When most people think of popularity problems with a breed of dog, the automatic answer is to think of the Walt Disney animated movie, 101 Dalmatians. The 1961 classic featured a large brood of Dalmatians, which grew to one hundred one by the end of the film when a dog-napping cottage industry was discovered and destroyed. But the bad news didn't end with Cruella de Vil: After the movie came out, thousands of children across the country begged their parents for a Dalmatian puppy. And, inevitably, thousands of Dalmatians were abandoned, abused, or destroyed because families were quick to satisfy their children's wants instead of preparing for a long-term commitment.
But there's another problem with popularity, the part that feeds the desire for parents who want to placate their children or people who want the dog of the day. Disreputable breeders and puppy mills can inevitably lead to the destruction of a breed through the breeding process itself. This is especially true of the Miniature Australian Shepherd when seeking a breed's more complex traits.
Australian Shepherds marked for show can generally have their lineage traced back to two brother dogs: Fieldmaster of Flintridge and Wildhagen's Dutchman of Flintridge. Uniformity in the breed did not appear until 30 years ago, when these two Shepherds were the start of a strong lineage. This, ergo, includes the Miniature Australian Shepherd, as they were bred down from the larger, standard breed.
But dogs along working lines need far more complex traits and abilities to perform their jobs. The problem lies when a sire becomes popular, not because of his ability to reproduce stable, quality offspring. Some sires are popular because of their owner's ability for self-promotion. Other sires become popular because they gain fame from athletic competitions. The underlying genetic deficiencies usually won't come out in the offspring for a few years, but in that time, the sire has already been abundantly used in that time frame, and the die has already been cast.
The problem even continues down the line. Using sons and grandsons of popular sires only continues the trend, ending with the lessening or even total destruction of genes while other genes become homozygous. Sometimes the traits can turn out positive, but that's not always the case. This is why responsible Miniature Australian Shepherd breeders, from the very outset, bred the miniature dogs to full-sized shepherds and producing some miniatures and some full-sized dogs to expand the gene pool.
One thing that popularity can breed is greed. Breeding is an expensive hobby or occupation, and nothing can spur short sidedness like the money that comes in when a stud becomes popular. While most people who breed in this fashion keep in mind what can become of the stability of the breed, it's only a heartless few who ignore genetic defects and pass them off as the price of building a winner.
It's up to the population at large -- the owners, the potential owners, and the breeders to put an end to dishonest breeding practices and not allow genetic defects to seep through a breed to gain a few good qualities or a few more bucks.