Why Breed Matters When Choosing a Dog.

Why Breed Matters When Choosing a Dog.

As many can tell from my previous posts and articles, I am a big proponent of responsible dog breeding and of purebred dogs. This is not because I for any reason dislike or don’t trust shelter dogs or the shelters themselves, though some shelters have been shown to be doing very negative things in the recent past. This is simply because I believe that responsible breeders will last.

If responsible ownership is encouraged and enforced I would love to see a world where responsible breeders, whether they produce purebred or mixed breed, are the way to get pets. I would love to see a future where shelters are a thing of the past because there are few to no unwanted or homeless pets. Shouldn’t this be what we aim for?

Regardless of this ideal future, people do get their dogs from many sources and no matter where they choose the breed of a dog is always a factor.

Some might say that this isn’t the case, especially with mixed breed dogs. I however beg to differ. It has been my experience that many dog – person relationships could experience a significant change if the person takes into account the breed when not only bringing home a dog, but when training or interacting with them as well.

Here’s what I mean by this.

Certain dog breeds were and are bred or created for specific purposes. Dogs who are known as being destructive, loud, or difficult are usually bored, underestimated, intelligent animals! Do you think a mathematician would be happy to watch infants all day every day? Then why do we believe that an Australian Shepherd or Siberian Husky, dogs bred to work, would be satisfied by a half hour walk when you get home from work, after leaving them alone for 8 or more hours while you were there?

In the same regard, I have heard and experienced many people do the following. Say that they want a dog to get them to be more active. I have said this before in my post on responsible ownership, rather than encourage you to get out more this dog will most likely do nothing more than frustrate you. Instead, if you are inactive, get a dog that might only need a short walk daily, not a marathon sprinter.

Does this mean that all energetic people need Greyhounds and Salukis and all couch potatoes need Bulldogs or Pugs? No! Many Greyhounds are happy as a clam to lounge on the couch daily so long as they get the opportunity to dash every once in a while and get to go on walks regularly. Many Bulldogs would be happy to take a long slow hike so long as you give them adequate sitting breaks.

I’m also not saying that apartment dwellers shouldn’t have energetic dogs. I am saying that if you are to get one, know the responsibilities that go into giving them the appropriate stimulation and exercise.

Mental training is great and treat puzzles can keep some dogs entertained and happy for hours! You can also have just as much fun as your dog through activities like competitive obedience or agility or flyball. There are countless games, puzzles, activities, and more that you can do with your dog.

Always, always, always take all of the necessary steps when looking to add someone to your family, which is what you are doing when you get a pet. One of those steps is determining what personality, energy level, size, and requirements your furry friend is going to need. Looking at breed is a great way to do this! There are some exceptions to this and dogs cannot be 100% judged by their breed. Every dog is individual and every dog has its own personality traits that cannot be fully predetermined by breed alone, but it is a great place to start!

Getting a Shelter Dog

Getting a Shelter Dog

As you may have guessed from previous posts, my first recommendation when looking for a new dog is to research and find a responsible breeder whom you like and to get in touch with them. But there are countless reasons why this might not be possible for you or why you may not want to get a puppy. Some of these reasons can include:

  • You don’t have time for serious training
  • You don’t believe you have the experience level for a puppy
  • You have a young child and don’t have the time for a puppy
  • Your family travels a lot and an older dog would be simpler
  • There are no breeders near you or within decent driving distance, but there are shelters
  • You like the idea of saving a life

If your reason for getting a shelter dog is anything but the final reason, please take a serious look at your life, your current responsibilities, and your finances. Do not get a dog out of convenience or simply because you believe having one would be nice. Getting a dog is not something every family should do, it is not a privilege given to you as a human adult. Getting a dog is a responsibility and should not be taken lightly.

If you look at everything and still believe that getting a dog is something you should do and your family is ready, then by all means DO go to a shelter! Even though the numbers show that the families seeking dog ownership outweigh the number of homeless dogs, the reality isn’t quite so cut and dry. If it were, then we would soon have no need for shelters and no shelter would be “at-capacity”.

If you know that you want to get a rescue dog but have interest in certain specific breeds, there are countless breed specific rescues which you can look to. From the ever popular Golden to the more rare Basenji, there is a rescue organization with both young and old dogs alike. The benefit of these groups aren’t only that you can get a purebred or high percentage purebred dog, but that they have some wonderful processes that will pair you and your family with a dog whose energy level and temperament should match your own, so long as you are honest on their questionnaire. In these situations please, do not overestimate what you will do. If you are normally a couch potato netflix watcher, don’t say that you are very active. This will not give you a dog who will encourage you to get out and moving. More likely this will give you a dog who will not be content with what you give them and who may become destructive. For more information on the importance of not only Physical but Mental exercise, please see some of my previous posts.

If you are not set into any breed or type in particular, you’re more likely to find a dog whom you will love at any shelter. I would recommend going to one which has a no-kill policy and whose personnel are helpful and politely answer any questions you have. When you go, have a general idea in mind of what you are looking for. If you want an older dog because you want to help them and understand that older dogs are more likely to stay in a shelter for longer, don’t spend time looking at any puppies or young dogs the shelter may have. If you want a shepherd or spaniel type dog who’ll be a good jogging partner, spend less time with the small toy breeds. There is nothing against these dogs but once you spend any time with a dog you are likely to want to “save” them, and if you get a dog who doesn’t fit with your personality or lifestyle you may become frustrated with them and have “buyers-remorse” for a living being.

Once you have settled on a dog that you like, ask about them. If you are at a breed specific rescue then the people in charge will most likely know more about a dogs previous situation, but both breed specific rescues and every-day shelters should do temperament testing for their dogs and should know if there are any apparent “problems” they may have.

Has the dog interacted with children? Other Dogs? Cats?

How does he walk on a leash? Do they recommend a Harness?

Does she know any commands?

Are they house trained? Crate Trained?

Do they have any known health problems?

Was he at a healthy weight when he came in?

How does she do with food? Is she protective and defensive during meals?

Do they know if he’s ever been accused of biting someone?

What methods of training were used previously?

Any questions that you ask is a good question. Anything that pertains to your life and what the dog will be around if you were to take them is important.

If you have found your dog, congratulations! Before taking him or her home be sure you have everything they’ll need when you get home. Many shelters have a list of veterinarians in the nearby area who they work with and who will give discounted first visits. Look and see if one is in your area or if you already know one. If you already have a vet and they are not on the list but you know you’ll never go to the vet on the list after the first visit, go to your normal vet. Regardless, set up a first appointment for within the first week of owning the dog. This will make sure that they are healthy and is usually a contractual obligation of getting the dog.

Next up is to give your dog some time to settle in. It might sound nice to go out and introduce everyone you know to your new dog, but recognize that this is a very new, scary, and stressful situation for your new friend. Take your time and introduce them slowly. Depending on your dog’s level you might want to try a training or socialization class as a “refresher” course of sorts. This will also help you bond with your new dog and help show them that you are their friend and the person whom they can trust to guide them.

Most of all, have fun and enjoy your dog!

What is “Responsible Dog Ownership”?

What is “Responsible Dog Ownership”?

You will hear me say time and time again that we need more Responsible Dog Owners. That they are who will in the long run help dogs, breeds, and encourage positive action.

Owning a god is not a privilege but a responsibility.

What is a responsible owner though? Here’s how I like to explain and how I understand responsible ownership.

Responsible Dog Owners should go through three stages.

1.) Determining if a dog is right for them and all involved.

This means that the person has acknowledged the responsibility of dog ownership and has decided that they can not only enjoy having a dog in their life, but that they can better a dogs life. This person will assess their abilities, meaning their physical, mental, and financial abilities to own a dog and that they come to the conclusion that they can. This person will then think about their expectations of a dog and what they want from their dog. Whether it is a TV watching companion or a marathon running training partner. They will then take this expectations and see what dog breeds would work for them. They will take into account size, coat length, trainability, energy level, and more. They might have color interests for a dog, such as liking Merle Australian Shepherds more than Red Tris, but this will rank low on their list of “wants” for a dog and would not keep them from getting one who fits all of their other criteria.

The final step this person will hit before moving on is to determine where they get their dog from. For a responsible owner there are three choices.

A Responsible Breeder, a Breed Specific Rescue which is most likely associated with a kennel club or breed club, or a local No-Kill shelter.

2.) Picking out and preparing for their new dog.

The next step is to actually pick out the puppy who will be with you for the rest of their lives. Depending on where you’re getting your dog, some things may vary. For example-

If getting your dog from a responsible breeder you may first have to fill out a questionnaire with the breeder. This will tell the breeder a lot about you and also allow you to tell the breeder what’s important to you. This will help the breeder steer you to a puppy who has a temperament and energy level that will fit your lifestyle. Note, a responsible breeder will always put temperament over coat or eye color and reserves the right to deny a dog to a person if they believe that person to be unfit for their line, the breed, or for dogs in general. Expect to not only ask questions, but have questions asked of you. These pups are the breeders making, and they will take great care to place them with responsible and confident people.

You will most likely, if accepted by the breeder, then be put on a “wait list” and you will be notified if a litter is born and especially if the breeder believes a puppies traits fit what you are looking for.

You will also be expected to sign a contract which at the very least will say that the breeder guarantees a clean bill of health, that the dog will be “covered” for a specified time from the day it leaves their possession so that if anything major does come up that they should notify the breeder immediately, and then there will be conditions to the sale/adoption. For pets these usually include that the dog cannot be bred and should be spayed or neutered, that if for any reason the buyer cannot keep the dog that they are not to sell, give, or re-home the dog to anyone except the breeder without express written permission from the breeder, and that if for any reason the breeder finds or learns that the dog is being mistreated, abused, neglected, or that the owner did not follow other conditions of the contract, that the seller retains the right to remove the dog and will not be required to reimburse the buyer for anything.

If getting from a shelter you may be able to get a dog same day and select from any number of animals and ages. Many shelters now how personnel whose job it is to be sure that pet adopters select dogs that will fit their lifestyle, but it is not the norm for a shelter to refuse adoption for this reason.

Between the time you decide that you truly do want a dog and the day you bring a dog into your home you should prepare as well.

This means not only buying toys, a bed, a crate, food, and bowls. But buying a collar, harness, and lead and also getting in contact with a local vet. It is recommended to get in with your vet as soon as you can once you have a new dog, especially a puppy.

3.) Practicing responsible ownership – A Day to Day task for the life of the animal.

Now you’ve got your dog in the home with you. This is where the true “responsible ownership” comes to play. Everything else was preparing you for this. Your job now is to prepare your dog for the world and be her ambassador. This means training in a proper way, socializing them, and taking them to regular vet visits. This means being aware of changes in your dogs personality or actions so you can contact your vet to see if something is wrong. This means going above and beyond giving your dog the necessities for life, but that you are a true friend to your dog. This means exercising and playing regularly. This means challenging your dog with different games and puzzles so they aren’t just physically tired but mentally tired as well. This means doing all you can do to protect your dog, including microchipping them just in case the worst were to happen and they got out.

If you got a purebred this means registering with the proper clubs and organizations, such as the AKC.

You could participate in companion events where your dog doesn’t need to be intact, such as agility and herding, not only to challenge them, but to challenge yourself and also meet new people.

You should also continue reading and learning what you can!

Informed and responsible ownership can make a difference and I believe it will.

Great Resources to learn more:

AKC: http://www.akc.org/dog-owners/responsible-dog-ownership/

American Veterinary Medical Association: https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Guidelines-for-Responsible-Pet-Ownership.aspx

Dog time: http://dogtime.com/consider-before-getting-dog-hsus.html

Purebred or Shelter Dog?

Purebred or Shelter Dog?

-Updated

There is a sharp divide in the dog owning world. This divide is between Purebred owners and Shelter dog owners. Before I go any further let me say that I am very much in favor of Purebred dogs and believe that responsible breeding and responsible breeders are the best things for the dog owning world. This does not mean that I am against shelter dogs and this does not mean that I am against mixed or cross bred dogs. This does mean I am against irresponsible breeders and I am against “Animal Rights” groups who use fear and emotional tactics to give incorrect information to the general public.

First let me take a moment to see some of these fear tactics and tactics used by groups such as PETA to pull on the emotions of pet owners. Here are some of their “arguments” in the form of some of the signs they have produced.

“Breeders Kill Shelter Dog’s Chances”

“You buy, pound puppies die”

“Adopt – Don’t Shop”

“Boycott breeders, or the Mutt get’s it”

“One Dog Bred – A Shelter Dog Dead”

You can also find arguments on PETAs website which states that there is no such thing as a responsible breeder and that dog breeding is a greedy and callous business.

Here is some information against that.

First of all, PETA’s argument is that all dogs (and cats for that matter) should be spayed and neutered and that no animal should be bred. This would eventually lead to extinction for the Canis Familiaris species, which is their intention. Animal Rights organizations believe that no dog, no animal at all, should be owned by people or used by people. This includes “using” service dogs for the disabled.

Now as it stands for the statements listed above.

The idea that by going to a breeder you are thus killing a shelter dog is not correct. Breeders and Shelters have different markets and different individuals go to each firstly. Secondly, responsible breeders, who do exist, breed with a lot of factors in mind. Many responsible breeders will only have a handful of litters a year at the very most, some only having one or two. If you are getting a dog from a responsible breeder you are very likely to go through a sort of interview process which might, and in many cases should for yours and the breeders benefit, end in your signing a contract which lists out the things you are agreeing to do and not do. Many of these contract include the necessity that you do in fact spay or neuter your dog, and sometimes the breeder will not actually release the AKC or other registered ownership to a dog until there is proof of their having been spayed or neutered. Any dog who is registered as being “limited”, which most breeders give “pet” puppies, is not able to be bred and if they are then the dogs they create cannot be registered.

Responsible breeders also usually include some kind of clause which states that if for any reason the person cannot keep the dog, they are to contact the breeder. No responsible breeder would want their dog to end up in a shelter and they will take back the dog regardless of how long it’s been. They will then either re-home, keep the dog themselves, or work with a breed specific rescue to have the dog re-homed.

Getting a purebred dog from a responsible breeder also usually means a significant wait time. There are usually waiting lists that could be anywhere from a month to several years long depending on the desire of dogs from that breeder and how many litters are had by their dogs.

There are also breed specific rescue groups as mentioned above and shelters who re-home purebred dogs or dogs that appear to have a high percentage of the specific breed in them for people who would rather get an adult dog, though you will in most cases not know the history or upbringing of these dogs.

Mixed breed dogs sometimes come from irresponsible breeders as well who try to take advantage of the “Designer Dog” trend. These dogs are also sometimes intentionally created because of a purported “Hybrid Vigor” which means to say that by cross or mix breeding dogs you get the “best of both breeds”. This is not the case as studies are beginning to come out showing that purebreds are not less healthy than mixed breeds. In reality these dogs do not always get the “best of both” and the assigning of genes to puppies is a completely random occurrence. They get some of everything from both of their parents. If it was a “best of both” situation, all dogs bred would get the best of both of their parents, meaning all health problems would be removed in just a few generations. Mixed breed dogs are also usually not intentional breedings even with the popularity of them. They are usually accidental pups from irresponsible or well meaning owners. If they are intentionally bred we must also keep in mind that if the sire and dame (parents of the pups) are purebreds, that the AKC as well as their parent clubs will not recognize these litters and that these dogs are not encouraged or even approved of by these clubs. That’s not to say the dogs themselves are bad, but it is to say that the purebred world which encourages healthy animals does not approve of breeding in this way. I would be wary of shelter’s with puppies as it is likely that these puppies came from a situation like this, an irresponsible owner doing what they can to get rid of an unwanted litter.

Animal Rights groups may argue that breeders would “get rid” of unpurchased dogs by dumping them on a shelter. This argument is flawed as if a breeder was only in breeding for the money of it, they wouldn’t give the pups to a shelter, normally paying a surrender fee, so that the shelter can then adopt them out for a fee. Responsible Breeders would never do this and even the most irresponsible breeder would be unlikely to. An irresponsible owner might, or a person following the incorrect opinion that a female dog should have one litter before being spayed might.

This is not to say that Mutts or Cross breeds are all bad, or that shelter dogs shouldn’t be adopted. My family has owned both and they were wonderful dogs. But with the anti-purebred arguments getting so much strength it is important to show the other side of things.

If you are going to get a shelter dog, do your homework. Know what breeds you like because if you know you aren’t very active it is good to avoid dogs who appear to be shepherd or sighthound ish seeing as these are dogs that are normally very active. If you know that you need a dog with minimal grooming requirements, don’t get the fluffy Pomeranian looking dog even if it is very cute. If you can, sit and talk with the dog you are interested in. Talk to the people at the shelter to see what kind of temperament the dog appears to have and see if they react differently to men than women or if the dog might have any history with children or animals or the elderly. Going to a shelter also allows you go get a dog that same day in many situations but this decision should not be made on a whim.

When you are getting a dog – breeder or shelter -, the most important thing to do is be sure that you are both physically, financially, and mentally prepared for a 10-20 year commitment depending on the breed. Owning a dog is a lifelong commitment. This is not an Until I have kids, Until I get married, Unless I move, etc. kind of commitment.

Regardless of where you get your dog from. Be ready for it, and do your homework.

-Alexandra