This is the latest from guest columnist, Melissa Grant, who is a pet expert and in-home dog trainer at Le Chic Pet in Issaquah. To get more training tips visit the LeChic website.
About this time twelve years ago I was considering bringing a dog into my life for the first time as an adult. I was oh so careful with my research. Do I want a coated dog or a shedding dog? What energy level is best for me and my lifestyle? How smart do I want my future furry child to be? I studied and vetted and researched and considered. I was going to do this thing properly. Yessiree, no careless decisions for this girl.
I knew I was leaning in the terrier/poodle direction. I like my dogs smart with a slightly disheveled appearance. I guess Benji got into my psyche as a young child. One day while perusing the classified ads I came upon an ad for a Schnoodle, a Schnauzer Poodle cross. Since I never seen a Schnoodle before, I called the ad. The nice lady on the phone said the litter was gone but the pet store near her house had a puppy – if I wanted to see one in person. I went intending to look, but I would never buy…
Long story short, I went once and met the puppy. Went again when a friend wanted to see what this cross looked like and then went back because this sweet little ball of black fluff spoke to me. I bought a dog and I shouldn’t have. In the end I would never trade a moment of our, so far, twelve years together, but it hasn’t been an easy road.
That is because I have no idea where my dog came from. She, more than likely, came from a puppy mill. These are large operations that give no care to careful breeding and generally keep their animals in deplorable conditions. Puppies that come from puppy mills can have problems with common illnesses and conditions that a careful breeder would never allow to be bred into a line.
My sweet dog has had food allergies, skin conditions, knee problems that required surgery, shoulder injuries, tumors and finally Inflammatory Bowel disease requiring expensive medications. That lack of knowledge of her lineage could have manifested in behavioral problems. Indiscriminate breeding doesn’t weed out issues generationally.
Fortunately we dodged this genetic bullet and I have a dog with a spectacular temperament, but I have seen many dogs with lifelong behavior issues, some with life ending issues. Unfortunately, a pet store staff generally has no idea how to deal with these problems and bad behavior is allowed to continue.
In addition, these dogs are frequently pulled away from their litters at too young an age. This lack of socializing with their litter can result in a lack of puppy social skills. At the same time these large operations frequently lack the human touch puppies need for another aspect of their socialization. These two factors can result in a dog that does not interact well with other dogs or people.
I am fairly certain I have a schnauzer/poodle cross. She ended up looking like one thank goodness. Unfortunately, when you buy from a pet store what you see, isn’t always what you get. You could be told your sweet puppy will only grow to 15 pounds, only to end up with a 50 pound dog. Or think you’re getting a terrier and end up with a cocker spaniel. Generally, there is no recourse once your dog has grown up and if returned, a lot of the time the pet will be euthanized.
Housebreaking was easy for us, but this may have been a lucky accident. Frequently when dogs are kept in cages for much of their formative weeks they don’t have the opportunity to eliminate away from their food and bed. This can cause life long potty training issues.
So what are better options? Find a reputable breeder or adopt your next friend from a shelter or breed specific rescue. Breeders know their breeds and can be a valuable resource later on if health or behavioral issues crop up. Shelters do temperament and health checks to try to weed out problems. They can’t find everything, but still it is a better option.
I consider myself lucky to be able to deal with my dog’s expensive health problems, but not everyone can, nor should they have to. We should not support a system that hurts puppies and dogs. I did, but I won’t do it again. So I’ll stay away from those stores and the little dog voices that try to tell me I should take them all home. Loss of income ultimately is the only thing that will stop disreputable breeders from doing this to innocent dogs.