by Lilian S. Barber
Note: This article was written about the Italian Greyhound, but the points it makes apply equally to Shih Tzu or any other purebred.
These days the “in” thing in acquiring a dog is to adopt a shelter dog, a mutt. Even during the telecast of Westminster, the world’s most prestigious showcase for purebred dogs, commercials touted the adoption of a cute shelter puppy. That may be a noble thought, but it’s another situation where “one size fits all” just doesn’t work. A good example is the First Family’s choice of a Portuguese Water Dog as their household pet. Some took issue with the Obamas for not adopting a mongrel needing a home, but the fact is that there was a special need. One of the Obama girls has allergies, making it unlikely that a shelter dog would be an appropriate pet in their household. PWDs are one of the few breeds that are close to being hypo-allergenic. (So is the IG.)
This is just one valid reason for acquiring a purebred of an appropriate breed. Others are eventual size, the temperament for which a specific breed is known, the climate in which it feels most comfortable and the purpose for which it was bred. If someone is looking for an active avocation, some breeds are especially good in Agility, field trials, coursing, freestyle and other activities. Many individuals enjoy showing in conformation. Maybe one of the children would like Junior Showmanship. All of these are good cause for looking into acquiring a purebred dog of the right breed. No one should feel ashamed of wanting a pet that fits properly into the household’s desires and requirements.
There are extremely vocal detractors from the entire field of breeding purebred dogs who loudly proclaim that mixed breeds are much healthier than purebreds. This is a completely erroneous assumption. Any mixed breed dog will carry the genes for whatever problems may be behind each breed in that dog’s genetic makeup. Of course there are bad eggs among dog breeders just as there are scumbags in every occupation, but the majority of breeders who have established a line of purebred dogs for the show ring have worked diligently to eliminate as many genetic problems as possible. Those who have allowed their dogs to mingle and breed at random for no particular purpose have done nothing to further healthy bloodlines. Additionally, there are no formal records of hereditary diseases found in mixed breed dogs. People who own mutts are not likely to invest in extensive (and expensive) testing to find out what is ailing their pet. This is why we have reports of various diseases found in different distinct breeds but not much in the way of health records in mongrels.
If it doesn’t matter how that cute shelter puppy turns out in adulthood, it’s wonderful to give him a home; but with a definite purpose in mind, definite likes and dislikes in dogs, possible space or other limitations —then consider a well-bred purebred from a responsible breeder instead of a puppy that may turn into something you and your family might not enjoy living with for the next ten to 15 years.
I’ve written about this for my IG column because this is a “niche” breed with characteristics not found in other breeds. People who are intrigued by the IG aren’t likely to be happy with something generic. ??Lilian S. Barber, Murrieta, Calif.; firstname.lastname@example.org
This article first appeared in the Italian Greyhound breed column in the September 2011 issue of the AKC Gazette, and is reprinted with permission. The Gazette is now available online at www.akc.org/pubs.