Does Your EMR’s Form Follow Function, or Does Its Function Follow Form?

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This Saturday I spent a pleasant day with my wife in New York’s Central Park watching the leaves, dogs, and people compete for attention. The dogs won.

My mind wandered to an offhand remark I made several weeks ago about “form following function.” I know that some dogs are bred for show and others are bred for performance. Might there be an analogy between dog breeds and EMRs? (Yeah, I know, bit of a stretch, “wandered” might be an understatement.)

I found the following at Canine Diversity FAQ on

What is meant by “form follows function”?

When we say “form follows function” in a dog breeding context we mean that the most efficient physique for a particular breed purpose will, over time, be produced simply by mating dogs that successfully fulfill that purpose, with no need for breeders to hold theories about the relative lengths and angular relationships of bones of the skeleton, or to breed according with such theories. The most successful examples of dogs able to fulfill their purpose will automatically be the ones that are best adapted physically to that purpose.

Novice breeders sometimes fall into the fallacy of believing that in order to breed a good working dog, it is necessary to practice canine engineering, attempting to construct a physical machine according to a plan or blueprint laid out in the breed standard. This amounts to an inversion of “form follows function” into “function should follow form.” In practice, the most critical factors in working dog performance are usually mental, behavioral, and metabolic; the dog must have a mentality, behavioral traits, and energy metabolism adapted to breed purpose. These things are far more important than theories of “conformation,” many of which are often far removed from the form that is actually most efficient for a given purpose.

Many EMRs conform to stereotypes and checklists. In contrast, what you really need is a “good working dog.”

Enough deep thoughts—here are the photos.


“Right side! That’s my good side. Must remember to lick to the right!”


“I know what my best side is!”


“While he sleeps, I watch.”


“You think I’m cute?…”




“How do I feel about my owner today? Does she deserve the ball?
What’s in it for me? I’m teetering on a knife edge here folks…”


“Paparazzi! Pleh! Can’t they leave us alone?!”

[flv: 320 240]

“White Fang: The Movie”
(small dog! best viewed in full screen
mode, black square lower right)

 Next week, back to more serious stuff. Thanks for indulging me!

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