Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Being Our Breed's Worst Enemy


If you're old enough to remember Pogo, he supposedly said something like "We have met the enemy and the enemy is us".  Truer words were never spoken when it comes to the Dalmatian's reputation.  Sometimes the damage is unintentional, sometimes it's just poor judgment, but at other times it's gross stupidity.

Several months ago I joined a Facebook Dalmatian list that is made up primarily of pet owners, plus a number of experienced Dal owners (mostly breeder/exhibitors) who are there to be helpful.   Many of the list members are young, first time Dal owners, have rescue dogs, or purchased from backyard breeders or commercial breeders, so they are often inexperienced and have no one to turn to for help.   The list can be fun, and lots of cute pictures and stories are posted.  The list is also extremely frustrating, as misinformation is shared as fact and advice is given that is totally incorrect and occasionally dangerous.  Members post requests for help or advice, but for every hundred responses, often only a few are correct or useful.  The show folks on the list are generally in agreement on most things, but they are outnumbered by the clueless.  Hopefully the person asking the questions is smart enough to recognize the valid answers - but in many cases that's unlikely, and it often seems as if they really just want support from readers who agree with them.  Some even resent the answers that are not what they wanted to hear.

I've met many wonderful owners, and corresponded privately with those who requested extra help or advice, but many times I've had to bite my tongue and just stop reading.  Many show people have signed on for awhile and finally signed off in frustration, but I vowed to stick it out because there ARE people who genuinely need help and or want to learn.  Bite your tongue, Sue.  Do your best.  Try to make yourself useful.  For every ten fools, there's probably at least one sensible person out there, and although they may not be posting perhaps they are just reading along and learning.  At least I hope so.

This morning there was a post from a young man who has taught his dog to bite him - by pinching it's nose.  He posted a picture of the dog with all his teeth showing.  Says the dog does not bite hard. It's just for fun he says. What is he thinking???  Actually he is not thinking.  It's our job as responsible dog owners to teach our dogs that it is never ok to put their teeth on a person.  Ever.  This guy makes a game of it, gets the dog all revved up, and then encourages him to bite.  He thinks it's cool.  When a number of us protested, he then posted a video of the dog biting him and dared us to complain.  Won't it be just great when the video is shared, as it undoubtedly will be?  A Dal biting someone, confirming that Dals really are aggressive.  It will be really cool too, when the dog tries his teeth on someone other than his owner, a child perhaps, or in the excitement of a "game" forgets to bite softly.  What made the situation worse was all the people who think this is perfectly OK.  Not the responsible breeders on the list who try to educate their puppy buyers. Not the rescue folks on the list who have to deal with the poorly behaved dogs who need to be rehomed, or can't be rehomed.  Certainly not those of us who remember all the bad publicity the breed received during the Disney era when so many Dals were euthanized because their owners no longer wanted them or couldn't manage them.  Just the average uneducated Dal owner.  The ones that drive me crazy.

One of the topics that often comes up on that list is why Dals have such a bad reputation.  Why don't vets like them, why do people say they aren't good with kids or are aggressive, hyper or untrainable?  Why do they show up on lists of breeds not good for first time dog owners?  These same people delight in reciting their dogs escapades - the furniture they destroy, the mischief they get into, the excessive barking that doesn't bother themThey agree that all Dalmatians are hyper, steal off the counters and have separation anxiety, that they all pull and bark. They complain that show people are snobs because we won't let our dogs meet their out of control, snarling, lunging "furbabies".  They make no effort to actually train their dogs, and they do nothing to help improve the breed's image.  And then they wonder why the breed has a bad reputation.

Many of us work very hard on Dalmatian PR.  We get our dogs out in public, train and show them in obedience and agility, enter barn hunts and coursing events, do therapy dog work, make our dogs available for "meet the breed" and fire station events and respond to countless email and Facebook posts.  We explain that Yes there are bad Dalmatians, but there are many more bad owners. We explain that the breed is smart and trainable if you take the time to do it, that well-bred properly socialized Dals make great family dogs, and that although Dals can lively and enthusiastic, a dog that receives appropriate training and enough exercise is NOT hyper.   We discuss how to recognize a good responsible breeder, and how to buy intelligently.  We educate our own buyers and explain to them that their dogs will be the dogs that the public sees and judges, and it's important that their dogs present a good breed image.

We also explain that if they are not going to buy a well bred dog from a responsible breeder, then they should consider adopting a rescue dog.  Don't buy a commercially bred dog, or one from a backyard breeder who is only doing it to make a buck.  Do your homework, buy intelligently, train your dog, ask questions of knowledgeable people, and raise a dog that we can ALL be proud of.  And then some idiot does videos of his dog biting him, and many of the list members think that's really cool, and that those of us who try to explain why this is such a bad idea are just know-it-alls, busy bodies and troublemakers.  Someone recently posted asking if we thought the next Disney movie would be bad for the breed.  Maybe, but not nearly as bad as many of the owners.

Enough.  I'm out of there.  I can't do this any longer.  It breaks my heart to see Dalmatians trashed, and the damage is so often done by people who profess to love the breed.  Shame on them.  

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen.
It was not a young man, but a stubborn middle aged man, who thought what he was doing was okay, even funny. He did not want to learn to be a better owner, at the expense of his dog and people who come in contact with them.

SueMac said...

Actually, I was giving him the benefit of a doubt. Hard to believe that an adult could be so stupid. More like the kind of thing that kids do, without understanding the consequences.

Anonymous said...

Sorry you're so frustrated, Sue. :( It is really hard to watch these things and that group is not always easy to be a part of. Not everybody wants to learn and they don't realize they are the problem. I've learned a lot from you and appreciate the information and experience you have to share as I raise my new puppy to be a good representative for his breed. If you do leave the group, I will continue to read your blog and learn from you here instead!

Thanks,
Jill DeVol

Maureen Denford-Cox said...

I couldn't agree with you more. It is unbelievable what some people train their pets to do. I've had people tell me how dals do all those negative behaviours and my response is bad owners, not bad dogs. Put the effort into training and be consistent otherwise you have yourself to blame not the breed!

Lucy said...

I have the same problem with the Cavalier facebook groups I am on - nearly all the show people have given up because of all the hate posted if they suggested a dog should not be bred from, or suggest health testing might be a good idea, or speak out against the people who clip their Cavaliers bald and think they look good!

Chris K said...

I saw the photos and video. That dog IMO as a groomer of 25 years was not playing. And something bad is going to come of his blatant stupidity.

Cindy Maloney said...

I absolutely agree with you, Sue, such irresponsibility that was shown in the video was beyond comprehension. Teeth are never allowed to meet skin even by accident. I wish that you weren't leaving the group, your wisdom is much appreciated.

SueMac said...

Thanks everyone for your kind comments and support. It means a lot to me. I agree with Chris K's observation - the look in that dog's eyes tells me this is not a game to him, but he will definitely end up the loser.

Idiot Fred and his pal Lou said...

Well, amazing that this "blog" is about me, you know Mr Stupid. What's more amazing is that you have all judged without knowing 1. Who I am and 2. What my dog is like. AMAZINGLY ENOUGH I have taken my "vicious" Dal to countless schools, public events and social occurrences and without 1 instance. Contrary to Mrs Perfect I am a VERY responsible dog handler and regardless that this is my first Dal, have raised dogs all my life, 44 years without a dog bite or "incident". Am I a pro? Certainly not, but insulting me, is the ONLY thing you have done, shows your ineptness at "helping those less exelperienced" as you call it. We here in that North, see, we calls DAT down raight insultin. So with that said, You have a problem with me, say it to my face, not behind a blog. Initially was was upset at you for the insults and slams, now I'm just sad and pity you. Take care.

Jennifer Steinbrecher said...

Sue I would be sorry to see you go too... and this isn't the only instance people were posting "funny" things that were disturbing, not a week or two ago was the discussion of whether children should be able to "do anything" to a dog and that was supremely frustrating too. I think the example was a photo of a child sitting on a dal and the dog looked very uncomfortable. It is frustrating that we can SEE they are setting themselves up for something bad to happen, and when those of us who have seen what happens say something, we are told we need to get off our high horse. These people are the reason dogs bite and have to die for it.

Jessica said...

Sue, This used to be such an awesome group, but now, it just seems so negative. Thank You for writing this. It not only brought new light to me. But to my future. My dad used to breed Dalmatians, and I hope to start one day with the help of an amazing breeder like you. It is so sad that some one like this had to post something so stupid like what they did this morning. Bless you for being such an amazing breeder.

SueMac said...

Well now you're famous Fred, but you're really just an example. Guess that's what you were looking for though. Attention? The stories that I've heard today about you and your dog don't quite match the one you are telling me here.

Richard Williams / Underfoot Dalmatians Australia said...

This post upset me a great deal. As a show breeder we pride ourselves on good temperament and lovely friendly dogs. I am constantly disapointed when so many dalmatian owners come up and talk to me at various events and comment how they wish their dalmatian was as good behaved as mine! I manned a stand at a large pet expo last summer and spent many hours with my dals on my knee greeting the public. Several people couldn't believe how calm and gentle my dals were and said they wished theirs would lay on their lap. ALL of our dals over 18 years will happily snuggle on our laps even the excitable ones. We rescued a dal 15 years ago as a companion for a new show puppy we had just taken into our home. This 3 year old girl was very flighty and nervous poorly bred and abused. It took us about 6 months but eventually she would relax and climb willingly into my lap for a cuddle.
The pet forums are so frustrating I really tend to avoid getting too involved anymore. I know my wife has had many a passionate discussion and is no longer active in some groups.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your efforts Sue and your sensible no-nonsense approach to raising dogs. I feel very sad for a dog being trained to bite. I agree that is very dangerous and reckless thing and the loser will be the dog. All it takes is one slight misque and it's all over. Who's to ever know if some stranger or small human will invoke the 'play' bite from this dal and now the dog is labled a biter. I train classes at our local club and see so many folks who just won't listen, think they know better, calling the dog stupid, when if fact it is generally the other way around. It is very frustrating to see the dog suffering.

Tonya

Diane Rosenberg said...

Sue - I joined the group a few months ago. I enjoy seeing pictures of everyone's dogs and all the cute stuff, but mostly enjoy reading the comments and advice from the breeders (you, your daughter, Jessica, and several others). I've been a Dalmatian owner for 24 years and my parents had a Dal when we were growing up...and I find I continue to learn something new every day. I hate to see some of the things that have gotten posted on the site. It is disturbing and I usually just scroll past. I remember seeing the post, but didn't read most of it or keep up with it. I am sorry to see you go from the group, but will continue to follow your blog. You and your daughter are such a wealth of information, you raise beautiful and healthy pups, and it is a joy to follow those who have such a love of the breed!