BUILDING THE FOUNDATION
Breeders, exhibitors, and trainers help pet owners establish a life-long bond with man’s best friend.
By: Norma Bennett Woolf Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |
Dog breeders know that a good dog comes from a good foundation and that a good dog-and-owner relationship begins with compatibility between the dog and the humans involved.
Teachers know that a good education comes from a basic knowledge of reading, mathematics, and science.
Dog trainers know that the bond between pet owner and pet, between owner and working dog, between handler and show dog all begin with the canine version of the ABCs - "sit," "down," "stay," "come," "don't chew the furniture," and "this is a walk, not the Iditarod."
Dog fanciers know all of these things and work hard to promote wise choices: a breed to fit the family; breeders who back their puppies with contracts and ethical breeding practices and are available to answer questions; appropriate veterinary care throughout the pup's life; and training classes where puppies and young dogs can learn good manners and adult dogs can polish their skills for competition.
One Size Dog Does Not Fit All
Dogs have been man's companions for thousands of years. Over the millennia, dogs gave up their independence and turned their skills to helping man, and in exchange, man provided food, water, and shelter. As the relationship flowered, man molded dog to fit his needs, so we have guard dogs, herding dogs, hunting dogs, draft dogs, watchdogs, companion dogs, therapy dogs, sniffer dogs, service dogs, search and rescue dogs, obedience competition dogs, agility dogs, and versatile dogs that are Jacks of many trades.
The American Kennel Club recognized 147 breeds and varieties of dogs in 1999 and recently announced several additional breeds as part of the new Foundation Stock Service. The United Kennel Club recognizes more than 300 breeds. Rare breed clubs account for many additional breeds in the US and abroad. These breeds present a smorgasbord of sizes, coat types, temperaments, exercise needs, skills, trainability, body type, and colors so that families and individuals can find just the right pet.
These breeds also mix and match to produce a plethora of part-this, part-that crossbreeds, mixed breeds, and mutts, those all-American dogs that aren't as predictable as their blueblood cousins but nonetheless can be marvelous family companions, watchdogs, obedience and agility competitors, draft dogs, and more.
Dog fanciers know that it is a mistake to think that a dog is a dog is a dog when deciding to add a canine to the household, but members of the general public may assume that size, color, coat, trainability, and exercise level don't matter as much as a wagging tail, a quick tongue, and cute face. However, studies and anecdotal evidence tell us that it does matter, that errors in selection can jeopardize the human-animal bond and result in frustration instead of joy. In many such cases, the bond withers on the vine, its potential unrealized, and the dog winds up in an animal shelter as a runaway or an owner-surrender. In others, the dog may be neglected, banished to the backyard or garage, or given away to a succession of new homes.
Recognizing that the bond between a person and a pet is among the most wonderful of relationships on Earth and that living with and understanding the behavior of another species brings humans closer to understanding our part in the natural world, NAIA endorses the following keys to development and enjoyment of the human-animal bond:
- 1. Education programs that help dog owners determine whether they have the time and energy for a dog and, if so, to help select a breed, a breeder, and a puppy that meets their needs.
- 2. Regular veterinary checkups and additional veterinary visits as needed.
- 3. Socialization and obedience training for good manners at home and abroad.
Once people decide they have the time, energy, space, and mindset to own a dog, there are dozens of breeds and mixes to consider and many potential sources to explore. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, and each its champions and detractors.
Most important is to select a breed for its behavior as well as its appearance. Energetic dogs aren't necessarily appropriate for sedate owners; independent, aloof, or domineering breeds may be unsuitable for first-time or mild-mannered dog owners; barking dogs are poor candidates for apartment living; and hard-to-train breeds may be too difficult for families to handle. Some breeds aren't especially good with small children, some have a special affinity for the elderly; and some are hard-wired to work and get into trouble if not sufficiently challenged or appropriately managed.
Physical attributes are important as well. Dogs that need frequent grooming may not fit the time or money budget of a busy family or an owner on fixed income; energetic dogs can tax a busy schedule because they need a daily workout; and the odor of oily coats or an overabundance of saliva may be a problem for a fastidious housekeeper.
If budgets are tight, size becomes an important consideration because food, supplements, veterinary care, training equipment, toys, and other expenses are higher for big dogs than for small dogs;
Books that help with breed selection include The Perfect Match by Chris Walkowicz; Your Purebred Puppy by Michelle Lowell; and the AKC Complete Dog Book. The AKC and UKC websites have breed information at www.akc.org and www.ukcdogs.com respectively, and the Dog Owner's Guide website (www.canismajor.com/dog) has information about breed, breeder, and puppy selection.
Choosing the source of the puppy is as critical to building a bond as selecting the right breed for the family circumstances. Good breeders breed only dogs that are physically and temperamentally sound and pass genetic health screenings appropriate for their breeds. They offer health guarantees, help in selecting the right puppy for the family, and advice in puppy training and care. Their puppies are whelped indoors, stay in the litter until seven weeks or more, have received at least one vaccination, and are accustomed to household noises, visitors, and other distractions and challenges from an early age.
Show and working dog breeders produce puppies primarily for organized competitions or for a particular job. Because their dogs are expected to have good manners and to have various instincts that can be honed for hunting, herding, guarding, or other purposes, they generally start with healthy stock and spend the time and money necessary to produce healthy puppies with good breed character.
Breeders of working and show dogs are happy to place puppies as pets in good homes. Because they spend much time and money in their endeavor to produce good puppies, they often charge a higher price than breeders who produce puppies simply to sell as pets.
Individuals who produce puppies to sell as pets generally do little or no genetic screening of breeding stock and may not consider health and behavior before breeding. Most often, they sell puppies to enhance their income and don't have expenses for training, show entries, pre-natal care, genetic tests, etc. Some of these amateurs produce one or two litters per year, and others operate home puppy-selling businesses.
Commercial kennels are businesses that breed puppies to sell as pets. They usually have several breeds, may sell on their own site and through pet stores, and may be licensed by state or federal government. They often do not consider temperament, genetic health, or mental soundness when breeding and do not generally provide the support offered by those who breed show and working dogs.
Dirty, run-down kennels of any type that keep breeding stock in deplorable conditions and produce sickly puppies are often called "puppy mills." These kennels may be the target of cruelty and neglect investigations by local, state, or federal agencies. Animal rights advocates frequently blur the distinctions between these kennels and responsible breeding operations in efforts to promote over-reaching animal cruelty laws and breeder restrictions.
Shelters and rescue groups have many dogs available for purchase, usually at prices far below those charged by breeders or commercial kennels. These are mostly young adult dogs, although rescues may have older dogs as well. Rescue groups tend to foster dogs for at least a week or two to assess health and temperament; to check dogs for heartworm and bring them up-to-date on vaccinations; and do some basic training and socialization. Dogs that need medical treatment, obedience training, and lots of socialization often remain in foster homes for several weeks or months before they are offered for adoption.
Shelters fall into two categories: those that handle strays for a city or county government and thus euthanize dogs after a minimum stay if they need the cage space, and those that do not kill animals for lack of space but turn down dogs when they are full. However, there is a concerted effort in the US to build "no-kill cities" where no animals die for lack of space.
Dogs in shelters fall into two categories: those that are found as strays and those that are surrendered by their owners. Dogs turned in to shelters are often jewels in disguise, but they may need an extra dose of patience, persistence, and training to get them past the problems that resulted in surrender or impoundment. These problems generally consist of normal behaviors run amok because owners did not or could not channel them appropriately.
Potential owners should expect shelters to meet the same requirements for health care, cleanliness, and socialization they expect of a show or pet breeder. Dogs acquired from overcrowded, dirty, run-down shelters where vet care is minimal or non-existent and the staff keeps no records on the individual animals are as likely to be poor choices as dogs purchased from a run-down, overcrowded, dirty kennel, rescue facility, or show kennel.
Those who choose a shelter as a source of a pet should know that dogs acquired from shelters have a high risk of being returned to shelters because the behaviors that got them in the shelter the first time often need lots of patience and care to channel or extinguish.
Choosing A Puppy
One big advantage of buying from a knowledgeable show or working dog breeder is that prospective buyers can visit the puppies while they are still in the litter and can see the by-play between these budding family companions. Breeders can evaluate each puppy as more or less outgoing, more or less energetic, more or less dominant or submissive, etc. and can guide the family choice. In large breeds, for example, females are often better for first-time owners than males because they tend to be smaller. However, a pushy female is often a worse choice than a laid-back male.
The actual choice of the puppy should be made by the adults in the family, not the children. The youngsters will fall for the cutest pup or for the one that likes to cuddle or play ball, but that pup may not be suitable for the family for a number of reasons.
The decision to spay or neuter the new pup is an important one. No one wants a surprise litter of puppies to deal with, so unless a family is committed to managing an intact dog to prevent breedings, sterilization is the ticket. Not only do the surgeries prevent unwanted litters, they prevent reproductive cancers in males and females and uterine infections in females.
Here again, responsible show and working dog breeders outshine all other puppy sources because they use strategies such as contract provisions, limited registration, withholding papers, or co-ownerships to make sure pet-quality puppies are sterilized and increase the chances that show-quality puppies will measure up before they become breeding dogs.
When Puppy Gets Home
The bond begins to form when the pup arrives at home, but it can blossom only when owners are committed to socialization and training, regular veterinary care, and common sense management of the relationship between humans and canine.
First-time dog owners (and first-time owners of new breeds) are especially vulnerable to frustrations caused by normal but unexpected dog behaviors. Responsible breeders, training instructors, and veterinarians are a font of information and advice for dealing with these frustrations and integrating the pup into the family schedule and lifestyle. At least one major study shows that, along with dogs that are acquired from shelters and those purchased for less than $100, dogs at highest risk of surrender to animal shelters are those pets that do not visit a veterinarian at least once a year or attend an obedience class. The study concluded that these risk factors may be modified by emphasis on veterinary care and basic dog training, the very considerations highlighted by responsible breeders of pets, show dogs, and working dogs, by purebred rescue groups, and by progressive shelters and animal control agencies.
About The Author
All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |