Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In The Pink of Things

At the risk of getting myself in hot water (so what else is new) I am going to make a public statement:

I feel it is time for the CWCCA to stop hiding its head in the sand about the "Pink", or ee Red issue.

I am not going to attempt to explain the genetics behind the pinks, or ee reds, here. There are other websites and blogs that are far better qualified and do a much better job than I could ever do on that subject. If you are interested in more information on exactly what an ee red is, I would suggest you visit Cathy Ochs-Cline's website (http://www.phi-vestavia.com/).

The reality is that there are many truly lovely dogs and bitches being born that are ee reds. The misfortune in this is that they are not "really" red; ie- they don't breed true- a red bred to a red will produce red. A "pink" bred to a red will not always produce red. As a matter of fact, the owner of a pink may not know what color their puppy really is- since testing the puppy will only result in being told it is an ee red.

And then there is the ethical question:

I have personally never seen a pink with naturally black pigment (naturally being the key word here.) I am told that they exist- but I cannot attest to that. Every pink that I have ever seen has had some shade of brown or grey pigment. And... if the nose is brown in the winter- even if it turns black in the summer- its not normal- natural- black pigment.

Our standard is very clear on this. To quote: Nose black, except in blue merles where black noses are preferred but butterfly noses are tolerated. A nose other than solid black in any other color is a disqualification.

Do I feel that these stunningly beautiful Cardigans that are born pink should be DQ'd-- ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! -- but the way our standard reads-- they should be-- and showing them "au natural" risks a DQ under a judge that knows his stuff!

Of course, there are "ways" around the pigment issue-- anyone that has been around the grooming tent at any dog show knows that products abound to take care of a little color issue on some pigment... Right? But... how ethical is that? Really??

Lets see... The AKC Rules and Regulations for Dog Shows state that a judge may disqualify any dog that he feels has been changed by artificial means (pg 46-47). The judge may also excuse and/or withhold awards any dog he finds artificial substances in the dogs coat or skin (pg 49), and the owner/exhibitor may be liable for disciplinary action.

I am sure, right now, you are thinking that no judge is going to really bother with all of that... but let me assure you that there ARE judges that DO bother...

With brown noses being a DQ, and with so many lovely pink puppies being born, what are we to do? The current standard literally forces ethical breeder/exhibitors choose between violating AKC Regulations or placing their best puppies in pet homes.

A Possible Solution:

The following breeds allow for brown or liver noses within their reds or red merles and brown dogs:

Australian Shepherd; Bearded Collie; Border Collie; Canaan Dog; Polish Lowland Sheepdog

I propose, rather than throw away otherwise exceptional specimens of our breed, we open a new color variation of the breed- which would allow for the unique coat color, which is without black hair; as well as the lighter pigment.

This would eliminate the stigma that has been attached to these dogs, and allow for a greater understanding of the genetics. There have always been "pinks." This color didn't just suddenly appear in a random litter in the early 1980's in Texas~ The only reason we are seeing more of them and hearing more about them is we talk about it now. And that is a good thing!

Some of the best puppies I have seen of late have been pinks! Without question, the best overall puppies in my last litter were the 2 pinks! My choice to place them was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make!

We, as breeders, cannot ignore the ee Reds. They are not going to go away! Right now, the top 5 dogs in the country all carry pink! A new person to this breed would be hard put to try to find a line that does not have someone in the pedigree that doesn't have some ee Red in there.

There are FAR WORSE things in our breed, then puppies being born pink! We have many more serious structural and breed type faults to be worrying about! Its a crime to have to pet out an exceptional quality puppy because it has brown pigment!

Every breeder has to set their own standards, and their own comfort level. I don't fault anyone for making their choices to show, or not show, their ee Red dogs. My hope is that the CWCCA Board Members will consider appointing a committee to examine the issue, and perhaps, in time, we will see a standard revision that will allow these beautiful, sound, typey pinks to be shown "au natural"- and admired for all that they are.

Of course, this is just my opinion!


  1. I don't think allowing a truly brown nose is gonna fly, as much as I might like it to. All the above breeds allow a chocolate/liver variant, which is why they allow a brown nose. We might do better to take a page from the Lab standard, which says not to penalized a "faded" nose as long as the dog is not a dudley. Goldens want a "black or brownish black" and again that fading is fine. Neither accept a liver/yellow dog.

    ee is, in its natural state, a lovely golden yellow. You have to really push it to get it to a true red (like an Irish Setter). So maybe we should embrace that - we have "gold" in the breed, or "yellow," rather than trying to make it a faded sable/red (which it certainly is not) or a pink. Better to say what it is and love it, not try to squeeze it in as some barely acceptable variation on a sable.

  2. I do not have any experience with "pinks", or e/e reds, but if it works the same way as it does in horses, black would never show. This is where we get our lovely chestnuts and palominos. There is never black pigment because e/e masks any black.

  3. I do agree that we should focus on other issues than color, but that is another can of worms, for another day.

  4. I have 100% empathy for the way you feel. After 30 years in Cardigans, we had our first two ee reds two years ago. I thought they were albino as I had never seen an ee red! Both males, one pet quality, liver nose, very light pastel red. The other, however, was an outstanding young dog and we nearly kept him. A beautiful light red color and an almost black nose! We did not, however because, according to the current standard set by AKC for Cardigan Welsh Corgis, he would have been disqualified in the breed ring. His intelligence and wonderful temperament would have made him a top performance dog, but we have always bred Cardigans who are smart enough to compete in performance venues AND finish their championships, so Rudy lives happily in a wonderful, loving pet home.

  5. I personally do not understand what is against the chocolate (bb genetics) dogs in our breed- like the reds in Australian Shepherds and other breeds. There's no health issues associated with that coloration (Unlike the dd blue dilute). I wish our breed hadn't decided on the 'black pigment only', as I truly believe no good dog can be a bad color as long as the color is healthy and functional.

    The big concern with the ee recessive reds is they lack black-based pigment so can be a HUGE challenge to tell which are merled, out of a merle-based litter. If this breed were to open the doors to ee reds, to keep to the COE of no merle-to-merle breedings we'd either need a working merle gene test, or to not keep ee reds out of merle litters. Since this is a recessive gene instead of a dominant gene (Such as our red/sables) we can't really prevent puppies, except for not breeding carriers together/DNA testing.

    I love the recessive reds a lot, but the concerns with merle in the breed are there. While some people may not be ethically against breeding merles together, the majority of breeders avoid merle-to-merle breedings, esp in breeds with existing white markings. In every debate I've seen about recessive reds, the concerns about merling being harder, to possibly even impossible to detect is the number one concern, even over the pigment concern.

  6. As the proud (ahem) and chastised breeder of a merle to black litter that produced two pinks-- I can tell you that one puppy was very obviously a merle-patterned puppy at birth.

    If you look back in this blog, you can see the photos of the pink puppies, the male puppy had definite color pattern typical of a merle- ie: lighter/darker shadings within his red patches- white and lighter patches on the ears, etc. As the pigment came in, his nose was a butterfly nose. His eyes, however, were not blue (which surprised me- as his mom has blue eyes and his blue siblings all had blue eyes or at least partially blue eyes) which makes me wonder about the effect of the ee Red on the eye color.

    The female puppy, however, I believe, is a black puppy, and would "breed black". (except, of course, she is spayed)Her pigment filled in completely, and her coat coloration was very solid and more typical. In addition, the pigment on the pads of her feet is dark (brown) and her nails are dark, whereas the male has some white toe nails and some dark toe nails, like my blues do. The coat texture on the two puppies is completely different as well.

    And then their is their temperament. The male puppy always acted like a typical, clownish, silly, into everything blue boy! The girl is more ladylike, less demanding, sweeter, requiring hugs and cuddles but never quite so much of a trouble maker.

    I completely agree that one of the largest concerns, should the CWCCA agree to allow ee Reds to be shown with their natural pigmentation- is going to be the merle gene. We must know, without question, which puppies are merles. The only way around it would be to decree that Pink puppies from a black to blue breeding can only be bred to blacks. - which would eliminate the chance of a double merle breeding- and would also prevent a "blue to brindle" scenario.

    The Dane community has been dealing with color breeding restrictions- (albeit not terribly well-- with harle bred blacks and black bred blacks and blue bred blacks and fawn bred blacks.) Its a nightmare to keep straight- and requires impecible record keeping and absolute honesty. Breeders with years of experience would have the advantage of knowing the lines, and who is likely to have pink behind their dogs... but it would be a difficult thing for those people coming into the breed. Color pedigrees would be a MUST- pedigree research would become even more extensive.

    But then- what is the alternative? Do we continue as we have for the past 20-30-40-? years?

  7. The Dane color restrictions, though, have absolutely nothing to do with preventing merle to merle breedings - since merle to merle is one of the most common and most strongly encouraged breedings! The Dane color restriction is abou 20% avoiding mismarks and about 80% apartheid pure and simple (a lot of breeders will still bucket even standard-colored puppies if they're born to the "wrong" parents because it implies lack of color purity).

    Thankfully the Dane Color COE changed to "recommended" years ago, and there's unquestionably been a giant leap in quality for the blacks in particular - this was quite a bit AFTER breeders like BMW left the club in order to pursue cross-color breedings and in so doing completely revolutionized the harl coloration (i.e., made them outstanding).

    I have to admit that doing an accidental merle to merle breeding is about #90 on my list of things to avoid - I would cheerfully accept deafness in a puppy from an outstanding litter over hearing puppies from a mediocre litter. But even if I was really worried about it, golds/yellows/pinks/ee reds are hardly a huge problem. You test breed one if you are unsure of its status.

    You don't need to permanently restrict the color and (honestly) you don't need to keep multigeneration meticulous color records either (those are just whistling in the dark anyway, since a recessive gene can hide for many more generations than you could possibly keep track of). If you're worried, breed it to a black first.

  8. Since I've been in this breed club, I've come up against people who have extreme color preference,(erm prejudice!), so I don't ever see it happening (and I'm talking about the colors that are currently legal!!) But I for one will never understand it, color is not and never will be a weakness, genetically speaking.

  9. I personally believe the standard should read as in the UK standard: "Any colour, with or without white markings, but white should not predominate".
    There is no reason other than politics for it to be otherwise. Unnecessarily restricting a breed's gene pool is a huge handicap in the battle to keep our dogs living long, healthy lives.

  10. I don't think the color of the dog is a question- I have seen some very light red dogs, definitly NOT pinks (as they have black hair in their coat) with black pigment, in the rings.

    The issue is the pigment. I am not aware of any countries standard that allows for brown pigment- or any pigment other than black.

    I don't know that allowing brown pigment is the answer! I am playing devils advocate--

    Do we continue to "pretend" that the clear reds really have black pigment, while liberally applying D'Nose Nose-- or Sharpies-- )or whatever method you choose)?

    Do we alter and place promising dogs in pet homes?

    Do we breed dogs that have not seen the inside of a show ring because they have a disqualifying fault by our standard?

    Again... there are FAR worse things than being born pink!

    Would you rather eliminate an otherwise exceptional dog from the gene pool in favor of having the judges see a lesser quality dog of a "correct" color?

    The question is not going to go away- it is only going to become more of an issue, as the breed grows in popularity; as more new people join our ranks, and as more dogs are shown to carry the ee Red gene. So, whether or not you have a Pink in your house, or in your lines now, you had best be thinking about this. I can almost guarantee that somewhere in the next few years, you will have to deal with it, too!