Sunday, December 28, 2008

Meet my new Christmas camera

As predicted, my holiday so far has been pretty boring. I've spent most of my time staring into space and wondering whatever happened to Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman. And then, upon learning that the cast would be up for another run if only CBS would sell the rights to the show, wondering if perhaps I chose the wrong issues to advocate in my blog. But I digress.

To shake up the monotony, my bestest poo pal Zack is here with me for the afternoon. Got anything to say to the viewers at home, Zack?

Zack: [sneeze]

Fantastic. Zack's a Shih-poo and he's adorable. I love him so much that when he jumped on the couch to see what I was up to (browsing MoT), I swiftly covered his eyes under their Muppetpoo mop and said, "Don't believe a word of it, Zacky."

But I think MoT is really getting inside my head, because I'm noticing things about Zack I didn't before. Like what he left on my rug upon arriving in my home.

Non-shedding indeed!

And then more things began to dawn on me with increasing horror. Like just how short his muzzle is, which I realized when I started hearing the wheeze in his breath.

And then, when he came wagging toward me with a big doggy grin on his face, I recoiled in shock upon realizing that Zack has an underbite. How did I overlook that snagglefang before??


Zack is a cute dog, really he is. See him here with the Angry Pig, who hates all life forms except, absurdly, dogs. (Well, it was cute until he got so excited by her that he started coughing and sneezing.) It is just a bit of a let-down when I was all set to show you guys how not racist I am, and here my favourite poo is a walking MoT stereotype.

Consider this my disclaimer part three (four? What am I at now?). MoT will ruin designer dogs for you forever. Zack is a sweetheart and I love him to bits, but I think he'd have been better off as a nice, low-shedding toy poodle. All of the cute and lovely, none of the snagglefang.

Anyone at home have personal designer dog horror stories? You know I love to hear them.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Post-Holiday Cheer

Happy holidays, all! Phew, who'd have thought the Christmas season could get so hectic? :)

Apologies for my absence... I'm spending the holidays with family, and have lately been busy scrambling to do last-minute shopping and kissing the chubby little cheeks off my newborn nephew. Now everything is thankfully settling down and I'm looking forward to a week of mind-numbing boredom. Oh, and blogging. I hope.

I'm afraid I haven't got much to report right now, except that I saw Marley & Me today. I hate movie theatres as a rule. They smell like popcorn and the collective breath of 200 snuffling people. But I broke my rule of thumb because Owen Wilson is adorable and, after all, I love the book. (Yes, I've heard all the negative rap - I love it anyway.) I bet half the people here have read it, too. If not, you're missing out. It's a lot of fun, especially if you're a (slightly sadistic) dog-savvy owner, because it seems like the poor Grogan family did everything wrong.

Buy from a slightly-shady breeder? Check! (I think John Grogan, who probably isn't very familiar with the terms, was a little too loose with the 'B' word, since it calls to mind such negative connotations and, as I say, the woman was only slightly shady. The place in the movie, however, sure looked like a BYB. Made me heave a big shudder.)
Forget to research research research? Check!
Buy the discount puppy, check!
Go into it knowing nothing about training techniques... Check. Oh dear.

The heartwarming thing is that Marley could have ended up a disaster, but he didn't. He landed in the right hands, if not the most capable hands, and they stuck by him and (eventually) managed to tame the beast (somewhat). Anyway, it's not a story about a dog - it's a story about a family that owned a dog, who was kind of crazy, and I think every dog lover should read it and make it their anti-Bible, or see the movie... Though I warn that the ending was a sob-fest in my theatre. Even the huge guy next to me pulled his cap down low and started sniffling. (He also read my book during the trailers. I know this because I left it face down on my jacket when I went to the washroom, and it was face up when I got back. I hate movie theatres so much.)

And for something more in the Muttpuppies vein, here's an article WB dug up for us. You may have to trawl, but you'll find it. Oh, you silly governor. Buy a Christmas puppy? Check! Buy a muttpuppy, secure in your belief that it will not aggravate your allergies? Check! There are so many other reasons to dislike the guy; this one is just a perk that made me snicker.

So a belated Merry Christmas, happy Boxing Day, let's all get crackin' on those post-Christmas sales and New Year's Resolutions, and I hope everybody is enjoying the holiday season.

(And for all you Jen fans keeping score, I hear Marley & Me beat out Brad's movie opening day by about $3 million.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

And now for something completely different.

Today I'm going to do something a little backward on MoT. In fact, let's talk about the merits of mixed breeding by design.

Wait wait, don't stone me!

I want to talk about outcrossing. This is something I touched on briefly in this post, but I've started looking into it a bit more since...

We know there's a problem in the dog world (and if you'd rather think there isn't, move on because this blog ain't for you). Purebreeds are becoming increasingly defective and thanks to closed registries we're whittling the gene pools down to puddles. What's to be done? How can we fix this mess we've created? Two solutions should be staring us in the face - the third remains a little hazy. I'm talking, of course, about:
A) Changing the AKC breed standards
B) Switching from closed to open registries
C) ...And outcrossing.

To start with, let's cover the history of the bobtail boxer. International Kennel Clubs recognize more than fifty breeds currently, the boxer included, with docked tails. Tails are docked for reasons of hygiene (hair matting under the rump), or for practical reasons, mainly in gundogs (whose tails can become tangled, torn and injured in the field) and working terriers (who have to maneuver in tight spaces). And, of course, we dock to meet breed standards. There are plenty of people on both sides of the docking fence, but recently breeders have been under more pressure to stop docking and cropping. There are people who'd rather be left alone to dock their dogs, people who recognize that only trained and competent professional should dock puppies, and people who think it should be banned altogether.

In the face of such a ban, one boxer breeder decided not to sit at home and complain, but to do something about it. There are a handful of breeds with a natural bobtail gene: these include Boston terriers, Pembroke Welsh corgies, Polish Lowlands, English bulldogs and Australian Shepherds. Dr Bruce Cattanach, breeder and geneticist by profession, took one of his boxer bitches and crossed her with a Pembroke corgi. This was the result:

Dr Cattanach then began backbreeding with typey purebred boxers. By the fifth generation, he had produced this:

This article can tell you about the whole process and give a play-by-play of each generation. Ultimately, Dr Cattanach introduced the natural bobtail gene and managed to breed back to "show quality" boxers. Ta-da! Somebody smart and qualified saw something going on with his breed, and had the perseverence to change the situation. More bobtails. Not only are these boxers being spread across Europe and Australia, they're recognized by the UKC.

There are other backcross projects going on. Breeders have been trying for several decades to eliminate uric acid defect in Dalmatians, a breed riddled with genetic defects. Dalmatians have suffered from uric-acid stones for over a century now; no other breeds are affected. High levels of uric acid can result in bladder stones - this is an emergency. These stones often need to be removed surgically, and high uric acid hits up just about every Dalmatian.

In the 70s, Dr Robert Schaible, a geneticist and breeder (not unlike Dr Cattamach), bred a Dalmatian bitch to a champion pointer dog in order to introduce normal levels of uric acid back into Dalmatians. The resulting pups, though they didn't look a whole lot like Dalmatians, all excreted normal uric acid levels. Dr Schaible started backcrossing, selecting one pup from each resulting litter for Dalmatian traits and low UA levels. Only the one pointer has been used, but the AKC refuses to register the backcrossed dogs in spite of the project receiving support from the Dalmation Club of Northern California (home to the Backcross Project). This project quietly persists, producing more and more Dalmatians with normal UA levels; the AKC continues to ignore it. In September 2008 the very question of discussing registry for these dogs was shot down by the parent club.

Seventh-generation backcross.

I can't help but wonder why it is the backcross developed for largely aesthetic purposes is embraced so much more widely than the backcross designed to cut back on health issues...

Should more backcrossing projects be encouraged and nurtured? Is this really an alternative, in the hands of gene-savvy, qualified breeders? Are these problems ones that could be eradicated by changing the breeding policies of purebred dogs?

Until somebody changes my opinion, I'd like to see more careful, controlled, supervised-by-scientists out- and back-crossing projects for our "emergency" breeds. The pug may be too far gone to save itself; maybe beagle genes really are the answer. Maybe the Shar-Pei needs a serious face-lift in the form of a non-wrinkled mate. Maybe this is the only hope of the Neapolitan mastiff. Who knows?

It can't hurt our breeds more than we already have.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday safety tips

There are more pressing things I could blog about at this time of year - like I could tell you how you can buy a goat for a third-world family in somebody else's name as a thoughtful gift, or give something a little different and browse through the HSUS's catalogue, or I could raise awareness for the issue of a single strand of off-white LED lights looking way more depressing than no lights at all, people. But this is a dog blog after all, and I saw some of these on the news the other night and actually heard some things I hadn't known before, so! Here is a list of tips designed to help get your pooch comfortably through the holidays.

  • Digestive troubles are the biggest complaint of dogs during the holidays, and DVM Tammy Smith says that most of this stems from eating rich holiday foods. I'm sure you guys know not to feed your pets too many tidbits - but on the other hand, guests are more likely than owners to sneak food to the dog. Make sure you warn yours not to feed your pet, and if the puppydog eyes become overwhelming, treat the pup to something nice and healthy (or at least, not unhealthy). Remember that chocolate and bones are two of the biggest food hazards. Other risky foods include alcohol and, I've heard, onions and grapes/raisins.

  • Another big danger is that your dog can be lost in all the bustle of the holidays. Try not to lose him in the confusion. Out of sight, out of mind. Your dog can have laid into the garbage and swallowed a bone before you even realize he's been absent for some time. Remain aware of his whereabouts and of potential problems.

  • Keeping your dog on his normal routine is the best way to avoid stress. You also want to make sure he's got a quiet place to retreat to where nobody will bother him, in case the atmosphere starts to stress him out. Frightened dogs can bite, sometimes not intentionally. Feed him his normal dinner at the normal time, and take him for his usual walks. Exercise will wind him down.

  • Christmas trees carry a lot of hazards! I'm lucky that I can just shut my dog out of the room where the tree is, but I'm sure he'd cause trouble if left to his own devices in there. Round ornaments can look just like a ball to a dog, and they might try to grab them off the tree. Glass ornaments can be knocked off the tree by an overactive tail, and if they shatter a dog can cut its paws on the shards. Food ornaments can be mildly toxic, and the type you find on strings - like popcorn, or berries - can cause a lot of problems if ingested. Same with tinsel: tinsel can be a nightmare, causing obstruction and intestinal strangulation. And artificial snow can also be toxic, and cause respiratory irritation. Electric cords should be taped down, out of reach, or covered, and unplugged when not in use. Tree sap can cause stomach irritation, so try not to let your dog drink out of the tree holder - you may want to put down a water dish nearby to discourage him. And needles can't be digested, so they pose another threat; they can puncture your dog's intestines. TIP: Try to "dog-proof" the room as best you can, and it's a good idea to hang ornaments out of the dog's reach, on ribbons rather than hooks, just in case. If your dog can't quite be trusted, you might want to put up a baby gate, or some small decorative fencing around the tree.

  • Toxic plants include: Christmas cactus, poinsettias, amaryllis, hemlock, holly, ivy, and mistletoe. Silk or fake plants would be a worthy investment. If not, keep everything out of doggy's reach, and clean up any dead leaves or berries fast. TIP: Bitter Apple spray is great for anything you don't want your dog ingesting, like the plants and ornaments. It's cheap and effective, and available at most pet stores.

(EDIT: It turns out poinsettias are not toxic! This is a widely-held belief, but it seems the worst that can happen is gastrointestinal distress from having ingested something alien. I wouldn't advise you let you dog scarf on poinsettias anyway because the plant will look pretty silly with half its leaves gnawed off.)

  • Anti-freeze: I'm not sure why you'd leave this lying around, but many dogs (and cats) like its sweet taste. Even a small spill, if lapped up, can be lethal. This must be treated immediately.

  • Salt and other chemicals designed to melt ice on sidewalks and roads can cause burning to your dog's pads. Try to avoid these, and wash his paws when you get home. Dog boots aren't just to make your pup look snappy, either; they'll protect his little feet. You can also get products like "Muttluks Pawstik", a moisturing balm you apply before leaving for a walk, to help protect against snow and salt.

  • It goes without saying that you should supervise a dog around any new toys for the kids! It's amazing what dogs will swallow...

Just one week to go, can you believe it? I hope all your shopping's done by now (mine isn't, oh dear). And I hope you and your families and pets have a lovely holiday - and that your dogs get everything they ask for. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lhasapoo on trial

Exhibit A. The Lhasapoo.

I won't lie. I don't actually like Lhasa Apsos all that much. They look very much like Shih-tzus to me, and it makes me suspicious. That's prejudice for you. I comfort myself with the thought that they probably don't like me either. (I know Shih-tzus don't.)

Like the Shih-poo, the Lhasapoo is a classic example of a Muppetpoo. Note the woolly, 70s shag rug texture and tan fur colour. (Also the tear staining. This crops up now and then in Muppetpoos.) And, like many other poos, there is no good reason for it to exist.

THE PROS: These dogs are capable of getting along quite well in an apartment. Not to say they won't need their daily walk; but they'll typically burn off steam by motoring around the home on those little legs of theirs, and apartments can satisfy this habit just fine.

They're capable of being decent family dogs. Of course this hinges on the socialization they receive, and the temperament of the dog in question, as it's not a consistent thing.

And lastly, unlike their Lhasa parents, their coat is relatively low-maintenence, though you're advised to take it to a professional groomer every now and then.

THE CONS: The big one? You have no reason to be crossing Lhasas. They are already low-shedding, and as far as breeds go, they're pretty healthy. Plus, they have a long lifespan (14-15+ years!) without being crossed.

Lhasas also come with some of the strongest wills in the dog world. They look like lapdogs, but they're more like cats - cranky, snobby cats. They're cunning, manipulative, obstinate and fearless, which can be a nightmare to train if you're not prepared for it. Corrections may not be welcomed, so you've got to be careful, because putting a hand on the dog can get you snapped at: they'll correct you right back! For this reason they're not considered very good around kids. They won't be teased or roughhoused with.

All this is why Lhasa devotees don't seem so enthused about the idea of mixing Lhasapoos. Like with many mixes, it's a bit of a roulette game. You can get a watered-down Lhasa, or a dog as headstrong and aggressive as its parent.

HEALTH CONCERNS? Underbite. Eurgh. This is due to the Lhasa's short muzzle. People keep saying that breeding a poodle to a brachycephalic dog will give you a longer muzzle and a proper bite, and I'll keep not listening.

Both Lhasas and miniature poodles share keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) or "dry eye" in common. This is a painful disorder of the eye that can cause blindness over time. To be fair, nobody's quite sure how it's inherited, but both parent breeds are predisposed to it, and affected dogs should not be bred.

Also occurring in both parents: Patella luxation, which we see when you breed small. Retinal atrophy, for which there's no cure. And a skin disorder that acts like allergies, and can be treated but not cured.

So: Will this breed take off? Common sense says no. Lhasas are doing great on their own, provided we keep those muzzles long enough, and I just can't see a huge market for Lhasapoos ever happening. Come on, Lhasa breeders, you can do it! Beat those poodles off, and be proud that you've kept your breed out of crisis. They're cute, smart, and healthy enough to stand alone.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What happened here??

I don't get it.

Today I stumbled across A & R Country Kennels and had a look around. They breed designer dogs only. Okay. Not enough to land you on MoT. They aim to sell healthy dogs; no mention of hybrid vigour. Alright. Two-year health warranty for each puppy and not a NuVet link in sight, not bad... Their puppies leave home after 8 weeks, vet-checked and ready to go; even better... Their facilities seem great; looking good...

And then I got punched in the face with the realization that they've got about eight litters on the go simultaneously.



Is this a Christmas thing? This is a Christmas thing, right? Well then why on earth are most of their litters so far off the mark from D-Day? And WHY ARE THERE EIGHT LITTERS?

And then more holes are poked in the kennels all around me. Why is there no page where I can look at the sires and bitches? Why isn't your health warranty actually on the site? Why have you only raised "85%" of your "purebed stock"? Why do you call Goldendoodles "Golden-poos"? Are these F1 crosses or what? Why do you have a litter of Goldendoodles ready for adoption when you also claim that you only breed your Golden retriever bitches once a year each for summer litters? Why are you breeding "Eskie-poos" when American Eskimo dogs are already quite healthy, thank you very much, and require dog-savviness? Why do you keep saying your poos are "non-shedding" when this very likely isn't true for every single puppy, especially the Goldens? Why is your spay/neuter recommendation crammed at the bottom of the page like fine print? Why are three of your eight litters Shih-poos? WHY DO YOU HAVE EIGHT LITTERS??

Sigh. They sound like nice people, too. But I have to say it.




Good grief. It seems appearances can indeed be deceiving.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Yesterday I read about a dog whose owner was in a car accident. He dragged the man out through the windshield and kept him awake by licking his face until paramedics arrived.

Today my dog peed in my bed.

I forget why I wanted a dog.


We can thank Sil for this one. It's been too long since I visited Married to the Sea!

You'll appreciate this one if you've ever owned a feline. In the spirit of the season: How To Wrap Presents If You've Got a Cat.

TGIF, I'm off to strip my bedsheets.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The logic behind the poo

Yes, I'm still contemplating poodle hybrids. (No, not bodily functions.)

In the comments of this post, it was ascertained that the logic behind breeding poodles to anything that moves goes like this:
- People want a "hypoallergenic" dog
- People want a curly-haired dog
- People want a dog with a cute breed name involving any combination with the words "oodle" and "poo".

To which I say pish and tosh.

There are also those who breed because they don't want the problems that come with purebreeds, therefore they breed for a) hybrid vigour, and b) to avoid inbreeding. But these topics come up a lot on MoT already and no doubt will again, so today let's just have a look at the superficials.

1) Hypoallergenic dogs do not exist. They won't help you with your asthma, nor your allergy to dander or dog saliva or whatever else may float off a dog's body that isn't fur. Or maybe it is the fur. In which case, that's okay. Designer breeding for low shedding dogs is the most admirable objective I can think of. (Breeding for hybrid vigour is not admirable. Breeding for health is admirable. Yes, there is a difference.)

Just bear in mind that low shedders need lots of brushing and grooming. Also that dogs like Labradoodles and Goldendoodles can end up shedding as much as their notoriously sheddy retriever parents, especially as most are F1 crosses.

Plus, you know, there are purebreeds out there for you too. Not just toys, either! I'll promote retired greyhounds again; lovely, calm dogs who shed very little. Also in the medium to large category are Airedale terriers, Kerry Blue terriers, Wheaten terriers, Irish Water Spaniels, and Portuguese Water dogs (the ones with the shaved butts. Terrific!). In the toy group you've got a bunch of small woolly dogs like Shih-tzus and Malteses - eg dogs you don't even need to breed to the poodle in the first place.

2) As for curly dogs, there is a secret behind poodle hybrids that I'll divulge to you now. Lean in close. Are you ready for this? It's big.

They all look the same.

I'm not even kidding. There are only three categories of poodle hybrids and they go like this:

Type A: The Woolly Muppetpoo. This variety of poo is small, fluffy, and all the rage. They seem to come in white or tan more than any other colour, regardless of parent breed. There is an inexplicable amount of Woolly Muppetpoos in my neighbourhood. Representing the Woollies today are the cockapoo, the schnoodle, the Shih-poo, the Maltipoo, the Pekeapoo, the Lhasapoo, and the Yorkiepoo. Goldendoodles also count as Muppetpoos.

Tell me what kind of poo this is. Go on, guess.

Type B: The Irish wolfpoo. So named because they all come out looking like weird Irish wolfhound hybrids. Weimardoodle. Shepadoodle. Dober/poo. Beardiepoo. Labradoodles, usually. Eerie, isn't it? Sometimes it begs the question, where the hell did they get those genes?

And dear old Type C: Miscellaneous, AKA "What the Hell Is That Thing?!" This one can crop up in the most unsuspecting of mixes. This is a Chihuahua/poo that looks like a vaguely sinister seal. And a pug/poodle with some of the most ridiculous ears I've ever seen. Here's a Maltipoo that falls way short of the Muppetpoo look. And I don't even know what happened here (a Lhasapoo, if you couldn't guess).

That's the big secret behind poodle hybrids. The most unique ones end up with What the Hell Syndrome while the rest are shaggy cookie cut-outs.

3) Adorable/silly names. The solution to this one is staring you in the face. I'll tell you another secret. I shouldn't be giving these away for free, but I guess I'm just big-hearted like that. Okay, here it comes:


Seriously. Do what I do and make up your dog's breed. Why the hell not, if he's just a companion pet? Unfortunately, Tip is much too distinctive to be mistaken for anything other than a Border collie, but this is part of the reason I can't wait till I have my own Leonberger. That dog is gonna have a new name and profession every week. One day I'll tell people he's a Serengeti tiger-mastiff (African tribesmen bred these dogs in the absence of real tigers to do battle with lions in gladiator-style showdowns). The next day he'll be an Egyptian River dog (fisherman of Ancient Egypt relied on dogs to frighten away the hippos that upended their boats and ate people or whatever hippos do). Next week he'll be a Taiwanese Pirate dog (while the pirates board other vessels, the dogs stay back on the pirate ship to guard their booty). Why not!

Or if your conscience nags at you, just buy a dog that already has a silly name. Get a Sloughi. That's "Sloogy". Hours of fun! Or a Weimaraner: "Why-ma-rah-ner", but most people don't know that. Call it a Way-marooner if you want to.

Or maybe they just like the silliness of the suffix. I mean, really. "Poo" and "doodle"? Make your friends jealous by slapping on something even sillier. Call your dog a "[whatever]oogle". Say that it's a mix between whatever it actually is and the Scottish Broughel (which doesn't actually exist, but there are lots of dogs who could pass for Scottish. They've already got terriers and sheepdogs coming out of there, and once upon a time Scotland had wolves, from which you can derive all sorts of doggy jobs like guarding and hunting). Pretend to know a lot about the Broughel (pronounced like bugle but with an R) and mention how superior it is to poodles because it performs all dog jobs in Scotland on top of companionship. Drug sniffing, police work, shepherding, service to the disabled; the Broughel is the world's up-and-coming canine all-rounder and they're trying to maximize its usefulness by breeding to other dogs and creating a canine race of oogles. Finish your spiel with a smug, "Oogles are the new poo."

And if they ask how do you get one?

Say, "You mate a dog of one breed to a dog of the same breed and then lie for the rest of the offspring's life."

Sigh. Superficialities may be silly, but I would kind of like to start calling Tip a Scottish Bordoogle.

Monday, December 8, 2008

MoT: Going Nordic

I love the Swedish Kennel Club.

Keep watching the papers because when we announce our engagement it will be big and splashy. I'll change my last name to Kennelklubben. We will have many genetically correct babies and grow old together.

I finally got off my ass and watched Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which I thought, personally, made a lot of good points. And it was fun because before now I've been piecing together my information in, well, not narrated and illustrated form, plus my version definitely lacked British accents. Being a generally lazy person, I enjoy being fed information, and foreign accents are always a bonus. They make me pay attention.

And then - woe - they mentioned the Swedish Kennel Club and a little lightbulb clicked and afterward I had to trawl the Internet until I found what I was looking for, and then dug even deeper.

This is what I've found out about the Swedish Kennel Club's policies:
  • Inbreeding is frowned upon. In fact, they go so far as to AVOID breeding close relatives. How great is that. Kennel Clubs are usually all talk and no action, but the studies say that, so far, Sweden is actually cutting back on inbred dogs (from a 3.7% inbreeding coefficient in 2002 to 2.7% as of April 2008).
  • Open registries! Yes! And it gets better! Since introducing open registries, they have halved the occurrence of hip dysplasia in dogs. This is a Scandinavian revolution, people! The information on any one individual dog, plus his siblings, parents and offspring, are all available for anybody to peruse on the SKC website. It includes stats for each breed on health traits, mental status, breeding animals (age at breeding, litter size, etc), number of registered dogs, and average levels of inbreeding. The GDC, America's open registry, was modeled after Sweden's.
  • They've placed limits on the number of offspring any one dog can sire.
  • They've started outcrossing programs in order to increase the population of certain breeds and improve health.
  • Mental health is valued alongside physical health. In order to breed, working dogs must pass a behavioural assessment. Border collies have to be assessed at herding before their offspring can be SKC-registered. I think I might cry.

Now what is so hard about doing the same thing in North America??

Pass the smorgas. I'm moving to Sweden.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sorry guys...

I got some really bad news yesterday and have some things to sort out, so I'm not sure when my next post will be. Maybe Monday, maybe later. Bear with me; I'll be back as soon as I can.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Law of Suppy & Demand

EDIT: I'm closing comments, because I think we're basically going in circles at this point. Everything that needs to be said has been said. Despite posts of late, this isn't actually a "the AKC is stupid" blog. (Even if I rather think it is.) This is more of a "there is a problem in the dog world, and breeding mutts isn't the solution" blog. If you happen to agree, fantastic; stick around. If you don't think there's a problem at all, I'm afraid you need to move along, read some literature or make your own blog, because my opinion isn't about to change and nobody's forcing you to read this stuff. Have a nice day.

'Tis officially the season, my friends, and we know what that means. Apart from the scents of smoke and gingerbread mysteriously lurking everywhere, annoyingly cheery carols warbling out from every store and a rapidly haemorrhaging wallet, that is. It means pet stores are stacking the shelves with cutesy Christmas canines, much like the one pictured. He can't even stretch out. Adorable.

We are only human and sometimes a sad puppy's gaze can have the effect of a high-power tractor beam off the Starship Enterprise. It sucks you in like a black hole with the force of its sweetly bewildered face. And isn't it so much better to think of a woebegone petshop puppy shacking up with you, rather than in the arms of somebody who thinks it would be a good idea to give the pooch to someone else for Christmas?

This law applies at all times but seems especially applicable now: The Law of Supply and Demand. Anti-puppy mill propaganda often uses the argument that buying a pet store dog just makes room for another puppy to take its place back at whatever mill it came from. That's never made a lot of sense to me; it's not like they have room for 300 dogs absolutely, no more than that. What you ARE doing when you buy a pet store dog is saying, "I want this dog, and I want more like it." And the supply (the pet store and puppy mill) will respond with glee. No matter what your intent was. If you're a bleeding heart who has to rescue the one sickly little pup, you're saying you don't care what condition they sell their dogs in. You want it anyway.

If you do your pet-shopping where puppies are sold, firstly you might want to reconsider your choice of pet store. Secondly you must stay strong! And these are the three biggest scams I see running around at large:

1. He's AKC-registered! Woohoo! Now let me tell you where you can put those papers. As we should all know by now, AKC guarantees nothing. They will tell you this themselves on their website. All it means is one parent was a purebred and so was the other parent. The resulting puppy could be a mixed-breed, deformed, unhealthy, nasty in temperament, or all of the above. You could probably sneak your dead rabbit into the AKC for all they care.

2. He's rare! Look at the pretty colours! Let me remind you that the genes for some 'rare' appearances in certain dog breeds also carry ticking time-bombs of disease. Remember the double dapple gene in Dachshunds (which is A-OK by the AKC!). Double dapple comes with blindness and deafness, among other things, like no eyes. Fantastic.

3. But he's so cute and little. Take him home. People seem to be giving puppies away younger and younger. "As soon as they're weaned" is not, in fact, the right age to give a dog away. They've only just started toddling around and socializing when they're weaning age. He needs this learning stage with his mom and siblings in order to be well-adjusted. This article will tell you about it more concisely than I can - it says 7-12 weeks is the best time to bring puppy home. So why are we seeing five-week-old babies up for adoption?

(Alas, I fell for this trap. Three and a half years ago I was woefully much less educated about pet stores than I am now, and in the market for a new guinea pig to be a companion to my suddenly-single increasingly-Elder Pig. When I met her at the pet store, Baby Angry Pig was four weeks old. That's way too young! my common sense screamed. She should have been six weeks at least. That her socialization was going to be all messed up if she ended up with a clueless child was weighing heavily on my mind, but even heavier was the way she fit perfectly in my palm like a fluffy tennis ball, and snuggled there. When I took her home I left her alone for two days; I did everything by the book - but, of course, she grew up into a bullying sociopath who routinely beats me and my dog, so I believe she was a lost cause from the start. Looks like selling too young can even adversely affect a rodent, so imagine what it could do to a dog. But the pet store has no idea that they sold me a tiny Hitler incarnate. They only know that I snatched up a too-young baby pig almost as soon as she was put up for adoption and thereby "demand" more. Damn it.)

Be strong, put your blinders on when you shop for your pets' stocking stuffers, and if you're in the mood to make life difficult for someone else and you do see a puppy for sale, give the store a heaping helping of hell. Ask them all the questions they are so not predisposed to answer. It's a unique way to blow off holiday stress. And think about where you'd rather put this Law into action - good breeders and petshops without pets, anybody?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Salvation in sight?

First off, thanks so much to Terrierman for linking MoT in his blog! MoT is still just a baby blog, and any publicity it can get is appreciated. But hang tight, I'm not done singing your praises yet.

Today I want to talk about open registries, which are - apparently - little-known in the dog world. Stand still so I can condemn you (despite not fully understanding the concept myself until recently). If you already knew about open registries, you move to the front of the class. If you're a breeder and you work with open registries, you get a gold star! Two more and I'll let you pick something out from a box of garage-sale trinkets at the end of the week.

The concept of open vs. closed registries can be difficult to grasp if, like me, a lot of the medical genetical jargon goes over your head and genetic pedigrees reeling off numerous abbreviations and symbols lose you somewhere around the third generation. Just to double-check I had my facts straight, I did some extra research a couple days ago and - hallelujah! - at last, found an article I could understand, that cleared up a couple things for me. And then I reached the bottom of the article and guess who it was by! T-man, have I mentioned lately that you're my hero?

Anyway, I wanted to talk about registries because they tie in nicely with what I've been yammering on about lately; the health problems in purebreds. It goes like this:

Closed registries will tell you what health checks an individual dog passed. Think OFA and CERF: these are closed registries. If the dog was screened for health problems and is sound, it'll show up in the registries. So, obviously, you want to breed a dog that shows up sound.

Open registries don't just tell you what the dog passed. They tell you what the dog failed. They also tell you that, although this dog is free from eye problems, one of his parents has glaucoma, and so does his sister. (GDC is an open registry.)

So you see why open registries are becoming more favoured.

Inbreeding is indeed a raging problem in purebreds. And by using closed registries to select the dogs we breed, we are increasingly tightening the noose already wrapped around the doggy gene pool, slowly making that pool smaller and smaller - and more unhealthy. Switching to open registry flings open the door to a whole new pool, a big, diverse one. Open registry doesn't mean cross-breed and it doesn't mean lower your standards either. It means toss out this useless traditional method and breed healthy - I mean really breed healthy.

I searched long and hard for a pro-closed argument that would explain to me why we're still using this system if open is that much better. Terrierman can explain it much better than I can, but essentially: it comes from an old, outdated idea about genetics that we're still seeing now - that the best genes will out. The idea behind the closed registry goes along with the idea of "survival of the fittest". Problem is, of course, dogs aren't wild animals, and we choose their mates. The lesson here, basically, is that just because something's been done one way for a long time doesn't mean it's all good (hello, America! Letting gays marry won't cause Russia to invade).

So why hasn't it changed?

That's thanks to the AKC - that tall guy in the cape, twirling his moustache, over there. The AKC's closed registry policies are strangling our gene pools to puddles. They make the rules and we follow them so our dogs can go on proving their quality by trotting around the show ring and stacking nicely. Our dogs are WAY TOO UNHEALTHY and the AKC isn't facing up to that. We need an open registry system now.

On a similar note, could cross-breeding be the solution? NO. I'm tired of people pretending that they mix dogs up for the good of dogkind. Yes, F1 hybrids can be healthier than their parents, but they can also inherit the genes for defects from both sides. Mutts can be a disaster in the hands of people who don't know what they're doing.

Crossing and back-crossing, on the other hand... I'm inclined to say this could help the situation, when I think of especially unhealthy dogs that need change NOW. My thoughts always go to the pug and the Shar-pei first, but that may be just because I hate their Ori-pei offspring almost as much as I hate those stupid square blocks in Tetris that only show up exactly when you don't need them. Are we really on to something with mixes like the puggle? Could breeding in proper airways and breeding back to pugs be the breed's salvation? Or can they hang on till the Kennel Club gets its collective ass in gear and starts thinking about the dogs?

(Find out next week, on ...!)

I guess this forum is now open for discussion - I'd love to hear some opinions on this one, especially if you're more involved in registries than I am.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Now it all makes sense

This Saturday I'm at my mother's house for an ol'-fashioned family Thanksgiving dinner, since my sister is visiting from NYC, and I think if I hear one more tune from Kenny & Dolly's "Once Upon a Christmas" I may start throwing the stuffing.

So it's just a quick entry today, but it sure made me smile:

Cheers, thus-sung!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Poodle genes: NOT magical

I try to write this blog with an open mind; honest I do. I know mix-breeding isn't the problem, the people doing the breeding are. I know there are muttpuppies out there whom I'd be sad to see go if they were suddenly wiped off the earth a la the dinosaurs*, like Goldendoodles and Labradoodles and cockapoos. I don't blame you if you want a schnoodle; I think they're cute, too. (But then, I'm a weirdo who loves a dog in a beard.) What I CANNOT figure out, though, is why some people breed poodles to certain other breeds of dog. Is it because people want the other breed of dog, but are allergic? Is it because they can't handle Breed B's temperament and would prefer a watered-down version?

The Weimardoodle, for example. You heard me. The Weimardoodle. People are breeding Weimaraners to poodles. For real. Why??

Some mixes stump me because they seem so utterly superfluous, like Maltipoos (small, "hypoallergenic" lap dogs) or Newfie/Labs (they both like water and kids and are big enough to wrestle with, which is important if you're a little kid - or maybe a big dog - at heart, like me). On the other end of the scale are these mixes so unnaturally suited it fairly boggles the mind. I just can't put an independent, aloof, territorial "dog-savvy owner only" dog together with a poodle, in my head. It doesn't make sense to me. Even when I think, okay, maybe a watered-down version of a Weim wouldn't be so bad, why can I still picture half these dogs ending up in shelters?

Like most of the working breeds that wouldn't automatically make you think "family dog", Weimaraners have their devotees and fanbase, and that's where the majority of them go. The devotees and fanbase know how to handle a Weimaraner. Unfortunately, most would have no interest in a Weimardoodle. And Weimaraner genes can make for a difficult dog, trust me. Looking on Petfinder in my province, there are an awful lot of Weims out there, the majority of them young, and I can see eight on the first page alone are mixes. (Mostly Weim/Labs, to be fair.) So I'm a little baffled.

Then there's Shepapoodles; German shepherd/poodles. When we know (don't stone me for this) in the wrong hands German shepherds can develop an aggressive streak. And BOTH breeds are among the world's top three most intelligent dogs (both second to my dog who walks into doors. Go team!). Remember my rule of thumb: The smarter a dog is, the more of a moron it thinks you are. "Smart" does not always mean "trainable". I sense the Shepapoodle would sit firmly in the "smart" camp, and not come out right away if you called it.

Same thing with the Min Pin/poodle mix - and the Pekingese mix we looked at last week. God, I hope none of these mixes ever take off. Let's face it, dogs should only ever be crossed for two reasons:
1) To have a function (go low-shedding service dogs!)
2) To be, as Linny said, happy, healthy family pets.

The Weimardoodle is not the average dog, and the odds are good that it won't make such a happy family pet. The Shepapoodle, "Pinschoodle" and Pekeapoo are looking pretty iffy too. If you want an independent-minded dog and can handle one, you're looking at a GSD or Weimaraner. If you want a family pet who will romp with the kids, you're looking for something tried and true (and predictable).

Decidedly NOT a GSD or Weimaraner (or poodle mix thereof).

Poodle genes are not a magic cure for a strong temperament, people. WHEN WILL THESE BREEDERS LEARN? (Worse still: what will they think of next??)

*I'm willing to bet the dinosaurs' problem was that they decided to form nation-states and establish boundaries and trade their natural resources, and considering dogs' thought processes mostly revolve around how to steal that tempting little snack off the kitchen table**, these muttpuppies are reasonably safe for now.

**If you're an aging (but sprightly, when it suits you), crafty beagle who's getting tired of raiding the garbage, you've figured out how to leap onto a pushed-out chair and then onto the table in order to snarf an entire loaf of bread which was going to be lunch the next day, and it wasn't even your owner's bread because she's on vacation; no, it was your dogsitter's, and now you're lying in the corner groaning because you have a bellyache and may require a visit to the vet, I hate you, Duchess.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

So yesterday the Angry Pig was sick.

Just wheezing a little when she breathed, I'd noticed it the day before. But in my mind, a single sneeze from her perfect pink nose means oh my God she has a horrible infection and needs IMMEDIATE CARE. Last night I cuddled her desperately while she snoozed nonchalantly in a comma on my stomach, totally oblivious to (or more likely uncaring of) my angst. All these horrible thoughts flooded my head like congestion, respiratory infection, pneumonia, bordatella, oh-God-it's-way-too-cold-to-take-her-to-a-vet, my-baby-is-going-to-die. Please don't die, AP. I went to bed at midnight, so wrapped up in worry that I was deaf to the sound of her wolfing down her veggies with gusto.

Of course today she is just fine. She's being her usual punk self; scraping her teeth in my ear, "accidentally" chomping on my hand when she turns to get an itch on her back, crapping in my bed, shredding the sleeve of my sweater to get my attention, blowing all our rent money on booze (and, don't tell her I told you so, purring when I cuddle her under my chin). No wheeze. No runny nose or eyes. I never need a reason to feel grateful that this little psycho is in my life, but I guess it just hit home again today.

I'm in Canada, where it is not Thanksgiving, but today I'm feeling especially thankful for my pets. AP, my cranky guinea pig who is my baby, and Tip my dog who licks walls. The Senile Gerbil, who only wakes up to yell at me to get off his lawn. And, though he isn't mine, Colby the Percheron/Arab I ride every week, who throws all my theories about hybrids in my face by being the most amazing and beautiful horse I've ever known. Okay, that was my kinda sappy moment. Forgive me; I had an emotional night. (You won't catch me shed a tear watching Eight Below, but a snuffly guinea pig has me quivering like a teacup Chihuahua. Go figure.)

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the long weekend (ya jerks), if you're in America. If not, well, smell the roses anyway and take a moment to be grateful. :) And I'm grateful for YOU, my readers. Muah. So have a Thanksgiving pic I dug up.

(A cat? Who let that freak in?? Aw, I kid - I love you, too, you sociopathic furballs.)

Sappy moment over! Time to pull my mean face back on and dig up the dirt on some muttpuppies. ;)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A break in the monotony...

I couldn't not share this: Announcing the Miracle of Birth Videotape! Be warned if you're of a sensitive nature - don't worry, it's not an actual tape; just a good breeder with a less-than-sunshiney (but hilarious) sense of humour. :) I recommend you print it out and staple-gun it to your idiot neighbourhood wannabreeder's front door. I know we've all got one.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The importance of responsible breeding

I hope all your weekends were great. My pets left mine on an ambivalent note. On the one hand, I've started training my dog up a bit more, and he goes into transports of joy whenever he sees the clicker because it means treats! for doing! practically nothing! On the other hand, my Angry Pig was treated to a bath, and her utter outrage was made worse by the fact that I turned her into a piggy burrito with an old handtowel afterward. Partly for my own protection. So my dog is pretty sure that I'm the coolest person in the world, but my guinea pig keeps leaving threatening letters in my pillowcase.

(Senile Gerbil snoozed through the weekend, waking now and then only to mutter cantankerously about young people and their crazy hairdos these days. Old people are adorable. Even when they're not actually people.)

I got a comment on this post and planned on replying before realizing it had spawned an entire entry's worth of thoughts. So here it is (and I'm not trying to single you out, Linny! Sorry!).

Linny said...
""Designer dog" sales are now outstripping those of purebreds. I think this is largely because all the scientific research show mutts live longer and healthier lives than purebreds.

Most people just want a happy, healthy family pet. Say "Boxer" a vet thinks heart disease; say "Golden Retriever" and they think hip dysplasia. The incidence and severity of inherited diseases increases every year, and yet breeders continue as they've always done, with outdated practices that continuously limit genetic diversity, using breed standards that often encourage disability and deformity.

If there's anybody out there that still really believes all is well in the purebred world, they should watch the BBC documentary "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" at"

Too right, Linny! Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying purebred dogs are perfect. Far from it! So I hope nobody here gets that impression. How often do we see cases like the Pekingese, the pug, the Dachshund, the Shar-Pei, where breeders continue to breed in myriads of health problems for the sake of decades-old breed standards? You will hear time and time again that pugs snore, but nobody stands up to actively eradicate the inferred problems, because of course, a pug that doesn't snore evidently just isn't a pug. Nobody wants to give those flat faces more definition, because a pug with a longer muzzle won't be winning Best in Show.

Breeding pedrigree dogs just ain't as easy as it looks. I'm one of those people who stands by the belief that you should only breed to improve the breed, but that's easier said than done. You need to find dogs who not only reflect the ideal temperament of the breed, but are also healthy in general. Meanwhile, the lifespan of the average Golden retriever gets shorter and shorter, because in the scramble to produce these well-balanced popular dogs, breeders lose sight of the rest of the family history.

And of course some breeders lose sight of the right objective altogether. I can yammer on about predictability in purebreeds all I like, but it won't always hold true. Just look at my dog. Pedigree Border collie, the smartest breed of dog in the world, and my dog ... shall we say, colours outside the lines. He's not quite the "intense" personality I'd have liked; in fact, he's downright soft - a goofy, good-natured, embarrassingly neurotic Lab in a Border collie body. I'd shudder to think of unleashing his genes on the unsuspecting Border collie community, and yet there are people who would breed him without a second thought, because dog people like and want Border collies. (Plus, whatever else I say about Tip, he's hot stuff.) There will always be breeders who grab the first purebreed to cross their paths and breed it no matter what qualities it has, because some breeds are just too popular for their own good. Then there are the lazy breeders, who simply accept that their dogs will have health problems because that's just the way they are. Breathing problems in pugs is inevitable, cherry eye in Saint Bernards is inevitable, and hip dysplasia builds character. Whatever they tell you, these are just weak excuses. It might be a trial; it might be time consuming and require effort; it might take a long time, but you CAN help make your breed healthier.

Oh, and don't forget the teacup breeders. It's purebreeds they're after, and they won't rest until they can fit a family of Chihuahuas in a thermos and carry them to work.

So the world of purebreeds is not without its share of problems.

What alarms me is that the sale of designer dogs is starting to outstrip purebreeds. It's a band-aid on the real issue. And it's a magnet for bad breeders. Why? Because they are popular, and because the belief that these dogs are healthier exists. Not all the studies are saying hybrid dogs are healthier, you see. You can lead a mutt breeder to literature, but you can't make it think. Trend breeders are dangerous whether they're selling a designer dog or a purebreed: all they want is to cash in on the dog's popularity. But designer dog breeders may be even more dangerous, because while those who breed numerous Labs are aware that their dogs will have problems and don't typically care, the muttpuppy breeder is just plain ignorant. The idea that the best genes will out is wrong, wrong, WRONG. I won't ever tell you that muttpuppies are for a fact UNhealthy, but I haven't seen any evidence to prove either way that they are any more or less healthy than a purebred. And let's not get started on temperament! Even breeders themselves will admit that Maltipoos can be a little neurotic, and puggles a little high-maintenence...

Basically, designer breeding is not the solution to all of dogkind's problems, and it frightens me that some breeders truly think it IS. The Ori-pei is a perfect example. The initial breeder wanted a Shar-pei that didn't have the health problems of a Shar-pei. He bred to a pug, and today we have a hybrid at large with more problems than it should have ever had in the first place. But they still sell, because people believe in hybrid vigour, and that's all a breeder has to say to sell a mutt.

Cross-breeding WILL NOT get rid of problems in a dog. A Peke or pug muzzle can still show up in a hybrid, just like a Dachshund or corgi back can, just like hip dysplasia and cherry eye and skin conditions can. The only way to help get rid of health problems in dogs is to change the breed standard. That's on you, pedigree breeders.

And this is how I do my part: not by ranting about teacup toys and designer dogs and bad breeders (even if I do all those things). What I want to impress here is that the purpose of this blog is to advocate responsible breeding - whatever type of dog we're talking about. It's fine if you want to get a Shih-poo; just take care to find a dedicated hobby breeder who knows that health checks are, in fact, important in designer breeding.

The trouble is that these types of breeders are few and far in between. You'll always find somebody dedicated to the welfare of their own particular breed, perhaps involved with the parent organization, breeding to represent their breed in the best way possible. But that isn't often the objective among hybrid breeders. They see the demand and they supply to it. These are the lazy, who, suddenly, have found a market for dogs they don't need to health screen. In fact, their new customers don't even want a health certificate! All some people need to hear is "family dog" and "hybrid vigour", and they're out the door with their new baby. This unshakeable belief that the best genes always shine through in a hybrid fosters irresponsibility like you wouldn't believe. Can't you imagine?

Breed devotees know what to breed for, but others have nothing to breed for but money, and they're cashing in on the fact that designer dogs have pulled the wool over the world's eyes. Hybrids are not better than purebreds; no worse, either, but until we start concentrating on breeding better purebreeds, we'll surely see the deterioration in both camps. It's already happening.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Extra, extra!

HSUS points the finger! After an eight-month investigation, the Humane Society brands Petland the nation's leading retail supporter of puppy mills. Nobody is especially surprised. Home reporter MoT urges readers to boycott Petland, or at the very least, don't buy their puppies no matter how cute they are. The puppies, not the Petlands. Petland retaliates with "We do not support substandard breeding facilities and we provide each Petland store with 'Humane Care Guidelines,' that were developed in conjunction with the U.S.D.A. to assist with breeder facility inspections as it pertains to pet selection" to general public, then says "I know you are, but what am I!" to the HSUS, and refuses to invite them to its birthday party. It makes no promise to stop selling puppies or at least spay every dog before it leaves their possession, so MoT is not all that impressed.

Ohio reporter slanders "teacup" breeders. MoT expresses desire to buy him a drink.

Florida finally steps up after suspicious buyer does not receive a health certificate with puppy! MoT gives a cheer! Also finds on breeder's website a) spelling/grammar errors ("love of my life has went to Rainbow Ridge"), b) Christian references, and c) term "fur babies" running rampant, but is not surprised. MoT also expresses hope that they "throw the book at 'er".

Australian man attempts to pay bill with drawing of a spider. MoT laughs and laughs.

Happy Sunday, all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Drawing the line

Puppy mills are usually characterized by their cramped quarters and squallid conditions. Typically dogs are mated every time their heat cycle rolls around, and their existence revolves solely around churning out puppies. They're mistreated and unhealthy.

That's what comes to mind when I hear "puppy mill" - how about you?

If you could write the definition of puppy mill, what would it be?

By calling a place a puppy mill, you're saying it should be shut down, that the laws apply to that place: so consider that when you answer. Also consider the state the dogs must be in for a commercial kennel to qualify.

Is a puppy mill a large facility where the dogs are locked in their cages all day long, fed little, and experience little human contact?
Is it a place where any number of dogs, even a few, are bred indiscriminately for profit alone?
Does it cover a backyard breeder who cares for her dogs and socializes them, but always has a litter available?

This is something I've been thinking about lately, so I'd like to hear your thoughts. :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

This one may or may not be a Pokemon.

Boy, this month is flying by. Can you believe we're halfway through November and I haven't tried a single designer dog? Time to remedy this situation.

Ah, the Pekeapoo; lovechild of a Pekingese and a poodle. Honestly, to my indifferent eye, they look just like every other poodle hybrid running around. If you lined up a cockapoo, a Shih-poo, a schnoodle, and a Pekeapoo and told me to tell them apart, I'd probably fumble and stammer a lot. (Take a look, smartie-pants. How sure are you that I haven't mixed those links up?) Nevertheless, they're taking off as another trend breed.

My first experience with a Pekingese came from my grandparents' dog when I was growing up, Meg. My twin sister and I used to call her "googly-eyed Meg" and chase her around the dining room. (She wasn't that nice to us either, so it evens it.) She snorted and snuffled and snored when she slept. So I'm already heading into this mix with low expectations.

THE PROS: They're low-shedding, much like other poodle hybrids out there. And, erm... I guess that's it. I mean, they seem to have inherited the Peke's lion-heart and sense of dignity, but depending on your preference in temperament, that can be a good or bad thing.

THE CONS: [cracks knuckles] Let's see... Well, like I just said, they tend to come with the classic Peke attitude. This means they take themselves very seriously, and training them can be a trial, say the honest breeders. By the sounds of it, commands are likely to be met with a typical Dog Look ("Are you kidding me?") unless they can see the benefit of it for themselves. They're not so hot at recall either. To be fair, though, they're certainly not the only dogs who often view training as a bit of a joke, and it's not like it's impossible. Just aggravating, especially if you buy into the "poodle genes = perfect family dog" idea. Yes, people, even hybrids can be a handful!

Pekes are also, by and large, one-person dogs, and since owners are mostly describing their Pekeapoos as having gotten their temperament from the Pekingese parent, I'm going to take a gamble and say that the Pekeapoo will probably stick close to one owner, too. This is a complaint of some (read the first testimonial). Pekes aren't stars with other pets or children, either (darn that googly-eyed Meg). BUT, some Pekeapoo owners are claiming theirs get along fine with pets and kids, so the right socialization may balance things out.

Also, they require frequent grooming, just like Mom and Dad.

HEALTH ISSUES: The usual risks in breeding small dogs - slipped knees, hip dysplasia. Some eye issues, like entropion. Pekes also come with breathing problems due to those squashed muzzles. Some breeders will insist that the poodle genes eradicate this problem, but, well - you be the judge. Same thing going on with the sometimes-seen underbite in Pekingeses - breeders can tell me that poodle genes are essentially magical until they're blue in the face, but the results speak for themselves.

One last note: I'd give all these same warnings to anyone interested in buying a Pekingese, since mostly it's the Peke parent all these issues stem from. The trouble is that people who want a Peke typically know why they want one and what they're getting into - whereas designer dogs have the bad habit of slipping into the wrong hands.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a backyard-bred muttpuppy who had seizures. Maybe.

Can I just say I find it a little bit creepy when breeders call their puppies "fur babies"? Just a small pet peeve of mine.

These friendly backyard breeders sell "fuzzy wuzzies", a mix between Bichon frises and Shih-tzus. (Though they do tell us, "The name don't make the dog the breeder does....") They make sure to point out on the front page that they breed for quality and not quantity, and then list the six litters born in October. Sigh.

(The site actually is used by six different breeders - but all of them have litters at the same time? Yeesh. Smells fishy to me.)

Every red flag is laid out in plain view.

1. Cutesy irrelevent graphics and Christian references all over the place. (No offense to my fellow Christians, I'm just wondering why it is the crazies always seem to drape their religion all over their sites.)

2. They ship your puppy, and not just to the continental US. One pup on this site went all the way to Italy. Whew. And I thought exposing a young dog to Christmas Day bustle could cause problems.

3. "Why cross breed?" For hybrid vigour, of course!

I think every designer dog site has one of these pages. Why do we cross breed? they ask themselves, and then go into a long-winded explanation about how mixed breeds are healthier than purebreeds - or else a very sparse explanation that comes down to the same point in fewer words, like on this site.

Here's another flag - health warranty full of loopholes. They don't cover hypoglycemia, which is common in small dogs; no money (or "monies") is refunded if your dog dies, and the warranty is void if you don't have your pup checked by a vet within 48 hours of receiving it or don't keep your puppy on their brand of vitamins. I find it bizarre that they don't cover disorders "caused by the environment or stress", such as hypoglycemia or thyroid disorder (which you CAN screen for before breeding), yet they cover "Démodé tic mange" (which is demodectic mange, if that took you a moment, and isn't common in either parent breed anyway). Fantastic!

And I personally consider it a pretty big indicator of unprofessionalism when your site is riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes. "All theses things are this puppy," what? "Whishing you and your family happy holiday moments"? It's so hard to take someone seriously when their online "voice" is that of an ESL thirteen-year-old. There are six of you, surely at least ONE of you knows how to type.

It give me headaches.

Groan. I'm done here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why I love Over the Hedge

1. Rockin' soundtrack. This movie introduced me to Ben Folds, who is great.

2. The animation. Stunning! Even when the bear villain is in the throes of a murderous rage, I want to pet him and give him a big hug, he looks so wonderfully soft.

3. I don't care if it's a kids' movie, it makes me laugh. You try watching and not fall in love with the William Shatner possum!

4. "My father's face was so flat. It was beautiful. He could hardly breathe!" That line was from a cat, but it goes both ways. This cat also says he has no sense of smell, since his face was bred for beauty. (It's a good thing for the sake of the movie, since he falls for the skunk, but whatever.) Are you listening, breeders?

5. The obligatory crazed Rottweiler is not, for perhaps the first time in movie history, a vicious brute bent on ripping the peaceable woodland creatures to shreds for invading his territory, but a goofy overgrown puppy who wants nothing more than to play with them. Rock on.

There is so much we can learn from childrens' movies.

Back soon with some muttpuppy-bashing.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Raining on the Christmas parade

December is fast approaching (where has that first week of November gone?) and if you're anything like me and love to get into the spirit of the season early, you're already busting out the Christmas CDs (because it just isn't Christmas without Karen Carpenter), laying into the holiday shortbread cookies, and cursing heartily at the radio every time it plays that godawful 'Christmas Shoes' song. You know, the one about the juvenile con artist hitting up innocent stores on Christmas Eve with a list of merch his probably drunk and unemployed mother sent him out with. ("An' after you git mommy's shoes, fetch a little sumthin' fer yourself, too. Tell the toy store ya brother's in the ICU on Christmas.") No offense if you're one of the people who actually cry at this song. We are simply on different wavelengths, you and I.

If you're planning on getting your little one a puppy for Christmas, you're cooler than my parents were and probably love your kids more. Hats off.

But have you done all that THINKING AHEAD?

Many many sources - most notably, pet rescues and shelters and other organizations in that vein - will tell you that Christmas puppies are a bad idea. It sure seems great. You know that classic scene where the kids rush downstairs in the morning and find puppy in a basket with a little red ribbon around his neck. Aww. But in the weeks to follow, reality is one harsh mother.

First off, it shouldn't surprise most of you that the majority of Christmas puppies come from puppy mills. Reputable breeders may have a waitlist, or might not even sell Christmas pups at all. To get the timing just right, people tend to turn to those who market to the masses ... petstores and puppy mills. It helps that those pups often come cheaper, too - but trust me, a couple hundred bucks more now is way better than thousands of dollars in vet bills when your dog's poor health starts showing. There are countless people who will tell you all about their petstore puppy woes, and the month after Christmas is the last time you want to be paying vet bills on top of everything else.

Secondly, this is a big decision! Refer to the post below if you want the whole spiel. A puppy is another family member, not a toy to be played with and then cast aside. And the sad truth is, plenty of Christmas puppies end up in shelters after the holidays. I like this article best because it includes other details, like why the bustling atmosphere of Christmas Day makes it the worst possible time to introduce a puppy to the family. (However, this one has some good advice if you want to ignore the friendly faceless blogger and go ahead with it anyway.)*

Are you sure your child even wants a dog? - or are you getting it because you want the dog, or because you think your kid should have the experience? Or if they do want the dog, do they have realistic expectations when it comes to caring for it? Do you realize that you'll most likely be the one who has to walk the dog every frosty morning and feed it? Are you okay with that? Do you know that winter may not be ideal for adopting a puppy, seeing as some of them may prefer to do their business on a nice warm carpet rather than out in the chilly yard? Oh, the questions you must ask yourself.

Personally, I'd wrap up a few doggy knick-knacks like a leash and and dishes - much easier to return, just in case, than a puppy - and let the kid draw her own conclusions. Then she can pick out her own best friend once the holidays are over and things have gone from 'manic rush' back to relaxed. And it would be great if you can nudge her in the direction of a shelter: there are plenty of kids out there who'd be happy to open their hearts to a homeless dog, if you explain the idea to them. Hey, you might even end up with someone else's discarded puppy, and give the little guy a second chance at finding his forever home.

I'm such a Linus. I gotta stop preaching and come up with some happier posts!

*If I were a sex-ed teacher, I wouldn't be the sort to advocate abstinence only and then pass around the chastity belts. You know some of those kids are gonna be doing it anyway, so you may as well make sure they're armed with condoms and the right kind of knowledge, says I.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Using your head, BEFORE you adopt

Why do silly people never THINK before they get a dog?

(The correct answer is "because they're silly", but let me rave.)

There are so many questions you have to ask yourself before you get a dog.

Who am I?
Am I financially independent and secure?
What's my living situation like?
Where will I be in five years?
Who do I live with?
Do I want a family in the near future?
Is a dog going to have the best possible life with me?

Students are among the silliest out there. I can think of some people who thought it would be a bright idea to finally get that puppy they've always wanted as soon as they moved away from home (thank God most DIDN'T). That's brilliant. You're going off to college, it's exciting and tumultuous, what better than a dog to comfort you in this changing period of your life?

Now good luck finding a place to stay, kiddo. Most college residences have a fish-only policy, and people who rent rooms to students are usually pretty specific about no pets. Some people actually sneak dogs or cats into residence anyway. Awesome. Keep that dog locked up in a crate while you're at class all day and partying all night. And if it barks? What are you going to do with it short notice? I believe you get one warning and then the boot. Oh boy.

Say you do find a place with your dog; do you know how many hours you're gonna be putting into school? And then into your career? Are you gonna have a job all lined up as soon as you leave school? Suddenly you've got to find a dog-friendly apartment, and be able to provide for yourself and your furry friend, while trying to find a job - and a dog isn't a hamster. Your 20s are a turbulent time, and some people cope better having man's best friend at their side, but others have to give their dogs up when a significant other hits the scene, or a baby, or life doesn't go the way they planned...

Think hard, students.

Then there are the folks who are recently married, always wanted a puppy, start off their family with a furry little bundle of joy; maybe as "practise" for the real deal. Which is cool - but do you know how puppy is going to react if and when the infantile interloper invades his territory? Why didn't you think of that in the first place?

Always always think AHEAD when you decide to get a dog. This could be a fifteen-year commitment, if the worst shouldn't happen. There will always be change in your life over this period. Oftentimes, you KNOW what that change is gonna be - or have a rough idea. Plan for it so that your dog can adapt with you. Want to start a family? Socialize, socialize, socialize! It's so crucial to a little dog. When puppies are small and rather harmless, they can be taught to get along with all kinds of other critters and people. Introduce your dog to some small kids when he's little. Let them run around and play. Teach the kids that when puppy bites, they need to say "OW!" and stop playing - even at light nips. Trust me, your puppy can understand when he's gone a little too far in his play: his brothers and sisters probably yelped and quit the game when he bit too hard, too. Make him think, "Geez, these little humans are so sensitive!" and get gentler if he wants to keep playing with them. Now you're better prepared if you acquire toddlers of your own. (Even if you don't, I believe puppies should meet small children while they're still puppies and learn their manners - just in case.)

And most important of all, mind YOUR attitude around the little ones, especially if they're your own and you've got a dog. It doesn't take the smarter ones long to pick up on the idea that the kids are yours and therefore need guarding, like all your other possessions. Ideas of household hierarchy will come later. Puppies are taught to respect what's yours and not to chew on what's yours, like your shoes, or your kids, and if you've got to give up a dog because he's chewing on your four-year-old, that's YOUR fault.

Do I have dog experience?
Is this breed right for my lifestyle?
Does this breed make for a good first-time owner's dog?
Do I know what I'm getting into in picking this breed?

If you're dog-savvy enough, and you love and care for your pet enough, you can adapt a dog to almost any situation life throws at you. My dad's Border collie was a year old when I showed up, and we grew up alongside each other no problem. (Well - he was a grumpy old bastard, and we weren't exactly BFF, but we didn't have any of the problems that get some Borders dumped.)

If you've never owned a dog before, on the other hand, and have your heart set on a Siberian husky... Think again! Know your dog's characteristics and how you're going to deal with him before you get him. Of course it's not that simple, but getting a purebreed and researching can give you a rough approximation.

Sometimes an older dog lands in your lap unexpectedly. Those can make for the best relationships. Just take the time and care to help your dog adapt to new things.

I'm all ranted out for now. Just remember, whatever comes your way in life, your dog can help you through it only so long as you help him. So think ahead.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Watch me make the election relevent

If you were paying attention to the new president elect's speech last night, he mentioned bringing a puppy to the White House. Apparently he's looking for a "hypoallergenic" dog. Mr President, I hope you know your dog breeds, 'cause cockapoos ain't the be-all and end-all...

Anyway, I just wanted to share this here article because, well, I found it kinda cute. It tells the story of Baby, something of a puppy mill spokesdog, and shows off a picture of her in the arms of Obama. You guys might also like to know that he's the first presidential candidate to have been endorsed by the Humane Society. Good stuff. This page is definitely worth a look, too; it quotes some relevent news articles and lists the animal protection laws he voted for in Illinois. Whoever you voted for, we all like protecting animals. Just don't forget about the little people now that you're in office, Mr Obama - four-legged or otherwise!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Are the Chinese taking over?

Last month we celebrated a few designer dogs that weren't poodle hybrids. This month I'd kind of like to get back to the roots of designer dog-dom and rag on a couple 'poos, but first off I'd like to direct your attention to another epidemic (PRACTICALLY): the breeding of Oriental dogs.

My biggest beef is with Ori-peis, the mix between pugs and Shar-peis. Ori-peis were originally developed to eliminate the health problems of both parent breeds, like skin and eye problems in the Shar-pei. The original breeder liked Shar-peis but wasn't so fond of vet bills ... so, rather than breed healthier, she made up a new breed. The result is a muttpuppy with a whole lot of issues.

Dog Breed can give you the Ori-Pei's brief history, followed by an owner's testimonial that's worth a look. Their dog's suffered from not only cherry eye and entropion (eye "tacking"), but a respiratory infection too (hello, pug genes). Here's some other testimonials from owners on this forum:

"my nieghbors ori-pie has horrible eye problems. She had to have surgery at 4 months because fur was growing on the underside of her eyelid or something similar to that." (This is likely entropion: the eyelashes turn inward.)

"... Yes, just like a Shar pei, we had to get his eyes tacked twice before they would keep the eyelids from hurting his eyes. And just like humanes, my dog does have allergies. When my husbands acted up, Willies act up. ... They are kind of expensive at first but he was well worth it." (Allergies is another common problem in Shar-peis.)

"No complaints until Saturday when he began having grand mal seizures. Scary stuff. Now he's on meds and we're praying they continue to work for him (so far so seizures since Sunday). He's got no underlying medical causes according to bloodwork & ultrasounds, so it looks like he has epilepsy. This seems to be something more common in the pug line but uncommon in shar peis. He's neutered, of course, so he won't be passing this along, wherever it came from. He's also had to have Cherry Eye surgery."

And people love these dogs!

It's not ethical to breed a pug to another breed, because they have so many breathing problems, or to cross-breed a Shar-pei, because of their eye and skin problems. Putting these two together only gives you a train wreck of health issues, yet people clamour for more!

And that's not my only complaint when it comes to Oriental dogs. What the heck is up with all the Chinese crested mixes? Why are people cross-breeding dogs with such obvious health problems? This one is STARING YOU IN THE FACE. Okay, so cresteds generally are pretty healthy, but you've got to be prepared to take good care of your dog's skin to keep it that way. Chinese cresteds are prone to breakouts of acne, and some can develop dry skin, which means treating them with special weekly baths. Then there's the temperature to be aware of... And those are only the skin problems. Some mixes favour their hairier parents, but plenty don't. Even breeding a "powderpuff" crested is no guarantee.

Also ... they're really ugly.

What is with all the tongues hanging out the side of the mouth, by the way? -- and don't even get me started on the Japanese chin mixes or we'll be here all day.

Wake up people. Your muttpuppies never come out looking and acting and ... being as healthy as you imagine they will. STOP RELYING ON HYBRIDS TO MAKE YOUR DOGS HEALTHY.

Normally I don't mind people buying [certain] designer dogs so long as they come from very, very responsible breeders, but people who mix breeds like the Ori-pei have no excuse. It's inethical, there are way too many health problems to consider, and that means there are no responsible breeders out there. We need to STOP creating these and focus on breeding healthier in the parent breeds. So steer clear of the Ori-pei!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Morkie World

Phew. Sorry for the slow weekend. I seem to have come down with something that, on top of other things, made it very difficult for me to keep to one train of thought for more than two minutes at a time. I'm a little less tripped out today, but I'll keep this short. -Ish.

Remember that Morkenstein from my last entry? She came from this place.

The woman in charge used to breed purebred poodles. She started dabbling in Yorkipoos and Maltipoos when she realized she could get as much for those as for purebred dogs, and now she's selling all kinds of muttpuppies to North America. What do we call this lady? A hoarder? Whatever she is, she is breeding way too many dogs. Let's take a look at the website and pick it apart.

1. Flashy graphics. What are you, a thirteen-year-old girl on MySpace? This drives me crazy.

2. Randomly capitalized Words. You're Not speaking German; knock it Off.

3. "We are full supporters of Hybrid Vigor and it is the number one reason why we breed Morkies." That's great. That's so fantastic I could just shit.

4. They've made up terms like teddy bear Morkie and "Fuzzy Wuzzy Teddy Bear Shichon". 'Nuff said.

5. Their genetic testing page is there solely to assure you that they do NOT screen their dogs for health problems, because it's perfectly impossible for a puppy to inherit a genetic disorder when only one parent is a carrier. Yep. That's how genetics work. "The RENAL DYSPLASIA Test isn't available any more, because there just wasn't enough information concerning the gene to prove it as hereditary disease." Whoops! I think someone needs to do a little more research. Now, I understand hip and elbow dysplasia are more common in large breeds, but what about the problems common to small breeds, like patella luxation? And don't give me any hybrid vigour crap, because we see that in poodles, Yorkies, AND Shih-tzus.

6. They SHIP your puppy. Never ever ever buy from somebody who has to SHIP your puppy to you! Read over that fishy contract, too; they won't take your dog back unless it's "sufficiently medically unsound", and that's if you have it checked by a vet within three days of purchase, AND it's on you to send the dog back and have a new one shipped over. This says that, as soon as the puppy leaves their hands, they don't care what happens to it. Not the right match for you? That dog can end up in a kill shelter for all they care.

7. Teacup toys. AGH.

Ms Mileen Coulter might not be the worst breeder in the world, but she sure is clueless.

She'll have Morkie puppies ready for Christmas. Any takers?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween, MoT-style

Well, it's that time of year again. Those up north know what I'm talking about. That time of year when the trees go from 'fiery glory' to 'deader and more depressing than those frozen halibuts with the staring eyes in the grocery store'. Every light, ominous snowfall is met with a dead-eyed, thousand-yard stare until the sky goes back to raining like it's supposed to. The first hint of a sneeze from the cage in the corner of my bedroom means I'll be turning on my space heater and boiling to death in my own juices every night until spring so my beloved guinea pig doesn't catch a cold and die, and before then I'll be shivering all night long.

But if there's one holiday to brighten this dark and dismal stretch until Christmas, it's Halloween! (Unless you prefer football and stuffing and crazy relatives in cramped quarters - in which case, hang tight till Thanksgiving.) Here at MoT I've decided to get into the spirit of the thing, and I've personally scoured the 'net for the most beastly, monstrous little muttpuppies I can find. Here they are, for your viewing pleasure, hopefully making your Halloween that little bit more special. If not, 54 days until Christmas...
#10. Sheesh, would ya look at the dog on those ears? This little shih-poo is masquering as a piece of roadkill - or as something that's been chewed up and digested by a larger dog already - I'm not quite sure. I can't help it, though; my eyes are always drawn straight back to those ears. What happened there?? They look like wrinkled potato chips. With fuzz. ...Ugh, way to ruin potato chips for me, dog.

#9. Okay. So this little Staffy/Shar pei cross isn't so bad. Well, I guess we won't know till he's grown up, but he's cute now. Still, he gets a mention because the honest-to-God first thought in my head when I saw him was "THRIL-LER!" That's the spirit, little dog!

#8. This Shi-poo or Shorkie or I don't even know anymore just plain freaks me out. His eyes follow me all around the room. And that underbite will give me nightmares for years to come.

#7. MORKZILLA ANGRY! MORKZILLA SMASH! (Yes I did just cross two horror genres.) It looks almost like somebody's photoshopped in two angry eyebrows. I love it.

#6. Little Willie is also a Morkie and he's here to remind us that not all Halloween costumes need be scary. Some just give us a laugh! Poor muttpuppy, he looks more like a mix between a Schnauzer and a Furby to me. Or maybe a satellite dish. I bet he gets great reception.

#5. Frankenmorkie? All she needs is bolts in her neck to complete the look. Aw, man, I'm almost starting to feel bad. Being a Morkie is unfortunate, it seems.

#4. Oh God, this one gives me the willies. He looks like he IS wearing a mask. That's a puppy! Am I the only one seriously freaked out by this dog? Anyone?

#3. Chinese crested/Japanese chin mixes produce some of the fugliest little bastards known to dogkind. But I picked this jaunty little fellow because, as weird-looking as he is, I think he's kinda cute and I like him. Also he looks more like a mix between a koi and a crested duck.

#2. Ah, that old crowd-pleaser, the Chihuahua/chin. Warning: has been known to knock over small children just by turning her brick head. I wonder which celebrity adopted this dog?

#1. Just to prove I'm not completely designer dogs-ist (you know I am), I went out and found a purebred. ...I found a hell of a purebred. Give yourselves a moment to make sure you're on an empty stomach and that nobody unsuspecting is behind you to get sideswiped by the image you're about to see. In all seriousness, it looks like the goddamn Cryptkeeper and its image will burn itself into your retinas and blaze in all its hideous glory in your mind's eye when you're trying to sleep. Not for the faint of heart. You may want to restore down your window so you don't get the full blast all at once. Ready for this? Meet Sam, the Chinese crested.

I hear he was actually quite a cuddly dog. (And yep, he's for real.)

Phew! Go back and look at that duck for awhile if you need to bleach your corneas. Have we all recovered? Great. By the way, this little mixed-breed pooch gets an honourable mention for making me smile.

Have a great Halloween, guys! Enjoy all the leftover candy, because I know I will!

EDIT: Shoot, Blogger sucks at uploading pictures.