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Archive for April 11th, 2008

Dogs, it is raining dogs!

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on April 11, 2008

There was an on-line discussions about dog breeders, puppy-mills and the evils of purebred dogs.

Specifically breeders took a beating, because the (extreme) animals activists claim that the breeders are the cause of the horrible situations shelter and rescue dogs come from. I agree that the situations and backgrounds of many, if not all, dogs in shelters and rescues are horrible and that there need to be something done about it. But bashing responsible breeders, who are often part of the solution, rather than the problem, is not the solution.

My mother bred English Cocker Spaniels for 30 years. So I think I know a little about what it means to be a responsible breeder.

Responsible breeders make sure that the puppies they sell, to their knowledge, are healthy, from stable and sociable stock. There might be variations in legislation between Sweden and the US as to the details. But I doubt that responsible breeders differ very much from each other be they in the US or Sweden.

Normally puppies are checked by vets on at least two occasions – once when the mother is checked after birth and right before sale at 8 weeks. They are de-wormed twice, once at three weeks and once a week before sale, vaccinated and given a general check-up. They leave the breeder registered, certified healthy and, if the breeder is registered with the national dog-breeders’ association with a sales-contract that should say that if the pup/dog is ill at the time of sale or an illness crops up within the first year, that can be, but do not have to be “pre-existing”, the breeder will take the dog back and offer another puppy or the sales price in return. Most, if not all, registered breeders will also take back a dog at any time if the owner cannot care for the dog.

Four years ago I bought Boris, a Springer Spaniel male. If at any time I find that I cannot care for him, I was told by the breeder that I am to contact her first for re-homing. She would take him back, no questions asked.

With the receipt I also received a Clean Bill of Health Certification from a Registered Vet, written proof that he had been vaccinated, de-wormed and that his parents were healthy and free of any hereditary diseases. I also received food to keep him fed the first month, toys and vitamins. I also had to go through a screening – took 3 hours – in which I was interrogated about why I wanted a dog in general, why I wanted a Springer Spaniel, what my expectations of the dog were and how I had planned for his care, his daily routines, how I would take care of his keep if I couldn’t bring him with me on vacations etc, what additional vaccinations I had planned etc. The breeder also took me through a crash-course in basic Springer Spaniel care, including offering grooming at reduced rates the first year.

I paid $1350 for him and he is worth ever cent. Had he been cheaper I would have felt cheated.

That is a responsible dog breeder, and as a dog owner I would have it no other way.

Dogs are killed, abused and mistreated not because of responsible breeders, but because of irresponsible breeders and most of all because of irresponsible dog owners. Dog owners who buy a toy for their kids, or fall in love with those adorable puppies and just have to have one…

Dogs don’t go from the breeder (responsible or not) to the shelter or rescue – some thing happened between the breeder and the shelter. Guess what?

A dog owner happens.

Puppies are cute. But puppies grow up and when you suddenly find that you have a 10-80 lbs dog you have no idea on how to care for, give good leadership, training and teach good dog manners, that’s when you have a problem. The problem is with YOU, the dog owner, not the breeder. Dogs end up on the streets, in shelters and dog pounds not because responsible dog breeders put them there, but because the people buying the dogs, often from puppy mills (they are the cheapest and make no demands on the buyers) or from people who didn’t spay/neuter their females and ended up with a cross-breed litter, didn’t realize what being a dog owner means and who tire of the dog when it grows up and is no longer a cute little puppy.

Dog owners are SOLELY responsible for dogs ending up in shelters and rescues.

Springers are nice dogs, but 1350.? That’s why breeders, responsible or not, are in business…it’s is a business and they make $$$.

How then come that the breeder I got Boris from had to work a regular job and then some to make ends meet? She only breed one litter a year.

How come my mother spent more money on her dogs than she could get in on them and that for 30 years? She too only bred one litter a year on each of her two bitches. She never made any money off her dogs.

People don’t seem to realize that breeding a litter of dogs, registering them, having the vet checking them, vaccinating them, feeding them, and socializing them so that the future dog-owner will get a healthy, sociable dog, actually costs money, and lot of it.

Responsible breeders might break even, but most often they don’t.

Because RESPONSIBLE BREEDERS aren’t in it for the money, they are in it for the dogs and for the sake of making sure people, who want dogs they know where they came from, can have healthy, stable dogs that are good and nice with people as well as strong and reliable working dogs, making sure that the dog owners are responsible before they let them buy. They love their dogs.

For what ever it might be worth, a point was made elsewhere about this – if it wasn’t for responsible breeders there would be no seeing eye dogs, drug dogs, bomb dogs, search and rescue dogs, personal assistant dogs, dogs for autistic children, or other special needs, the list goes on and on.

Responsible breeders make sure that there are healthy, mentally stable and a line of proven reliability in and behind their dogs.
Rescue dogs are nice, most are good, fully functional dogs, but they are not generally good material for f.i police dogs, military dogs, earth-quake dogs etc.

One can work with a rescue dog that comes from a broken, abusive home, and it will turn out just fine, until one day, an unknown trigger is pushed and the dog will blow up in your face. If you are lucky no-one gets hurt, human or animal, but if you are not your wonderful rescue dog just turned killer. Not the fault of the dog, nor of the original breeder, but the fault of the original owner. You can never know a rescue dog’s entire history. Never. In order for a dog to be a good working dog in the above professions, its history and stability has to be guaranteed – responsible breeders make sure that there are such dogs available.

Also, breeders keep the breeds pure – each breed has been bred for its specific qualities, those qualities can be assumed with 90% accuracy in each dog.

People can’t drag the puppy mill breeders into this and bunch them together with responsible breeders. And people are doing that.

Get rid of the puppy mills.

Get your politicians to approve some legislation that makes it virtually impossible to be an irresponsible breeder.

Get the various Dog Registry Associations to work together to push for Federal laws that regulate dog breeding, such as a having a law that requires a breeder to be registered with the Federal Government to be allowed to work with dog breeding.

That’s how it is here in Sweden. Also here all dogs have to be chipped – it’s the Law. And yes, the police do check that dogs they see out are chipped, especially in areas of “ill-repute”.

Educate people about why they shouldn’t get dog from a puppy mill. Ands speak up positively for RESPONSIBLE BREEDERS, so it becomes attractive to get a dog from a REGISTERED, RESPONSBLE breeder, rather than from a dog factory.

My mother used to say that “there are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners”. I agree with that. It goes for purebreds as well as for mongrels.

Most dogs, whether purebred or not are absolutely wonderful dogs. Sure you can get a psychotic purebred – %#&!*% happens. Just as I can get a psychotic mongrel. %#&!*% happens in the best of families. Or the worst.

What I get with a responsibly bred purebred, that I do not get with a mix, is a guarantee that there is no inbreeding and no pre-existing medical or mental conditions. I get to see the parents, I get to see the parents’ medical records (responsible breeders will show you those if you ask.) and ancestry so I can see, for myself that there is no inbreeding. A responsible breeder will not breed on a dog unless it’s healthy both mentally and physically. When I buy a purebred I get a dog that is checked several times before sale, vaccinated, de-wormed, checked for other parasites and certified healthy by a registered vet.

As for the crap shoot – in a purebred dog one can pretty much predict what the puppies are going to be like mentally, physically and in terms of what line of work they are suitable for.

Responsible breeders do that every time they pair a specific dog and bitch for breeding. They breed for the specific characteristics in those dogs. Of course they cannot guarantee that every dog in the litter will have exactly the same characteristics, but if you breed on a dog with good hunting and search skills (as in f.i the bigger Spaniels) chances are that the majority of the litter will turn out with those same skills to some degree. If you breed on a dog with good working skills, such as search and specified obedience, f.i a Labrador Retrievers, chances are that the litter will be good at search and specified obedience. Search and specified obedience are skills needed in Search and Rescue Dogs.
Here it’s a law that if I buy a purebred dog, I get its ancestry (up to 10 generations) printed by the National Kennel Association along with a certification that all its ancestors are free of hereditary diseases, or other conditions that are known to crop up in some breeds.

The NKA also advice people not to buy unless one is shown those voluntarily by the breeder. Those records cannot be tampered with by the breeder, as they are only printed and sent “registered mail” when the breeder registers the litter with the NKA. A breeder can only register dogs with the NKA if they are healthy and this has to be verified in written form by a registered Vet.

In the sales contract, in order to stay in business, a breeder has to offer a new puppy, or a complete refund should the dog show any signs of breed-typical conditions or mental instability. So they take a great risk should they breed on dogs that are not stable, healthy and up to par, because sooner or later any of it will come back and bite them.

When I buy a mongrel puppy, I rarely get any verification of anything, the puppies are rarely checked by a vet, vaccinated, de-wormed or checked for other parasites. I might get to see and interact with the parents, if the puppy was home-bred, but I won’t know if there are chances for hip, elbow or knee problems (larger dogs) or heart and eye problems. In f.i pit bulls, any of them really, there is always the chance of severe skin problems, that might not be visible in the parents, but will crop up in a mix. Mental stability cannot be verified further tan one generation back (parents) and only if I get to meet the parents.

With a mix, especially if several breeds are involved, I can’t be sure exactly what it will be good at, and some breeds simply do not mix well. Example Border Collies are extremely intelligent and crave a lot of attention through work, such as herding, agility, and other mentally demanding tasks – a border collie NEEDS to work or it will literally go insane with stress. Mix that with another herding dog, like any of the Belgians and chances that you have a time bomb waiting to go off has doubled because the Belgians, in addition to being as needy in terms of work as the Border Collie, they are also nervous and fragile mentally. It’s like playing Russian Roulette, only you are playing not with your life, but that of the dog and that of others.

Pits are very good dogs, but they do have one little specialty that stem from them originally being fighting dogs. They have extremely strong jaws and necks and they tend to want to hold on to whatever they get hold of in a stressful situation, some more than others. Breed that with a Malinois (Belgian) which is way sharper mentally than f.i a German Shepherd, and tend to respond aggressively faster than most other dogs to provocations, and you have a potential disaster.

Couple the above with bad leadership, ignorance about dogs, too little attention and challenge in terms of work, and you have something that cannot be predicted in any way.

Most people do not know what are the up-side and down-side of each breed, and mixing what you do not know can spell an absolutely wonderful dog, but it can just as well turn out to be a complete nightmare.

Responsible breeders KNOW their dogs, and know what they are turning out to the public.

Disgusting – breedism at it’s worse!

I do BLAME the breeders – all breeders – there is no need to breed any more dogs.

Right back at you (Name Withheld), in fact YOU disgusts me.
For depriving the legally blind of Seeing eye dogs.
For depriving the Earthquake victims of a chance to be found.
For condemning special needs children to a life of low self-confidence and lower motor skills than they need to.
For depriving the legally deaf of service dogs that makes sure they function on their own in a society full of sounds.
For depriving the diabetic of help when they need it, the epileptic when they need help and the AD(H)D child a companion that trains focus skills and reduces fear and anxiety.
For depriving the wheel-chair bound of assistance with hard to do, hard to reach tasks, and condemning them to a life in dependence of others.

With your attitude towards “no more dogs needed”, there will be no dogs around in 8-15 years as all the shelter and rescue dogs are routinely spayed and neutered and dogs only live 8-15 years. What then? Who is going to be seeing eye dogs, military dogs, rescue dogs, personal assistance dogs? Are you going to import them from abroad? Are you aware of the costs of such an endeavor? Are you aware that the costs will be so high that only the rich will be able to afford seeing eye dogs, military dogs, rescue dogs, personal assistance dogs, because no NPO’s will have the money to GIVE away imported seeing eye dogs, military dogs, rescue dogs, personal assistance dogs?
Name Withheld

Yes, a dog from the shelter may be just what is needed, and will be a wonderful dog, and if you are so inclined – get your dog from the shelter, get several – good, shelter dogs need homes too. *yes* By all means enroll young dogs (mongrel or not) in training programs that will train them to be all sorts of service dogs. That will only be good for the dog, and it will give someone a much needed companion tailored for their needs.

However, responsible dog breeders are still needed, or there won’t be any dogs in 15 years.

Outlawing responsible dog breeding or harassing responsible dog breeders and their dogs isn’t going to do change how potential dog owners see their dogs or treat them once the dog is no longer wanted. It won’t give a home to a dog who has had a rough start in life and it won’t end the dog slavery of puppy mills. Education and Legislation will.


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