Monthly Archives: February 2014

Where Should I get a Puppy/ Dog From – Rescues Part 4 and 5: Rescue Types

Rescues are a great way to help a life if it fits in with your lifestyle, family situation and reasons for wanting a dog.  Unlike with breeders, almost all rescues are going to be good places to rescue from; after all, how can you go wrong when you open your heart?

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Estimated numbers of adoptions and shelter statistics are eye opening to say the least.

  • 3,500—Number of animal shelters
  • 6 to 8 million—Number of cats and dogs entering shelters each year
  • 25 percent—Percentage of purebred dogs in shelters
  • 3 to 4 million—Number cats and dogs adopted from shelters each year
  • 2.7 million—Number of adoptable cats and dogs euthanized in shelters each year
  • 30 percent—Percentage of shelter dogs reclaimed by their owners
  • 2 to 5 percent—Percentage of shelter cats reclaimed by owners

According to these number obtained from the (former) National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy only 1/2 of all animals that enter shelters are adopted.  39% of these animals are put to sleep because they didn’t find home.  These numbers speak volumes as to the reasons that someone should adopt a pet.

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Open your heart but be smart!

Just like with any important life decisions, logic needs to lead the heart.  It is important is that you make the decision based on facts, and ensure that you are ready to bring home a new dog.  Do your research ahead of time so you have everything you need; food, food and water bowls, leash and collar, crate and a whole lot of patience.

I had a friend growing up who adopted a dog from an animal shelter.  Needless to say he was not prepared.  The dog was super high energy and they both worked and attended school full time.  They didn’t know anything about training and left the dog to run their house during the day while at work.  One day they came home and the dog had eaten their entire couch.  You can probably guess what happened to the dog; he ended right up back in the shelter.  The entire situation could have been avoided had they rescued a dog that would better fit their lifestyle along with receiving a great education on how to care for a dog.

In addition to paying an ‘adoption fee’ for the dog they are about to adopt, new perspective pet owners should be required to take a day long seminar on how to care for a dog.  Perhaps they should raise the price of adoption as well and include a ‘care kit’ with the dog that has the essential items needed (crate included) and a few lessons for training.

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Education is KEY!!!!

I want to give a quick run down of the various types of places where you can adopt from.  A slight word of caution:  While these are all places you can and should adopt from, they are not all places you should support with charitable donations.  I want to give two specific examples of places you need to think twice before donating to.

ASPCA

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We’ve all seen the heartbreaking ASPCA commercials air at some point on TV.  When you donate to the ASPCA you believe you are donating to an organization that is going to help pets across the U.S.  The truth of the matter is that the ASPCA is a local branch of the SPCA in New York.  When you make a donation to the ASPCA you are making a donation to one shelter in New York.  Now, scroll back up… I’ll wait.  You’ll want to check the numbers again on how many shelters there are in the U.S.  That’s right.  There are 3,500 shelters in the U.S., of which, the ASPCA is only one.  This particular branch is extraordinarily wealthy and claims to give donation proceeds to other branches.  The truth is that less than 1% ever leaves this particular shelter in the form of donations to other SPCA shelters across the U.S.  Why would you want to give your hard earned money to a huge organization that spends less than 1/2 of the donations it earns on things other then the pets they want to help?  Giving to a local no-kill shelter or breed specific rescue organization is a much better way to help.

HSUS

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The Humane Society of the United States has been under fire lately.  I have seen a ton of articles floating around Facebook these days about allegations on mismanagement of funds, politics missteps and general ideology that you would be surprised to find in an organization such as HSUS.

HSUS doesn’t actually own or run any particular shelter. Nor are they personally associated with any animal donations, food or well being.  What they are is an extreme group of lobbyists and activists that use their name to gain donations.  Like the ASPCA, HSUS spends less than 1/2 on their budget to helping animal shelters.  When you consider their operating budget is over 99 million dollars you have to wonder what they are spending it on, if not for the welfare of animals.

HSUS is more akin to PETA an extreme animal rights activism.  CEO of HSUS was even recorded on record saying he didn’t like animals.

“I don’t love animals or think they’re cute.” – Wayne Pacelle

There are more shocking accusations of scandal that involve HSUS giving money to Michael Vick (you remember, the dog fighter) and misrepresenting and misusing funds for Hurricane Katrina pets.  If you want to read more you can do so here:  Merry Grinch-mas: the truth about ASPCA and HSUS spending.

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Sad but true.

Don’t let these two organization scare you away from donating or helping.  You don’t have to spend money either; many of the organizations could use your donation of time by dog walking, cleaning kennels or by helping to organize events.  Personally, I am a huge advocate and supporter for local no-kill shelters.  Just use the internet to find shelters in the area that could use your help, investigate them to ensure it’s an organization you want to support and then start supporting!  While I may not personally be in a position to adopt a rescue, I do my best to support them.

I just want to close out this section on rescues by pointing out the different types of shelters that you can adopt from to further help make an informed decision. NOTE:  The examples below are just that…examples.  I am not suggesting they are either good or bad, just using to further illustrate.  As always, do your own research before making a decision.

Municipal Shelter

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Wyandotte – Municipal Animal Shelter example

These are your local shelters run by the city and state.  They are operated by taxpayer dollars and as such almost always have an ‘open dog admission policy’.  This means they have to take anything that is dropped off with them regardless of space or resource available to their shelter.  They simply cannot turn an animal away even if this means putting current ones to sleep.  These shelters are the ones who tend to euthanize more-so than others simply because they are first thought of when someone needs to get rid of a pet.

No Kill Shelter

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No kill shelter example

These shelters are selective in who they are going to take but only because they are going to keep the animal for the rest of it’s life until it’s adopted.  This can mean a lengthy stay and with these longer stays comes longer and higher costs of care.  Once the shelter is full they stop taking animals in.  These shelters are typically run mostly by volunteers and donations.  Most no kill shelters are also not for profit shelters.

Not for profit Shelter

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Example of a Not for Profit Animal Shelter in Michigan.

Typically run by either a board of individuals or just a few good Samaritan types who want to help animals in need.  They will rescue animals from shelters who are set to be put to sleep, take in animals off the street or from individuals who otherwise can’t care of their animals.  These tend to be smaller in type and are all run by 100% volunteer work.  They make no money on what they do.  Anything you donate to them goes 100% to the animals they are helping.

Breed Specific Rescue

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Cascade Bulldog Rescue/Rehome, Inc. Example of a breed specific rescue located in the Pacific NW.

Rescue organization run by volunteers who take in a specific breed.  These types of rescue groups are good to adopt from if you want a specific breed of dog but still want to rescue.  Usually there is no central ‘home’ to these types of organizations but rather a network of people in a geographic area working together.  When you contact them they will usually put you in touch with the closest rescue volunteer to you.  You will meet with them and surrender the dog.  They typically ask you to fill out a detailed history, provide vet history and any other information that will be helpful in finding the animal a new home.  The dog is then placed in ‘foster care’ for evaluation, further medical treatment if needed, and will live with it’s ‘foster parents’ until a suitable adopter is found.  They do extremely rigorous checks of background and homes to ensure they are placing the dog in it’s new forever home.  They are also 100% non-profit.

Thanks for sticking with this very long series!  It’s a serious issue and I wanted to make sure I gave it the attention it deserved.  At the end of the day it’s about being a responsible pet owner and ensuring that you are well prepared before you get a dog.  I personally feel the animosity held towards reputable breeders needs to stop.  A well bred dog is just a rewarding companion as a shelter one.  Individuals who chose to go down the path of a purebred shouldn’t be made to feel any guilt for their choice. Just as in all things, research, understand and don’t make blanket assumptions. On the other hand, I have the utmost respect for people who rescue.  It really is becoming a hero in the eyes of an animal.

At the end of the day, what is needed is just better education for all people about responsible pet ownership.  I firmly believe that the path to decreasing the number of unwanted dogs is through education.  This is especially important right now in the U.S. as we continue to thrive in a ‘throw away’ society.

I hope you enjoy this series!  Check back soon for some product reviews as well as some fantastic information about healthy living for your AND your dog!

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Where Should I get a Puppy/ Dog From – Rescues

Since my posts have been exceedingly long lately, I’ll cover Part 4: Municipal shelters vs. no-kill in the next post.  What I want to cover in this post is a look at rescues overall.

In the previous posts I’ve covered off in detail (maybe too much) on the different types of breeders you can purchase a dog from.  However, there are other options that might make sense for prospective dog owners.  With the exception of backyard breeders, puppy mills and pet stores, neither is better than the other (purebred purchase from a reputable breeder vs. rescue adoptions).  Where you purchase or adopt a pet from is a highly personal choice that someone makes for their particular situation.

I absolutely respect people who rescue dogs.  My good friend has two pitbull rescues and they are absolutely fantastic well adjusted dogs (just ask my kids who spent some time with them this past weekend).  If I lived on a farm or somewhere with the room I’d probably have a few rescues myself.  However, right now in my life a rescue is not something that makes sense so I do purchase purebred dogs from a reputable breeder.

What I dislike about many rescue organization is they act like they are the only way to go and look down at those of us who purchase purebreds.  I remember an incident, many, many years ago at a local adoption.  I was looking for a cat to adopt (this was back before I developed a severe allergy to them).  I found one I liked was fine with the $150 adoption charge and happily filled out the paperwork.  The woman handling the adoptions took one look at my paperwork and told me quite briskly that I couldn’t adopt.  When I inquired as to the reason (all my paperwork was in order and I even had my lease showing I could have cats) she told me coldly that it was because I had a non-spayed dog at home.  *GASP*  I did indeed have a 1 year old Golden Retriever female who I had not yet spayed.  The reason?  She was a co-owned conformation dog and we were growing her out a bit to see how she’d do before making that determination.  It didn’t matter how responsible I was.  It didn’t matter how many dogs I had in my life that never had an unwanted litter.  It didn’t matter if I was involved in 4-H and the teaching of responsible dog training and ownership.  As I politely explained this all to the woman my irritation grew as she just kept telling me I was an irresponsible pet owner.  Here I was, wanting to adopt and I was denied and told how horrible a pet owner I was.  I don’t understand why there has to be such animosity on the part of rescue organization towards those of us who purchase or even breed purebreds.

For the record, I did end up adopting a couple of amazing kittens from a different organization.  I can’t deny though that the experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  Let me assure you that this post is not a rip on rescues.  I think rescues absolutely have their place and am happy that someone is there to help out dogs who are no longer wanted or needed.  As I said earlier, a rescue isn’t right for me at this point and time in my life.  I live in a house in the suburbs and while I do have a backyard I am not only limited by cities ordinances but have to be realistic about how much space I have for another family member.  Also, I have kids and I want to know the temperament of whatever dog I’m getting.  When we decided to get a dog for the family both my husband and I instantly agreed we wanted a Golden Retriever.  They are loyal, patient, smart (or are supposed to be at least), and tolerant.  I knew that if I got a Golden I would never have to worry about the dog snapping my kids, gaining a neurosis due to the chaos that can be my household and would love the attention it would receive.  The only way I could guarantee this was to get a purebred Golden Retriever puppy.  Adopting an older shelter/rescue would mean I wouldn’t know anything about temperament, the past history, what mom and dad were like or even anything about its health history.

Recues are a mystery.  For some people that is perfectly acceptable but for someone with a family and limited space I can’t take a ‘mystery dog’.  I don’t think they are inferior, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them; they simply don’t fit with my life right now.  While a rescue isn’t in my cards, I do support some rescue organizations because I believe in the work they do and want to help them out with donations, time and other little ways here and there.

As a prospective pet owner you have to decide for yourself what works best.  Ask yourself the following:

–          Do you want a particular type of companion or do you just want to add a four footed friend to your family?

–          Do you care about health guarantees for the life of the dog?

–          Do you need to know what breed or breeds your new dog is?

–          Do you want a detailed history or pedigree of the dog?

–          Do you want to sell out big bucks for a particular type of dog?

–          How much patience and knowledge do you have to deal with any potential behavioral issues?

Rescue dogs aren’t going to give any guarantees in terms of temperament, history, or health.  The organization you’re adopting from will do their best to past on any history they have but often times they simply don’t have any history to give you.

The great part about adopting a rescue is that you’re saving a life.  You are taking someone’s ‘trash’ and giving it a second chance at life.  Instead of the thousand plus dollars you can spend on a purebred you pay an adoption fee, typically around $200, for your new dog.  This money goes back into the organization to cover the rising costs of taking care of an animal.  Rescue dogs also usually have had a health check, are neutered/spayed, microchiped and up to date on their vaccines.  Getting a rescue dogs means you’re getting a total package.

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As I stated when starting this post, neither a dog from a reputable breeder nor a dog from a rescue is better.  If you purchase or plan to purchase a purebred do not let anyone make you feel bad or feel guilty.  Likewise, if you are getting a rescue don’t let someone scare you or talk you out of it.  So long as you’ve done your homework and are prepared either way is a great way to go!

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Where Should I get a Puppy / Dog From? Part 3 – Backyard breeders, Puppy Mills, and Pet Stores

Before I tackle today’s topic, I want to revisit Part 2 as I was remiss to give important information and pointers for perspective puppy owners.  I outlined what a good breeder should do but what about the things that a perspective puppy buyer should do?

It’s important for a potential dog owner and puppy purchasers to do their homework.  Potential puppy owners shouldn’t be shy about asking tons of questions to any breeder.  If a breeder doesn’t answer these satisfactorily or seems to get mad or frustrated it puts up a huge red flag.  Likewise you should be prepared to answer their questions; honestly.  Just like you want to know where your puppy is coming from they want to know where it’s going.  They’ll likely want to talk to you via phone, get to understand the type of dog you’re looking for, the reasons you want one and what experience you have.  I recently contacted a breeder about a potential puppy and she asked for a vet reference, something I’m more than happy to get for her.  This ensures that you do what is needed to keep your dog safe and that you are a responsible dog owner.  Don’t feel that they are trying to be intrusive; a good, responsible breeder wants to do everything they can to ensure they are placing a puppy in a forever home and one of their dogs isn’t going to end up in a shelter.

I can’t say this enough but please do your homework before contacting a breeder.  Make sure you understand the breed enough to know if it will be something you can handle and will be a good fit with other family members and your current lifestyle.  Go to shows.  Find people who own the breed you’re looking at and ask for a meet-and-greet.  Call potential breeders to find out about the breed.  Check out breed sites or organizational sites like the AKC or the UKC.   Most importantly, don’t buy a dog on impulse.  Dogs are a lifetime commitment.  They cost money beyond just the cost of the dog itself; food, vaccines, medications like heartworm, neuter/spay, toys, equipment…etc.  Make sure you have given it enough thought and are truly ready.  As a good and responsible dog owner you’ll want to do your part!

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Now, with that said, let’s turn our attention to today’s topic:  Backyard breeders, Puppy Mills and Pet Stores.

If there are 3 places that you should never, ever get a dog from these are it.  Under no circumstances is it ever okay to pay money for a puppy from any of these 3 sources.

Backyard Breeder

These individuals breed solely for profit or other misguided reasons such as ‘it’s fun’.  Often times they think their dog is cute and they have a friend or neighbor who happens to have a cute dog too and they think the puppies will be just adorable!  /facepalm

They can make a profit because they don’t do any of the needed clearances or testing to ensure they are breeding dogs that are healthy and a good example of the breed.  They have no understanding of genetics, bloodlines, or even have a base concept of breed improvement.

If a price sounds too good to be true, that’s because it probably is.  Backyard breeders sell at a low price because they can sell all the pups and still make a large profit.  If they have a litter of 5 pups and sell each for $200 they still make $1000 and all of that goes back into their pocket since they aren’t paying for the upkeep of the dog.  Their dogs often don’t live in good conditions and puppies are born in make-shift set ups or no set up at all and are left to fend for themselves.  The puppies often grow up in unsanitary and deplorable conditions.  When you don’t pay anything in, even if you lose a few you’re still making money.

Don’t be fooled by a backyard breeder offering papers or registrations with their puppies either.  Just because a breeder offers papers doesn’t mean they are reputable.  Sadly, it doesn’t take much to get AKC registration on a dog or a litter of puppies.

Backyard breeder ad from Ebay classified.  Notice that they offer 'papers'?

Backyard breeder ad from Ebay classified. Notice that they offer ‘papers’?

Signs of a backyard breeder; poor living conditions for the dog.  Photo credit:  http://k9nation.org/breeders/kindsofbreeders.html

Signs of a backyard breeder; poor living conditions for the dog. Photo credit: http://k9nation.org/breeders/kindsofbreeders.html

Not all backyard breeders are evil.  Rather, they are ignorant and/or greedy.  Some backyard breeders have good intentions but are sorely misguided.  They devalue the life of a dog to nothing more than something that can make them money with little regard to where the lives they were responsible for are going to end up.  These breeders will not offer any health guarantees and basically forget about you and the dog once you walk out their door.  These breeders should not be supported under any circumstances.

Recent Craig's List posting for Husky Puppies.  Backyard Breeder.

Recent Craig’s List posting for Husky Puppies. Backyard Breeder.

chocolate lab backyard breeder

Backyard breeders. Puppies are not a Valentine’s Day gift.

Notice the 'rehoming' and 'adoption' fee?  It's how people get around Craig's List rules.

Notice the ‘rehoming’ and ‘adoption’ fee? It’s how people get around Craig’s List rules.

Below are some of the ‘red flags’ that tell you someone is a backyard breeder so you can avoid them.

  1. Advertises in the local papers, places like ‘Petfinder’, or on Craig’s List.
  2. Doesn’t ask you any questions.  They are interested in making a sale only and could care less where the new puppy is going.
  3. Gives you a price immediately before telling you any other details.
  4. Doesn’t offer any health guarantees.
  5. Doesn’t do any health clearances like hips, elbows, or eyes (depending on the breed).
  6. Doesn’t do any genetic clearances like CEA or TNS testing (again, depending on the breed).
  7. Makes excuses on why you can’t see mom or dad or simply flat out refuses.
  8. Won’t let you see where the puppies grow up.
  9. Always seems to have puppies available (a good breeder doesn’t breed until there is demand).
  10. Offers registration papers with full registration and no questions asked (one of the ways that backyard breeders are able to continue).
  11. Breeds dogs under the age of 2.
  12. Breeds dogs back to back in their heat cycle (you should NOT breed back to back as it strains the female).  Backyard breeders do this to maximize profit.
  13. Can’t explain the reason for a dog pairing; i.e. Why did they breed for these puppies?
  14. Often have puppies that are older; don’t have waiting lists.

So what should you do if you come across a backyard breeder?  Most places have laws, regulations and ordinances against backyard breeders.  If you suspect that someone is a backyard breeder call your local animal control or local animal shelter and report them.  There is also a group on Facebook called ‘Wobbies’ that was started in November.  Their goal is to wipe out backyard breeders.  Head to their page, like it, and report any backyard breeders to them and watch the community go to work.

Two key questions you can ask:  Can I get a vet out here to check to puppy before I take him home?  Can I have references from past puppy purchasers?  The backyard breeder is going to say no to both of these questions which tells you to immediately walk away.

Puppy Mills

If backyard breeders are greedy, misguided idiots then puppy mills are simply the embodiment of pure evil.

A puppy mill is a commercial dog breeding facility.  They care only about profit and their dogs are treated like a commodity.  They live in horrible unsanitary and heartbreaking conditions.  Most live in tiny cages that are overcrowded with no access to sunlight, regular fresh water or food and do not have adequate veterinary care.  These puppies have no socialization and are often weaned from their moms between the ages of 5-6 weeks instead of the recommended 8 – 9 weeks.  The Department of Agriculture is supposed to be in charge of regulation and licensing which should include regular inspections.  The reality is that the Department of Agriculture has their hands full with other issues and can’t be bothered to keep up with regular inspections.

Once a ‘breeder’ bitch reaches the age of 4 or 5 she is too old to produce and is killed.  Animals that get sick are left untreated to die or are simply killed.  Many of the dogs can’t walk; some can’t even stand from being in such tiny cages their entire life.  Grown dogs that come from puppy mills require special attention and years of rehabilitation to live a semi-normal life.

If you think I’m exaggerating I’m not.  This is real life hell on earth for the dogs that life in these places.

Puppy Mill Conditions.  Photo credit:  http://www.columbusdogconnection.com/PuppyMillBill.htm

Puppy Mill Conditions. Photo credit: http://www.columbusdogconnection.com/PuppyMillBill.htm

Puppy Mill conditions.  Photo credit:  http://www.columbusdogconnection.com/PuppyMillBill.htm

Puppy Mill conditions. Photo credit: http://www.columbusdogconnection.com/PuppyMillBill.htm

 

Your typical puppy purchaser (you or me) will never deal with a puppy mill directly.  They don’t allow just anyone onto the facility because they know that no sane, rational human would be okay with what they do.  Instead these puppies are specifically bred and sold in bulk to Pet Stores.

I worked for a vet clinic just after high school that was the contracted/preferred vet who took care of incoming puppies for a local mall’s pet store.  These puppies would arrive on a truck, packed in like any other commodity that gets shipped.  They would be filthy, dehydrated and scared from the long drive.  The condition of these puppies was so bad that the vet clinic had an isolation room that was dedicated to just these puppy mill puppies.  Many came in with fleas, needed IVs, baths, and a large majority had to be immediately treated for parvo.  It was absolutely heartbreaking.  We saw many of these pups get put to sleep because they were already beyond help at just 6 or 7 weeks of age.  There were a few puppies that ended up being ‘adopted’ by vet staff (I use the term ‘adopted here loosely as they were simply taken home and never went back to the pet store).  If a dog needed expensive medical care the Pet Store asked for them to be put to sleep.  The ones that could be saved were and became property of the vet clinic.  One vet tech had 3 dogs, all from puppies that the Pet Store wrote off.  The vet’s prime job was to provide health certificates for the puppies that would go home with the new puppy once the pet store found a buyer.  The kickback to the vet was that the pet store would required these new puppy purchasers to get a vet check with him.  He had a revolving door of business and new clientele that way.  I honestly don’t know how the man slept at night knowing he contributed to the sustainability of both puppy mills and pet stores.

Pet Stores

Pet stores are the sole reason that puppy mills continue to exist.   Pet stores that sell dogs and puppy mills are symbiotic; they can’t exist without each other.  Let me clarify I’m not saying all pet stores are bad, just pet stores that sell puppies.  Again, it’s business and the bottom line on any business is profit.

Most pet stores don’t broker directly with the puppy mill.  Instead the puppy mills use ‘dealers’ who masquerade as purebred breeders.  They serve as a middle man and a buffer for the truth of where these puppies come from.  However, pet stores should know better; no and I repeat, under no circumstances would any reputable breeder sell to a pet store.

I’ve always been shocked by the prices that pet store charge for these so-called purebred puppies.  More often than not they are not purebred dogs regardless of what the pet store tells you.  Even so, if it’s a purebred their prices are astronomical.  An individual could find a reputable breeder, pay less, and get a better puppy.

$1,000 for a mixed breed?!  $600?

$1,000 for a mixed breed?! $600?

$1600 pit bull puppy and over $3,000 for the bulldog.  Bulldog's can be expensive but this a $3k gamble.

Over a thousand for a pit bull puppy and over $3,000 for the bulldog. Bulldog’s can be expensive but this a $3k gamble.

Pet stores also make a crisp business on designer dogs; Cock-a-poo, Golden Doodle, Chavachon, Chesadore, Chi-a-poo, Malshi, Puggle, Malti-poo, Maltzer, Morkie, Peke Tzu, Mini Bulldog (which is apparently a Bulldog, Pug mix) or whatever crazy name they come up with.  A mixed breed, is a mixed breed, is a mixed breed.  These ‘designer dogs’ also come with a steep price tag.  Pet stores can get away with it because people actually pay it.  I cannot even wrap my mind around the fact that people are willing to sell out over a thousand dollars for a mixed breed dog! These are not designer breeds… there is no such thing.

A Shitzu-Yorkie mix for over $500.

A Shitzu-Yorkie mix for over $500.

A list that one Pet Store's website had for all their 'Hybrid Designer Breeds'.

A list that one Pet Store’s website had for all their ‘Hybrid Designer Breeds’.

One pet store I looked at listed over 34 puppies arriving in February alone.  Many of the puppies incoming are already neutered or spayed at less than 8 weeks of age.

Almost all the websites I looked at said they sell only puppies from licensed USDA breeders.  Licensed USDA breeder is code for ‘puppy mill’.  Anyone who sells an animal to a pet store must have a USDA license.  The only reason to get one is so you can sell to a pet store.  The license doesn’t ensure anything more than a requirement for food, water and shelter but doesn’t specify or interfere with the manner in which they are housed.  They puppy mills can literally cram in hundreds of dogs in a small space and so long as they provide food, water and shelter it’s perfectly acceptable.  When a pet store says, “We only sell puppies from USDA licensed breeders they have told you flat out they purchase and resell puppy mill puppies.

At ‘XX Pet Store’ we offer a wide variety of puppies and designer hybrid puppies.

The vast majority of our puppies come from USDA certified breeders. We also enjoy featuring puppies from small independent breeders where licensing is not required. All the breeders names and addresses are proudly displayed on each puppy’s cage! Many of our breeders offer AKC, ACA, or APR registration. Also, many of our puppies come with microchips in case your puppy were to be lost or stolen.

Or this one:

All ‘XY Pet Store’ is the only one of its kind in the industry to be regulated and licensed to sell puppies. This means we must follow the laws with our puppies and only use USDA licensed breeders. When it comes to choosing our breeders, we have our research and development team seek out the finest kennels and ensure that they have the same standards, work ethics and professionalism as ‘XY Pet Store’.

Remember above where I said that puppy mills use ‘brokers’.  That’s exactly who these places are dealing with and regardless of the words they use they’re still perpetuating puppy mills.

Many pet stores also tout that if they don’t currently have the breed you’re looking for they can get it!

We always strive to keep a large selection of Breeds of every size, from Chihuahua’s and Yorkshire Terrier’s to English Mastiff’s and Saint Bernards. We generally have the largest selction of breeds in the area. If we dont have the certain breed you are looking for we may be able to obtain from one of our breeders.

 I left the above quote as is without editing.

I’ve also seen a pet store offer 100% financing for their puppies.  If someone can’t afford a puppy they shouldn’t be buying one and offering financing is almost guaranteeing that the purchaser isn’t ready for a puppy.

I blocked out the pet store name.

I blocked out the pet store name.

So why do people buy from a pet store?

First – impulse.  You’re out and about, and would you just look at the super cute puppy in that store?  We should totally get one!  Let’s do it because if we don’t do it then it might not be there later.  Dresses are an impulse buy, puppies are not.

Second – Easy, no hassle purchase.  Pet stores don’t ask questions.  They aren’t going to screen prospective buyers.  If you have the money they have the puppy.

Third – ignorance.  Prospective puppy buyers just don’t know better.  They don’t realize there is an entire world of reputable breeders that will help them not only find a breed that fits their life but will be a partner with them for the life of the dog.  I’m stunned by the amount of people that don’t even know the first place to look for a puppy.  Between reputable breeders and rescues there should never be a reason to purchase a puppy from a pet store; never.

To recap, there is never a good reason to purchase a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill or pet store; never.  Ignorance is not an excuse.  I didn’t not pull any punches here because I don’t think this is a topic we should be sugar coating.

In Part 4, I’ll be talking about Municipal Shelters vs. No-Kill Shelters

Stay tuned!

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Looking for a Dog Tag?! I have the place for you!

A good friend of mine just recently opened a shop that offers dog tags and magnets!  If you ask nicely she’ll even do a custom order for you and her prices can’t be beat!

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Here is the amazing tag she made for Blizzard:

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Check her out and tell her BarkCulture sent you!

Click here to take a look – Happy Doge!

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Where Should I get a Puppy / Dog From? Part 2: Responsible breeders: Conformation / Performance Breeders

Edit:  I made an absolutely horrible spelling error which is now fixed.  Apologies!

Welcome to part 2!  This post is going to be a really good look at dog breeders; specifically those who breed their dogs for either conformation, performance or both.  I will attempt to peel back the layers to get at the heart of the matter and arm you with some good knowledge and a deep understanding of the professional dog breeding industry.  This is specifically looking at the more responsible breeders out there and should serve as a guide to spotting one.  We’ll tackled puppy mills and back yard breeders in a later post.

First, let me tackle some common misconceptions that I hear from various individuals and organizations about dog breeders.

  1. Breeders are the reason there are so many dogs in animals shelters.
  2. Breeders only care about money; they view their dogs as a business and nothing more.
  3. Purebred dogs from breeders will have more health problems and genetic issues than a mixed breed.
  4. All dog breeders are bad.

I have heard these arguments over and over again; in fact, I still hear them today. Let me respond in turn:

(1)Breeders are not the reason that animals make their ways into shelters.  Uniformed, uneducated and careless owners are the reason.  As a result of this ignorance states are making blind legislation that hurts reputable breeders and makes it hard to continue doing something they are passionate about and love.  Again, it’s treated like a ‘black and white’ issue.  It’s not (I’m sure you’re noticing the theme here).

(2)Reputable breeders don’t breed dogs for money.  In fact, they typically spend more money on testing, vaccines, food, shelter and a variety of other items that they are often lucky if they break even.  Good breeders simply are not in it for the money; they are in it for the love of the dog.

(3) Yes, purebred dogs can have health problems from irresponsible breeders who are breeding for the wrong reasons.  However, a breeder who knows the breed can inform you of potential issues and you can make an informed decision from there.  Just because we are cognizant about potential health issues doesn’t mean they are less healthy than a mixed breed.

I cannot iterate this last point enough.  (4) Not all dog breeders are created equal.  In fact, we need reputable and responsible breeders to preserve the breed and continue to improve it.

Purchasing from a breeder is right for you if you’re looking specifically for certain characteristics in a dog, want a guarantee on temperament as well as health or are looking to get a specific breed.

If you’re looking for a puppy or starting to contemplate getting one you should first keep the following in mind.

All good breeders should do the following:

  • Genetic and/or health testing specific to their breed.They will also explain in-detail all the potential issues they face and what they have done to keep them out of the lines they breed.
  • Make sure the dogs they are breeding have appropriate health clearances before breeding; specifically look for:
    • Things like hips and elbows if the breed is known to have problems.  They will provide you proof if asked.
  • Provide health guarantees for the life of the dog against known genetic or other health problems for that breed; they should provide such guarantees in writing.
  • Have you fill out a puppy questionnaire or ask you A LOT of questions about where the pup is going.  Expect an interrogation.
  • Let you meet mom and/or dad if they are onsite at the breeders premise
  • Provide you pedigrees for mom and dad so you can track lineage and ensure against line breeding
  • Has only 1 or 2 breeds they work with
  • Let’s you spend quality time with the puppy on multiple occasions before you purchase
  • Breeds no sooner than every other heat
  • Breeds for specific characteristics and can tell you why they bred the two dogs they did
  • Doesn’t just give you a puppy based on ‘looks’ alone.  Tries to match you to a puppy that has a personality you’re looking for
  • Explains in depth the pros and cons of the breed (no breed is perfect for everyone)
  • Will serve as a point of contact for questions or just check-ins through the life of your dog; they should be willing to be a resource
  • Should be the first person you contact if you don’t want the dog; a responsible breeder will always take a dog back

With that in mind, I want to delve more deeply into the difference between a breeder who breeds for conformation and a breeder who breeds for performance.

Yes, I said earlier that a breeder’s job is to improve the breed.  No, it’s not playing god. What it is doing is being responsible.  Dogs make fantastic pets but that’s not what all dogs are bred for.  If you’ve watched a dog show on TV you know that dogs fall into different categories; Companion, Sporting, Non-Sporting, Herding, Hound, Terrier, Toy and Working.  I won’t get into these so if you want to learn more, take a look at the AKC’s website for a deeper explanation.  Companion and Toy dogs are the only breeds specifically bred to be pets, the rest were bred with a specific ‘job’ to do.  Their structure and personality have direct correlation around this ‘job’.  Now, this is where conformation and performance breeders are going to diverge.  Breeders who primarily breed for conformation are attempting to improve the breed by continuing to breed towards the ideal breed standard.  Those who breed for performance do so specifically to improve the breed by selecting for those characteristics that allow the dog to perform it’s job.

Let’s pause a moment.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t purchase a dog that was bred for something other than being a pet to be a part of your family.  It’s these job characteristics that make certain dogs absolutely wonderful family companions.  Just know that there are some breeds out there that still need a ‘job’ to be happy.  Often times the destructive behavior that lands a dog in a shelter or rescue is from neurotic behavior that stems from boredom, not getting enough exercise or by simply not having a job to keep their minds occupied; behavior that could have been prevented with a little history into the breed you’re getting.  This is also a reason many people chose to purchase from a breeder and not a rescue; knowing the breed helps them react and work with their dog properly. Unpause.

Let’s get back to the difference in conformation and performance dog breeders.

Conformation

The dog industry (in the US, I’m looking at you AKC), has forced a divergent split between ‘looks’ and ‘performance’ in purebreds.  While not unheard of, it’s rare to see a dog that conforms to the breed standard while still being able to perform what it has been bred to do.  In fact, special awards are given for dogs that can do both conformation and agility or obedience.  The reasons for this are twofold.  First, since breeders are selecting essentially for ‘looks’, any of the dogs personality or ability to perform is secondary.  Who cares if my Border Collie can’t herd if he looks great and can become a champion?  Second, many breeders don’t work on the duality that their breed presents.  When I bought my dog Blizzard, I asked the breeder about hunting and retrieving.  Her dogs hadn’t even ever been swimming.  She bred purely for looks and while her dogs could potentially been great hunting and retrieving dogs, she didn’t know as she never worked any of her dogs to see if they even had that aptitude.  Sure, you can teach your dog to do what it is supposed to do but let’s be honest here; great dogs have innate ability, drive, and intelligence to do what they were bred to.  Conformation breeders, who breed only to the standards of structure are unintentionally selecting against the reasons for that breed existing.

I’m not saying you can’t take a Golden Retriever that was bred for conformation and teach them retrieving and make then a hunting dog.  You can, with hard work and lots of hours of training.  However, if your retriever is gun shy or doesn’t gently pick up the duck you’re going to have issues.  What I am saying is that if you want a dog specifically to do what it is supposed to do you generally have to find a performance breeder and not a conformation one.

The AKC in the US has turned the sport of conformation into one that relies solely on looks with no brains (this is politics aside, something I’m not tackling now).  As long as the dog conforms to the breed standards it doesn’t matter if they can sit when told, let alone do what they were bred for.  This exaggeration of certain breed characteristics has forever changed many breeds and not for the positive.  German Sheppard’s now have such severe angulations in the hind quarters that they can hardly walk let alone herd or do protection work.  Even many of the ‘companion breeds’ are suffering from such irresponsible breeding.  The French Bulldog and Pug are perfect examples.  This is a breed that, left to it’s own devices, would select against the snubbed nose.  In fact, many of the French Bulldogs born in the US have to be born via c-section due to their heads being too large to fit through the birth canal.  There would be no genetic preference to have such a severely snubbed nose.

Look at the AKC’s breed standard for the French Bulldog:

The stop well defined, causing a hollow groove between the eyes with heavy wrinkles forming a soft roll over the extremely short nose; nostrils broad with a well defined line between them

The standard calls for an extremely short nose but I would argue the breed, as it stands today has a fairly non-existent nose.  What is ‘extremely short’?  It’s left open and as the years have gone by the nose has gone from extremely short to a health hazard.  Unfortunately common sense seems to have left the building for breeders whose livelihood comes from their show winners.

Comparative look at a French Bulldog from the past to today.

Comparative look at a French Bulldog from the past to today.

If you’re looking for a conformation dog to show, good luck to you.  Most breeders won’t sell their shows dogs to someone who is unknown in the industry.  Purchasing a conformation show dog is a lot like gambling; you pay a ton of money with no actual guarantees on the dog actually conforming to standards; in fact, from my experience you’re probably better off gambling the money you would otherwise spend.  While conformation breeders will and do guarantee against health issues they never guarantee that your dog is going to win in the show ring.  Case in point:  I purchased Blizzard for conformation and at the age of 3 I am having him neutered.  He never panned out to be a show dog but I love him nonetheless and he will stay with this family until he dies.  I have a very expensive pet dog.

My advice to you, if you want to get a dog to show, is to network, network, network and be patient.  Many breeders are going to turn you away.  Some might even downright laugh at you.  If you are tenacious enough you might eventually find someone willing to sell you a show dog.  Conformation breeders evaluate the litter’s structure at around 8 weeks of age to get a gauge on show potential.  They then go down a list starting with ‘pick of the litter’.  If you are getting pick 5 out of 6 you likely shouldn’t expect too much from your new show pup in the ring.  I once had ‘pick of the litter’ and ended up choosing the 2nd pick in the litter as I like her personality more.  Even at second pick she turned out to not be show quality either.  Also, expect a contract that outlines the terms and how many shows you’ll need to do.  Most importantly don’t expect to win big time, not in the AKC at least unless you are willing to shell out big bucks for a handler.  Make sure you ask questions and get referrals to ensure you are getting a dog from a breeder who isn’t so focused on ‘looking pretty’ that they are wearing blinders to other issues like temperament.

Performance

Breeders who breed specifically for performance do so looking at drive, ability, intelligence and whether or not they can do a number of different tasks.  Performance breeders aren’t necessarily breeding their dogs to do their specific job but they can be looking to breed for certain characteristics that the breed is known to be good at; agility, flyball, obedience, search and rescue, therapy, etc.  I know many Border Collie breeders that look for that high drive that make them fantastic agility dogs.  My first dog ever was a Golden Retriever that was bred for obedience.  She was everything I could have asked for and we went all the way up to UD training.  She did obedience, agility, junior showmanship and would have learned math for me if I asked her too.  She would have never made it in the show ring; her coat was curly, she didn’t have a straight topline, and her head was a tad too small.  However, she did what she was bred to do an I couldn’t have asked for more.

The Golden Retriever is a perfect example of a breed that has diverged due to the conformation / performance split.  20 years ago Golden Retrievers were one of the go-to breeds for obedience work due to their intelligence and eagerness to please.  Today, unless you specifically find a performance Golden they are often a few nuggets short of a happy meal.  Unsurprisingly there is often a vast difference in appearance between a performance and conformation dog.

Difference between a 'show' Golden bred specifically for conformation and one bred for hunting/retrieving. Notice the difference in head, coat texture, coat color and bone structure.

Difference between a ‘show’ Golden bred specifically for conformation and one bred for hunting/retrieving. Notice the difference in head, coat texture, coat color and bone structure.

Performance dogs are a good bet if you’re looking for a family member or for the dog to participate in a specific sport.  The dogs bred typically have  impressive lineage with multi-titles in a number of different dog sports.  Since they are focused on ‘doing’ and not ‘looking’ you tend to get a healthier more well rounded dog.

There are breeders out there who pay careful attention to both structure and temperament.  A good breeder should always keep an eye on temperament but unfortunately many do not.  When I look for a breeder I look for someone who has champion bloodlines with versatile dogs who can do more than look pretty in a show ring.  The UKC is an organization that recognizes the importance of both ‘form and function’ and their breed standards are being changed to reflect that.  The dog should conform to the standards but should also be able to do what it was meant to do.  More organizations and breeders need to bring conformation and performance back together in the breed.

Check back for Part 3 – Backyard Breeders, Puppy Mills and Pet Stores

 

 

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Where Should I get a Puppy / Dog From? Part 1 – Overview

It’s that time of the year when dog owners across the U.S. sit glued to their TV for two days, eagerly awaiting to see who will be crowned “Best in Show”.  That’s right; it’s time for the 138th annual Westminster Dog Show on February 10th and 11th.  For those who haven’t heard, this year also features the 1st annual Masters Agility Championship which will air on Saturday February 8th.  For more details click here.

I love watching the Westminster dog show.  I also know the politics behind it and like I said earlier one of these days I’ll post about the ins and outs of conformation dog showing.  However, I thought that with Westminster right around the corner it would be a great time to tackle an issue I often see debated; where should you get a puppy/dog from?

In 2012 a Forbes contributor authored a great piece about the issue.  The article, “Westminster, ‘Show Dog,’ and the Battle Over Purebred Puppies” is still a pertinent read 2 years later.

In this article he summarizes much of my own feelings.  In fact, there is one quote in his article in which I swear I’ve written myself.  The quote comes from Josh Dean, author of “Show Dogs:  The Charmed Life and Trying Times of a Near-Perfect Purebred”.  I haven’t read the book but promptly placed it in my Amazon Wish List and will do a more thorough review once I’ve read it.  His quote succinctly sums up the reason that people get a purebred dog from a breeder even if it does make the issues seem very black and white:

“They know the breed so well that they know what the puppies are going to turn out to be: Size, temperament, lifespan, how much they’re going to shed,” explains Dean. “They don’t sugar coat it at all. They’re very honest, because their worst fear is having an owner who’s unhappy.  If you go to a pound, you have no idea what you’re going to end up with.”

The issue isn’t as simple as ‘black and white’.  He makes it sound like all breeders are honest.  Are all breeders honest?  The good ones are.  This doesn’t mean they all are.

However, the issue is much more complicated than simply ‘purebred’ vs. ‘rescue’.  The issue is very much all shades of grey.  After all, you can get a ‘purebred’ from a rescue.  Also, in today’s day you can sadly get a non-purebred from a ‘breeder’ (and I use the term ‘breeder’ loosely here); Goldendoodles, Labradoodles, or whatever other crazy combination people are ‘designing’ now-a-days.

What it comes down to is personal choice and personal preference.  In the end it’s about getting a dog that becomes a member of your family and gets treated with kindness and love until they pass over the rainbow bridge.

With that said, there are some types of ‘breeders’ or places to buy/adopt dogs that should absolutely be avoided at all costs.  I think we all know what those are and I’ll get into more detail later on.  I just wanted to make sure I throw it out there so that you know I don’t think just any place is okay to purchase / adopt your dog.

Over the next few posts I’m going to discuss the various avenues for getting a dog.  Like I said, the issue is extremely complicated and I want to make sure I give enough time and attention to each venue.  Below is a rough ‘pros and cons’ list of getting a dog from a breeder vs. a rescue.

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I just did what I said was a ‘no-no’ earlier; I made it black and white.  The issue isn’t.  The reason?  There are numerous types of ‘breeders’ where you can get a dog and there are numerous types of rescues.  Below are the various types of people / places you can purchase / adopt a dog / puppy from.

Types of breeders vs rescues

Each of these also has their own pros and cons as well.  However, I wanted to start off looking at the big picture.  Over the next few posts I am going to be discussing each type in much deeper detail.  As with all things you need to do your own research, for your own opinion and make an informed decision.  No one can make the decision for you as getting a dog is a serious decision.  What I hope to do is enlighten you and give you some information to get you thinking and to jump start your own research.

Below is when you can expect me to tackle each of the types of places / people you can get a dog/puppy.

Check back on Tuesday for Part 2.

I also wanted to give a huge shout out to Amy for suggesting the topic.  It’s a huge topic to undertake but well worth it.  I hope I do it justice Amy!

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