Saturday, March 28, 2009

Puppy Fever

It is spring. One of the most certain signs of spring is not the mud, the blooming flowers or special holidays; it is puppy fever. Spring calls out for the addition of puppy feet in the household. And by gosh, we must have a puppy NOW!

In the last month I've seen several examples of puppy fever. One woman called and thought she might be interested in schutzhund. No, she had not selected her puppy with that in mind. No, it did not have a recognizable pedigree, in fact, I'm not sure if there were papers. The owner couldn't recall the name of the seller, but had found them through the newspaper. I evaluated the puppy, which happen to be a long coated German Shepherd, and was pleasantly surprised (dare I say, practically shocked?) to find him to be a nice, stable puppy with workable prey drive! The woman planned to come the next week to begin training.

She never showed up. Several weeks later, after I sent an email inquiring if everything was okay, she revealed that her circumstances with a significant other and the time needed to devote to school had changed, and she needed to find a new home for the puppy. She wondered if there was anyone I knew who might be interested? I told her I would give the information if that occurred that it was unlikely A short time passed and I got an email from another gal to whom the poor puppy had been passed. Guess what? She wondered if I might have suggestions for placement as the her landlord didn't want 3 dogs there! She was also hoping to be paid more money than the original owner had paid! I bluntly told her the puppy had now been screwed over twice now and the best thing would be to surrender it to the Humane Society or German Shepherd Rescue where they would at least screen potential owners and likely find him a decent home. No such luck~ she knew someone in the country where he would have room to run. This story breaks my heart, because against all odds, this puppy from a nondescript background turned out to be a nice little dog and all the future had to offer him was being passed around.

In another case, I saw a gentleman make an impulse buy of a puppy that was brought to a seminar; younger than most breeders release their pups, no shots and no papers. Caught by puppy fever!

And in a final recent incident, I observed a man also at a seminar who stopped by with a new puppy that he had purchased "down the street". As German Shepherds go, it appear to have several physically aesthetic details that were faulty and was quite passive for a youngster. It could be that this pup actually has the drive to do the work the owner intends it to do, but it could also be pounded a square peg into a round hole, where no one is left satisfied.

We get many phone calls in the spring, of people looking for puppies and wanting them NOW. They don't inquire about the genetics, or the titles and training, or even pedigrees. They only want to know when the puppies will be born, so that it corresponds with summer vacation, or the new job, or the alignment of the moon. Sometimes, I have to say, I just hope they get what they deserve for their poor planning and lack of thought, but I have to wonder who suffers most? My money says it is the puppy who gets passed around because of a spur of the moment decision, or who does not meet the expectations of the owner. I also have to admit that it does make me wonder why we work so hard to investigate the right dogs to breed, to genetically test them, to train and title, and then to nuture and care for the puppies to ten weeks of age, by which time they are microchipped and tattooed, have been exposed to gunfire, crate training and travel, and clicker training and are well on their way to being social adaptable, confident dogs; why we do all this when people will buy the next puppy in a pen at a seminar? Why do we register them when people will buy a puppy down the street without papers? Why we spend all the time we do to properly raise and environmentally challenge the puppies, when a newspaper ad is more attractive?

At the end of the day, I know why we do things right. It is because it is the ethical and right thing to do, for the well being of our dogs, and the breeds they represent. Doing things the right way is more expensive and time consuming, and yes, it does get very frustrating to watch people hawk puppies at seminars and be willing to send a dog home with someone they have not pre screened.

As a buyer, it is critical that you identify what your goals are for the dog and select the breed AND the particular breeding that is best suited to that, as well as your personal strengths and experience, and time/family contraints. Do not be bound by your personal schedule, as easy as that sounds. Finding the best dog may not occur in a neat little window of time. If this is to be a companion and partner who will live for 12-14 years potentially, be certain that it is clear of known diseases and defects that occur in that breed and do not be afraid to ask for PROOF. One of the biggest scams I hear often is buyers being told that a dog's hips are "good" or even "excellent" when they have never been Xrayed, and there are no films on file. They will make that claim that "no one has had problems in the line" when all that means is that no one has bothered to have a dog Xrayed or the films were never submitted. Make certain that the dog has the registration that you need to meet your goals, if you plan to compete. NEVER buy a puppy at a wayside or a seminar. Never, ever, ever. No breeder who cares about their dogs would sell a puppy to you there. What do you think they're basing their decison on? The cool way you trick out your pickup? Stop a minute and THINK. Better yet, go home, research some more and then make a decision. And if the buyer doesn't care enough to get to know you, you shouldn't want to know them. I have seen some decent pups from no-name kennels and some not so great dogs from big-name kennels. That is a bit of the crap shoot that is breeding; the difference between those two however will likely be the guarantee and what you can expect if things go wrong. A reputable breeder should be willing to take back the dogs they have produced and be responsible for them.
Yes, spring is indeed in the air. Use it wisely.