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!

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

Dog Obsession

Dog Obsession

Now that you’ve been able to take a look at some of the things I’m passionate about in the dog world, proper training methods and understanding the truth of dog shows and purebreds, I feel it’s a good time to look at why I’m so passionate about these and nearly anything to do with Dogs.

Dogs have always been important to me. I have always been a “dog person” though I as an individual have not been in a position where I have owned my own dog. More on this later.

When I was younger, my family had an English Shepherd mix, and then a rescue Golden Retriever when I was in High School. I recognized the differences between each and slowly tried to learn as much as I could about what made them so different.

In addition to being different dogs, the number one reason why they had different personalities and temperaments, these two dogs had very different lives. We had the Shepherd all of her life, adopting her from a shelter when she was just a couple months old. The Retriever was already almost two years old when we got him. The Shepherd was trained and taught everything she needed early on, she experienced new things as much as possible as soon as possible. The Retriever however didn’t appear to have much training and made us believe that he had never been inside of a house before because of his fear of stairs and changes in floor type. The other thing which made the two very different is that the Shepherd never had any serious health problems until very late in life when she passed because of a tumor in her abdomen, actually passing the night before she was scheduled for surgery to remove that exact tumor. The Retriever had mental problems in addition to a thyroid issue and the combination made him hard to read. He was a fiercely protective dog and his mental disconnect caused him to be an unpredictable dog who would either be leash reactive, or the kindest dog. His triggers were seemingly random and it is because of this that after three or four years my parents decided that he was too much for us.

Looking back on everything with what I know now, It’s hard to accept that this all happened with our Retriever as I don’t believe any dog is beyond help.

I feel the experiences with these two dogs, particularly what happened with our Retriever, caused my now constant interest in dogs, training, and animal behavior or psychology.

For the past four or five years, from when I started college to now, I have had a lot of interests but one of the constants was dogs. I have always loved reading about dogs and learning new things about dog behavior. I took psychology classes to learn about behavior in general. I listened to friends in biology classes and took in their comments on what they were learning. I read philosophy and sociology studies to see how people in history and in different cultures would look at interactions with animals.

I also read breed standards and about the arguments for and against breeding and purebred dogs. I watched as many dog shows as I could and would watch the same best in group showings over and over until I recognized why one dog might fit the standard of their breed more than the others.

In the past year in particular I have been very interested in dog behavior and newer “Dog-Friendly” forms of training, such as the “Positively” method brought on by Victoria Stilwell. I’m beginning to entertain the possibility of using this information to become a dog trainer.

One of my favorite people, Kevin Smith, said once that he became a filmmaker not by saying “I want to be a filmmaker” but by saying “I am a filmmaker” and then doing what he needed to make that statement true. So I’m going to stop saying “I want to be a dog trainer” and instead do what I can to make saying “I am a dog trainer” truth. It might take a while, but this blog is going to be my foundation.

Thank you-Alexandra

Dog Show Stereotypes – The Answers Part 4 of 4

Dog Show Stereotypes – The Answers Part 4 of 4

Here we are at the final point of my “Dog Show Stereotypes”. I have saved the best, or worst depending on how you look at it, for last.

This is also one of the points which frustrates and angers me the most so I want to warn you that I may seem to be very frustrated at points here.

7.) It encourages eugenics principles.

First, in case you don’t know, lets look at what Eugenics means.

Eugenics (/juːˈdʒɛnɪks/; from Greek εὐγενής eugenes “well-born” from εὖ eu, “good, well” and γένος genos, “race, stock, kin”) is the belief and practice which aims at improving the genetic quality of the human population.

Now what it means to dog shows.

Early do breeders and showers did believe in some eugenics principles, that there were good and bad traits or genes that should or should not be passed on. This fell into dog shows when breed standards were solidified because these standards were saying what traits were being looked for and should be upheld in that breed.

During WWII eugenics was one practice which the Nazis became famous for and used to attempt to bring what they believed to be the best human possible into being. This best human was an Aryan Nazi. After WWII especially as everything the Nazis were doing to bring this to reality came to light, eugenics, very rightly, got cast aside.

Now an outside observer would be able to look in on the show ring circuit and say that what is being done is eugenics in play. We may be saying that to keep one breed pure and separate from another could resemble an aspect of this principle. But that’s not truly the case. If dog shows or dog breeding was meant to aim to improve the genetic quality of the dog population, then there wouldn’t be hundreds of hundreds of breeds, there would be fewer and fewer each year as we tried to perfect the dog population.

What we are doing is sustaining and expanding the different genetic makeup of dogs. Some breeds do get very limited in their genetic opportunities and in the quality of their genetic makeup, but more and more people are trying to open these possibilities rather than limit them, because in limiting them we are breaking the breed down.

Also, to say that by creating purebred dogs and upholding their status as breeds, we are encouraging this in people. is preposterous. The way I look at it, which I encourage others to do, is this. In dog shows, every breed has an equal opportunity to win. They are all on the same level at each stage. All breeds are equal. This can be viewed especially in looking at how few dogs can say that they won twice at Westminster.

All in all, dog shows are a wonderful sport and a great way to get introduced to some of the many breeds out in the world. By watching, we encourage responsible breeders to continue what they are doing. By watching, we can learn about new breeds and that could prompt someone to look for their own dog.

I hope that if any of you are looking for a dog you do your research before going to a shelter or a breeder, and that you choose a shelter or breeder that is responsible and knowledgeable of the dogs that they care for and bring into the world.

Dog Show Stereotypes – The Answers Part 2 of 4

Dog Show Stereotypes – The Answers Part 2 of 4

More answers and misconceptions.

3.) Show dogs are judged for appearances, the standard has nothing to do with function.

To the outside observer, this would be the case. It appears as though the standards aren’t for anything but cosmetic reasons. That is not actually the case though. Each apparently insignificant thing has a purpose. At the very least, that purpose is to fulfill what has worked for years to benefit the dog in doing their job. However, at the very best these seemingly arbitrary rules are for the betterment and health of the breed. The main example of this rule which applies to many dog breeds, is that only a certain amount of white is allowed for dogs. This appears to be arbitrary, but in fact, this has a very important health reason behind it. For dogs that aren’t meant to be white, like Samoyed’s, having too much white, especially around their eyes or ears, can be a sign that the dog will either already be blind or deaf, or that they will high a high likelihood of becoming so.

4.) Dog shows perpetuate inhumane practices such as cropping of ears and docking of tails.

This is a very difficult topic for many. It’s one that I myself have gone back and forth over the years. This is one that is more based in opinion than in fact and everyone will have their own opinions of this so I will say my peace and go forward.

Cropping and Docking when done properly and early enough doesn’t affect dogs too much. Some argue that docking tails impedes the natural communication between dogs, but if that were true then it also affects dogs with full tails that are tightly curled, hung over their backs, or in any other fashion beyond hanging straight also would have difficulty communicating. With ear cropping on certain dogs, it helps alleviate ear infection problems.

This practice is also under near constant criticism to the point that certain kennel clubs have removed cropped ears and docked tails from standards. The practice is all but outlawed in the UK.

Dog Show Stereotypes – The Answers Part 1 of 4

Dog Show Stereotypes – The Answers Part 1 of 4

Now for the answers on why the stereotypes held for Dog Shows should be discarded as nothing but misconception. I’ve broken the seven points into four parts, with two each until we reach the final point which I feel very strongly against and will most likely have much to say.

Many of these points work against one another so it is important to note that I may repeat points occasionally. I will do my best not to do so within one post, but between posts this may happen.

1.) Dog shows are beauty pageants.

Here’s one that’s partially correct. Yes, judges are looking at the dog and comparing them to the “perfect” dog as written in that dogs breed standard and this could be viewed as a pageant of sorts. On the breed level, where the judge is looking for the Best of Breed or BOB for a show. On this level it may feel like a beauty pageant because the dogs are all competing against each other to see which fits this standard the best. However, those standards aren’t just cosmetic, more on this later. When it gets to the Best of Group and finally Best in Show level of a dog show, when they are not breed specific, the dogs aren’t actually competing against each other. They are all competing against this mythical “Perfect” for their breed. The dogs are then marked 1st, 2nd, and so on depending on how closely they fit the standard.

This is important though because through dog shows, breeders are showing that their foundation stock and breeding dogs are enhancing and bettering the breed. If a breeder is not able to do this, to show beautiful dogs who fit the standard and are personable, then they shouldn’t be breeding.

2.) Show Dogs are inbred and riddled with health problems.

So this is a two fold comment.

For inbreeding, This one used to be true and many irresponsible breeders (meaning puppy mill and backyard breeders) may still continue to do so. Responsible breeders will not breed two dogs who are close in lineage. This means no parent to child breedings, no pairs who share parents (whether they are litter mates or not), no grandparent to grandchild breedings, and even a great-grandparent to great-grandchild pairing would be looked at negatively in many situations. This is part of what we can love about having “papers”, or your pets lineage and pedigree. You can see lineage usually up to three generations at the very least.

For health problems, this is a  large source of confusion. People looking at purebred dogs, and at particular Breeders, will begin to see that almost every breed has one or more health tests that are done to the sire and dam (male and female in breeding pair) and to any puppies, and they also may find a list of possible health problems. To someone who doesn’t know any better this might appear to be a kind of admittance of health problems. What these tests actually do is prove that the dogs being bred are proven to not carry these hereditary diseases and also show that they are not displaying any signs of future problems, such as hip checks on dogs whose breeds are susceptible to hip dysplasia. If a breeder is using a dog with health problems in their breeding program, then something is wrong. This is also why dogs with faults should not be bred, such as “Fluffy” Pem. Corgis or ones with too much white. These faults can lead to problems in future pups. “Fluffys” have a coat which is unsuitable for herding as it is not the water-resistant coat of an Australian Shepherd and will matte and catch burrs easily. Corgi’s with too much white, especially on the head, are actually prone to become blind and/or deaf. To breed any dog with one of these faults would be to subject future generations to these problems as well.

This thought has also been perpetuated by the idea that mixed breeds or mutts are overall healthier than purebreds. It has recently come to light through a scientific study in 2013 in the Journal for the American Veterinary Medical Association that mixed breeds could actually be equally healthy, or unhealthy depending on how you look at it, as purebred dogs. The reason for this being that dogs who breed to create mixed breeds are usually made by irresponsible owners. I do not say breeders here as in many cases the owners do not intend to breed their dogs. The exception being the recent “Cross-breeds” who are coming to popularity such at the Goldendoodle and the Beabull. These dogs may have begun as an irresponsible owner situation but more and more reputable breeders are doing these pairings because of popularity. It is still very important to cross check your breeder, especially for cross breeds, as these dogs aren’t recognized by kennel clubs and many responsible kennel club breeders will tell you that to cross breed a dog is not in the end all benefit for either breed. I will talk more on this in my post about purebred dogs specifically.