Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Worlds Best Guide to Getting a Dog...

Please, pass this round to anyone who wants to get a dog...

So - you want a dog.

You may think that buying a dog is a bit like popping to Argos to pick up a new floor rug, or nipping round to Sainsbury's or Asda and doing the weekly shopping.

Of course, you can't get a dog at those places, but what I mean by that is, you may think buying a dog is as easy as picking something up from one of those stores.

You probably KNOW someone who wanted a dog and then got one that very weekend, or maybe the weekend after, and it was really easy.

It really isn't and it shouldn't be, that easy - because here's the secret stuff you DON'T KNOW...

Fit for Purpose...

 Would you go and buy a TV that only displayed half the screen, the other half just fuzz?

Would you buy a car that would only do 30 mph and broke down all the time?

Would you buy a washing machine that shredded all your clothes, or a freezer that didn't freeze things reliably?

NO! You wouldn't, those things would not be 'fit for purpose' - they are not suitable for the job, they do not work properly...

If you DID buy any of those things and found they were faulty, you would take them back and get a refund,  you would be PISSED off, and you would be angry and feel that you had been ripped off by the seller.

But a puppy or a dog is just a dog...

It is, but also in the eyes of the law, a puppy is property, it is something you own that you can buy and sell, and a puppies purpose is to be a pet dog (unless you want a working dog to work in which case its purpose is to be a working dog)...

Just like a car or a washing machine or a freezer, a puppy can and should be, 'fit for purpose'...

You need to explain this further...

Ok, so you buy a car and a cars purpose is to be driven, to put your friends/partner/children in, and drive from one place  to another. It should also keep out the rain, it should stop when you put your foot on the brake, it should speed up, slow down, change gear...

You may want a big car, or a particularly fast car, or a pretty coloured car, or a small economical car, or a really enormous uneconomical car that pulls a trailer, these are the 'extras'.. these things are why cars are all different.

When you buy a puppy, you  might want a really big dog, or a really small dog, you might want one that has a long coat or a short coat, maybe you want one that runs very fast or perhaps one that moves slowly and doesn't want a lot of exercise..

For the purpose of being  pets, ie, live in your home, be good with adults, children, other pets, not freak out at the vacuum cleaner or bark like a mentalist whenever the window cleaner arrives, cope with sounds from the TV or computer games, be confident and happy walking on pavements or in the countryside... ALL dogs need to have a good temperament, and good physical health - just as no matter what car you get, it does need to go, stop, change gear, keep the rain out etc!

So what about this temperament and health...

Temperament and health come from the puppies parents, and from the environment that puppy was raised in.

So the puppy has to come from parents who were healthy - that means that they have no mental OR physical defects or diseases and have certificates to prove this.

The puppy also needs to have been raised in an appropriate environment too!

With puppies there is a special 'window' of time, in which a puppy can become familiar with new things - its about 14 weeks, from birth.

If your puppy is going to live in your house, be around your kids and your friends, walk along pavements with you, go in the car, on the bus, play in the park - then your puppy HAS to spend the first 14 weeks of his or her life in an environment that allows for that.

That means the breeder NEEDS to be doing things like: Having people visit from 4 weeks old, having the puppies handled carefully by children and adults, meeting OTHER dogs than their Mum, meeting other animals, hearing vacuum cleaners, TV's, washing machines, dryers, radios, computer games, experiencing life IN a house, going IN a car, going outside in the sunshine..

If your puppy does not come from a breeder who has done these things with him, then he is really like a car that the manufacturer forgot to fit with brakes or a gear lever... or wheels....

But surely if the puppy looks clean and cute and friendly...

No - because nasty people who just want your money are churning out THOUSANDS of puppies each year.

They breed puppies by keeping them in cold, sometimes dark, barns, - like cattle and pigs are sometimes bred, intensively farmed - these puppies have done NONE of the things they need to in their first few weeks of life.

Their parents have never been health tested, carry genetic defects, have dodgy temperaments and they will pass these things onto the puppy.

Some puppies will go direct to their new homes from a puppy farm like this, and if they are lucky enough to go at 6 to 8 weeks they MAY still catch up and learn all they need to learn to be confident, happy puppies before they are 14 weeks old.

Some of these puppies will go to pet superstores, the flash looking shops who sell puppies to famous footballers and pop stars - these puppies will then see the inside of a pen in the back of the store, or sit behind glass looking at people in the shop.

They will still NOT be learning all they should learn at this age, and, if they get too old to sell, which is about 10 to 12 weeks for most breeds - once they are no longer cute and fluffy, they go BACK to the puppy farm and are used to produce more puppies, which means they live their lives in the cold dark barns.

A life in one of these places means no cuddles, no walkies, no toys, no exercise usually, just food once a day and living in a small concrete pen on some sawdust.

But they do look cute.. and I can get one today!

Sure, they do look cute, and life is really sucky for them - but they are NOT going to make the ideal pet for you.

These puppies START life, 'broken' - would you buy a car you KNEW was already broken? Would you pay the SAME price for a car you KNEW was already broken and might say, explode on the motorway, as a car you KNEW was NOT broken?

I don't think you are that stupid, are you that stupid?

Ok, so, what might happen if I did?

The short version is, it could cost you a LOT of money, a LOT of time, be very hard to live with and potentially, dangerous.

Going into more depth,  most likely thing to happen is behavioural problems - I don't mean normal dog behaviour that is a bit weeing on the carpet.

I mean serious psychological issues, things like obsessions with patches of light or reflections off shiny objects. Noise phobias, fear aggression, even rage syndrome..

Fear aggression is likely to be really common, this is where a dog is scared of something, often with puppy farm pups, scared of LOTS of things, and as they grow they learn to bite to keep themselves safe.

The problem is they are scared of perfectly normal things and if not addressed by an expert, they get worse, lead a miserable life (imagine being scared of almost everything in your world!) hurt people or other animals and end up in rescues, or being put down.

The next thing is physical health problems.

If your dog has for example, hip dysplasia, you could be spending thousands of pounds to keep him free of pain and mobile. Operations to fix really bad hips are in the £2K + bracket and the chances are VERY high now that if you have insurance it won't cover you for inherited conditions where the parents were not health tested (the insurers view being that the condition could be avoided).

Hip dysplasia is just one of a multitude of health problems dogs CAN suffer from, there are heart problems, eye problems, brain problems, joint problems..

Anyone not using health tested parents to breed from, is taking a huge risk and if you buy from them, YOU are taking a huge risk.

Then of course there are the immediate problems with puppies raised in unpleasant and inappropriate environments, they often carry diseases, and disease can kill very young puppies. SO you may pay out hundreds of pounds and have a puppy who costs you hundreds at the vets, and then dies. Won't THAT be nice for your children to witness!

Ok ok, I won't go to a puppy farm, or a puppy superstore...

Thats good to know, but there are more sources of 'broken' puppies than that.

The nice couple in the free-ads, the ones whose bitch is ill or maybe she died, or perhaps shes at someone elses house for some reason, so you can't see her with her puppies?

Or the people who meet you in a lay-by or at a motorway services, or offer to deliver your puppy to your door?

These people are up to no good as well, they are out to rip you off and sell you a 'broken' puppy - these puppies are also from puppy farms, either here, or even worse, overseas.

Puppies imported from abroad MUST be 15 weeks old to come here legally - any younger than that and they have false paperwork, and they are  not as old as they are supposed to be and won't have had the injections they are supposed to have.

That means you are not just risking the poor health and disease that might affect or kill the puppy, now we are talking potential diseases that might kill YOU.

Imported puppies must be vaccinated against rabies, but vaccinating a puppy too young, or, falsifying paperwork and bringing in unvaccinated puppies, risks the spread of RABIES. There isn't a cure for rabies, and if you catch it, you are likely to die from it.

What about the free-ads?

Sad to say, thats not a good idea, nor, by the way, is the local pub!

Good breeders do NOT need to advertise in the free ads. Their litters are announced in advance with breed clubs and The Kennel Club, and these breeders have a waiting list, so you are unlikely to just go and get a puppy from a good breeder the day after you decide to get a dog, or even the MONTH after.

If someone is advertising in the free-ads, you have to ask yourself WHY. If their puppies were so good, if they were doing all the work necessary to make these puppies 'fit for purpose', the Rolls Royce of puppies, then they wouldn't need to advertise, they would all be sold practically before they were born!

Some people advertise because they have an accidental litter - unless both parents are health tested and good examples of their breed, avoid these - accidental litters rarely happen to experienced, reputable breeders. They happen when someone makes a mistake and whilst occasionally even the best of us makes a mistake, the fact that the accidental breeder has to advertise tells you they did NOT deal with their mistake correctly, which means they did not know what to do - and that means they may well not know how to raise a litter properly and won't be producing a puppy that is fit for the purpose of being a good, healthy pet of good temperament!

So where the hell do I get a puppy from then?

Do your homework - go to the breed club, if you don't know then just google your chosen breed and the words 'breed club uk' and you should find them, or go to the Kennel Club website and find them that way. Contact the breed club secretary and they will give you a list of people planning litters.

And what IS a 'Rolls Royce' puppy then?

The very BEST puppies, and no one should be breeding if they are not prepared to put in this work, will:

Be from health tested parents (or parents with a good PROVEN working ability if no health tests are available for a working type, ie Lurchers)
Be raised in a clean home environment - or spend a LOT of time in one - some breeds are not suited to being raised indoors for the full 8 weeks but they SHOULD have access to the house a lot of the time and not just be brought indoors for half an hour to show to a potential owner.
Be VERY well socialised with adults, children, other animals, other dogs - that means they are confident, bold and happy around men, women, children, people in funny hats or in wheelchairs, cats, maybe rabbits or chickens, other dogs...

Be VERY well habituated to every day normal situations - that means they are confident and bold and happy in their environment. They are not frightened by the sounds of the TV or a computer game or a stereo, they may jump at a noise but recover quickly. They should not be hiding in a corner or wary about investigating things, they should look like they are really really confident and familiar with the place they are in. The breeder should have got them used to being in a crate, toileting on dirt or grass, being separated from the other puppies and their Mum for short periods, taken them out in a car, introduced them to lots of different dog toys...

All of this, for a litter of say 8 puppies, and its all w ork that needs doing EVERY day, and needs to be started at 3 or 4 weeks old, is a FULL TIME JOB for a breeder.

This work cannot be achieved by someone who keeps lots of litters of puppies in a barn, it CANNOT be done by someone who is out for 8 hours a day leaving the bitch and pups to fend for themselves.

There are NO good reasons why a breeder won't be doing all of the above work with their puppies, because a GOOD breeder knows that all this work means their puppies are the best, their puppies are TOTALLY fit for purpose, able to do the job of being a pet dog, which is probably harder, than being any other kind of dog!

Only a bad breeder who is either stupid, or doesn't care, will skimp on this work and cut corners, and they are selling puppies who are not fit for purpose!

So - do you still think you want to pop out and get a puppy at the weekend, or do you think it might be wiser to do your research, and plan on getting a puppy in the next 3 to 6 months time?

If of course you actually don't mind the risk of needing to do lots of behavioural work, or taking on a puppy or dog who may be liable to suffer from inherited problems, or problems as a result of being raised in a crappy environment...

If you don't mind putting in the hard work, paying for experts, risking your pup not actually being the type or breed or breed mix you wanted originally...

Then you can take that risk, and do some GOOD, by rehoming a rescue puppy or dog.

Lots of these dogs actually originated from puppy farms, accidental litters, bought by people on a whim, like you were going to .. 'I want a dog and I want it NOW' people.. who couldn't handle the work involved.

Thats not to say all rescue dogs have problems, lots of them don't, or rather, their ONLY problem was the person who owned them before, and they themselves are actually fine.

But if you ARE willing to take that risk, then you might as well get a dog from a rescue - after all, its a lot cheaper (around £150) than buying a puppy farmed puppy (around £500!) and the risks are really no worse!

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