The Dark Side of the Dog Fancy: Breeders Trying to Do The Right Things

It isn’t easy to be a conscientious dog breeder these days. If you are a breeder and you try do some of the right things within the confines of the AKC you might find yourself and your dogs shunned, criticized or expelled.

And even with that threat hanging over them, there are some brave breeders trying to do just that.

Some breeders do the best they can by not publicly criticizing their organizational Masters, but by trying to change things in small steps from within. From what I hear from breeders I know, and how they talk about the AKC, this is a large group. Many can see the disastrous path they are on, and want to change it. They speak up in breed club meetings, and breed their dogs with a different criteria than what may be winning in the ring. Still, they often can’t see beyond the purebred label.

Then there are those who have pushed back with far more fervor. Some have formed independent organizations outside the AKC monopoly, or have stayed totally independent of the whole kennel and breed club organizations.

One breeder stands out as having committed heresy against the Laws Of The Dog Fancy, Robert Schaible.

Schaible, is a medical geneticist and Dalmatian breeder. Back in the 1970’s a large percentage of Dalmatians had a gene that predisposed them to developing urate stone disease, a painful condition that often needed surgery to remove the blockages being created. The treatment is painful and expensive. It wasn’t uncommon for dogs to be euthanized rather than deal with the issue.

Schaible decided to change that.

In 1974, he did a single mating of a Pointer with a Dalmatian. Then Schaible bred a bitch from that litter to Dalmatians with low uric acid. Five generations later the dogs looked like Dalmatians within the breed type. And they no longer carried the gene that led to the urate stone disease. They were called LUA (Low Uric Acid) Dalmatians.

At first, in 1981, the AKC agreed to register two of the fifth-generation pups, a male and a female. However, The Dalmatian club objected, the AKC backed off, and a long drawn out battle ensued. All because there was that DAMN POINTER in the breeding. And since purity rules over all other considerations, there was a battle over this.

Schaible wound up registering his dogs with the United Kennel Club after losing the initial fight with AKC and his breed club. It took another 30 years for the AKC to finally recognize the dogs as Dalmatians, which it does now. From the LUA (Low Uric Acid) Dalmatians World website: “In the end, a combination of a 19th century practice of crossbreeding to bring in a trait that was missing in the breed and a 21st century DNA test has the Dalmatian breeders on the road to eliminating a serious health problem in the breed.”(1).

You can imagine what Schaible went through in those 30 years. All for the crime of crossbreeding to rid a breed of a painful inherited disease. And I don’t know of any other situation like this one that has been acceptable to the AKC (Let me know if you do).

Far more common than the heresy of crossbreeding, there are many breeders who refuse to breed to the standard, but breed variations that are healthier. While their dogs are “pure” and thus still recognized by the registry, they don’t fit the type enough to win at conformation shows. Think of a German Shepherd with a hind end that works, a pug with a longer muzzle so it can breathe, a or an Australian Shepherd with tails left on rather than be maimed to fit the breed standard. These breeders collect their AKC pedigree certificate and never darken the doors of a dog show.

A particularly interesting group of these kind of breeders are the ones breeding non-conformation dogs of the Field or Working variety. It seems ridiculous to even HAVE that kind of division (shouldn’t a show dog be put together well enough to do the job it was bred to do?). Field Labs are fit dogs- they look very different then their fat, short-legged show cousins. Field labs are energetic, muscular dogs who can work. Field Goldens are the same way. Working Cockers, also know as Wockers, are built for the field not the show. And the list goes on. None of these dogs will win a show, and will be bred with other working dogs to continue to make dogs that align with its purpose. At some point, even the purity of these dogs will mean their genetic breakdown. But you have to admire these breeders who will be shunned by their Breed Clubs and keep on making dogs fit to do the work of hunting, retrieving, Search and Rescue, police dog work, herding, etc.

If you even mention Doodles in most dog circles, you will get eye rolls, expressions of disgust, and comments about “they are just mutts” and shouldn’t be worth what their breeders charge. Some of the discussion will be about temperament, or about how tough the coats can be to care for, or about disreputable breeders. Of course, you can argue you will find those issues with AKC registered purebred dogs as well. But the idea of careful crossbreeding is one that some breeders have embraced. You will find Doodle breeders, Sports-bred mix breeders, and other kinds of breeders that are crossing dogs, and doing all the best health checks on the parents, and breeding really great dogs with good temperaments. You can find these dogs being bred in service dog programs as well. All outside the control of the AKC. Sweet.

And the last thing I will mention are the breed organizations with or without affiliation to the AKC such as the American Border Collie Association. This is from their webpage: “The ABCA is a working stockdog registry and believes that breeding for conformation standards rather than working ability is detrimental to the health and working ability of the Border Collie.  The ABCA does not recognize any registry that promotes conformation showing of Border Collies.” (2) There is a very disturbing history of how the AKC even got the Border Collie into its registry, and the fight to preserve the breed as a working dog. I hope to write about that in an upcoming blog.

There is pressure to change the way the dog breeding monopoly works, both from inside and outside. Change often happens when there is pressure from both directions. It remains a question if the AKC will eventually allow crossbreeding to cure some of the health concerns of many breeds, and whether the breeders will themselves police their own tendencies to breed for extremes. Good work is being done to keep the working lines functional in many breeds. But I feel more hopeful that those outside the oppressive grasp of the AKC will be breeding our dogs of the future.



A Short History of the Border Collie and the AKC

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The Dark Side of the Dog Fancy: Sports and the Superiority of the Purebred Dog

Back in 2007, I received a survey from the AKC, probably because I was an agility competitor, but I’m not really sure.  The survey was to gather support for an idea they had to (GASP!) let mixed breeds compete in some of their sports.

“Our goal in creating a program specifically designed for mixed breeds is to share our passion for dogs and our sport,” said AKC President and CEO Dennis Sprung. “AKC will broaden its legislative influence by representing more dog owners and achieve greater exposure for our responsible dog ownership messaging. But ultimately, the positive developments that this program creates will benefit dogs the most, and this is what we value above all.”

This is what they value above all? Well, let’s look at that.

In the public relations effort, it looked like they were reaching out in a kind, sincere gesture to people who had mixed breed dogs. This would benefit all dogs! What could be better? But in the actual survey that I received, that was definitely not the intended purpose.

From the survey, it bluntly stated the actual purpose:

“Exposing mixed breed dog owners to AKC and encouraging them to make their next dog a purebred by showing that purebreds consistently outperform mixed breeds…”

SO the main reason was actually to show how superior the purebreds were to the mixed breeds.

If you read my blog post on the-dark-side-of-the-dog-fancy-pure-dogs-and-the-culture-that-made-them you will recognize the eugenics mindset here. And you can see another mindset related to sports from the 1930s. When Hitler welcomed the Olympics to Germany in 1936, he saw the Games as an opportunity to demonstrate the racial supremacy of the Aryan race over that of others. “That year it became increasingly clear that Germany only wanted to see its superheroes in one light: the stars of the Aryan race, superior for their genetic makeup rather than their athleticism, says Barbara Burstin, history lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.”(1) This idea of superiority of “pure” races of humans is generally denounced as absurd anymore except in small, radical groups, but seems to be acceptable in the dog fancy world. And the use of sports to prove that superiority seems acceptable as well.

When I received the AKC survey, I was outraged, but I shouldn’t have been. I’ve long known about the AKC, its assumption of the superiority of purity and its tactics. The protection of breeders and the marketing of purebred dogs is its sole purpose, despite what it may say publicly. So this wasn’t a hand-across-the-aisle kind of gesture to those with mixed breed dogs. It was a way to bring in more money to the coffers, and to promote their supposedly better purebred dogs.

To this day, mixed breed dogs MUST be spayed or neutered to compete in AKC events so that if one happened to be a great performance dog, beating the tar out of the purebred dogs in any AKC sport, it couldn’t be bred.

All control would remain in the hands of the purebred dog monopoly, including who gets to breed dogs.

Divide off the competition, make them unable to reproduce, and drive your puppy buyers to the Dog Fancy breeders.  This was, and is, the real game of the AKC.

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The Dark Side of the Dog Fancy: Why Are So Many Purebred Dogs Falling Apart?

German Shepherds that can barely walk (1), King Charles Spaniels in constant pain from pressure in their skulls, epileptic Boxers, unbelievably high rates of cancers in Golden Retrievers, English Bulldogs with so many health problems they are considered at a genetic dead end (2).  The list of purebred dogs with serious health conditions worsens year by year, and yet the response is to keep breeding these dogs. We are breeding our dogs to death. What is going on here? 

The King Charles Cavalier Spaniel suffers from mitral valve disease and syringomyelia

Part of my background is conservation biology.  We study, among other things, the effects of small, isolated populations of animals and what it does to their genetic health.  Over time, these populations deteriorate if no new genetic material is added back in from animals living apart from the isolated group.  A good parallel to what is going on with our inbred dogs.

As I wrote in my previous blog, the dog fancy claimed “purity” above all other considerations when deciding how to breed dogs.  When a group of dogs was declared a “breed” the ability to crossbreed was abolished and a closed stud book declared. Ironically, this was done with the intention to create the very best dogs.   Only dogs from the breed could breed to one another, and best was when those dogs met the breed standard and won at shows.   A small, isolated population was created and eventually the laws of genetics would win and start to kill off the population.  This doesn’t happen immediately, however, so dogs can be healthy for several generations.  Then things start to deteriorate.  This is where we are at now.

“Breeding from only the same line means inbreeding, which results in a buildup of the recessive genes that cause common non-conformation-related brachycephalic dog diseases like heart disease and skin issues. It also diminishes genetic variability, which protects populations from being wiped out by one catastrophic event. In other words, this kind of breeding is a double edged sword: It means desirable features are kept, but undesirable disease-causing genes can also be fixed within the breed.”(3)

Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics, UCL, says: “People are carrying out breeding which would be, first of all, be entirely illegal in humans and secondly is absolutely insane from the point of view of the health of the animals.” He adds: “In some breeds they are paying a terrible, terrible price in genetic disease.” (4)

When genes are breaking down, it becomes almost completely impossible under the current closed stud book system to bring in healthy genes by crossbreeding.  

In 1973 Robert Schaible, a geneticist and Dalmatian breeder, committed the heresy of crossing a Dalmatian with a Pointer in a single litter to see if he could breed out a genetic defect in Dalmations that led to high levels of uric acid in their urine.  This acid caused urate crystals and stones, which could lead to urinary tract infections and possible death.  In 7 years Schaible was successful in bringing these dogs back into the Dalmatian “type” and in 1980 he applied to the AKC for registration.  It was a long fight, one that extended over 30 years.  His dogs were not “pure” even though you couldn’t tell the difference between them and other Dalmations.  The story is fraught with the issues surrounding purity and the AKC.  You can read more about it here:  

No other breed that I know about has been “allowed” to crossbreed for the health of a breed, and bring it back to a recognizable form and back into its breed club, although it could help with a lot of the problems we are seeing.  Breed clubs, and the AKC, continue to believe in purity above everything else. 

To quote an expert on the insanity of all of this, Jemima Harrison, “But of course traditional breeders would rather stick pins in their eyes than cross-breed.”

Another aspect of purebred breeding that also leads to the suffering of many dogs is the selection for conformation of dogs, conformation driven by the ideas of eugenics, the exaggeration of features, and the drive for novelty.  If you look at dogs that met the breed standard a hundred years ago, you will see very different dogs. Compare the German Shepherd, winner of Best in Breed in 2017 at Crufts, and who stumbled around the ring, to it’s ancestor from 1925.

Or look at this contemporary English Bulldog’s nostrils and face and compare it to another from sometime in the early 1900’s.

These exaggerations are creating suffering for the dogs and both emotional and financial burdens on the people who own them. Dogs like the bulldog (and the Pug and French Bulldog) suffer all their lives. First of all, they spend their lives fighting for air. Their nostrils are too tight. “They have deformed mouths with almost ubiquitous periodontal disease. They also endure chronic skin infections from the wrinkling that invariably accompanies a short face, suffer painful eye injuries because they don’t have the buffer of a muzzle to protect them, have twisted spines because of the demand for short backs and a screw tail (or no tail), and often can’t mate or be born without assistance (6).

These are just two examples. Long backs that create spinal problems on Dachshunds, Bassett hounds that can’t run any distance because their legs are too short, dogs with wrinkles that suffer incessant skin infections, the list goes on and on. Because we like them this way.

There is so much more to this story of dogs and breeding and the limitations and monopoly of the Kennel Clubs.  If you think the dog fancy is all about dogs and their welfare, I hope I have helped you to realize that they are most definitely not.  It is about old notions of “purity” triumphing over health and well-being. And our dogs are paying the price.



also see the video:


4) from the Documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed”

5) and 6)

For more reading:

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The Dark Side of the Dog Fancy: “Pure“ Dogs and the Culture that Made Them 

How did we get from breeding dogs for function, to something like the spectacle of Westminster?  And how did functional breeds turn into the messes that many of them are today?  Let’s take a look.

Before there were purebred dogs, there were “types” of dogs bred for purpose.  If your dog was a good watchdog, and you wanted more watchdogs, you bred it to another with those qualities.  Same with herding sheep.  Dogs were chosen for a purpose, and form was a part of that purpose.  Hounds were long and sleek and fast not for a “look” but because it was the best form for running down game. Livestock guardian dogs were big and had coats that could keep them warm or cool depending on the weather of their geography. Dogs that killed rats needed to be small enough to get in to where the rats were.

Temperament was part of the breeding as well.  You needed a steady, brave dog to match up to a bear if that is what you were hunting, or a dog that could do its job independently if it was to kill small vermin around the farm.

So while breeding dogs for function has a very old history, it is the upper classes of Britain and Continental Europe that began to single out kinds of dogs that were symbols of their privilege.  As the Ecologist and Evolutionary Biologist Dr. Mark Bekoff says  “For centuries, prior to neatly-packaged kennel club versions anyone with the right price can buy today, more general but still identifiable types were used by upper classes as symbols of privilege. Finer families kept special strains of hunting hounds and bird dogs. Laws in England and Continental Europe forbade lower classes from being seen with greyhounds, deerhounds, and other types that outclassed them.” 1

There was nothing absolute about the breeding even of these dogs, though.  They could breed a line or any kind of dog to another in order to magnify traits.  There were no “shows’ nor closed stud books back then to limit the crossing of breeds for function.   The concept and practice of purebred “breeds” came later.

It was the 19th century, and the science of eugenics was finding traction among the upper classes and people of European origin.  Based on the idea that there were selective traits that should be chosen to further the best of the human race, eugenics was an elaborate system of color coding, head shape,  and other traits that indicated a higher intelligence and attractiveness.

“Eugenics investigators compiled an exhaustive catalog of hair-splitting nuances to prove that races were, indeed separate and unique.” 2  Not surprisingly, these fell along the lines of favoring blonde hair, white skin, and blue eyes.  They cataloged skin tone, the way eyes were set into the head, the set of the jaw, hair texture and nose curvature, and many more details, then “compared and contrasted (them) in ways that always seemed the most flattering to white, Northern Europeans and their white, Northern European descendants across the Atlantic”. 3 By these measurements other races were inferior to white, and the mixing of races- called “mongrelization” was dangerous to the purity of the superior race.

There is far more to eugenics that I can put in this blog.  Suffice it to say, the mindset was self-serving, and wound up as the basis for a World War.


Back in the world of dogs, it wasn’t surprising that the same principles would be applied. Purity became the idea, and once a “breed” became a breed, the stud books were slammed shut, hopefully never to be opened again to the shameful mating across breed lines. Even now, terms used in breed standards show its links and prejudices born from eugenics- “terms like ‘degenerate’ as in a degenerate coat color for lighter colors (or degenerate races of half-breed humans), undesirable (esthetic features not “allowable in the ring, or individuals lifestyles that don’t conform to classist notions of normality”) and on and on. 4

Then came the dog show.  Beginning in Britain, the idea spread around the world.   Paris held its first show in 1863 and the premiere American event began in 1877.   Dogs didn’t demonstrate their functional ability at dog shows, but only their conformation.

Selection for minor physical characteristics that won at dog shows became more important than overall function.  Function was still there, but in the backseat in nearly all cases.  The set of the ears could win a dog Best of Breed over one with the wrong set of ears, even though that one with a bit more flop at the top of the ears may have been a much healthier dog, more fit to do its job, then the one with “correct” ears. Random features like skin, coat, coat color, eyes, skull shape, and nose length became the highlights of selection.  The dog fancy had taken their lead from eugenics, and put the dogs on parade to select “pure” dogs with select, mostly random, physical characteristics.

It followed that it became a symbol of status to have a purebred dog, rather than a degenerate mutt.  Not only did the elite want “pure” dogs, but the growing middle class wanted them as well, to show they were on the upward social climb.

What follows from this significant narrowing of breeds into smaller populations can only be seen as disastrous to the long-term health of all dogs considered purebred. And  yet, it is still the dominant mindset that mixing breeds creates inferior dogs to purebred ones. Eugenics still rules the world of the dog fancy.


Further reading:

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The Dark Side of the Dog Fancy: The Bad News about the AKC, Puppy Mills and Negligent Breeders

When I was a young child, I couldn’t get enough of dogs.  I read books about dogs, played with the neighbor’s dogs, and went exploring with them in the woods and fields behind my house.  When I was old enough, I subscribed to Dog World Magazine, a magazine mostly supported by dog breeders who filled pages upon pages in the back of the mag with photos and advertisements for their AKC dogs.   I wanted to breed Great Pyrenees and be a veterinarian when I grew up (didn’t do either, thank goodness!).

I was a devotee to the AKC, because it was THE dog club, and all I knew of it was how great it was.  Life went on, and I learned how to see things as an adult, how to scrutinize and how to understand how groups of people can do things that are horrible and make it sound like they are not,  especially when money and power are involved.  Alas, I learned that the AKC wasn’t what I thought it was.  There are several aspects to the AKC that many people don’t know about, or don‘t want to know about.  After many years of collecting information about them, I have finally decided it is important to share what I know.

Puppy Mills and Negligent Breeders

The start of my awakening was when I discovered that the AKC was happy to let puppy mills use their registry, thus leading unsuspecting buyers into thinking they were buying well-bred, healthy puppies.  Many of these “commercial breeders” keep their dogs in small cages without ever getting out.  They don’t receive vet care, they may get no human contact, their feet never touch ground, and when they stop producing puppies they are killed because that is all they were for.    When confronted with the practices of some of these AKC breeders, I continually hear the refrain “but the AKC is just a registry for purebred dogs”.  However, according to its mission statement, it is “dedicated to upholding the integrity of its registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function.” Somehow that integrity is sorely lacking.

The AKC has a long history of opposing any legislation that would improve conditions for dogs in puppy mills and supports the commercial dog breeding industry.  Outside of their declared work as a registry, they spend quite a bit of time fighting to keep the status quo of puppy mills so that their breeders can continue to profit.  The dogs are not their highest priority. Though it is a not-for-profit organization,  it actually functions more like an industry trade organization for dog breeders.   Dr Michael Fox, DVM, in a piece for the Washington Post says, “I just came across an article in a 2012 Kennel Spotlight, a trade publication for commercial dog breeders. … Mike Ganey, vice president of marketing for the AKC, indicates in the article that AKC events are for the purpose of having a ‘positive impact on your business whether you are a breeder selling to distributors, dealers, pet stores or direct to customers.’ He goes on to tell commercial breeders that AKC events help ‘create preference and demand for purebreds, no matter where the consumer chooses to purchase their purebred dogs”.

The AKC has a compliance division with inspectors that are supposed to be out in the field inspecting all of their clubs’ breeders, but there are only 9 of them for the entire country.  There are estimated to be at least 10,000 puppy mills alone in the U.S. (not all are AKC however- it is hard to know how many of them are) and that doesn’t include smaller breeders that should also be inspected.  To read more about how well this works, you can read this article from from the New York Times.  Yes, it is an older article, but it has a lot of good information in it that still applies.


Since I am a dog trainer, I have many Facebook friends involved in the dog world.  Every so often they repost inflammatory articles bashing the Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare organizations.  These organizations are actively supporting legislation that would regulate puppy mills and unethical smaller breeders.  While I have some big issues with HSUS, this isn’t one of them, and I often wonder if people know how much of this anti-HSUS effort is put out by the industry in order to keep their profits flowing in, no matter how inhumane some of those practices are.

Last year HSUS took part in an action against a breeder here in NH,  Christina Fay, who was keeping 84 Great Danes in horrible conditions.  She was convicted of animal cruelty charges and ordered to pay 2.6 million dollars to HSUS which had been caring for her dogs while the case was being worked through.   NH has weak animal protection laws, and when new legislation came up to strengthen it, it passed the senate with bipartisan support. Then it went to the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. This is from the HSUS blog about this case:   “The AKC has a strong hold over this committee, not least because its former chairman is also a former director of the AKC. In no time at all the bill was stripped of its commonsense upgrades to commercial breeding regulations. Instead, the AKC worked with allies to weaken existing cruelty laws by prohibiting anonymous reporting of breeders and banning public access to records kept at pet stores and commercial kennels. House committee members walked away from negotiations when Sen. Bradley and his senate colleagues refused to allow a bill intended to protect animals to turn into a bill protecting irresponsible breeders.”

And this from the New York Times article cited above: “Some breeders say there have been consequences for taking the other side of the A.K.C. argument. In Oregon, lawmakers introduced a bill in 2009 that aimed to limit to 25 the number of sexually intact dogs a breeder could have. Ted Paul, a collie breeder and judge at dog shows for more than 40 years in South Salem, Ore., was asked by state lawmakers to support the bill. A longtime member and past president of the Collie Club of America, he agreed, saying he thought it could curb abuses.

Paul said that he was branded a traitor on the Internet and that A.K.C.-affiliated dog show organizers stopped using him as a judge. “I was surprised by the backlash,” he said.”

What can you do?  First, stop re-posting articles and opinion pieces against all legislation to regulate breeders and humane treatment of animals in your state and towns.  If you are a breeder or just a person who wants to reduce the suffering of animals, support realistic regulations.  Some regulations DO go way over the top and don’t take into consider the different needs of different breeds of dogs, for instance, requiring all dogs to be taken inside when it is cold out.  That is a good regulation for many dogs, but not for northern breeds nor livestock guarding dogs bred to love being out in the cold.  This just shows how difficult it can be to put together humane laws.

Recently, an acquaintance of mine told me how excited she was that she was getting a puppy.  When I asked her about the details, she told me she was getting a designer dog (I’m not opposed to designer dogs- I have one, but there are a lot of mills selling them).  Red flag.  She was buying it online. Red Flag.  And it was from a small farm in Missouri. Triple Red Flag.  Missouri is the state with the largest number of puppy mills.  I told her it was probably a mill dog she was getting and explained what that meant.  She still had time to get her deposit back, but decided she would just go with it.  She now has a dog with significant behavioral issues.  She feels she was duped and that yes, this was a mill puppy.  And another profit was made to keep the industry going.

When friends or acquaintances tell you they are looking for a puppy, tell them about puppy mills and point them to websites where they can do more research.  Don’t buy from stores, online, or from breeders who refuse to let you see their dogs and the conditions they live in (and beware of the puppy brokers who have set ups- families that take their puppies into their homes and make it look like they are a hobby breeder).    Make sure you see all health clearances on the puppies’ parents.  Get copies.

Some, like myself, choose not to support the AKC in any way.  We get dogs from either shelters or rescues, or buy puppies from reputable breeders whose breeds are not recognized by the AKC. We take part in sports where there are alternatives to AKC events.  But I know that not everyone will make that choice, and honestly, it is important for those involved in the organization and its events to put pressure on from the inside to change its worst practices.   If you choose to be a part of the AKC, please take the time to learn not only of the commendable things it does but also the areas where its actions are questionable. It is an organization that needs its members to help uphold the “integrity’ it espouses, and shine a light in its darker corners.


Some Resources:




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Trick Doggin’ with Deep Down Dogs!

Hi Friends,

So after many months of working on a performance video, here we go!  Lots of fun, 38 tricks, 4 dogs, on a beautiful Vermont Farm.


Enjoy it!

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Naps with Dogs

Confession here- I love naps.  Of course, I love dogs.   So naps WITH dogs are right up there on the list of the best combinations in life.   Sure, I live for agility, treibball, rally,  training, and for those great walks in the woods  ( those are the ones we come back from with no one having rolled in something disgusting).   Movies on the couch with the dogs sleeping all around me are high on the list, too.   But crawling into bed together in the afternoon when I have that dip in energy that comes around 1 or 2 is just bliss for me, and for them, too.

The joy of napping with dogs

Nighttime, the dogs for the most part are in their crates in the bedroom with me- there are a couple that can join me in the bed at night, but I need to toss and turn, and too many dogs restrict my movement.  But for a nap, four of the five are cuddled up with me together (I would have all five up there, but my two older boys need to be kept apart in the house, so one of them goes into a crate and I rotate them each day).  It feels like one of the most important bonding times we share.

I’ve read some trainers who think that dogs sleeping in the bedroom is important for a sense of comfort and safety for the dog.   Dogs generally don’t like to be alone, especially at a vulnerable time like being asleep.   When you think of it from an animals perspective, all sorts of things can harm you when you are asleep and your awareness isn’t focused on the physical world around you.  So it makes sense that a pack animal would want to be with its pack during sleeping, when some may be more awake than others and can call out alarm if need be.  And it makes sense to be as close as you can be to one another.  So we share the bed.

My dogs can happily be training or running around during the day, but when we hang out at the house on our days “off”, they follow a rhythm not unlike their wild canid cousins.   Their most active times are around dawn and dusk.  Daytime is happily spent snoozing, resting, occasionally needing to go out, pee, and check the yard.   My rhythm isn’t very different than theirs, in that I’m most productive in the early part of the day, and the later afternoon and early evening.  I’ve always loved taking a nap during the day, and most days I get one in.

So besides just joining up for that special down time during the day, and feeling safe and comfy, what else might be going on?   From a spiritual point of view, we are all going into the dreamtime together.   We all move into another space, another world.  We let go of the shared reality we have here, and move to… there.  It feels not unlike we are having a shared meditation, and we all go together to the place we originated from.  When we are asleep of course, we aren’t consciously aware of one another.   But other parts of us are, and while I can’t say exactly what is happening, I know there is something going on.  When we wake up, it feels like we are closer.

When I awaken, I have a bit of time, not much, before I start “thinking”.  I am open, silent and can sense things that at other times I can’t.  I think that something of the dogs gets inside me at these times, and I into them.


Copyright © 2011 Diane Gibbons. All Rights Reserved.

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