Dog Breeds and Brand Names

January 12, 2008 at 5:51 pm 2 comments

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol, design, or combination of these intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers so as to differentiate them from those of other sellers”.

The brand name is what a consumer associates with a product and offers and represents. For example: McDonalds is a brand recognized even by preschool children. They can’t read the name, but they recognize the logo and, most importantly, they equate that logo and brand name with the experience that that logo means to them.  Adult consumers expect that when they purchase a specific brand, they will get a consistent product no matter which store they purchase it from. This consistency of service and products, results in brand loyalty.   

Many people today seem to equate dog breeds with brand names.  They think that if they get a new Labrador to replace the one they lost, the new dog should be as much like the old one as one Chevy Blazer is to another. What these people fail to realize is that the concept of breed is far more complex than simply applying a label to a dog that looks and acts in a certain way. 

In fact, the concept of what a breed is often creates confusion today, even among experts. 
·         To a geneticist a breed is: a population of animals whose breeding is controlled and whose out-crossing is limited, so that genetic selection can be exercised on it.
·         Webster defines a breed as: “a homogeneous grouping of animals within a species, developed by humans,” and Oxford defines a breed as: “a line of descendants perpetuating particular hereditary qualities.”
·         Multi-breed dog registries such as the AKC define an individual animal’s breed by its parentage.

All of these definitions leave room for interpretation.

A dog breed might most accurately be described as a grouping of descendants categorized using criteria relevant to the behavioral and physical qualities desired by the people who selected the line of genetic descent.

Most dog breeders seek to achieve some degree of predictability in the appearance and behavior in the animals they produce but all dog breeds display a range of physical qualities and temperaments. Too much deviation is problematic because the goal is to differentiate one breed from another. However, some deviation is advantageous as it results from a broader genetic base. When a breed becomes extremely uniform because of a very narrow genetic base serious problems from inbreeding can occur.

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When breeders select for certain physical and behavioral traits within a breed, they also have to select for some degree of variation in that trait. Behavioral traits, like shyness or protectiveness, are created by a combination of inherited behaviors.  Because of this, each breed will include a continuum of inherited behavior traits and those at the extreme ends of the scale will likely not be desirable.  So, we can end up with some Labradors who don’t hunt and some Bloodhounds who don’t track. 

While studies show that genetic variation within a breed of dogs is significantly less than variation between breeds, dog breeds should not be thought of as brand names.  A pet owner who purchases a German Shepherd expecting to get Rin Tin Tin (or a Golden Retriever who will be just like the last one they had) – without doing research into the genetic background of that specific dog – will very likely be disappointed in the dog they get. In extreme cases, these people may get rid of the dog because it did not meet their expectations. While you should expect to find a certain degree of uniformity in the appearance and behavior within dogs of a specific breed, it is also important to remember that all dogs are individuals and these individuals can vary widely in their genetic makeup. 

Your dog is an individual.  Regardless of what breed he is, he has his own likes, dislikes and personality traits. Cherish those differences, don’t resent them

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Entry filed under: animals, dog, dog training, dogs, health, pet, pets. Tags: , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Carol  |  January 18, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Excellent post. I get inquiries all the time from people who say “I lost my French Bulldog last year, and I want another dog just like him”.

    I then have to explain that each dog is an individual, and that I can’t promise you another brindle Frenchie boy that loves green beans, swims in the lake, makes yodeling noises when he sees you and enjoys licking the cat.

    The brindle boy part I can provide, the rest is up to the owner and the dog’s own inherent personality.

  • 2. retrieverman  |  November 25, 2009 at 3:01 am

    Can I use that photo of the goldens on this page?

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