Category Archives: Finding a Dog

Dog Breeding – Conformity vs Individuality?

Be the same, but different!

Jeremy Vine does a series of pieces entitled ‘What makes us human?‘ on Radio 2 and this is a picture that sums up a viewpoint I have realised over the past few days in relation to this question.  It is similar to a picture I saw on social media with a man in camouflage trousers and a neon top with the caption “do ye wanna be seen o’ no?” (Scottish) Lol.  Here I am, with my camouflage jacket and my bright purple hair.

What’s the point I am making?  We want to be the same as everyone else. We are desperate to conform, to fit in, to be seen as ‘normal’, to go unnoticed.  AND we are desperate to be different, to stand out, to be memorable.  In order to achieve these two opposing and confrontational goals, we will buy the latest fashion, follow the trends, look carefully at what others are doing and copy it.  There are many entertaining social experiments about people going along with a crowd, performing in increasingly bizarre ways, just to do the same as everyone else.

Equally, there is a constant battle to be just a little bit different, to be memorable and not the same as everyone else.  We give children ridiculous names, or spell their names in ridiculous ways.  We get tattoos, with our own versions of patterns or pictures making us look a bit different from other people (while following the fashion for body art).  We dye our hair.

How does this relate to dogs?

I watched the Catherine Tate programme Saving the British Bulldog the other night (watch it, if you haven’t already, it’s really good).  Catherine presents a really clear, balanced picture of what has happened to the bulldog breed and why this has taken place.  In my view, this represents  this same dichotomy between conforming and being different.

The Kennel Club have a breed standard for the British Bulldog. It says right at the outset:

“A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for functionAbsolute soundness is essential.

“Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.

There it is, in black and white.  So what’s going on?  Breeders are breeding for health and to produce the best examples of the breed, conforming to the ‘standard’ set.  BUT people don’t want all dogs to look the same.  They want them to look different. People want a dog, but they want it to look like a baby.

As the programme demonstrates, this make the dog unhealthy, because it becomes deformed.  This is NOT the fault of the Kennel Club, nor the breeders, but the buying public, who are trying to find a particular ‘look’, no matter what that costs.

Health comes first

Surely we would not deliberately buy something that was unhealthy, would we?  We wouldn’t choose to have an unhealthy child, would we?  So why would we choose to have a dog with inherent health problems?

crufts best in show 2018

If we only cared about dog health, we would all have dogs that are shaped like dogs.  A bit like this year’s Crufts Best in Show, Tease the Whippet, (Collooney Tartan Tease). The Kennel Club says that the Whippet was originally bred for rabbit coursing, with gambling on racing in the North of England.  It goes on to say:

“Although Whippet racing continues on a very minor scale, the breed is now hugely popular in the show ring where its elegant lines and smooth daisycutting action has won many admirers. As a family companion, the Whippet is gentle and affectionate and enjoys the comforts of domestic life.”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  But we don’t all want Whippets, do we?  We want something different.

The same, but different

This is all just an excuse to talk about my puppy, Ounce.  I LOVE that she is different – pretty unique in fact.  She is a lilac and white Border Collie, which is a colour that is found in only around 1% of the breed.  In addition, she has blue eyes, which is even rarer.  Blue eyes are definitely not part of the breed standard.

At the same time, Ounce conforms to the ‘show type’ of Border Collie, because she is from those lines.  So she is more ‘stocky’ than a farm-bred, working sheepdog type Border Collie.  She has the pedigree Border Collie broad, short back and head, and she has a thicker, longer coat than a working sheepdog.  She has very even markings, with a white blaze, full mane, white socks and white tail tip.  Ounce is also a ‘typical collie’ in her temperament and behaviour. Lovely.

The evolutionary compulsion

In my opinion, there is a biological reason why we want to conform and be different.  We need to ‘fit in’ so that we can be desirable to others, but we also need a diverse gene pool and we need to attract a mate.  To meet these needs, we are prepared to do almost anything and ‘variety is the spice of life’.

Going back to the health issues, we are, unfortunately, prepared to do many things in order to be ‘attractive’ to others.  People have always been happy to mutilate themselves and each other in the name of beauty, eg stilettos, makeup, piercings, FGM.  This is well documented, so I do not need to detail it here.

This compulsion is transferred to our dogs.  We want the same as everyone else, but we want ours to be better.  More beautiful, more unusual, more extreme, more fierce and so on.

My mother has passed down a family expression to me, which my sons now say.  It was said by my great-grandmother; “It’s a good job we’re not all the same, or we’d all want to marry the same man.  And it wouldn’t be you Charlie.”  Poor Charlie!  My conclusion is that we strive to be different, while fighting to be part of the human race.  It’s what makes us human, but also what makes us part of the evolutionary process.  Purple hair, purple puppy, something different.

Hopefully, we can recognise the need to promote the healthy ‘normal’ while celebrating the beautiful variety of life.  Pedigree dogs should be healthy, but this is only true as long as responsible breeders can produce enough dogs to meet public demand. Once we clamour for more and more ‘designer dogs’, unscrupulous people will see a chance to make big bucks by compromising standards, as Catherine Tait’s programme demonstrated.  Please bear in mind what a dog should look like when considering what to get for your best friend?

Remember..

If you are buying a dog, start by looking at the What Dog? page, then contact me?  Or if you want to breed, read this Dog Breeding Blog and then please CONTACT ME to discuss this, as I may be able to mentor you?

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

4 Ways to Get A Perfect Dog

How to make your dog perfect

perfect dog

If you have a dog already, you might think it is perfect. I do think that Ounce is pretty perfect. She’s certainly pretty! I love her sooo much, almost more than my sons and my husband (well I couldn’t love her more than them, could I?) Is she perfect though? Is anyone really perfect?

Before you get a dog, you have a picture in your mind of ‘life with a dog’. It includes long country walks, kicking up the leaves, with your dog trotting at your side. Is the dog running around off lead, but quickly returning to you when you call it? Or do you imagine a dog like Fenton?

Your ‘perfect dog’ picture might have you sitting on the sofa in front of a fire, with your dog’s head resting lovingly on your knee, while you stroke him. Is the dog farting? No, didn’t think so. Is your dog sitting ON you, so that you can’t really see the TV?

When you have children, they usually want a dog. They imagine a cuddly, fluffy puppy, who snuggles up to them and plays games with them. Perhaps it will be dressed up and pushed around. Or it will run around with them in the garden. Do they see it chewing up a favourite teddy? Or their shoe? Is it being sick on their bedroom carpet?

Here are my 4 key points to help you prepare for life with a dog:

1. Be realistic

Get real. A dog is not a toy. Nor is it a person. A puppy that is cuddly at four weeks does not stay that way. So by the time your puppy arrives home with you, it bites – a lot. The only way to stop this is to manage the behaviour, through distraction and plenty of downtime.

You will need a crate or cage (paid ad) to keep your puppy out of danger while you are not actively watching it. A dog run, or playpen, is ideal to help you manage your puppy. You can make sure they are safe, not chewing up the house, but they have room to run about and play. 

perfect dog

2. Be realistic

A friend with a puppy and a young dog shared a picture of both dogs covered in mud, having been digging in the garden. What a brilliant game for a dog! She did see the funny side of it, but also said “they know they are not supposed to do it”. Er, no. Dogs do NOT understand the difference between right and wrong.

A dog will dig. It will chew. It will destroy things. That is how they work. I was reminded of a little quiz I wrote a while ago about when you should punish your dog. When Busy was a pup she chewed a hole in my curtain. I moved the curtain. She chewed another one. I moved that one. She did it TWICE MORE! Why didn’t I learn the first time? Silly me.

3. Be realistic

Dogs need stimulation and exercise. If you leave a dog on its own at home all day, don’t expect it to be a model of perfection. I have written about separation anxiety and there are many sources of information and advice covering this topic.

Dogs do naturally want to be lying at your feet all day long. But they don’t have to do this. You need a lifestyle that is manageable for you and your dog. Being consistent is perhaps the best thing you can do, whether that is going out for 6 hours a day or just popping out now and again.

If you work away from the home, it is pretty straightforward to find a good dog walker. You need someone who understands dogs and is able to come regularly. A dog walker also has the advantage of walking a number of compatible dogs together, which ensures additional interaction and engagement.

4. Be realistic

Hopefully by now you have realised that getting a dog is NOT a perfect experience. It will only live up to expectations if your expectations are pretty low (and realistic!) You need to imagine the mess, the mud, the wees, the poos, the chewing and digging, the hair. Make sure you include plenty of disaster and a fair amount of heartache.

When I receive an enquiry from someone, I send them an Application Form. I ask them what their selection criteria are for their dog. They must tell me what kind of dog they want, so I can see if they are being realistic and specific about what they want. Do they know that they want a particular breed and why? Have they done some research about what makes their breed so special? Please read my breed blog for ideas on what makes dog breeds different? Or checkout the Kennel Club website, which has mases of information.

I ask people what is the best and worst thing about having a dog. My favourite answer is “getting distracted from chores because all you’d want to do is play with your dog”. Dogs definitely are a good reason not to get on – cuddles and play are always available! Of course the actual worst thing is when they are ill and dying – they’re not here for long and losing your dog will break your heart, I promise you that.

It is hard to imagine something we haven’t had and often the reality does not match our expectations. If you feel overwhelmed, there is plenty of help out there. It is essential to get support from a good dog trainer, such as Delders Dogs. I love that Adam focuses on building a community of people going through the same pain and sharing solutions to all the common problems.

It is hard, having a dog. Not just a puppy, any dog. There is a period of adjustment and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Much better to admit defeat and find a better home for your dog, than to keep struggling and making you and your dog miserable. I’m not going to say that all problems can be dealt with, because some things are just too difficult to solve.

Is it worth it?

Yes. Yes. Yes. A million times yes. Having a dog will improve your life. For better and worse. For richer for poorer (definitely poorer). In sickness and health. Till death us do part. The joy of having a dog is hard to imagine, but once experienced, almost impossible to live without.

When people say to me “I wanted to wait until the time was right”, it makes me sad. There is no better time to get a dog than right now. Well not right now, because there is a pandemic and we’ve run out of puppies. Because dogs do make things better, especially in troubled times. Good luck with your dog!

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

WHY PUPPIES ARE NOT TOILET PAPER

SOLD OUT! Puppies cannot be made to order

You may or may not have noticed, but the world and his wife have got a new puppy! How lovely for everyone. People have been forced to spend time at home reviewing their lives and have realised that their life will be better with a dog. Correct. It will be. If you have changed your working pattern and will now be spending time working from home, you will be able to play with your new dog – that’s great.

puppies for sale
Life is better with a dog

Of course there will be plenty of people who have been at home and thought it was the ideal time to get a puppy so they could ‘get it sorted’ before going back to work, when it will be left all day, every day. Those people will find their bored, frustrated puppy (it will still be a puppy) will wreck their house and bark all day, annoying their (now working from home) neighbours. Those puppies will then go into rescue centres – more on that later.

Where are all the puppies coming from?

When we first went into Lockdown, everyone decided they MUST have toilet paper. It sold out pretty quickly. But then the manufacturers realised that it was essential for everyone to have a year’s supply immediately, so production of toilet paper went into overdrive. These companies were able to stop making other products and produce more toilet paper. Great, everyone has a clean bum now.

puppies for sale

With puppies, this has also happened. I am sure that LOTS of people who were considering having puppies some time over the next year, have decided to crack on. This might well be because their own plans have changed. That is what has happened to me.

I would normally have two years between each of the three litters I would try to have from my girls. However, Busy was supposed to be spending this year competing in agility shows. We were going to drive across Europe with the dogs in July. All this has been cancelled. So I looked at Busy and thought ‘Well I may as well have another litter from her now.’ She’s 6 years old, young and fit. Her last litter are over a year old. It will just about be summer – a nice time to have puppies.

puppies for sale

What happens next?

That’s all fine so far. More puppies, to meet more demand. Everyone is happy. I have had hundreds (literally) of enquiries for puppies, over the past couple of months. I could have sold many, many puppies. So I have a waiting list of carefully scrutinised, suitable owners. I am sure all responsible breeders, especially those who are Kennel Club Assured Breeders, will have gone through the same process. I have plenty of people on the reserve list. I even have a few possible homes for a litter I might have next year (from Ounce, NOT from Busy!)

puppies for sale

The trouble is, I am still getting enquiries. Usually, when I get an enquiry, I tell people to go the other KC Assured Breeders. Or to look on Champdogs, a reputable website with health tested, pedigree dogs. So what happens now? Where will the future puppies come from?

The breeding cycle

It only takes 9 weeks to make puppies. Wow, that’s not very long, I hear you say. Then it’s standard practice to have the puppies for 8 weeks before they go to their new homes. The Kennel Club recommend that as a minimum.

So then you start again, right? Wrong. Dogs are only able to have a litter when they come into season. This is usually every 6 months, but can be less often. The trouble is, they should NOT have a litter of puppies every 6 months. I’ve talked about all the issues with having puppies already on my recent post 5 reasons not to breed from your dog.

If more puppies are being produced, the chances are therefore high that these are being bred by people who don’t care about the health and wellbeing of their dogs. They just care about the money.

Puppies are not a commercial commodity

Please care about where your puppy comes from? If you get it from a rescue centre, why was it there? It may have been bred without much thought, or care. Usually that won’t matter too much, but there may be health issues that have not been accounted for.

It will probably have been dumped because the pet owners couldn’t be bothered with their new toy any more. They probably won’t have taken the time to train their puppy. It might not even be house trained! It almost certainly won’t come when it is called, or know how to interact appropriately with other dogs, or cope with strange situations.

puppies for sale

Most of these issues can be fixed, given time and patience. Some things can be harder to work through and it may be years before you have the dog you imagined. That can be painful and frustrating, for both you and your dog.

Illegal importing

I know from information given to me by the Kennel Club, that dogs are imported illegally into the UK all the time – it is a huge problem and one that is likely to get FAR WORSE in the coming months. Hopefully, with travel from Europe being more restricted, there might be better controls, but I think it unlikely.

People bring pregnant dogs into the UK, smuggled in tiny spaces in the backs of cars. They then register the puppies here, sell them off for a fortune and then go home to breed again from that bitch at her next season. NB: Registration on the Kennel Club Activity Register does not mean that the dog is a pedigree!

Extortionate prices

Sadly, when it comes to dogs, you don’t ‘get what you pay for’. Responsible breeders will charge a reasonable amount to cover their costs, including health testing of course. Unscrupulous people, breeding for financial gain, will charge whatever people are prepared to pay. So if it is costing thousands, it’s not been well-bred.

In conclusion

Now really is not the time to start looking for a puppy! You will get one from a rescue soon enough, if you are prepared for some extra work. But healthy, carefully bred puppies are sold out. Sorry.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service. Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Designer Dog Breeds: What are they?

Designer Dog Breeds – are they better than pedigree dogs?

What makes a crossbreed a ‘designer dog’?  Over the last 20 years there has a been a massive increase in the sale of so-called ‘Designer Dog breeds’.  Crossbreeds, or mongrels, have always been around and have always been popular.  Many people think it is not important to have a pedigree dog and don’t care what mix of breeds their dog might be.  But the new fashion trend for ‘specified mixes’ has a number of implications for the health of dogs in general.

designer dog breed
cockerpoo?

Any crossbreed is simply a combination of two or more pedigree dogs.  When this is done purposefully, in order to achieve a particular look, or type, it may be given a specific name, to demonstrate that it is a combination of the two breeds.  

Of course this is how new pedigree breeds are generally created – we take different breeds of dog and put them together is a structured and managed way, to create a new, distinct type of dog.  If we do this over time and can demonstrate that dogs will breed ‘true to type’ we can eventually have a new pedigree dog breed. 

Labradoodles – the first designer breed?

The Labradoodle is a combination of the Labrador and the Poodle.  The original intention was to create a dog that had all the benefits of these two distinct breeds, including the poodle’s non-shedding coat, which is considered to be hypoallergenic.  This process was started in 1988 by a breeder named Wally Cochran, of the Royal Guide Dogs in Australia.  He was asked to ‘create’ a dog that could be trained as a guide dog, but with a coat that wouldn’t aggravate an allergy.  Labradoodle History then says

“Because of their immense rise in popularity, people began crossing any Labrador with any poodle without any regard to genetics, bloodline, or temperament and calling the puppies “Labradoodles. The result was an unpredictable variety of puppies with various physical characteristics.”

designer dog breed
Labradoodle?

This is the issue at the heart of dog breeding.  When it is done purposefully, to create something in particular, bearing in mind health and temperament, it is a positive thing.  However, when it is then taken up as a fashion fad, it can become problematic.

Kennel Club view

The British Kennel Club have a primary aim, referred to when talking about Designer Dogs“To protect and promote all dogs”.  They encourage the registration of all crossbreeds onto their Activity register.  Their main concern is:

designer dog breed
shihpoo?

“Some unscrupulous breeders may be breeding these types of dog simply for financial profit, rather than with the health and welfare of the dogs in mind. This can mean that they will mass produce puppies to meet the latest celebrity-driven trend and will sell them on to people who are buying the dog as a fad rather than based on an educated decision about what is right for them.

“Buying a dog is a lifetime commitment and they should not be purchased on a whim or to go along with the latest fashion.”

Other designer breeds

Once Labradoodles started to appear, people quickly jumped on the bandwagon.  Now it seems as though every dog you meet has some fancy name.  Other popular crossbreeds include:

  • cockerpoo – very popular, Cocker Spaniel/Miniature Poodle
  • sprocker – Springer and Cocker Spaniel cross
  • maltipoo – Maltese/Poodle cross
  • puggle – Pug/Beagle cross
  • schnoodle – Miniature Poodle/Miniature Schnauzer cross
  • jug – Jack Russell/Pug

designer dog breed
puggle?

Most of the ‘designer’ crossbreeds have some poodle in them.  This is because people (mistakenly) believe that this automatically means you won’t get dog hair around your house.  Unfortunately that is not necessarily the case.  What people also fail to realise is that this means you will need  to spend a great deal of time and money grooming your dog.

Health issues

I could go on, banging on about issues with designer dogs and why they are not a great idea.  Fortunately, the Kennel Club have been campaigning very actively to increase awareness of the health issues surrounding careless breeding. They report that:

The research found that:

  • One third of people who bought their puppy online, over social media or in pet shops failed to experience ‘overall good health’.
  • Almost one in five puppies bought via social media or the internet die before six months old.
  • 12 percent of puppies bought online or on social media end up with serious health problems that require expensive on-going veterinary treatment from a young age.
  • 94 percent of puppies bought direct from a breeder were reported as having good overall health.

Because of vigorous campaigning, we now have Lucy’s Law, which may well help to reduce the production of puppies by unscrupulous commercial breeders.  It may also help encourage people to think twice before buying a designer dog.  Unfortunately it may also make the process of breeding and buying a dog much harder for everyone.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Selecting a puppy: How do you choose which one to have?

Selecting your puppy – which one will you have?

I thought it might be helpful to talk about selecting a puppy from a litter.  Another week goes by and I have received more enquiries for puppies.  I hear from some really lovely people and I hate to disappoint them.  But unfortunately I am not a puppy farm, so I can’t produce puppies every week.  If I’m lucky, I will have half a dozen puppies each year, but things rarely go according to plan.

That is why I try to support people when they have to go looking elsewhere.  It’s such a challenge, to find a Responsible Breeder who is also hopefully a Kennel Club Assured Breeder.

selectingChoosing your breeder

You’ve decided to ‘do it properly’.  You’ve chosen what type of dog to have, then narrowed it down to your breed,  perhaps by attending an event such as Discover DogsThen you look at the list of breeders for your breed, such as the Assured Breeders for Border CollieYou contact them all, get onto some waiting lists.  

Finally the day arrives when a litter is born and you are on the list!  Yay!  Now what?  How do you go about selecting your puppy?

Breeder’s criteria

If you are lucky, you will be at the end of the list and the breeder will present you with a  puppy and say “you can have this one”.  If you have done your research and chosen the right breed for you and your lifestyle, then the best breeder you can find, then it truly, honestly will not matter which of the actual puppies you have.

Of course there will be occasional issues with one particular puppy.  But in terms of the temperament of the puppies from a litter, I can promise you that they will be like their parents and affected by the home they have been bred into.

By the time my puppies are three weeks old, I can start to see subtle differences between their characters.  Even though they are only just up and about, with their eyes open, I can sense that one will be slightly more outgoing and confident, while another might be more cuddly.  That’s because I spend hours with them every single day.

When you visit a litter, even if you are there for over an hour, you are unlikely to really see their characters.  They might even all be asleep when you are there.  If one crawls over to you,  it doesn’t mean he has chosen you!  So if the breeder says she thinks one will be more suitable for your lifestyle or circumstance, please listen to her?

selectingBoy or girl?

Which sex of puppy you get will depend on your circumstances.  If you are having your first ever dog as an adult (even if you grew up with dogs), I recommend getting a dog, rather than a bitch.  Dogs are more sociable with other dogs, particularly Border Collies, which makes them easier to manage when you are out walking and meet other dogs.  They are also a bit more ‘robust’ with younger children and better able to cope with being an only dog, in my opinion.

Other than that, it doesn’t really matter which sex of puppy you have.  So when selecting one from a litter, choose the temperament you want, not the sex?

What colour?

When selecting a puppy, it is easy to focus on what it looks like.  I often have people say they want a particular colour – that they have searched far and wide for a particular ‘look’.  I find this rather disappointing, if I’m honest.  Border Collies come in many varied colours, shapes and sizes.  They have all different kinds of ears, and markings.  Their coats can be curly or straight.  They can be fluffy or quite short coated.  So even if you think you have a certain ‘look’ in mind, you might end up with something completely different!

I regularly have people say that they want a different colour from their last, beloved collie, because they don’t want to replace him.  Hmm, I doubt that this one would be at all similar, even if it was another black and white collie, with ‘classic’ markings.  Oh and what are those, by the way?  Wouldn’t you rather have Aura?  I know I would.

Don’t forget that if you were having a Labrador, it would be golden, chocolate or black.  (Or possibly red).  That’s the only choice you get.  So does it really matter that much?

Keep an open mind

My best advice to you is to keep an open mind and listen to the breeder.  They know their dogs, they know what the puppies will be like and they understand what will work for you.

By all means pick the one that stumbles into your lap for a cuddle, but be prepared for the fact that that one might already be taken.  Try to be happy that you have carefully chosen the right breed, the right breeder and the right litter.   Then take your puppy home. They will then become the dog you make them, influenced by the way you raise them.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful? Photos by Bridget Davey Photograpy

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory!

What is a Puppy Farmer?

How can we improve dog breeding standards and stop the puppy farmer?

Talking about how to stop a puppy farmer is difficult.  People demand dogs; in particular they want ‘designer breeds’ or particular breeds (currently French Bulldogs).  This means that unscrupulous people capitalise on this demand – why wouldn’t they?  And people feel that ALL breeders are only in it for the money and don’t care about the welfare of their dogs.

puppy farmerHow often will people say to me “you should only get dogs from rescues – there are too many dogs!” I have talked about whether you should go to a rescue or breeder but today I am re-visiting definition of a puppy farmer.

Puppy Farmer – Definition

“A puppy bred by a commercially driven breeder with low welfare standards”.

What does that mean exactly?  Quite simply, it means that the breeder cares more about making money than how healthy and happy their dogs are.  They do not care about their customers either; they are simply the mugs stupid enough to buy whatever is being sold, at any price.

If you are ‘doing it for money’ then it becomes a business.  But if you are doing it well and responsibly, then surely you should be rewarded for your efforts?  NB: Never get a dog for nothing: it costs money to produce a healthy and happy puppy (see health testing – why bother?), so it is therefore right that such dogs should be paid for.  Equally, don’t pay £1000 for a crossbreed – why is it worth that?

Kennel Club work

The Kennel Club issued a document last year : ‘Collaboration is the Key – the Way Forward for Breeding Regulations’.  The Kennel is working towards:

“A new system so that more breeders are inspected, good breeders are more identifiable to puppy buyers and puppy farmers and bad breeders are driven out of business”

As a member of the Assured Breeder Scheme I am kept informed about the Kennel Club’s campaign for their scheme to be fully incorporated into the local authority licensing regime.

Better inspection regulations

The government is committed to introducing new regulations on dog breeding, which will reduce the litter licensing threshold at which breeders will require a licence, from five litters per year to three.

Defra has given a commitment to incorporate the concept of earned recognition into the new licensing system. This will include consideration of affiliation to a body accredited by UKAS (i.e. the Assured Breeder Scheme), in a risk-based assessment process which would ensure a reduced burden on lAssured Breeders, who are seen as low risk.

“The Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme makes it easy for people to find responsible breeders, whose standards have already been assessed.”

The KC want to ensure that the new system works in practice in order that more breeders are inspected, good breeders are more identifiable to puppy buyers and puppy farmers and bad breeders are driven out of business. This means using this opportunity to grow the scheme by incentivising the best breeders to join and improving the standards of health and welfare in dog breeding.

puppy farmer

What does a puppy farmer do differently?

Here’s a description of where someone got a puppy:

“She went through the puppy pack with all the breed details from mum and dad with us, but didn’t give it to us to take away. This was a ‘breeder’ rather than ‘breeding from pets’.  She breeds 4/5 different ‘types’ and has a big set up. Was all very professional, clean, spacious etc but not ‘pets’. She clearly make lots of money from it! “

Here are the alarm bells for me:

  • Didn’t give away details of parents – were they actually the parents of that pup? Had they been health tested appropriately for their breed?
  • A breeder, but not ‘breeding from pets’.  Sorry? Aren’t you buying a pet?  Why would you want something not bred as a pet?  That’s the very definition of doing it as a business.
  • She breeds 4/5 different types and has a big set up.  Not pedigree dogs, defined by their characteristics and lineage, just random mongrels.  A big set up – 20 dogs? 50? Not much time for them then.
  • She clearly makes lots of money from it!  No other income? Relying on this income to live on means the litter must be profitable.  So not spending money on health testing, toys and good quality food.

puppy farmerQuestions for the breeder

  •  How many dogs do you have?  Can I see them?  Where do they live?  Good breeders might have a number of dogs, but they will be part of the family.  They might spend some time each day in crates or runs, but should be in the house for most of the time.
  •  How many litters do you have per year?  What is the age of the dog when it has its first liter?  And the last?  A litter of puppies is extremely time consuming (or should be!) So the more litters you have, the harder it is to spend time cuddling the pups.

Dogs should have no more than 4 litters each, between the ages of two and eight.

  •  Who is the sire?  Why was he chosen? How closely related is he to the mother of the litter?  What is the in-breeding coefficient? Stud dogs should be from good lines, fully health tested and with a good temperament.  They should be similar in breeding to the bitch without being too closely related.
  • What health tests have the parents had?  Can I have copies of these test certificates?  If the correct tests have been done for the breed, copies of these tests should be given to you as part of your puppy pack.

If the puppies are pedigree dogs, all this information is available on the Kennel Club website.  You can look up dogs and breeders and see who has had what, how they are related and what health tests they have had.  As soon as you move away from pedigree dogs, this information is not compulsory, therefore breeders don’t need to bother following the KC rules.puppy farmer

A final thought

“Dogs owned by people who spent more than an hour researching where to buy them from are likely to live twice as long as those who spent under 20 minutes choosing a puppy, with mean mortality ages of 8.8 and 4.3 respectively.” (Taken from the KC report ‘Collaboration is the Key – the Way Forward for Breeding Regulations’).  As a result of buying from puppy farms, people claim to have suffered emotional and financial hardship, the KC report.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

And if you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos and lots more information.

Buying a puppy? Want it now? Too bad

Buying a puppy requires patience and care

I want a puppy and I want it NOW!  I am reminded of Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  In today’s consumer society, we are accustomed to being able to buy something immediately.  Especially with online purchases.  I have recently signed up to that horrible company’s ‘Top’ service, where something comes before you’ve ordered it.  This makes it harder than ever to wait when buying something so meaningful.

buying a puppyBuying a sofa

Buying a puppy is not a quick job, on the whole.  You need to think of it as being a cross between buying a sofa and getting a job.  If you are buying a sofa, you think about what you like.  You reflect on what will go with your home and your lifestyle.  Perhaps you try out a few first, or talk to friends about their sofas and what works for them.

Then you go to the sofa shop.  You decide what you want to pay and narrow down your choices.  If there is a salesperson available, you listen to their advice and take note of their suggestions.  You might want a particular version of the sofa.  So you are prepared to wait.  Your order will take 9 weeks, you are told.  That’s fine you say.

That’s how long it takes to make a puppy.  Not too long to wait really, is it?  Delivery takes a bit longer, as your puppy needs to be ready for you, so allow another 8 weeks.  If you can be patient, you should get just what you are looking for.  Made to order, so to speak.

puppy buyingMaking a job application

When you apply for a job, you start by looking at what’s available.  Reading through the adverts and matching it to your requirements.  You might have a list of criteria drawn up:

  • earn lots of money
  • good additional benefits
  • reasonable hours
  • friendly colleagues

What would a list look like for your puppy?

  • not too big (but big enough to cuddle)
  • not too hairy (dogs ARE hairy, all the better to snuggle into)
  • won’t chew the house (it will!)
  • will be obedient (if you train it, it will be)

Next, you write an application.  Here’s one I received yesterday:

“I am writing to enquire wether you have any  puppies to sell. I am looking for a KC registered Border Collie, health checked, wormed, vaccinated and, of course, micro-chipped.”

Now tell me honestly, would you give that person the job?  Would you think, yes, I would like that person to have one of my puppies?  I’m pleased they want it to be registered, health checked etc, but who are they?

Just as a person recruiting for a job receives hundreds of applicants, a responsible breeder receives hundreds of enquiries for puppies.  I could sell a few hundred pups a year, if I wanted to.  Unfortunately, I only produce half a dozen a year.  So the homes I send them to must be super special.

Vetting puppy homes

I vividly remember going to buy Sunny – the only dog I have bought (see My life in dogs) and being vetted by her breeder.  I had assumed that because I already had a couple of collies and the breeder was a friend of a friend, that I would obviously be getting what I wanted.  Not a bit of it!  I was judged on how I handled the pups and talked about my dogs.  I had decided I wanted to do agility and breed from her and that had to be considered.

Never assume, because that makes an ASS out of U and ME.  This applies to buying a puppy as much as anywhere else.  You are not entitled to a puppy, just because you have the money.

buying a puppyYou get what you pay for

Finally, be aware that when buying a puppy, just at with any other purchase, you get what you pay for.  Something that is cheap and where you have to make no effort to get it will probably not have been produced with much love or care.  Unfortunately that might mean a life of pain for you and your dog, both figuratively and literally.

Remember..

If you are buying a dog, start by looking at the What Dog? page, then contact me?  Part of this service is that I will provide a form for you to fill in.  This acts like a CV, enabling you to demonstrate who you are clearly to other breeders.

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

What type of dog should you have?

What dog will best suit you?

What are the criteria for choosing a dog?  The Kennel Club categorise dogs into 7 different Breed Groups.  This is for showing pedigree dogs, but I think it’s an interesting place to begin.

The groups are as follows:

  1. Gundogs – eg Spaniels.  Dogs originally trained to find and retrieve game.
  2. Working – eg Schnauzers. These are mainly used for guarding and include the Boxer, Great Dane and St Bernard.
  3. Pastoral – eg Border Collies.  These are herding dogs, usually working with cattle, sheep, reindeer etc.
  4. Toy – eg Bichon Frise. Companion or lap dogs.  Not all small dogs are toy dogs, some are terriers for example – there is a difference!
  5. Utility – eg Poodles.  These are breeds of a ‘non-sporting origin’, including the Bulldog, Dalmatian and Akita
  6. Terrier – eg Bedlington.  Dogs used for hunting vermin. Brave and tough
  7. Hound – eg Beagle. Breeds used for hunting by scent or by sights.  Also includes Greyhounds.

Straight away, there are all sorts of difficulties.  A breed might be small, but is not a ‘toy’ breed.  It might be a terrier, but be really big, such as an Airedale terrier.  The Utility group in particular is described as being a varied group of miscellaneous breeds!  So it’s not really much use to us when thinking about the kind of dog we want.  However, don’t dismiss it completely, as it will give you an indication of the type of work the dog was originally intended for and therefore what drives its behaviour.

Other ways of defining dogs

What kinds of criteria are we actually going to have when choosing a dog?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Size – definitely a key point to consider.  These days, people tend to live in fairly small spaces.  We usually live in a town or a city and we don’t have a big garden.  That doesn’t mean we can’t have a dog, just that we need to be aware of how that animal will fit into the space available.  One dog will pretty much fit anywhere though, so it does start off with your personal preference.  It’s not so much about how big they are, as how active they are.
  • Activity – some dogs really do need more exercise than others.  Having said that, ALL dogs need exercise, just as we do ourselves.  They all need to go outside to toilet, and they really do need to have the mental stimulation of a walk.  Even toy dogs need this!  However, toy dogs and a fair number of other breeds, manage perfectly well with a small amount of exercise, which with today’s busy lifestyles can only be a good thing.  Surprisingly, Greyhounds do NOT need masses of long walks; they are sprinters, so generally spend their time pootling about.  Similarly, very large dogs, such as Great Danes, do not benefit from long walks.
  • Hair – a key criteria for many people.  I think many people have had experience of a Labrador, where the whole house is covered in hair.  They are classified as a ‘shedding’ breed, which means that their short coat is continually being replaced (and therefore ‘shed’ all over the place!)  People seem to consider this to be a major drawback with having a dog.  Personally, with today’s hard floors and efficient vacuum cleaners, I cannot see why it is a problem.  There are many other drawbacks to dog ownership and I don’t think this is the worst!  Other breeds might ‘moult’; this is when the coat comes out all at once, usually once or twice a year, eg Border Collies.  You can make a replacement dog from the hair at these times, but it’s only for a few weeks.

I think it is worth highlighting here that if a dog doesn’t shed or moult, they will need to be clipped.  This is a regular, lifetime requirement and costs money!  Of course you can learn to do it yourself but either way, the coat requires regular maintenance.  Moulting and shedding dogs’ coats are generally self-maintaining.  You obviously need to check them over regularly, but you shouldn’t have to spend a great deal of time and money looking after their coat.

  • Temperament – this is really the heart of you thinking about your dog and what you want from it.  Do you want to cuddle it?  Many breeds of dog do NOT like to be cuddled.  You should find that a well-bred puppy raised in a sympathetic environment will enjoy sitting on the sofa with you, but this is by no means guaranteed.  Toy dogs have been specifically designed to be picked up and carried around, but remember this does not include all small dogs.  Equally, some large dogs really love a snuggle, but just because it is hairy doesn’t mean it likes you in its face.  An Afghan Hound would be a good example of that kind of dog.
  • Trainability – some dogs are easier to live with than others!  People believe that because Border Collies are intelligent that means they are easy to train, but it is not quite that simple… If you don’t need a dog that can read :p, turn left or right on a word command or need you to do something with it for several hours a day, don’t get a collie.
  • Health – it’s a bit worrying that this is so far down the list, but there you go, it’s not the most important aspect of choosing a dog, in most people’s view.  People think that pedigree dogs are unhealthy compared with crossbreeds, or mongrels, but in fact the opposite can be true.  Pedigree dog breeders are working extremely hard to produce the best dogs possible and to breed out anything that can be tested for.

What should you NOT consider when choosing a dog?

In my opinion (humble or otherwise) you should not start your search for your best friend thinking about:

  • Cuteness (puppies are cute, dogs not so much)
  • Ugliness (oh it’s so ugly – bulgy eyes, snuffly nose, wrinkly skin; all equals unhealthy)
  • Cuddliness (yes I know I’ve talked about it above but you want a dog, not a stuffed toy, don’t you?)
  • Fashion (just because everyone else has one, does NOT make it the right dog for you)

CONTACT ME NOW

Why not get in touch and see how I can help you find the right dog for you?  I will send you a form, to get you thinking about your circumstances and the kind of dog that might work for you.  This could save you thousands of pounds and a great deal of heartache. Have a look at the What Dog? page for more details.  Please get in touch now!

Different Types of Breeder

What is the right kind of breeder?

IKC-Approved_BS_p2617‘ve just received confirmation that I have passed my assessment to retain my Assured Breeder Status with the Kennel Club; all measures marked as ‘satisfactory’ (the top mark) and no required improvements recommended.  I am very proud to remain as a member of this accredited scheme and believe that it demonstrates breeding to the highest standard.  However, not all breeders ‘need’ to meet this standard.

What other kinds of breeder are there?  I found this great article on the Junior Bulldog Club website: http://www.juniorbulldogclub.co.uk/puppy-advice.html 

Pet Breeder

This is by far the most common type of breeder.  Someone who just fancies having a litter from their dog.  They probably own less than four dogs.  They have a limited range of knowledge and expect everything to be easy.  This breeder wants to keep a pup from their dog and thinks that the rest will go to family and friends.

Being a pet breeder is fine if things go according to plan.  Unfortunately, ‘there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip’ as they say and many challenges can occur.  Ideally, such breeders will enlist the help of an experienced breeder, to act as a mentor.  I have been lucky enough to have a number of experienced breeders engaged in supporting me over the years and have learnt a great deal from them.

If you fancy having a go, Please CONTACT ME to discuss this first?

Hobby/Show Breeder

This is actually how I would classify myself.  Someone who has less than 10 dogs (I’m working on it!) and has around 1-2 litters per year.  We breed because we are looking to demonstrate skill and competence of breeding the highest quality dogs, with health and breed type being extremely important to us.  As the article says:

“They usually voluntary health check their dogs and are active in the canine community whether that being from exhibiting, supporting charitable canine events, education days and may belong on breed committees and sub-committees.  They are actively keeping pace with developments and progression in canine care and will normally actively encourage and engage  new people to the breed and offer assistance and help where possible.”

Puppies from a breeder like this will be advertised on their own website, on breed-only websites or on the Kennel Club.  We usually send our puppies to pet homes, including new dog owners.  Breeders like this will ‘vet’ homes rigorously, so expect to be questioned closely.

“These breeders tend to have a waiting list due to the infrequency of their breeding but you’ll probably benefit significantly by waiting!”

Licensed Breeder

This type of breeder takes things seriously.  They breed on a larger scale and will have over 10 dogs.  They will probably keep their dogs in outdoor runs or kennels, or adjacent buildings.

“They will have adhered to various regulations with respect to the living conditions of the dogs they own.”

These breeders are likely to have additional dog-related businesses, such as grooming, boarding kennels  or training classes.  Breeders who take out a license want to do everything well, including health testing.  They will be well-known within dog circles.  They are likely to have a waiting list, but will be able to meet demand, as they have a number of litters per year.  Usually, puppies will be advertised on their own website and the Kennel Club.

HIGH VOLUME BREEDER (taken from the article detailed above)

Number of dogs unknown. The dogs/puppies are classed as ‘stock’ and they breed for profit. They are most likely to sell to the pet market for a below average price due to the turnover of puppies they have. At first glance it may not seem apparent and they can seem reputable.  Puppies will probably hold all the correct Kennel Club registration papers, although these might be forged, so won’t be given to buyers. Because their main priority is to make money they need to keep costs low, the question is how?

Look out for some of these signs!

  • Using their own or local stud dogs
  • Having multiple (5+) litters from females (they won’t tell you this)
  • Mating females on consecutive seasons, giving little time for her body to recuperate (they won’t tell you this)
  • Dogs and puppies are reared on lower quality foods
  • They seem to have a constant supply of puppies because they own many breeding females or selling puppies that other people has reared for them
  • They have no older dogs because they rehome them once they no longer earn them money
  • Cut corners – puppies may not have had full worming treatment or veterinary treatment they required, leading to serious illness and death
  • They may breed only ‘rare’ types e.g. colours or size because they can charge more (they are rare for a reason)!
  • Dogs and puppies lack the voluntary health initiatives and as breeders they have little interest or education on the benefits they will bring
  • They may have multiple other breeds that are easy to breed which will maintain cash flow
  • They are likely to advertise in a lot of ‘free’ pet classified websites for exposure – a Google search of the contact telephone number will always give you a rough idea!

I think this is a great summary of the different types of breeder, so I wanted to share it with you.  The article also talks about ‘pitfalls to avoid’ including buying from imported dogs, breeders ‘boasting’ that their dogs are related to top show dogs.  It talks about avoiding breeders boasting ‘rare coloured bulldogs’.  This applies to all breeds – you may want to have something unusual, but don’t pay a premium for it.  It may be a crossbreed and therefore not actually what you expect it to be.  The article says to avoid ‘flashy’ websites – not many people write as prolifically as me!

Finally, the article http://www.juniorbulldogclub.co.uk/puppy-advice.html advises caution when looking at the Assured Breeder List.  Prior to the assessment visits, it was possible to become an Assured Breeder just by filling in the form and paying the fee.  This made it easy for a puppy farmer to register.  Nowadays the requirements are much stricter and it is unlikely that a commercial breeder would qualify.  The article suggests that you should buy from KC Assured Breeders with at least 3 of the accolades available: Breeding Experience (which I have), Kennel Club studbook recognition (which I can’t get as I have no stud dog) and Breed Club membership (not desirable for me as I don’t show my dogs).

Ask for help?

As you can see, it’s a minefield!  Fortunately there is plenty of help available.  If you are buying a puppy, start by looking at the What Dog? page.  Or if you want to breed, read my Dog Breeding Blog and then please CONTACT ME to discuss this, as I may be able to mentor you?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Rescue or Breeder?

Should you always try to rescue a dog?

Who wouldn’t want an adorable dog like this?  He is lovely and in the right home, can be a huge success.  I have rescued dogs myself (twice, albeit from family members) so I know that it’s a great way to get a dog.  But..

Sticking my neck out here, it’s not perfect.  There are pros and cons to rescuing dogs.  Let’s have a look at a few?

Pros for rescue dogs

  • You are doing a great thing, saving a dog from a ‘horrible’ home.
  • Sometimes dogs are in rescues for unavoidable reasons.  People’s circumstances change – their job, their relationship, their home, their family.  All of these can impact on someone’s ability to keep their dog.  A dog may need a new home because the owner has died – clearly that is a good reason for a dog to go elsewhere.
  • You can get the dog you want, straight away.  If you look hard enough, most dog breeds can be found in rescue.
  • You don’t need to have a puppy, so you don’t have to go through the challenges of house training, coping with chewing and everything else a puppy brings!
  • It’s better to get an adult dog if you work, because it is easier to leave it.

Cons with rescue dogs

  • Rescue centres have stringent vetting processes for people wanting a dog from them.  Often they won’t allow a rescue dog to go to a family with young children, or to a home where the owners work full time.  Or a home with cats.
  • You don’t know what you are getting.  Of course you can usually tell more or less what breed a dog is and how old it is, roughly, but you may not know much else.  Rescue centres are great at providing a history of their dogs, but they may not have been told the full story.  That’s because..
  • People lie.  That lovely young border collie, perfect for agility?  Actually has a physical defect which is causing major pain and lameness.  This might need surgery to correct, which is traumatic for you and the dog, not to mention expensive.  You will then need months of rehabilitation and training to restore fitness and confidence.
  • Dogs have issues.  Dogs that have been mistreated are fearful, which in turn leads to aggression.  This can be with other dogs, or with people, or just with children.  Or with cars, or bikes, or loud noises….  All of these issues can be worked through and progress can be made, but dogs with issues can be irreparably damaged and it may take the patience of a saint to deal with these.
  • Poor behaviour.  Dogs belonging to ‘dog’ people who are familiar with dogs and have owned them for many years are not placed into rescues.  Dogs in rescues have often belonged to people who don’t know what they are doing.  Worse still, they don’t care about their dog enough to train it and manage it well.  So you are taking on those problems and have to undo them before you can start training effectively.  This might be something as simple as persistent barking (very persistent barking!)  But re-training this behaviour can take years.
  • Easy-going, confident, well-behaved dogs are not placed into rescue centres.

It’s difficult isn’t it?  You want to do the right thing and feel that because it’s not the dog’s fault (it’s almost never the dog’s fault) they should be given a second chance.  Still, there are a few keys points you must also bear in mind:

  1. If you rescue a dog, you are condoning its abandonment in the first place.  You are effectively saying “It’s OK if you can’t be bothered to take care of your dog properly, I will do it for you.”  You are accepting the fact that we live in a disposable society where people demand instant gratification and don’t care about the consequences.  As long as rescue centres exist, people will think they can just get rid of their dogs.
  2. Yes of course I know that people get rid of dogs anyway and that rescue centres are run by saints and heroes.   Yes I know that people make honest mistakes and circumstances change.  However, in my experience, people who make honest mistakes are big enough to own up to them and do something positive about it (returning their dog to its breeder, for example) and people whose circumstances change work as hard as they can to find a solution from amongst friends and family.
  3. If ALL dogs were bought from responsible breeders, who were supported by a legislative body that monitored breeding and the welfare of dogs, then people would expect to wait for a suitable dog.  Guidance would be given to buyers about the right kind of dog for their lifestyle.  Breeders would provide good quality dogs of appropriate temperament and health, saving the owners money and psychological anguish.

The reason dogs are NOT all bought from responsible breeders is that demand far outstrips supply.  Responsible breeders cannot breed sufficient dogs, without scaling up their breeding into a commercial enterprise which becomes, yes you’ve guessed it, a puppy farm.

What is the solution?

In my view, the solution is to education the public about dog ownership.  Dogs are not toys.  They might be soft, fluffy and cuddly, or have cute faces, but they are LIVING BEINGS.  They have thoughts, emotions, feelings and opinions.  They are sentient creatures, who deserve a good life.  This means that if you let a dog into your life, you are responsible for its care.  You will need to invest time and energy into managing it and caring for it.

“A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”

My opinion is that we can teach people to be more critical about the place they get their dog from.  If they know what a great dog looks and behaves like, then there is a possibility that they won’t be satisfied with a dog that flinches every time you go near it, or barks constantly.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that this will happen naturally.  We will probably need the ongoing support of that legislative body I mentioned, the good old Kennel Club.  But I believe that we can do better for our dogs.

Remember..

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you have a problem you would like me to talk about?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.