Dog Show

Westminster Dog Show Discrimination: Unmasking Bias Against Dachshunds


The time has come to expose the Westminster Dog Show for what it is. Inadvertent self-satire? Director Christopher Guest made the point with the priceless Best in Show (2000). No, I’m here today to talk about bigotry. Anti-dachshund bigotry.

The 138th Annual Westminster Dog Show will unfold Feb. 10-11 at Madison Square Garden. It will be very cute. Unless, of course, you think about what you’re watching. Discrimination is never cute. And once again this year, the dachshunds—longhaired, smooth, and wire-haired—will get screwed. They never win. Never.

From the outset, this event has been tilted toward certain preferred breeds. Don’t let the American Kennel Club tell you otherwise. They’ve awarded Best in Show honors since 1907. The first five years, terriers won. Notice a pattern?

Apparently realizing that they were being a bit obvious, the Terrier Overlords decided to cover their tracks and mix in some other breeds. Terriers of various descriptions have taken the cup 46 times, for a .430 batting average. Throw in spaniels, and you’re up to .550.

Dachshunds (any variety)? Zip, zero, nada.

What’s going on? Rank bias, that’s what. Terriers are “feisty” and “energetic,” according to the AKC. To the Fancy Dog Establishment (aka “The Man”), that’s what you want. Read the fine print, though: “Terriers typically have little tolerance for other animals, including other dogs.” Is that the kind of message we want to communicate to our impressionable youth? (Spaniels, I’d agree with the official literature, are at least “eager to please.” But the term obsequious also comes to mind.)

Now, the dachshund—there’s a dog. The word means “badger hound” in German. Dachsies were bred to flush out badgers and other ground-dwelling prey. That’s right, they’re long and low because they’re built to go head-first into the badger lair and take on those bastards face-to-face. Dachshunds’ stubby front legs can fold back against their tubular bodies, turning them into subterranean torpedoes, their powerful back legs churning and teeth gnashing.

Don’t let their ability to scare the bejeezus out of a badger mislead you, however. Far more sophisticated than your antisocial terrier, the dachshund knows when to turn off the ferocity and turn on the charm. It’s “a lively breed with a friendly personality.” It’s also “one of the most popular breeds” with humans, according to the AKC’s own statistics.

So what’s the problem? Why no respect?

The snob factor. The “experts” think dachshunds are funny. “Weiner dog”—you’ve heard the slurs. The disdain trickles down to the general population. “Look, mommy, a hot dog dog.” That doesn’t even make sense—”hot dog dog.” And yet Beau and I get it all the time in our neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Beau is a devastatingly handsome, red-brindle smooth standard. He grew up on the mean streets—yes, dachshunds get abandoned and abused—found his way to Dachshund Rescue of North America, and from there, to our pack. He’s about seven years old (we think), has a lovely singing voice, and enjoys Mahler. Beau was preceded by Ginger, another sensitive soul, who lived to the age of 16 before ascending to Dachshund Heaven.

Yes, AKC, your “thing” against dachshunds hurts. Time to make things right. Beau and I will be watching.

Barrett_190
Barrett is an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek. His new book, Law of the Jungle, which tells the story of the Chevron oil pollution case in Ecuador, will be published by Crown in September 2014.

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