Archive for the ‘Neopolitan Mastiffs’ Category

Boerboels—& the ‘New’ AKC Breeds

January 9, 2015

Link to Boerboel photos:http://https://www.google.com/search?q=boerboel+photos&biw=1156&bih=748&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=9jyvVKr5CcOzyATU84LwDA&ved=0CB0QsAQ

The AKC has  recently recognized some breeds that have been around for decades, if not centuries.  They are ‘new’ to  the public that thinks of a dog as a dog.  The reason they were not recognized before now is that there were not enough  fanciers organized into a sponsoring parent club, who sponsored a stud book.

It’s difficult to get a breed recognized by the American Kennel Club.  You have to get along with your fellow hobbyists/fanciers/breeders and  work to promote the betterment of the breed.  This is why  labradoodles are not a recognized breed  yet. Also, they don’t ‘breed true’.  That means, when you have puppies, they all look  like the same breed.

As it is, we have plenty of breeds, like Fox Terriers and Dachshunds, where you can  breed any variety to each other—of the same breed…and this is why you get  smooths and wires in the same litter.  In some breeds, like Ibizen/Podengos, it doesn’t matter.  However, if you  really want to know what you are getting, you don’t mix varieties even if it is allowed (because you won’t know what you are getting!).

In any case, Bill Hageman of the Chicago Tribune did a feature on the new AKC breeds, one of which is the Boerboel. THIS IS NOT A PET DOG.

Beorboels are large dogs,. They are bred to be confident and  aggressive.  They were bred in South Africa to  give lions a run for their money.  I am not making this up. You can research the breed.  They were never kept as house pets.

A lot of people really don’t understand that some dogs just don’t make good pets.  Or, they have so many temperament and genetic issues (Shiba Inu, Shar Pei, Bulldogs) that  people shouldn’t even attempt to think they will get lucky.  With a BoerBoel—a type of mastiff, you won’t get lucky.  If you need a guard dog—this is the dog.  If you want the dog to double as a pet for children…particularly in an urban environment…please…no.

I wrote to members of the American Boerboel Club, and this is what I said:

This is probably ‘none of my business’ as I am not a BoerBoel  fancier, but I am a purebred dog fancier, an exhibitor, groomer, amateur trainer, and involved in humane activities.
There was a  feature article in the Chicago Tribune about the new AKC breeds, and  I may be too late, but I STRONGLY urge you all to copy what the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America does, and NEVER sell a breedable (meaning intact) dog to any new fancier who:
1. Has never exhibited a dog to a title;
2. Is interested in breeding, but is not interested in  either conformation or performance;
3. Can’t get referrals from other  hobbyists/fanciers.

Selling a dog without registration papers  is a joke.  The American Miniature Schnauzer Club participants in a test breeding program to  eliminate congenital juvenile cataracts (about 30 years ago), sold  carriers of CJC without papers to pet owners, explaining that the dogs they were getting might not be blind, but would  produce blind puppies, …& many of those buyers  didn’t care,  and either went to other breeders or found each other , and CJC is, again, a problem in the breed. So, the hobby breeders, breeding for the betterment of the breed, went to early neutering—& now this is, unfortunately, common.

I know the Cane Corso And Dogue de Bordeaux fanciers  just ignored  that this would be an issue, or didn’t care, and now we see them, purebred & mixed, on Craigslist all the time—and mixed with Pit bulls as well.
I am an advocate  for animals in the court system in Chicago–abuse, neglect, dog fighting.  Like I said, it may be too late.

You  might find the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America code of ethics to be a good model: http://www.pwdca.org/code-of-ethics
It seems simple enough, but right after the  Obamas  got  Bo, their first Portie,  we could have seen  them  in every pet shop. That didn’t happen. Why?  With such a small gene pool, the  fanciers are all of the same mindset that it is in the best interest of the breed to take it seriously.  You never see a portie in rescue. Why?  If a club member learns of this, they snatch it up.  And—if the breeder does not take the dog back (with so few breeders, this is easy to discover), the breeder is fined $500 a week until they take the dog back.  How do  they enforce this? Again, their gene pool is so small,  you won’t find people breeding to your dogs if you  don’t  respect the rules.

The  few breeders that there are,  are encouraged to continue to co-own  dogs until they are neutered, or titled. This is what 1 fancier told me.  Remember, it just takes 1 breeder to not screen for  homeowners insurance that doesn’t have breed restrictions, who doesn’t ask for evidence of a fenced yard, who doesn’t keep in touch.  Just one puppy buyer to lose a job…or a home, become a renter, or divorced, or widowed..to post on Craigslist…and  the irresponsible backyard breeders  who don’t care about hip dysplasia, other genetic issues…or good, permanent homes, to destroy your breed.

So, who the hell am I?  A purebred dog fancier who sees that the average dog owner has less integrity than I do, not more,.  I am someone who fears for the future of purebred dogs.

Remember…all it takes is one naive breeder who thinks that every  person who pursues a  breedable dog, has integrity.  Just one.

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If Not us, Then Who?

December 12, 2014

 

Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

I keep writing about the pet industry being in a sorry state: so lacking in integrity, defending  inhumane  breeders (breeding pets as livestock), selling  useless or  dangerous products.  I know that there are people who agree with me.  How many who agree with me are willing to  do something about it?  How many actually spend time talking with pet owners?

I subscribe to all the free pet industry magazines:  Pet Business, PetAge, and Pet Industry News.  For years I subscribed to  The Gazette (Purebred dogs, the AKC magazine) which I learned so much from, from so many different  fanciers who wrote about  what they were learning about dogs.  Now that it is no longer in print, it is much more difficult to get information about specific breeds of dogs  if you don’t subscribe to all the Facebook feeds.

Keep in mind, that were it not for hobbyists and fanciers, there would be no  grain free dog food industry.  It wasn’t  veterinarians who  promoted  grain free foods, and  most pet store retailers were  bemused by the requests.  It was  hobby breeders suggesting to their puppy buyers, and to people they were meeting at dog training classes  and performance events  talking about  the ear infections and foot licking might be related to corn or wheat sensitivities.

When I was a teenager, I worked briefly for  Afghan Hound breeder Fredric Mark Alderman. He had quick, phenomenal success with the Akaba dogs he got from Lois Boardman. His kennel name was Dynasty. He had a waiting list of people wanting  his dogs, and he had a policy: you want a Dynasty Afghan Hound, but have no experience with the breed, you spend a day grooming with him.  He didn’t want to hear that  you didn’t enjoy brushing or bathing a dog, that you didn’t know the equipment you’d need or how much time it would take up.  If that’s how you felt at the end of an afternoon with him, no harm, no foul…you didn’t get an Afghan.    Not  one other breeder in the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago did what he did.  So many of theirs ended up neglected or abused.  Not the dogs Fred bred.  I knew breeders in other breeds who had similar policies. Arlene Fenney, who bred Bearded Collies in the Chicago area, insisted that all her pet buyers buy a portable grooming table.

A blog I posted a couple of years ago “The Irony of the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier,”  got an enormous amount of attention recently, going  from  possibly 1 viewing a week to well over 200.  I suspect a  fancier  found it, and  then sent the link to other fanciers—but I didn’t get  one comment:  I suspect they all understand why the breed got popular, and then declined in popularity.    I will address more of that in the future.

I am addressing this  topic of information in the pet industry  because of what I am dealing with  now.

I recently worked for a dog business, as many people know, owned by a business woman who thinks she is a dog lover, but who has never trained a dog, nor actually worked cleaning or  observing a playgroup in her own kennel.  She had a vision of how large she wanted her facility to appear, and how much she wanted to make, and, once again, trusted  people who  were taking her money, instead of people who knew dogs. She has asked me to never mention the name of the business in my blog because she claims I say too much negative.  If it weren’t the truth, I wouldn’t spend the time. You can’t make this stuff up.

We have had, in the 3 years since I worked for her, a 98% change in staff.   When we parted,  I had been with her longer than any other employee.  2 others who worked in the kennel had been there almost two years.  They quit within a couple of weeks after I left. With such a high turnover, organizational memory is lost.  So, new staff are constantly  doing new procedures,. reinventing the wheel,  or screwing up and having to address screw ups. The owner moved into what looks like a beautiful building  where the floors are shiny and dangerous to both humans and dogs, many dogs are afraid to walk on it. Temple Grandin addressed this in Animals in Translation, but of course, neither the owner or manager have read anything she’s written. They are business people.  The electricity is  set up in such a way that there is not enough where it is needed, and too much available where it is not.

In any case, as a groomer, who loves dogs, and loves being with the dogs, I  want my clients to be happy with their dogs. Unfortunately, for about a decade, the  pet industry—meaning retail sellers—have been bamboozling people into buying  harnesses for their dogs..and Flexi leashes.  Everyone  pays for a Flexi.  It’s hard enough to control your dogs with a harness and  six foot leash.  Harnesses are designed so the dog will not be restrained when pulling you.  I’ve addressed this before.  In any case, I am trying to get my clients to switch to Martingale collars.  This is what sighthound people  use, and more  and more hobbyists are switching from buckle collars to  Martingales because you really DO get more control—without hurting the dog!

So, I spend a lot of time talking to  my clients about their relationship with their dogs.  And I’ve gotten several good clients to switch to  Martingales over the last several months.  I’ve mentioned this to the owner and the manager.  Blah blah Blah.  Now, there is a nice looking retail space.  What do they sell?   Fancy Dog cookies.  Dog beds (at least 4 dozen in inventory).  Dog coats and toys.  NO  collars. None.  My clients—OUR CLIENTS are going elsewhere for collars.

I showed a client who owns a pet consulting business my MillerForge Curved Slicker brush,  She thought it was  amazing, it is.  I get them from  PetEdge.com.   The business owner  could sell those, too…but she selling dog cookies….or rather, there is a nice display, they are not selling (nor are the dog beds).

I show my clients how to brush their dogs. This is something the breeder (yes, that includes the idiot backyard breeders who constantly post on Craigslist in every city—people who claim they are NOT breeders!) should show them how to do.  If not the breeder—all these shelters and rescues that also want good homes for  the dogs they adopt out, should   address brushing, feeding, a care schedule, what shots will cost in the future—but not a one does.  You bond with your dog  by grooming it.  These people disrespect  hobby breeders—or they throw them in with the lot of puppy mills.  You could not call Fred Alderman irresponsible.  He  was and is not breeding the dogs that wind up in shelters.

Whatever. It is up to groomers to address all these things.  Grooming, nutrition, finding a good veterinarian,  good websites and YouTube videos on dog care—particularly training.  It is up to us to  sell THE FEATURES OF THE EQUIPMENT WE USE.  The sales  clerks and managers at all these pet stores are not going to sell the dog owning public what they need.

The hobby breeders are telling the puppy buyers to return to them for grooming as so few  pet groomers have the experience or talent to groom their breeds.  I can’t blame them.  However, it is those hobby breeders who actually got our pet grooming industry started.  All those designer dogs that the puppy mills and backyard breeders are putting out  won’t keep us afloat for so many reasons, including  being poorly bred and having genetic issues, and the owners  coming to the understanding that  that fluffy fantasy puppy wasn’t as much fun to take care of as they hoped, or was way more expensive than they dreamed (I  went from having Afghan Hounds to Whippets partly because of time commitment,and partly expense).  What am I saying?  We have to  be in touch with and more friendly with hobby breeders breeding for the betterment of their breeds.  We have to join more kennel clubs.  We have to work with the  organizations that say they want permanent homes for all pets.If the business owners really cared, they  would  be more holistic about addressing  dog car to every  dog owner who walked through the dog.  They are not, and it is up to us.

A tale of 3 Purebred Dog Breeds—and How They Are Now: Miniature Schnauzers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Portuguese Water Dogs

October 24, 2014
Miniature Schnauzer before grooming

Miniature Schnauzer before grooming

Recently I read an article in a dog magazine about what happens when a dog wins Best in Show at Westminster, in New York.  First of all, for those who  don’t know, Westminster (“The Garden”)  has been considered an important show for decades because space is limited, so your dog has to qualify to enter.  The Tournament of Champions, sponsored by Eukanuba, has a similar  system.  In any case,  this is one of the few dogs shows  where the Best in Show winner makes national news, and people who are interested in getting a dog, but have no idea what they want,  say to themselves, “I never heard of a (Scottish Deerhound or Kerry Blue Terrier, or  Papillon),  why don’t I check into that.”

Very often, people looking for THAT BREED contact the owner of the Best in Show winning dog.  So, that owner/fancier has to feel prospects out, and, in many if not most cases, try to discourage them.  Why would a breeder discourage someone from wanting one of her puppies?  Good question!  It’s because hobby breeders are not breeding dogs as livestock, but for the betterment of their breed.  They know that not everyone who thinks they want one  actually understands what they are getting into.  A good breeder will tell them.  A Newfoundland breeder  addresses how most Newfies drool, how much they eat, poop, and shed, and that they must be obedience trained.

There is a culture among fanciers in every breed.  Some, like the Whippet  people, are generally very friendly towards each other.   In some breeds, however, there is a lot of gossip and slander, and you wonder how they get anything accomplished.  In some breeds,  when they recognize a problem, they band together to solve the problem.  In other breeds, denial is the rule of the day—like with deafness in Dalmatians (and Bernese Mountain Dogs, Gorden Setters—the  ‘piebald/harlequin’, merles, and black and tan pattern dogs).

Miniature Schnauzers have always been popular.   They are a small breed, but not a ‘toy’ breed. They  generally don’t shed. They are easily trained, and are known to be good with kids.  They started becoming popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  My mother said that if we got a dog, it would have to be a non-shed dog.  Her personal list was narrowed down to either a Poodle or a Schnauzer.

Back then, with so few dogs being bred, if Juvenile Cataracts (JC) were a problem, it was not recognized as genetic. According  to a well known  Miniature Schnauzer breeder, Dale Miller:
“Regarding  the JC, the big push was about 35 years ago (circa 1975), and most all AMSC members tested their dogs.  There were a couple important studs that turned out to be carriers, so that meant that the problem really spread before and during that time.  Although almost all of us still have each and every puppy checked, that particular problem has been for all intents and purposes, wiped out.  But we remain ever vigilant, as all dogs weren’t tested, and who knows when it could slip back into someone’s line.  There are other eye problems that have cropped up in the breed, PRA, Retinal dysplasia, but I have never dealt with it, and I’d say it is not very common because everyone is making every attempt to avoid it.  JC is easy, PRA is not, because it doesn’t appear until 3-5 years of age.  It’s very hard to get some people to admit to problems when they have them, which I’m sure you know.”

You might be wondering how initial testing was done.  Cooperating veterinarians (and even many breeders) found enough  blind  Min. Schnauzer bitches  to test stud dogs who were not known to be carriers.  If puppies  turned out  to be blind or going blind (they were  examined by veterinary ophthalmologists  at about 8 weeks of age), the stud was no longer used—often being sold as a pet, and the pups were  sold without AKC papers…the breeders explaining to the buyers why they were being sold without papers.  Unfortunately, not everyone cares about breeding good dogs…and many of those puppy buyers really didn’t care if their dog was blind  due to genetics, or a carrier of genetic blindness. Many of these owners  started finding each other, or contacting  American Min Schnauzer Club members to  BREED THESE DOGS!

Horrified, the breeders started  doing early neutering,  We now know that some of these dogs would  never be physically mature without the hormones, and many would turn out to be incontinent (due to  botched operations).  The hobby breeders felt they had to  address the problem.  How are things now (2014)?  We  occasionally see  dogs as young as  three or four with a cataract.  We know this is genetic.  We also see this in other breeds (Poodles) and designer dogs.  But  we also see that there are  two types of Miniature Schnauzers:  those  ‘salt & pepper, about 13″ dogs’  that  are not quite show dogs…maybe too tall or too small, or  with bad fronts…and we see the  ones bred by  either backyard breeders or puppy mills—often parti-colored, with odd coat textures.  It’s actually 2 breeds.

I had  a friend who, in the early 1970’s,  started showing Cavalier King Charles spaniels when they were in the Miscellaneous Class.  There was a big disagreement among fanciers.  A good many did NOT want them to become an AKC breed, as they knew their popularity would explode.  Back then,  popularity was the issue, not luxated patellas, Juvenile Cataracts, heart, or brain problems.  Virtually all the  dogs were imported from England.  Because the breeders  just assumed buyers had integrity—and because these early fanciers  chose to ignore what happened in other popular breeds, puppies were sold outright with no contracts.

This is how it happens:  you buy a puppy, and you lose your job, or your  mother dies, or you get divorced.  Your life goes into upheaval, you have to move, and you can not keep the dog.  You might have tried to contact the breeder, and she didn’t return your phone call, or she moved.  You put an ad in the paper (there was no Craigslist back then…no internet), and some very nice person who had done a little research, buy your dog.  Either that person then breeds  and sells  puppies directly to pet shops, or she breeds her dog (stud owner just sees stud fee, doesn’t ask any questions)  and sells the puppies to Hunte Corps—or any other puppy mill.  & this is how puppy mills get dogs of good bloodlines.

Andrew Hunte, CEO of Hunte Corp…”the leading distributor of high quality purebred puppies to retail outlets in the US, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, and Asia…” Recently wrote (Pet Business, July 2014) that the real ramifications of the ban on live animal sales (in pet shops) will have the unintended consequences of —“well, basically, in so many words, the backyard breeders &  less scrupulous puppy mills ripping people off.  Really.  That’s what he said.  What these commercial breeders who defend the practice of breeding dogs as livestock ignore is that anyone can walk into a retail pet store (or any of these no-kill’ shelter, I might add) & if they have cash or a credit card—they get a puppy.  The other people they live with  might  not have wanted a puppy. They might be renters ignoring a lease. They might not have time for a puppy.  None of this matters.  But it does matter to the hobby breeder.  I bought a dog last year that the breeder insisted on co-owning with me…in case something should happen to ME—she wanted to be sure she had a legal claim to the dog  I bought from HER.  Do you think any pet  retailer cares this much?

This is what happened to Shih Tzu, Bichons,  virtually all the toy breeds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and  most recently, Neopolitan mastiffs, Dogue de Bordeaux, Cane Corso, French and English Bulldogs and Boston Terriers.

The Portuguese Water Dog Fanciers mostly came from other breeds, and they saw this.  Even with a very small gene pool (their original breeding stock came from fewer than 30 dogs, rounded up off the streets in Portugal), they didn’t want to take any chances of  people getting breedable dogs who didn’t have the welfare of the breed at heart.  You can read their code of ethics on their  website.  If you breed a Portie and sell it, and the owner no longer wants it, YOU are responsible for that dog.  If you don’t take responsibility, the club rescue committee will, and YOU will be fined. Y0u don’t comply, and nobody breeds to your dogs.  With such a small gene pool, this matters a lot.

With other rare breeds, it is more informal.  You do  sometimes hear  of sighthounds bred to dogs not of their breed (lurchers), but it is rare.  Also, you rarely find  Gordon Setter or Briard mixes.  I fear with a bad  economy in the USA, it will take just  one move or TV show featuring a rare breed, and it will be all over for that breed.
This is what happened to French Bulldogs.

So, this is how it happens that a breed you never heard of  is sudden;y available in pet stores.  If the dog does have any crippling defects, maybe the pet store will reimburse you. Maybe not.  A hobby breeder may offer another dog…it depends on your contract./ Let the buyer beware.

Changes in Local pet Businesses, for Better or Worse

October 10, 2014
These are our pets!

These are our pets!

I originally published remarks about some businesses  in 2009–, because I was so outraged by how several local businesses treated dogs.  Some things have changed, and  since  people Google businesses, I  felt  everyone  was owed an update.

You just can’t assume that people in the pet industry really love pets and really care for them.  I get so many hits on this particular blog, which I posted in 2009, that I decided to re-edit and update it.   It has to do with people  who are active in the pet industry.  Believe me, they are not all pet lovers. They are not pet haters…but because they make their livings from either breeding or caring for pets, the public  thinks they do love pets more then the pet owners love their pets.  Some of the ‘integrity challenged’ seems to have a lot of time on their hands to just be evil.

There is now a  Facebook site called  Flagging Animal Sales on Craigslist.    We have a network of people around the country. Some may even be dog breeders…but they are not selling on CL, which prohibits animal sales.We repost the links (to the animal selling posts)on our feeds, and ask people to flag.  I am not sure how effective we are, but  we may be.  I get fewer emails from  animal sellers, but  people seem to be joining our ranks.  For those who do not know, California prohibits internet sales of pets. That’s where Craigslist is housed.  Craig and  the  founders felt that the site should be for older pets, so they wouldn’t have to compete with baby animals for homes.  Unfortunately, the ‘law of the commons’ relies on integrity—and  animal sellers generally have none, You will rarely find ethical hobby breeders posts. yes, sometimes, some hobby breeder  doesn’t read the rules,  but  most would be horrified to use a free website—as it attracts the wrong kind of potential owner.

I had reported people leaving fake reviews on a PETFINDER site, and the response from Jamie Cook at Discovery Channel/www.petfinder.com  I had asked them to  either remove the negative comments on my  site, “Robyn’s Groom Room”—as they are libelous—because  the people who posted them are not my clients & never have been—they are irresponsible breeders libeling me, & this is how  Cook responded:

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to remove the ratings posted for your grooming service.  One of the many features that our directory offers is the opportunity for users to post ratings, both good and bad, about the businesses with which they have had experiences. We don’t censor these ratings as that negates the purpose of offering them. If we remove negative ratings for businesses then we are not portraying an objective and well rounded service for Petfinder.com visitors.

“We highly encourage you to have clients who are happy with your office and the services they received  post their own positive ratings. Simply have them click the following link, then click on the Rate it! link and enter their comments: http://resources.petfinder.com/listing/robyns_groom_room.html.

“The other option would be to remove your listing completely from the Petfinder.com Local Services & Supplies Directory. This would remove all information about your business, including any ratings that have been submitted, so any users who are looking for a groomer in your area would not see your information. If you would like to go with this option please let me know and I will remove your listing immediately.”

That’s right.  He totally ignored what I told him.  I told him to ask the people who libeled me for veterinary receipts.  Yes—several claimed I injured their dogs!  I told him, since I  don’t take new clients who live over  5 miles from me, unless they mail me a deposit  (because they tend to not show up), to ask these people where they lived.  I asked him to  ask them what colors my grooming room  are (people have commented on my color choices—so they don’t forget it).  But nothing—no response.  Petfinder is going about happily believing  every  poster has a bit of integrity.  I shudder to think how many rescues that post are actually  puppy mill outlets—but I guess we’ll never know.  They clearly don’t do any ‘due diligence’—relying on the integrity of any poster.  The update on this is that we keep finding  ‘fake’ dog rescues…where people get  dogs to rehome, often doing no health check, and not screening adopters.  Neither PETFINDER nor  http://www.adoptapet.com do any due diligence. that’s the way it is,  let the buyer (or adoptor) beware….  As of 2014, no more businesses can post, They’ve closed this part of Petfinder.  I guess they realized what I said was true..

I had taken a grooming job for a  business, because I saw the potential….  and  the location was somewhat close to  some of my former grooming clients, and  the owners of the business lied to me.  Of course, I was able to determine that they lied to me right away.  The business is Yuppy Puppy, Inc., in Lake Bluff, Illinois.  They  originally set it up to do dog daycare, but realizing they could not make  enough money doing that, they also do overnight boarding. They are licensed to keep up to 85 dogs overnight.  Licensed?  By The Illinois Department of Agriculture, of course.  The laws pertaining to dog boarding, dog daycare—indeed, even puppy mills—-are so poorly written, that unless the building is dangerous for humans to occupy—you get a license.  That’s how it is in Illinois.

The business is  (was) owned by the Whitakers:  Peter, the father, & Lucy & Simon, the son & daughter. Thing is—Lucy got married & moved out of state, & Simon is about to do so.  This leaves Peter, who clearly  isn’t  really a dog enthusiast. He is a businessman.

Update—very important!  This business was sold several months ago  (early 2014)to Walter Puterbaugh, and he has made phenomenal changes!  I stopped by the business as I  check Yelp! reviews, and  a change of ownership was indicated.  Walter and his fiance, Janae,  obviously know way more about dogs that the Whitakers ever cared to learn.  They have done an amazing build out that will alleviate a lot of stress on the dogs.  If you are looking for dog daycare  in the northern suburbs of Chicago, I urge you to check them out. Granted, they are still totally indoors, but the set-up is so much  better!  Only the name is the same.

I’ve never been overly fond of  the concept of dog daycare, but  having worked in some  outstanding kennels (check out Pawsatively Heaven Pet Resort in Chicago Ridge, Ill., or Paradise for Paws, in Schiller Park, ILL), I’ve softened.  Some dogs  have a lot of energy, and love being part of a pack.  I see dogs playing together all the time.

I have been working for the same employer for  about three years.  We recently moved the  operations to a new building.  There are some very nice aspects to  this, and in some ways it is better (for the humans, at least), but I am not sure it is better for the dogs.  Our indoor floors are shiny and slippery, and our outdoor play area is mush smaller.  We no longer have a huge pool, which was a big selling point in the old building.  The fact is that most of the large dogs don’t really  run around that much—but they might if their footing was more solid and they had more space.

One guy I had worked for briefly and blogged about, Vaughan Neita, “A Doggie Business,” is OUT OF BUSINESS.  He was charged with ‘neglect of owners duties’  ( animal cruelty) and word spread.  You can Google him, the links are still up.

Plus, a bit of unhappiness….a business I worked for on contract for several years, recently suffered very bad local attention. They were “The Hungry Pup,” and changed their name several years ago to “Follow Your Nose.”  They offer natural dog foods, dog walking, and overnight pet sitting.  I had trouble working for them because they  would not address their web marketing, nor procedures so I would know  several days in advance what I was doing—or even if I had any work (grooming), but I had to give Dave Gulyas credit for being able to schedule so many dog walkers.  I mostly did over night pet sitting.  Problems started to arise when  more and more people  started asking for ‘vacation care’ rather than overnight pet sitting—because they didn’t want to pay extra to have someone stay in the house.  I didn’t think the Gulyas’ should allow this, because there was no way the last walk would  occur after 9 p.m.  and the first walk would be before 8 a.m.—and that is too long an interval for most dogs. But also, what kept the dog walkers honest changed:  When the Gulyas’ started the business, everyone had a landline at home. so, when you arrived to walk a dog, you’d call in to  Dave (a computer would take the call), and 20 minutes later, after the walk, you’d call in to say you were leaving, You had to wait 20 minutes  for the interval, you may as well walk the dog.  I don’t want to get into the complications of getting a dog suited up, the keys, possibly cleaning up, or the dog not eliminating on the walk. The point is, you called in from the client’s phone.   As people  got rid of their land lines, you’d supposedly call in from your cell, but I knew the Gulyas’ were not keeping track, and often, I’d be the next walker and see the previous walker hadn’t shown up!  Well, it came to a head, recently.    A dog walking client didn’t want to pay for overnight pet sitting.  He set up a ‘nanny-cam‘ that was  set to alert him (on his cell phone) to movement in his home—and he discovered  the interval was 18 hours.  A walker  had not shown up.    Worse, when he did, he  dismantled the nanny cam!  The Gulyas definitely know who did this, and I would sue the evil eunuch for  sabotaging my small business if this was my employee.     Frankly, several friends and I wondered why he didn’t keep the dogs in exercise pets, which  would have given the dogs a bit more room, but that’s another issue.   I am sure he  alerted the Gulyas’, but what can they do?  That’s the problem with running a dog walking business:  you rely on the integrity of the employees….and, unfortunately, the people who are doing this often are doing this because they can’t get other work.  What this client DID was contact local news media…and this was definitely not good for a business that was already marginal.  I often referred people looking for dog walkers to  this business, as I really trust Dave & Ramie…but the fact of the matter is, unless you can learn from the business owner how you can be assured your dog will be walked….look for as many options as you can, including friends and neighbors who live close by.  or, if it is  a occaisional thing,  get your dog used to dog daycare…or at least day-boarding.  For those who own dog walking businesses—if you change the walker’s routes every day, the statistical odds of all your walkers being  immature, self-centered assholes are  slimmer.   Labor intensive?  Overkill?  These are peoples’ pets.  They may be spoiled, out of control, hard to handle, but  I know hiring a dog walker may be a last resort before abandoning a pet. Actually spot checking the walkers you hire helps.  I understand people wanting the same walker, and  dogs being familiar with who is coming in (believe me—none of these dogs is a watch dog), but  face it—-most people have less integrity than you have, not more.

 

Morphology—is the dog what it looks like?

August 29, 2014
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.

I usually don’t even think about it.  I look at a dog and assign a type and it works for me.  I got to thinking about it because of a study I read by the National Canine Research Council, titled How Long Before  we Discard Visual Breed identification ?    The gist is that they feel veterinarians and shelter personnel will ‘better serve’ clients by not assigning breed to mixed breeds based on morphology:  that is, how they appear.  No reason is given in the paper, but I bet a lot has to do with  prejudices about certain breeds held by the general public. The past decade or so, genetic testing has become quite popular—but in reality, we really have no  idea how accurate these tests are.  I mean—do they really have a  gene pool for Beuacerons or Boykin Spaniels?  How about Black Russian Terriers, which have been around  as a pure breed less than 50 years?  I have read reports that  the genetic tests are only about 35% accurate.  The issue then becomes:  why even  bother if you’re not going to breed the dog?  And why would you even consider breeding a mixed breed dog with no  factual genetic information?

I was going to  get my last  Saluki tested—-but for what?  I trusted the integrity of the  breeders of this dog—as well as the breeders of his ‘ancestors’.  That’s what really counts—not  a genetic test by some lab somewhere where we have no idea how accurate THEY are!

No–the point is—the reason we assign ‘breed’,is so our  database records, we DO have some idea of morphology:  size, coat type, temperament.  As an example:  we have a Cairn mix that comes in for boarding.  Maybe it’s not a cairn. No matter. That’s what it looks like, Actually, it looks like a Podengo Piqueno.  No joke, but more of my co-workers know what a Cairn is.

We have Malinois come in that are classified as shepherd mixes, and some  Doodles that  look like Portuguese Water Dogs…and do the Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs look like a purebred dog?  or the Berger Picard?

I have to remind people that not every dog that looks cute, is, and not every dog that doesn’t look cute is not.  You have to get to know individual dogs.  Salukis and Afghans are generally going to be aloof…maybe even shy.  The terriers are generally going to be in your face.

 

Too Many Good Dogs—& yeah, you DO want a show dog…

July 31, 2014
purebred Puli in cords.  you don't see them in pet shops. the breeders tend to be careful who they sell breedable dogs to.

purebred Puli in cords. you don’t see them in pet shops. the breeders tend to be careful who they sell breedable dogs to.

 

Last year, one of my old dogs died.  An opportunity to make a good choice in  adding another pet. While I feel bad for the many dogs in shelters, there were no Whippets in area rescues or shelters.    That’s what i wanted:  a dog to possibly fun race, do lure coursing, obedeince, rally.  A QUIET dog  who shed little.  I  knew exactly  what I wanted. Using my network, I located a breeder—a hobby breeder—who  is known for taking back dogs when owners don’t want them. In reality, most  Whippet breeders do this if they know a dog they bred becomes displaced, but Linda Larsen makes a special request, and has buyers sign a contract.   She often buys the dog back.

Dash  was returned because he chased the cat.  We  drove out to  nowhere (Rochelle, Illinois) to see him.   He and my other  Whippet, Bebop, seemed ok with each other, and after I returned from a brief trip, I returned for  Dash.  I always thought he was too tall to race (we measure dogs before every race, because the whole point is to breed good race dogs, and that they be uniform), so I didn’t  really think about it.  An opportunity came for a field trial (he ended up getting his preliminary title of Junior Courser, then Qualified Courser) and I decided to measure him at home with a yardstick and a comb—and he seemed  to not be oversize to me. So, I  called Linda, ans she said, “Oh, he will measure in, for sure!”

Yes, he has now measured in several times, I have no fear of driving 100 miles and being disqualified  for measuring out.  That said, why was he sold as a pet?  There are not enough people who want to show a dog in conformation.

As a groomer, I see dogs like this  virtually every day.  Mostly the popular breeds, of course, but dogs that would be show dogs if the breeders could have found  owners so inclined.  Yes, it’s expensive to show a dog between entry fees and  gas, and sometimes staying over in a hotel.  The thing is, if you saw dogs of your breed, chances are, even if they were  pet quality dogs with conformation faults, you  got a general idea of size, coat, shape, and personality.  Except for the breeds that are bred to be deformed (all the bracheocephalics:  Bulldogs, Pugs,  Frenchies, Bostons, Daschshunds), if you are getting a show dog, you are getting a  sound dog:  a dog bred to do what he was originated to do, and generally healthier than any designer dog.  I don’t know where the prejudice started  that show dogs aren’t good pets.  Most show dogs ARE pets!  They  just work, and are trained by their owners  to behave.

Why would anyone take a chance on any dog—particularly a puppy bred for the market—for money alone, when you  can get a dog bred for the betterment of the breed…especially if you are attracted to that breed?  Why would you go on Craigslist, Ebay, or another website & just throw a dart at anyone posting, trusting them to act with integrity.  I see so many unhealthy purebred dogs, mostly merles (in color), deaf, sometimes blind, bred for the market  by  what we call backyard breeders. some even proud that their puppies have blue eyes!.  Why are people so trusting of these people who are just breeding for profit?

You need to know  that  the dogs that hobby breeders keep are  often a dog kept as a show prospect that either grew too large, or not large enough, or developed a bad bite or front—BUT—the breeder worked with this dog. she groomed and trained this dog.  the breeder cared about this dog.  So, why isn’t the breeder  marketing this dog?  Or the retired show dog?  She cares too much about the dog, and  wants YOU  to do the research and  really seek out the dog!

Yes, I reel really really bad for the many dogs—particularly the Pit Bulls, but all the dogs bred by the slick  morons and thugs looking for ‘xtra income’.  & if you  have tons of money and don’t mind taking the gamble, and aren’t particular about  size, temperament, personality. or the dog’s general health, go for it, Many shelters and rescues do an excellent job of evaluating  abandonded dogs so they can find good homes for them,.  However, we have found that for every one of those, there are five who  just want to save dogs and don’t  do any evaluation.  Plus, that  dog may end up costing more than a retired show dog, or the dog that didn’t make it to show.  Be skeptical.

Groomers: Good intentions are not enough

July 4, 2014
This is a mix of a Pit bull and a Shih Tzu--- can you guess what they call it?

This is a mix of a Pit bull and a Shih Tzu— can you guess what they call it?

 

 

I work for a kennel that offers  dog daycare and grooming.  The owner  often asks me how I get information.  I network.  I train my dog. I attend performance events.  I also  volunteer.

You would think that all groomers love dogs and  I believe that most of us do.  However, for a lot of us, there’s a limit to how much we can love.  some do not want to know any more than what they’ve already learned.  They do  other things—non-dog related things on their time off.  When I started grooming over 40 years ago, it was not this way. Everyone who groomed  either showed a dog in conformation or obedience, or  did tracking of field trialing.  There was no internet. It was the only way to learn.

I try to volunteer  for shelter dog washing events.  I usually cut toenails since I can do it quickly without hurting a dog.  I’ve volunteered  for animal shelters that have physical facilities.  Shelters where  I know  the boards of directors and people involved in the actual care of the animals. I know their policies.

What’s happened in the last  30 years or so is that  small rescue groups have sprung up.  The people who form these organizations either don’t like the policies of the animal shelters (particularly that they will euthanize  animals found unsuitable to be pets) and think they can either do a better job, or can save more animals.  This is what has  gone down in the metro Chicago area in the  last couple of years:

1.  Purrs From the Heart was a cat rescue.  They actually set themselves up as a  non-profit registered in the state of Illinois, I   made a donation-in-kind to them. Upon a random audit (by a state agency connected with the Illinois Department of Agriculture) it was found that they took  90 cats from Chicago Animal Care & Control (this is an open admissions pound which cooperates with  private shelters & rescues) which they could not account for.  No records? Trapped/neutered/released?   Given in bunches to kitten killers?  used as bait  for dog fighters? Were any spayed or neutered? No information is available;

2.ROMP—Rescue Our Mill Pups.  This is a private rescue run by Italian Greyhound breeder Liz Dobryzinski.  She says right on her web page that  she is NOT nonprofit. She will take in IGs, but she  will also buy  puppy mill  dogs to ‘rehome’.  She really does a very good job of this, and screens carefully….but is it rescue when you  pay for  a dog & don’t put the breeder  out of business?  One of our mutual friends defended her, stating not everyone could pay $1200 for an IG. Did they not deserve a dog? My response  was, “When that pup develops luxated patellas, and the operation to fix them costs  $2500 per knee, that  $1200 dog from OFA parents  seems like a bargain. Does she tell  buyers that  there is a good chance that the pup will turn out to have luxated patellas?  Or—that if they don’t crate the dog and use operant conditioning to get the dog housebroken, that it will never be housebroken?”

3.  Christine Poyner a/k/a Poyner Pet Rescue & Steppingstones for Pets is still in business, and licensed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture as not just a breeder, but a shelter.   A private shelter.  She’s a great business woman, buying low and selling high, but she is in violation of Ill. Dept of Ag laws about rescues including shots & NEUTERING in their fees.

4.  Wright-Way, in Morton Grove, Illinois, continues to  buy  pups( and rarely adult dogs), from  out of state, from dog pounds known to take surplus commercially bred dogs from puppy mills, ignoring the many locally  available dogs.  They rarely do any screening, any follow up on spay/neuter, and lie about the soundness of their dogs.  Although volunteers tell me they ALWAYS take dogs back, we know they tell  BUYERS (you can hardly call them adopters) to bring their dogs to OPEN ADMISSIONS  shelters if they don’t want them.    I thought it was my  skeptical imagination, but ah, no.  I learned from someone who volunteered with them, and also from a client who had no idea that they were not OPEN ADMISSIONS.

5.  Unnamed Rescues.  We have several that go by ‘adopt-a-pet and ‘save-a-pet’ but completely rely on volunteers to foster.  They have web sites.  They often have crippled or paralyzed dogs, and this means they need their bladders expressed manually.  They will tell adoptors they will pay all medical expenses for the lives of the dogs—and then they do not.

6. PAWS Chicago.  The largest ‘no-kill’ shelter in the city.  Will take an owner surrender if they have room—and charge your $200.  Hard to tell from  an annual report how many owner surrenders they have taken in. What we do know is, although they will pull dogs from the OPEN ADMISSIONS  shelter/pounds in our area…they do NOT take all adoptable dogs, If they did, over 60% of the dogs in the shelter would be Pit Bull or Pit mix dogs. They go out of state  often to get purebred dogs, or designer mixes (remember, this is the  shelter that Oprah Winfrey put in an  order for 2  brown cocker spaniel puppies, and later, 2 springer spaniel pups).

These ‘rescues’ deride breeders.  You see all over Facebook that they say, “Don’t shop, adopt!”    Or, another  guilt causer—the photos of dogs in shelters  with the caption, “Which one do you think should die because you bought a dog from a breeder?”  They do nothing to  stop the problem.  These dogs are not coming from ‘breeders’ who are breeding for the betterment of the breed. They are coming from the many backyard breeders who don’t think if themselves as breeders.  The veterinarians love these imbeciles as much as they love the puppy mills.  If they didn’t the veterinary community would  do all they could to stop them.

Google the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America and check out their code of ethics.  Notice, you NEVER see Scottish Deerhounds, Briards, English Setters….so many breeds—-in shelters or anything but breed specific rescues. In fact,  many of the  breed rescues don’t even have a list of ‘private placement’ dogs.  The breeders take them back.  Via networking, they manage to find good homes for dogs. So, the argument that hobby breeders ar the problem is specious.

I don’t want the ignorant idiots of the world deciding what kind of dog I should live with.  I refuse to  help a  shelter or rescue that pro0motes this  ignorant way of thinking.

How do you ‘vet’ a shelter or rescue?

1.  Ask to see a copy of their nonprofit status.  If they aren’t answerable to anyone, they make their rules up as they go along.  They might be dog brokers, as the groups I’ve listed above actually are;

2.  Ask for a list of their board of directors and their contact information.  If you check around, you see some of the groups actually have  puppy mill breeders on their boards. WTF?

3.  Ask for volunteers to contact you m so you can ask them about  their experiences;

4. Ask them for their adoption guidelines.

I am always happy to  groom a dog to make it more adoptable.  It just makes no sense for  a group to pander to a hoarder or a backyard breeder who disrespects my interest in planned breeding.

Who Knows More? Veterinarian or Groomer?Dog Behavior 101

June 27, 2014

In  order to be able to groom dog, you have to be able to handle the dog. You have to have the attitude that you are in charge.  You have to know how to get control of the dog without injuring the dog, frightening the dog. You getting the dog to trust you. Everything goes more smoothly when the dog trusts the handler.  This means the handler has to have confidence, because the dogs all pick up on body language.

My brother had just gotten his veterinary degree, but he still didn’t have his license, so I asked him to help me in the shop, bathing dogs.  He asked me how I knew the dog wouldn’t bite me.  I told him I could read the dog’s body language.  “Oh,”  he responded.  “They don’t teach us about that in veterinary school..”

Funny?  Ah, no, They all seem to be afraid that every dog is going to bite them.  Unless they  have been very involved with pet animals, they seem to not trust them.  They also  don’t know any better.  I have volunteered with  people trained to be veterinary technicians who have apparently been taught to  put a dog in  his most vulnerable position to cut his nails. Why why why?

Veterinarians also don’t know that  blindness & deafness are color linked.  You don’t breed a ‘merle’ (marbled coated) dog to another merle, as this color is linked to congenital blindness and deafness.    This includes harlequin ( small black spots on a white dog) patterns in Danes and Dalmations.   The black & tan color pattern is also linked to deafness in many breeds.

Most veterinarians are trained as agricultural vets:  to work with farm animals, They’ve been taught that these animals  can endure a lot of pain, and the idea of respecting them  has never been broached in an academic setting.  In this day and age,  I think this is shameful, but  again, if a veterinarian is not a hobbyist or fancier, chances are he stopped learning   when he got his diploma.

About 20 years ago, right about the time that people started using the internet, , people who owned dogs  that had chronic  yeast infections in their ears, and  other skin issues including  foot licking, started to address diet.
By trial and error, they  started feeding  grain-free (no corn, wheat, or soy) to their dogs.  They also started experimenting with protein sources. A result is the  grain free and variable protein dog food industry.  This did not come about because veterinarians suggested this to  dog food manufacturers.  In fact, they pretty much dismissed the  hobbyists and fanciers who  wanted this addressed.   These hobbyists and fanciers , who met at ‘performance’ (obedience, rally, agility, field trials, and even conformation dog shows) shared information.

We hobbyists and fanciers have also been behind using sodium free shampoos for dogs with sensitive skin.  Oatmeal shampoos may be effective, but if sodium is exacerbating the  itchiness—it is NOT helping!  Yet, veterinarians are still  ignoring this fact!

Veterinarians are telling people to use harnesses for dogs with trachea  problems (rather than wide martingales—or—-training the dog to not pull), totally ignoring  the fact that people do not have control of their dogs. This is dangerous. They  ignore the fact that people are using  prong collars and are still not in control of their dogs.  They  don’t advise pet owners of their responsibility to test for genetic defects before they breed their dogs.

Yet, when we groomers address these issues, they  discount us.  The justification is always that they have  doctorate degrees, and I may have only been a high school graduate!

This is why I always suggest that  hobbyists/fanciers  really question their veterinarian—to find out if the  doctor they trust is on the ‘same page’ as they are.

Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, by Charles Darwin, is actually one of the first books I read on  animal behavior, but there  are now so many good books:  anything by Temple Grandin, Brian Kilcommon, Pat McConnell.  There areb so many good books and websites on dog training and understanding dogs.  There is no excuse for  working with animals and not learning how   to understand them.

 

They Just Didn’t Value the Dog: Why so Many Dogs End up in Shelters, and What the Issue Really Is

June 13, 2014

I am not the first person to recognize this. Gary Wilkes who writes about animal behavior addressed this in a recent Groomer to Groomer magazine.   He also addressed how  professional dog groomers can  help their clients address behavior issues.  There is a problem we can’t address, however: it’s  how clients regard their own dogs.  do they regard them as playthings, for amusement, or are they bonded to their pets?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, because I  work at a dog daycare business, and I am shocked at how many dogs get mid day meals.  Why would a dog  coming just for daycare—to play—need a meal in the middle of the day.  Why does this matter>?  It matters because  the best way you can bond with your dog is to feed him.  True, some dogs are not food motivated, but  they  know who prepares their food. They can smell YOU on their dish.  If they know nothing else, they know YOU are the giver of life.

When we train dogs, we talk about high value treats.  This is usually meat or cheese—something  moist and possibly messy.  Not what they get every day.  When a dog has behavior issues, many trainers suggest hand feeding the dog to  build the bond.  Yet, we have  all the clients, every day, who are requesting not that their dogs get a dog cookie, but their actual meal. they are, in effect, asking us to bond with their dog!

Some of these people just don’t know, most don’t care.  Most over feed;  more food is love.  There is no logic.  Just people assuaging their guilt at not spending time with the dog.

We have clients who fell in love with the way their dog looks, but won’t make the time to train the dog.  Or, they spoil the dog.  Sometimes,  one partner wanted the dog, and the other ‘half’ went along with the choice as appeasement, never dreaming how unhappy he’d be with the choice (I am finding this more and more with designer dogs, particularly Doodles).

Recently, in Chicago,  we’ve made it illegal to sell commercially bred  dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores.  A county -wide ban was  also passed, but is being revisited  due to pet industry lobbying our county commissioners, and apparently paying them off to get them to change their minds—asking them to RESCIND THEIR VOTE!  The  explanation to rescind the ban is that   if people can’t buy pets in pet shops, they will go on the internet, and make worse choices. This hardly seems possible. It seems that most people who buy a dog aren’t really thinking at all.  In fact, I wonder how many go to rescue events and  impulsively  choose one with a sad story. Then, I wonder how many stay adopted.

What I  questioned to the commissioners  was how many businesses would go under rather than change their business models, and how many  living wage (meaning being able to pay a mortgage and property taxes)jobs would be lost—and how much tax revenue do they generate…is it enough to  pay  for our dog pounds  which take in the  impulsively bought pets—particularly rabbits around Easter?

Unfortunately, because the  veterinary societies —these are doctors, mind you—-are telling the commissioners that not ALL the breeders are bad, that  there should be no ban on selling  pets as livestock.  Keep in mind that  veterinarians these days make much more money  off these poorly bred and cared for animals than off of  pet owners who love and care for their  pets.  Sad, but true.

We are addressing a cruel industry  in this case, selling  to  people who wouldn’t have bothered to actually  research the various sources for getting a pet, or even if the kind of pet they ended up buying was actually what they wanted.  This also leaves out  the  huge problem of backyard breeders, whom NOBODY considers breeders!  Lots of opportunities for cruelty and neglect produced by these  folks.  The irony remains that all the people involved in rescue from shelters and pounds are condemning ‘breeders’.  All I know is that none of the breeders I know—the ones showing dogs, are contributing to this  problem:  they are taking back—-often buying back—dogs they bred. The backyard breeders?  They are off the hook because the rescue  volunteers  really don’t understand that they are the problem!

Please start the conversations:  with your own veterinarian, at the dog park, with your friends and neighbors. This is how we will affect change.  Will  more dogs be saved?  Not in the short run.; this is a long run type of  problem.

 

We are losing the war…in spite of the new bans on puppy mills: Have you Googled Your Breed?

May 9, 2014
Ch. Scenario's Razzle Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki,  on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

Ch. Scenario’s Razzle Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

I wrote this article in 2008, and it was published originally in a Sighthound magazine.  I am not a dog breeder. I am a dog groomer, and I groom mostly pet dogs. In fact, if you (dog breeders) have not got a waiting list for your puppies, I may have helped you sell your pet dogs. I have referred puppy seekers to you. I have bought your pet dogs and turned several of them into champions and obedience title holders.
Unless you operate a boarding kennel and/or groom dogs, you don’t know what’s going on outside the fancy.  I had ‘Googled’ several breeds ( to find links to parent clubs) and the first site that came up was http://www.NextDayPets.com.

I recently was grooming dogs at a major pet shop chain—in an upscale demographic area, and I realized the issue I am going to tell you about is a little more serious than I originally though.

To give you some perspective on this, I want to site an article published in April, 2008 by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities[1]. Briefly, it states that since the late 1980’s households with incomes over $148,000 have increased their incomes by over 80%. Those with household incomes in the $100,000 range have increased incomes by about 30%, and those like me, with household incomes under $50,000 have remained relatively flat. I urge you to check out the report for your state.

What does that mean to YOU—a hobby breeder? Who buys your puppies? Have you been to a specialty show recently? What would you guess is the average (mode) age of most of your exhibitors? Where do you think new fanciers come from? Are there enough to maintain a gene pool in your breed?

One problem that fanciers have is that humane activists are painting all breeders, hobby or commercial, with the same broad brush. Admit it. You know in your own clubs that there are fellow ‘hobby’ breeders who always have a litter, offer stud service to any bitch owner, and pooh-pooh the idea of testing for genetic defects. They don’t ask people who come to buy a puppy if they own their own homes (rescues often ask for a mortgage document), if they can meet everyone in the household to make sure they all want a dog, if they can afford grooming and veterinary care, when they will find time for training, or who will be the primary care giver. As long as we tolerate that lack of interest in our dogs and the puppies we breed (breeding out of love for the breed—or so we say), we are not going to change the hearts & minds of the humane activists. It matters not a bit if your bloodlines are excellent and your dogs are free of all known genetic defects if you don’t screen homes carefully and put contracts for neutering on your pups sold as pets, and ask that they be returned to you if they are not wanted.

A foundation Portuguese Water Dog breeder told me that the breed was started in the U.S, with less than 50 dogs. Hardly a gene pool. Yet, with careful breeding practices, and agreement on the ethics of what was being bred and sold, the breed is no longer in danger. The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America has one of the strictest codes of ethics of any parent club. They mandate that if you want to participate in breeder referral, you have to adhere to their guidelines. This includes taking back an unwanted dog you’ve bred within weeks of the dog becoming unwanted or the club fines you. How do they enforce this? The culture of the club is that they all want to protect the breed. Breeders ask people tough screening questions, and screen homes to make sure they can afford to care for a PWD, and let pet buyers know why puppies come with neutering contracts, or are being sold neutered.

We fanciers  have to market better, and more responsibly. There are very few good homes for pet Afghan Hounds. The late Fred Alderman of Dynasty Afghans used to make potential puppy buyers come out and spend a day grooming with him. He rarely made a bad sale. Do YOU do that?
Do you offer a rebate to a puppy buyer once they show you proof of spay/neuter, or proof of graduation from a novice obedience class? Would you consider refunding ½ the purchase price if they titled the dog? Do you invite pet owners to your picnics and fun events? Do you support your breed’s rescue? Do you know if the veterinarian you have such a great relationship with is on your side?

The puppy mill breeders have slick websites, and have learned how to market on the Internet. A novice fancier will have a hard time finding you on the Web.

The three main issues we fanciers have are:
1. How to compete with the puppy mills for buyers;
2. How puppy mills get your blood lines, and
3. Educated elites (in that $200.000+ household income range) are choosing hybrids….’deisgner’ dogs, being told by veterinarians that they are healthier.

I’ll address the puppy mill issue first. Some breeds, we know, are genetically vulnerable. There are fewer than 1,000 of the breed registered with kennel clubs providing studbook services every year. While I understand that the fanciers want to turn this around, breeding more dogs is not going to solve the problem if you don’t have the fanciers who want the dogs.

The top 20 breeds are always available at the Petland stores, including scent hounds. How do you think the puppy mills got their original breeding stock? If they didn’t but a dog from you directly, you sold a pet, didn’t mention neutering, the people decided the dog wasn’t for them. They didn’t call you (or maybe they did and you were too busy or didn’t have room for this pet dog you put out into the world), so they either put an ad in the paper or on Craigslist and some very nice people who happen to run a puppy mill got the dog—with AKC papers! The nice puppy mill folks might have even come to your house and bought the dog directly from you, but you didn’t want to be nosy and ask what their plans were for the dog, or they answered all the questions perfectly. Now, your blood lines are being sold to whomever has the cash. Last time I checked, the 2 Basset Hound Rescues in Illinois had over 80 dogs. Ask them where the dogs came from.

Now, if you think withholding AKC papers until the dog is neutered will stem this irresponsible breeding—guess again. As I said, the corporate chain pet supply store I worked at is in an upscale area, where household incomes are well above the $250,000 category. This is often correlated with advanced education. In the first two weeks I worked in the store, every new puppy client (over 20) was a hybrid designer mix:
A ‘Shnorkie’. ‘Goldendoodle’, ‘Shihpoo’, ‘Maltipom’. For every one of these designer hybrids, that’s a purebred dog that did not get placed. Don’t be smug, Deerhound Fanciers: all it will take is some marketing genius to breed a Deerhound to a Goldendoodle to make ‘doodles’ calmer. None of us are immune, especially not if a dog appears on TV or in a movie, and a person who breeds dogs as livestock gets a hold of our breeds. The AKC is out of the picture on this. Maybe in another demographic, people are demanding AKC papers at the pet shops, but not in my ‘hood. Why did these people make these choices? I know for a fact that many owned purebred dogs with genetic issues, and they spent a lot of money with veterinarians. When that purebred dog died, the veterinarians suggested that purebreds were too inbred and not genetically healthy, and that mixed breeds have hybrid vigor (never mind that your vet might have had a mere five minutes of genetics. DO YOU KNOW HOW YOUR VETERINARIAN FEELS ABOUT PUREBRED DOGS?

For all those who say that those people who are so unscrupulous aren’t breeders, I hate to tell you this, but if you own the bitch at the time of whelping, that makes you (them) the breeder. The only thing you’ve got going for you is your integrity. That’s the only difference.

So what do we do now?

In Chicago, aldermen recently  the notion of mandatory spay neuter. Bob Barker, came to talk. We had no celebrities (someone mentioned Bill Cosby) on our side. Fortunately, a few informed people were able to make the case that we would not stem the tide of dog bites or unwanted animals because the people breeding the most don’t even take their dogs to veterinarians, and many others are bred outside the city.  It took us almost  eight years to get the law banning sales of commercially bred  pets  passed.
Whew! That was close! What would make tremendous sense is for you to start micro chipping every dog you have & every puppy you sell—-, and then demand that when dogs enter shelters, they be scanned & the breeder given the opportunity to redeem the dog for a small fine, or pay a larger fine for having the shelter adopt out (or euthanize) the dog. I am sure the puppy mill industry will jump right on this—because they are also convinced that their dogs don’t wind up in shelters. Since chipping is less expensive than neutering, who wouldn’t think this practical and a good compromise?

Another thing you have to do is check with your specialty clubs and find out how visible your websites are. You will have to pay for a ‘pay per click’ service, to get your contact info above http://www.nextdaypets.com . If you have money for a trophy fund, you have money for this. I am aghast at the number of clubs that have money for all sorts of frivolities, and not for marketing—lest you fight over who sells a puppy. Right now, it’s none of you!

Have you insisted that your rep to the AKC address the realities of what’s happening? That they provide more services to puppy mills than hobby breeders?
I am just a dog groomer. By an accident of fate, I got a graduate degree in urban planning and policy. You need to know, that due to land rents and the cost of energy, never mind the complications of a financial market that was allowed to flimflam people unfettered, it is going to be harder for middle class people to be able to afford to properly take care of a dog. It will get worse before it gets better. I choose to groom dogs because of integrity issues. I choose purebred dogs because I wanted dogs of a certain structure and temperament. I didn’t want a surprise. Will you try to address this so I will continue to be able to afford a purebred dog?
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[1] Pulling Apart: A State by State Analysis of Income Trends, by J.Bernstein, E. McNichol, & A. Nichols, April 2008, Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, available online.