Choosing puppies

Choosing a puppy is fun, but it is work if you do it right.  Much of the choosing dilemma can be reduced by a breeder who is in the know.  As most of you already know, I am a huge temperament testing advocate.  I do testing of litters often and find it extremely interesting.  The test puts puppies through different trials to see how they react.  I believe testing to be extremely important but one should also know how to read the results and between the lines.  I do a great deal of between the line result reading when I test myself.  As a behavior specialist this gives me more information than simply relying on the initial test. 

Another huge factor in choosing a puppy is a breeder who knows their litter.  A breeder in the know will take temperament test scores and the individual puppy personality within the litter into account.  These two factors will help to best place a puppy in the proper home.  There are many things to consider when adding a puppy to your home and communication with the breeder, rescue or foster is imperative.  

The first and most important thing is to choose a breed or mix of breeds that will suit your lifestyle.  I cannot tell you how many people got a dog because of appearance.  This can be a huge mistake.  Choosing a puppy because it is the cutest in your mind is not a good idea.  I am not a fan of breeders who just let puppy buyers choose who they want.  Most have no idea how to choose and go by looks alone.  When you visit puppies, they may be hungry, tired, just awake etc. etc. So there is no way to really know if you don't even know what to look for.  

Breeders should guide prospective puppy buyers.  They should communicate extensively to make sure that the buyers get the best puppy for their family.  Perhaps a puppy buyer may not be a good match for a particular breed or mix of breeds; breeders need to communicate that as well.  They should share the good and bad about their puppies with prospective buyers.   

Communication is huge, both with breeders and potential buyers.  People who are interested may have a long list of questions; that's a good thing.  Questions mean that the buyer cares, a good thing!  If a breeder is not willing to freely share information, move along to the next.  If a breeder is pushing their puppies, move along.  If a breeder does not make you feel warm and fuzzy about your purchase, move along.  

Above all, listen to your gut.  That extra sense that tells you right from wrong, listen to it.  Looking for a puppy to add to your family is serious business.  Find a breeder, rescue or foster who is up to your standard.  Anything less is less.  Dogs deserve the best.

Mud slinging

                                                                           For the love of dogs.

This morning I want to talk about mud slinging in regards to purchasing a puppy from a breeder.  A good friend and I were talking about this the other day; she told me that a neighbor of hers was mad because she bought her puppy and didn't rescue.  Just yesterday I read literally hundreds of comments on a blog; that were mud slinging back and forth because of a rescue/buy from a breeder debate.  Reading through all of the comments; you could feel the hatred, the anger, and for what?  I thought to myself "why not just put all that energy into the real problem?"  The puppy millers.

Some rescue people throw a giant blanket over breeders; scooping them all into one giant evil pile.  It is sad when people do this because there are monumental differences between an ethical breeder and a miller.  I have been told by an anti breeder, rescuer crusader that I do not deserve to have a dog because I want a particular breed.  When the woman blurted this out at me; I knew she had no idea who I was, what I do or how I love all dogs.  I didn't get into it with her; I could have but chose to be civil. 

I'm frankly sick of all this sh*t.  So much anger and pointing fingers.  There are good breeders who care about producing a litter now and again.  They choose carefully, test all breeding dogs, take the utmost of care in whelping and raising the puppies and scrutinize where those puppies end up.  There are also a lot of very bad breeders; and they do not have to have huge breeding facilities to be grouped in the miller pile.  People who breed puppies to make money are bad breeders.  They cut corners, they don't test because that cuts into the bottom line.  They feed low grade food to save a buck and they produce many litters to maximize the financial intake. 

Yes, rescuing is wonderful and I think if someone wants to rescue then they should.  Saving a life and offering a dog a good home and family is amazing.  But rescuing is not for everyone and if someone chooses to purchase a puppy from a wonderfully ethical breeder; to care for that puppy for their life then what is wrong with that?  I commend anyone who does their research, finds a great breeder and takes care of their dog for their life.  Good on you. 

Those who stand up on a pillar and spew anger for all breeders is wrong.  The shelters and rescues are filled with dogs from millers; whether they are a person who had one litter just because they thought it would be fun or a huge breeding facility.  They don't care where their puppies end up and will sell to whoever has money.  They often push the idea of two puppies instead of one.  Selling puppies to them is like selling anything else, tires, t-shirts, shoes, whatever.  Whoever has the money gets a puppy.  Impulse purchases are something that millers rely on and it is often these impulses that are at the highest risk of being shelter bound.  People don't think before they buy.  People want the newest up and coming when they buy something.  Millers will not take a dog back if something goes wrong.  These are the breeders who are filling the shelters and rescues.  The ones who lie about dogs to people who don't know.  Just like the designer dog, that have been advertised for its miraculous qualities.  People buy into it, buy a puppy and soon realize that it is a dog like any other.  They didn't want a dog they wanted a super dog.  Sad. 

Sharing information and letting people know where they should and should not get a dog is all that can be done.  Just like good and bad breeders; there are also good and bad rescues.  I know of one breeder who claims to be a rescue; she has a crazy amount of rare puppies but still claims to be a rescue.  You must research your rescue as well; not all rescues are rescuing for the good of the dogs.  Greed is the core to the problem of and shelters filling up; like anything else, greed is almost always at the core.    I know good breeders who have gone bad due to greed.  When I visit a website who has multiple litters listed; then I know that greed is the driving force. 

As far as I am concerned, there are VERY FEW good, ethical breeders out there.  If everyone only went to ethical breeders then there would be very few dog in shelters and rescues.  But sadly there are a lot of bad breeders who are filling up the shelters and rescues.  Rescue a dog, save a life.  If you decide to purchase go to a breeder who does all the health testing, temperament testing, placing of puppies after temperament test in appropriate home and has one or two litters a year. 

Those of you who do rescue; I applaud your choice to save a life.  But do not look down or mud sling at those who choose to get a puppy from an ethical breeder.  Mud slinging is counter productive and brings out the worst in us.  When humans have one way of thinking and cannot venture out to think in a bigger picture it is very handicapping.  To be close minded is a fault as far as I'm concerned.  Like I said in a previous blog, there is more to life than black and white.  If we all focus on the love of dogs; perhaps someday all the horrid people breeding for money will be non existent.  Its a nice thought. 

If you know someone who is considering a pet store or mill to purchase their puppy, educate them gently.  Screaming, name calling, pointing fingers, being rude or ranting and raving does nothing but shut people down.  Many humans go on the attack when others have a difference of opinion; it is sad and typically from those with closed minds.  

A dog problem

There is a dog problem; without a doubt there are too many dogs.  The other night my son and I had a very in-depth conversation about the problem of too many dogs, rescuing and breeders.  It all started over Elsa's tail; as a extremely compassionate person with regards to animal welfare he just cannot understand why?  Why would anyone cut off a dog's tail.  "Why do they do it?" He asked me and I tried to explain where the practice all began.  He then asked "why do people still do it then," and I tried to answer that one. 

We then moved onto breeders, being that we were talking about those who do and those who do not amputate tails.  He took issue with people breeding dogs in general; it was an across the board statement so we discussed breeders across the board.  This is a common opinion for many people; I have been told before that I don't deserve a dog because I want a particular kind.  So I explained to him my point of view on the whole 'dog problem.'

There are too many dogs; the shelters and rescues are filled to the brim and then some.  But where do these dogs come from?  Breeders, yes, but not good breeders.  I explained to him what my list entails to be considered a good breeder. 

Breeder - has one or two litters a year, not a page long list of available puppies at any time.
  -dogs and puppies live in the house as family.
 - rescues when they can.
 - will take back a puppy or adult dog at any time to replace. (Things happen in life)
 - only breeds dogs who have been completely health screened.
 - breeds only dogs with sound temperaments.
 - breeds to build a sound dog, doesn't follow a trend.
 - breeds with a passion for their dogs; is not driven by the lure of greed.  (This shows up in  many different ways)
 - temperament tests puppies and places them in homes accordingly.  (Not picked at 2 weeks of age by the prospective owner)
 - offers the puppies external stimulus and socialization early on.
 - does not breed for what is "in."
 - will never breed an iffy dog either in temperament or structure due to anticipation, time and effort.

I could go on and on but this is my base list.  He then asked "how do you make breeders do these things?"  The answer is, you don't.  If you have to make people do all of these things then they aren't doing it for the right reasons.  I want someone who wants to do all of these things. 

We then moved onto Millers.  There lies the problem, right there.  Millers are the problem, they rely on quantity not quality to fill their pockets.  They let impulse buyers buy their goods and don't care who takes the dog as long as they pay.  Millers are the problem and that is where animal lovers should direct their attention for attack.  Shut the mills down and we will be almost there. 

I then explained about random people who want to have a litter of puppies.  They too will sell to whoever will buy.  They don't want all these puppies; they maybe wanted just one or to turn a quick buck.  They have no idea of what they are selling; there were no health tests, no temperament tests and they will give one to whoever will pay. 

Support the good breeders and go after the bad; it is that simple.  There are very, very few amazing breeders out there.  The solution to finding those is to educate the public.  But then again many of the public are not listening; they don't care as long as they get the puppy they want.  Even if it means that 2 months down the road they don't want it anymore and just dump it down a long and abandoned road. 

The topic is vast; there are many things to talk about.  But if for one minute you think that all breeders are bad, think again.   Out of all of the dogs in rescue and or shelters; a very low percentage are from the people who care, the good breeders.  It can happen but the problem is the mass producers and those who will sell a dog to anyone for money. 

The conversation will continue.....

Pick up sticks

Dogs are so smart, far smarter than we give them credit.  Almost weekly, I have a "wow" canine moment.  This past weekend when we had our little foster guests at our home; Elsa was on a mission.  Her mission was to get this little, tiny canine to play.  As you all know Elsa loves to play; she loves to play more than anything else.  She doesn't care if you are canine or human; she's up for a good rough and tumble.  So when she was faced with a dog who wanted nothing to do with her, she had a big job in front of her.

First they had to get the "how do you do's" out of the way and then it was play time.  Each and every time Elsa tried to play the puppy sat staring at her.  If Elsa made a playful leap in the puppy's direction she went running for cover.  Sprout had obviously not had a great deal of play experience in her life thus far.  This was going to be a lot of work for Elsa; not only did she need to break through the fear factor of Sprout, but there was the huge size difference to consider.  If Elsa had been closer to Sprouts size it might have been a little less daunting of a task.

So she tried and she tried; Elsa tried everything she knew to get the little puppy to play.  She threw her toys in the air, across the room and down the stairs.  She shook the toys until I thought that she would give herself whiplash.  Elsa jumped and leapt around making it look like she was having the best time of her life; but the puppy wasn't buying it.  Sprout sat safely under a chair watching.

Before the first day ended there was a glimmer of play in Sprouts eye.  She was starting to understand what all this crazy behavior was from Elsa.  I had Elsa lay down so that she wasn't quite so large comparatively.  This really helped as Sprout came out from the chair and had a sniff; she even made an almost play bow but then ran for cover again.  By the next day things were changing; Sprout was not running for cover nearly as much.  Of course when Elsa came charging and pouncing in her direction, she hid.  But Sprout was following Elsa around and Elsa was quite enjoying being the boss; she's a pretty bossy girl. 

Then the breakthrough moment appeared.  Elsa stood staring, watching Sprout intently; as she had done since her arrival, she got an idea.  We were all sitting outside under a tree.  Luke was laying peacefully in the shade; Sprout was sniffing around with Elsa watching.  Sprout picked up a stick, a tiny stick; fitting for a very tiny puppy.  I took it away as she started to chew it.  That was Elsa's moment; she saw what the puppy wanted and knew then what to do.  She immediately picked up a stick and brought it over to Sprout.  Backing away as Elsa loomed over her; Sprout stared at the stick.  Sprout looked shocked that Elsa had brought her a stick and when she reached out to get it, Elsa grabbed it and ran off.  She immediately brought it back and tried again.  She reached down, offering Sprout the stick in her mouth and she took the bait, finally.   The game was on.

The whole process was amazing to watch as it unfolded.  Elsa was beyond dedicated in her pursuit of a game.  Her thought process was undeniable and her ability to teach another, impeccable.  The two shared a stick moment; with Elsa picking all the sticks up and offering them to Sprout.  Finally Elsa lay down beside Sprout as they enjoyed a bit of stick chewing together.  A tiny stick had been the key that would break down the wall.  Elsa saw the tiny stick as an opportunity and took it. 

They are truly amazing; aren't they? 


A tiny moment

Saturday morning I hopped in the xterra and head out to pick up my little foster.  I melted as soon as I saw her little face.  She wiggled on her side, squinting and wagging; she was tiny, so very tiny.  Pulling the blanket she lay on closer to me I was able to pick her up and hold her in my arms.  It had been a very long time since I'd held something so small.  We got her things together and we made the trip back to my house.

It is strange when you know nothing about a dog; no background, nothing about the life before she found her way into the rescue group.  I wondered where she was born, if there were more than her in the litter, where her Mother was now.  But when you don't know all that you deal with what is before you; and that was a very tiny and adorable little puppy.  She had what I call a Disney face; the kind that no one can look at without saying awwwww.   A little face filled with tufts of wiry expression.  With the scruffy little face that she had her body was so tiny.  Her two front feet looked like they had been dipped in white paint.  She was a doll for sure.

She took quite a while to warm up to Elsa.  Of course there was a 42lb size difference.  Luke was pretty much as non issue as he was only momentarily interested in her.  At 13 he is so mellow that he pretty much just goes with the flow.  After a while she seemed very comfortable to just lay beside his warm and furry body.  Her day with us was an exhausting one.  From one home to another, to meet new dogs and new routines but she was a trooper.  She stuck to me like glue from the moment we met. 

Watching her tiny 4lb body run around the yard was so different.  She could go where my dogs would have never even considered going.  Tiny crooks and corners she investigated; there in the the tiny world that was hers.  Watching her and Elsa together; I considered how large a person would have to be to me to match their ratio.  A person the height of my house would be about right; can you even imagine?  But Elsa was not going to let size interfere with her fun; no she had plans of her own and they were filled with fun.  Elsa was amazing with this tiny puppy.  She tried her very best to show her how to have fun and do things that only dogs can do.  She was patient and forgiving; relentless in her quest to play with our new house guest. 

By the second day the puppy was starting to quite enjoy Elsa and followed her around the yard.  She was still understandably apprehensive as she should have been.  She was becoming a pack member albeit a four pound one.  Her time with us was short; a mere moment and she was gone.  She found her new forever home with a wonderful family who truly need her in their life.  It doesn't take long to mesh a tiny life into your own.  But she was not meant to stay with us long; no she was here for a tiny moment.  Tiny in every sense of the word but leaving a huge impression in her wake. 

Its got to stop

Today I wanted to discuss some serious business. I've been talking to alot of rescue groups lately and its really getting to me. Everyone has their own opinion to the solution of over population and dumped dogs. Certainly there are many different factors that have a part in it all but to me the biggest factor in so many dogs being dumped are the Pet stores and puppy mills. Spaying and neutering does indeed help but when you have talked to so many people and had a really long look at the big picture it is pretty clear.

I deal with many dog people everyday and the dogs that are simply dumped or brought to rescues or shelters are often linked to puppy mills. Pet stores that sell puppies should be outlawed plain and simple. These stores rely on the awwww factor and hope that their clients have not thought it through. Obviously they want you to buy one of their puppies and you cannot even return them if you change your mind, oh no pet stores have a one way door.

Pet stores are set up for the impulse buyer. I even know people who work for rescue groups who are appauled by puppy mills and pet stores that sell puppies and they themselves buckled under the pressure. You go in just to look and maybe to sway some prospective owners and before you know it your sucked into a pair of the deepest, brownest eyes you've ever seen. But this is only helping the millers to keep pumping out those poor little helpless and innocent animals.

The fact is that good, reputible and ethical breeders do not sell their puppies to pet stores and if you try to convince yourself that they do, you are only fooling yourself. I have had this conversation so many times, "how do you know they aren't from a good breeder?" Because no ethical, reputible breeder who spends hundreds of dollars ensuring that their breeding dogs are fit and healthy and have the puppies vet checked, temperament tested and give written guarantees with their babies are going to hand them over to Joe pet store owner not knowing where or who they would end up with, wouldn't happen.

The people who are supplying pet stores with puppies are doing it to fill their pockets. These people have quickly discovered that the less you put out in feed and medical costs the more for your pocket. The puppies from these horrendous places are often taken away from their mother way too soon leaving them with serious issues. I see serious behavior, temperament and health problems repeatedly in pet store dogs and feel heart sick for families who fall in love with their dog only to loose it to a fatal disease.

It just has to end but how are we going to end this all. Not all millers work from Pet stores, the internet is a huge tool for them now as well. You see the photos of the puppies set up around flowers and pretty blankets all in a row. Which one do you want? Just pick one and its yours.

What you don't see are the parents left in the tiny cages full of filth and sadness, the dogs who are underfed, sick and lonely. No, if you saw those dogs you probably wouldn't buy a puppy would you? The solution starts with us, the people who go into the stores and buy the puppies. If you know a store sells kittens or puppies don't go there, give your business to the stores who have taken a stand against selling puppies.

One small step from you can cause a chain reaction. I will never go in a store that sells puppies, for one I won't give them my business and two its heartbreaking to me. I'm just fed up, dogs deserve our fight for this to end.