niedziela, 8 stycznia 2023

Beware of the breeder...

Years ago my friend, who had a very cool boxer mix that she was doing agility with, was searching for a purebred boxer puppy that she also intended to compete in agility with - so she was looking for a line with lighter built, a bit longer muzzle and lots of health tests. When she was searching, she wrote an e-mail to one breeder, who was also happened to breed English bulldogs and that person somehow misunderstood what my friend was searching for and thought she wanted a bulldog for agility. Rather than answering "errr, I don't know if that's the best idea", she proceeded to tell my friend that her bulldog was super agile, keeping pace with her boxers running in the woods and of course her puppies would make perfect agility prospects. 

Also years ago someone wrote me asking about Pyrsheps - potentially a very responsible owner, trying to get as much info as possible. That person had particular criteria he'd like his potential dog to meet, he was considering several breeds and contacting breeders and owners to see what would be the best match. I wrote him that in my humble opinion, the breed was not a good choice for him and explained why. He wrote me back saying that I was the very first person who wrote him "that breed is not for you", everybody else was just short of forcing their breed (whatever it happened to be) on him. 

Someone writes in a FB group that they are looking for a dog suited for apartment living, medium energy as an adult, low prey drive and relatively "easy" companion for jogging, perhaps canicross and Pyrshep is one of the breeds on their list. Majority of people answer: Pyrshep is not your breed, they are wonderful but also loud, high energy, slow to mature and definitely not easy. Majority but - in each case - a breeder, usually a breeder who has been breeding for decades, owns a lot of dogs and says it's all in how you train them and of course they are easy and not barking at all. 

It could be, of course, that the breeder has more experience, is a better trainer, and knows something the average owners don't. 

Could also be that they simply want to sell their puppies. 

Before I got Vigo, I was also searching for a breed for myself and one of the breeds I considered at the time was Manchester terrier - I found a breeder relatively close, called her and scheduled an appointment to meet (MT were and still are, quite rare). The breeder answered my questions, showed me her dogs, we talked... but literally at no point she said "I think they are the breed for you, get one". You can guess that I never got a Manchester terrier and most probably never will, but I actually keep quite fond memories of that meeting - she was a breeder who was perfectly willing to educate about her dogs and her breeding, someone who had nothing to hide - but also didn't feel the need to sell her puppies to just about anyone showing up on her doorstep. She probably realised as much as I did that there was no chemistry and it wouldn't be the best choice. 

Laika puppy for cuteness and because post with photos are better :D

Beware of the breeder who doesn't cross-examine you but says "I've got exactly what you need & want". I'm saying that both as a puppy buyer and as a very occasional breeder - the puppy buyer should be the one trying to convince the breeder to sell them a puppy, not the other way round. Be very wary of a breeder who claims the puppy will be a certain size, will be successful in dog shows or dog sports - other that saying the puppy might have that potential.

What I'm saying is - good breeder knows their value and the value of their dogs. They don't need to convince anyone to buy puppies from them and they would never claim their dogs are something else that they actually are, because that wouldn't be in the best interest of these dogs in the first place. 

środa, 4 stycznia 2023

Musings on rehoming dogs

I've read a discussion where two visions of dog ownership clashed. 

You are responsible for what you have tamed / A dog is for life  - is one of them.

The other is that sometimes things don't work out. Sometimes the dog and the human are not a match, for whatever reason. Dogs actually take rehomings pretty well, in most cases, provided it's a good change. 

I have seen dogs being misunderstood and not loved in their homes. 

I have seen dogs that were labelled as weird, autistic and not capable of forming a bond becoming the most willing to please and affectionate creatures after changing the owner. 

I have also seen people sticking to their guns, learning, adapting, searching for the right way to communicate with a particular dog despite initial disappointment - sometimes succeeding in objective terms (like qualifying to world championship event), sometimes succeeding in subjective terms (being able to form a bond with a difficult dog, being able to enjoy everyday life with that dog or just meeting whatever goal they have set for themselves). 

I feel that it is good to admit that disappointment at least to yourself - but perhaps even better, publicly, simply because the social media pressure of perfection is becoming unbearable. Sometimes you feel everybody has it better, easier, more natural and you are just the one that is constantly struggling. It's good to let others know that you're struggling - to show them they're not alone, to reach out for help or even just to vent and regroup.

In very human terms, I can relate to that disappointment and I also think that sometimes it gets more difficult to deal with it as you get more successful and more experienced, simply because you expect more - from the dog and from yourself, if you have managed to succeed with numerous dogs before. You expect things to get easier, not more difficult. You meet defeat where you expected another triumph. You've done your research, you've met the puppy's parents, you've seen health results... and yet, something doesn't go as planned. Bad luck, cruel fate, toss of a genetic dice, whatever. 

I guess the decision whether to rehome the dog relies to a great extent both on your priorities (for instance everyday life vs. sport success) and also simply, how much joy you're still able to find in working or just being with that dog. Everybody has their limits. I expect it would be much more difficult for me to deal with a situation in which the dog was actually physically dangerous for myself, my other dogs or my family than to cope with lack of sport success, the dog not even liking the sport in the first place or having a major injury / illness. I was also thinking about the issue of "not liking" the dog or "not feeling the bond", but here is where things get a bit murky: I have experienced just taking one look at dog's picture and feeling that we belong together, but I have also experienced not liking some of my dogs at some point of our life together and because of that, I know that sometimes forging the bond takes time and effort, but the end result is no less (and perhaps more) satisfying and you learn tons in the process (but then, learning is a value FOR ME). I know the euphoria of working with a dog that seems to be made to measure for you: everything is easy, the mistakes seem funny rather than annoying and all is just unicorns and rainbows, but I also know first hand the puzzlement, the annoyance, the tears and frustration of training a difficult dog and being at your wits' end, where literally nothing goes as it should and you don't see any light in the well of despair. 

The perfect ones ;)

I don't know if those musings actually have any kind of conclusion. I'm coming back to the notion that we should examine and re-examine our relationship with dogs (and animals in general) in ethical terms every so often - what you find acceptable will inevitably vary as you gain more knowledge and experience. 

I'm also thinking that when you decide to open your heart and home to a new dog, you should do it with the assumption that it's for better or worse and that you will at least give an honest try to build lifelong relationship. My experience has always been that it's totally worth it if you're capable of more than just blaming the dog / the circumstances / the breeder / whatever and actually manage to focus on looking for solutions rather than problems and excuses. 

But everybody has their own journey.