The goal of the conformation show is conformity -- an entire class of cookie-cutter dogs that look as much alike as possible. This is most easily achieved by breeding champion to champion, culling the nonconforming, and then inbreeding and linebreeding to further distill the "type".

As a direct consequence of conformation shows, and the over-use of championship sires, the genetic bottleneck that began with the creation of every dog breed was further reduced.

In the beginning, it was hard for dog breeders to see what was going on. Breeders occasionally had a few health problems in their kennels, of course, but it was hard to see a pattern with so few animals tracked over a relatively few generations. If hip dysplasia, skin infections and cataracts "popped out," it was "just one of those things" and chalked up to a "bad cross" and bad luck.

The idea that the Kennel Club's closed registry system itself was to blame was a deeper thought than most folks were prepared to consider.

On the farm, things took a different turn. The inbreeding of farm stock began earlier than with dogs, but was no less intense.

Because farm herds are large and often kept by families for generations, farmers were able to "tease out" data indicating drops in production, increases in mortality, declining fecundity, and a steady rise in disease and illness.

Inbreeding, which had initially boosted production, now appeared to be reducing it.

Because farmers had a clear "steak and eggs" axis for evaluation of stock, they were ready and willing to outcross to achieve the best results for their needs and their land. Consumers, after all, do not much care what breed of chicken their eggs come from, or what "champion" bull sired their steak.

Through experimentation, farmers discovered that outcrosses and hybrids of two "pure" types produce as well or better, while remaining more disease resistant, more fecund, and longer-lived than deeply homogeneous stock.

What may appear to be a pure Angus (the most common breed of beef cattle in the world) is likely to have a wide variety of cattle genes coursing through its system. In fact, entire breeds of cattle are now kept solely for their outcross potential. On today's farms the cattle in the field may be Brangus (Brahman-Angus crosses), Braford (Brahmam-Hereford crosses), Beefmasters (a cross of Hereford, Shorthorn and Brahman), or any other combination or mix.

Farmers are not alone in favoring a certain degree of heterogeneity. In top winning race horses, a 5% coefficient of inbreeding is considered high. Though much is made of the stud fees paid for the services of retired winners, most of the offspring of these champion horses are not all that distinguished, and lighting is rarely caught twice in a bottle by the same breeder.

Genetic diversity is similarly valued by breeders of performance dogs such as racing greyhounds, working border collies, sled dogs, and working terriers. All of the working versions of these breeds, or types of dogs, are maintained with open registries. It is not an accident that Kennel Club greyhounds are not found at the track, that Kennel Club terriers are not found in the field, that Kennel Club sled dogs are not found on the Iditarod, or that Kennel Club border collies are not found on working sheep farms.

Ironically, it turns out that maintaining a breed and keeping it more-or-less heterogeneous is neither a contradiction nor a difficulty. The trick is simply to follow Mother Nature and to occasionally do true outcrosses to animals that are entirely outside of the gene pool being crossed into. In the case of cattle and chickens, this is commonly achieved by crossing in an animal of similar size and traits, but with a very different genetic history.

It surprises people to find out that Mother Nature does much the same thing. Most people assume a Mallard duck is a Mallard duck. Aren't all Mallards simply clones of each other?

Well, No. You see, ducks hybridize all the time. What appears to be a Mallard may, in fact, have a little Gadwall crossed into it, or a little Black Duck, or even a bit of Greenwinged duck tucked into its double-helix.

In the duck world, where success is defined in Darwinian terms, there are no closed registries. While animals within a species tend to mate with others of the species in the same area, new blood flies, walks or swims in all the time. In the case of ducks, it may even come from across the ocean -- or from an entirely different duck species.

The same effect occurs when young male fox, lions, and wolves are forced out of their natal territories, causing them to travel great distances to find unoccupied territories. A young male wolf sired in Wyoming may travel as far as Oregon before it "settles down" to rear its own family.

What is true for ducks is true for a lot of animals. Not only will individual animals often travel great distances to find unoccupied territories, they may also cross the species barrier as they do so. A wolf will mate with both a dog AND a coyote, while finches leap across the species barrier at the drop of a hat. A spotted owl will freely mate with a barred owl, while most amazon parrots freely cross breed. A lion can mate with a tiger and produce fertile offspring, and an African elephant can cross breed with an Asian elephant. A muskellunge will cross with a northern pike, and a sunfish will cross with a bluegill. Trout and salmon species readily hybridize. Many species of hawks and falcons will also cross the species line, while a buffalo will cross with a cow. Just last week a hunter in Alaska shot an animal that turned out to be a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly.

The point here is not that trans-species outcrosses are common, but that even between distinct species Mother Nature often runs her train "loose on the tracks," and a considerable amount of genetic wobble is allowed.

Mother Nature allows outcrosses because she values heterogeneous genes, while she punishes homogeneous genes by "culling" animals through a process of dwindling survivorship (neonatal mortality), shortened lifespans, and infecundity.

The facts outlined here are not closely held information and are supported by sound science. Why then has the Kennel Club not changed its policy?

The short answer is economics.

The Kennel Club is a huge money-making bureaucracy dependent upon selling people on the "exclusivity" of a closed registry and a scrap of paper that says a dog is a "pure breed". So long as people are willing to buy Kennel Club registered dogs that have predictably higher chances of serious physical impairments than cross-bred dogs, the Kennel Club (and Kennel Club breeders) have little motivation to change the way they do business.

Let me hasten to say that the Kennel Club is not filled with evil people intent on doing harm to dogs. It is, in fact, filled with regular people who are different from the rest of the world only in the degree (and the way) they seek ego-gratification and are status-seeking.

This last point is import: the Kennel Club is not primarily about dogs. Dogs do not care about ribbons, pedigrees, titles, and points. These are human obsessions. The reason a human will drive several hundred miles and stand around all day waiting for 10 minutes in the ring is not because of the dog, but because the human needs that ribbon, that title, and that little bit of extra status that comes from a win.

Each to his own, but let us be honest about what dog shows are about -- they are about ribbons for people. The dogs themselves could not give a damn.

It is unfair to fault individual breeders and breed clubs for the failures of the Kennel Club, as these smaller units are powerless to change the larger whole.

Breed clubs are small and largely impotent by design. Because the Kennel Club does not require breeders, pet owners, or even show ring ribbon-chasers to join a breed club as a condition of registration, these entities remain small, underfunded, and unrepresentative.

Breed clubs, like dog shows themselves, are also steeped in internecine politics and dominated by big breeders and people who over-value "conformation."

It is only by conforming to the AKC system for decades that anyone can hope to move up in the AKC hierarchy -- a situation that guarantees intellectual and bureaucratic inbreeding.

In the end, the AKC is a closed registry in every sense of that word. It continues to embrace the failed genetic theories of Victorian England because it is incapable of serious reform within the Club itself.

Is there a bright light anywhere? Yes and no.

Back in 1922, Sewell Wright, a famous early geneticist, devised a method of calculating a coefficient of inbreeding (COI). Under Wright's system, inbreeding coefficients ranging from 0% to 100% defined the percentage of a dog's genes that might be homozygous (note that this is a probability equation).

The equation was neat and discrete, as such things went, but incredibly complex and cumbersome in practice. Without mathematical training, an enormous stack of pedigrees, and at least a week's worth of hand calculation, a 10-generation coefficient of inbreeding was impossible to calculate. As a result, Wright's coefficient of inbreeding (COI) was not much used.

The good news is that in the modern era, thanks to the advent of the personal computer and the internet, it is now much easier to build a 10- or 20-generation pedigree using list-servs, email, and ready-made software.

Sadly, few breeders seem willing to do even this work -- and even fewer are willing to do what is right. Breeders hell-bent to make it in the show world continue to inbreed their dogs and consumers continue to buy their cast-offs, completely ignoring the fact that 25 percent of the time they are buying a heath care liability -- one that may cost them many thousands of dollars in veterinary care in a just a few years time.

On the positive side, more and more breeders are testing their dogs for hip dysplasia (OFA), eye problems (CERF), and deafness (BAER). Unfortunately, testing and culling alone are not a curative for genetic problems. In fact, culling large numbers of dogs from a gene pool only serves to further reduce the size of the gene pool. So long as you are operating within a closed registry, the engine of disaster is still on the tracks ... and only increasing its speed.

Within the Kennel Club, two breeds of dogs stand at polar opposites when coefficients of inbreeding are examined, and both of them are terriers [Marsha Eggleston, report on "Genetic Diversity" to the AKC's DNA Committee, 2002].

The Bull Terrier may be the most inbred of Kennel Club breeds, having first entered the Club with relatively few individual members and having, since then, been split into two color phases (colored and white) and two sizes (miniature and standard).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the "Parson" Russell Terrier. The "Parson" is a new entry to the Kennel Club and has benefited greatly from the large and diverse gene pool (and open-registry) of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA) from which most of the AKC dogs were only recently drawn.

The JRTCA remains the largest Jack Russell terrier club in the world.

The genetic diversity of the JRTCA is not an accident -- it is mandated. Under JRTCA rules, a dog cannot be registered if it has a Coefficient of Inbreeding of 16% or greater.

This is not a particularly low coefficient. Out-crosses to non-Russells are quite rare in the JRTCA, but such outcrosses are technically possible -- a genetic parachute individual breeders can use if needs arise -- or if a particular cross may be salient in order to increase the working traits (size, nose, voice, gameness, tractability) in a particular line. The progeny of such an outcross may or may not be registered with the JRTCA, depending on the look of the dog.

Some controversy has arisen over whether the Parson Russell Terrier and the JRTCA dogs are, in fact, the same animal with different names. While some folks continue to quibble over the status of individual dogs that may have been dual-registered at the time of the split a few years back, there can be little doubt that there are now two distinct breeds. Not only are there two registries (one of which is closed and locked), but there are also two breed standards which only partly overlap. With the absence of small dogs, and an "ideal" AKC dog listed as 14" tall, the average Kennel Club animal is quickly getting larger, and as a consequence it is quickly losing utility in the field.

In closing, it is worth recounting where "race improvement," through eugenics, took Darwin and the rest of the world.

It seems Charles Darwin was interested in maintaining the 'genetic superiority' of his own bloodline and so he married his first cousin. From this marriage, Darwin produced ten children.

Of Darwin's four daughters, one girl, Mary, died shortly after birth; another girl, Anne, died at the age of ten years from Scarlet Fever; while his eldest daughter, Henrietta, had a serious and prolonged breakdown at age fifteen.

Of Darwin's six sons, three suffered such frequent illness that Darwin considered them semi-invalids, while his last son, Charles Jr., was born mentally retarded and died nineteen months after birth.

Of Darwin's adult children, neither William Darwin, Elizabeth Darwin, Leonard Darwin or Henrietta Darwin had children of their own -- a startling high incidence of infecundity.

Of the three children that grew up reasonably unafflicted physically and mentally, Leonard Darwin went on to serve as chairman of the Eugenics Society (serving from 1911 to 1928) where he used the value of his father's name to lecture the world about "good breeding."

He too married his first cousin.

It was the Eugenics Society, under Leonard Darwin, that popularized the "Great Idea" of improving man through selective breeding and encouraged a program of state-sponsored negative eugenics.

Model laws, popularized by the Eugenics Society, advocated the mandatory sterilization of the retarded and the feeble-minded. Within a few decades, Europe was rounding up of entire classes of "mongrel" people of "low breeding" and shipping them off to be disposed of in the ovens.

Through it all, the Kennel Club has held fast, never wavering from its closed registry system, and never doubting the value of an aggressive system of eugenics centered on looks and appearance alone.

Never mind that science, data, or experience has shown that a closed registry serves neither human utility nor canine health.

Never mind the dog.

The dog, after all, has never been what what the Kennel Club has been all about.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Truth Still Too Inconvenient for Al Gore

A nice man, a lovely family, and an inconvenient truth.

Ten years ago, I went to see "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's global warming documentary.

I found the movie extremely well done and not boring.  I recommended the movie, noting that "it is certainly better than most of the pap offered up on the Silver Screen."

Having just given the movie "two thumbs up," however, I noted that there were a few "inconvenient truths" that Al Gore has left out of his documentary.

At the beginning of the movie, Al Gore tells us he has been following global warming issues since he was in college. Me too, and oddly enough for the same reason.

Al Gore was a student of Roger Revelle's at Harvard. It was Revelle who designed some of the first experiments and theories underpinning the nascent science of global climate change.

It so happens that my father was head of the climatology program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and worked closely with Revelle. In fact, I think my father may have written the first New York Times editorial ever written on global warming.

When Al Gore first met Roger Revelle back in 1966, Revelle was Director of the Center for Population Studies at Harvard -- a position he held from 1964 to 1976.

Gore manages to tell us quite a bit about Roger Revelle and his own youthful conversion to environmental causes without ever mentioning Revelle's demographic concerns, or the size of the Gore nuclear family.

In fact, I would argue this is not an accident. Population growth is an "inconvenient truth" -- the one that underpins global warming, and one that is particularly inconvenient for Al Gore as he tells us his global warming jeremiad.

You see, Al Gore has four children. Think about that for a minute.

If the average woman in the world followed Al Gore's lead, the population of the world would double every 25 years -- FOREVER.

Al and Tipper Gore chose to have more children than the average woman is having today in India, China, Zimbabwe, South Africa, El Salvador, Jamaica, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam or the Philippines -- to randomly pick from a few of the less developed countries from around the globe.

Al Gore had a choice to make when it came to having a family. He could have had no children. Or one child. He could have chosen to stop at two. He could have built his family through adoption or stopped at three kids. Instead, Al and Tipper Gore chose to double the human load they put on this planet.

It's not like Al and Tipper did not have access to health care and a diverse array of family planning options. Al and Tipper had more information about, and better access to, contraception than almost anyone else on the planet.

It's not like Al and Tipper Gore did not know better. Al and Tipper were married in 1970, at a time when Paul Ehrlich's book "The Population Bomb" was a national best seller, and when the speed of both world and U.S. population growth were core messages of the first Earth Day.

And yet Al Gore ignored it all. Al and Tipper had their first child in 1973, their second in 1977, their third in 1979, their fourth in 1982.

Let's put this story in numerical context. When Al Gore was listening to Roger Revelle at Harvard in 1966, the population of the world was 3 billion. Today it is over 6.2 billion people, and it will be over 12 billion by 2033 if the world follows the Gore model for family planning.

Gore's discussion of global warming shies away from causation. It is an odd but true fact that this very smart man has made an entire movie about global warming and greenhouse gases without once saying where those gases come from.

There's a reason for that. The inconvenient truth is that the world is NOT producing more greenhouse gases per person than it did in 1830 when the world had 1 billion people. Nor is it producing more greenhouses gases per capita than it did in 1930 when the world had 2 billion people.

The inconvenient truth is that the world is producing about the same or less greenhouses gases per person today that it did 50 or 100 years ago. People forget that horses produced serious amounts of greenhouse gases (methane) and so too did homes heated with wood and coal.

Table 1, page 19 from "Per Capita Carbon Dioxide Emissions Convergence or Divergence?" by Joseph E. Aldy, 2005 published by Resources for the Future (PDF)

The simple fact is that while the atmospheric level of CO2 has increased 30 percent since 1860, world population has more than quadrupled since then. Per capita CO2 emissions in the industrialized world are actually in decline, and have been for quite some time. When we look at all CO2 production, we find that global population growth and CO2 emissions track almost perfectly.

The problem is not that we are driving cars or cooling our beer in refrigerators -- it's that there are too many people. Too many people necessarily results in too many cars, too many refrigerators, and too many coal-fired electrical plants.

There are too damn many of us!

Population growth, energy use and CO2 emissions track perfectly. The causal agent here is human population growth -- an "inconvenient truth" largely glossed over in Al Gore's otherwise excellent movie. Figure 2 is from "Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide as a proxy for growth of the human population? ," 1995, University of Washington

Al Gore is willing to talk about rebuilding power plants,
building nuclear reactors, knocking down or retro-fitting every building on the planet. He is willing to discuss what's wrong with Ford and Chevy, but he is not willing to talk too long or too loudly about population growth for fear his audience might look over his shoulder to see how many people are sitting in his own family room.

Like most people, Al Gore is more comfortable talking about CO2 emissions than he is about IUD's. He would rather talk about the need for a new type of internal combustion engine than about the need for internal self-restraint, birth control pills, and vasectomies. He would rather count carbon molecules than count human noses.

In this sense, Gore (like most politicians) is part of the problem.

A politician is always willing to invest a few billion dollars to subsidize energy research at the local university, or pump a few billion dollars into a program to subsidize new car designs by General Motors. But talk about cutting back on immigration (which is driving nearly 100 percent of U.S. population growth), or pumping a billion dollars a year into Third World contraception programs and .... well, there are a thousand and one excuses to do little or nothing. To be fair, those excuses come from both sides of the political aisle. While people may be the source of greenhouse gas emissions, they are also the fuel of politicians, political parties and corporate sponsors.

And so, in the end, we have a movie about global warming that does not really talk about what causes global warming. How ironic is that?

Al Gore's global warming movie concludes by telling us to turn down the thermostat and to send more letters to Congress. It tells us to ride bicycles and use public transportation. It tells us to use more energy-efficient light bulbs and bring more people to the Al Gore movie.

But it does not tell us to have fewer children.

It does not remind us that an open-border immigration policy in this country has global resource consequences in the form of more greenhouse gases, more energy use, and more pollution.

Al Gore's slide show does not suggest contraception, immigration law enforcement, and communitarian self-restraint, nor does it point out that the science of reproduction is widely understood and that improved access to contraception is extremely popular across all cultures and religions. (Did you know that Catholic countries have the lowest fertility rates in the world? The abortion is legal in Italy? That Iran has below-replacement fertility? Did you know that the U.S. has the fastest population growth rate in the developed world?)

The end result is that Al Gore's movie on global warming offers us little more than hot-air solutions.

The inconvenient truth is that immigration-fueled population growth in the United States is negating every single energy conservation effort we are making in this nation today, and that population growth across the globe is negating every single energy conservation effort being made in the world today.

That's a message you won't hear at the local Multiplex or in too many discussions about "An Incovenient Truth" 10 years on.

It's a message that's still a little too "inconvenient."

Fun Facts:  Between 2006 and 2016, the world added more people than the entire population of the North America, South America and the Caribbean.  Or to put it another way, in the same period of time, we added more people to the world than the population of the United States, Canada, and all of Western Europe.

The Farmer Is a Robot, and So Is His Dog

Autonomous robots are already being used to inspect crops, determine yields, dig up weeds, monitor soil and ground cover, and even herd livestock.

The newest prototype "sheepdog" robots are modeled on the "Shrimp" bot that you can seen above, and are being designed to patrol massive Australian sheep and cattle ranches where animals are monitored very infrequently – perhaps only once or twice a year. In these situations stock can fall ill, get hung up, or go lame without anyone knowing.

The new generation of "farmbots" will have Artificial Intelligence capabilities so they can not only herd livestock, but also to do health checks using using thermal and vision sensors that detect changes in body temperature and walking gait.

A two-year trial of the new robots is in the works thanks the work of the Australian Centre for Field Robotics.  The impetus for the all the investment in research?  High wages, a vast landscape, and a limited pool of farmhands.

I Ordered Four

When you put this on your car, others will want one too.  Roll with it.  Literally.

If Only Your Dog Could Talk

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hillary Lectures the World About Dog Training

A photo-op dog. 

When Bill Clinton's life was going down in flames under the weight of the Monica Lewinsky fiasco, his handlers had an idea: Let's get him a dog to humanize him and take the focus off of the other.

It was decided that a small dog would look too froo-froo, a golden retriever too "blonde bomb," (uh-oh) and a black retriever too hard to photograph.

The compromise, decided by committee (I kid you not): a chocolate lab named "Buddy".

Buddy was a nice dog, but he did not get along with Socks the cat.

Instead of actually training the dog to leave cats alone, the Clinton's gave away Socks, who ended up living with Clinton's long-term secretary, Betty Currie, in a house only about a mile away from my own.

And what of Buddy?

Buddy was killed by a car on January 2, 2002, when he darted out the door "playfully chasing a contractor" who had just left the Clinton's home in Chappaqua, New York. The Clintons were not home at the time, and Secret Service agents attending to the house rushed Buddy to a local animal hospital where he was pronounced dead.

But wait; the story is not over.

In 2005, the Clinton's acquired another chocolate Lab whom they named Seamus.

Shame Us?

That's what Bill and Hillary Clinton named their new dog? Good lord!

Now Hillary Clinton has decided to make an unflattering comparison between child care workers and dog trainers.

No, I am not making that up either.


In the child-rearing department, the Clinton's "demo-dog" is Chelsea Clinton who has successfully joined the family grifting speech-giving business, first being paid over $600,000 a year for a no-show job at NBC television, then cranking out a too-long hectoring and lecturing book aimed at middle school students, before wedding a hedge fund manager whose father is a former member of Congress convicted of 31 charges of felony fraud, and who served five years in federal prison.

So yes, Hillary, please lecture us all about dog training, values, and pay-for-performance. As Ross Perot put it, "We're all ears."

College Graduation: A Conformation Event

Most college degrees train you for nothing but conformity. If you think they train you how to think, then you have not thought. 

Happy 75th Birthday Bob

Monday, May 23, 2016

Coffee and Provocation

Big Boned?
Americans are eating more: 500 more calories/day than in the '70s, and 800 calories/day more than in the late '50s.

Are Nile Crocodiles Breeding in the Everglades?

Best Way to Pay for Homeopathy Veterinary Care
Peter Wedderburn thinks veterinary homeopathy should NOT be illegal.  Right.  People have the right to be stupid. That said, if you go to a veterinary homeopath, be sure to pay for their services with the smallest cut off tip off a $100 bill. Or order bulk free-dried homeopathy from a source you can trust.

Kinky Sex Island
Fish from the Indian and Pacific Oceans that have become separate species are getting it on at island retreats, and having hybrid babies.

Alice Tumbles Through the Looking Glass
The Unabomber is now on Twitter.  Not directly, but still...

Obama Care Works
The percent of people without health care insurance fell to 9.1 percent in 2015, a record low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The uninsured rate was 14.4 percent in 2013, before the main ObamaCare provisions went into effect.

Nothing is Confirmed Until It is Denied
China's foreign ministry has denied reports that Chinese food companies are canning human flesh and selling it in Africa as corned beef.

Building Hundreds of New Antibiotics From Scratch?

Yes, it can be done.  We know, because it has been done.

Old Man of the Forest
One of the Mountain Gorillas that hung out with David Attenborough in the 1970s is still alive and age 40.

Slow Grizzly Success
Yellowstone National Park grizzlies have greatly expanded their range in the last few decades.  Now we have to manage the inevitable conflicts
Everyone is a critic.

You Know More Than You Think You Do

"Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do." - Benjamin Spock

TRAINING is not a new idea, and training controversies are as old as the Bible.

For instance, the debate we are having about DOGS is the same debate we have had for generations about CHILDREN.

So let’s talk about kids.

Or, to put a limit on it, let’s talk about ONE LINE – the opening line -- in the best-selling child and baby care book of all time.

The book was written by Dr. Benjamin Spock , and it was entitled “Baby and Child Care.”

It has sold over 50 million copies, making it one of the most popular books in the history of written language.

I want to draw your attention to the OPENING LINE of this book:

“You know more than you think you do.”

What a wonderful line. “You know more than you think you do.”

Isn’t that a wonderful line to start a discussion about dog training!?? “You know more than you think you do.”

What is this line saying? It is saying: "I do not need to feel superior to you. You are smart. You have intuitive knowledge you may not know."

And what is it suggesting? It is suggesting that if you LISTEN carefully to what is going to be said NEXT, you will see exactly how smart you already are!

This opening line is an opportunity for your student or reader to come away with an “AHA!” moment. It’s an opportunity to give your client the LANGUAGE and the FRAME they need to explain what they are doing when others ask about how they are training their dog.

This last part is important. If you have dogs, you will be ASKED.

  • You will be asked what BREED the dog is. 

  • You will be asked what you FEED the dog.

  • You will be asked HOW and WHY you TRAIN your dog the way you do. 

The answers we give to these questions should always turn back to the owner and make them feel good about themselves.

  • It’s not about the DOG. 

  • It’s not about the DEVICE or COLLAR. 

  • It’s about the OWNER. 

To come back to it; if we fail to provide folks with a FRAME that MIRRORS back to them what they hope is true about themselves, then our ‘FACTS” may be rejected, and our techniques and methods may not be followed up on.

And WHY? Because if the FACTS don’t fit the FRAME, we tend to reject the facts, and NOT THE FRAME!

That’s all well and good, you say, but WHAT IS THE PROPER FRAME for dog collar training? Let me suggest this one, which most people will instantly accept:

  • There are self-rewarding behaviors and behaviors that are NOT self-rewarding. 

  • Self-rewarding behaviors present different problems than behaviors that are not self-rewarding.

This is NOT news to most people, but let's illuminate it a little more.

A self-rewarding behavior is one that brings with it its own rewards. Let me give you an example. I am sometimes asked how I reward my working terriers for hunting miles of fields in bad weather, finding an occupied den, sliding underground, and then facing off against a snarling and snapping critter at the end of a pipe, whether that critter is a fox, a raccoon, a possum, or a groundhog. Surely I must use a clicker and big box of HIGH value treats?

Nope. The reward is that I let the dog do it again. For a working terrier, finding fur inside a dark den pipe is its own reward. There is a strong prey drive in a good working terrier. Prey drive is a self-rewarding behavior. It's why a thrown ball or stick is strong reward for many breeds; chasing feels good.

Other self-rewarding behaviors are a bit more obvious.

  • When a dog knocks over a kitchen trashcan and pulls out an old sandwich or a yogurt container, that’s self-rewarding behavior. 

  • When a dog rolls in a dead fish on the beach, or deer poop in the woods, that’s self-rewarding behavior. 

  • Barking is self-rewarding behavior. A lot of dogs like to hear themselves talk, same as people.

  • Jumping on the soft sofa is self-rewarding behavior. 

  • Leaping a fence to find a dog in heat is self-rewarding behavior.  

  • Chasing a squirrel or a neighbor’s cat is self-rewarding behavior. 

A lot of what dogs do that folks want STOPPED is self-rewarding behavior.

What’s NOT self-rewarding behavior?

Most dog TRICKS are not self-rewarding behavior. 

Running weave poles, sitting on command, climbing a ladder, and returning a shot duck is NOT self-rewarding behavior.

Notice the frame here: Self-rewarding vs. NOT self-rewarding.

Notice that I have NOT talked about training methods.

You cannot understand the need for balanced training methods until you understand dogs, and you cannot understand dogs without a frame that recognizes that there are self-rewarding behaviors and also behaviors that require external rewards -- same as with people.

Most people have not thought too much about rewards and behavior, and so this is a new frame.

That said, they understand and recognize the idea instantly. This is common sense. They KNOW THIS. But, until now, they have not had a language for it.

NOW they understand why a BALANCED trainer has a kibble bag on their belt AND an e-collar remote on their belt.

Two tools for two different kinds of behavior.  

They knew more than then they thought they did.

25 Days of Rain

Here in Northern Virginia,
we are getting a bit water-logged and stir-crazy.

Is That a Scarlett Point Terrier?

Anti-Aircraft gunners in World W
ar II checks for enemy aircraft. Is that a Scarlett Point Terrier

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mirror and Frame: Why Dog Training So Often Fails

What do people want to be true about themselves when it comes to the world of dogs?

What do people almost always believe about themselves when they look in the mirror?

Let me suggest four common ideas:

  • I am a good person. I am kind. I am not a mean person. 

  • I am discerning. I am smart – almost a genius. 

  • My dog is family. I love, respect, and value my dog. 

  • I know about dogs. I have had dogs in the past and I did OK with them. I read. I Wikipedia. I YouTube. I Facebook. I watch TV. 

These four things, I would suggest, are what almost every dog owner wants to see reflected back in the mirror. This is what people believe about themselves, true or not. 

So what do dog trainers actually mirror back?

Oddly, we are not as good at this "mirror" thing as the dogs are!

Too often what we mirror back to people is not a recognition and affirmation of a client's values, but an enlarged reflection of ourselves.

This is done all the time is almost every profession.

How many of us have been in a situation where folks use jargon and word-salad to prove they know the lingo and, by extension, are authorities?

How many of us have seen folks toss around their credentials? Name drop? Demonize others?

How many of us have ever seen someone suggest that something simple is actually so complicated they really need to hire a priest class to guide them through it?

All of this is pretty common stuff  in all professions. But it’s particularly problematic in the world of dog training, because dog training is not a point-of-sale kind of business.

Yes you can train a dog, or provide instruction, but what you say WILL NOT STICK unless a second person – the client – internalizes and follows through with it, and not just once, but again and again and again, on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

For that to occur, the person has to think what they are doing reflects well on them.

What they see in the mirror has to look good, for it to look good, there needs to be a strong frame around it, which is solid understanding of how the training techniques they are using fit within the world of dogs as they understand dogs to work.

Pure click and treat dog trainers have an easier time doing this.

No wonder! Think about it.

  • I am a good person. A good person offers everyone ice tea and cake, right? 

  • I am discerning. Click and treat is “new” and “scientific” right? Who wants to be old and non-scientific? No one!

  • My dog is family. I would never spank a child or put a leash on my daughter. I will treat my dog the same as I would treat my baby

  • I know about dogs. Dogs are not complicated. They are easy. How you train dogs to do a trick is how you train dogs to do everything.

Sound familiar?
It should.

This is the mirror and the frame through which so many people approach the world of dogs and dog training. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fox Size Around the World

The above table is from Paolo Cavallini's paper entitled "Variation in the Body Size of the Red Fox," which was printed in the December 1995 edition of Ann. Zoological Fennici, in Helsinki, Finland.

Dr. Cavallini's paper includes data on the size of red fox from all over the world (Australia, Italy, Jordan, Spain, Switzerland, several states in the USA, several regions within Scotland, several regions within England, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Wales, Ireland, and East Germany).

In all the countries and regions listed, the number of fox measured was greater than 10 for each sex, while 300 were measured in Italy alone. In short, Dr. Cavallini's global data set totals well over 700 weighed fox.

What did Dr. Cavalini discover about fox weight? For one, he found that across the globe the average male (dog) fox weighs just 13.85 pounds, while the average vixen weighs just 11.60 pounds.

The heaviest fox came from a subsection of Scotland where the average adult dog fox weighed 16.09 pounds, while the heaviest average vixen from the same area weighed 13.7 pounds.

Dr. Cavallini provides detailed information about the 300 Italian foxes weighed and measured. The heaviest dog fox in this sample weighed 17.97 pounds, while the lightest vixen weighed 7.16 pounds, and the average fox weight was 12.01 pounds and the average chest size was 14.13 inches for males and 13.27 inches for females.

Dr. Cavallini's research concludes that "body size of the red fox may be variable even within a small area," but also suggests that the average red fox, wherever it is found in the world, is a much smaller animal than commonly believed, and that even in the regions with notably "big" fox, the average fox weighs only between 13.7 and 16 pounds..