Paradox PhurBaby

Paradox PhurBaby

perfect for the back of my Mini!

Sorry – Just couldn’t resist. Seemed after all my kvetching about the Fur-baby thing, maybe I just needed to get with the program. I try to be open-minded…:). Otter looks positively enchanted with our new kennel enrichment/puppy socialization scheme…

Winter Parka for Aspen vacation...

Fur Baby – Not!


Aaaaahhh! This “furbaby” thing drives me crazy!

I'd rather be eating something yucky...

Furry Babies, Inc is a pet store chain that capitalizes on our loving yet frequently confused relationships to our dogs. Furry Babies, Inc. keeps its puppies not in crates, mind you, but in baby cribs set up all over the pink, nursery themed store. You will go home with your ribbon bedecked “bundle of joy”. Last but not least, their financing plans will also actually help you build/repair your credit ( talk about one stop shopping!).

The stylist prepared puppy photos show wide-eyed puppies, dressed in frilly tutus, sophisticated dinner jackets and lil’ slugger t-shirts. The “babies” are surrounded with seasonally appropriate pumpkins and gourds and accessorized with orange bows and hats. As my nausea abated, my indignation grew…

who says we confuse babies and pets?

Dogs are not babies. While I’m a big believer that the job of dogs as family pet is important and valid, framing that role as nothing more than a furry, human child does only damage. This infantilization of dogs is a not only a disservice to them, it is a danger. Treating dogs like little furry babies completely disrespects the needs, proclivities, and perspectives of their own culture. We humans have a strong tendency to look at other peoples, species and cultures through our own rather limited lenses. We seem to need to assign our own attributes to those that are “other” so we can relate to, understand and sometimes even control them.

Am I human enough?

Our relationship to pet dogs is complex. We no longer view them as livestock yet, even though they are dependant on our care and companionship, they are not our children either. Our default response to them – a confusing mixture of Furbaby ( the word itself illustrates the conflict) caretaking, expectations for Lassie loyalty and Rin-Tin-Tin bravery. That the domestic dog ends up with any grasp on sanity is a testament to their remarkable adaptability and resilience.

As a child, one of my favorite movies was Francois Truffaut’S “L’enfant Sauvage” ( The Wild Child), a true story about the attempted “domestication” of a boy who had been raised (by wolves?) in the forest. I’m reminded of that child’s despair and confusion as he was “helped” to become a “civilized human” when I watch some of our domesticated dogs try to make sense of our culture with its alien social norms, rules and customs.

While we are all love our human babies (well most of the time! ), one of the big shocks of parenthood is how unlike the Hallmark card bliss and sweetness babies really are. There are days ( weeks?) that Bundle of Joy thing can be pretty elusive! This same shock and unpreparedness comes to puppy owners who have been similarly misled about the realities of puppy rearing ( put a gun to my head – I WILL not say Puppy parenting!). While there were days I thought I might need a shelter to take my kids to ( just kidding, C. and D. – I love you!), shelter relinquishment is sadly all too often the “solution” for  frustrated puppy owners who had no idea what they were getting into. We do dogs no favors when we allow them to be portrayed as something they are not. This leaves their owners unequiped to provide their pets with species appropriate handling, communication and expectations. The result is, in my opinion, tantamount to cruelty.

The Furry Babies, Inc. puppies don’t know the difference between a crate and a crib. They, no doubt, find tutus and ribbons useful chew toys. Their parents likely spend their lives in high volume breeding facilities where they endure, at the other end of the spectrum, an equally damaging of lack of respect for the culture of dogs.

“The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.” Henry Beston, naturalist & author (1888 – 1968)

iDogs Next?

Japanese Company Develops Robot Guide Dog –

Maybe we can do pets next. The end of all that responsible breeder angst! Pretty soon we won’t have to bother will all those expensive, pesky health tests. Fully customizable! When clients ask me for a certain color puppy, I will no longer have to tell them that they are currently backordered – I’ll just take one off the shelf and, Viola!, Fed-Ex. Guaranteed – truly non-shedding, non couch chewing, non barking and, best of all, no more poop scooping!

Boarding and daycare kennels will be obsolete – just power off for an extended down-stay. No more shelter problem. Just recycle!

I’m going to be an iDog breeder…

What Exactly is a Responsible Breeder?



A healthy, sound dog...

After doing some renovation and painting in my boarding kennel last month, I was rehanging my hard-earned Hall of Fame Kennel certificates when a regular client wandered in to drop off her hound mix, Riley, for daycare. Spying my framed documents, she gushed “Wow, you must be so proud! Those really prove that you are a responsible breeder, right?”.

“Er…” I mumbled, fussing with the picture wire I’d painstakingly installed the day my “proof” arrived in the mail so many years ago, “er…well…kinda’… sorta’…”. Not to be waylaid, she pushed, ” What do you have to do to be a Hall of Fame breeder? It must be a lot of work sending in all the health papers and showing your dogs have good temperaments and all that. Does the Better Business Bureau have to endorse you?” I explained that, proud as I was of my dog’s achievements, these Hall of Fame designations ( and now the AKC Breeder of Merit), really just showed that a certain number of my dogs had earned titles in a variety of competitive venues – no health checks, no temperament tests, certainly no BBB. Sadly, no real proof that I was a “reputable” breeder.

She looked at me quizzically, ” Well then, how does anyone know how to tell if a breeder is responsible?”

A new client arrived yesterday with her 10 week old puppy in tow. “Oh!” I cooed ” How cute is that? Where’d you come across this little fellow?”. “On the internet” she replied ” but don’t worry, they were responsible breeders. The web site said they followed a code of ethics and they had a guarantee. We just love him!”. This was obviously not the time to bring up the life their lucky pup’s parents might endure in what was likely a high volume breeding operation.

A prospective puppy buyer called recently and ,as I have no puppies for sale, I began my usual referral speech. He interrupted me ” I want a reputable professional, not just someone who does this as a part-time hobby in their garage”. When I explained that a part-time hobby/garage breeder might just be exactly who he should work with, his doubt was obvious. “Surely”, he insisted, ” I’d be better off with a full-time professional. They’d have the most expertise.”

We hear this phrase “responsible breeder” bandied about a lot. We are admonished to be “responsible”. Potential puppy buyers are advised to work only with “responsible” breeders. “Irresponsible” breeders are fodder for the animal rights extremists, the media and legislative initiatives. “Irresponsible “breeders are indicted in news headlines screaming “70 Starving Puppies found in Filth”. Websites abound extolling the virtues of buying from breeders who adhere to Codes of Ethics, raise only healthy dogs, breed very few litters of very few breeds, guarantee their dogs and never, ever turn away from one of their dogs in need. Responsible breeder checklists direct puppy buyers to seek out hobby/show breeders and spell out in considerable detail what to look for in such a breeder.

Locating and connecting with those breeders can be a confusing process for pet buyers because much of the “good” breeder’s ethical code is not pet-centric. Much of the current climate on dog breeding vilifies show dog breeders and although some may, no doubt, deserve it, most are, as they say, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Animal rights/welfare doctrine pressures breeders to be “good” ( if at all!) and a “good” breeder assiduously rejects identification as a pet breeder ( after all, isn’t that what puppy mills do?).

The definitions for responsible breeder are paradoxical at best. Confusing not just for the buyer but the breeder as well.

Here’s my tongue-firmly-in-cheek checklist:

  • A responsible breeder is smaller than a puppy mill, but bigger than a backyard breeder – more professional than a backyard breeder but not as professional as a puppy mill…
  • A responsible breeder is identified by how little she breeds, but is expected to be an expert in genetics, animal husbandry, puppy rearing and dog behavior…
  • A responsible breeder provides optimal health care, facilities, food and enrichment for her breeding stock, but must not make any money doing what she loves…
  • A responsible breeder should be THE SOURCE for pups to the public, but should only occasionally breed and most certainly does not advertise in the local newspaper, nor pin notes on community bulletin boards…
  • A responsible breeder is “evaluated” in the show and performance rings, but must not let striving for that validation ( no other accolades in this game!) shape her breeding priorities…
  • Responsible breeders keep meticulous records, stay on top of surprisingly onerous amounts of paperwork, return phone calls and emails promptly, spend hours meeting with potential clients, craft carefully worded contracts for puppy sales, stud services and leases, balance budgets and provide unlimited customer support, yet dares not think of this work in businesslike terms…
  • A responsible breeder does not keep just one dam and sire ( backyard breeder alert?), acts as a lifetime safety net for every dog ever produced, grows all potential stock until at least two years of age, but keeps all her dogs in the house and rarely ( sarcasm alert!), God Forbid, uses crates and kennels …
  • A responsible breeder’s website strives to attract good owners, but insists they “don’t breed pets” and “breed only for themselves”…
  • A responsible breeder structures his life around the care of his animals, but must consider breeding his avocation, never his vocation...

“Good” breeders are betwixt and between. How does anyone realistically and sustainably meet all those divergent criteria? Puppy buyers are understandably just as confused. Their heads must be spinning as they try to sort out the far from cohesive messages about where to find a puppy. This against the constant, guilt inducing drumbeat of “Don’t buy, adopt”.

How do we communicate a coherent definition of responsible breeder to the general public ( and ourselves!)? Are there aspects of what we believe to be responsible that might actually conflict with our abilities to be the primary source for ethically bred puppies?

I’d love to hear more from readers.

More next time…

Internet Puppy Sale Scams – Buyer and Breeder, Beware!

Yet more examples that working with established, preferably local breeders is the safest way to go – both for buyer and breeder.

This article from a Calgary newspaper exposes a scam that poses as a legitimate dog breeding operation and  dupes puppy buyers out of their money.

“Police are warning about a scam going around Calgary that claims to be selling purebred dogs. RCMP have investigated and say the certificate is fake and so are the address, phone number and the dog. 

The seller tries to get the buyer to send money via Western Union or MoneyGram. 

Police say buyers should not be convinced to act quickly and if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The RCMP Calgary federal enforcement section says someone using a Kijiji ad is purporting to sell purebred dogs and claims to have a Canadian Kennel Club certificate of registration. That certificate is e-mailed to interested buyers, as are photographs of the dog. 

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and Canadian Kennel Club have been advised of the scam, say RCMP.” © Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

This post excerpt on a Golden Retriever  forum shows a scam email involving “buyers” promising to send extra money and bouncing checks . As the post writer so accurately points out in her comments, her style of family interviewing and communication would prevent anyone from getting something like this past her.

“Thanks for your prompt response.I would be buying one male puppy you have for sale so kindly reserve it for me.I am sending you this email to make final reconfirmation of the one puppy.and let you know that payment will be by certified Check. However, I want to alert you on the fact that you will be receiving the Check this week or next week and payment will cover your cost and as well as the shipping cost to be paid to the person that will take care of the pickup in your house. So please as soon as you receive the payment, get it cashed immediately, deduct the money that accrues to you and send the remaining balance to the Head Office of the company that handles the shipment via Western union. More so, I will pay you an extra $200 if you can reserve this for me. So in view of the above, Here are some of the details I will need for final issuance of the Check to you.

(1) Full Name
(2) Mailing address, no please
(3) your direct telephone number both home and cell.?
{4} Acceptance of my offer
(5} Final asking price Once you get back to me with all the above information s, the check will be issued out immediately and it will be sent to you.”

It’s my hope that this kind of news raises awareness for the puppy buying public that the internet is useful only for research, education and initial contact with breeders. It’s vital that buyers come to expect a high level of professionalism and accountability from the breeders they are working with.Visiting a bricks and mortar breeder ( or at the very least building a relationship by phone and with valid referrals) is really the only way to know how your puppy was raised and if you are working with an ethical professional.


Comic Relief

I read this a year or so ago for the first time, but I couldn’t resist reposting this Hyperbole and a Half post. It is just TOO funny…enjoy! Here’s an excerpt:

“A lingering fear of mine was confirmed last night:  My dog might be slightly retarded…This dog is uncoordinated in a way that would suggest her canine lineage is tainted with traces of a species with a different number of legs – like maybe a starfish or some sort of primitive snake. ”

Read on for a good laugh!

And here’s another one about moving ( also from Hyperbole and a Half). Love “the simple dog” thought process.

Local is Best – In Dog Rescue, Too

Although, I am often wont to look askance at the doings of HSUS, this press release, “Dirty Dozen” Puppy Mill Posing as Dog Rescue Groupcaught my eye. I checked into it a bit further.

It appears even dog rescue should be a local process – either visiting your local shelter or working directly with a local rescue group . Looks like both internet breeders AND internet rescue are best  avoided.

It seems that this puppy mill

Frenchie Puppy Mill...

also operates this “rescue” where $500 to $900 will let you “rescue” what appear to be older, maybe no longer useful/saleable mill dogs. “Donations” are also encouraged ( Hmmm, why did I never think of that?!!). These sites are very convincing. They “talk the talk”.

...posing as a rescue organization

I have no doubt these poor animals deserve to be rescued, but ideally not in a way that supports the very system they came from. Those of us that choose to adopt must be aware that rescue has become ” the new black” ( as I recently heard someone say). There are those that will take advantage of the good-hearted souls who offer help to homeless animals.

As with any charitable organization, it’s worth checking into credentials before getting involved with any rescue group. Careful screening and selection is as important in rescue as it is in chosing a breeder. No one wants to perpetuate, however inadvertently, the mill system of dog breeding.

We breeders can do our bit by keeping a current list of local rescue organizations on hand for clients that express interest. Potential adopters then have a better chance of connecting with groups they can develop a relationship with. All good stuff that increases the chances a rescued dog will be a good, permanent fit!