Archive for the ‘corporate pet stores’ Category

California law 485 Banning Sales of Puppies….Controversial?

August 1, 2017

When I started exploring  owning a dog, and learning about the breeds, and what a responsible dog breeder does, I also learned what  irresponsible breeders do. This was in the 1960s.

Ethics   and integrity were not always  factors in breeding dogs, because  ‘way back then’, there was no  testing for genetic defects in dogs.  Some of the  larger puppy mills started operations then…with a mission to provide a reasonably priced  puppy to whomever wanted one…via mass producing them.  Hip dysplasia, juvenile cataracts, other genetic defects wer considered…bad luck.  It was the  ethical hobby breeders— people who really loved their dogs, who decided to  look for scientific reasons dogs had crippling problems.  they also realized that not everyone who wanted a dog of th8ir breed should have one.

 

My Saluki as a young dog.  Not a cuddler.

Currently, the American Kennel Club claims that ethical hobby breeders are not meeting the demand  for puppies. Could this be true? Well, yes, but just because there is a demand, does that mean every consumer who demands a puppy of a certain breed should be allowed to own one?

The problem with pet stores and 3rd party sellers is they do not screen buyers for suitability. I have posted this fact a few times, but as a teenager, I worked for the Afghan Hound Breeder Fredric Mark Alderman, and  he did not sell you an Afghan Hound puppy (if you had never owned a long haired dog) until you had spent an afternoon grooming with him.  He didn’t want to hear any excuses about you not understanding how much equipment you needed, how often it needed to be done, how long it would take, or that you would keep the dog shaved.

I also know other breeders  who will ask if you own your own home with a fenced yard, and if you work all day, how will you housebreak a puppy?  Or,  when will you have time to groom a dog or train it?  And…  can I meet your children?  No giving a dog as a gift—bring them by for us to meet.

Yet the editors of the magazines aimed at dog show exhibitors and judges—not really breeders or exhibitors themselves, have fallen for  what the AKC old men & lobbyists are telling us:  if we don’t fight this—the restriction on selling pets breeds as livestock commodities in  pet shops—they won’t allow us to breed dogs at all.  There is a solution, but we all have to get on board.

I am a fancier with an education in urban planning.  I know that most fanciers/hobby breeders don’t have more than 1 litter a year.  If you have  more dogs and can afford to breed more and keep more…you need more space outside a high density urban area….a place  zoned for more than three dogs.  That should not be a problem.
There  are people who keep  three or more dogs in small condos .   Some people think that is crazy—but the fact is that  those dogs have more freedom of movement that dogs in many kennels. Great Danes and Mastiffs do not require that much exercise or room—they are sleepers.    Thinking that is a problem is not understanding dogs—but having a fantasy notion of what  dogs need.  That has nothing to do with  having a breeding operation in a small, enclosed space where you share dwelling walls with another household.  Tht’s a long way from your one litter—even maybe  two litters some years of toy breeds….and having a business breeding and selling  through third parties—-and not taking responsibility who they sell to.

Several issues being addresses are : 1. That the breeders/sellers  (of dogs to pet stores/3rd parties) do no screening of buyers, who often  are disappointed with their dogs and dump them;

2.That these dogs are the ones filling our shelters.

Thee is no evidence that the dogs in shelters are mostly from puppy mills & pet shops—or even ethical hobby breeders.  There IS evidence that most shelter dogs are from backyard breeders.   Yes, people lose puppies & dogs, and sometimes they are stolen, but  most pets in shelters  have been bred, and sold by BACKYARD BREEDERS—whom nobody  calls breeders—not the shelters, not veterinarians, not  do-gooder rescue folks. The  animal rights/’rescue community has been flim flammed into  bad mouthing  hobby breeders whose  puppies are  usually spoken for, and which  breeders  want back if the buyers won’t keep them…and so the  problem of unwanted pets  remains. They want me to take a shelter dog and claim that for every dog bred by a breeder, a shelter dog dies. Funny….you aren’t addressing the actual people breeding the dogs ending up in shelters…and I don’t want  anyone choosing what kind of dog I should love…that’s the bottom line.

Now, if it were conventional wisdom to  make it the law that anyone breeding puppies & kittens…and selling them  on any media source in your state—  have to chip every puppy or kitten they sell with their contact info, we might start making a dent.  How do we enforce this?  In Illinois, you can be trained to be a humane inspector.  Too bad  all these very large  no-kill- groups don’t pay a stipend to humane inspectors who can go visit advertisers & either chip their  livestock puppies & kittens, or  confiscate them…and havethe breeders pay a fine>  Once yo have to pay $100 for every litter, you will think twice about whether it is worth it to have so many ‘accidental ‘ litters.

The  logical  ADVOCATES for this kind of policy, and for hobby breeders…would be the  registries like the AKC & the UKC…but since they make their money from registrations—including  registrations from puppy mills—they have no incentive  to advocate for responsible policies.  I would think the parent clubs particularly would, but they seem to be afraid of the AKC.

If you are going to drink the Kool-ade and  accept that consumers have the right to buy from 3rd parties, and it is ok to sell your carefully bred puppies  to 3rd parties to resell…you may as well  just forget about testing for genetic defects and  forget about showing dogs.  It doesn’t make any sense. You will make much more money being unethical…and according to policy makers—that is ok.  Already, the top 30 breeds are  2 separate breeds—dogs bred by hobby breeders….breeding for the betterment of their breeds, and AKC/UKC/APRI /CKC registered  dogs of their breed.  As it is, there  are fewer and fewer fanciers who can afford to breed or show good dogs.  Their children have no interest.  We are going to lose breeds, but we can hasten the inevitable by  conceding to this  terrible notion that it is ok not to screen puppy buyers.

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“Keeping Our Boat Afloat”—or the end of the Purebred Dog Fancy

June 24, 2016
My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.

My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.

Two Northern Illinois Kennel Clubs are  sponsoring a  round table discussion about how to keep the sport of  showing dogs (I believe this would include performance) active and viable.  The session will be held Saturday, July16, after Best in Show  at Blackhawk KC.

I will not attend, because I don’t have  a dog to show. Actually, I have  one dog in Rally (and one of the clubs has no performance events), but I am glad others are as concerned as I am.

Purebred dogs are in trouble. Even discounting the physiological problems of the  brachycephalic dogs,  many breeds do not have viable gene pools.

I was going to start this rant another way, but two occurences shocked me into having to address perceptions.

I compete in Rally, with  a purebred dog.  I noticed that mixed breed dogs are listed in the catalogs as “ALL AMERICAN DOG”.  Does that mean that the Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Boston Terriers, Coonhounds, and Alaskan Malamutes are NOT “ALL AMERICAN DOGS”?  Why aren’t mixed breed dog listed as either ‘mixed breed’ or ‘unknown’? What genius thought up this slap in the face to the fancy?

I often respond to posts  on Craigslist from people looking for specific breeds (I also flag sellers…no animal sales or breeding are allowed on Craigslist—it is to rehome older pets, but this is a great example of ‘the law of the commons’ and people having no integrity).  A girl was looking for an Australian Shepherd.  I responded that, since no animal sales or breeding are allowed on CL, that she should contact  the Australian Shepherd Club of America, and be put in touch with hobby breeders.  I also told her that, since ethical hobby breeders take their dogs back (and no puppy sales are allowed on CL), that the only responses she’d get would be from commercial breeders or scammers. She responded to ME that U didn’t know what I was talking about, that she had done plenty of research, and would not buy from a breeder because they only breed for money.  I  responded that she was mistaken, that hobby breeders breed for the betterment of the breed and  do genetic testing, and where did she think purebred dogs come from, if not breeders?  She told me she knew what she was doing & to mind my own business.

So…my fellow dog purebred dog fanciers….so much for the AKC marketing, “Buy from a breeder,” as this has clearly backfired.  The  conventional wisdom is that we inbreed dogs for looks, and don’t care about soundness (yet, the designer dog breeders and their “F1 crosses” seems to make a lot of sense to those buyers who believe that crossing  two breeds eliminates genetic defects).

I have been ‘active’ in the fancy, on and off, since the late 1960s.  My  first  ‘show dog’ was an Afghan, or, rather, I should say he had a great pedigree, but  he wasn’t really show quality, and, as my parents weren’t really interested, nobody mentored me.  I went to the New York School of Dog Grooming, rather than college, because I knew I wanted to work with dogs.  I was taught by Don Doessel, who actually got Louis  and Seme Auslander started in Miniature Schnauzer.  I was later mentored by a dog groomer who learned to groom Bedlingtons from  Charlie Praeger, and Airedales from Mareth Kipp.  I have worked on and off for Dale Miller (Barclay Square Miniature Schnauzers), and  for Jocelyn Slatin (Jamboree Airedales and Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers).  I was a member of the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago in the 1970s, and really promoted the idea of rescue and breeders taking responsibility for all the dogs they breed, but I was ridiculed, so I dropped my membership.  It was all for the best.  Having Afghan Hounds, I realized there were very few good pet homes for long haired dogs, and I wasn’t going to be wealthy enough to have enough property or time to support a breeding habit.  & who wanted to associate with people who felt that once they sold a dog, their responsibility ended?  I know that  the ‘culture’ varies from breed to breed….but this is how puppy mills get dogs of your breeding:  buyer can’t  keep dog, you don’t take dog back, commercial breeder (Hunte Corp?) gets dog, & the rest is history….

It  just got to the point that I knew, if I wanted to retire with any level or  economic security, I could not afford to campaign a dog.  Where did I get my wacky ideas? From the breeders I worked for. In fact, Fred Alderman, of Dynasty Afghan Hounds, had a rule: If  you had never owned an Afghan  and wanted one of his dog, you had to spend a day grooming with him.  He didn’t  want to sell you a dog & later hear you didn’t know how much time it would take, or the equipment you would need, or how often it needed to be done.  If—after a day of grooming, you didn’t want an Afghan…no harm, no foul.  Yet, how many   ‘ethical hobby breeders’ even  tell a pet buyer what kind of brush to buy?  Or say anything about obedience training being a must?

I’ve helped a few breeders grade puppies, and judged a couple of matches, but the AKC  has no use for me. They’d  rather support a puppy mill breeder as a judge than a non-breeder who knows the standards and can interpret them.  Why?  You know why:  the  whole thing is about registering puppies.

&–what is a puppy mill?  There is a lot of disagreement on this, but—-to me—it is the breeder  breeding dogs without a thought to bettering the breed.  It doesn’t matter if they have one bitch or  1,000.  If you are not breeding for the betterment of the breed, you are part of the pet surplus problem.

I ultimately did  go to college, and I ended up with a master’s in public policy.  BFD.  I’ve also titled dogs in conformation (a Saluki whom the breeder didn’t think was show quality finished in  fewer than 10 shows), obedience (an Afghan  and a Whippet both nationally ranked), rally, and  lure coursing.  I, too, am THE FANCY.

Why is the fancy in trouble?

  1.  There is no longer a middle class.    When I started  showing dogs, as a teenager, ‘land rents ‘ were much lower.  Housing, for middle class people, was 20—25% of their take home pay.  Now, 35% is considered average.  Don’t get me started on  health care or energy costs.  You need an expendable income to be ‘in dogs’, so  how many people can afford to keep even  four breedable bitches?  & you notice, their children are not  becoming breeders;
  2. There is a huge disconnect between  fanciers and veterinarians.  Yes, some fanciers are veterinarians, but, as a dog groomer, I have worked for several animal hospitals where not  one veterinarian was a fancier. They  disrespected the fact that  many  dogs had grain sensitivities—and it is now a major segment of the pet industry.   that was us!  Us dog lovers, talking to each other at  conformation classes and shows!  We developed grain-free & specialty  dog foods—not veterinarians! They  don’t  suggest pet owners  check for  discoverable  genetic problems  before breeding their dogs, and they are the reason  people switched from dog collars to harnesses and flexis (god forbid they’d suggest—-training).  One practice I worked for  actively partnered with puppy mill outlets.  So—-why  do fanciers continue to  support veterinarians who don’t understand or respect them?
  3.   Our marketing is for shit.  Due to our integrity, we’ve supported research into genetic defects.  This is not purebred dogs—this is DOMESTIC dogs.  Yet, veterinarians will not disabuse  pet owners of the idea that  designer dogs are not HYBRIDS.  Now, for every purebred Poodle I groom, I groom over 100 designer dogs:  Doodles, Shipoos, Maltapoos, Cavashons, Bernadoodles…and Pomskys.  Pomskys!  Why not a Keeshond or Norwegian Elkhound?  & people are paying more for the mixed breeds than they would a purebred.  I  was attending   a specialty show of a breed, and at the same location. I walked into another  specialty  of another breed, just  to watch…and several people asked me what I was doing there or if I was lost!  This  was a breed I had considered owning, no more!  Also, th public doesn’t understand that most of our dogs are house pets!
  4.  We have allowed naive  ‘humane activists’ to  own and define the rhetoric. Open admissions shelters would not have to be high-kill if the ‘No-kill’ were honest.  & when you buy dogs from commercial breeders, it is not rescue.  I consider myself a humane activist, but I do not support rescues that disrespect hobby breeders.  Our dogs are not the ones that end up in animal shelters….but the only way to  prove this is to push for—on a state level–mandatory chipping of dogs & cats with the breeder’s contact info.    This could easily be done by contacting anyone who posts puppies or kittens for sale on Craigslist, EBay, or any media.  & it can be done by encouraging people to become volunteer humane inspectors.  When  the do-gooders who support  shelter pets  shout, “Adopt, don’t shop!”  they are letting all the backyard breeders off the hook—and they are the ones causing the pet surplus.  You can find them on Craigslist any day.
  5.   We do a poor job of policing ourselves.  We  all know of hobby breeders whose yards are a mess, who  don’t sell pups with contracts or  explain what grooming tools or methods are needed for the puppies they sell…and who won’t take a dog they bred back.  Remember, the Obamas got  their  two Porties who had been returned to their breeders.  When they got Porties, for once, we didn’t see a flood of Porties hitting the market. Why?  the PWD  breeders saw what happened to  other breeds, and closely hold them….and  follow through. They also explain this to pet buyers.  The culture varies from breed to breed.  I am a Saluki and Whippet fancier, and  all  our breeders (who are not mentally deranged) take their dogs back—no matter how old.  Yet, I’ve been told, that for every Shiba Inu or  Basenji that is AKC registered, statistically, one goes into rescue.

So, what can we do to save the fancy?

  1.  Everyone has to be on the same page.  You have to have all your puppies on contract to be   co-owned until neutered or titled, and you  better be sure you have  the funds to  enforce a legal contract.  & if you can’t  find good homes, and know you can be selling to renters, or  people who really don’t have the time or funds to take care of a dog (or who you know plan to give your puppies as gifts), YOU are the problem.
  2.   Dog show entry fees are outrageously expensive. There was a time that I’d enter  both conformation and obedience.  Not any more.  &—the biggest insult—that Rally is considered an ‘overlay’ event with a totally different entry fee—is offensive.  Because other clubs do  it is  a terrible reason—and this is what is preventing people from  showing their dogs (even if they did have some extra cash).
  3.   Your club must sponsor events to get the public involved.  Ask a local pet shop manager if you can set up a table on weekends and do  information on various breeds and activities.  This is  how you can inform regular folks  about  what  ethical breeders do.  See the following suggestion—-pet  fanciers of your breeds  are the best marketing.
  4.   Show some respect for people like me—who are not breeders—but fanciers and pet buyers!  The Greater Chicago Whippet Club is now made up almost entirely of pet owners not showing dogs!  That’s right!  Sure, some people still race, and lure course, but of our paid up members,  I’ve been told only  one is a breeder.  Yet, we know  we have to support  hobby breeders.  In fact, the American Whippet Club events  always  attract a lot of pet owners.  We have  agility, obedience, rally, classes for spayed/neutered dogs, a parade of rescues as well as champions, and  do major  fund raising for our national networked rescue efforts.
  5. Your matches should be sweepstakes.  In fact, what’s up with an entry fee being $27, but someone offering $10 for Winner’s dog or bitch? What kind of sense does that make?   Here’s an idea:  encourage  exhibitors to bring items for a bazaar.  For every class win, give a  ticket, for Winners  and Best of Breed, etc, give more tickets, and allow people to choose their own prizes to commemorate the win!
  6. It’s time to demand that  dogs be genetically tested before they are bred. To not test, and then state you have never had a problem, is disingenuous.
  7.  The AKC needs to be confronted on how they spend out money. Who cares if those puppy mill dogs go to another registry? So what? They are not a part of our gene pools!  To stop printing the Gazette, and go in favor of licensing products (harnesses—really?  Only sled dogs and guide dogs should wear harnesses!)  Yet,  not  branding of martingales—the best collar for most pet dogs…what’s up with that? Do they even know anything about safe dog handling? It’s really a slap in the face to us all.  The AKC would not even need to change anything. All they would have to do  is do what it says on their  registration papers:  no 3rd party selling.  I can’t think of any greater disrespect to the fancy than this.  I saw in a dog magazine that someone thought the AKC should get all  money collected for entrance fees & dole it out to us. Really? The foxes guarding the henhouse haven’t done enough damage?  I have to wonder if these old white men are all just field trial people who don’t have a personal relationship with any dog!  But what are our delegates doing in New York?
  8. . I suggest every fancier get a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point” which is a great treatment of how ideas become conventional wisdom.

A Very Sad State of Affairs in the Pet Industry

May 27, 2016

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’ve been told I should not ‘name names’ as it is preventing me from getting jobs….but since I am near  retirement…well…if you are in the metro Chicago area and are looking to board your  dog, contact me, first. There are some good kennels, run by dog lovers who’ve bothered to learn about animal behavior (dog behavior, specifically), and train dogs.  Unfortunately, many   dog kennels are  owned or managed by people  who have had management experienced, have owned a pet dog, and know NOTHING about dog behavior or what causes stress or injury. They don’t care to learn, either.

I have a friend, a past co-worker, who  took a job at a facility  on the north side  of Chicago. in fact, the owners, two men who  own a pet dog, and got tired of what they were doing (and had the capital), offered me a grooming job right before I went on vacation…to start upon my return.  While I was gone, they fired a groomer who was about to leave on her own, and immediately hired another ‘groomer’…because they couldn’t wait for me.  Why not? Well, obviously, neither guy  knew how to brush or bathe a dog, so they needed someone’s labor to make money.

I was  a bit disappointed, but not too disappointed.  They really needed more equipment, and I knew they knew nothing about dogs. This always frightens me because they also hire people to work for them who know nothing about dogs.  Yes, that’s right.  These guys, the owners, don’t want to actually  be in the room with the dogs themselves, all day. No, they want to own a ‘dog business’.

So it happened they hired my friend, who does act with integrity, and  she  found that they allowed another employee to put an electronic shock collar  on a dog (maybe more than 1).  Now, if  a person has a pack of dogs, and introduces a new dog to the pack, and  there is a fight, the new dog is not allowed to enter the pack.    That is, people with integrity know this. The people who want to make money  who won’t refuse a dog, apparently shock it.

Not all day care facilities do this.  Many use a water spray bottle (or pistol) to spray a dog  looking funny at another dog.  But face it:  the odds of a fight breaking out when you have more than 3 ‘unrelated’ (meaning living in the same household) dogs together is high.  Of course,an intact dog increases the odds, but  neutering is not a panacea.

So, my friend quit, and it looks like I dodged a bullet.  However, since, again, the  people I work for   just  three days a week don’t have enough work  for me to make a living, I have to keep looking for more work.  What I am finding is a lot of businesses  owned by people who want to own a pet business….and don’t want direct contact with dogs. they don’t want

This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

to be in a room all day with dogs.
They have never trained a dog and proudly let everyone know how spoiled their own dogs are.  They do not invest in  equipment, and want you to overcome the laws of physics, and they also  don’t want you to form a relationship with THEIR clients.

You shouldn’t choose a pet car business just because the location is convenient, but I guess anyone who thinks their dog gets exercise  just because they pay for ‘dog daycare’ is kidding themselves.  Most dogs go home tired from stress, not from  actual exercise.

I have an acquaintance who is trying to change this:  she offers  training of kennel personnel, and seminars, but this will not solve the problem of people in the pet industry  making money  off pets, but  not caring enough to work directly with them.

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?

 

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.

A Corporation Comes Calling

March 25, 2016
You'd be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

You’d be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

I wanted  to blog about something else this week, but I got contacted by  a recruiter who had seen my resume on an internet site.  Now, he thinks he needs another dog groomer at the business he manages (for the corporation), but when I asked him how far ahead his groomers were  booked….he wouldn’t give me a straight answer.

I told him—straight out—that his corporation had fired me for doing what his manager told me to do, and I doubted his corporation would allow him to hire me even part-time.  It was though he was not listening to what I was saying.  I also told him that if I worked part-time, I knew I would not make commission, and he ignored that, too.  He out and out told me I had to work weekends to make commission, and I told him I  was showing my dogs in  performance. Then, the conversation switched to  the fact that he also needed to hire a dog trainer, and blah blah blah…long story short, once I built up my classes, i would make $20 an hour.

I told him  that I wanted to go to classes myself, so that would not work. Then he told me about another location, close to where I live, that needed a grooming manager, as they had no groomer at all.

I know these guys answer to corporate. Corporate sets the prices you can charge.  That’s only  part of it.  There  is nothing to prevent them from hiring more people than needed so nobody makes commission, and their base pay is $12 an hour. Even some Walmarts are now paying that for non-skilled workers, so how can anyone think that’s fair?  Because you don’t need a college degree?  What is it that causes so many of them to re-arrange their policies and still disrespect the people making them money?

But I’ve also gotten religion in these past several years,  having worked at pet shops selling animals.  I  want to ask, between the time you order  guinea pigs, gerbils, mice and bunnies (never mind the herps and birds) and the time they get to the  shop floor, how many die of stress  or injuries, and what happens to the unsold animals?  Are they children of a lesser God?  Deserving less concern?  Do I want to  work for a corporation that exists on the premise that they are selling  love, but don’t really care if pet animals are mistreated?

I was in Viet Nam a few years ago. Communist country, right?  We’ve told ourselves so many lies about Viet Nam, but what I witnesses was that so many people were entrepreneurs.  So many. I am sure there are factories in Viet Nam, but in so many cities, what I saw were  so many vendors.  They sold cloth, and notions, and clothing,  dishes, cookware, electronics, had little tearooms,  restaurants, herbal stores,beauty salons…. whatever.  I’m sure  very few of them were making any real money, but they had cell phones, and TVs…and their time was their own.  That’s so important.  They didn’t have bosses telling them to do crazy stuff, belittling them, and lying about it.  This is why groomers have said, “Take this job and shove it.”  They make less on their own, but their time is their own.

Until the corporations start treating their groomers and dog trainers at least as good as they treat all the people making rules for them…and paying them justly, they are going to continue to beg for groomers, and keep training people who don’t have a clue, don’t have an aesthetic eye,  or don’t have any interest in animal behavior.  What a business model!

If I won the lottery…

January 15, 2016

Dash&meNov14There was recently a lottery prize that was worth over a billion dollars (or whatever it is after taxes….a lot of zeroes).  I don’t play the lottery.  I am not a gambler. I like to think I take calculated risks.  However, what would I  do if I had the  money  Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have?

1.  Pay off my mortgage and make a few cosmetic repairs to my house. It’s over 100 years old.  It’s not really laid out well, but it is in an excellent location, being steps from public transportation and Lake Michigan;

2. Set up a fund for the youngsters in my extended family to either pay for school or a business venture.  However…not to pay for something  frivolous. They’d have to submit a plan.  You can study philosophy or art history after you can earn a living doing something (more on that later…);

3.Set up a fund to assist OPEN  ADMISSIONS ANIMAL SHELTERS so they could care for all pets, not pick and choose who gets saved. That said, this fund would also fund humane education which would teach people interested about animal behavior and husbandry, pet training and grooming, but also on  affecting social policy, so we  could address the mindset that just because you have  just one dog (or cat, or whatever) to breed, it doesn’t mean you should not be responsible for the offspring.   I’d work to  create a fund to  make it a state law that says that if you advertise baby animals for sale,  humane people visit you to collect a ‘humane fee’, and so we have your contact info  (meanwhile chipping the animals for sale…) …so if the pets you sell  are given up, you either take them back or pay a humane group to take care of your responsibility;

4. Potable water is a huge problem in much of the world.  There are many reasons for this:  population growth, deforestation…and fracking.  I’d not only fund getting the word out, but I’d sink wells or develop rain water catchment systems in areas where the population agreed to make girls education in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) a priority, and fund  that.  Too many resources have gone into boys…and look what a mess men have made of everything;

5.  I’d also fund a ‘No Birth Bonus Scheme’ in  these locations—paying women to not have more than 2 children.  There is NOT enough water to go around.  I’m not talking sterilization or abortion, I’m talking women making a choice  about resources;

6.  I’d put together a venture capital firm to help inventors with prototypes and patents for appropriate technology and pharmaceuticals;

7.  I’d create a fund so my neighbors could make their housing more energy-efficient and get off the grid;

8.  I’d pay a personal trainer to boss me back into shape.  I am actually pretty strong, but you never push yourself as much as a trainer does;

9.  I’d set up a fund for people with autism to take advantage of the new technologies available which make communication easier.

10.  I’d also set up a  fund for kids aging out of the foster care system, for them to get at least associates degrees or start a business. These are the forgotten in our communities…and often, they are destined to be poor, with  compromised social skills.

I am not much for luxury items.  For me, it’s important to have a functional kitchen, and I love my deep bathtub, but jewels and fancy clothes?  Not me.  I have a travel jones.

So, that’s what I’d do with a windfall.  What would YOU do?

 

 

So, where do you see yourself in five years?

December 19, 2015

bewaresignSince I failed to marry someone to keep me in the style to which I wanted to become accustomed….I know the only way I would be ‘independently wealthy’ is to sell my house within the next year and move to a cheaper place.  Cheaper meaning a place with lower or no property taxes, as my property taxes are now higher than the mortgage!  Really. We pay about $400 a month  in property taxes (more or less, with exemptions), and  Mayor Rahm,instead of promoting the tax on  investment trades, is closing our public schools and laying off teachers (all the while with evidence that the charter schools are not providing a better  education product for our students) & lets not forget Barbara Byrd Bennet, who  ripped off the students not just  for her outrageous salary, but for $20 mil in  a skim for her ‘consulting firm’!  & lets not forget payouts for  bad police behavior.  Yeah yeah yeah—this has been going on since at least Daley, if not before, but it’s now over the top.

At one time, I saw myself owning a boarding kennel and showing dogs, but it really took Enron, 911, and the financial crash of 2008 (read Michael Lewis’ “The Big Short” if you’re unclear about  this), to dash that. In fact, I had learned about  the craziness of land speculation  when I was in grad school, but we all had to be in denial  or we  would have  given up.  In any case, that  was  one of the first nails in the coffin of ‘the fancy’, which I have blogged about ad nauseam.   Many of my naive kennel club members really believe we have to support AKC lobbying efforts on behalf of commercial breeders, as this affects all breeders. But come on—can we not come up with  a number of dogs a dog lover can keep  and have a relationship with?  Sure, some puppy mills, like Blythewood, breed excellent dogs….but is Joan Huber or her staff actually screening buyers….or do they  just think that anyone who would pay that much will automatically provide a good home?  I am sure she doesn’t care if less honorable  puppy mill breeders buy from her.  I am sure the explanation is that ‘at least they are buying genetically sound dogs to breed.’

I love grooming dogs, but I can see what’s happening, too. Fewer people  care if the  dog  actually looks good, and fewer people are training their dogs anything.  Fewer people are middle class.  I’ve been working at businesses in upscale areas, where  people can afford the service, but more and more are getting mixed breed dogs—and they are not rescues.  They are still believing the marketing.   It’s very discouraging, because many of these mixed breed ‘designer dogs’   you can’t make look good. Their coats are just impossible. I may spend more time training my own dogs .

About 30 years ago, after Peace Corps, I was thinking of  academia, but it’s hard to  get in, except as an adjunct, and frankly, though it is hard to believe, dog groomers make more per hour!

So, I see myself now as mostly retired, maybe grooming  2 to 3 days a week,  doing volunteer work, and traveling several times a year.   I really have enjoyed the Saluki Club of America and the American Whippet Club weeks of specialties, with all their activities.  I still have not been to Central America or Hawaii.  I’ll just have to see how it goes…

Why I Joined a Kennel Club

December 10, 2015
This is a display of rosettes at the American Whippet Club Specialty , 2015

This is a display of rosettes at the American Whippet Club Specialty , 2015

When I was thinking of breeding and showing dogs, I became a member of a kennel club.   One of my employers had been a member of the Waukesha Kennel Club in Wisconsin, and it was from those club members that she learned to groom the terriers and  many breeds we saw in our shop.  In fact, she learned to groom Bedlingtons from Charlie Prager, who invented the first portable grooming table and fluff dryer (Groom-Rite).

For a long time, I was not active in a kennel club.  I was either working my own business or  in the process of a divorce, or in school. Then I was in Peace Corps, then  re-acclamating myself to life  in the USA.  I just didn’t have ‘time’.  And how much time would it have actually taken to be a club member?  Not much, really.  In fact, it would have helped with business networking.  This is really the best reason to be a member of an all-breed  dog club, for groomers and trainers. Hobby breeders sell puppies that need services.

However, I knew from being a club member (I was a member of the Goldcoast Kennel Club in Chicago until 1987…the club has since  folded),  many of the club members were not breeders. They were  fanciers who may have shown a dog in the past, or were hoping to show a dog, but they were not active breeders.  We were all members for the same reason:  to support the fancy. That is, support people breeding dogs for the betterment of their breeds.

Vern Price, of  Crown Jewel Dalmatians, did a lot to  make the club a success.  He  instituted a 50/50 drawing for cash, and pulling a member’s name out of a hat at every meeting for a cash prize.  He made sure the club offered both obedience and conformation classes.  Vern made sure there were prizes for every dog show class at  the annual all-breed show.  Whether you  liked or hated Vern,  he made sure the club functioned.

Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right. Bred by hobby breeders for the betterment of their breeds.

Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right. Bred by hobby breeders for the betterment of their breeds.

When Vern died, the club started to disintegrate, and there is no longer a Goldcoast Kennel Club.  In the Chicago area, there are still about a dozen all breed clubs, but hardly any has an active membership. Worse, though, is that the specialty clubs are folding due to lack of members.  Granted, most clubs  exist at all  for breeders to promote their breeding and support their breeds.  They  have done this by holding dog shows, paying for research into health and genetic problems their breeds have, holding grooming classes, and supporting  performance training and events (agility, barn hunt, schutshund, lure coursing, etc) to keep interest in their breeds—and  individuals  competing with their breeds, alive.  Actually, the  breed club I belong to, the Greater Chicago Whippet Club—has no breeder members!  We are all  pet and racing folks who want to  socialize with other sighthound fanciers!

Purebred Bedlington. another breed with such a small gene pool, with genetic health issues, that the puppy mills have generally ignored.

Purebred Bedlington. another breed with such a small gene pool, with genetic health issues, that the puppy mills have generally ignored.

What has been happening —and those of us who have been grooming for several decades know this—-is that the American Kennel Club, the holder of the stud books (that is, records of who got bred to who), is supporting commercial breeding of dogs in our state legislatures (and defending the right to commercially breed pet dogs), at the expense of the fancy (what purebred dog enthusiasts are called).  Many breeders have ‘aged out’ or died, or just got disgusted with the whole cultural milieu.  Their  children either  never became interested, or can’t afford to  breed dogs.  Few  people can, with the middle class actually being less than 49% or all households.  So that means than many wonderful breeds don’t have viable gene pools…and as for the popular breeds, your chances of buying a  well bred pup without being on a waiting list is slim to none.  Of course, many of us are willing to take mature dogs, but how about our clients?  So, if they want a dog of a breed, their only option  is buying commercial breeders.

Why should dog  groomers be concerned? You might think this does not matter because  you haven’t gotten a new client with a purebred dog in several years (unless you  breed your own business).  Indeed, I  work in an elite section  of the Chicago area, and  all we are seeing is designer dogs.  It’s shocking  how many people have paid so much money for these mixed breed dogs…and virtually all of them have genetic health issues, because the people breeding dogs for the market really don’t care.  Also, by the time these pet owners learn that their  dogs will need a pricey health intervention (repair of liver shunt, removal of cataracts, fixing luxated patellas)….the breeder will be gone.  This is not to say  this  does not happen in purebreds—as it does, and these mixes are not pariah dogs, but mixes of purebreds.  But I do know that members of the American Miniature Schnauzer Club virtually eliminated congenital juvenile cataracts in their members bloodlines by paying for research , test breeding, and putting in the time and heartache.

If we don’t support hobby breeders, and let our  grooming clients know there is a difference, we  won’t have a grooming industry in about 10 years…unless you’re happy with shaving down dogs.

We must work together on this.  I urge you to network, and find a dog club you can work with.