Archive for July, 2011

Don’t fall for the marketing, part 2

July 28, 2011

Because I have…disparate interests, I got invited to a party by a friend involved in another hobby of mine, and a young woman asked how I knew the hostess, and what I did for a living.

I told her I was a dog groomer, and—I get this all the time—she s got all excited and shrieked, “I love dogs!  I had a dog when I was growing up.  I’m going to get a puppy!”

“Really?  What kind of puppy?  And why a puppy?”  I asked her.

“Why not?  Puppies are so cute!”

‘Yeah, they are, but are you away from home over 8 hours a day, like, for a job?”  I asked her.

“Of course,” she responded.

“Then, how are you going to housebreak a puppy?  A puppy can only barely hold urine for about 2 hours for every month of age it is.  So, say you get a 3 month old pup.    That means the pup can only hold urine for about 6 hours at most.  Are you going to get a crate to keep the pup in & hire a dog walker, or what?”

I could see the wheels turning.  “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.  What do most people do?” she asked me.

“Well, some people hire a dog walker, or spend a lot of money sending a pup away for training for  months—which sort of counters the reason for getting a very young pup for bonding.  Smart people understand  and get an adult dog.  Others just don’t housebreak the pup, & then, when they are totally fed up, post it on Craigslist for ‘rehoming’  & say they don’t have time, or have to move, or have circumstances…& many of us have had the experience that if the dog is not totally housebroken by the age of 6 months, it may never be.”

“Really,” she responded, surprised.

“Really.  & what kind of dog?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  I think a cockapoo or a Pit Bull.  I mean, a dog’s a dog, just one that needs a home” she said.

“Ah, no, a dog is not just a dog. They are not all the same.  A Pit Bull is a terrier. Bred to be bold.  A cockapoo is a mix of 2 breeds.  Much different personality.  You don’t really know the  adult personality of a dog until it matures.  Just as an example, I’ve had either Afghan Hounds or Salukis for over 40 years. They are  pretty funny puppies, but  many times, when they get to be adults, they turn out to be much more aloof and dignified and much less playful than they were as puppies.  I don’t know if you know this, but there is a temperament test, the Voolhard Test that you can give to a litter of puppies to give you some idea of what the adult personality—at least in terms of  trainability, would be like.”

“Wow. I had no idea it’s that complicated,” she said, and laughed.  I know she was still thinking  she wanted just a dog.

“It’s not that it;s complicated. It’s that dog lovers know more about dogs than we did even 30 years ago. People who want to do stuff with a dog, like hunt, or do agility, use the information.  Unfortunately, people looking for a puppy  usually go to a pet shop and trust the sellers.  People who sell dogs to make money  don’t car about any of the information.  All they care about is if your credit card will be declined.  &  even veterinarians, if they are not dog fanciers, don’t know that much about the breeds or animal behavior.”

“So, how do I find the dog I want?”  she asked.

“I know this sounds strange, but call area dog grooming shops or kennels & ask if anyone  employed there either shows dogs or knows people who show dogs or do performance events. These days, many groomers have just gone to dog grooming school and really don’t know dogs, but the old timers do.  Talk to those groomers. Talk to dog trainers. They don’t all do performance, but they know other dog people.  It’s a network. You can google  ‘dog clubs’ or ‘obedience clubs’ in your area, or AKC professional dog handlers.   Many of them don’t breed dogs, but they know people who do, and they have experience with many breeds.  You can talk to hobby breeders who show dogs.

“Don’t fall for the marketing. Not every dog that looks cute & cuddly is cute. Very few of the small ones are cuddly.  The Maltese & Shih Tzu are cuddly, and an Italian Greyhound will get under the covers with you, but Schipperkes, Dachshunds, and most terriers are not cuddly dogs.   A  Mastiff—a huge breed, will  try to sit as close to you as possible.  & remember, you won’t be getting Lassie.   They all need training.  And I have to tell you, I have gotten several purebred dogs, several that turned out to be show quality, and  all were housebroken and obedience trained, from breed rescues.  & many of the shelters have great older dogs.  The shelters don’t necessarily get  bad dogs, sick dogs, or spoiled dogs.  They get dogs because owners die, people  lose jobs, and in many cases, they did not get a dog from a hobby breeder who would take a dog back,  but from a backyard breeder or a pet shop that really doesn’t love the dogs they sell.”

“You really know  a lot. Can I call you ? Like I said, I don’t think I am ready now, but I think you can help me find what I am looking for.”

Sure, but I  have to tell you, tha, especially in this economy, it may take months to find a puppy, but  virtually all the breed rescues will have dogs.”

Did I  stop  1 person from going to a pet store?  I sure hope…

Book review: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

July 21, 2011

A couple of years ago I had a weekend off, so I decided to attend a dog show. This was not just any dog show, it was the  Great Lakes Terrier Association show at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake, Illinois.    Also, the same day, in another building, was the  Chicago Papillon Club specialty show.

This is an  odd cluster of dog shows. Due to the economy being bad,  and the ‘popularity’ (or lake thereof) of the terrier breeds, all the clubs holding specialties have such small numbers, that the only way they can afford to put on an event like this is to  be part of the association.  For those who don’t know:  if you have a dog club that promotes an AKC breed, you  must have a dog show once a year.  After all, the reasoning is, you are sponsoring and promoting a breed of dogs!

But, the entries in each breed are so small, that the entire event is over in the blink of an eye.    Maybe I am exaggerating. In about 4 hours, it’s all over.

If you are interested in any of the terrier breeds, it’s good to come and watch, just to see the dogs…but will you get your questions answered, or be able to follow what is going on?  I doubt it.  In fact, well, her is what happened to me…

I stopped in to the building where  the terrier judging was going on.  Some dogs were actually left alone on grooming tables, on blocks (that’s the newest thing: you put each foot on a block & the dog has to stand still or risk hanging himself if he dares to move a foot!) while  handlers and owners were off talking to one another. Sure, they could get back in less than a minute if a dog  got into trouble, but  I could think of more humane ways to leave a dog unattended!  I didn’t try to talk to anyone,  there was too much commotion. so I went to watch the Papillons.

The building  is a pole barn…less than charming.  People had their crates and tables spread out.  I believe I came in at the need of an obedience exercise in one of the rings. I was just standing there, watching.  Suddenly, an elderly woman came up to me and asked me if I was lost.

I was in my mid 50’s at the time, so you can imagine this woman was much older.  I told he I had just come in to watch judging. I asked her if there was any information about the club. She was most unfriendly. She made it clear that my watching was unwelcome.    So, I left.

So much for promoting your breed.  How ironic!  I am a fancier, but because I didn’t come in with a Pap, and nobody knew me, and I wasn’t looking for anyone in particular, I was not welcome to watch a very small dog show.

Not all dog people are snooty.  A member of the Airedale Terrier Club invited me to one of their picnics!

Some of the breeds actually  attract friendly people who want you  to become more interested and active.

It’s been getting worse and  worse as the economy gets worse.  The AKC has encouraged the clubs to put up websites, but you try to email the secretary, and the link is no longer good—so you can’t get in touch with the club.  Or you email, it goes through, and nobody responds (this has happened with breed rescues, too).

The  salaried people at the AKC seem concerned, but are putting more effort into cultivating commercial (puppy mill) breeders than helping the clubs and hobby breeders.

So, conventional wisdom is that dog breeders & fanciers ar a snooty bunch that  breed  dogs for elites, and will bend over backwards to NOT sell you a dog—but then complain about how people  go to puppy mills rather than seek  out good breeders like themselves.

What does this have to do with a book review?  Well, for a long time, I’ve been wondering how we dog fanciers turn this dynamic around.  I majored in anthropology in college to learn how communities get their ideas….& here it is, written in such an understandable way,  I’m thinking this should be required reading of all anthropology majors, if not those doing marketing and communications.

Published in 2000, by a well known staff writer for The New Yorker, t The Tipping Point (Little, Brown and Company)  addresses how  what we know comes to be the conventional wisdom:  how fads get started, what sticks, and how we can affect what people think.  Gladwell addresses little bits of historical facts that we all know, and  explores what led up to  the incident, and why the incident had such impact on us all.  This is something I am sure many of us have thought about.

In 2007, the brothers Chip Heath and Dan Heath also addressed this topic,  or rather the nuance of messages, in Made to Stick (Random House).  Those of us who are dog fanciers, who want our breeds to survive in an era of a crumbling middle class, where dog fanciers will have to decide on whether to pay for health care or dog food, would be wise to check out both books and talk to  their (our) fellow fanciers about the state of purebred dogs.

After all, we are the ones who want to breed the healthiest, most genetically sound dogs, and find the best homes for them.  It is not the  puppy mill or backyard breeders who do this. We have not  been very successful at differentiating what we, as fanciers, do, that is different from the commercial breeders.  We sponsor health research, and we support rescues.  If it weren’t for the hobby breeders, there would be no designer mixes.

It’s just gotten to the point that it is all too expensive, and really an indulgence. If we don’t attract more fanciers, it’s just pointless.  We really need greeters at dog shows to meet novice fanciers and guide them along.

Craigslist integrity (an oxymoron?): the pet section

July 13, 2011

I really love Craigslist   It is easy to buy, sell, GIVE AWAY and meet like minded people.  However…it’s also easy to scam, lie, waste peoples’ times, & rip people off.

I frequently get emails and responses from people who feel as I do:  That too many unethical  pet owners are breeding their pets & making money because they can post for free on Craigslist…  that Craigslist does not enforce their own posting rules.

That’s news?  It’s a shame, really.  They have virtually put newspapers out of business because of the free posting service.  Also, if you read the posting rules, and the frequently asked questions about  flagging, you can see that  certain things are not allowed for a reason.  However, it is  libertarianism in its true form:  they allow the community to flag off posts because they are prohibited, illegal, miscategorized, and spam.

I have the animal sellers sometimes contact me & ask me to flag off the weapons sellers, or the drug dealers, or  prostitution.  It is pretty well known that people fighting the trafficking of children   got reforms in the adult services section. They did this  by  organizing themselves and strategizing…& that is what pet lovers need to do.

First of all, I am not opposed to selling animals. Were it not for ethical hobby breeders of dogs & cats,  there would be no purebreds.  And—were it not for  dedicated herpetologists & avian fanciers, some species would have gone extinct.  That is not the issue. There are plenty of places to post for free, or for a nominal sum.    It’s posted in several places that  NO ANIMAL SALES OR BREEDING ARE ALLOWED IN ANY CL CATEGORY.  It’s just that, like the guy who lost his watch in the dark, but is looking under the street lamp for it, their excuse is, “the light is better over on Craigslist.”  The rules could not be more clear.

If Craigslist  enforced its own rules—I would be rich by now. As I have blogged several times in the past….they have allowed posters to libel me and harass my employers (or—innocent people whom the posters thought I was working for). They have posted what they thought to be my address.  Illegal?  Sure—but  the  assholes who do this know that law enforcement  is overworked & understaffed. Unless I find a lawyer to enforce the law & take my case (& a lawyer would make a lot of money off of this, really), there is nothing you or I can do. They –the commercial animal sellers—are laughing at us—…HOWEVER….

I have noticed there are fewer & fewer  chronic sellers posting. Yep, we get new ones all the time in Chicago…but they rarely repost after being flagged off. We used to have (as recently as 2010) many, many backyard Pit Bull & Shih Tzu breeders—& we still have  more than our fair share.  & we have several commercial bird, fish,and herp (snakes, reptiles) sellers who claim they are ‘rehoming’ animals they bred…& they also claim to not be breeders even though  they actually post that they own  one or both parent animals.  The stats bear me out:  fewer are posting, and fewer are selling. Why?

Either they get flagged off so often they realize they don’t have enough visibility to sell in a timely fashion & make money,  or….could it be?  THE MARKET IS SATURATED.

This  concept has not affected the imbeciles who allow their cats to breed & breed.  Frequently, they respond to me & tell me I am the reason shelters have to kill cats.  That’s great pretzel logic:  the reason the shelter have to make a Sophie’s Choice is that the imbeciles who don’t have their cats spayed think that if they give away kittens, they’ve found good homes,  the end.  These cretins really don’t think they are responsible for the surplus cats.…& once again—I have to point out that the shelters are not  doing an effective job of marketing spay/neuter/pet owner responsibility—& neither are the veterinarians.

Ok–back to the issue of how  I think I made a dent on sellers’ posting:

1. I counterpost the  contact info for local shelters &  point out that when you own the parent animals—this is not adoption or rehomimg—it’s selling—& should be flagged off;

2.  Nobody gets a baby animal  & immediately posts it because their kid is allergic, they just got a new job or have to move.  The odds are that  there that there are not that many  stupid people buying baby animals.  These are brokers posting an excuse.  I respond to these post—& tell them to return the animal to the seller, Ethical sellers take their  pets back because they love them & know their responsibility….& many people thank me. The ones who tell me to eat a booger  I know are sellers, & I flag them off—& I COPY THE ENTIRE POST TO :  ABUSE@CRAIGSLIST.ORG     INCLUDING THE POSTING # AT THE BOTTOM—& IN THE SUBJECT LINE   I PUT (PUPPY) SELLER CHICAGO PETS.

I was told to do this by someone on Craigslist staff (they are  always anonymous).  Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

When I was flooded with  over 200  requests for free stuff that  an animal seller has posted in several cities (he clearly spent a day—an entire day—posting ads with my phone number or email address…no joke), another pet love who felt the same way I do—in California—was alerted, & she emailed me & told me what to do.  I started asking people to forward me the entire post—with the posting # at the bottom,  to me—& reforwarded them to Craigslist—-& guess what–the asshole who posted all this was suspended for about a week…meaning he could not sell animals on Craigslist—& I am sure this gave him pause as it cut into his sales.  The idiot has libeled me several times & gotten suspended…but I have yet to find a trial lawyer who doesn’t want $10,000 to follow through.  I guess that’s the price I have to pay for  trying  to make a dent in  the unethical sales of pet animals.

Now—to be more effective, more quickly  we have to enlist more people who want  those seeking pets  go to shelters & rescues.  That means that when we see offenders repost, we have to copy the post & repost it, and also point out that this is a commercial breeder scamming & selling–that the  person looking to adopt a pet will NOT be adopting, but buying.  Post  contact info for local area shelters, rescues, & … http://www.petfinder.com

I would like to point out that I only flag posts for adult animals  if they are listed as breedable(intact, not  spayed, gravid, laid eggs).  The  person who wants to dump this pet knows it can be a SELLING POINT  because people do want breedable pets.  The American Kennel Club said the hobby breeders are not meeting the demand for PUPPIES….& YES–there is a demand for baby animals—no doubt.  But there is virtually no demand for  adult animals—which all these babies become if they live.  Also, if someone posts that the pet has a health issue, or is not good with small kids—I flag. This animal is a public health hazard, & should be euthanized.  It doesn’t matter that  the household wanting this animal has no kids.  Kids are bittern & maimed by ‘accidents’ all the time.

There is a commercial animal breeder & seller in  Indiana—I am not libeling him—he is very proud.    He goes by Iloveallpets@comcast.net  He  continually posts that I work as an animal shelter (I do not) &  get those animals to sell so I compete with others.   I have no desire to do this.  I have 2 old dogs (as of this posting..&  can barely pay for my own health insurance.  & that’s the choice as I see it these days.   Or… he posts that since the animal shelters & rescues get animals for free, they are making a profit & competing with rehomers.  No joke. This guy is a prince.

We have to encourage others to flag off the sellers:  pets under 6 months old. Herps sold as ‘het’, ‘morph’, ‘gravid’…in grams…without enclosures.

Yes—it’s true—idiots constantly go into petshops with credit cards, believe these sellers are animal lovers, buy these over prices commercially bred animals —bred as livestock—get home, & panic. That’s too bad.  They even have the audacity to  post what they have invested or say they just want to make their money back. We should ALWAYS  encourage these people to return to the sellers &  DEMAND THEIR MONEY BACK.  In Illinois, you have 72 hours to cancel a sale….& it is illegal anywhere to sell a live animal to a minor. Many people thank me for that information…the sellers tell me to …eat a booger.

We also have to ‘help’ the bona fide shelters & rescues make sure their links and contact info is good, & help them screen prospects.  I always urge anyone looking for a baby animal to check out http://www.dog-play.com   It is a great site about dogs—but the info applies to most pet animals.


Please forward the link to this blog to anyone you think may be interested in helping to solve the problem of livestock breeders & brokers taking advantage of idiots with too much money, not enough sense—or people who believe  that people selling animals have more integrity than they have.

Don’t fall for the Marketing: Part 1

July 7, 2011

I recently gave a  dog grooming demonstration for  North Central Maltese Rescue.  I brought along a little bottle of dog shampoo a client had given me. Boy—was the packaging ever cute.  It was a little plastic milk-type bottle, and it had cute  writing on it that  said something about it being a  natural milk bath.

I have to give the company credit—because—even though they are not required to —by law—list the ingredients…they did. There was no milk in the shampoo—nor was there anything NATURAL  in the shampoo.

The problem for the client—who gave me the shampoo, was…her dog had skin allergies and sensitivities. The dog’s feet were swollen!  Her veterinarian told her to use a mild shampoo.

So, how are you going to find a mild shampoo if you don’t know how shampoo works?  We think, because we are Americans, and live in America, the GOVERNMENT makes sure companies don’t lie.  I don’t want to  get into a tirade about  capitalism and marketing.  I just want to say that you have to be an informed consumer…and sadly, very few dog groomers or veterinarians know enough about chemistry or care enough about how the cosmetic aspects of taking care of pet dogs.  Sadly, also,  the veterinarians make a lot of money off their ignorance if your dog has to be treated for an ear infection or skin problem.

What makes shampoo lather  is sodium—-salt.  Usually this is sodium laureth sulphate.  If you read the shampoo bottles,they also contain (no joke—go grab one!) ammonia, some form of benzene, and formaldehyde. Yes, ‘aqua’—a fancy name for water, and  fragrance (what the heck is ‘fragrance’?) & my very favorite:  ‘natural ingredients.’    We can thank the FOOD AND DRUG administration, Congress, and  chemical industry lobbyists for all this.

We can get information on this. It’s no secret.  And, since most  people don’t learn any chemistry until they get into high school, and then only if they choose to, we  essentially pay companies to poison us…but I digress.

What about the LD-50 test, to see how many animals die?  Or pouring  cleaning chemicals into rabbits eyes (which is still allowed)?  Do you know what the point of that cruelty is?  It’s not to make the chemicals in consumer products safer…I’ll tell you that.

We Americans are  in a tough situation, as we expect  cleaners to lather,  or we think they are not cleaning  (just as we expect vacuum cleaners to make noise—a waste of energy…)

Last year I worked for a very well educated businessman who chose a shampoo for  me to use based on the marketing. The product had spa in the name, & had a conditioner right in the shampoo.  The packaging was elegant,the shampoo smelled  nice—but  because conditioner counteracts the shampoo’s cleaning ability, it was almost impossible to rinse out (& I took time to do it—what about kennel staff who really didn’t care?) & it left a residue on the dog. It was designed to do that. You couldn’t see it on a light colored dog, but a dog that was liver or black you sure could…& it was ‘mild’ alright!  It didn’t do a good job of cutting oily dirt.

I don’t use anything that leaves a lingering scent. That scent is some chemical bonding to your dog’s skin, & I have no idea what it is. I use a non-scented hypoallergenic shampoo that dilutes 32 to 1.   I use this as it has less allergens than most shampoos, and some of my clients are allergic to fragrances.

HOWEVER, Double K makes the GRIMINATOR which dilutes 32 to 1, and will cut dirt & bacterial odor, and will leave a scent that lasts about 24 hours.  I like it because it really cleans—but I am not saying  it is mild.

I use a shampoo that  has ‘Nature’ in the name,  dilutes 32 to 1, and  is slightly lavender scented. It’s very calming. I use it because it dilutes  well, cleans well, and smells good while I am shampooing the dog.

On my  drape coated dogs in specials coat, I use  BARK 2 BASICS  ONE STEP SILKY. I love it. It only dilutes 16 to one, but it does not dry out the coat and it rinses  easily.  I finish with the Stuff or  Chris Christensen Ice on Ice.

I only use conditioner/cream rinse in the winter when it is very dry, to cut static. The way  conditioner works is that it is oil based & will seal moisture into the coat, and attract moisture from the air, but it will also attract dirt.

So, why do groomers use any  shampoos that dilute less than 16 to 1—the industry average?  They don’t know math, and they do not know how shampoo cleans hair. That’s a fact.  At one time or another, we all used what we were used to using, but now we can easily get more information off the internet, and there is no excuse for being ignorant & then complaining about how you never make any money …but there is the other issue of dogs with chronic skin problems—& the veterinarian suggesting the solution is to bathe the dog frequently and not address  nutritional or environmental factors  affecting the poor dog’s health and quality of life.

Many of the medicated shampoos have chlorohexidine, which is an  antibacterial.  If bacterial is the problem, it works very well. It is a good antiseptic. But will  mammals develop an immunity to it?  Just another factor to take into account when  using a product.