Adding a dog to our family is a big event and needs careful consideration since s/he will bring peace or chaos to our family for 12 or more years. The task has been complicated by both the public’s desire for "designer dogs" and those who serve that demand to mass produce (puppy mill) or sell (broker) puppies for profit, with no regard for the health, temperament or environment of the puppies or their parents.
While visiting a litter from an internet classified ad, I was shocked to discover a broker. What disturbed me were the poor living conditions and lack of concern for the pups. Although I picked out one of the pups as "the one" the situation didn’t feel right and I walked away.
The broker had her technical details in place: pups vetted, first inoculations, 6 weeks health insurance, and free vet check in a written contract. They were 9 weeks old, a good age to find a new home. The pups were healthy-looking and boisterous.
The housing and handling of the pups was a different matter. The broker didn’t volunteer information, emails were curt and she neglected to answer several questions. My on-site queries were answered equally briefly and even vaguely. She was talkative about other topics, but wasn’t very knowledgeable about dog needs generally, or these pups specifically.
As I stepped into the outdoor pen, I had to be careful due to the volume of poop in the pen from 15 puppies (two litters). One of the pups had watery diarrhea, a victim of a 50:50 change over of dog food the day before. (Changeover should occur more slowly.) The self-filling water dish was almost empty and filled with dirt from puppy play. No toys were in the pen, nor were there children on site to socialize the pups.
The broker showed little emotional connection, a sad situation as she ’cares’ for them until they sell. Seven to 16 weeks is a critical period for puppies socially. Anything they are exposed to during that time shapes how they react as an adult. They need positive experiences such as being handled by people, friendly dogs and visiting strange places. Sitting in a pen even for a week, slows their brain
development. By 16 weeks, their brains are 75% of adult size and it takes a lot more effort to socialize them when they are older.
In my enthusiasm to see the puppies, I waited until after I had temperament tested (video "How Smart is Your Puppy?" Dr. Laura Pasten) them to ask to see the parents. They were not on site, nor did she know anything about their temperaments. This is critical as temperament and health are inherited. If
the parent dogs are happy outgoing dogs, the pups have a stronger chance to be that way, given proper environment. If the parents are fearful, shy, aggressive or reactive, the pups will have that tendency too. Healthy parents have been screened for known genetic faults common to the breed. Even mixed breed dogs can carry a disease if both parents carry it.
I was not asked any questions about the situation the pup would go to, the energy level or temperament that would match my family. There was no offer to take the pup back at any time in its life, should circumstances require it.
The emotional turmoil I went through the following week was tough on me and my family. I can still see her little face perked up at my call and her neck straining to see me through the rest of the pups. Doing the right thing is not always easy but it does bring peace in the long run.
Ghandi said that how we treat our animals is a reflection of how great and moral we are as a nation. By not supporting this uncaring venture of mass production of living creatures, we can prevent needless suffering. The breeding of healthy happy canine family members should be left to responsible caring people. If you are planning to add a canine family member this holiday, please try to make a good
choice. We ended up finding a delightful seven month old mixed breed pup at the local animal control. Healthy, nice temperament, well-socialized. She is a welcome addition to our family!
Donna Hill B.Sc (zoology) B.Ed. teaches owners games to play with their dogs. She is author of "You Don’t Have to be a Dog Whisperer: Applying the Principles of No Force Training" www.naturepark.com