The Problem with "Rescuing" Pet Store Puppies: Saving a Life or Creating Open to Buy?by Lynn Stacy-Smith Sometimes it seems unbelievable that I am still writing anti-puppy mill content in my mid-forties, since I first learned about the horrific practice of commercially breeding dogs in puppy "mills" all the way back in high school in the 1980s. With the speed at which information is relayed today through the internet and social media, and the number of people we can reach through a single post, it seems like certainly we dog advocates would have successfully gotten the word out about the hell that is commercial dog breeding. Yet at this very moment, as I am typing this, someone who is doing some Christmas shopping at your local mall has stopped in the pet store and is falling in love with a puppy in a baby crib, making a purchase, and creating an economic demand for a new puppy to be born at a commercial puppy mill. Before I was a dog blogger, I was employed at the home office of a large retailer. As a result, I understand very well how retail inventory works. And so, when a fellow dog lover with a big heart tells me that they just purchased a puppy from a pet store because their heart was breaking at the thought of that puppy not finding a home, I know that what that purchase did was to open up what is known as "open to buy" in the world of retail. So why am I talking about retail practices in a dog blog? Here's the deal: retail stores have sales goals. In order to meet those sales goals, they need to have sufficient inventory to sell to their customers. There is a lot of analysis that is done to figure out how much inventory they need, and how much money they need to budget to purchase that inventory. That budget is called their Open to Buy. The easiest way to define Open to Buy is this: "Open-To-Buy (OTB) is merchandise budgeted for purchase by a retail store during a certain time period that has not yet been ordered." When a store sells something that's in their inventory, they need to replace that inventory with more products that they can sell to keep meeting their sales goals. For example, if you buy 8 cans of soup from the grocery store, they need to bring in 8 more cans of soup so that they can keep selling soup to the next customer that comes into the store. Understand where I am going with this? Pet store puppies are viewed as inventory for resale, and puppy mills are the manufacturer creating that inventory. To you and me, to refer to puppies as being manufactured sounds awful, and it is awful. Buying a puppy from a pet store is not like buying a can of soup from the grocery store. The grocery store simply orders more cans of soup from their supplier and puts into motion a whole series of events that creates jobs for a variety of people, from the people growing the vegetables to the person driving the delivery truck. Buying a puppy from a pet store is a purchase that kicks off a series of events that perpetuates the miserable life of puppy mill breeding dogs, and that is why we are still pleading and begging with people to stop buying puppies from retail stores. You and I know that a puppy is a living, breathing, sentient, intelligent animal that deserves to be born into a loving environment, not mass-produced by unfeeling humans from dog parents who are tortured, miserable, riddled with genetic defects that they pass on en masse to their offspring, and who never lead a regular life as a healthy or even remotely happy dog. For the puppy mill operator point of view, they are simply creating a supply of puppies to be sold on a purchase order to a pet store or puppy broker. As long as there is a demand for their puppies, they will keep producing puppies. Having the conversation with someone who has purchased a puppy from a pet store or other source supplied by puppy mills is not an easy task. They feel attacked, as if they did something wrong or that they are being told that their puppy is not as worthy of love or is as valuable as a rescue puppy or one from a very responsible professional/hobby breeder. I know, because I have offended more than one friend in this way. While many puppy mill puppies have substantial medical issues, whether infectious diseases or genetic defects, they are still worthy of love, they still could grow into great dogs with patience and training, and they will still be beloved family members. The reason I beg these owners not to get any additional puppies from a pet store is not that their dog is "bad" in any way, shape or form, and not that the dog owner is a bad person, but simply because their purchase will perpetuate the cycle of misery by creating an economic demand for more puppies from the puppy mill operator. To dog owners who have their dogs for the right reasons, to rescue and adoption advocates, and to responsible breeders, dogs are a miracle with paws and a wet nose. They are our lifeline, our therapists, our exercise buddies, our best friends, our constant companions, our heart dogs. To puppy mill operators and the more unscrupulous backyard breeders, they are simply a product to be sold for income, and the easiest way for the average citizen to help stop them and their cycle of misery for the breeding dogs is to minimize or eliminate the demand for their puppies by not shopping at pet stores and from puppy brokers who sell mass-produced puppy mill puppies.
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The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at Christmasby Lynn Stacy-Smith In our last blog, The Christmas Puppy Problem, we talked about the problem with Christmas puppies that are purchased on a whim by humans who have not considered the lifetime commitment and the work involved. We discussed how the adorable puppy in a baby crib in that mall pet store can end up being euthanized at a shelter or living a dismal and lonely life because a family or individual has realized too late that they were not prepared for that puppy to grow into an adult dog that depends them for its very survival and happiness. And finally, we talked about the Christmas puppy in our society and how the concept is promoted through photos, films, and even catalogs from merchants. As I continue to focus on this important topic all throughout the month of December, today we are going to present the flip side to that scenario and explore how to bring home a puppy or adult dog the right way during the holidays. Taking Advantage of School and Office Closures As much as people seem to be super busy at Christmas time, some people find themselves with extra time off of work, which puts them at an advantage in terms of puppy rearing. In my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, I write, “I strongly recommend taking vacation time from work the first week of your dog or puppy’s arrival home, like a canine maternity leave.” When Jackson was a puppy I was able to take some time off the first few days he was home and then either work from home or take additional days off whenever my husband had to also work, to ensure that someone was always home with him the first two weeks. By the time we had to have a dog sitter start coming to let him out, he was essentially house trained and able to hold his bladder a bit longer than when he first arrived. Once Tinkerbell joined the family, I was already working from home, so I was able to be with her all the time. She was house trained even faster than Jackson, and her puppyhood was much easier as a result. For the simple purpose of house training alone, being with your dog 24 hours a day, seven days a week the first week or so should shorten your puppy’s learning curve dramatically. In addition to helping speed up the house training process, you will appreciate being able to nap during the day when the puppy sleeps. After all, they are infants and they usually wake up several times a night to go outside which of course means that you are also awake and heading outside. Finally, the first few days of a puppy’s life in their new home should be as calm and positive as possible with essentially just the immediate family. They are figuring things out, getting comfortable with you and with their surroundings, and there is a considerable amount of bonding happening. It is good for you to be with them instead of having them left alone in the house just days after leaving their mother, their litter mates and everything they ever knew in their young life. If you have been planning on getting a puppy or a rescued dog, you know what you are getting into and the lifelong commitment, you are not traveling or hosting any huge gatherings for the holidays, and you work for an office or school that closes for all or most of the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, then over the Christmas holiday might be a great time to get a dog, particularly from a rescue organization or shelter. Most responsible breeders will not plan a litter of puppies around the holidays so are set on a certain breed you may not be able to find an available dog from a top breeder at Christmas time, but the sad fact is that rescues and shelters take in pregnant females on a regular basis and those puppies are desperately in need of homes. A purebred puppy is not necessarily the right choice for everyone, so unless you are set on a particular breed, you can find amazing mixed breed puppies at shelters and rescues who are ready to grow up and be your best friend. Rescuing an Adult Dog Puppy rearing is not for everyone, and adult dogs will bond with you just as much as puppies. My late Babe became my dog when she was two, and she was my best friend and constant companion. She and I had the same exact type of love and emotional bond as I do with Jax and Tink, who both came home to me at eight weeks old. Our late Basset Hound, Maggie, had been abused before my husband rescued her, and she was the most affectionate and snuggly of any of our dogs. In fact, I have a theory based on my own personal observation and experience that some rescued dogs are often more affectionate and attached to their owners because they know what it is like to not have a safe and loving home, to be scared and alone, and they are so happy to finally feel love that they want to be near you all the time. Some people will say that dogs do not think about the past, and although it is true that for training purposes they live in the moment, I believe that they still remember their old lives. It was not just Maggie who showed this behavior, but also my fosters Kodiak and Destiny. Kodiak had been found as a stray and while I was fostering him he would not leave my side. At night we would watch TV as a family and I essentially had a giant Labrador/Great Dane mix as a living, breathing blanket as he napped completely on top of me, his back paws down by my feet, his front paws and head on my chest. Destiny had been tied to a tree in the woods and left to die before a good Samaritan found her and saved her. Even while she was learning to trust me, she was virtually attached to me, and within weeks was snuggling with me as if she’d known me her entire life. With Christmas as a time of love and giving, what better gift to give than to give a dog a safe haven and forever home to live out the rest of its years. There are so many amazing adult dogs that are waiting at shelters to be your best friend, particularly if you do not care about finding a specific breed. If you simply want a best friend, you can spare yourself the part-time job of puppy rearing (because it is indeed a part-time if not full-time job) and find an amazing best friend in an adult dog. And if you do want a specific breed, there are breed specific rescues in every part of the country with dogs who need homes. Giving one of them a home will open up a spot in that foster’s house for a shelter dog to make it further through the adoption process. And just like with puppies, to have extra time off of work while your new dog is adapting to his or her new home will only help the bonding process and help your dog become more secure in his or her surroundings. Involving the Kids No matter the age, it is never too young to start teaching children about the fact that dogs are living breathing creatures that rely on us for their survival. Instead of surprising the child with a puppy under the Christmas tree and reinforcing the belief that the puppy is a toy like a doll or basketball or some other inanimate object, consider wrapping the supplies that you will need for the puppy or dog and unwrapping them as a family. After the gifts are unwrapped, you can explain that you have thought about it for a long time and that it’s the right time to bring a dog into the family and that you bought the puppy’s gifts in advance so that he or she has everything they need when it comes home. You can tell them that after Christmas is over, you are going to all pick out the puppy or go get a puppy that you have pre-selected, and that everyone in the family is going to need to work together to make sure that the puppy grows into a nice, well-behaved adult dog. By fulfilling your child’s wish for a dog this way, you avoid the mindset that the puppy is a toy. If you have experienced Christmas with kids, you know that often they receive so many new toys and gifts that they are overwhelmed by the bounty, and some things get pushed to the side and never played with. The last thing you want to do is to include a puppy in that category. By introducing the puppy as a family member after the excitement of the holidays is over, you start your child’s view of animals off to a healthier start that will carry through their adult lives and in turn help them be responsible pet owners when they are grown. It is extremely important to add that if your child wants a dog, but the adults do not really want a dog, you should not get a dog. Period. I also cover this in my book, and it may sound harsh, but it needs to be harsh because a dog’s life is at stake, and at the end of the day it is going to be the parents who are responsible for the dog for its entire life. Kids can learn to be responsible dog owners by watching their parents and by helping their parents under close supervision. I have spent probably as much time teaching our kids how to act around the dogs as I have spent teaching the dogs how to act around the kids. As a result, now that they are teens, I can trust them to check the gates when they take the dogs outside and to stay out there with them and ensure that they are not getting into mischief. I do not believe in putting kids in charge of a dog no matter how responsible they are. Between school, activities, friends, and all of the things on their minds, it is too easy to forget a feeding or to give medicine or how long it has been since the dog went outside. They will learn to be responsible pet owners by watching you and by you explaining what you are doing and why you are doing something, but it is too early in their lives to be in charge of an animal's life. Watch for the next blog, in which we address winter weather considerations when caring for puppies.
The Christmas Puppy Problemby Lynn Stacy-Smith I was browsing through Facebook several days ago when I came across a video from our local Fox affiliate, Fox 32. The first sentence of the story was, "If a dog or puppy is on your holiday shopping list - be careful." "Are you kidding me?" I said out loud in horror. "Let's just go ahead and promote the notion of puppies as Christmas gifts to all of the Chicagoland area!!!!" I fumed some more. I promptly sent a message to their Facebook page that read, "As a dog blogger who is on a mission to help prevent owner surrenders of dogs, the lead into your article about the puppy FB scam is disheartening. Puppies are never gifts, those of us who promote responsible pet ownership work hard to get this message through to the people who buy puppies as gifts with as much thought as they give a sweater or handbag. Please don't undo our work as you report the news!" To date I have not received a response or have any evidence that they've read my message. The rest of their story was warning potential puppy buyers not to fall for scams involving puppies for sale, which is definitely important. Of course, they did not go into detail on how to successfully find a reputable breeder or look at rescue or shelter pups or grown dogs, but the advice to not purchase puppies from random strangers in a Facebook group is certainly something that many people need to know. Let me explain why I was, and still am, so upset by that one short sentence that was broadcast to their entire viewing area: puppies are living breathing creatures that require a lot of time, patience, training and work. They do not belong on a "shopping list" like a cashmere sweater, a toolbox and an X-box game. Unfortunately every year these living breathing, feeling creatures do indeed make it onto a Christmas list. Puppies are then purchased through pet stores or backyard/amateur breeders as gifts either on a whim or to fulfill heartfelt requests to Santa from children who want a puppy. In other scenarios they are an impulse buy as holiday shoppers wander through the mall pet stores and are wooed by the siren like pull of the adorable, fluffy puppies in baby cribs that downplay the fact that puppies are a different species with different needs than a human and that there is a learning curve for novice dog owners who are tackling puppyhood for the first time. The shoppers fall in love at first sight with these puppies with designer "breed" names like Cavachon and Huskimo, and take them home without thinking about the fact that they have just committed to anywhere from ten to fifteen years of caring for an animal that will need them for every aspect of their survival. Many of these puppies are then abandoned at shelters just days, weeks, or months later after the adults realize that a puppy was not on their list of responsibilities that they were ready to handle. Other puppies end up living the majority of life in crates or in the back yards of owners who feel too much guilt for what they've done to abandon or re-home the dog but have no idea how to handle a dog that quickly went from adorable fluff ball to a wild, untrained, and seemingly unmanageable dog. That life is almost as tragic as landing in a shelter; it is in fact no life at all for a dog to suffer like that, alone and unloved. As a culture, we love Christmas and we love puppies, and so it is understandable that when you put them both together, the idea of a Christmas puppy seems genius. I mean, seriously, what is cuter than a puppy with a bow around its neck under the Christmas tree? And when you are the person presenting this gift, either to your children, to your significant other, or to a parent, in that moment you are the hero of gift giving. You are like a rock star only better! You are not handing over a new gaming system or some piece of jewelry that every other person has bought, you are literally bestowing new life and the promise of unconditional love on the recipient...whether they want the accompanying responsibility of that new life or not. Movies, TV shows, catalogs, all show endless photos of happy Christmas puppies. These images are all over our culture. Google "Christmas puppies" and you will receive pages upon pages of results. Do the same search with "movies about Christmas puppies" and you will receive another robust list of results. It is no wonder children ask Santa for a puppy or parents finally concede to their child's pleas to get them a dog over the Christmas holiday. Our culture is full of the idea of puppies at Christmas time, under trees, in boxes, in Christmas stockings, complete with bright red bows to make the gift complete. Just today I received a catalog from my beloved retailer L.L. Bean with a fluffy Golden Retriever puppy on the front, snoozing away under the Christmas tree with the other holiday presents with a red bow around its neck. The puppy looks perfectly angelic in the photo, but as a lifelong Labrador owner, I can tell you that it takes one hell of a lot of work to achieve a sleepy puppy for a photo shoot, and the moment that puppy wakes up, a human will be telling him "NO" and removing his little razor-sharp puppy teeth from the lights on the tree, the bow wrapped around the box, and even the box itself. I can forgive L.L.Bean for this, because their products at least promote the outdoor, active lifestyle that is suited for a Labrador or a Golden Retriever, so their customers are slightly more likely to own the boots, hats, gloves, and parkas that will be needed to house train the puppy in the middle of December and into January. But that is one photo among thousands of other images and sources that glamorize the puppy as a holiday gift. Personally, I obviously love dogs and I definitely love Christmas, and I love them together, in real life and in photos. I adore puppies, and I loved raising my own puppies into big sturdy dogs, even the moments that had me close to tears because Jax was a hard sell on the "no bite" concept or when his energy level was at a 14 on a scale of 1 to 10 and my own was a 3 from lack of sleep. I love looking at them now and thinking about how tiny they were, how I could pick them up and they would fall asleep on my chest, and how I taught them day in and day out all of the things that they would need to know as dogs in our household. I equally love to look at them and think about all of the things that they have taught me in return, about dog ownership and about life. I love how I raised them from puppies to adults and how close we are as two separate species who went from being total strangers to sharing a special bond. So when I talk about the work that lies ahead for puppy owners, it is with the firm belief that the work is worth it, but I would be doing a disservice to other puppy owners to minimize the work that it takes to go from puppyhood to adulthood, because trust me. There is a lot of work ahead. Before I had my own dogs, I helped my parents with their dogs. My freshman year of college, my parents acquired our Labrador Retriever Jake the weekend of Thanksgiving, so we have tons of adorable puppy pictures of him around the Christmas tree. Jake's puppyhood is also how I know that the adorable puppy under the tree will also be the same puppy who is trying to eat the lights, steal the ornaments, and chew on all of the gifts immediately after peeing on the carpet and trying to drink the tree water. I don't make these things up when I am blogging, I've lived life with many puppies and know that that's what puppies do. One minute they are adorable balls of fluff with liverwurst-meets-Starbucks scented puppy breath; the next they are like a tiny little ball of destruction wreaking havoc in your home. Are all Christmas puppies abandoned at shelters or destined to living life in a crate or a back yard in an unprepared owner's home? No, of course not. I have personal friends who have brought home puppies at Christmas and who would never dream of abandoning them; those dogs are as beloved and well cared for as my own dogs. As someone once told me when they were attending a training class where I used to work, "We don't know what we don't know." That applies 100% to new puppy owners who have big hearts and great expectations but simply have no idea what they are getting into with an eight week old puppy and the work that lies ahead for at least the next few months to go from adorable Christmas puppy to well-behaved, socialized dog. As a result, during the month of December, the Love, Laugh, Woof blog will focus on the idea of puppies and Christmas, to help reach people who are contemplating getting a puppy as a holiday addition to their families. From winter specific considerations, to how to do a holiday puppy or grown dog the right way, conversations to have with the kids, and other important topics, we will focus entirely on spreading the word that dogs are a lifelong commitment, not something to be bought on a whim.
How Many Dogs Should You Have?by Lynn Stacy-Smith One of the most frequent questions that I am asked after explaining that I blog and write about dogs for a living is, "How many dogs do you have?" "I have two," I always reply. "Oh," is the frequent response as if the person asking is disappointed that I do not have a house overflowing with dogs like the ending scene of 101 Dalmatians, or perhaps the scene when the Dalmatians look like black Labradors from running through the coal bin. "I want to make sure I give them the best life possible, so I make myself limit our dog population to two," I will often add, which is true, but it is also important to point out that the right number of dogs varies for everyone. Before Jackson and Tinkerbell and before my late Dutch and Maggie were in my life, it was just my sweet black Labrador Babe and me. With a one-to-one human to dog ratio, she went everywhere with me. When my mom passed away and her German Shorthaired Pointer, Dutch, joined Babe and me, the transition was extremely hard on all of us. It took at least six months to acclimate to having two dogs and to get myself to the point where I could enjoy walking both of them at the same time and taking them both on adventures together with me. [caption id="attachment_2630" align="alignleft" width="300"] Babe on a beach adventure[/caption] A year later I met my husband and when we joined his household, we suddenly had three dogs. Then as Babe and Dutch headed deeper and deeper into their senior years and each of them passed away at the age of 13, we felt utterly lost with only one dog and started to rebuild our dog family with the addition of Jackson and then Tinkerbell. The decision of how many dogs to have in your own home is entirely personal based on your lifestyle and the relationship you want to have with your dog or dogs. I have one friend who easily manages five Labradors and Labradoodles, another friend who at one point had over ten dogs without being in a hoarder situation, and many friends who have a "human plus one" relationship with their dog. My husband, the kids, and I all like to talk in both of our dogs' fake human voices on a pretty regular basis. When Tinkerbell is pestering big brother Jackson to play with her by squeaking her favorite toy into his face for ten minutes without stopping or she is mounting him to try to get him to play, we often joke "I would have been ok as an only dog, Momma, seriously. I would have been fine, but NOOOOO, you thought I needed a playmate!" Ninety seven percent of the time he eventually takes the bait (or simply gives up resisting) and starts to play with her, and the other three percent of the time he goes to his kennel and plops down with a huge sigh. At the end of the day, though, they are a truly bonded pair and he would be lost without his crazy little sister. So why are we 100% set on sticking with "just" two dogs? Why not give Tinkerbell a second option as a playmate for those times when Jackson is not interested? Our local dog ordinance is a big reason. It dictates that each home in our town can have a maximum of two dogs and two cats. We did live with one "extra" dog for the first few years that we lived together as a result of blending my 2 dog household with his 1 dog household. We would never have given a dog away, but after Babe passed away in 2009 at the age of thirteen, we knew we would remain a law-abiding two dog household because I had been very stressed about breaking a law that could affect my dogs' actual lives. A second important reason for limiting ourselves to two dogs is related to our budget. When we brought home first Jackson and then Tinkerbell, we committed ourselves to a lifetime of food, veterinary care, treats, toys, and all other dog related expenses. It would not be fair to them to stretch that budget by taking on another dog and then potentially not be able to care for all of them properly. So would we get a third dog if we did not have a two dog ordinance and if money was not an object? Probably not. [caption id="attachment_3231" align="alignright" width="300"] Babe, Beau, Jake and Dutch[/caption] If you have seen the iconic movie Gone With the Wind, you might remember the scene with Scarlett O'Hara eating barbecue with a large group of suitors. "A girl has but two sides to her at a table," she flirts with them as they hover in a group all around her, attending to her every need. When Babe and I used to dog sit for my mother when all three of her dogs were alive and she was actively going on scuba diving trips in tropical locations, I would sit down on the floor and essentially let all four of them (Mom's three plus my Babe) wriggle their way in to get petted, to give me kisses, to lay across my lap, and generally be a 350 pound mass of squirming dogs all around me. Just like Scarlett flirting with the boys at the barbecue, I loved every moment of it, but it was impossible to give all of them an equal amount of attention. I loved when we went outside and all four of them followed me around, everyone making eye contact with me when I said that it was time to go inside or if I offered up a biscuit. I loved bedtime when I squeezed into bed with all four of them and each dog found their spot to sleep. I loved it when I would wake up in the morning with my arm around one, another's paws pushing into my spine, a third dog's head on my feet, and a fourth dog laying on my pillow. I loved feeding time when I prepared four bowls and set them all out in their own spot, one at a time. I was in my dog lover glory with four dogs around me. At the end of the day, though, just like a Southern Belle eating barbecue at a table in the old south, there are but two sides of me. Two hands for chin scratches, two hands to hold leashes, two hands to rub tummies. When you have gone through a dog's entire life cycle multiple times with different dogs who you all loved as heart dogs, from puppyhood through the senior years, you know exactly how quickly that time goes and you want to do everything that you can to make the most of the time that you have together. For me that means plenty of one-on-one attention with both of my dogs. For being in suburbia, we have a nice large yard for potty breaks and playtime. It is perfect for games of zoomies or fetching a ball, but other than that it is not very interesting or mentally stimulating, at least not day after day. For the dogs to go on adventures we have to go to parks or forest preserves, and it is much easier to do so with two dogs instead of three or more. [caption id="attachment_2886" align="alignright" width="225"] Jackson & Tinkerbell[/caption] Although I can and do take both of them together, I really prefer to take one of them at a time so that we can have a very special one-on-one bonding experience as well as so I can make sure that nobody is snarfing down contraband items that humans or nature left behind. With two dogs I can alternate who has that experience with me; if we were to add a third or fourth dog it would reduce the number of times any dog would go off on a fun adventure with me. This also holds true for snuggle time. Most evenings end up with Jackson laying across my husband's lap getting ear rubs and tummy scratches while Tinkerbell lays the entire length of my body on top of me on our recliner and gives me kisses and gets an ear rub. If my husband is not home, each dog can take one side of me. When we have had fosters in the house, someone was always being pushed aside or left out during snuggle time. When our big chocolate Labrador foster named Kodiak was in the house, Jax was the one pushed aside, usually literally. Kodiak was a huge friendly dog who I think was part Great Dane based on his size and the structure of his hips. He loved to snuggle and took up most of the sofa when he laid in my lap for affection. When foster dog Destiny was with us, Tinkerbell pulled back from me entirely because of all of the attention that Destiny was taking from me. In fact my husband pointed it out that Tink was subdued and actually depressed and I did not realize it until after Destiny had gone to her forever home and my sweet happy Tink was back in my lap again. This does not mean that people with more than two dogs are not giving their dogs enough attention or love, or that my limit of two dogs is the right thing for everyone. My friend/breeder who brought Jackson and Tinkerbell into the world has around eight or so Labradors and she has a special heart-dog relationship with each and every one. She is also a professional trainer with a large piece of land and a pond and an indoor training facility that she owns and operates, so she can handle all of them easily when they go to their favorite beach and offer them much more fun and excitement than a large rectangle of fenced in grass right in their own backyard. My friend with the pack of five Labradors and Labradoodles also has a large piece of property that offers plenty of fun and games and new smells without going into suburbia for something new to sniff or see. At least once a day I receive a note from someone with a wonderful dog in need of a home. "You love dogs, you need another one!" the message will say. Believe me when I say that there are many times I am tempted to throw all of our logical reasons for staying with two dogs away and adding to our dog family. But I always hold firm and try to share the information with other potential dog owners who can give the dog the one-on-one attention that it deserves while my dogs get the attention that I promised them when they were both little pups. I do love dogs, without a shadow of a doubt. I love dogs so much that I have committed my life, my profession, my everything to caring for my two dogs, to getting the most out of every precious moment together, to giving them a healthy life that gives us more days than we might otherwise have, and reaching out to the world to help other dog owners create a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle for their forever dogs. And it is that same love of dogs that forces me to stick with two dogs. At least for now.
Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience Classby Lynn Stacy-Smith The last few weeks have been a seemingly endless stream of stories about dogs that are both frustrating and heartbreaking, including dog bites, re-homing requests, and frustrated owners with 8 month old puppies who are still not house-trained. Sadly they all have a similar theme because all of these could have been prevented or could be fixed by one thing: training. I have talked to a lot of people who have never taken a class with their dog or who look somewhat confused when I suggest that they take one. There is also the response "Oh, I've had dogs my whole life, I don't need to take an obedience class." I think that sometimes there are misconceptions about what an "obedience" class is all about and what an owner can gain from attending a class with their dog, especially for people who have had dogs before or feel like they have a lot of knowledge about dogs. Actually, until Jackson was born I had never taken one either, having grown up with dogs who came to me rescued and pre-trained like my late Babe, or who were trained by my father. Dogs have been companions to humans for so long that it seems like it should be second nature for us to live together. The reality, though, is that no matter how harmoniously we are able to live together, at the end of the day they are still another species and we can both use all the help we can get at learning how to understand each other and communicate across our separate and very different species. Dogs are very different from humans. Their bodies are different, their minds are different, their communication methods are different, their learning requirements are different, even the structure of their brain is different as they are blessed with a whole extra area to analyze scents. Things that are acceptable in our world are rude or aggressive in theirs, similar to someone from another country in another part of the world. Just like trying to speak to a fellow human who speaks another language or has different social norms than we do, we need to learn how to speak in a language our dogs understand, learn how to understand what they are saying to us without words, and understand their cultural norms. However, despite my analogy comparing your dog to someone from another culture in a different part of the world, a dog is also an entirely other species than we are. They are a very special, precious species that deserves to be treated well, loved for all the days of their life, and considered to be a family member, but they are not a small furry person. Dog obedience school or dog training classes are first and foremost about teaching humans to teach their dogs the rules of life in a human household. In most beginner obedience classes you will learn to teach your dog how to sit, come when called, look at you when you say their name, stay, lay down, settle and start to walk nicely on a leash. Usually around six to eight weeks in duration, the beginner obedience class is just the very tip of the proverbial training iceberg! When you find a really good dog trainer, you learn so much more than how to teach your dog how to perform those commands. Don't get me wrong, those are the must-know commands that can literally save your dog's life, particularly the stay or come command. But the best dog trainers teach owners about how a dog's mind works, the importance of repetition and patience, the benefits of positive reward based training, and how to understand your dog despite being two very different species and get your dog to understand you. The first night of my Basic Obedience class with Jackson the trainer spoke to us with made-up, random words that might not have even been actual words. Her words made literally no sense at all. There were no dogs in the room, the first session was a human-only orientation. She said it again, only louder. Then even louder. Then with a raised voice and anger, and asked why we could not understand her, she was speaking English! What was wrong with us that we could not understand what she was telling us? As you might expect, this exercise was to show us what it is like to be a dog with humans randomly saying words to them and growing impatient when they do not instantly understand. It may sound silly, but that was one of the most impactful moments of all of the classes in which I participated and is something that has stuck with me during every moment working with and living with our dogs. Different trainers have different nuggets of information and different methods that will stick with different people. Add in the fact that every dog is slightly different in terms of what motivates them, how easy or difficult they are to train, with different backgrounds and life experiences, and you arrive at the same suggestion for all dogs: that every human needs to take every one of their dogs to at least one training class and ideally several additional classes after they graduate from beginner. Dog training classes are really about training owners to teach their dogs. Most of the class time is spent learning from the trainers, and most of your actual training time with your dog is outside of the classroom. In fact, when you do practice the commands in the classroom it is the owner who the trainer is really watching and correcting rather than the dog because the class is to train the owner how to train the dog. When you find a good trainer you will understand how to take your training beyond basic obedience because you will know the concepts behind teaching your dog. Once you can teach her sit and stay, it's not a far stretch to teach her other commands, to teach her tricks, to teach her games. Learning about how your dog learns will help you with socializing her, with teaching her not to bite (bite inhibition), with a variety of situations that you might encounter during your dog's life. Not only will you forever have the skills to teach your dog and future dogs, but you will have a go-to resource should something pop up in the future. I often wonder how many dogs would not be re-homed if their owners had a relationship with a trainer so they could easily reach out when a life change happened like a new baby or the introduction of another dog into the house. Training your dog can be a lot of fun for you and the dog as long as you are patient and realize that the fun part is for you and your dog to be learning together and to build an incredible bond together. In fact I often look for additional classes to take just for fun and I am strongly considering joining a local dog training club so that one of the dogs and I can go once a week and practice their skills, be around other dogs and dog owners with similar goals, and to continually learn from some of the amazing dog trainers that we have in our area.
If you are looking for a professional dog trainer, check with your veterinarian for recommendations.
Also check out these websites:
Association of Professional Dog Trainers (ADPT): https://apdt.com/about/trainer-search/
Karen Pryor Academy: https://www.karenpryoracademy.com/find-a-trainer
Spay/Neuter Awareness Month: Mythbusting Reasons to Not "Fix" Your Dogby Lynn Stacy-Smith I did not neuter Jackson until he was a little over two and a half years old. I spent a good two years running into issues when I wanted to take him to training classes, dog parks and other areas. "He's still intact because he's competing in conformation shows," I would explain, "Not because of ignorance or any other reason." On Jackson's first birthday I sent several photos of him to our breeder as well as a Happy Birthday message to his litter mate who she had kept. She messaged me back and said, "Jackson is turning out to be spectacular, if you want you can hold of neutering him and try him out in a few UKC (United Kennel Club) shows and then depending how he does maybe we will change his AKC registration from Limited to full and think about using him as a stud dog." I cancelled the appointment I had already made to have him neutered, registered him with the UKC, and started training with him on the skills he would need in a dog show. We practiced gaiting and stacking, and I envisioned him going all the way to Madison Square Garden and being on TV representing his breed in Best In Group and being the Labrador to finally win Best in Show. I found hot pink dress pants to pop against his black fur, put on functional shoes and we were ready! In reality we did three dog shows. We earned a few Best of Breeds and a third in the Gun Dog Group, which is the UKC version of the Sporting Group. Each time I laughed at myself as we drove to shows that took place in warehouse type spaces in industrial parks in suburban Illinois, a far cry from Madison Square Garden. At the third show we won Best of Breed and headed to the group competition. There were a ton of dogs there that day, far more than the first few shows. Jax was more interested in playing that day and tried to befriend the Golden Retriever...in the middle of the competition. When the judge came to inspect him, Jackson rolled over on his back with all four paws in the air. Then we ran out of bait and I lost his focus entirely. As he tried to jump on top of the Golden again, I politely took my dog and left the ring. I wasn't angry, I wasn't upset, I doubt it was proper etiquette, but I just did not want to be that person whose dog was distracting the other well-behaved dogs. "Well, big man, I think that is the end of your show career, what do you think?" He nuzzled my face and snorted, which is one of my favorite Jax signature moves. "Come on, let's go home to Daddy and Tinkerbell. I'll get you a puppacino on the way home, my handsome boy." A few weeks later I made the appointment to neuter him and spay Tinkerbell, who was coming up on seven months old, the same day. Had I hired a professional handler, I'm sure Jax could have had a stellar show career; the reality was that he already had a full-time dog job: to be my best friend and companion. I would never be the person to send him off with a handler, on airplanes and in strange places without me, just for him to be a champion. After the procedures, Jax was my same quirky and special boy and Tinkerbell my same crazy girl. Literally nothing about their activity level or temperament changed, at least once they healed. Of course you have to keep them calm and on kennel rest while they heal, but after that they were the exact same dogs. Jax was still a typical boy, peeing on every single tree, light post and mailbox (if I'd let him) on our walks, somehow able to ration his urine to make it through a long walk and still be able to claim every single vertical object as his own. Tink was still insane with endless energy, running zoomies as fast as her legs could carry her and then snuggling sweetly with us every night. Too often I hear some interesting reasons for not spaying or neutering a dog, usually online in various groups and forums and occasionally at pet expos. It goes back to the Woof in Love, Laugh, Woof. Woof means celebrating the differences between our species and understanding that your dog is a dog and not trying to push human feelings onto them. Let's take a look at some of the wrong reasons for not spaying/neutering a dog: Females need to experience giving birth to a litter: Emotional regret over not having offspring is entirely a human thing. Although I love to celebrate a mother dog's love for her puppies, your dog is not staring out the window wondering why she never had puppies. That doesn't mean a dog doesn't have a strong maternal instinct, but it kicks in after she is pregnant. Dogs live in the moment, your dog is perfectly happy experiencing other things besides giving birth to puppies. Take her on adventures instead, she will love you even more for sharing such amazing bonding experiences and it will never cross her mind that she did not "get" to have pups. [caption id="attachment_614" align="alignright" width="221"] Still a big boy, happily neutered![/caption] Neutering makes males less male: Well, if you're talking about moving mountains to get to females in heat, embarrassing dog erections for no reason, or marking your furniture, yes, neutering will change that. But in terms of the good parts of a boy dog, there is no difference. Your male dog does not care that he lost his testicles. That's a human hangup. Although the procedures are definitely different, your male dog is still just as male as a man who has a vasectomy. All that's changed is their ability to have an heir. Unless your dog is the King of England, he doesn't need an heir. Period. "Fixing" a dog makes them fat: Just like we humans, too many calories and too little activity makes dogs fat. If you see them gaining weight, adjust their calories. I promised a "no fat Labs" promise and have kept to it. Jax and Tink weigh exactly the same as before they were spayed and neutered. You are in control of how much you feed your dog, how much exercise he or she gets, and ultimately how much they weigh, intact or sterilized. Children should experience the miracle of life: I call BS on this. I am a parent, there are books for that, they take classes on that in health class. There is no logical reason for a child to learn about the miracle of life by bringing innocent puppies into the world. Parents who really want their children to see the process can view a variety of births on YouTube. It is miraculous, I once sat and watched a professional breeder's dog give birth via webcam for an entire afternoon; I was not going to submit Tinkerbell to that just for the experience. If you hear friends talking about breeding their dogs, please have the important conversation with them, asking them to reconsider and ask them not to become a backyard breeder. If none of the arguments above are sufficient, there are 1.2 million other reasons not to breed, in the form of dogs who are euthanized each year because a home was not available to them.
Ten Traits of Responsible Dog OwnersBy Lynn Stacy-Smith The month of February has quite a few different awareness events and in the end, all of them fall under the umbrella of being a responsible pet owner. In fact, that is what Love, Laugh, Woof is all about: being a responsible and forever owner from the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the last breath that they take by your side. So while every single month is Responsible Pet Owner month in reality, let's take this opportunity to share ten traits of responsible dog owners: [caption id="attachment_693" align="alignleft" width="236"] Jax is everything a lab stud dog should be...we neutered him anyway! No puppies from this boy![/caption] 1. Responsible owners spay or neuter their dogs: Responsible owners leave the breeding up to professional/hobby/show breeders who already have a demand for their dogs before they create the supply. By spaying your females you never have to worry about them going into heat (as messy and miserable as it is for human women) or having unwanted canine suitors lining up outside your fence to get to your female like Scarlett O'Hara at the barbecue. In the same way, neutering your male means that he can focus on being your best friend instead of searching out a mate and acting like a testosterone driven dog. Let's face it, there's a reason we refer to overly promiscuous men as "dogs", right? Take that desire off your male dog's mind and let him just be your best friend; he does not need a female dog to be his friend with benefits. 2. Responsible dog owners provide good medical care: I once had a vet who told me "thank you" for choosing to go with more elaborate tests to seek a diagnosis for my now late German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch. "Why are you thanking me?" I asked, legitimately confused. Dutch was my dog, a part of my heart and soul, why wouldn't I do everything possible for him? "Not everyone goes this far to try to keep their dog healthy," was their answer. What an eye-opening lesson that was! In my mind proper medical care was a given. A sick dog went to the vet, period. You did everything in your power and budget to help them. Responsible pet owners provide basic care like annual exams (or even better, twice a year), heartworm pills, and vaccinations. They also know how their dog looks and behaves when healthy, notices changes like acting lethargic or a change in appetite or lumps and bumps that appear, takes them to the vet, pays for testing and treatments and follows the vet's orders for home care. [caption id="attachment_53" align="alignright" width="315"] Dogs on the sofa? Totally![/caption] 3. Responsible owners create a comfortable living environment: Today I shared via Facebook a heart wrenching video of extremely young puppies covered in flea bites, scabs and a horrible skin disease. All they had known was disease, misery, pain, suffering and filth for the few weeks since they had been born, and they were so young that they were not even ready to leave their mother. Luckily they had been rescued after their owner literally dumped them off somewhere. There was no sign of their mother and my heart breaks even more wondering what her fate is. Responsible owners provide a clean, climate controlled, bug and pest free, safe, comfortable environment for their dog in their residence. Dogs are pack animals and want to be with their humans. They should live inside the family home with the human family, whether it is a family of one or ten, and be with the humans when they are home or safely in their own secured, climate controlled spot with access to water when the humans are away. 4. Responsible owners train their dogs what to do: Imagine being hired for a new job. Nobody tells you what to do, what they expect of you, or how to do it. When you try to do it your own way they yell at you for doing it wrong. That is what it is like for a dog who does not receive training. Although we are able to create loving bonds and incredible friendships across our different species, living in a human world does not come automatically to a dog. Training them what to do is responsible and gives them the confidence to go about their day-to-day lives with you with joy and the relaxing knowledge that they are pleasing you. 5. Responsible owners are calm, fair, kind and compassionate: Good leaders do not need to yell and use aggression to motivate and lead people. This is the same with dogs. Your dog needs you to be their leader, establish rules and be firm, but they also need you to be calm, fair, kind and compassionate. Anything else will just scare and confuse them and break their trust in you. The fact of the matter is that dogs living in a human world need you. Their entire life revolves around you, for love and companionship, food, water, and every basic need. Any good leader respects her team, and it is quite possible to respect and honor your dog while still being their leader. 6. Responsible owners provide quality nutrition: You don't have to be able to afford the most expensive food on the market for your dog, but providing a good quality food made with safe ingredients is important. Dogs are like computers: garbage in, garbage out, and the better the food your provide the healthier your dog should be. If you are on a super strict budget, try to avoid anything with the words "animal" or "by-product" and the controversial menadione. Dog Food Advisor is an amazing website that can help you research particular brands of food. 7. Responsible owners exercise with their dogs: Whether you participate in an official dog sport like agility, or if long walks are your thing, responsible dog owners make sure their dogs get plenty of exercise and enjoy getting exercise together. There is a mind meld that you get with your dog when you are out exploring the world together. [caption id="attachment_1975" align="alignleft" width="279"] Tink going on an adventure[/caption] 8. Responsible owners make time for their dogs: Obviously life happens and sometimes you have to work long hours or go to human only events, but spending time with your dog is the whole reason you got them. One of the cruelest things you can do to a dog is to ignore them or stick them in a kennel or room away from their humans. Dogs are fun, they are comforting, and they are some of the best friends I know I've ever had, and all they ask in return is for our companionship. Even when I was a single dog owner with a full time job and an active social life, I made sure I carved out substantial and frequent blocks of time that were dedicated just to my dog Babe. 9. Responsible owners are their dog's rock solid support system at the end of their life: I have lain on the floor of the vet's office with four different dogs at different times in the last twelve years as the veterinarian gave them the two injections to end their lives. All four times I held my own self together, not showing my fear or my grief or pain until they had all passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. It was only after the vet told me that each of them was gone that I let myself howl with grief, finally able to let my own pain out. Why? Because I did not want to stress them, worry them, scare them, or have any sort of negative energy around them during the final moments of their lives. My job was to be their rock, after all of the times that they had been there for me, it was the most important moment for me to be there for them. There are no excuses to not be there with your best friend, I don't care how hard it is or how painful. It is an unwritten promise that we give to them the moment we accept them as our dog. [caption id="attachment_2630" align="alignright" width="302"] Babe[/caption] 10. Responsible owners are forever owners: From the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the final breath that they take with you by their side. Forever. Responsible owners do not surrender their dogs to kill shelters, let them loose in the woods and drive off to let them fend for themselves, list them on Craigslist or anywhere else "free to a good home," tie them to trees, tape their muzzles, or any of the other truly evil things that have been done to innocent dogs to "get rid" of them. They do not give up on them or harm them in any way. Period. And if extenuating circumstances happen, they reach out to every rescue group until they can find a no-kill option, pay the surrender fees, and make sure that their dog will find a new, loving, forever home. Please share this with anyone you know who is considering getting a dog or who is a new dog owner. Irresponsible pet ownership is, in my opinion, the primary reason for the massive pet overpopulation problem in this country. It is my mission to help educate owners to become forever owners to help reduce the number of innocent dogs who are surrendered and euthanized each year. [caption id="attachment_2789" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Don't miss a single blog or message, click here to sign up for my mailing list and Your Weekly Woof![/caption]
How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet OverpopulationBy Lynn Stacy-Smith As I wrap up our three part series during Westminster Dog Show week, here are some ways that hobby/show/professional breeders help prevent their dogs from ending up homeless, abandoned or in shelters: 1. The application process: Good breeders will require an extensive application to be submitted by potential puppy buyers to ensure that their puppies are going to forever homes where they will receive the appropriate care, socialization, training, affection and exercise. Our application for Jax was multiple pages long including questions about our philosophy on dog training, books we had read, our experience with dogs, what had happened to other dogs in our life, and a variety of other questions. 2. Lifetime Return Policy: This means that the breeder will take the dog back at any point in its life and dictates that the owner is not allowed to surrender the dog to a shelter or rescue under any circumstances. Some breeders (including ours) ask to be the backup contact on the dog's microchip for life and will take the dog back if the owner passes away. 3. Limited Registration: Many show/hobby/professional breeders will only sell dogs with a Limited Registration, meaning that the dog itself is fully registered with the American Kennel Club but any puppies that he or she produces cannot be registered. This protects the bloodline and means that puppy buyers cannot sell registered puppies from their dog, which would take away some of the monetary value that they could receive for puppies and reduces the likelihood that they will breed the dog. 4. Having a Demand Before Creating the Supply: Responsible breeders wait for a demand for their puppies before they create a supply. Jax was already in utero when we found him and we honestly got lucky. There was one spot left for a puppy buyer because his mother was pregnant with one "extra" puppy. Otherwise we would have been on a waiting list for the next litter which was planned for the following winter. He was born in March. Of course if we had not come along he would have simply stayed with the breeder just like his brother. If you look at the page of the German Shorthaired Pointer who won Best in Show at Westminster in 2016 as of today it says, "We are sorry but at this time we have no litters available." The Planned Litters page indicates that two litters are planned for the spring and that potential buyers can join the waitlist. This is the same with the Labrador Retriever who won Best of Breed last year and is indicative of a very responsible dog breeder who is committed to not creating dogs without a list of puppy buyers waiting to take them into loving homes. 5. Mandatory Spay/Neuter Clauses Many breeders require their puppy buyers to spay/neuter their dogs within a certain time period. This also helps reduce unwanted litters, both intentional and accidental. This is dual purpose in helping decrease the pet population and potentially reducing the risk of certain cancers for both male and female dogs. 6. Co-owning Unaltered Dogs Another common practice is for show/hobby/professional breeders to only allow co-owned dogs to be kept intact and able to reproduce. A co-owned dog typically lives with the puppy buyer full time and is only bred when the original breeder chooses. 7. Promoting Rescue and Shelter Adoptions Of course purebred puppies from a breeder are not going to be the right option for everyone, and there are plenty of incredible purebred or mixed breed dogs waiting for their forever home in shelters and rescue organizations everywhere. Responsible breeders are often extremely supportive of dog adoption and rescue and will send potential puppy buyers to these resources if they do not have litters on the way or when they think that a buyer might do better with a grown dog or a different type of dog. This type of breeder is an overall dog lover and is just as upset by the rampant dog overpopulation problem and heart breaking euthanasia of healthy, innocent dogs as other dog lovers. Rather than pointing the finger at responsible hobby/show/professional breeders who love their dogs and care about what happens to each and every puppy that they produce, we should continue to work on the extremely important work of stopping puppy mills, encouraging the adoption of both purebred and mixed breed dogs from shelters and rescue organizations, educating about why it is so important to spay and neuter all dogs who are not going to be bred by responsible breeders, and to teach current and future generations that dogs are a lifetime commitment, not something to be picked up at the mall or from a classified ad with the same amount of consideration as a sweater or a new handbag.
Understanding the Different Types of Dog BreedersBy Lynn Stacy-Smith Today is the second day of the Westminster Kennel Club show, a prestigious event that celebrates breeding stock of purebred dogs and my favorite sporting event of the year. With a pet overpopulation problem that results in 2.4 million innocent and healthy dogs and cats being euthanized each year, there are sometimes critics who say that we don't need anyone breeding dogs and bringing additional animals into the world. I disagree, though, and feel that our purebred dog breeds are all an important part of the dog world that should be preserved for future generations. To make that assumption that all breeders are responsible for homeless pets is unfair, and I think it is important to educate people that not all breeders are the same. In fact there are vast differences between responsible breeders and puppy mill operators. This is a topic that I cover in detail in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner in Chapter 5: Breeder or Rescue, Where to Get Your Next Dog. Rather than re-write the wheel, here is an excerpt from my book:
"The words 'dog breeder' can elicit some very negative responses from individuals in the dog community. The truth is that there are a variety of different types of dog breeders ranging across a wide spectrums of levels of care, and it is neither fair nor accurate to lump them all in together. Some breeders love their dogs as if they gave birth to them, and they put care and love into each litter. Others are unscrupulous and inhumane to their dogs and help contribute to the pet overpopulation problem in two ways: producing more dogs than they have a need for and not sufficiently screening puppy buyers to ensure that they are committed to caring for the dog humanely for its entire life. Unfortunately, too often good breeders are lumped in with bad breeders, but the fact of the matter is that there are many wonderful breeders who operate in such a way that if everyone who bred dogs followed their lead we would not have the heart wrenching pet overpopulation problem that we do in this country and across the world. While I agree with the 'don't shop, adopt' concept, it is important to note that good breeders of purebred dogs are important to the world of dogs and to maintaining the breed standard of the breeds that we love so much."Here's the difference: Large Commercial Breeders: Large commercial breeders breed and house puppies in a manner similar to raising livestock: in large quantities in cages. These operations are known as "puppy mills" because they breed in large quantities. There are many horror stories of puppy mills in which dogs are undernourished, dehydrated and kept in cages too small where they bred over and over and over again. It is not uncommon for puppy mill dogs to never touch grass, run around or live a normal life. These puppies are usually sold through pet stores. Because of the lack of attention to care, genetic issues, temperament or socialization from the puppy mill operators, many puppy mill puppies have substantial health issues. Adding to the tragedy is the fact that most pet stores do not full screen buyers sufficiently, if at all, to ensure that they are making a lifetime commitment instead of an impulse buy. Backyard Breeders: The term "backyard breeder" typically refers to people who breed their own dogs but do not offer the same health guarantees and health checks as Hobby/Professional/Show Breeders. Some backyard breeders will breed just one litter because they have a beloved female dog and want one of her puppies to keep for their own, or because a friend or family member wants one of her puppies. In this situation it is quite possible that the parents and puppies are well-loved, quite healthy, and receive the utmost care and socialization. Other backyard breeders are less scrupulous and breed their dogs for profit without the same high quality care and treatment. Backyard breeders who fall into this category often neglect their dogs and simply view them as a way to bring in income, similar to puppy mill operations but on a smaller scale. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="377"] Photo source: https://lovelaughwoof.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/CCJ16_CalliePupsSngl2Day52f.jpg[/caption] Hobby/Show/Professional Dog Breeders: Professional dog breeders, sometimes called hobby or show breeders, breed for love of the breed and usually possess extensive knowledge of genetics, their bloodline, and common health problems of the breed. They are dedicated to maintaining the breed standard in all areas: health, appearance and temperament. Professional breeders will ensure that all of their stud dogs and dams pass the standard tests for their breeds with the OFFA, also called the OFA, which is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. For example, with the Labrador Retriever, you should look for breeders who test for hips, elbows and eyes. Their females lead regular happy lives and only produce a few litters in their lifetime before they are spayed and retired. Some hobby/show/professional breed multiple litters a year and rely on that income and others breed just once or twice a year or when they would like to add another dog to their own dog family. This type of breeder is the type involved in conformation shows like the Westminster Kennel Club show. They also participate in common sports and activities for the breed. For example, our friend/breeder from whom we purchased Jackson and Tinkerbell is actively involved in Hunt Tests, Conformation, Obedience, works professionally as a dog trainer and runs a boarding kennel in her community. One of her labs is in agility and another has worked as a reading dog, going into classrooms where children read to the dog to help their confidence and reading skills. Her dogs all live in the house with her and are beloved pets. What type of breeder can make it to Westminster? Often the Westminster coverage includes information on the day to day lives of some of the dogs in the competition. To debunk the myth that show dogs are only "good" for shows, many of the dogs who compete also participate in the sports and activities for which they were bred. For example many of the sporting breeds also hunt birds and have other jobs outside of the show ring as well as being beloved pets and companions. The Westminster Kennel Club Show website has a great page called Find the Right Dog for You and includes this paragraph,
"As we have for many years during our televised broadcast, The Westminster Kennel Club will continue to make the following announcement: “If you are planning to add a dog to your life and have come to look over the best of the best, please note, no dog you have seen here (yesterday or today) came from a pet shop, or was the ‘product’, if you will, of a puppy mill. If you want a dog, go to the people who care – the dedicated specialty breeders who have made dogs like those you see here – a lifetime effort. Talk dogs with dog people who care and understand.”
Watch tomorrow for a related blog about tactics professional/show/hobby breeders use to help prevent pet overpopulation.