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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dorgis on the docket

Thanks a lot, Queen of England.

You did this.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Exhibit A: The dorgi. It is what it sounds like. Her Royal Highness' royal corgi got a little frisky and got it on with one of Princess Margaret's less-royal-but-still-recognized-by-the-populace Dachshunds. Apparently what came out of this scandalous dalliance was so delightful that the Queen called for more. Breeders around the globe are now gleefully getting in on this bizarre mix to try and see if they can develop the world's first dog as long as a train. All this observer can say is, they'd better be using Pembroke corgis and not Cardigans. We don't want none of them freaks around here!

I kid. Cardigans are great. They're like the squashed-down, stretched-out version of a Border collie or an Australian shepherd, and that is endlessly amusing to me. Plus, they were here first: the Pembrokes are their snot-faced kid brothers whom their parents and teachers for some reason love more. As for the designer breeders, who knows? The only recipe I can find anywhere for a dorgi is Dachshund + Welsh Corgi. Two distinct breeds, you say? Forget that! They're both called "corgis", aren't they? Well - if I HAD to award any mitigating factors - I'd say that breeding the Doxie with the Cardigan would be sliightly more forgivable, as they may come from the same strain originally ... you know, like a thousand years ago.

Whereas a Dachshund + Pembroke comes out more like a spaniel/terrier + herder/spitz.


You still get a long-ass dog (literally) with more pep than its little legs can handle.

THE PROS: Call me shallow, but long dogs with stubby legs are funny. (I challenge you to watch this corgi climbing up a plastic ladder and not laugh. Go corgi go!) Maybe little dorgi won't find it so funny when the other dogs at obedience school are calling him bratwurst butt and stealing his lunch money, but you'll laugh. Oh, you'll laugh. Trust me.

(Okay, somebody needs to stop me from watching these. I'm hypnotised. They're just so stubby and adorable!)

Both parent breeds are very loyal to their own people, and good with their 'own' kids. Just take another look at that first corgi video if you need proof!

And thankfully, both have a pretty long life expectancy - about 12-15 years. Nobody can say at this point what the dorgi's average life span is, but it should be roughly the same.

THE CONS: Oh, boy, where to start!

Like I said, these are peppy dogs. They're both workers, or were - the corgi herding livestock, the Dachshund digging for game and slipping into burrows. These aren't fields that mesh easily and, as is seen in the parent breeds, I imagine with dorgis you get a stumpy sausage dog determined to chase down other animals. As entertaining as that would be to watch (if you're sick like me)...

They're also barkers. LOUD BARKERS.

They're big dogs in little packages and they've got minds of their own. Dachshunds can be tricky to train, I hear. Workers generally are the stubborn ones. Your little dorgi may turn out to be a bit of a brat.

Lastly, both these breeds are mainly geared towards a specific group of people. Dog-savvy people. Dorgis are probably best suited to these people - but then, there's that nasty little myth that designer dogs are the new family dog...

Oh, and zero predictability in temperament or appearance. (Also, that dog up there looks just like Ashlee Simpson and that terrifies me. They have the same soulless look in their eyes, the same hairstyle, and the dog, too, cannot decide which hair colour it prefers. Chilling.)

Yes, it gets its own section now. How exciting!

First off, by poking around I've found some dapple dorgis here and there ... okay if you're using a merle corgi to get that effect, but a big no-no for Doxies, as the double dapple (merle with white) genes carry deafness and blindness. The more you know...

Then there's that glaring detail... What was that? Oh yeah - that LONG DAMN BACK! BOTH breeds have got long spinal cords and the problems that accompany that. And they can both be prone to obesity - oh, jeez, imagine that spine supporting a tubby dog gut. That strain can lead to paralysis of the rear legs, or worse. This site puts intervertebral disk disease, one of the biggest health concerns for Dachshunds, in layman's terms. And don't think it doesn't hit corgis just as hard.

Then there's the usual suspects - eye disorders. Von Willebrand's (an hereditary bleeding disorder). Displasia. And, of course, breed small and you always run the risk of luxating patellas (slipped kneecaps).

Well. No. I mean, there aren't that many purebreeds whose back you could have a picnic off of.

Or saddle up and train a whole family of guinea pigs to ride around on.


I'll stop.

(Sorry, hot-dogs of the world.)

An afterthought...

Two things I forgot to mention in the post below:

EXERCISE! This is another thing Cesar advocates, and he's very right. Take the time to burn off your pet's excess energy and you'll both be happier. A bored and restless dog will be a constant frustration to you. Take little Sparky for walks and you'll find it easier to train and handle him in general.

And secondly, you can practise being the "pack leader" without rolling your dog over. Just try telling him to sit before you give him food, or put on his leash - if he's getting too wound up when playing, tell him to lie down. You get the idea. These small things can affirm that you're the one calling the shots. Not Sparky!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Positive reinforcement vs. positive punishment

EDIT: I posted this, then ended up taking it down and going over it again because something didn't sit right with me. It's back up now, and I want to reiterate that these are just my opinions. Some people really can train dogs using their voice alone, and that's great! Feel free to share some tips. I just wanted to offer my thoughts - that's all.

So I've been looking into Cesar Millan (famed Dog Whisperer)'s methods lately, and I wanted to share some more thoughts on dog training. Positive reinforcement, like clicker training, is the method I favour, which I covered in my earlier dog training post. Positive punishment is what Cesar Millan uses: responding to undesirable behaviour with something aversive, like a "nip" on the neck.

(Yep, punishment can be positive. I know it can get confusing! When you're talking about operant conditioning, instead of the normal connotations of 'good' and 'bad', positive means causing something to happen (after the behaviour), whereas negative is causing something to stop happening. It's like in math, where positive adds something and negative takes away. In dog training, an example of positive reinforcement would be clicker training - rewarding the dog immediately after desirable behaviour with a click and, summarily, a treat. Positive punishment would be a Cesar-type response or a shock collar, causing a mild electrical shock following barking or leaving the property.
Negative reinforcement, taking away a stimulus after the desired behaviour is performed, would be like shaking a can of pennies until your dog stops barking. Negative punishment would be like taking away your dog's toy as soon as he gets overexcited and bites you, and walking away from him. I'm looking at the "positives", so if you get confused, look at it this way: are you going to wait for your dog to do something good (and reward him), or wait for him to do something bad (and punish)? Much more simple!)

Now, to start off I have to say: I might be very pro-clicker training/positive reinforcement, but I think BOTH methods of training very much have their place in the dog world. Often times they'll coincide. With reinforcement you want your dog to keep doing whatever it is he's doing; with punishment you want him to stop. If your dog is an excessive barker, you can either teach him that not barking is a good thing and deserves rewards, or that barking is a bad thing to be punished. He can learn either. If your dog strains at the leash, you can teach her that walking beside you is preferred, or that pulling is undesirable. Before you decide to take either route of training, try and see how many of your objectives could be achieved either way like this. YOU know your dog's temperament, and you should know which method of training will work better for them.

With a puppy, you want to start with reinforcement right away. Your new baby doesn't know what you want at all, and you want to teach him in a way that won't foster uncertainty. He can't be punished for not sitting when he doesn't know what 'sit' means! And like I said in my other post, remember not to punish just because your dog does it the 'wrong' way - like taking too long to come when called. Keep on rewarding, and he'll keep on trying to please you. He'll get better as he learns, and puppies need patient teachers, especially if they're sensitive (researching your dog's breed will nearly always tell you whether that breed tends to respond poorly to harsh methods).

Other puppies need a firmer hand, and it's okay if you need to correct. If baby is showing undesirable actions, you want him to stop NOW, before he grows up and what was cute (like jumping up on people) becomes annoying or even frightening for some people. Worse, maybe he's biting or out of control. In these cases, pay attention to what Cesar teaches: Tone of voice and attitude, even your stance can tell the dog a lot. Plenty of dogs learn fast what "NO" means, because of the way you say it. If puppy bites you, even lightly, yelp or say "OW!" or something, and stop playing. Puppy wants to play with you, and she'll learn that she has to bite much more gently, and eventually not at all, if she wants to keep her playmate.

I won't tell you never to lay a hand on your dog. Why? Because I've raised a Border collie puppy ... I've been there! Even if he is a lovable teddy bear now, Tip was exactly the same as any other Border collie pup in the beginning - that is, he acted like he was perpetually riddled with cocain and running on a six-pack of Red Bulls, and that everyone he met was a "sheep" (not that he tried to herd me, but he played the dominant role). Convincing a Border collie that you're not a sheep is a lot of hard work, and these dogs stay puppies for a long time!

I KNOW we're not all saints, and I KNOW learning all the "be the pack leader" stuff just doesn't come naturally to some people, and that not everyone has time to learn the most positive training methods possible. I will NEVER, EVER tell you to hurt your dog: you're not just the "pack leader" to him, you're his best friend in the whole world. Keep it that way. But, in my opinion, getting "hands-on" can be okay if you do it carefully, and not in anger. Try to look at it like this: you're not aiming to hurt him physically (or emotionally; Tip's probably not the only crybaby out there), but just to get his attention or convey that you're unhappy. A light smack on the rump with an open palm was as far as I ever went personally; some trainers will tell you it's okay to grab your dog by the scruff and give it a shake, but that doesn't sit right with me. It's a matter of personal preference. Either way, I'm sure you realize that dogs get hands-on with each other! It's not the end of the world if you want to use physical contact to redirect your dog. Still; this should be a last resort. You should have already tried using tone of voice, or walking away, or whatever was needed, before touching your dog. And your puppy is probably a little saner than a Border collie - I hope you don't need to touch him. :) (I once dog-sat my neighbours' cockapoo puppy - they went to Florida for two weeks just after acquiring him; yeah, real bright idea - and didn't need to lay a hand on him. Just so you don't think I'm some kind of dog-molesting psycho with the uncontrollable urges to stomp on puppies and live in trailer parks and wear wife-beaters.)

Note: I never felt the need to use physical contact with Tip after he'd grown up a bit. I find the older a dog gets, the more receptive he is to you and the less I would recommend touching him. Tip was hell in puppy form, but now all it takes is a stern word or glare for him to look abashed.

But now your dog is grown up, and still showing some problems. You decide which method will work on him - he's your dog, you know him best, and you know how he should respond. Some dogs don't really need a "pack leader", I feel. When Tip pulls at the leash, it's because he's just excited to be outside and wants to sniff that tree, not because he thinks he's the top dog. Somebody recently told me I should give him a light KICK when he does that - we made a bet that I could stop him from pulling in two weeks using the clicker. Three days in and Tip now simply glances at those trees as if they're hardly there! Clickers can solve a lot of your doggy problems, and I'd recommend using one for just about any issue.

But personally, I think Cesar Millan knows what he's doing. Before you judge his methods, you should try getting into it with an aggressive pittie, and see how far tone of voice gets you! I love that he trains the owners simultaneously, because attitude, and the energy you put out, have a lot to do with how your dog's behaving. And no matter how aggressive the dog, he never harms them: "punishment" can indeed be as simple as a "tsst" (or a more calming "shhh"), or touching the neck.

What I don't like is that people think these are sound methods for training any dog. I can almost guarantee that your Lab doesn't need a "tsst"! Cesar works specifically with aggressive dogs and I think a lot of people lose sight of that. (The person who told me to kick my dog - my dog who is just like that kid you knew in kindergarten that ate paste and crayons, God bless - had just seen one episode of the Dog Whisperer.)

Try positive reinforcement first. If that really doesn't work, well, time to pull your head out of your ass and take some tips from Cesar: be calm, be assertive, lay the foundation using positive punishment until reinforcement can take its place. (But if the dog is super-aggressive, leave it to the professionals.)

(Another note I almost forgot to cover: Positive punishment will work for dominance aggression, but not so much for fear aggression. This I learned from C, my dog guru. I also got this handy chart from her. Fear aggression is something quite different from dominance and possibly one of the most difficult behaviours to break a dog of. I won't go into it now because I have no personal experience; but if you think your dog is fear-aggressive, forget using corrections. Be quiet and unthreatening, don't validify his fearful behaviour by coddling him, and give him treats and love when he is not acting fearful. Obedience training will be your best ally, as it will help strengthen the bond between you and your dog.)

I lost my train of thought two or six times writing this, so I'll sum up my thoughts real quick:

- For teaching your dog new things
- ...OR to train him out of certain behaviours
- Makes training fun for uncertain or sensitive dogs
- Is the clearest way to convey to your dog what you want him to do
- Tends to have good results!

- For correcting bad behaviour ASAP (like biting)
- ...Or laying the foundation to a more mentally sound dog, in order to move on to positive reinforcement
- Best used sparingly and as a last resort
- Will not make you a monster if you do it right, and safely. :)

Lastly, remember that a good trainer keeps an open mind. (Me, I'd never use a can of coins - it hurts my ears, for one thing! But I wouldn't condemn the people that do, either.) Every dog is different and some need different training strategies than others. Breed can be a good indication of how your dog should be trained, so be careful with your muttpuppies. And keep in mind that this is all just my opinion, and you have no particular reason to listen to me. ;) Feel free to disagree. Happy training!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Those awful vicious breeds!

I love this!!

They forgot a breed, though: Small humans. Raising a little human responsibly requires more homework than any dog breed you can come up with ... funny how so few people seem to do their research! For instance, people under the age of 10 make up the majority of dog bite victims... That's a good nugget of information to have! Maybe you should keep your little one on a leash - or at least teach it to ask before petting, hmm?

On the other hand, if I hear of one more person throwing a hissy fit at an owner because their kid just got a free face-wash from a happy Doberman, I suggest you demand how that parent dare endanger their own child's life by allowing it in a car! Because really ... your odds of being bit by a dog are approximately 1 in 50. Your kid is more likely to be involved in a serious car accident (hello, leading cause of death in children). Exercise caution around any dog, but I promise you ... sometimes, that tail-waggin' Dobey or Rottweiler really does just want to make friends!

Milwaukee Raid

We're still a young blog, but on the off chance I have any readers from Wisconsin out there, anybody interested in adopting a puppy? Another puppy mill raid means plenty of dogs to be rehomed!

It takes a lot of commitment and love to bring a puppy mill survivor home for the first time in its life - in fact, it can be a very difficult process for both the dog and you. Remember that these dogs have never had the chance to be dogs in their lives, and they're a long way from fetching you your slippers. But this site and this one can give you some idea of what to expect. If you're at all interested in giving a survivor a forever home - or fostering, or helping in any way - keep an eye on the news (or this blog, as I'll be keeping an eye out, too) for any puppy mill raids near you.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Disclaimer, part two

What do you have against designer dogs??

To be honest? I have NOTHING against the dogs themselves. I think mutts make for some of the sweetest dogs around, and I believe adopting a shelter mutt is one of the best things you can do.

No; if you're keeping up with this blog, you should know it's the people behind the dogs that grate on my nerves. Let's face it: there are way too many dogs out there. Purebreeds will always be relatively okay, because there will always be breed enthusiasts who know their way around their respective dogs. There will always be breed rescues ready to take on an unwanted Lab or shepherd. It's the mutts who are often left high and dry, and that's heart-breaking.

Muttpuppies are the fault of (and should be the responsibility of) people who are too lazy to give their dogs the snip or at least build a proper fence. Those are the people I have a problem with.

Then there are the designer dogs. Remember, 'designer' doesn't mean Dolce & Gabbana- it means these mutts were bred by design. Designer dogs are cockapoos, Goldendoodles, puggles, Maltipoos... All the poos and doodles and then some.

I've had a couple people say I've made them feel guilty for wanting one of these dogs... Ooops! Honest, that was never my intention. (Unless you want a Border Jack, because ... holy crap. Really??) Actually, I really kinda like Goldendoodles and Labradoodles! They make awesome family dogs. :) I applaud the efforts of those breeders trying to develop the "Australian Labradoodle", because breeding with a standard in mind is the best thing you can do for designer dogs: if you want to breed Labradoodles, breed for THIS objective. Most designer dog breeders can't agree on anything except that the dog simply has to be a mix between this breed and that breed.

What I can't stand is the people who put a poodle and a Lab together and automatically assume the best traits of both will show up in the puppies. These are the people who notice a growing trend and decide to get in on it. OFA and CERF? Never heard of it! Health problems? No problem, hybrid vigour's on our side! So the poodle's a little snappy? The Lab genes will take care of that! These people also tend to refuse to breed multigenerational dogs, because they want all the benefits that come with a true blue mutt.

I know you're sick of me harping on about unpredictability in mutts, but it's one of my biggest pet peeves. In the hands of fad breeders, you don't know what your dog's temperament will be like, you don't know what it'll look like when it's grown, you don't know what health problems it may present, if you're getting a Golden- or Labradoodle you won't even know if it's low-shedding and "hypoallergenic" or not! And hybrid vigour, well - it may work out to some degree for some mixes, but the thing to keep in mind is that muttpuppies aren't real "hybrids" at all. Domestic dogs are all the same species - Canis lupus familiaris - and a hybrid, if you want to get technical, is a mix of two different species. Some geneticists like the late George Padgett, DVM even say that mixed breeds can inherit the genes for more than DOUBLE the health problems in some purebreeds.

And these people expect you to pay money for these "one of a kind" genetic anomalies.

Just for kicks, I went hunting on a pet-finder site for a schnauzer mix, because I've always wanted a dog with a beard. And ta-da. He's young, he's a schnoodle, he's in need of a yard to run around in, and he's an hour or two away from me. It's that easy! Now I could have my very own doggy beard to brush all day ... assuming he's got one. And poking around, it's sad to see just how many of these dogs are mixed breeds.

So you see, it's not all about the muttpuppies here at Muttpuppies on Trial. I aim to rag on the people who come up with those bizarre mixes, bad breeders (in general), puppy mills, and anything doggy that catches my interest. And if you want to adopt yourself a designer dog, that's okay by me. Just do your research, and find yourself a responsible breeder first!

Friday, October 24, 2008

I've got a bone to pick with you, Florida...


Remember that site where the "celebrities" buy their puppies?

Put your heads between your knees, because it gets worse. (Almost.)

Why? Whyyy?? How could you do this to me Florida?? I thought we were buddies! I visited you way back when I was in diapers and I fed your ducks. Okay, so I didn't call when I said I would, but you know how busy life gets...

Well-- let's break these two sites down, shall we?

1) They're both based in FL.
2) They both profess to be "boutiques" with "showrooms", bringing to mind small glittery stores where wedding dresses are sold and tea is served.
3) They both offer teacup dogs (whyyy??).
4) They both take pictures of their puppies with pretty bows and tiaras and pink things draped all over them.

Puppy Lanes goes one BETTER by adding glittering graphics that read messages like "I ♥ U". Oh, gag me with your smallest Chihuahua. But the best part is, look how scared and angry these babies look. Part of me wants to laugh. The other part wants to grab an armful of Yorkies and RUN.

I won't even go into the stupidity of breeding "teacup" dogs. If you read this blog, you probably already know.


Florida's good guys, please reassure me that still you're out there and not drowning in tiny sparkly dogs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Finding the right apartment dog

I was asked to write a post about how the size of a dog isn't relative to the size of its living space. I decided to write all about apartment dogs. My opinion? There's nothing wrong with keeping a dog in an apartment - so long as (like with any living situation) you do your homework!

First off, I'm sure you know to check with your landlord and all that. You might want to run the breed you'd like past him/her, too. While you may not agree with them if they're uncomfortable with "bully" breeds, your landlord can still give you boot or make you give up your dog, and nobody wants that to happen. Respect his/her feedback. Secondly, figure out an action plan. Do you have a nearby park or place to exercise your dog every day? Do you know how he's going to relieve himself? Are you ready for the possibility of your dog making noise or picking up other habits that might annoy the neighbours?

But most importantly of all, have a breed in mind, and research research research!

Going to a shelter could also be a good idea. The people who work there have a good idea of what their dogs behave like, and might be able to pair you up with a suitable pooch. That way, you'll get an already polite and housebroken companion with a new lease on life. Win-win! If you do want a puppy to raise, though, think HARD on breed selection. I looked up some outside sources for help, and ... nearly every article was actually way off the mark when it came to some things. This one recommends Weimaraners, that one recommends Malamutes, here's one that recommends BEAGLES, as in named-for-baying BEAGLES - it's just a big headache. Let's start with the dogs we should AVOID.

The possibilities seem infinite. Gundogs and hounds are a noisy bunch, so you'll want to stay away from them. Even the barkless Basenji will yodel. Oh, and I think spitzes may own the title for Most Strident Voice in the dog world. Working/herding dogs have busy paws and busier minds, and they will wreak havoc on a small space if bored. Terriers might seem good for apartment living, but remember that these dogs were largely bred to a) investigate nooks and crannies, and b) run and find out. If something's happening on the other side of the wall, the curiosity may drive your terrier crazy. Sporting dogs are bouncy, exciteable and active. Faced with all these dead ends, I thought of Golden retrievers, the canine all-rounder, but then remembered that they can suffer from separation anxiety which can lead to destructive or noisy habits, oh my God, WHERE ARE ALL THE APARTMENT DOGS AT?

This site was my favourite of all the ones I looked at, because it's good for basically ball-parking things for you. It's a list of 50 most popular apartment dogs, but that doesn't mean that they all make GOOD apartment dogs, which the writer points out. It makes for a good estimation: if you check all your facts, one of these breeds could work well for you.

In picking your dog, generally check for three things: noise level, exercise requirement, and aggression factor. Remember that you and your dog will be sharing living space with other people. You're not the only one who has to get along with your dog.

Now here's a handful of breeds I can think to recommend.

THE GIANTS: You might be surprised to hear that the giants actually do quite well in apartments! Which brings us back to the original topic: big dogs do not necessarily need big plots of land to be happy. In fact, big dogs are some of the biggest couch potatoes in the dog world. I've mentioned Great Danes before now - those guys are quite happy to contort themselves into a happy pretzel and doze on the couch. And Newfoundlands, the sweet-tempered lovechild of a grizzly and a gorilla, used to spend most of their time hanging out on boats, and will do fine in an apartment provided they get their daily walk.

Things to consider: Naysayers will give you grief about cooping up such a big dog, and that may get wearying. Some people find it difficult to swallow that the dog doesn't require a huge house and yard. In actuality, your dog would probably just laze around some other six cubic foot space if you moved. The giant breeds are not the ones who will run laps around your home like they're chasing hubcaps at the Indiana 500: no, those are the small dogs!

Also, giants may not typically be big barkers, but when they do bark, they can bring the ceiling down. And you'll have to be quick to the draw on training your dog out of spurts of hyperactivity while it's small, especially when people come to the apartment, because if your giant starts a happy dance it might cave the floor in. (This is always something to consider with a giant, though. My cousin and her husband have a massive, soft-hearted Great Dane who greets people not by dancing but by putting his face in theirs to examine them from an inch away. His tail is going a mile a minute, but it can still be alarming. And they think this is okay, because he's not jumping!)

My real warning is that large dogs are prone to arthritis and displasia, so be mindful of the type of building you live in. Are you on one of the lower levels? Do you have to climb flights of stairs up to your apartment, or take an elevator? It may not seem important while your dog is young, but it could cause them grief later on in life.

Oh, yeah - and don't forget about the walking disaster that is a Dane's wagging tail!

THE TOYS: The ankle-biter brigade isn't for everyone, but trust me, if they were good enough for royalty, they're good enough for you. :) Just check if your breed of choice was originally bred to be a pet (like the Pekingese), or an active working dog (like the Yorkie), because this may make a difference.

Personally I'd recommend dogs from the Bichon family, because .... I like small white fluffy dogs. I feel ashamed every time I say it. But look into Malteses, Havaneses sound especially delightful, and Bichon frisés and the adorable Bologneses are promoted as low-shedding. And I won't lie: I like Chihuahuas, too. Honest! But if you get a Chihuahua, make sure you know exactly what you're getting into. I don't know what most owners expect, but Chihuahuas CAN be high-strung and they are by and large one-person dogs, and I think it's the owners who aren't prepared for that and don't socialize their dogs right that give Chis a bad rap! Papillons are another small breed I'm fond of, and they make very pleasant companions; just know that they are quite physically active. And the King Charles Spaniel makes for a very sweet-tempered lap dog.

Lastly, for those who prefer not to sit on either extreme end of the scale, some medium-sized dogs suited to apartment life:

ENGLISH BULLDOG: Friendly, squishy, stubby-limbed, bricked-in-the-face face, what's not to love! These guys are sweethearts AND they're easily trained.

SHAR PEI: Cutest puppies ever, plus these dogs are affectionate and, a bonus, very quiet.

CHOW CHOW: For those who know their way around a dog. Mostly bred as companions these days, they can be a bit willful, but they love their people.

GREYHOUND: You might be surprised, but it's true! In fact, one of the best apartment roomies you'll find is a retired greyhound. Most dogs retire at 3-4, but some will be 2 or younger. They get along with everyone, kids, grandparents and other pets included, and they are little couch potatoes. They're laidback, clean, relaxed, and low-maintenance. You can't ask for a better apartment dog.

STANDARD SCHNAUZER: Recommended by An American in Copenhagen - these guys are also for the dog-savvy, but they're very healthy, trainable, shed very little, don't bark much, and make great family dogs. They're also highly adaptable - and they're calm enough that some are used as therapy dogs. If you've got the time to exercise this robust little dog, he'll make another perfect roomie.

And, before I stop, yes, designer dogs can fare well in apartments too, I'm sure. As long as you're looking for a responsible breeder, I won't tell you not to buy one! Just REMEMBER that you don't always know what you're getting with a muttpuppy. Remember the puggle: Pugs aren't big barkers, but beagles ARE, so it's a bit of a risk to take one home (though training in puppyhood will help). With a designer dog, you've always got to do double the research!

I guess that's all for today. If you've got a breed to add, or if you think my information is wrong, please tell me! I'd like to have a relatively reliable list here. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Typical Tip.

Last night as Tip and I were enjoying our evening stroll, he suddenly abandoned his cheery, tongue-flopping-out-the-side-of-his-mouth grin and I could literally see all two of his brain cells banding together to fixate his attention on something up ahead. I looked. An older woman was on the path going in the same direction as us, ambling along at a leisurely pace to accommodate the stride of the small woolly dustbunny at the end of the leash in her hand.

One thing that must be understood about Tip is that he likes to make friends. He loves to make friends. People, dogs, the birds in the yard, whatever. Never mind that the sight of a hard-eyed Border collie lunging at you can kind of cause people to mistake the intention and run away like little girls, or that Tip is actually incapable of reading warning signs from other dogs and still thinks the snarling Dachshund that is intent on digging its way out of its yard every time we pass it is just being neighbourly. In his head, Tip lives on Sesame Street where everyone is great and nice and there purely to entertain him.

Still, I thought the almighty leap as he took off in pursuit of the tiny Shih Tzu was a bit too enthusiastic. Even for Tip.

I've never been a large person, and when he puts his mind to it, my dog can haul me off in the blink of an eye and cover ten yards before I think to put the brakes on. Then it's a game of tug-of-war. Last night's was an epic battle of claws scrabbling at the sidewalk and Tip's breath wheezing in his throat as he crawled his way determinedly up the path. And you know, for once, his intended victim actually looked sort of delighted to see him, when she heard his rasping, choking, slobbering approach (gasping out, I imagine, "Hey baby, what's your sign?"). And no mortified cries of "Tip!" or "Molly!" from us tagalongs could separate the two once they met. Tails were wagging, leashes were entwining, saliva was being flung, it was chaos.

Now, in his younger, wilder days, of what I suppose can only be described as the doggy equivalent of the college experience, Tip was only ever interested in other boy dogs. That was A-OK by me. I dreamed of the day I could take him to the store and buy him sweaters for winter and then we'd giggle and do each other's hair. I'm pretty sure he was even having a gay love affair with a Golden retriever named Murphy - until she moved in.

'She' is a poodle/Bichon named Chloe, and she belongs to my neighbours. It was love at first sight. Years later, whenever we see her on our walks, Tip flies through the ritual of puffing at the end of his leash like a freight train and just about strangling himself with delight, while Chloe gets so jazzed, she stands on her hind legs and jumps up and down and peddles her front paws and rolls on the ground and breakdances all over the sidewalk, while my neighbour and I try to avoid eye contact and mumble our hellos. So, up until now, I thought Chloe was the only girl dog in Tip's heart. Yet here he was making an ass out of himself and me over some unfamiliar puppy.

Understanding gradually dawned. I squinted at the tiny shag bathroom rug Tip was eagerly trying to inhale, and said, "What breed of dog is that?"

"A Shih Tzu and Maltese mix," the proud mother replied.

And I got it.

Oh my God, my dog is such a Benedict Arnold.

Well, shit, is what I was thinking, but what came out was "How cute."

Then I grabbed the leash in both hands and hauled Tip away from his newfound lover with a too-chirpy, "Say goodbye to Molly, Tip!"

My dog lusts for designer dogs. It makes sense now. My stupid Border collie has some carnal instinct to father terrible, terrible muttpuppies. I shrieked things like "How could you do this to me?" and "How long have you known?" at him, while he stared over his shoulder with a misty-eyed, vacant expression. Visions of maltipoos and chorkies danced in his head.

I fully expect his anti-MoT blog to go online in a few days.

(Coming up: A rant on apartment dogs.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Meet the real mini molosser!

Did you know a baby platypus or echidna is called a puggle?

I think this is arguably the best word we as humans have ever come up with. I was actually kind of delighted the first time I heard there was a dog with the same name.

I almost giggled the first time I saw one, too. Like baby platypuses, puggles are small and wrinkly and begging to be picked up and held. Unlike platypuses, they look for all the world like miniature mastiffs, putting the efforts of Dakota Winds to shame. A puggle is the offspring of a beagle and a pug, if you didn't know, and with those chests and little barrel bodies pugs actually are part of the molosser family, which accounts for that mystery. But the puggle doesn't strongly favour either parent, and if you didn't know any better, you could almost swear it was some obscure, adorable purebreed.

And I think we should all know by now that I like cute dogs.

THE PROS: Note that the puggle actually has a muzzle to speak of. I knew somebody who had a pug that would follow me all over her place, snuffling nonstop. I would have to shove it out of the bathroom with my foot and I could hear it snorting away outside the door the whole time. When I showed up at her house, the dog would practically go into respiratory arrest. I don't know what his fixation with me was, but it's nice to think that if I ever picked up a puggle stalker, I wouldn't hear that sinister, snuffly wheezing sound lurking just behind corners.

In short, the beagle genes make it easier for the offspring to breathe. Which is good.

I'm hearing that puggles are quite healthy, but I'm not sure I believe it. It is true, however, that, like beagles, they don't seem to suffer from the dreaded hip dysplasia. And in my personal opinion, a puggle sounds healthier than a pug.

Lastly, you get some degree of predictability (which I am always always advocating), at least in appearance. The puggle has a pretty uniform look: namely, that cute li'l squashed-molosser look. (Although Wikipedia does say otherwise.)

THE CONS: Unfortunately, both beagles and pugs tend to suffer from "cherry eye", epilepsy, skin infections, luxating patellas, and back ailments, among other things. Puggles can also have problems with harsh weather, like extreme heat or cold, and since you can never quite know what you're getting with a mutt, your pup may have just a little difficulty with his breathing, or he may inherit the pug's compacted airways and struggle to breathe efficiently. Combined with the beagle drive to run run run, this can spell disaster for puggles. Some people are saying they've known these dogs to run themselves to death. Yikes.

Nobody knows where the puggle came from, but the theory is that it was an "oops" puppy. I can certainly believe that, because if you're breeding pugs, you want to be very very careful. A slapdash approach to breeding will give you extremely unhealthy dogs. I imagine much the same goes for Pekingeses and other "bricked-in-the-face dogs" (my affectionate term). If you have to have a puggle, you will definitely need to get a close look at the pug parent, but that won't tell you everything about the health of your baby. I'd say I hope we have some really responsible breeders out there, but to be perfectly honest, if they were truly responsible they wouldn't be breeding puggles. Landing other dogs with pug breathing issues is a bad idea. How about we take the UK's lead, and start developing healthier pugs before we start experimenting?

Moving on: They have no purpose. Whatsoever. I won't even bother with the last section, regarding the dog's function. People breed them to be family dogs, and we've got way too many of those running around already. They're not hypoallergenic, even though some confused people will tell you they are, because ... apparently all hybrids are hypoallergenic. This must be some magical muttpuppy gene, because pugs and beagles sure aren't!

Some owners will say they're high maintenance, others will say they're not. Some say they shed a lot and some say they're very low-shedding. Who knows! Most owners are in agreement, though, in that these puppies are not the easiest to train or housebreak. They say the extra time spent training them is worth it, though I'm not so sure.

I wanted to go easy, puggles. I really did. You've got cute cute faces and big eyes. But you are a fad breed. Left alone, you will disappear quietly, I'm afraid. I hope.

Readers, just stay very still and quiet ... if it doesn't see us, it will go away on its own. Shh...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A rhapsody on dog training

This is my dog Tip.
Tip is hilarious. Note the gleeful expression on his face as his busy little brain works out that, maybe, if he brings me his tennis ball AND a stick, I'll throw BOTH for him. There is a dog who knows what he wants out of life.

Tip's a purebred Border collie. He's got "classic" markings and conformation to die for. ..Actually I'm no dog show connoisseur, but still. If I were a judge, I would give him Best in Show. You say no to that face. He should be a dog biscuits model or something. (Can you tell I'm gonna be one of those moms who shows everyone the pictures of her kids in her wallet?)

But I won't lie. Tip is a good example of a purebreed you DON'T want to breed. I love him to bits, he's kooky and adorable, but he's dumb as a plank. He's a sweetheart, but he's not a good representation of his breed. I don't know if he's just got a dumbass gene in his lines or if this was the result of what I refer to as "the incident" - sometime during puppyhood, Tip was dicking around and caused a hay bale to fall on him. Chicken or the egg? Well, not worth the risk. And after he was caught several times making sweet love to his pillow, it wasn't hard to say goodbye to his balls.

Anyway, Tip's big problem is that he's neurotic as hell. Everything overwhelms him. I lied - he's not THAT dumb (he walks into so many walls he'd fool you, though) - but training him was a major trial because he'd get all nervous and wiggly and start the pee dance. I'm not a dog psychologist and I don't know how to make him stop being so afraid of being judged or screwing up or whatever it is that scares him. Actually, I have exactly the same problem myself (without wetting my pants, though. Most days). So I let it slide.

I digress.

Do you remember our friends at Dakota Winds, with the freaky mini Saint Bernards? I finally checked out their son's website because I was intrigued by the mention of a training program, and to see if maybe he learnt from his parents' mistakes. Well, he didn't. (Who's surprised?) In fact, he and his girlfriend-type are breeding MORE freaky little mixes, like ... um ... "Cuddles". (Show of hands, who would tell people that's what their dog was? If I had one and somebody asked me what was on the end of my leash, I'd say, "Oh, him? He's a Butch McHarley. Mix between a Rottweiler and a lumberjack." But I know I wouldn't fool anybody.)

Anyway, their training program. You leave your dog with them. You pay them $600, and they in turn teach your puppy how to pee outside and sit. For the reasonable sum (reasonable like a water balloon to the face) of $1800, they teach him how to pee, sit, lie down and heel. For an added $150, they teach him how to ring a bell when he wants to go outside!

I don't care how dumb your dog is, he can convey to you that he needs to pee. Even my dog who rides the short bus knows how to do this. He barks at the door. Or he comes into whatever room I'm in and gives me the Patent Border Collie Staredown. You don't have to be a sheep to get freaked out by The Stare, take my word. Sometimes I don't even know what he wants, I just get moving. It's kind of embarrassing to realize you're being herded as you part from your desk and hustle downstairs with your dog's gimlet eyes burning holes into your back. Maybe bell-ringing has its uses for some people, but I think in Tip's case he would ring them once and then take cover under the coffee table. The most expensive piece of crap my dumb dog ever scared himself with.

I wouldn't trust my dog to these people. Let's face it, for $1950 I would expect him to come home and start reciting Henry IV, both parts. For what you get, that is not worth it. And I know I'm not the only one with a) not enough money and/or b) a semi-retarded dog for whom normal training methods don't work. I don't care if you don't think you have a lot of time to spend teaching your dog how to sit pretty. YOU can train your dog yourself, and you don't have to be a dog whisperer to do it. Listen up, because I'm about to save you about $1948 with these two words:

Clicker training.

NOTE at this point that, on top of not being a dog show connoisseur (unless watching on ESPN counts) or a dog psychologist, I am also not a professional dog trainer myself. Nearly everything I learned about dog training, I learned from my friend who DOES train dogs for a living. Better yet, she trains service dogs. She gets to cruise around in wheelchairs and take puppies into malls, and THEY GIVE HER MONEY FOR THIS. I am so jealous. She's also a vet tech and I don't think there's ANYTHING she doesn't know about animals. She's the one I go wailing to when my beloved guinea pig scratches her ear an unusual amount of times, is she dying?? (Nope, C tells me kindly, just has a bit of an allergy to her bedding.) C is a dog whisperer and a goddess.

C uses a clicker to train her dogs, and had lots of tips (no pun intended) when I decided to give it a go with Tip because I was at least mostly sure it couldn't make him any more defective upstairs. Within three sessions, my dog who should wear a helmet everywhere he goes had all but mastered the "downstay". I'm pretty convinced now that clicker training is the solution to all of life's problems. Recently acquired a puppy? Clicker training! Dog pulls at the leash? Clicker training! Excessive barker? Clicker training! Cheating husband? Clicker training! Global economic recession? Buy a clicker!

Forget everything you've heard right now about tone of voice and showing who's boss and even forget everything you learned in psych 101 about operant conditioning, because what it comes down to is this: Your dog thinks you're a dumbass - after all, you're the one who expects him to drop everything and come indoors right away when he's busy having the time of his life haring around the yard chasing that squirrel who keeps screaming racial slurs and making gang signs at him from the fence. So? make him think that the objective is FUN, too.
Step One: Desired behaviour.
Step Two: Click.
Step Three: Reward.

Ta-da. Suddenly you're not such a dumbass. You've got tasty treats, and your puppy wants them.

You could probably learn more from other sources, like C, who should write a book so I can pimp it all over the place, because I'm just an awed believer who's seen the light. Hallelujah, I will stray no more! But I've got some handy tips for you anyway. These methods may or may not work for you. But they worked for my dog who is special-ed and captivated by the sound of his own farts, so I have a lot of faith.

1. Don't tell me your dog is too old to learn. I've probably pulled that line too, but it's not true. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Get a clicker and let your dog wow you. Tip was five (still is) when we started clicker training; well into maturity, even for a dog his breed. I was anxious because the school next to our favourite park was having a lot of construction done this summer before the school year began, and with all those big machines rolling around begging to be herded, and him not such a star at down or recall... Well, training felt important. (Imagine how proud I was when he dropped flat at my command as a truck came rolling out of the woods in front of him, and stayed there. Forget pride - imagine my RELIEF!)

2. Use hand signals. C taught me this one. Human speech can sometimes be difficult for dogs, especially if you're not the only one in the house who's going to be giving the commands. The same word won't always sound the same to them. I imagine this is more important with service dogs - or bilingual dogs - but I attached a signal to the "downstay" command anyway (hand raised, palm facing the dog, in a kind of "STOP in the name of lo-ove!" pose. It's very overt and the most attention-grabbing signal I could think of, as this is the most important command to me), so when Tip is half a football field away and I yell "down", even if he doesn't hear the precise command, he sees the hand and drops.

3. "Downstay" is IMPORTANT if, like me, you let your dog run around off-leash. Sometimes recall isn't the best option, like, heaven forbid, if your dog is running at you from the other side of a road. When you say "down" (or lie down, or whatever command you choose), your dog should know that this means HIT THE DECK and don't move until Mom or Dad says so.

4. Know your enemy. Are you teaching a breed that learns best by repetition, or one (like herders) that gets bored fast and needs variation? The clicker's great for both. Making it gradually more difficult to earn a click, or only giving a click when the dog does the desired behaviour perfectly, can motivate him. With Tip, I first praised the simple action of lying down, then increased the distance between us when I gave the command, then only praised his lying down and staying put until I gave the release. Some sites will tell you to start with the action and THEN add the verbal command, but Tip already knew what "lie down" meant, so I all I had to do was make the gradual switch between "lie down" (which I use in the home to mean stop licking my socks and bugger off under the coffee table please) and "down" (HIT THE DECK!). I don't see the point of adding a verbal command later, anyway.

5. ALWAYS follow up a click with a treat! Some people might say click and then heap the praise on, but let's face it - your dog would rather work for food. I sure would work for Butterfingers.

6. Be consistent. I learned this from C, too. If your dog is mowing down that crazy racist squirrel, and you yell for five minutes for your dog to COME HERE SIR, and finally your dog does, happy and satisfied, don't take the wind out of his sails by bitching at him for taking so long. He came, didn't he? Tell him what a good widdle muffin he is, yes he is! Click and give him a treat while you're at it. Now he knows that, hey, coming inside when he's called can be rewarding, too. Funny how this never occurs to us. C is pretty convinced dog owners are morons. I think in most cases she is spot on.

Clicker training is dog training made easy. Before you give up on your puppy and send him to somebody else for a crazy fee, just buy a clicker and some Scooby Snacks or whatever your dog likes, and give it a whirl.

If C gives her permission, and if my readers aren't too offended by excessive profanity, I might just link to the guide she's working on right now, "Clicker Training Motherf***ers", because it's more informative than I am. In the meantime, though, here is a link which seems pretty good (PDF alert). And by the way, clicker training can be used on all kinds of animals - cat, horses (and even fish, C claims) included. Teach your pets wacky stuff, why not!


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Muttpuppies: NOT, in fact, God's gift to humanity.

Check out this article: 7 reasons why you should pick a mixed-breed over a purebred dog. I suspect this lady's more confused than an Alaskan governor on the definition of 'maverick'. Here we go...

1.You can find them in shelters.

There are so many mixed breed dogs in shelters that need your love and companionship. Imagine how good you'll feel when you save the life of a shelter dog. It's recycling at its very best.

So somebody's Heinz 57 snuck across the street for a little tête-à-tête with the neighbour's Boston Terrier. The neighbours didn't want the funny-looking offspring and neither did the stupids who failed to neuter their mutt, so the puppies ended up in a box outside the local shelter's door, and that's the story of how your pity-adoption came to be. Of course I'm not saying that you shouldn't adopt the unwanted little buggers, but why on earth would being a mixed breed make one shelter dog preferable over another? Imagine how good you'd feel saving the life of a beagle whose owner passed away. The moral of this story, kids, is "adopt a shelter dog", which certainly doesn't translate to "adopt an oogly mutt from a shelter just because it's oogly and of undetermined origin".

2. Mixed breeds are healthier.

It's well known that mixed breed dogs live longer lives and have fewer health problems overall. This is because they're not inbred like pedigree dogs. If you want your companion around for many years, consider a mixed breed dog.

Oh boy! Time to meet this thing head-on. [rubs hands together]

Yes, hybrid vigor is a good, happy thing. Hybrid vigor is what happens when you mix two dogs together and the offspring is genetically superior to the parents.The fairy tale is that every mutt has hybrid vigor. The TRUTH is that not all hybrids have hybrid vigor. I've ranted before now about muttpuppies whose parents have numerous health problems in common; I'll lift an example from another source* now to drive the point home: the Cocker spaniel and the poodle. These two share, among other things, hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, epilepsy, poor temperaments, allergies, skin and ear problem, Legg-Calve-Perthe's, luxating patellas, hypothyroidism, cryptorchidism, and gastric torsion. A cockapoo may well stand a higher chance of inheriting any of these problems than a purebred pup from a good breeder will. Breeding purebred dogs (responsibly) should mean that you are passionate about the breed and want to improve it - NOT "this dog is pretty and his sister is pretty and together their babies will be perfect!" Whereas unfortunately, hybrid breeders (like I hope the writer of this article is NOT) often tend to think "this dog is pretty and this dog is smart and together THEIR babies will be perfect!" No. Sorry. Your babies will have hip dysplasia because you noticed the current Labradoodle trend and decided to make a buck.

(*This article is good for further reading on the hybrid vigor myth.)

3. Mixed breeds are smarter.

As a generalization, mixed breed dogs tend to be more intelligent, worldly, and savvy with more common sense and street smarts. Having had both types of dogs, this is just an observation on my part, but I've had many other people say the same.

You're trying to sell me on muttpuppies based on personal experience? No deal! What the heck gives your dog street smarts? Oh, yeah - he lived in the alley behind a pizza place before you picked him up from a shelter. If that's street smarts, I don't want 'em!

Crack open a book, why don't you? There is a whole world of smart pooches out there waiting to prove that they can perform a job with 450% more efficiency than your designer dog. Lady, in the dog world, we don't really look for 'street smarts'. We like usefulness and trainability. I can absolutely guarantee that a GSD is more intelligent than your Peke-a-chon. (I don't even know what that is but apparently it's great with kids.)

4. Mixed breeds are truly one-of-kind.

There are too many cookie cutter, purebred dogs in this world. Would you rather have a Picasso original or a reprint? We need to stop choosing dogs based on status and learn to appreciate the unique characteristics of a mixed breed dog.

My old Border collie was a gruff, super-smart alpha dog who didn't stand for nonsense and was fiercely protective of his family; my Border collie now is a super-sweet goofball who loves meeting new people and horsing around. So? My dogs are both predictable in their Border collie vigor, instincts, and looks, and perfectly distinct from one another. Ask anybody in the world who's had two dogs of the same breed - from the same litter, even! - and they will tell you that this argument just don't fly. Dogs are unique, just like people. And you wouldn't call the son of two Chinese people a cookie cutout, would you?

5. Mixed breed dogs are appreciative.

If you've ever adopted a mixed breed dog from a shelter, you know how appreciative they are of your attention. Many of them have been neglected or abused in the past and are grateful for any affection you give them. They show their appreciation by guarding your home and your family, and are even willing to lay down their life to protect you.

Again, this is Just Another Dog Thing. You go to Wal-Mart and come home, and your pup is positively ecstatic that you've returned! You were gone for twenty minutes and he's so happy that you've suddenly come back, he doesn't even know what to do with himself! Well, guess what? This isn't just your mongrel, it's every dog in the world. Dogs love people. Not "mutts love people". Dogs. There is nothing to set your special snowflake apart from the rest of man's best friends around the globe. Okay?

6. Mixed breed dogs live longer.

As a generalization, when comparing mixed breed and purebred dogs of similar size, the mixed breed dog will outlive the purebred. Again, this comes down to the fact that most purebred dogs are inbred which creates health problems that shorten their lives.

Get off your hybrid horse and drum it through your head! Responsibly-bred purebreeds are healthy!! Yeesh! Who among you mutt-breeders actually takes health into consideration without assuming that hybrid vigor will make all your genetic problems magically disappear?

Besides - would you prefer the unpredictability of a mutt, or KNOWING that your terrier will most likely have a lengthy lifespan? Hmm.

7. Adopting a mixed breed helps to reduce animal overpopulation.

Breeders of purebred dogs often contribute to pet overpopulation by irresponsible breeding. When you adopt a mixed breed dog from a shelter not only are you reducing the number of homeless pets, you'll get a dog that's already spayed or neutered in most cases. You'll have a positive impact on the continuing problem of pet overpopulation and production. A great reason to feel good about yourself.

You know what else helps to reduce animal overpopulation? Spaying your muttpuppy and not encouraging designer dog breeders! Encouraging responsible breeders by buying from people who know a little something about purebreeds! Sure, adopt a mutt from a shelter; but for God's sake don't breed it!! I'm telling you, it won't be any smarter, longer-lived or friendlier than a good old properly-bred Golden retriever!

I don't know about you guys, but I'm feeling better about myself already.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, Canucks!

Well, it's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and this blogger is hanging out with family in Connecticut, so I'll keep this one short.

Last night, PA - the "puppy mill capital of the east" - finally signed a bill calling for larger cages, exercise requirements and annual vet check-ups in order to crack down on their puppy mills. They're also giving more power to people in a position to help these dogs and making it so that only vets can euthanize dogs at commercial kennels, meaning (hopefully) no more needless shootings when the dogs suddenly become inconvenient.

This is great! Here's hoping the new laws really make a difference and help wipe out the state's reputation. I'm off to celebrate with another piece of pie, and I'll return soon!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Introducing the world's most efficient ankle-biter

Sorry for the delay! You might have noticed that Blogger temporarily locked MoT. Apparently they were just checking that we're not a spam blog, and I don't think I helped our image by failing the 'prove you're not a bot' test when I requested to be unlocked the first time... Anyway, I got it in the end, so we're back up now and raring to bash this latest 'breed'!

I decided not to rag on poodle hybrids this week. This mix caught my eye and, frankly, I find it much more deserving of my ire, disgust etc than an -oodle/-poo. It's finally happened... The desecration of the breed closest to my heart.

Yes, the Border Jack. Offspring of a Border collie and a Jack Russell. People are actually breeding these terrors. Together. Intentionally.

[deep breath]

Now, I know these dogs aren't exactly in vogue (yet), but there are quite a few floating around. I can't figure out why anybody would be breeding Jack Russell mutts when they can't even seem to get their breed straight. (Jack Russell? Parson Russell? Parson Jack Russell? Whatever. I'd be working on a breed distinction if I were a breeder and the dispute mattered to me - ie purebred Jacks and Parsons.)

So you take a pot and toss in some fun traits like 'working dog', 'easily bored' and 'not good with children'. Add a busy mind and a destructive streak. Stir well. Throw in a sprig of joint problems for flavour. Mix in some hyperactivity, and ... mmm. Smells like a super-fun family dog!

THE PROS: Not much to speak of. Really. I thought about it, and I looked around, but they really are scarce.

If I may go off on a tangent, I was once watching a mock agility competition at an annual pet convention in Toronto, with Border collies dominating the scene. After matching off the final pair (collies both), they pitted the victor against their reigning champ... A Jack Russell. And boy, did she blow away the competition! She didn't put a foot wrong - and those little legs could seriously motor. She flew through the course and finished with time to spare. I almost couldn't believe my eyes.

Now if somebody watching that competition had thought, "If I put that Border collie and that Jack Russell together, I'd have a SUPER agility dog!" ....they'd be a dumbass. Really. Don't do that. But at least they'd have a purpose. Sadly, I suspect the prowess both breeds show in agility and flyball is just a coincidence when it comes to their offspring. Still ... I guess it's a quasi-pro ... the pups might be useful agility dogs as well? ...I'm sorry, I can't do it. You don't know what you'll get with muttpuppies! They could be great but they could end up all wrong.

I'm certain that a Border Jack owner would tell me how smart their dog is. Okay. Borders and Jacks are both smart dogs, I'm sure their babies are smart too. This is a pro, of course; except how many dogs like Border collies end up in rescues because their owners can't handle them? So many people make the mistake of thinking smart = trainable. NOT TRUE! The smarter the dog, the more of a moron he thinks YOU are, and the more trouble you'll have convincing him to stay near you off-leash when there's something awesome he could be rolling in over there. Good job breeders, you just cut your target buyers in half. Now you're aiming to sell to people who know what they want in a dog and how to get it ... and unfortunately, most of them already have a more predictable breed in mind. Wish your puppies luck with the clueless people and young families they'll wind up with.

And the last - real - pro. Now listen up, because this may be the only time I ever say this. Are you listening? I don't want to have to raise my voice. Okay. Here it comes.

Hybrid vigour may work for this dog.

I'm no scientist so don't take my word for it! But for once, we get to see two breeds who don't share a lot of health problems in common. Jacks have a number of eye disorders going on, whereas the big one for Borders is Collie eye anomaly, which doesn't occur in Jacks. Borders tend to suffer from hip dysplasia more than anything, but this isn't common in Jacks either. They still share epilepsy and some joint problems, and some other less common things like deafness, but I had to do some digging. Huh. Looks like ... these may be ... pretty healthy dogs.

THE CONS: Oh, boy, where to start?

Well, I mentioned how adorable the Maltipoos and Goldendoodles were. I like aesthetics, so it's worth mentioning that I think Border Jacks are pretty funny-looking. Let's just say when it comes to looks, there is a SERIOUS lack of predictability.

Incidentally, the two most neurotic dogs I can think of off the top of my head are my own Border collie and my friend's Jack Russell. I'm still having trouble imagining anybody putting these two breeds together on purpose. You're not getting a more manageable Border, and you're not getting a less caffeinated Jack. You might even end up with something WORSE.


I don't even know if I can go on. Your muttpuppy may be fairly physically sound, but good luck surviving puppyhood (and onward. Border collies mature slow). That's the best I can come up with, apart from look for something more manageable and less neurotic. Otherwise, I think I've covered most of the cons of this breed. They're smart (bad for owners who aren't hardcore working-dog savvy), they're probably a little crazy, odds on they won't like your kids, and they look weird.

They don't have a function. If it were agility or flyball, well, you're better off with a breed that's already solid in the field. If you want a smart dog, pick one or the other. Just stop breeding these monsters!

Because really. What did Border collies and Jacks ever do to you?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

At last a ray of sunshine!

Massive puppy mill raid went down in PA yesterday. Hundreds of dogs out of approximately 508 were rescued. My question is, why the hell was a guy TWICE convicted of animal cruelty allowed to own a kennel at all? At least the state's keeping on him. Maybe this time they can actually figure out how to stop him for good! Third time's the charm, I hear... For more good news from my neck of the woods, Quebec raids second puppy mill in less than a week. Awesome! They're saying the raids should make the public more aware of puppy mills - I sure hope so. If you're too lazy to click links, 157 dogs and a cat were rescued from a mill in Quebec and sheltered. Good for Quebec and PA!

As it seems we're having a puppy mill day today, I'll share two handy links to anti-puppy mill sites:

No Puppy Mills Canada! I like this site because it's packed with good information and links, whether you're Canadian or not. LOVE how they think to warn you about AKC/CKC registered dogs being no guarantee of quality, because this is another ruse you see a lot! Great educational site, unfortunately it doesn't personally get involved with shutting mills down or tell you a lot about what you can do to help the cause (apart from boycotting petstores and BYBs), which leads us to...

Stop Puppy Another strong educational site, run by the Humane Society US. It's got lots of great info, and it tells you what to do if you suspect there's a puppy mill operating near you. You can also send in a Breeder Complaint form (same link) to help them out by tracking and reporting these people. Like No Puppy Mills, it's also got some powerful testimonials from people who bought/rescued puppy mill dogs.

So have a poke around, and I'll return soon with something no doubt slanderous about muttpuppies!