Archive for April, 2016

Careful! He Bites!

April 29, 2016

If you are a dog groomer, you’ve heard these words.  Thankfully, most dog owners are honest.  Some, however,  try to sugar coat  the message:  “He can be nippy…”

We’re talking pet dogs here.  Most dogs don’t just bite: they bite for a reason. Usually, it’s because the dog is in pain or is afraid of something.  If I can figure out why the dog bites, I can avoid irritating the dog, and we are all safer.  Who are the BITERS?   Generally, they are not Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, or Germans Shepherds…. mostly, they are small dogs.  Oh, sure, after over 40 years of putting  myself in harms way, I’ve been confronted by some  really untrustworthy Rottweilers, even  scared Germans Shepherd Dogs.  Mostly, though, the biters are small.  Usually they are terriers, but not always.    Most have come from backyard or commercial breeders, not hobby breeders.  Some have been hurt, but most are spoiled:  they have been rewarded for bad behavior.  For some reason, many pet owner are in denial about how dangerous a biting dog can be.

Venus was a biter. Reshaping her behavior has helped, but she has to be under control at all times.

Venus was a biter. Reshaping her behavior has helped, but she has to be under control at all times.

Most  domestic dogs have a bite inhibition.  Most dogs. Some have  neurological aberrations, but this is rare.  I had a very smart client who had large dogs, and she got a Yorkie. She said, “Never allow a small dog to do something you wouldn’t allow a large dog to do.”  She was right. It is not cute that the little darling pipsqueak acts ferocious. It’s dangerous.  Worse, because they do LOOK CUTE, some innocent idiot who really thinks that all dogs who look cute,are cute…is going to get bitten.

There are many things I know about dog body language and  display behavior.  Dogs do not like to be patted on the head (they’d mostly prefer to be patted on the side).  How many people  think their dog was abused because he cringes when you reach over his head?  That’s instinct…and some of these people refuse to believe a dog does not like to be patted on the head.  Dogs don’t like to be hugged, for the most part.

Most dogs don’t like to be carried. When their feet are not on a solid surface, they feel very insecure. And…they certainly don’t want to be on their backs—exposed and vulnerable—yet how many of our clients carry their dogs that way—and then attempt to hand them to you?  That’s another thing.  Dogs don’t like to be handed off—-especially not by their owner  to someone who might have made them do something they did not want to do (like behave themselves!).

I try to get all my clients to bring their dogs  to me on collars and leashes (& please–no Flexis).  I can  generally tell when a dog is fearful, and unsure.  I have to gain his confidence by showing him that I respect him, his space, and  what bothers him.  Many  hate being picked up.  In this case, I either lower the table so the dog can jump on, or I  make the leash taut to be able to pick the dog up without him being able to turn and bite me.  Many feels secure in a crate and don’t  want to come out. Yes, we know—it can be dangerous to leave  a leash on in a crate. The dog can become tangled. Sometimes, however, you have to  do this (leave it  dandling over the top of the door), so you don’t have to reach in, but can gently pull the dog out.  &, it is safer for all to  have control over the dog this way, rather than chasing the dog around.   THAT is never good.

Many HATE having their  feet messed with.  Where I work (at an animal hospital), unfortunately, for some reason, all the vet techs have been taught to lay the dog on the floor, strong arm the dog, and scare the dog when they cut the nails. Then I get the poor dog.  I would NEVER make a dog feel vulnerable on purpose.  I guess the vet techs feel that because they’ve gone to college (or have a certificate), that their way is the right way.  I know there are more humane ways of doing this.

basket muzzles come in sizes 1---10, but the dog needs a pointy face. For the flat faced dogs, a cat muzzle might do!

basket muzzles come in sizes 1—10, but the dog needs a pointy face. For the flat faced dogs, a cat muzzle might do!

Some dogs don’t like being brushed and will throw a hissy fit.  This can be overcome, but not if the owner isn’t committed.  We can’t do magic.  I have gotten severely matted dogs which I’ve had to shave, and started from ‘scratch’, and got those dogs to lay down while I  brushed their hair.  It can be done.

It is in my best interest to  reassure a dog and convince the dog that I am not going to hurt him.  However, if the dog’s owners are going to make excuses for bad behavior, I have no  problem charging extra for ‘special needs’.  I use  plastic ‘wire’ (we use them for dog racing) basket muzzles on the dogs I can’t convince to keep their teeth in their mouths. They can still open their mouths to pant (so they won’t panic and overheat), and they can still drink water through a basket muzzle.

If we say we love dogs, we have to learn to understand them.  Not only are there  some very good books with illustrations of dog behavior, you  learn this when you work with dogs and are mentored by more experienced dog professionals.  This is what separates us from the  business owner whose only experience with dogs is having owned or walked pet dogs.  It’s a little more complicated, but not so much if you really want  to understand dogs.

What is a Puppy Mill? Is That the Question?

April 21, 2016

In Chicago, and many cities around the country,  pet loving activists are  enacting laws to prevent or stop the pet shop sales of commercially bred—a/k/a puppy mill—bred dogs.

The common thinking, and it is pretty accurate, is that dogs sold in pet shops come from commercial breeders. They are only bred , as livestock, to sell. There is no regard for the health or temperament—or genetic soundness—of the parent dogs.  What happens to dogs not sold? They are  either  returned to use for breeding, euthanized, or dumped in  animal shelters—usually in rural locations.

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 get  all the pet industry publications:  Pet Business, Pet Age, Pet Manufacturing News, and they all are reporting that commercial breeders are on the decline. Some of the reasons are that  that fewer pet shops are  buying their dogs to resell.  Sure, there’s still Petland, Furry Babbies, Happiness is Pets, and others, but, for the most part,  more pet shop owners are seeing the writing on the wall. They  know that  people who come into their pet shops to impulsively buy a dog, haven’t put much thought into it, and the pup will be abused or neglected.  Better to send people looking for puppies and kittens to animal shelters or  hobby breeders…or just allow the shelters to bring in animals and do the screening of adopters themselves (and just make money off the supplies these pet owners will buy).

I support rescue.  I have owned puppies, and have worked for kennels taking care of puppies, and for me, an older dog is best.  My last 5 dogs were  older dogs that the breeders had either  just kept…or taken back when the people they sold the dog to could not keep them.  This is what ethical hobby breeders—who love their dogs, do. They are responsible for their dogs from ‘cradle to grave’.  In fact, some  parent clubs, notably the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, mandate their club members  do this. This is why you don’t see a lot of ‘rare’ breeds in  shelters—or on Craigslist.  These breeders are not desperate to dump dogs.   They wouldn’t be breeding dogs if they had to offload dogs to iffy homes. &—this is why  hobby breeders are on the decline.  It is  too expensive, and aggravating, to breed good dogs.

This is Venus. Her original owner suffered a medical problem, and she was returned to her breeder...& I got her.

This is Venus. Her original owner suffered a medical problem, and she was returned to her breeder…& I got her.

Oh sure,  what’s considered ethical varies from breed to breed.  Who knew what a Shiba Inu, a Havanese, or a Cane Corso were 20 year ago?  The breeders of those breeds just assumed that the people they sold to were buying pets…or, nobody ever addressed to the hobby breeders what could happen if they sold dog without neutering  or co-ownership contracts.  Now, we see those breeds more often on Craigslist, and don’t get me started about designer mixes.

I am opposed to puppy mills, but it seems that the AKC is working against us.  Why is that? Well, of course, they make money off of registrations, no matter who breeds the dogs….but what is a puppy mill?  There are people with 2 or 3 bitches who breed them to death, and post on Craigslist constantly…but they don’t have kennel buildings, so nobody considers them puppy mills. Yet—-it is exactly those breeders whose dogs end up in shelters and rescues. Why? They don’t ask who  lives in the household and to meet them all, if the buyer owns or rents, if he works all day, what will be his arrangements to housebreak and train a puppy,  if he knows how much annual shots  or frequent grooming costs.  In fact,ironically, it is the African scammers posting Bulldogs, Siberian Huskies, and Yorkies who ask those questions!

Now, on the surface, this breeder looks like a puppy mill : http://www.blythewoodschnauzers.com/  Go to the website. Joan Huber has  at least 14 stud dogs. So, at a minimum, you know she has to have at least 14  breeding bitches , and I am sure she has more.  Joan Huber is a well known  professional handler. She has been in dogs over 60 years!  There is no indication she is selling  litters for resale, but she would not have to.  She has enough of a market, due to her reputation, to sell all the dogs she breeds.  She  is a member of the American Miniature Schnauzer Club, and I am sure she  adhere to their code of ethics, as I know people who know her.  The problem would be if she sells an unspayed bitch to someone less ethical than she is…& then Blythewood will be behind the names of many puppy mill  dogs.  At one time, seeing this happen, many Min. Schnauzer breeders started doing early (before age of 6 months) spay/neuter.  This can lead to  urinary incontinence.  But what can you do when buyers lie?  I doubt Ms. Huber has a personal relationship with all her dogs, but I also doubt they are living in squalor, as she does receive puppy buyers to her kennel. This is how kennels used to be—as few  people were showing their pet dogs prior to the 1960s.  BLYTHEWOOD IS NOT CONTRIBUTING TO THE PROBLEM!

My point is, the wording has to be  addressed in these laws,and  those promoting  humane care really have to understand if what they are  fighting for will make a difference in how many  pets are raised, and then are abused and/or abandoned.  When the ‘no-kill’ shelters in Illinois  ignore the dogs bred by the many backyard breeders which end up at Chicago Animal Care & Control—because they are mostly pit bulls or pit mixes (and they don’t want only these types of dogs on their websites), and go out of state to get the  dogs the puppies  mills and backyard breeders dump in Kentucky, Iowa, or  wherever….they are not solving the problem, and, in fact, keeping  bad breeders in business.  Yet these  do-gooders have the nerve to tell me that all breeders are bad breeders. The do-gooders are not rescuing pariah dogs—-they are actually solving the bad breeders’ problem of surplus dogs, and  making it difficult for ethical breeders.  I don’t want the hillbillies, meth addicts, and  low life scum deciding what kind of dog I should own—and I feel bad for the dogs thy breed, but this is not solving the problem.

The wording should be that if a pet shop sells any mammal (why would a dog’s life be worth more than a bunny or a guinea pig…or hamster or mouse…) they must either breed them themselves or they must  come from a bona fide shelter or rescue.   The owners and managers will say they did not come from mills or commercial breeders…but families breeding their pets. Uh-huh.    If that were so, they would not sell  them all to resell. Pets are not a 4-H project. & then, if these  do-gooders want to start making a dent….start calling and arranging visits to everyone posting a baby animal on Craigslist.  Make an appointment, and flag the post, and ask these people directly—why  did they breed the litter,  what does the fee include, will they take it back if you can’t keep it? who should be responsible for it if they won’t be….and why are they ignoring Craigslist rules in regard to animal sales?

 

Those With a Vested Interest in the Status Quo are Asking us to Reject Sanders as Viable

April 15, 2016

Steve Chapman, a member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board,  wrote an Op/Ed piece in the Sunday Chicago Tribune telling us to reject Bernie Sanders because he hasn’t articulated his  plan for how he was  going to fund free college tuition or single payer health care, or break up the big banks.

Funny….nobody ever asked Reagan  how he was going  fix our economic mess (we got  trickle down economics).  Nobody  is actually asking any of the  other  political candidates that much, because  they all want to maintain the status quo.  All the  current candidates except Sanders want to  either maintain the status quo or take us back to the good ol’ 1950’s, when women and minorities had to ask permission from white men to do everything…and pollution was really pretty bad.

It appears that  the United States of America is still in debt to the Chinese, and  since we have a deficit, we can’t really add any new  programs—or—as they’d say, ‘entitlements’, and these  smug elitists even call Social Security—which we’ve  all paid into, entitlements.  However, the many double dippers  who work for the government—who collect a pension from  one job, but take another…that’s ok with them.

Now Bernie isn’t saying everyone who wants a college education will go to Harvard…but how is it that , say, Germany, provides free college education?  Or, that horrible socialist country, England, manages to provide free health care?

Could it be that those countries don’t give as much foreign military aid  to countries  as we do?  That they don’t incarcerate as many non-violent  criminals as we do?  What is going on?  Thankfully, due to the internet,it is easier for Americans to find out what our government budgets for …stuff.  It’s complicated, but anyone with a half way decent high school education should be able to  find out what we budget for foreign aid.    We don’t even get  goodwill for it.  I have alluded to George Crile’s book, “Charlie Wilson’s War”, in the past.  That book shows exactly how billions get spent by a few congressmen when nobody is paying attention.

Chapman uses Politifact to show that  we spend ‘only’  38% more than the Swiss do on health care.  Only 38% ?  That’s a huge  per centage.  Chapman also defends fracking for  making fossil fuels available cheaply…never mind what fracking is doing to  potable water supplies (or creating earthquakes).   I can’t believe  ANYONE would defend fracking unless they hold stock in a company which does it!  He also scoffs at raising the income tax rats for the uber-wealthy—when they were  actually very high during the Eisenhower years. True,what kept our  economy  ‘working’ was that women, blacks, and other minorities  would legally not need to be paid as much as white men, but let’s not quibble.   And lets not quibble that land rents—in proportion to income, were much lower.   As for regulating banks—we’re heading, again, towards credit default swaps as they are still not illegal—and who knows how many mutual funds contain them?

Here’s the thing—and this is important:  Sanders is speaking to concerns that many of us have.  And—even if he doesn’t win the nomination, he’s brought our concerns to the  table.  They  may be part of the Democratic Party platform. We all  know that  no matter what a president says, there’s still  Congress to contend with.  Thankfully—due to the internet and social media, we  are able to reach more like minded people. We won’t have Cruz doing away with the EPA, or making abortion illegal.  There are too many of us who  don’t want to go back.

You Can Affect Public Policy

April 7, 2016

In my city (Chicago), an activist ( Cari Meyers/The Puppy Mill Project) managed to get support of some politicians (Susana Mendoza, City Clerk, and John Fritchy, Cook County Board Member)  and they managed,  a  little over a year ago, to  have a law passed banning the sales  of commercially bred puppies in city pet shops.  That is the gist of the law.  I am not sure if it is worded that…if a pet shop sells puppies and kittens, they must be sourced from bona fide shelters and rescues, or  if it just says….they can’t be bought from puppy mills.

I didn’t think I would see this come to pass in my lifetime, and many  humane activists were thrilled.  However, the law has been challenged in court and is not being enforced.  Is it the wording?  Because….there is no  definition of what a puppy mill is.  Most of us feel  a puppy mill  is anyone breeding pets just for resale, and not for the betterment of a breed or to improve a bloodline.  Some feel it is over  a certain # of breeding animals on site.

The reality is that the pet shops claim they are buying  animals from families, not commercial breeders (you’d really have to go into their records to check….and really, what kind of family is always having baby animals for sale if it is not a BUSINESS?).   1 huge lying scofflaw, Lane Boron,  has the audacity to be posting he has for sale a French Bulldog puppy from a rescue, neutering included.  Couldn’t possibly be true.

Obviously, we need a better law.  But before I get into what a better law might be, let me tell you how I found all this out.  I kept contacting Susana Mendoza, as it is her office which is supposed to send out inspectors to  shut these businesses down.  However, she would not take the report directly at her office. She insisted I call 311, the city  information/non-emergency line.  So…that’s what I did. the operators had no idea what I was talking about, and they  asked for all sorts of information (name of business, address,and phone number) and… a couple of weeks later I got a call from Chicago Animal Care  and Control.  Seems the city sent the complaint to them.  This was NOT a cruelty complaint, as I explained to the  CACC inspector who called. This was a BUSINESS VIOLATION complaint.    He told me, however, he was  going to inspect, but he didn’t know what the law was. So, I again, called   Susana Mendoza’s office, and  one of her staff people  filled me in on status.  Well, that’s fine, but we have another problem—being the city workers don’t know their jobs. The staff person told me to call my alderman. Really?  Like he gives a rat’s ass?  He doesn’t even own a pet.

Dash was returned to his breeder, Linda Larsen, because he chased the cat. I was lucky to get him. This is us at an obedience trial.

Dash was returned to his breeder, Linda Larsen, because he chased the cat. I was lucky to get him. This is us at an obedience trial.

So, we are in limbo on this….but this  is how the whole issue of puppy mills stands right now:  more and more pet shops around the country are seeing  that the activists are right.   I know this because I  susbscribe to several pet industry publications.  Pet stores might be able to source  healthy,well bred puppies from Hunte Corp, but bottom line is, no matter how physiologically healthy these pups are, they  are stressed out, not socialized, and they are still being sold as livestock to anyone with a credit card.  Ethical hobby breeders who love their dogs  do not sell for resale. It doesn’t happen.  In fact, there are many breeders who are  thisclose to being puppy mills, as they are commercial breeders….but they  would never think of selling for resale: they still want to meet the buyers—even if it is just over the internet—and they still want the dog back no matter how old it is if the buyer no longer wants it.  AND—-many of the  puppy mills are closing.  The breeders are retiring, they are being raided (even though we have yet to have a president appoint a USDA director who will enforce the laws we have), and, thanks to  social media, we can  probably get them closed down in the next several years.

What we are not addressing are the  breeders taking their place:  the backyard breeders which are  smaller puppy mills. They are all over  Craigslist, E-Bay, Amazon, and a few other selling sites.  Sometimes they post in  newspapers, but the internet is the new way to sell.  We have to get  them. Their dogs may or may not be  better cared for, but, because of their selling practices, these are the dogs that end up in animal shelters.  If we want this to be a NO-KILL NATION, we have to make sure there are fewer dogs.  To do that, we have to let these breeders know that we are on to them, and we intend to make them responsible.

So, I am drafting a law.  However, I have to get  politicians to  promote this law, and I have to get  activists—or at least people concerned about  humane treatment of animals and pet surplus—to  advocate for this law.

I am not a political science major, but I have seen what social media has  done in the past several years.  Sea World  is  going to stop breeding whales (and may shut down altogether) due to negative publicity.  Ringling Brothers circus is retiring its elephants,  people know it is gauche to wear fur, to buy products tested on animals, and  to give a live animal as a gift.  More people understand that people who   are habitually violent most likely started by being cruel to animals and they see the link.  Because so many of us have posted about these issues on Facebook, we are getting across.

Don’t Make Her Look Like Anything (or, the ‘Puppy Trim’)

April 1, 2016

Jennie, a Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, needed more than a bath.

When I learned to groom dogs, in the late 1960’s, virtually every dog that came into a grooming shop was a Poodle.  Most of the other breeds that were popular at the time (Miniature Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, Yorkies) went back to their breeders for grooming.  Or, if the shop was owned by a hobby breeder or dog show handler, we saw those breeds.

It was so rare to see a badly matted dog when I started grooming, because  the breeders made it very clear to pet lovers  what they had to do, how often the dog would need professional grooming, and there  was  no other option, You  did what you had to do.

When did things change?  Well,  hobby breeders assumed that everyone buying a pet had integrity, and, if you  sold a dog as a pet, it would not be bred.  It just took a few unethical people who wanted to ‘make their investment back’, and  that’s how it started.  These pet breeders did not consider themselves breeders ( they still don’t) and did not pay any of that knowledge forward.  They did not give  housebreaking, feeding, or grooming instructions.

It took  probably another 20 years or so before ethical hobby breeders started selling pets either on co-ownership of with a contract stipulating that the pet was to be neutered–or at least not bred.  This is why you don’t see the  more rare breeds in shelters or  pet shops:  the breeders hold them close.  With many breeds, you will never see an ad for puppies for sale anywhere. So, how do you find them?  Through the  breed parent clubs.  You have to network.  & this is why, after the Obamas got Bo, their Portuguese Water Dog, the market wasn’t inundated with Porties.  The breeders made sure that nobody who wasn’t concerned about the future of the breed got a breedable dog.

When I started grooming, there were no  Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers, Bichons, or Shih Tzu.  No Cavalier King Charles Spaniels , no cockapoos, no Doodles.  By the time I had been grooming over 20 years, these were the dominant dogs in my grooming shop…and it got to the point that I rarely saw a purebred Poodle.  I bought a client base from a groomer who had a reputation for  grooming  drape coated dogs and Wheatens, and at  one time, I had over 40  clients with Wheatens.  I had maybe  two clients who wanted their Wheatens to look like Wheatens, but most didn’t like the forelock.  They didn’t want  their  dogs to look like the breed they were.

Why did these people get Wheatens?  They didn’t want a poodle, because they heard they were too high strung.  However, they didn’t know enough about dogs, and to  think that a Wheaten would be less high strung  (meaning nervous, hyper active, noisy), was, to me, just  bizarre.  The  the other factors were that Wheaton were  not too big, not too small, and didn’t shed.

Jennie, after a hair vut. Sh's a Soft-coated Wheaten, would yu know it?

Jennie, after a hair cut. She’s a Soft-coated Wheaten, would you know it?

Dog groomers  know that the only official  puppy trim is for the Poodle. Everything else is basically cut off hair.  No style…unless the groomer decides to make it a style.    This (photo on the left)  is my default puppy trim.  Depending on how large the dog is (as I want to keep everything in proportion), and what kind of shape the dog’s hair is in (because  people ask for this haircut because they don’t want to brush the dog), I will  use a #4 on the body, and a #0 on the legs.  I always try to make the legs a bit longer so the dog does not look shaved.  When it comes to the head, I will set the length with an ‘A’ attachment, and scissor it shorter, often using a thinning shears to blend and make the  dog look more natural.  I  generally only lightly scissor the tail,and I never leave a skirt.  When we groomers started out,  every  dog that was not a poodle got a sort of  cocker spaniel trim, with the  ‘saddle’ (most of the body) trimmed short, with a long skirt.  I can’t think of any trim more impractical than leaving a skirt on a dog that is not going to be brushed until the next time we see it. But….as an apprentice groomer,  I dematted a lot of dogs with skirts. Why?  The grooming shop owners—the main groomers, weren’t doing the dematting. WE were.  Then, their clients got used to it, and of course they liked it. Then, when dogs were to badly matted, many groomers started leaving ‘false skirts’—where the chest was hollowed out, and there was long hair on the sides.  Another  stupid idea….because the short hairs  wove into the long hairs. That skirt, no matter how ‘false’, was always a mess.  Your client wants the skirt? Fine. Tell them to either brush the dog, or the dog has to come in once a week for bath & brush out.  I used to let them go for 2 weeks, but I found that the dog was  too messed up and matted after that long an interval. Would Jennie (on the left) look better with  longer hair on her legs?  Yes, she would.  However, her owner has  MS, and  he has to hire a dog walker to help him, as he is mostly paralyzed. So, I did the practical thing, and at least she’s not shaved.