Archive for the ‘dog training’ Category

“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.
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Vacations for Animal Lovers

May 13, 2016
Pariah dog sleeping at Ephasus in turkey

Pariah dog sleeping at Ephasus in turkey

My passion is  working with animals.  From  before I could read, I knew volume #7 of the Encyclopedia Britannica had the dog pictures.  I used to love  pulling it out and looking at the dog pictures.  Growing up, I lived in a very middle class suburban (Skokie) neighborhood, where, if people had dogs, they were behind fences.  If I saw someone walking a dog, I went crazy. Part of this obsession was because my parents wouldn’t let us have a dog until we were  mature enough to take care of one.  My father  owned his own business,and my mother  had four kids  under 7 years old. Looking back, I  totally understand the logic.  What happened, however, was that my sister and I  took every dog book we could find out of the library. We finally got  our first dogs when I was  nine-years-old.  We  taught that dog all sorts of things.  I took every opportunity I could find to work with dogs. I learned to groom dogs.  I have also titled my pet dogs in performance.  When you work with dogs, you learn your limits.  At one time, I wanted to own a kennel and have a bunch of my own dogs.  When I started working in kennels, I learned that it is  hard to give quality time to more than a few dogs. So many dogs need homes, and many without homes need advocates. What could I do?  If I fostered a dog, I would be cutting into the quality time I spend with my own dogs. and it would change the dynamic in our household.  So, I looked for opportunities where I could help others who  care for pets needing help.

Reception at Lilongwe SPCA. in Malawi

Reception at Lilongwe SPCA. in Malawi

There are many ways to help when you  can’t foster or adopt another pet.  Most shelter and rescues need help with accounting, marketing, and fund-raising, as well as recruiting  other volunteers.  Here in Chicago, I volunteer as a court advocate for  http://www.safehumanechicago.org  This means, when someone is charged with an animal related crime (neglect, cruelty, or dog fighting are the common ones), I go to court to make sure the judge knows that the community has an interest in this case.  Mostly, it is just being there.  We let the  prosecuting attorney know  we are there, and they make sure the judge knows we are there if the  courtroom is crowded. The police making the arrest also know that we are there.  This makes everyone take animal crime more seriously. Another thing I do is support pet rescues, especially pet rescues in  developing countries.  Now, due to the internet, where you can google ‘animal shelter/country, you can get linked up with  animal lovers in  most places.  In many places, you can even volunteer. I volunteered , via Cross Cultural Solutions, to work with a community based group in New Delhi, India, and some people told me about Frendicoes.  Friendicoes mostly does trap/neuter/release, and has a small shelter.  Virtually all the animals they have are pariah dogs and cats:  that is, they are true street  animals, and really not suited to be pets. Several years ago, I visited Turkey. Via networking, I was able to get in touch with  the people who run the Forest Sanctuary, outside Istanbul.  They had about 100 dogs at the time we visited.  Western Turkey is becoming very urbanized, but the Turks, for the most part, never  kept dogs in their homes.  Also, like impulsive people all over, many  buy dogs and tire of them.  Those involved in rescue are very pragmatic.  They do trap/neuter/release (and one reason for the  protest over loss of park land in Istanbul several years ago was not just  over loss of open space to a shopping mall…but loss of habitat for the street dogs and cats), but also care for  dogs at the Forest Sanctuary outside of the city. They work with a Dutch rescue, and ship many dogs suitable for homes to Holland. I’ve also  visited  ‘shelters’ in Hoi An, Viet Nam (http://www.vnanimalwelfare.org/category/slider/) , and both Lilongwe and Blantyre, in Malawi.  They all welcome volunteers.  Soi Dogs, in Thailand not only needs volunteers, but  people who can accompany a dog (as a courier)  from Thailand to the USA.  The Sighthound Underground and Galgos del Sol also need couriers, and you can volunteer to work in the Galgo kennel in Spain. There are also  animal shelters in more ‘vacation oriented’ places.  http://www.animal-kind.org  can put you in touch with  many shelters needing assistance.  So can Norah Livingstone: http://www.animalexperienceinternational.com/aboutus.html.  World Vets:  http://worldvets.org/volunteer/upcoming-projects/  has volunteer opportunities in  Central America and southern Asia.  If you are more the type who  just wants to observe, or maintain habitat, Earthwatch http://earthwatch.org/has programs, many involving habitat conservation or observation of animal behavior, overseen by scientists. Meeting  other animal lovers and sharing information is a great way to spend vacation time.

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?

 

 

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.

Neglect of Owners Duties

October 16, 2015
 I have friends who believe I play with dogs all day.  What follows is  a draft of an article I wanted to  get published in a pet industry magazine, but the editors of several felt it was to controversial:

This is a section of the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act. You see there is a lengthy section on tethering. What I am going to address is section (3).

(510 ILCS 70/3) (from Ch. 8, par. 703)
Sec. 3. Owner’s duties.
(a) Each owner shall provide for each of his or her animals:
(1) a sufficient quantity of good quality, wholesome

food and water;
(2) adequate shelter and protection from the weather;
(3) veterinary care when needed to prevent suffering;

and
(4) humane care and treatment.
(b) To lawfully tether a dog outdoors, an owner must ensure that the dog:
(1) does not suffer from a condition that is known,

by that person, to be exacerbated by tethering;
(2) is tethered in a manner that will prevent it from

becoming entangled with other tethered dogs;
(3) is not tethered with a lead that (i) exceeds

one-eighth of the dog’s body weight or (ii) is a tow chain or a log chain;
(4) is tethered with a lead that measures, when

rounded to the nearest whole foot, at least 10 feet in length;
(5) is tethered with a properly fitting harness or

collar other than the lead or a pinch, prong, or choke-type collar; and
(6) is not tethered in a manner that will allow it

to reach within the property of another person, a public walkway, or a road.
(c) Subsection (b) of this Section shall not be construed to prohibit:
(1) a person from walking a dog with a hand-held

leash;
(2) conduct that is directly related to the

cultivating of agricultural products, including shepherding or herding cattle or livestock, if the restraint is reasonably necessary for the safety of the dog;
(3) the tethering of a dog while at an organized and

lawful animal function, such as hunting, obedience training, performance and conformance events, or law enforcement training, or while in the pursuit of working or competing in those endeavors; or
(4) a dog restrained in compliance with the

requirements of a camping or recreational area as defined by a federal, State, or local authority or jurisdiction.
(d) A person convicted of violating subsection (a) of this Section is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation of subsection (a) of this Section is a Class 4 felony with every day that a violation continues constituting a separate offense. In addition to any other penalty provided by law, upon conviction for violating subsection (a) of this Section, the court may order the convicted person to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and to undergo any treatment at the convicted person’s expense that the court determines to be appropriate after due consideration of the evaluation. If the convicted person is a juvenile or a companion animal hoarder, the court must order the convicted person to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and to undergo treatment that the court determines to be appropriate after due consideration of the evaluation.
(e) A person convicted of violating subsection (b) of this Section is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.
(f) As used in this Section, “tether” means to restrain by tying to an object or structure, including, without limitation, a house, tree, fence, post, garage, shed, or clothes line at a person’s residence or business, by any means, including, without limitation, a chain, rope, cord, leash, or running line.
(Source: P.A. 98-101, eff. 1-1-14.)

I think most of us wonder what we can do about the violation of section (3): veterinary care to prevent suffering.

When I first started my grooming career in the early 1970s, I worked for a dog groomer who would give her clients an ‘ultimatum’ after she told them twice the dog needed veterinary attention: no new appointment until the dog’s medical issue had been dealt with. Twice I remember, it was dogs with bad teeth. Once it was a runny eye (related to teeth).   After veterinary treatment (teeth being pulled), the dogs immediately gained weight and seemed livelier. THEY WERE NO LONGER IN PAIN.

We were not the only game in town. These clients could have gone elsewhere. They didn’t.

Unfortunately, I know too many groomers who will tell a client once, then ignore the issue because they are afraid they are going to lose the client (as though no other groomer is going to mention that the dog has an ear infection so bad that pus is coming out and the skin had necrosis. Disgusting, aggravating, infuriating.

I am a volunteer for a wonderful organization founded by a couple of dog trainers. The organization is SafeHumaneChicago.org . It was founded to address animal cruelty and its effects on our community. We provide dog training classes in under-served communities, work with kids (and adults) in the justice system, and we volunteer as advocates for animals in the court system.

Setting this program up took years. We had to find friendly police, judges, and prosecutors who could understand that cruelty and violence towards humans often starts with animal cruelty.
We had to explain the laws, and how to interpret and enforce the laws. We had to get prosecutors to take animal crime seriously…and we continue having problems with police not gathering adequate evidence.

However, we do get people charged, and prosecuted.   We do get people to show up in court on behalf of the animals. We wear court advocate badges, and we make sure the judges know we are there.

Generally, the charge of ‘neglect of owners duties’ is an added charge, to dog fighting, other cruelty, or hoarding.  Recently, however, a veterinarian had a client charged. An older couple brought a dog into his animal hospital in a buggy. Not sure why they brought the dog in, but the dog was wearing a diaper which hadn’t been changed in….nobody knows how long, The dog, of course, had feces burning his skin.

My gut reaction to hearing this was, ARE THEY STUPID? But how many clients do we see with feces stuck to the dog, or eyes sealed shut, or necrotic ears? Dogs with rotting teeth? It’s not just puppy mills, and we know it. I’ve had dogs come in with maggots.

We are afraid to turn these people in to local humane officers, aren’t we? I have told clients that there dog is in pain. I’ve suggested they contact local animal shelters which I know will treat dogs at a very reduced cost if money is the issue. You know there has to be a psychological problem on the part of the owner when, six months later, they bring the dog back to you, and the dog is still in horrendous condition.

Because I keep a reminder calendar, I’ve started noting on my calendar when I hope to see the dog again. If the dog doesn’t come in, I contact humane officers to do a well-being check. I am nearing retirement and don’t really care if I anger someone who doesn’t have the integrity to euthanize a dog in pain if they won’t have a veterinarian treat the dog. I’d like to know if any groomers have had any other solutions.

 

 

Focus: Getting the Dog’s Attention

October 9, 2015
Berbop on Santa's lap, with Dash

Bebop on Santa’s lap, with Dash

I see dogs with behavior problems most days of the week.  Pet dogs. Dogs that people have gotten as pets with  no plan  or strategy  to get the dog  ‘trained’.  I know the reason this happens is that  dog owners  not only get   wrong or incomplete  information from watching TV, but from the ‘experts’ who have never trained a dog, but who speak with authority, and tell these dog owners what to do.

This is more baffling and irritating (to me) because now, with the internet, you can find all sorts of good information. So, I guess people are lazy and stupid.  I can’t think of any other   explanation for dog owners allowing their dogs to be out of control.

One of my fellow dog groomers told me about a client of hers who just got a puppy.  It’s an Australian Cattle Dog puppy, and  it’s ‘already biting’ so they just keep it in the crate.  She tells me the  owners got the pup from a  Cattle Dog rescue. Really?  A puppy…and it’s already in rescue? Doesn’t that tell you that  too many people are breeding Cattle Dogs, and there are  not enough good homes?

OK, whatever.  I think this  family was expecting a Shih Tzu or Maltese pup, not a working dog, bred for generations to  chase and bite the heels of  sheep and cows.  In my last post about dog training,  I addressed spending a few minutes at a time  shaping the behavior of the dog to get the results you want.

I  offered to help the  family teach the dog to focus, and teach them how to get the dog’s attention, so they can start undoing  what  they’ve already ‘taught’ the pup, and start over….  since my co-worker is the actual contact, we’ll see how this goes…but this is what I am going to tell you all who  got pups under  six months old who are biters:

Most puppies that bite are reacting to something they fear, and are using their instincts to stop what (or who) is causing them to fear;

Or, they were bred to  bite first (react) and if you are planning on keeping this dog as a pet, you have to get his attention;

It’s up to you to make sure the  pup is getting enough exercise, enough rest, and a nutritious diet.  There ar no excuses.  if you are making excuses.  Admit you made a mistake and return the pup.  I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t go looking for another home for the dog—return it to the people who sold or gave you the pup. It is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY.

After exercizing the pup, have the dog sit, touch his temple with your finger then immediately touch your temple, causing the pup to make eye contact. Say, ‘watch me.’ IMMEDIATELY GIVE THE PUP A TREAT (the size of a cheerio.  Click with your tongue as you do this (unless you  have become very adept with a clicker). Do this several times a day.]

Start walking the dog on a leash—-with a martingale collar. NO HARNESSES. harnesses were designed so a dog can pull you, and you don’t want that.  A Martingale collar won’t choke your pup, but will restrain it.  Call  grooming shops, veterinarians, even your park district, to find out who runs dog training classes, and what they teach. You might not be the best dog trainer in the world, but the whole point of doing dog training is  bonding with your dog, and starting to communicate with and understand each other.There are also many  excellent dog training books available.  I like, “Good Owners, Great Dogs,” by Kilcommon & Wilson.

In any case, we’ve learned a lot about dog training and how dogs learn in the last several decades.  It’s all kind, and all positive.  If you don’t want to communicate with a dog, why did you get a dog?

 

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.

The Coat Change…and matting

August 27, 2015
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.

Any groomer who has been grooming for any length of time has seen it.  It is the cute, fluffy  puppy that the owners bought—usually on impulse—because it is cute and fluffy.  I always ask the new owners if the person who sold or gave them this dog showed them how to brush it.  I tell them the coat is very fine now, but when the dog gets to be about  six months old, more or less, they are going to wake up one morning and the dog will be matted.  It’s a given.  They often want me to give the dog a haircut just because they think the dog needs one.

Why  will the dog mat?  COAT CHANGE: the fine puppy coat will start to become stronger, thicker adult coat.  The puppy coat is very dry,and the cuticle of the hair will be open….and that’s how it starts. The static electricity of living, the cuticle of the hair being open, ‘locking’ into other hair cuticles and closing…. With many Afghan Hounds, you could see the adult coat at the roots of the puppy coat:  the puppy fuzz at the ends of a stronger, thicker shaft adult silk coat.  With some dogs, they suddenly lose a lot of hair—almost like a skin disease, and the new coat grows in.   It happens when the dog reaches sexual maturity (so, if the dog was neutered before reaching sexual maturity, you really don’t know what you are going to end up with—-but usually a blend of puppy  and adult coat).

What causes the matting?  Again….dirt, moisture,  and static electricity.  I cover this in my blog on  getting to a ‘specials’ (show ) coat,  People who want their dogs to have dramatic coats are willing to work through this.  unfortunately,  most pet owners try bargaining, anger, and denial before they reach acceptance.

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.

Some breeds, like Bedlington Terriers , Maltese, and Afghan Hounds, have very thin skin.  It is really  easy to cut or tear the skin if mats are too close or tight.  Years ago, I had a large number of Old English Sheepdog clients who rarely ever made it out of the coat change. The breeders in my area would keep the pups in coat as long as they could, and when the coat started changing, shaved the dogs down and didn’t show the dogs until they were over  two-years-old (it takes that long to grow a coat back to it’s full length in a large breed).

 

So, how do we deal with this?  When puppy owners come in for first grooms, I usually do a sanitary trim and ‘neaten’ the coat, but I also show them how to brush the dog with a slicker, metal comb, and  my curved rake.  I tell them to enjoy the coat while they can, because the dog will change coats and mat overnight. I tell them the mats will start behind and under the ears, under the chin, between the front legs and in the armpits (another  excellent reason to avoid harnesses…which will cause friction against the  hair and static), around the tail, and at the wrists (hocks and pasterns) and spread from these areas.  I tell them if they just brush over the top and don’t get down to the skin—or wash the dog without brushing it, I will definitely have to shave  the dog. Brush layer by layer….from the skin out….  and I show them what I mean.  I advise against using a thinning shears at this stage, because the short hairs weave into the long hairs (also the reason you get  matted ears when you just  neaten the tips), but to  put the dog on a schedule and if they do nothing else, brush and comb through these specific trouble spots…and if the hair flies around  or they need to wash their hands after brushing the dog…the dog needs a bath.  I advise DILUTING the dog shampoo in a shampoo or dishwashing liquid bottle, and brushing the shampoo through the hair—particularly the trouble spots.

I also tell my clients to develop a system, and start brushing the dog in the same place every time. I  do the back of the back leg and work my way up…I do all ‘four sides’ of the dog’s leg, then the body from the belly/chest up, the front leg, then the other side, and the head last.  About 50% of my clients do this, and have also purchased portable grooming tables or taught their dogs to lie down for brushing.  The rest get what I can possibly do to make the dog look good and not hurt the dog…

More and more, however, people are getting Cotons  or designer dogs like ‘Cavashons’  (Cavalier/Bishon mix),  ‘Shipoos’ (shih Tzu/Poodle mix) or Teddy Bears (a Bichon/Shih Tzu mix),  which have mixes of coat textures.  Good luck to us all.  I’ve had dogs mat up immediately after brushing due to the dryness of the coat and static electricity.  The owners  complain if I clip the dog too short, but won’t do what needs to be done, and sometimes keeping the coat mat free is impossible.  This is not YOUR fault…it is the breeder’s fault.  It is a matter of integrity.

When I started grooming as a teenager, I briefly worked for a hobby breeder, Fredric Mark Alderman, who owned Dynasty Afghan Hounds.  He did not sell an Afghan Hound to a novice owner until they had spent a day grooming with him.  He didn’t want to hear that  you had no idea how long it would take, how much equipment you’d need, or how often it would need to be done.   If, at the end of the day, you decided an Afghan Hound was not for you, no harm, no foul.  His dogs were not going to end up resold, abandoned, or in puppy mills.  From him, I learned it is the responsibility of the breeder to show pet buyers basic coat care.  For some reason (due to the negative marketing by some of the well-intentioned pet rescuers), people think that if they buy a dog from someone who just bred their pet—they didn’t  enrich an evil breeder. I  was  ‘raised’ by fanciers, who led me to believe the owner of the mommy dog—whether that owner  had 1 breedable bitch or 100, was  the BREEDER  and responsible for  screening  puppy buyers and  showing them how to maintain the dog’s coat at home.  They should be held responsible for the dogs they breed, or they are as bad as any  pet store or puppy mill…and I feel the same way about rescues and shelters that don’t address coat care.  I offer to  work with rescue volunteers  placing dog that need  professional grooming.

I realize many of us did not come into the profession  because we  were  fanciers.  I learned techniques and styling from  fanciers, and use what I leaned to  make those  ‘hybrid’ (mixed breed)  ‘designer dogs’ look as good as possible considering their owners  want what they want without putting in the effort.  In doing research, I found 2 national ‘Australian Labradoodle Clubs’ (neither posting coat care information on their websites: http://alaa-labradoodles.com/BreedStandard.html , http://www.australianlabradoodleclub.us/ no breed standard or care information),  A Goldendoodle national registry: http://www.goldendoodleassociation.com/standard.aspx, No Cavashon club ( well, can you call a commercial website for commercial breeders a club?), and in looking for information on Teddy Bears , I came across the maltipoo website, which mostly addresses behavior issues and had NOTHING about grooming. That said…..The Poodle Club of America says NOTHING about grooming at all on their website, and suggests contacting regional clubs for more info on the breed.  The American Shih Tzu club has  several pages on grooming:http://www.americanshihtzuclub.org/grooming_companion.  The American Maltese Association  does address grooming, but it is very general information and might not be that helpful:http://www.americanmaltese.org/service/general-maltese-information ;  the Bichon Frise Club of America has a very good site, with photos of grooming tools.