SOS Dog: The Purebred Dog Hobby Re-examined

Copyright 2008 by Johan Gallant

Originally published as paperback edition by Alpine Publishing, USA, 2008
ISBN 9781577790990

Copyright for the ebook edition: Kynos Verlag Dr. Dieter Fleig GmbH, Konrad-Zuse-Str.3, 54552 Nerdlen, Germany, 2012.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews. For permission, write to Kynos Verlag, Konrad-Zuse-Str.3, 54552 Nerdlen, Germany,

e-Book ISBN: 978-3-942335-93-5

Photographs by Johan and Edith Gallant, and Roger Coucke.



About the Authors

Introduction - Incentives

Canis familiaris - a Cultural Phenomenon

The Genesis of the House Dog

The Needs of the Dog

The Seven Capital Sins of Modern Dogdom

Genuine Dogs

Closing Arguments




When I was a youngster during World War II I wanted more than anything to have a dog. My family thought the idea was silly. Nobody on our street had a dog. I didn’t even know anyone who had a dog.

But I really wanted a dog. Why? Well, my favorite book was The Fireside Book of Dog Stories (1943) edited by Jack Goodman with an introduction by James Thurber, who often wrote about remarkable pets. If you took off the dust jacket it unfolded into a map of the world’s 66 breeds. On the back was A Message To America’s Dog-Owners. “Total war has made it necessary to call to the colors many of the nation’s dogs,” a plea for good pets that could be “. . . trained for duty with the Armed Forces . . .”

I wished for a dog I could send to do all those important things, like find mines, guard people and buildings, carry messages and packs and pull sleds. After the war I got my first dog. Happy but slightly disappointed because it wasn’t a purebred, I was consoled by my Uncle Joe as we tried to figure out what breeds my pup was made of. We thought every mutt had to be a combination of pre-existing breeds. I wish I had had Johan Gallant’s Africanis to read, for I would have realized my little dog was healthy, talented, one of the super-survivors of dogdom.

What has happened since? There are now four hundred breeds. Many of them can’t be trained to stay off the furniture. Many are sick with genetic diseases. Many lead painful lives; they suffer from low oxygen tension because they can’t breath properly. Many are grossly deformed. It is difficult finding trainable dogs. Agencies I’ve consulted for like the military, or service and guide dog schools, flunk better than 60% of their dogs because of health and behavioral problems. Unwanted pets overcrowd animal shelters and 10% end up euthanized every year because they are awful pets.

The Gallants have brought their thoughtful attention to this problem. This book explores our sojourn with the purebred dog. They critically review the changing procedures and motivations of twentieth century dog breeders. They spell out in detail what went wrong. The book is insightfully analytical. Also, as dog lovers, the Gallants give us hope and suggestions on how to improve things in the twenty-first century and beyond.

Ray Coppinger
Montague, Massachusetts

About the Authors

Johan and Edith Gallant have been actively involved in national and international canine matters since 1975. Their participation with the dog as a species actually defined their path of life. Moreover, they were in it together. Their entire life with dogs was a joint and harmonizing effort.

The first twenty years of this participation essentially dealt with the discovery and exploration of the pure-bred dog and the complex ramifications of organizations by which the fancy of the pure-bred dog is practiced. Their participation ranged from exhibiting at shows, participating in obedience and working trials, dedicated breeding and eventually judging in various aspects of the hobby. These experiences together with their responsibilities as members of different task committees of national and international canine organizations exposed them to the world of the pure-bred dog. The authors came to the conclusion that the hobby was not always aimed at the welfare of the dog but sometimes served the feeling of self-importance by certain fanciers.

As from 1994, during travels through the southern African hinterland, and in their quest for the essence of the dog, they discovered the humble and rural life of the native African dogs. They realized that all those years, as ill-informed bystanders, they had looked at these dogs with contempt. The western worship for the ‘pure’ breeds of dogs had veiled their vision. They soon were faced with the fact that these rural dogs represent an ancient land race. They are certainly not ‘improved’ or streamlined into fashionable homogeneity. But their behavior is so intense and uniform, their physical prowess and health condition so remarkable that they inspired the authors to engage in an in depth research.

The urge to write this book emerged from the apprehension that Canis familiaris or the domestic dog as a whole has been badly understood. The modern world, in respect of the western culture, has idolized and romanticized the artificial selection of dogs. At the same time aboriginal land races are disregarded and this despise is passed on to their traditional custodians. In this regard the authors intend to be the dog’s mouthpiece.



My wife had been invited to judge at a championship show for dogs organized by a club for which I had been the founding chairman twenty years ago. As we drove up to the sports grounds where the show was to be held, the last thirty years of our life unfolded as a sudden flash in my mind. I had a brusque, crystal clear overview of what had happened to us since we, as dog lovers, became gradually but fully involved in the hobby of purebred dogs. Astonishingly, the flash left me with terrible questions: Had it all been worthwhile? Had we really achieved something? For a moment, my mind heaved away, and it occurred to me that the answer was “not really,” and that the only way to reverse this feeling was to find out why, to analyze the matter in all objectivity, and to record my observations in writing in a down-to-earth manner. It would be of no purpose to beat about the bush. Open cards and an in-depth, objective inquisition might help to throw some light on the subject. I also realized that it would not suffice to carry out a thorough soul search into my wife's and my own involvement in canine matters. We would have to approach the problem in a holistic manner to discover the nature of the matters that were bothering me. I felt that somehow we had done our best. We certainly contributed our share to the hobby of purebred dogs, but altogether we were only one of the many links in a rattling chain of events.

My wife interrupted my dreaming and with suspicion in her voice asked, “What are you thinking?” “Well,” I said, “I just had a flashback of our activities and the whereabouts with our dogs since it all started. Don't worry, park the car, go greet the organizers, and do a fine judging job. I will hang around, do some more thinking, and tell you the whole story tonight on our way back.”

It was a beautiful spring day, and the morning sun gave credit to the venue. The grass was mowed short, and the rings in which the judging of the dogs was to take place were neatly set up and clearly defined by bunting advertising the food company that was sponsoring the show. Tens of colorful gazebos were lined up along the rings, and there was a hustle and bustle of people and dogs all getting prepared for the battle of the rosettes. I carefully observed the dogs. Some obviously looked bored, but yes, others gave the impression that they enjoyed the happening. As the show had not yet started, the majority of the dogs were being prepared for the great moment. Most of the gazebos, especially those around the rings where the so-called Utility and Toy groups were to be judged, had a grooming table placed in the middle. Miniature Schnauzers, Shih Tzus, Poodles in all sizes, little Pomeranians, Pekingese, and many others were frantically being blow dried, brushed, and combed.

Soon the loud speakers announced the commencement of the show, and the judges and stewards filled the arenas. The dogs were called in per breed and in their respective classes. It occurred to me that for the past thirty years I had been part of this strange-behaving crowd. I had zealously assisted my wife in preparing our dogs to present them in the best possible way to the judges. Now walking around as an objective observer, I realized that the more experienced the handlers were, the more they acted as if their future and reputation depended on the way in which their dog was behaving and showing itself in the ring. An extremely critical public was sitting all around the rings. With the eyes of so many connoisseurs, it observed the performance of the dogs, the handlers, and the judges. I imagined that the behavior of those directly involved in a dog show must seem very peculiar to the outsider. The visiting layman must have the impression that a dog show is not about dogs but rather about people. The dogs don't seem to give a damn when their handler is handed out a winner's rosette. However, many of their owners perform a dance of victory that would make any Sioux or Zulu warrior jealous. At the same time, there are others who clearly express their disapproval and are of the opinion that the judge does not has a clue of what he or she is doing. Worse, they may even suggest that it is a clear situation of back-scratching. Anyway, the show ended with some very ecstatic dog owners and others expressing different feelings, but all were loading their dogs and show paraphernalia into cars, vans, and trailers while dreaming of repeating their success next weekend or of beating those ones “that did not deserve it today.”

We had hardly left the venue when my wife asked me, “Well, what was your problem this morning? You were going to tell me!” I answered her question with a question: “Did you enjoy your judging?” “Well, yes,” she said, “but after all, the entire circus is not about dogs anymore. The majority of the people are there for self-glorification. In fact, it's no longer an exhibition of beautiful show dogs. It has rather become a display of who is the most competent in grooming the dogs, the most cunning in enhancing the dog's qualities while slyly hiding its faults. It's all about deceiving oneself and the judge in a glorious manner.” As I only smiled and did not react to her statement, she added, “Well, I answered your question, but you keep quiet!” I had had the whole day to ponder the problem and my reply was straightforward. “Darling, I think we owe it to our present dogs and to all those who shared and enriched our lives to take a stance. It is time to analyze and thereafter to demonstrate where we and many other dog fanciers have failed to see the needs of the dog as a species. It might well appear that the purebred dog fraternity has rather favored human ambitions and actually forgot to consider the main role players.” For a moment, there was silence in the car, but the firm manner in which she was shifting the gears clearly indicated that she approved and shared my feelings. As we entered the freeway, she said, “Well, what are we waiting for! Let us put “the dog” central and in all honesty explore what we did try to contribute and where we have succeeded but also where we came short. This might finally be an eye opener for others.”

My wife and I met thirty-three years ago. We both grew up in a family with pets. As kids and teenagers we shared our days with a family dog. It was obvious that as a married couple one of our first acquisitions would be a dog. We planned the matter thoroughly, and I recall one evening when my wife came home with a beautifully illustrated dog encyclopedia. It displayed in color all recognized breeds of dogs and gave a fair description of their respective physical and mental attributes and abilities. We had discussed the matter previously, and we had agreed that we wanted a dog not just because we loved animals. We intended to share our leisure time with it and take it to training classes. My wife had more experience in this field because she had owned a Belgian Shepherd with whom she attended obedience training. Although we also looked at smaller breeds in the book, we both were attracted to what was referred to as working dog breeds. I recall that we consulted the encyclopedia several evenings in a row and that we weighed the pros and the cons. We gradually proceeded by the process of elimination, and we ended up with two favorites: the Bouvier des Flandres and the Giant Schnauzer, while keeping one of the Belgian Shepherds, the Tervuren, in reserve.

Two weekends later, we were off to an indoor dog show scheduled in our area. I still recall the overwhelming impression that the dogs and the crowd made upon us. We first walked around looking at all those magnificent animals and laughing about some breeds that certainly did not appeal to us. But as the proverb says: “Holds and colors are beyond discussion.” We stood for a while at the ring where the Tervurens were being judged. About half a dozen male dogs showed their elegance, the warm color of their fawn coat, but also their rather lively or rather their highly-strung nature. When a while later we admired the Bouviers and the Giant Schnauzers, we had to admit that they also tended to be boisterous but showed more composure. We were both attracted by their cobby posture enhanced by a docked tail, their fierce expression emphasized through their pricked (cropped) ears, and their dark eyes staring under the eyebrows. My wife had a slight problem with the Bouviers coats. Some were medium, but others seemed rather longish and softer. She uttered that this would probably need extra and specialized care. Finally, we ended up in that part of the hall where the Giant Schnauzers were benched in the vicinity of the ring where they were judged. At that very moment, hand clapping and the two Giants that were the cause of it attracted us. They were a male and a female, and the young man who handled the female just received a rosette and a handshake from the judge. After he had left the ring, we went to speak to him and said that we liked his bitch very much. “Yes,” he said, “she just got Best of Breed.” I asked, “Does that mean that she was the best of all Giant Schnauzers present?” He laughed and nodded in agreement. We explained that we were interested in acquiring a puppy, that we did not intend to show the dog, but that we wanted to join a club and work with the dog. He said that he had no pups at the moment but that he had a seven-month-old bitch—a daughter from the one that just won the big rosette—that he meant to sell. He explained that originally he intended to keep the bitch for himself. She was very attractive and had an outstanding personality but missed a “P1”; therefore, she stood no chances in the show ring. My wife and I looked at each other, and I could see that, like myself, she thought that something terrible was missing. When we inquired, the man laughed again and explained that “P1” was the abbreviation for the first premolar. He showed the mother’s mouth and indicated a small tooth. He said that it was that one that did not show on the right side in the under jaw of the youngster that was for sale. He added that it certainly would not hinder the dog to work. The mother was stunning and made such an impression upon us that we made an arrangement to go and visit the breeder and have a look at the young that was for sale. As a result, “Bella” joined us the next week. She lived twelve years and initiated all that has followed.

The week after, we drove to the training club. In those days, Giant Schnauzers were not among the popular breeds in Belgium. Our arrival caused some notice. We explained to the trainer in charge what we had in mind. His reply was very simple: “OK, you join the obedience beginners class, which is going to start in about fifteen minutes. Your leash and slip collar will do the trick! When this class is finished hang on and when we call the young dogs for work with the sack you join in, but here your dog must be on a comfortable leather collar.” All went very well. Bella behaved with the other dogs during the obedience session, and when later, standing lined up with four other youngsters, they were triggered by a man who was jumping around while waving a rolled up sack at the dogs, she did not miss her chance when the canvas sausage swept in front of her snout. She snatched it fiercely and shook it with conviction. She repeated this action three or four times, and I was told to run with her in a circle to encourage her to carry her prey. The helper was very impressed with Bella's first session, and he insisted that we should come back because she was very promising, and he felt that he was not wasting his time and energy.

We became faithful members of the club and never missed a training session. In the months that followed, we read any book on dog training and behavior that we could lay our hands on. We affiliated with the national Belgian and German Schnauzer and Pinscher Clubs. When the following year the German club held its annual breed show, we entered Bella in open class. The judge was very impressed with her conformation, her personality, and the way in which she moved in the ring, but when she had a proper look inside Bella's mouth, she pointed at the little gap where the P1 was missing and said, “What a pity. This bitch deserves the grading ‘excellent,’ but I can only give her a ‘very good’ because of the missing tooth.” This did not temper our enthusiasm because we had been working Bella, and she was virtually ready to be tested for her working abilities; we felt that this was of a greater importance for a working breed. We had settled so well into the club that at the forthcoming annual general meeting I was voted into the committee, and both my wife and I were encouraged to attend the national course for obedience trainers.

Bella soon qualified in the working test and obtained her Certificate of Natural Qualities. Edith wanted a second dog, and we acquired a pepper and salt Standard Schnauzer named Bles de Ludolphi. This had two consequences. Edith realized that it would be cheaper and more appropriate to groom our own Schnauzers, and she therefore enlisted as a pupil in the grooming department at a technical college. From my side, I felt that very little literature on Schnauzers was available. I contacted Heinz Höller, the president of the German Pinscher and Schnauzer Club and asked him for assistance and documentation. I read all what was available on Schnauzers in German, French, English, and Dutch in preparation to writing a Schnauzer book in my Dutch mother tongue. It was published in 1978. It was later followed by The World of Schnauzers (Alpine Publications, USA, 1996) and Das grosse Schnauzerbuch (Kynos Verlag, Germany, 1998).

When Bella was old enough to be bred, we looked for a suitable partner. We drove all the way to Denmark where an international champion was waiting for her. All went well, but Bella only had two pups of which one was still born. We repeated the mating the next year, and the outcome was again only two pups. As the stud dog had produced normal litters with other bitches, we considered Bella unfit for breeding and decided to have her spayed. We ordered a puppy bitch from the Danish stud dog with a bitch from Sweden. Soon Cora joined Bella and Bles.

In the meantime, my wife and I had become fully involved in all aspects of dogdom. We were especially interested in the various utilitarian purposes for which dogs were used. We decided to make a film in which all these various aspects had to be featured. For two years, weekend after weekend, we drove to the sites where various field trials were held. With the help of a friend cameraman, we filmed Gundogs, Hounds, Terriers, Dachshunds, police dogs, and many others demonstrating their special abilities in their respective disciplines. It was during these filming sessions that we met with the various breed specialists and people who were fully involved in the practical applications of their dogs. For us it was like consulting a live canine encyclopedia where item after item, a knowledgeable person explained and demonstrated to us what his or her specific dog breed was all about. They did not tell us in euphemistic terms what their dogs were supposed to be able to do; instead, they demonstrated their abilities, and we filmed them.

This, together with the preliminary research on canine matters, was a thorough school of learning. At the start, we knew something about Schnauzers, but by the time the film was completed, I must say that we had become knowledgeable about dogs. The film was a success as it was purchased by a television station and screened in three sessions of half an hour each. As a result of this endeavor and in association with our experience as obedience trainers, I wrote a book on the “considered” acquisition of a purebred dog and the resulting need for appropriate training.

Soon thereafter, we decided, for personal reasons, to join my wife's family who had settled in South Africa. We planned the move thoroughly, and the events worked in our favor. All our bitches—two Giants, one Standard, and one Mini—came in season within a short period in time. They were all mated by suitable males before we left. In addition, we brought a young Giant Schnauzer male and a female. As such, we imported all what the best European bloodlines at the time could provide. It would also save us temporarily from inbreeding.

From the onset, we became fully involved in all aspects of South African dogdom without loosing our contacts and commitments with the European scene. Based on our previous experience, we were instrumental in promoting international working trials and aptitude testing. We held training sessions, courses, and examinations for helpers and judges. Most importantly, we were able to breed and train our dogs in a most natural manner. Our numbers grew but never exceeded ten dogs.

Over the years, we continued to import new stock because we did NOT believe in inbreeding. Neither did we apply forced mating. Our bitches always whelped independently in an alcove-type whelping box without infrared or floor heating. Such a “lair” is cozy and holds the natural heat of the mother and her offspring. As such, it does not require artificial heating. (See picture page 129.) We also held the principle that mothers who experienced problems while giving birth were not used for breeding again, and neither did we use their daughters. We never applied bottle-feeding.

In nearly thirty years, we bred over 600 pups with a record average of 7.6 pups per litter. We bred many national and international champions. We owned three consecutive stud dogs, all three of which were Best in Show winners and simultaneously held an IPO 3 certificate (the international version of the German Schutzhund 3). I remember in particular “Bastian” who won Best in Show at an all-breeds championship show and qualified IPO 3 the next day.

Over the years, my wife and I continued to study canine matters. Edith became a breed judge for the Working and Herding groups. She judged in South Africa and in many countries abroad, including the FCI World Dog Show in 1995.

Besides all of the above, there was an even stronger incentive. It had grown over the years and now asked for clarification. In 1957 I had been sent to the then Belgian Congo as a lieutenant with the paratroopers. During my stay in the country, I traveled extensively. Our military base was in Kamina in the southern province of Katanga (now Shaba). From the grasslands in the south, we traveled north to Stanleyville (now Kisangani), crossed the Congo River, and ventured further through the equatorial forest to Banalia, Buta, and further east. In those days, although I was interested in dogs, my knowledge about them was rather restricted. When crossing villages in savannah country, as well as in the dense forest, I was often struck by the way the aboriginal dogs barked at us. Most of them were in pitiful condition with their ribs clearly visible and their hipbones protruding. These skinny creatures wandered freely between the huts and scavenged in the vicinity. Like everybody else, I simply imagined that, compared to the dogs we were used to seeing at home, they were simply a bunch of pathetic mongrels multiplying at leisure. I also observed that the indigenous dogs in the savannah tended to be taller than those in the forest although they all had a similar appearance.

Much later, in 1993, I got involved with the SPCA in Durban (South Africa). I volunteered to make a documentary on the work of their mobile clinics. It was difficult days in South Africa and particularly in the province of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal). There was unrest, and not many “whites” ventured in the “black” townships around the big cities. However, it was there that the need for pet care was the greatest. During my outings in the specially equipped van with Jessica (a veterinary nurse) and Nicholas (her black assistant), I was confronted with the extensive human and animal misery. There are no vets in these ghettos. However, people who care about their animals can queue for the weekly arrival of the mobile clinic of the SPCA. The back panel of the vehicle hides a built-in dispensary. Dogs that can be helped on the spot are treated. Others are loaded in the built-in crates and taken to the SPCA premises to be treated and returned the next week.

Besides some dogs resembling our modern purebreds, there occurs an immense number of mongrels of all sizes and shapes. My attention was also sporadically drawn to the type of dog that I had encountered in the Congo so many years ago. When I questioned the owners, they usually told me the story that they had recently arrived from their native tribal lands and that they brought this dog(s) with them. It dawned upon me that there was a genetic and phenotypic difference between the swarm of street dogs of all kinds, which populate townships and informal settlements, and the true aboriginal dogs, which are kept in the remote tribal areas. My curiosity was awakened, and together with my wife, we started a series of most enlightening field trips throughout tribal South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. At the same time, I consulted a multitude of archaeozoological papers dealing with sites and findings in Africa. For each region, the earliest dates relating to excavated domestic dog bones were put on the map. This gave us a clear overview of when the domestic dog first arrived on the African continent (4,700 BCE in the Nile delta in Egypt) and how it spread to finally reach the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa by the year 800 CE. We believed that the current aboriginal dogs in southern Africa and also in other regions of Africa are the faraway descendants of the dogs from the Middle East, which entered the African continent in the company of Neolithic nomadic herdsmen nearly 7,000 years ago. The domestic dog has since become endemic to the entire continent and became part of its various people and lifestyles. I published these findings in a book, The Story of the African Dog (University Press of KwaZulu-Natal, 2002). However, the research continues, and we hope that advanced DNA studies from saliva samples, which we collected from various dogs during our field trips, will shed more light on the interesting story of these dogs.

Of course, we acquired a couple of the African native dogs (AfriCanis) because we wanted to see and study for ourselves their behavior and relationship with humans and other dogs. Soon we had to conclude that we were in fact dealing with genuine dogs with uncorrupted behavioral patterns. At the time, we owned a Giant Schnauzer male named “Bandit.” He was the type of dog one only owns once in a lifetime. From a conformation point of view, he represented the breed standard to perfection. He won three Best in Show titles and numerous Best of Breed awards. He qualified for the canine Aptitude Test and IPO 3. His hips and eyes were clear of hereditary weaknesses. In other words, he was a breeder's dream and delight. Moreover, he was not only the personification of the perfect Giant Schnauzer but also had the most outgoing and lovely personality. For us, he was the result of a century of modern cynology, including twenty-five years of our personal effort to breed only the best.

One evening while we were enjoying a sundowner, Bandit came and put his head on my left knee. He was followed by Tamboti, our younger AfriCanis male, who carefully came and rested his head on my right knee. I said to my wife, “Look here, on my left the result of a lifetime of dedication to our breed and on my right a so-called ‘Kaffirdog,’ which we bought as a youngster in a rural homestead along the Thukela River. He is the result of his natural environment and that of natural selection. In all humbleness we must admit that he is as genuine as Bandit in all aspects and even superior where natural instincts are concerned.” In spite of this, such dogs are usually referred to by western fanciers at large as “pariah dogs.” In South Africa, they used to be named “Kaffirdog” because they were the dogs traditionally belonging to the Bantu people who were customarily named “kaffir” under apartheid rule. These dogs were (are) looked at with contempt and shot indiscriminately when they roam free and trespass on farmlands. For over 2,000 years, these dogs have been part and parcel of the subequatorial African landscape and its habitants. Our association with the AfriCanis was a great privilege and an eye opener.

It was the above scenario and our involvement in clubs and national and international committees and organizations that bounced through my head and left me with an uncomfortable dilemma. While discussing my concerns with my wife and while analyzing, in all honesty, the pros and cons of our total involvement in canine matters, a serious predicament developed. We both agreed that throughout our breeding career, we had always respected the needs of our dogs and adhered to sound principles. Our breeding had been inspired by respect for the breed standard as elaborated by the country of origin. We opted for the “natural” ear and stopped ear cropping starting with our second litter. We advocated in favor of the abolishment of tail docking. From the onset all those years ago, we were fully aware of the threat of hip dysplasia and some sparse other hereditary problems. We carefully considered all these and only bred with dogs that had been declared free from perceivable hereditary defects. Similar concerns applied when we imported new stock to fit in with our existing bloodline. All this could not avoid the fact that we were sporadically but increasingly faced with hereditary deficiencies over the last five to ten years. This included eye problems, such as entropion and cataracts, epilepsy ranging from very mild to a more serious form, a predisposition for cancer developing at too young of an age, specific carcinomas of the toes, and the continued threat of hip dysplasia in spite of years of control through X-ray examination. We agreed that, compared to the long list of hereditary defects that have been described for the various dog breeds, we could consider ourselves and our breed lucky. However, we were faced with the fact that we needed to import new blood to continue our breeding efforts.

We fully understood that the basic principle of modern dog breeding stands for IMPROVING the breed. So, if we wanted to improve on our existing situation—something that we unrelentingly had endeavored to do for the past twenty-five years—we had to find a breeder (anywhere in the world) who could provide us with stock that would be clear of genetic defects. This proved to be impossible. Some told us that they were not confronted with most of the problems that we encountered, but then, in all honesty, they had to admit that they were confronted with other problems of which we were not even aware of. In fact, we found ourselves in a cul-de-sac. We were faced with hereditary problems, and the best that we could do was to import stock that would bring us additional deficiencies. Over the years, we had seen this happening. We had observed other breeds and now consulted breeders. Most of them lifted their shoulders and accepted the situation as a fait accompli or argued that the veterinary fraternity was there to assist. Moreover, it became clear to us that, compared to many other breeds, our Giant Schnauzer situation was still a very mild one. To our potential customers, we still could guarantee a sound temperament, but the possibility of that pup living a healthy life for at least the next twelve years could no longer be guaranteed.

We were thus left with the options of inbreeding or importing stock, which we knew could actually not improve the situation. In that case, we had again two options: telling our potential customers about the “magnificent stock” that we had imported from an illustrious champion line on the other side of the world (without mentioning the hereditary problems that they were facing) or simply admit the obvious evidence. In fact, it became a matter of conscience, and we decided to stop breeding the dogs, which we had cherished for thirty years. We were not disappointed with the efforts that we had rendered, but we came to the conclusion that there was something fundamentally wrong with the manner in which the hobby of modern dog fancy is supposed to be conducted.

Our experience in the various fields and aspects of modern dog-dom, coupled with ten years of acquaintance and research on the AfriCanis, forced us to analyze the matter in depth. On one hand, we had our experience with the hobby of selective breeding purebred breeds of dogs, and on the other hand, we had our findings with a natural land race that had persisted under the most demanding environmental circumstances for hundreds of years. We had to conclude that the Eurocentric approach to dogs has in fact lost all perspectives. It often neglects the natural and inherent needs of the dog while simultaneously allowing for anthropomorphic exaggerations. Worse, its “institution” had been established on unnatural principles, and unless some drastic measures are taken to open the eyes of the public at large and to convince the fanciers, the purebred dog, as the very subject of the hobby, is doomed to become the direct object.

There are no universities where cynology or the science of the dog, in the true spirit of the word, has been taught. One may believe that the university departments of veterinary science are a proper compensation. This is, however, erroneous because veterinarians are not necessarily dog breeders, trainers, or fanciers in general. As it will become clear later in this book, the veterinary fraternity over the past fifty years needed to specialize and to perfect itself to be able to cope with the deficiencies and mistakes of the canine fancying fraternity. In 1981 I attended the Cynological World Congress in Dortmund (Germany) where one of the speakers, Dr. F. C. Stades, a famous canine ophthalmologist at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands, addressed the international audience on the subject of hereditary eye diseases in dogs. He illustrated his exposé with a series of factual slides displaying various hereditary defects. I recall that he concluded his address with a stringent warning against “thoughtless” breeding. One could sense discouragement in his voice. He realized that his admonition fell on deaf ears. “Anyway,” he said, “carry on in the same way it can only make us (veterinarians and veterinary ophthalmologists) wealthy.” He proved himself right. More than twenty-five years later, none of the genetically transmitted eye diseases in dogs exposed by Stades have been eradicated. To the contrary, new ones have been added to the list.

To write this book does not mean that my wife and I want to be the devil's advocate, but we truly intend to be the dog's advocate and to demonstrate in detail and beyond any reasonable doubt that humankind has failed to physically “improve” its dog breeds when it took them on an adorning journey.

Western Eurocentric society may consider itself the navel of the world. That does not mean that it is perfect. One hundred and thirty years ago it created modern dogdom, which engendered an unforeseeable array of associated world industries. But at the same time, it disregarded and disrespected in many aspects the subject of its enterprise—Canis familiaris as the primeval companion of humankind.

The dog was shunted onto an “embellishing” sidetrack, which soon would gain momentum along a worldwide freeway. In its verve, dogdom molded the existing natural land races into human-made breeds. The trouble was that Victorian Homo sapiens sapiens were so imbued with their superiority and their knowledge that they forgot about the intrinsic needs of their age-old canine ally. Once the new trend was set, it spread like wildfire over the entire western world and its range of influence.

Modern dogdom owes it to its protégé to put its existence and future in the correct perspectives. The main trouble has been the misunderstanding of the dog's mind and aspirations. Selective breeding not only allows but also often encourages fashionable anatomical exaggerations. It also happens that the disregarding of the dog's mental and physical needs is compensated in an inappropriate anthropomorphic manner.


Since its association with humans many thousands of years ago, the welfare of the dog has always been linked to the cultural tradition and the associated state of mind of the particular human society with which it was living. Human approach to dogdom has forever been a cultural affair. In prehistoric days, early domesticated dogs were submitted to sacrificial slaughter to be buried with their deceased master. Such acts were based on the cultural tradition and rituals of the day. Roman era customs legitimized the breeding of fighting dogs for combat in the arenas. When the bishop of Toledo advised the early explorers of the Americas to employ dogs to pursue and destroy pagans, such measures were not only acceptable but applauded by the church at that time.

At the end of the nineteenth century, a similar cultural urge engendered the idea of breeding dogs scientifically or zootechnically with an aesthetic goal in mind. Considering that aesthetics in particular are culturally demarcated, it is obvious that the future of the purebred pedigreed dog would be defined by the cultural paradigms of the day.

For an author it is extremely hazardous to question the effects and results of an initiative that went hand in hand with modern western civilization and caused a worldwide industrial boom. However, as objective observers and informed role players, my wife and I have been asking ourselves if the domestic dog and in particular the purebred or highly pedigreed dog after 130 years of cynotechny has benefited from the process.

What is the key incentive for breeding dogs on zootechnical principles? The motto behind it reads: “improving the breed” and “fostering its well-being.” In principle there can be no complaint when a canine land race, based on scientific breeding techniques, is raised to breed status with the specific aim of improving its physical and mental state. This objective is the key issue. Improving physical and mental state is the norm to which all results should be compared. In this particular case, a clear differentiation should be made between the domestic dog, which came to us as a utilitarian companion and pet, and all other livestock animals, which were domesticated for consumption in replacement of the animals that had been hunted before. Farm stock animals have since been “improved” for better milk or meat production, to lay more eggs, or for faster fattening, so they could be slaughtered at a younger age.

Throughout the dogs’ history, their existence resulted mainly from natural selection through adaptation to the specific environment and the human culture with which they were associated. The intentional human input in this process was not dramatic but had mainly a utilitarian goal in mind. In establishing The Kennel Club (London) and all national kennel organizations thereafter, the goal posts were moved and dog breeding obtained another dimension.