Saturday, July 11, 2015
Saturday Morning Musings - the dog as pet
This week my meanderings took me to the dogs, quite literally. This is a photo of a working kelpie.
Why dogs? Well, the problems of puppy farming has become a significant issue, leading to a campaign to have the practice stopped. Searching for a topic for my history column, I thought that I would have a look at the changing approach to pets and, more specifically, dogs.
I have always liked kelpies. As children, our one and only pet was a red kelpie called Rover.The dog died from snake bite one year while we were on holidays, He was a true kelpie, capable of going over high fences, able to break our grandparents' chooks up by breed, herd them into corners of the yards and then lie there panting, clearly saying to the hens now behave.
What I hadn't realised until I started researching the topic was just how recent our love of pets is.Certainly
man's best friend. However, dogs as pets began to emerge in the nineteenth century. Prior to then, dogs were seen as working animals.
This was actually the world I grew up in. None of my friends had pets. It is only now, looking back, that I realise this. The dogs that I saw most often were working dogs. Indeed, we were instructed not to pet them because they were working days. The few cats I knew were frightening because they scratched.
It seems that the idea of dogs as pets is predominantly an urban phenomenon that exploded from the 1970s. Of course there were pet dogs before that. I have given two examples. Still, the idea of pets as a mass phenomenon does seem to be very recent, as is the idea of puppy farms.
Another theme that seems to emerge in the material I have looked at is the importance of breeds and breeding. Again, this seems to be quite recent, dating to the nineteenth century. This quite artificial, dogs as ornaments. In the case of the Kelpie, for example, two breeds seem to be emerging The first is the show kelpie that must meet physical conformity requirements. Here appearance is critical. The second is the working kelpie where performance, not physical appearance, is the requirement.
I'm not sure where I am going in all this. It's simply another voyage of discovery.