That or that brown, chocolate, chestnut color?

During the weekend of May 25th and 26th, 2013, I attended the Spring International Dog Show and the Special Spanish Breeds Show organized by our Royal Canine Society of Spain, as I have been doing every year since the early 1980s. However, this time without my dogs, just as a spectator, because by the time I sent in my entries, the deadline had already passed. It’s customary for the RSCE to close the registration period more than a month before the event.

It’s clear that when you attend as “just a spectator,” you notice a lot of details that often go unnoticed when you’re there with your dogs and always focused on them.

Setting aside whether I liked the judgments of Mr. Arrúe on Saturday and Mr. Haro and Mr. Sartre on Sunday, though I heard comments from everyone, the complaints from the many who didn’t win and the joy from the few who did, because that’s how the world of beauty shows goes—there are only two CAC and two CACIB awards for most breeds, and ours is among them—I’ll say the same as always: the judges rule the ring, and their decisions are final. I applauded many times and got others to applaud when the dogs I, from the outside, thought were the best were placed first.

But beyond the issue of judgments and results, whatever they may be, what caught my attention the most was the large number of dogs registered with LOE/RRC as brown, chestnut, or chocolate, who start to lose that dark chocolate, dark brown, or chestnut color at just over a year old. It was in response to a question from a foreign woman, whose accent seemed Scandinavian, who seemed to be looking for an explanation and a solution to the problem of “fading brown coat.” The lady had bought a puppy, and when she groomed it at three months old, she was stunned to find a lot of very light or even grayish hair on the dog’s hindquarters.

It’s true that those of us who attend shows frequently seem to have developed a trained eye for all the various shades of faded browns, and we often justify it with the brightness of our sun, chlorine from pools, saltwater from the sea… and even diet, without realizing or wanting to admit that it’s a “pigmentation problem” we’ve created in the breed.

The standard allows for brown in all its shades, that’s very clear… but at the rate we’re going, soon puppies will be born very light brown and eventually turn almost white… Perhaps that mahogany brown color that Irish Water Dogs enjoy is what many breeders would like to establish for our browns, although others might prefer that golden tone with a shine like wet straw or barley.

I was able to count and photograph more than 15 different shades of brown in a single class of open females. What variability, I thought? Of course, I always say that a dog’s color doesn’t predispose it to be better or worse, just like with people. There are good people and bad people, regardless of skin or eye color. But since this is a chromatic degeneration in our Spanish Water Dog, we’ll have to find a way to start darkening or reinforcing that dark brown tone that, when curly and coiled, gives such a rustic, beautiful, and splendid appearance to our dog’s structure.

Are there solutions? Yes, of course: crossing brown with black is the easiest and quickest. I asked several brown dog owners about the color of their dogs’ parents, and very few said they had crossed brown with black. If we cross brown with black and breed the resulting browns again with blacks from black parents, we’ll be reintroducing the melanin factor that our dogs’ chromosomes so desperately need to stabilize dark brown.

Can the club force breeders to act in this way? Would this measure be reckless if other very important factors aren’t considered when breeding: temperament, dysplasias, eye diseases…?

They also asked me: Which fur gets damaged more, white, black, or brown? Which needs more care? I answered that it’s not fur, it’s wool, pure wool like that of sheep. Of course, just like with sheep, there are many different qualities of wool.

I’ve always had a preference for a specific color in the Spanish Water Dog, which I won’t write here and which I never take into account when judging because wonderfully beautiful and perfect dogs come in all colors…

I recommend a balanced diet for our brown dog, in this case, including fresh carrots grown in direct sunlight occasionally, not in greenhouses.

Avoid breeding with dogs “past their prime” or too young.

When selecting a brown puppy, consider the color of its nose; the standard says the nose should be the darkest tone of the coat…

They say there are algae that help maintain skin and fur pigmentation in humans; they’ve been tested on Labrador Retrievers and have worked. Could they be good for our brown dogs? It would be worth trying…

I leave this reflection… thought… exposition… comment… all for the sake of preserving this wonderful “peculiar” breed…

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