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?