Friday, August 3, 2018

A Snapshot in Time

[Editor’s note: The piece below was written by Stephanie Abraham, the AKC Gazette Boxer breed columnist, for the July AKC Gazette. This breed column, “A Snapshot in Time,” was selected for republication in the next edition of the print and online AKC Breeder quarterly newsletter by the editor of the Gazette.]

      We live in an age of statistics in the dog world as well as the world at large. From crowd sizes at political rallies and sporting events to numbers of champions sired by a particular stud dog to size of entries under a particular judge—we can and do make judgments based on numbers.  
   However, it doesn’t hurt to point out now and again how these numbers may be skewed in a particular direction or altered over the decades based on new technologies or even changes in our national economy.
      Back in the day, when bitches had to be shipped by air and there was no AI breeding, stud dog statistics reflected those times.  In the 1970s, for example, shipping was the norm. I spent many an hour waiting or filling out written forms (no computers) at the cargo area at the airport. While Bang Away did sire 88 champions in the 1950s, the number of bitches sent to him was legion, and he remains #1 in AKC Boxer champions sired today.  This is a tremendous achievement, because of the sheer difficulty of physically getting the bitches to him, and the fact that he was only available during his actual lifetime—which in his case was relatively short--just under 8 years (Jan. 1949 - Feb. 1957). We can all argue with the benefit of hindsight about the good and bad contributions he may have made as our first real example of the ‘popular sire syndrome” in the breed, but the fact remains that his influence was indisputable.
     Today, freezing semen is commonplace. Dogs can and do sire offspring decades after their demise. We can ship chilled semen literally around the world using sophisticated extenders. So while production records may be eclipsed due to technology, we must remember that not all animals are being counted on equal playing fields. We reap the rewards today of advances in veterinary science and research, treating conditions that might have rendered animals barren not so many years ago. Times have certainly changed. The dog that sired 20 champions in 1960 might sire 40 or more today. 
     The advent of DNA analysis has made a dramatic difference in the dog world. Now we can test for health conditions, use more than one sire in a litter, and track generations to be sure of accurate records. Making breeding choices based on DNA analysis has arguably changed the entire world of purebred dog breeding. 
     Likewise, dog show numbers and judging opportunities have increased exponentially over the years. Hardly a weekend goes by without shows being available at increasingly closer distances. At the same time, entry fees have increased and travel is also more expensive. We constantly hear "too many shows, not enough good judges." While it is not in the scope of this column to argue that theory, it is clear that entry numbers have decreased and requirements for Majors in many breeds, and certainly Boxers, have decreased. In my Zone 1, Major requirements in 2018 have slipped to 9 and 14. I remember when Majors were 24 and 27, with far fewer opportunities to find them. Boxers were almost at the top of the list of all breeds when it came to Majors. How times have changed--and not just for Boxers but for many other breeds whose registrations have decreased even tho their popularity ranking has stayed relatively constant. Boxers have been in the Top 10 by popularity for a number of years lately. They were #3 during the Bang Away era. 
     So--- we need to be aware of all that has gone before us that has altered the way we look at our beloved breed. Numbers are just that--merely numbers that reflect on a particular point in history. One stud dog or brood bitch record is not "better" than another; it just reflects a snapshot in Time.  

Stephanie Abraham
Scotland, CT 06264