Why Would I Choose a Breeder?

I work in a shelter and have been involved with the shelter/rescue community for years now. Yet I’m considering getting my next dog from a breeder. This post will likely stir up some controversy amongst my friends and acquaintances; some may even get downright furious with me. I completely understand why. However, I ask you to hear me out. There are reasons behind this decision and it’s not one I take lightly. It’s taken a long time for me to come to this decision – and frankly I may still change my mind.

Some believe there’s no such thing as a “responsible” breeder, but obviously I disagree. There aren’t many, but they do exist. These breeders are dedicated to preserving their breed as the dog it was meant to be. In a way, it’s like a work of art. A good breeder will do extensive health testing to avoid passing on any issues to the puppies. A good breeder will breed for temperament so they are not producing anything unstable. A good breeder knows how important socialization is, has you sign a contract, and will take a dog back at any point in its life if you decide you cannot keep it. Because of this they do not contribute to overpopulation in shelters. Good breeders will also suggest rescues to some people or help the rescues directly themselves. Considering all the money they pour into proving their dogs’ health and abilities, they don’t make nearly the profit you think they do. This isn’t for money. This is for the love of a breed.

Someone who buys a dog from a breeder is not literally responsible for a shelter dog dying. Even if they do not get a puppy from a breeder that does not mean they would have or should have gotten a shelter dog. Police dogs, military dogs, service dogs, search and rescue dogs, etc. The people who take on puppies for this kind of work need puppies whose health, drive, and temperament will be predictable.

I don’t train police/military/service/SAR dogs. Why on earth do need a dog from a breeder? Because I want something very specific. If I find that very specific dog in a shelter before I get a dog from a breeder – then great! But it’s not likely. It’s selfish, but I’m picky. I don’t want a project. I quite fancy German Shepherds. Poorly bred GSDs can be found throughout rescues. A poorly bred GSD is often a disaster – aggression, anxiety, health problems, so on. If you’re getting a dog bred for guarding and working, you need to be careful where it comes from. Getting a GSD puppy from rescue is a huge gamble (plus they look so different as puppies who knows if it’s even a GSD unless you’ve seen the parents). I would just get an adult, but I really want to start off with a puppy. I want to teach it appropriate behavior from the beginning, prevent bad habits as best I can, properly socialize to avoid behavior issues, and have a better chance of teaching it to enjoy normally scary things like going to the vet. I’d also like a dog to do obedience and potentially sports with. For that I need a dog with at least a little working drive.

“But it’s all in how you raise ’em!” No. No it isn’t. Stop saying that.  Improper socialization and training can have a huge impact – absolutely. But temperament and drive has a genetic component. Things like aggression and anxiety can be passed on to puppies. So I want a dog from rock solid lineage to avoid those issues. Five days a week I work with dogs with behavior issues. The last thing I want to do when I come home is do more of that with my own dog. The breeder I am considering usually has a long wait list for puppies and potential buyers must pass a thorough screening process. In the meantime, I will absolutely continue to browse shelters and rescues for a dog that suits me. I’d be delighted if I could find one. And 95% of the time I’m still totally going to recommend shelters/rescues to anyone looking to add a dog to their life.

Unfortunately regulations on breeding dogs are so piss-poor that pretty much anyone with two intact dogs can be a breeder. The real people who are the problem are the puppy mills and backyard breeders – those who don’t breed/test for health or temperament, those who don’t screen buyers, those who just churn out dogs ignorantly for a profit. They are the ones whose dogs end up in shelters. They are the ones who deserve your ire.

I know that even with all this, some will still disagree with my decision to go to a breeder. That’s fine. Hopefully this helped others understand.

Advertisements

Why Is The Dog Whisperer Still Being Discussed?

I didn’t want to have to make a Dog Whisperer post. There doesn’t need to be another Dog Whisperer post on the internet. To be fair, nothing is forcing me to make this post. But it’s come up in conversation quite a bit around me lately and I figured I would just write out a big response. That way the next time I am asked what my thoughts on the Dog Whisperer are, I can just sigh and give them the link to this post, so that I may go back to my merry life of inhaling some nacho Goldfish crackers for dinner again. They’re extra salty from all my tears of boredom.

The Dog Whisperer. Cesar Millan. That guy. A lot of people love his show, a lot of people hate it. Pretty controversial dude – for a reason. For clarity, the main techniques of Millan’s I’m talking about are alpha rolls, his “claw” move, the “tsst!” thing, that weird backward kick to the ribs he does, staring the dog down, and generally getting in the dog’s space to intimidate and “assert dominance.”

alpha as fuck

In a perfect world, no one would take a reality TV star seriously and that would be the end of it. He is entertainment. He is not science. End of story.

NOPE.

A lot of people are lazy and set in their ways (myself included, sometimes). We don’t want to think and seek answers for ourselves, especially not when National Geographic is going to serve it up on a silver platter with dramatic editing and background music to keep us enthralled.

Since many of us have the attention span of a gnat (do gnats actually have short attention spans, or is that just something they say?), I’m going to try making a concise, bulleted list of the issues with Cesar Millan’s ideologies and training methods.

  • None of his techniques/ideologies are based on actual scientific evidence.
  • Dogs are not wolves. Even if his information on wolves was correct, it’s not wise to treat them as though they’re the same.
  • Humans are not dogs. Dogs know this. It’s dumb for us to ever think we could accurately mimic dog behavior.
  • He has zero credentials in canine behavior. You will not find a single certified applied animal behaviorist or ethologist who agrees with his ideas/methods. He is an entertainer. Period. (For those curious, yes, I take this same stance on Victoria Stilwell.)
  • He cannot read canine body language to save his life. He sees a calm, submissive dog. Behavior experts see a shut down, terrified dog who’s learned what behavior most likely won’t get them killed. They are in self-preservation mode.
  • Many of his techniques exacerbate the very problems they’re trying to resolve. Even in “skilled” hands. At best, the human’s problem is suppressed – the dog’s underlying issue is never addressed or resolved.

That’s as detailed as I’m gonna get. Many other people have already made these arguments better than I have. One of my favorite articles on this is Dog Whispering in the 21st Century by Prescott Breeden (find it here: http://prescottbreeden.com/dog-whispering-in-the-21st-century/ ).

I was going to go through and copy/paste some of the best excerpts from that article, but that would be a huge disservice to it (and the excerpts I’d want to showcase would make this post almost as long as the article itself). Please for the love of your deity of choosing, just do yourself a favor and read it. Preferably with an open mind.

Recently someone asked, “why do people hate him so much?”

I don’t have anything against Millan as a person (that would be unfair, considering I don’t know him). Trainers and behaviorists take issue with the show because people absorb it as factual when it is not. The information he is putting out is genuinely harmful to the dogs of the people who employ his methods (you can put a “don’t try this at home” disclaimer on it all you want). We wouldn’t care so much if his show wasn’t hurting anyone. His techniques are misguided and based on misunderstandings. There is scientific evidence out there showing that his techniques are not the most humane and effective way to address these behavior problems. But sadly, science isn’t entertaining and charismatic enough to get a TV show that most people would care about.