Archive for September, 2015

Bridging the Information Gap to End the Surplus Pet Problem

September 25, 2015
Bred by backyard breeder. This is a Shih Tzu---Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

Bred by backyard breeder. This is a
Shih Tzu—Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

I would not have learned to groom dogs—and entered the PET INDUSTRY—if I didn’t love dogs.  I  believe the late Andrew Hunte, of Hunte Corp.—the largest puppy mill in the country (although I am sure he never called his business a puppy mill, but a commercial dog breeding kennel), initially felt the same way. He died a few weeks ago, but his state-of-the-art puppy mill is not going to go out of business soon.  I bet a lot of hobby breeders wish they had a facility like Hunte Corp.

Andrew Hunte came from a family that showed dogs.  He showed dogs in his early days.  However, he had a pet shop, and of course no ethical hobby breeder would sell him puppies to resell.  They all wanted to meet the people who wanted to buy puppies.  So, in order to meet the demand for pups, initially, Hunte turned to substandard breeders—how we envision most puppy mills.  He didn’t like that, as the pups were  genetically unsound and  unhealthy.  He decided he could do better.  He did.  One of my grooming clients owns a Hunte bred Afghan Hound, which she got from PETLAND when she worked there and they couldn’t manage to sell the pup. Sesame  has gorgeous conformation.  I recognized many of the names on her pedigree…so you see, we DO know who wasn’t screening or didn’t care.

Our dirty little secret is that many of the winning breeders of conformation dogs run their own puppy mills.  They breed over 10 litters a year (many breed over 50 liters a year), and do rudimentary screening of prospective homes, if you call asking for a credit card screening.  Rarely do we see the dogs they’ve sold ending up in shelters or rescue, but the problem remains that  dollars matter more than excellent placements.

I am not defending breeding pets as livestock—but these breeders are not the problem.  Ironically, it is the smaller  puppy mills, harder to identify, which  are usually posting on Craigslist and even E-bay, which are the source of most pets ending up in shelters and rescues.

As a hobbyist/fancier, I see this as several different problems: 1. breeding dogs as a commodity and not as pets; 2.  Not screening for  good homes (buyers who  understand what they are getting into); 3. the rescue ‘community ignoring that backyard breeders are BREEDERS and not being made responsible.

Every day, Facebook is full of posts with a photo of a sad dog, and a caption, “Won’t someone save this dog from euthanasia?”  If you notice, most of these dogs are Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas if they are purebred, and  frequently they are Rottweilers and designer dogs. These dogs generally come from backyard breeders, not puppy mills. Certainly, purebreds do end up in shelters:  owners die or have some  terrible misfortune, or a dog is stolen or gets loose, but ask any shelter manager  what physical types of dogs are coming in, and  they will confirm what I am saying.

So, the fancy writes off the rescue community as PETA members and do-gooders, and the rescue community writes off all breeders as the problem, and we’re not really making much headway in solving the problem of surplus pets and who should be responsible for them.

We know that in many European countries,  getting dogs registered is strictly regulated, and there  doesn’t seem to be a surplus pet problem.  Just beyond Europe is Eastern Europe and Russia, now exporting purebreds from their puppy mills because the French bulldog, English Bulldog, Pomeranian, and Boston Terrier breeders in the USA can’t keep up with the demand for PUPPIES OF THESE BREEDS.  Personally, I really am appalled that importing pet dogs for the market, when we euthanize so many, is allowed…but the AKC will register those dogs.

I know I am naive and really want  to believe the  people who run the AKC really care about the future of purebred dogs, but I had an AKC employee tell me that if the AKC didn’t register  these dog, and stopped transferring registration of  breeding dogs sold at auction, they’d go to another registry.  My gut reaction was, So What?

Another fact that hobbyists/fanciers don’t care about is that the pet pups they sell often are not  registered.  Some think this is a good thing, especially if they know their pups carry genetic defects. Many sell at a lower fee with no papers, so the surplus pets they breed can’t be traced back to them.  Do you hear me, Beagle, Rottweiler, Cane Corso,  and German Shepherd Dog breeders?   I don’t mean to single our your breeds  (or you breeders being iffy on the integrity scale), but the last 2 Whippets I got as pets were returnees to their breeders.  A Saluki I got was being held onto as a young adult until the right home came along.  Also, have you tried to purchase a Portuguese Water Dog? With a very small gene pool, the breeders of those dogs are going to ask a lot of questions, and were able to dodge the bullet of having the breed get into the wrong hands when the Obamas got their Porties.  They took advantage of the spotlight to explain to the pet seeking public that good breeders are always responsible for the dogs they breed—even the nonshow dogs, and take them back.

Ok…back to  fixing this. I am out on the street with my Whippets all the time, and  of course,  the question most regular Americans ask is, “Are they rescues?”   This is because they look like Greyhounds, and nobody is breeding pet Greyhounds—they are all retired track dogs. I explain that they are Whippets, not Greyhounds, and that Whippet breeders are generally very responsible, and both mine were returned adult dogs…and you often have to be on a waiting list to get a Whippet puppy.  When I have the time, I also explain that  many of the people who  own racing Greyhounds  always tried to place dud racers, but most people didn’t want them as pets until the marketing was addressed…and I go on to say that most of the dogs in shelters needing rescue were bred by backyard breeders whom NOBODY  admits are breeders!  And…if I  happen to run into an adamant rescue person who feels no dog should be bred until all the dogs in shelters get homes, I tell them they are not addressing the cause of the problem, and if they alienate ME—a supporter of rescue, they are alienating a large group of people who would help them really get to the heart of the problem.

So, let me remind you—the fancy—-1. Do not shop in any store that sells any pet animals unless that store raises the animals themselves.  Ask the manager. You support cruelty of all sorts when you make excuses that a bird or rat is not worth as much as a dog.  We can’t solve the problem when we make excuses;

2. Do not do business with veterinarians who discount that you are breeding good dogs for the future of good dogs, yet profits from puppy mills and backyard breeders.  This does us no good;

3. Do not donate to humane organizations that are not local to you, and that do not accept that YOU are not the problem.  In fact, ask them what they are doing to address the problem of backyard breeders. If you are in a municipality that mandates that  pet shops only offer rescued pets, ask what they do to ensure integrity—because in the metro Chicago area,  we have Wright-Way, which ‘rescues’ puppies from rural pounds that take surplus puppy mill puppies—and they do NOT include neutering in their fees as mandated by state law!

4. Ask your local animal shelters how they screen for  GOOD homes:  a. Do they ask if the pet seeker owns or rents?  b. If they want a puppy, how will they manage to housebreak it if they are gone all day (the answer is, a dog walker coming in every 3—4 hours)? c.  Do they  know that the dog will either shed or need professional grooming, and have they investigated the costs & the frequency recommended?  d.  Have they looked into  who offers dog training classes for basic obedience?  e.What if they pet has behavior issues?  Who  do they refer  puppy adopters to for FREE HELP?  Not every  behavior  issue is an obedience issue.  f. Also, do they  have the adopter sign a statement that they must return the  pup to the shelter/rescue if they can’t keep it, and not  pawn it off on Craigslist?

Of course, you can’t confuse some people with the facts.   One thing I do is volunteer as a court advocate for animals in the court system.  because, you see, it is  going to remain way too easy to get a  pet and abuse it for some time to come, and the do-gooders are so busy  getting all the pets out of shelters so they won’t be killed in the shelters….they are ignoring the fact that deranged people  sometimes adopt  pets and torture them.

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It Really is Because We’re ….Girls….

September 18, 2015

Junior high school is a  really awkward time for  kids…but particularly girls.  Your hormones are  making your body change radically.  You get your period (how dramatic is that), and your intellect is maturing.  I went through a really ugly ducking stage, and kids were really mean.  Where I went to school, there was a  cool clique, and they were the worst, but I sucked it up and made it through (I also had a lot of counseling, as  I had a lot of stress and depression I could not define (hormones?), although it was mostly at home with parents and sibs).  That was over 40 years ago, and now those mean people are my ‘friends’ on Facebook.  Whatever. We’ve all matured.

I lived and lived, and although, in the dog grooming industry there is a lot of  pettiness and drama  (due mostly to immature personalities and introverts),  I never felt it was an issue until about 10 years ago.  I had closed a my business, which wasn’t losing money, but wasn’t making money, either, and I thought I could  do better. Of course, I have mixed feelings about not sticking it out another year, but the last year was flat  due a combination of  die-off of older, very steady dogs, and the impacts of 9/11 and Enron, as well as very high energy costs, rumors of the economic bubble  which came to fruition a year after I closed the business (for those who don’t quite remember, Lehman Brothers collapsed  due to them  having too much unsecured debt, which included those bundles of chopped up mortgages, and the resulting credit freeze, and the end of the Bush, jr tenure…)

In any case, by that time my  industry had started to change. As  video tapes  were replaced by CDs (and now, downloads!!!), purebred dogs were replaced by designer dogs, and retailers  saw that  big bucks could be made from  people seeking pet products…and suddenly, the businesses I  could possibly work for were not managed by dog groomers or trainers, but by  retail managers who really didn’t know that much about dogs.  Worse,  although it was not my work or skills that bothered them,  it appears it was my confidence.

When I worked for Best Friends Pet Care,  initially, thought is was me….but other female employees told me it was not me…it was the manager, Bruce Blaine.   In fact, a contract trainer, upon hearing I took the job, told my friend, “I would not want to be caught alone in the building with him.”  I should have taken that to heart.   I complained to the regional manager, and she came out to observer him, and talk to him several times…and every time he retaliated by bullying us girls. Some just quit, but I was making a lot of money, and I felt if I could avoid him, I’d be ok. The thing is…he went out of his way to bully me.  Finally, I was offered a ‘job’ elsewhere (it turned out to be  lie—but those people are out of business now, so no matter…), and I quit.  Several years later, I learned Best Friends was sold, he was demoted to kennel staff, and moved to another location—but he was not fired.  I don’t know why he was not fired.

A contract worker  who confirmed this with me told me that in HER contract, she  specifically had it stated that Bruce was not allowed to talk to her.  So… why would so many credible people not be taken seriously?  Is it really because we don’t have penises?

I also learned that Bruce  said he fired me.  That’s what the new managers told me.  I corrected them, and told them why I quit, but the damage was done.  The guy with the dick has much more credibility than a girl.

There are several major employers in our area begging for groomers.  They post on Craigslist every day, and on many of the  pages groomers check for work.  A human resources consultant  had me for a meeting and asked me why they have so much trouble finding groomers.  I told her that  at least three-quarters of those jobs don’t really exist.  They just want applicants waiting in case  some girl makes an excuse about her kid and  doesn’t show up, or she dares to tell a client her dog has a painful ear infection, so they fire her, or…my very favorite:  having you sign a bunch of papers about the rules, then having a manager tell you to break a rule (like, say, a dog coming in for grooming that doesn’t have proof of  inoculations), and  firing you for breaking the rule—even though they told you to break it.  That’s legal. It’s legal to lie to you about how much you will be paid, too.  They probably do it to guys, but since over  70% of groomers are  GIRLS , it happens to girls more often.

It’s true, and that’s why we are being told to lean in.  Men  speak with authority, and  it’s easy for them to become managers because men (and even women) like  take charge kind of people. They don’t want a woman to be bossy, but it’s ok for  man to be an asshole.  Last year  I worked for a woman who appointed weak women to manage, so she could manipulate them, and she  hired a male architect because he talked a good game, and he ripped her off royally.  Several people told her that (including men), but she  didn’t want to believe a guy she had paid and trusted had taken advantage of her.

Several women told me to just swallow this.  It happens, this is how it is in the industry, get used to it.  We women make it worse for ourselves because we are dog trainers and used to being in charge.  Men are threatened by us.  Right—and so they  have made it impossible for me to even be interviewed, yet they are still begging for women to make money for them.

That’s what it comes down to, in my industry. They don’t have the skills themselves. They don’t want to do physical labor, and  now, the industry has changed enough, that there are more mixed breed (excuse me–designer dogs like Doodles and Teddy Bears) coming in for grooming—or should we say SHAVING— than purebreds…so your TALENT isn’t really needed any more.   They can get a grooming school graduate who never even groomed or trained her own dog to work for a lower  per centage or hourly wage…and if she dare balks….there’s another one waiting.   I am sure this is true in many industries.  The  girls don’t remember feminism, or the push for  women’s rights….that was  40 years ago!    They will always think the problem is themselves.  This is true in so many industries, and so many workplaces.

 

 

The Puppy Bites…and who is Supposed to Give the New Owner Good Information to Stop it?

September 10, 2015

Bop & Daz 005 (Small)I am by no means an ‘expert’ dog trainer.  While I have been paid to train dogs in basic obedience, as well as  for dealing with common behavior issues, I’ve made most of my living grooming dogs, not training.  I’ve put AKC titles on several dogs, and take pride in the accomplishment, but I often refer dog owners to more experienced trainers.

However….I haven’t see this issue addressed, and it needs addressing.  I checked a number of websites (I have links to 2 at the bottom of this post) that specifically address puppy biting, and the methods to stop the biting.  A few sites also address the need for puppies to teeth, and the need for an outlet to their energy.  Most puppies are biting because they were used to playing with their siblings in a litter of pups, and now don’t have that interaction.  You can give them a toy or a bone…but something else is going on:  they are establishing their relationship with YOU, as they would another dog.    Some dogs are just tough little mothas!  You can’t have biting!

You have to  establish that you are in control and   the ‘larger, more experienced dog’ (as it were) by your body language.  However, if you’ve never owned a  puppy before, how do you do this?  Recently, I have encountered  two new puppy owners who were told by the shelters they got the dogs from to sign up for training classes!  Of course that’s a good idea….but  what about  what you are supposed to do right now?  What’s implied is to allow the pup to continue unacceptable behavior until you actually go to classes (or keep the dog crated and away from social interaction), and  both those responses  only cause more problems.

What I’ve been telling people to  do is, first, not give the pup an opportunity to bite.  You have to pick the pup up, groom the pup, and  carry the pup, and give the pup a toy or bone (nylabones are popular) to bite on.  It is important to hold and carry the pup while it is small  so the pup  has the experience of YOU being in control.  MAKE SURE YOU SUPPORT THE DOG’S RUMP, AND PUT A HAND ON THE DOG’S SHOULDERS (WITHERS). The second thing I tell people is, after a 15 minute (or so) play session, when the pup is tired out, to  put the dog in a sitting position (by pressing lightly on the dog’s shoulders), and have the dog make eye contact with you.   Put a finger at the dog’s temple and then at your temple and say, “Watch me.”  This is so important. It only takes a few seconds, you do this 2 or 3 times a day, and you  start to get your pup’s attention.  All the while you are praising the dog for eliminating outside (and teaching the dog to eliminate on command), walk on a leash, come when called.  There are so many good dog training books out there.  My favorites are, “How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend,” by the Monks of New Skete, and “Good Owners, Great Dogs,” by Kilcommons and Wilson.  The Dog Training for Dummies Book is also easy to understand.

I  am a member of North Shore Dog Training Club, one of the oldest in the USA, where many professional trainers train their dogs.  They start when the pups are barely weaned, so by the time the  pups are  six months old, they are  reliably responsive to commands and excellent pets.  This is not rocket science, and it is not magic;  it’s what we know about animal behavior and it is not a secret.
Any  dog breeder/seller/rescue that  does not give out this information is irresponsible.  This is why replacing  commercially bred (puppy mill) dogs with shelter dogs in pet shops—-without training pet shop personnel in what questions to ask of would-be dog owners, doesn’t solve the problem.

 

http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/biting-puppy-how-train-puppy-bites?page=4 ; http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Your-Puppy-to-Stop-Biting

 

Book Review: The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale or Rescue and Redemption, by Jim Gorant

September 4, 2015

I am not a Pit Bull fancier, but  I bathe enough of them to know that, for the most part, they are  good dogs, and make good pets.  I am just not attracted to the breed.  I am attracted to the long-legged, wire coated terriers (particularly Airedales), but I’ve worked with enough  dogs, including a lot of terriers, that I wouldn’t suggest most terriers  to families with small children. that said, I would not suggest  any of the toy breeds, herding breeds,  shiba Inu, or  Afghans or Salukis.  I didn’t really want to learn any more about  this case.

I volunteer as a court  advocate for  an organization  (Safe Humane Chicago) that makes sure  dog fighters, abusers, hoarders and wannabees are prosecuted, and  justice is served.  I, too, thought  all dogs that were used or kept for dog fighting should be euthanized….until I learned that  dogs being kept for evidence were being exercised while they awaited their fates.  More, they were being exercised with other dogs, and  taught basic obedience…and amazingly, over 70% of dogs confiscated are placeable as pets!  Sure , some might try to fight other dogs—but that’s true of dogs (even Whippets…& watch out for the Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs!!!).  Dogs ARE social animals, and even many that are bred  specifically for fighting are wash outs.

A friend gave me this book, and it’s a good read, especially if you want to know how cases are developed, and how to evaluate dogs.  If it weren’t for some of the investigators needing places to put  the live dogs, they  would have all been euthanized.

The first part of the book is about gathering evidence and witnesses..against all odds, because Vick was a local boy who was considered a success, and generous (indeed— as he explained,  he grew up in a culture of violence and dog fighting, and  didn’t think of it as wrong…and if you are outraged by this—and eat animal flesh, YOU are in denial about your own contribution to cruelty).  In fact, after Vick’s conviction, one  of the investigators was fired–essentially for being so good at investigating this case (he was told this).

This is for real:  Wayne Pacelle of  the HSUS claimed—without evaluation—that all the dogs were vicious. He later recanted, but  also claimed Vick understood that this was a terrible crime. To this day, Vick only admits crossing state lines, not what he did was  horrible—but that’s football players….  Yet that is not what happened…partly because they were needed as evidence.The dogs were evaluated by  several experienced dog  trainers ( and how they did this is detailed in the book), and most were saved.
Most of the books is about how rescuers evaluated the dogs, got the dogs, and trained the dogs. This is a great story and should be better known than it is.

This is  a great  book  for anyone interested in dogs, humane care,  anyone who feels there should be a breed ban, and anyone who is a pit Bull fancier.  Along with this, I’d also suggest Malcolm Gladwell’s essay, “Troublemakers.” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/02/06/troublemakers-2

Keep in mind that when a journalist writes a story, s/he  is reporting facts, colored by his/her own cultural background. Also,  the editors do further damage.  Now that we have the internet, we can  get a lot more information, and should not accept every story as truth.  Lots of kids get bitten by dogs.  They get bitten by Pit Bulls because there are a lot of pit bulls….and that is reported more than kids getting bitten by labs, or small dogs.

I am  sort of surprised that Michael Vick still has a career, but obviously, his  football playing skills made so much money for the teams he played for, they overlooked this chapter of his life, as they  tend to  make excuses for much of the bad behavior of players.

In the end. only a few dogs were found to be not ‘dog-friendly’, and  less than 5% were found to be not people safe.  That could be any breed.