Friday, April 20, 2012

Showing Amery

"Amery" is spending the week with us, and has fit in nicely.  She's one of the Cruise/Penny pups from the litter Jess, Laurie & I co-bred last summer.  It was the first litter my daughter Jess has raised on her own (although she helped with my pups for almost 40 years!), and it was a very successful one.

Two of the pups have been shown so far, Meribel (Jess's pup) who has a 5 point Specialty major, and Ellsworth (lives in Texas) who has 8 points and a major.  Amery has not yet been shown, but is getting ready for the National.  A third sister Gemma will also be shown later.

Mom Penny won the Futurity when she went to the National as a puppy, and I personally think that Amery is even better, but such a win requires everything to fall into place and the puppy to show really well.  Penny was quite experienced when she went to the National, and had already been to several specialty show weekends.  Amery goes to her first dog show next week, and it's just a small one.  We're doing it just for practice, so she knows what to expect, and so we know what to expect from her.  Jess will be showing Meribel in the Puppy Class at DCA, and Amery will be entered in Bred By Exhibitor class.  They will both be in the same Sweeps and Futurity classes though, so I'll show Amery there.  I haven't shown a dog in the classes since Argus was a pup.  Hope I don't screw her up!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Are Dalmatians Good With Kids?

Oliver meeting kids

We get this question a lot, and it's an important one.  The answer is generally yes, but it depends on three things.  The dog's basic disposition, how it is socialized as a puppy, and how it is raised by it's new owners.

There is a lot of variation in temperaments in this breed.  Like dark eyes, nice spotting, and correct gait, good temperament is something that should be bred for.  Although you can modify a defective temperament, you can't really change it.  By the same token, a dog with a basically good disposition still needs to be properly socialized and trained.  A responsible breeder matches the pups to the homes to be sure that a puppy going as a family companion has the appropriate disposition.

Responsible breeders take the time to introduce their puppies to small children from an early age.  We like to play "pass the puppy", with kids sitting in a circle on the floor and the pups being passed from one child to the next, with a hug for each puppy.  This can be done from an early age and is a great place to start. Children look, sound, and smell different than adults.  They move faster and have higher pitched voices.   A dog (of any breed) who is not exposed to kids from a young age is often intimidated by them and may act defensively.  The more children the puppies are exposed to, the better, and this should continue until all pups are placed.

When the pups go to their new homes this exposure must continue.  Even if the puppy buyer does not have children, they are part of every dog's world.  Nieces & nephews, grandkids, the kids next door.  All dogs should be comfortable with children.  New owners who plan to have a family must be especially careful to expose their dogs to children - friendly well behaved children.  It's also important to raise a puppy to be a dog, not a furry child.  Dogs treated as kids are much more likely to be jealous of a new baby.

It's important that all puppy-kid situations are carefully supervised.  Kids can be rough and puppies can be hurt or scared.  A small puppy who has a bad experience with children may always be uncomfortable around them.

Dals got a bad rap during the Disney Days of the 80s and 90s.  Dals were too popular, many were bred from substandard stock in puppy mills where they received NO socialization of any kind, and people bought the dogs "for the kids".  The under-socialized pups often went to homes where they received no socialization, no training, and very little exercise, and there was no supervision of any kind.  A recipe for disaster.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

We Are NOT All The Same!

There was an article in our paper last night about a woman referred to as a "dog breeder" who has been charged with animal cruelty for an assortment of horrific incidents.  Although she is referred to as a breeder, she is not "one of us" but rather "one of them".  You could refer to all of us as "breeders", but we are NOT all the same.

The woman who was arrested is a commercial breeder and her dogs are a "product".  She raises many popular breeds and she breeds them simply for money.  She is not a dog lover, and her breeding animals are not pets, companions, or show dogs.  They are unfortunate animals, often very poor examples of their breed, who live in sub-standard conditions as they produce litter after litter, until their usefulness ends.  Then they are destroyed.  Her puppies are raised as inexpensively as possible, and given the least amount of care and attention she can get by with.  We've all seen the pictures of puppymill dogs living in horrible conditions, or read of the dogs who are rescued from "those places".

Rather than being referred to as "breeders", these people should simply be called "animal producers".  Their puppies are a cash crop, no more than that.  There are many versions of animal producers, some of them taking better care of their stock, while others are even worse.  The common denominator is that these animals are simply a product, raised for market, to be sold to uneducated buyers who don't take the time to educate themselves about the differences.

Responsible breeders "us" are not all created equal, but the common denominator is that we love our dogs and raise our chosen breed because we are trying to produce ever better dogs.  Better looking, healthier, more trainable, possibly smarter, with better dispositions.  Quality dogs bred to a standard with the ultimate goal being the best possible representatives of their breed.  If we are fortunate, some will be show dogs, or at least "show potential",  others will perhaps go to performance homes to pursue careers in agility, obedience competition, herding, tracking, coursing or any of the many things we can do with dogs.  The majority of these puppies will go to homes as companions, but these pups will be raised with the same care as their littermates.

Pups from responsible breeders come from top quality parents - healthy, good tempered, good looking representatives of their breed.  Most (but not all) will be champions, but champion show dogs don't automatically produce show dog offspring.  Each breeding is done with the idea of producing pups that have even more potential than their quality parents, but most pups will just be good looking representatives of their breed.

Responsible breeders take advantage of the available health testing - it reduces the chance of producing pups with health issues.  It gives us more tools to produce ever better dogs.   As in all animals, many things can be inherited, including health and temperament issues.  We can't guarantee that our pups will not inherit any health issues, but we can test for many of them now and reduce their incidence.  An NO, mixed breed dogs are NOT healthier.  Many health issues in dogs occur in all breeds, and mixed breed dogs (or Designer Dogs) can inherit them from both parents even if they are different breeds - and you'd better believe that the producers are these animals are NOT testing - they are animal producers, not breeders.

Out of time and I did not even get a chance to address socialization and temperament, perhaps the most important of all.  Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

From A Dog's Point Of View

While walking dogs in the evening, I often encountered joggers who run up on us, sometimes from behind, acting as if they own the sidewalk.  My dogs are city dogs, have been exposed to this from puppy hood and pay little attention.  One time a jogger came up from behind, actually brushed against me on a narrow sidewalk and almost knocked me down.  Fortunately Sidney did not react with aggression, but in that case it might have been justified.  I was extremely angry and yelled at the jogger who just laughed.  I was angry not because I was injured, but because of what could have happened.  My hands were shaking as I gave Sid a hug and told him he was a very VERY good dog.  I was angry at the jogger for being so stupid, and for setting himself up for a dog bite injury.  Had Sidney thought he was protecting me from that idiot, he would have been labeled a "dangerous dog" - for attempting to protect me in a situation he preceived as threatening.

My dogs are all trained, well socialized, and respond in a friendly fashion when properly introduced to strangers.  HOWEVER, I have no doubt that they would protect me if needed.  Most dogs will protect their owners, and Dalmatians as a breed are no different.  I would expect them to protect their owners.  They don't understand the concept of "jogging".  A stranger running up on us in the dark, from behind, saying nothing, could easily be perceived as a threat, particularly to a reactive or under socialized dog.  I cringe as I watch joggers running up on dog walkers, never even considering the possibility that a dog might see them as a threat.

Not all dogs who are out walking with their owners are well socialized, properly trained companions.  Some are rescue dogs from questionable backgrounds, some are poorly trained, out of control pets, or under-trained reactive adolescents, while others are simply from protective breeds, often with clueless owners.  One of these mornings I expect to wake up to a news report of some "unfortunate" jogger who was bitten by a dog while out running, and I will wonder who was actually at fault.  An unthinking jogger, a dog walker who did not have control of his dog, or a dog who simply perceived a threat and acted accordingly.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mission Accomplished - Safely

What a trip!  On Friday I drove down to the the Kansas City area driving in rain, followed by super strong head winds that really screwed up my mileage.  Made for some white knuckle driving, but Letty and I arrived right on schedule despite a stop at the Brass Armadillo Antique Mall where I got sucked in by a liver-spotted Dalmatian bank.  It now lives on a bookshelf with some of my Dismal Desmonds.

Had a great time at Maryla's but woke up on Saturday to warnings of a violent storm coming our way. Lots of texting back and forth among the involved parties, but we got things worked out and all the pieces fell into place. I was able to meet Becky and retrieve Pauli at noon, and was home by 7:00 PM, running ahead of the storm all the way.  After I got through Des Moines they were hit by heavy rains, high winds, power loss, trucks off the road and large scale urban flooding.  I missed it all.  Whew!

Even had a chance to do a bit of touristing in Kearney which is known as the home of Jesse James.  I'm not a big history buff, but do appreciate the touristy part of history, and enjoyed our visit to the James family home which is maintained by the county as a very interesting museum, with an excellent movie of Jesse's life and many worthwhile displays.

Swapped dogs with Jess when I got home, and Pauli went off to stay with her until she is out of season, and Amery came to stay with me for awhile.