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Metrics, Process and CULTURE! Impacts on discussions on health and welfare of dogs

Brenda Bonnett

Viewed: 1,099 times

infocollaborationaction.PNGIan Seath has again stimulated our 'little grey cells' and maybe even touched on some emotions, attitudes, and even deep-seated beliefs in his DOG-ED: SOCIAL ENTERPRISE post (23 June 2020):


Catchy title - firstly - where does that come from, and what does it mean?

"Management Guru Peter Drucker famously stated that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

So, What does "culture eats strategy" mean for you and your organization?

 In a very practical sense: No matter what business strategy or strategic plan you try to implement with your team,

its success and efficacy are going to be held back by the people implementing the plan if the culture does not support it. "

from: SME Strategy Management Consulting


Ian's article draws on his extensive knowledge and background in business, strategy, and change management - as well as his fantastic dog expertise - to examine topical international information on COVID-19  and to draw comparisons with challenges in the dog world.  He wants to encourage us to think about various aspects of health and welfare in dogs.  Further moving his title discussion into the dog world:  it means that if those needed to implement and drive change (in attitudes or practices) aren't passionate about the change or at least willing to embrace change or - even worse - if they deny the need for change at all (i.e. deny the existence of 'a problem') or are apathetic to the issues, then you stand no chance implementing a plan. Ultimately it is all about the people. 


Denial or apathy or resistance to change may occur if there is great passion for and attachment to an existing culture.

In terms of the complex problems of the dog world, IPFD exists because it is clear that these issues have many stakeholders who bear responsibilities for the challenges and the solutions.  And each of the stakeholder communities has their own culture - and that influences their views and actions and even willingness to collaborate.

Ian goes on to describe bench-marking, i.e., ways to define, measure and characterize issues and actions on 3 levels. 

Let's further describe this relative to the dog world, and with a few possible examples:

Metrics (statistics, measures) - tell you “what the performance is” or define and quantify aspects of the issue. 

  • E.g., prevalence and increased breed-specific risks of disease in various populations based on quantitative analysis vs. anecdote from personal experience (e.g. MY dogs are healthy!)
  • Challenges: differences across regions, types of dogs, etc.; lack of consensus on how much is too much; perspectives of those who see dogs from different populations - e.g. veterinarians in practice vs. show judges.  Lack of comprehensive, clear evidence fosters a reliance on culture-based interpretations...spin!

Process (how the situation came to be, or what has influenced those levels): 

  • E.g. the influences of breeding practices (how diligently have breeders prioritized health and longevity). It must be noted that these processes have certainly been driven by culture. 
    • E.g., breeding for performance vs. for the conformation show ring vs. for companion dogs vs. for the trendy puppy trade
  • E.g. health programs implemented by breed and kennel clubs (Ian gives some good examples)
  • Challenges - the perception of the need for and time frame of change; and the amount of change; the acceptance of any authority over practices and processes from within or outside a community or culture.  There is a tendency to look for simple solutions to complex problems - and then to be surprised that the outcome wasn't ideal.

Culture tells you the story behind the processes...and that includes attitudes, tradition, beliefs, and habits...of the people involved. Those within a community (e.g. show world, veterinarians, the wider public) may share one culture...or there may be various cultures within a wider community.  Culture can change.

  • There are many cultures and communities in the dog world!  From those who believe pedigree dogs are the most important and breed standards are essentially inviolable; to those who feel there is room for evolution and flexibility, even within existing registries; to those who feel pedigree dogs are not necessary.  From those whose culture defines dogs as commodities or chattels; to those who accept dogs as sentient beings with some rights; to those who think they should be essentially be accorded human-level treatment.
  • Challenges - all those attitudes impact what that community, culture, or group accepts as reasonable levels of welfare or disease or longevity.  In fact, when cultural influences are strong, they may impact the willingness of those inside the culture to objectively view metrics, or to embrace processes and programs.
  • And let's face it - a group or individual's attachment to their culture may be so strong, that they tend to view it not as one view, but the only acceptable view.  'Cultural norms' may be very different across communities. Rigidity is a major barrier to collaboration.


Keys to moving forward

  • Firstly, reflecting sincerely on how YOUR culture influences you, and then, if you want others to respect your culture
  • Being aware of the differences across stakeholders - in their culture (attitudes, attachments, basic beliefs, approaches, etc.)
    • wouldn't if be great if we could respect all views?
    • but at least we must be aware of whether our disagreements are arising from different interpretation of the metrics and evidence OR from a different approach and process OR from the cultural sphere
  • Taking the brave step outside cultural influences - embrace collaboration and collective actions while never assuming there is a one-size-fits-all solution.
  • Leadership from various cultures and communities is needed.  

The ultimate question is - do we have common ground on which to advance?  For IPFD, that would mean that even if we have slightly different definitions on the specifics, everyone comes to the table with a desire to enhance the health and welfare of dogs.  Human aspects are critical as well - but there must be a balance.  


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