Saturday, October 25, 2014

Just a Pet

Let's talk about dogs for a moment. To be more specific, let's talk about purchasing dogs.
I am a member of a handful of dog groups across the internet- most pertaining specifically to Great Danes but some general groups as well. Often times, a member will post a photo of a puppy and ask if they should buy it. There will almost always be something questionable about the puppy, be it the parents being in poor condition, puppies not having "papers" or kept in dirty conditions, or an obvious defect the product of a spot x spot breeding which is known to produce puppies with sensory defects. Without fail, the masses chime in and a hugely popular response starts of with "If you just want a pet.... [insert justification of problem here.]"

The thing is, even if you want "just a pet" you need to put some thought into where you get your puppy. When you give a breeder money in exchange for an animal, you're doing more than just taking a cute, wiggly puppy home. You're saying "I approve what you're doing, and not only do I encourage you to keep doing what you're doing, but I'm going to give you money to be able to do just that." I see all too often folks who think they rescued their puppy from the cruel, dirty conditions and awful breeder they bought them from. If they would just stop for one second and get control of their bleeding heart long enough to realize that's great that THEIR puppy now has a loving home... but what about the rest? What about the next litter? And the one after that?
Raising puppies the right way is very demanding of time, money, and resources. If these shady breeders aren't able to sell their puppies quickly, their cost goes up every single day, and if it proves to be a more costly endeavor than they had planned they might think twice before doing it again.

"Papers don't matter if you just want a pet."
TRUTH: I don't ever send in registration on my pet dogs. It's a waste of money, there's no point. But even so, I'd still not consider buying a dog that can't be registered. The papers themselves mean nothing, but the information on them CAN mean a whole lot. Having a registered dog means being able to trace where they came from. Health testing results are available online, you can trace issues that your dog's parents, grandparents, great grandparents might have had. Common bloodlines are easier to gather information on. If a puppy came from unregistered parents, not only can you not look into what health issues your puppy may be predisposed to, but your breeder can't either. And if they don't even have documented history on their dogs, what other corners are they cutting? Is that really something you can support?

Health testing isn't a guarantee- for the most part. Just because both parents have been OFA Heart tested it does not mean their puppies will never develop a heart condition. Just because the parent's shave great PennHIP scores it does not mean the puppies will never suffer orthopedic issues. BUT, the only reasons for a breeder to *NOT* health test their dogs is 1. they are afraid they won't pass, in which case they have no business being bred anyway or 2. They don't want to spend the money because it hurts their bottom line, in which case... what other shortcuts are they taking and is that something you really want to support? I hear breeders say all the time that they don't do it because they bought a puppy from parents with xyz testing and the puppy still developed 123 problem so they think it's a waste of money and/ or misleading to buyers. Guess what? It is not that difficult to educate people when they come to buy a puppy. It's not that hard to say "We did xyz testing, and that is no guarantee or promise but hey, we did what we could with the tools available to us to hopefully provide you with a healthy puppy. We did our part and we are here for support, come what may." That's not misleading. It's not making promises. It's doing the right dang thing.

I love Great Danes. They suit my lifestyle. We mesh well together. Their exercise and training needs are on par with what we easily accommodate and keep everyone happy. I admire their appearance. I enjoy their temperament. Their laid back disposition fits nicely into our family. I enjoy their novelty size and am realistically equipped to maintain them. I love their clown-like antics that keep us on our toes. I enjoy the fact they aren't a terribly vocal breed. I also mesh well with their minimal grooming needs. Ethical and conscientious breeding preserves the integrity of what these dogs should be. It doesn't take many generations to go from dogs that embody what a Dane should, to hyper lab-like temperaments, whispy greyhound-like conformation with hound-like ears and schnauzer vocals. Granted, these things can pop up in good breeding programs, absolutely- but they shouldn't be the norm, and those puppies should be placed with that disclosure as well. If you love Great Danes, and you want a Great Dane for all the reasons that you love them, it's vital to find a breeder who is interested in preserving those traits and can tell you HOW they are going about doing that.

There's so many controversial topics when it comes to breeding- particularly in my breed of choice. Color families, ear cropping, heat patterns to breed, how many litters a female should have and when, acceptable puppy visitation, diet and nutrition, conformation showing, what health testing is necessary... the list goes on. Do your research, know where you stand on these issues and find a compatible breeder. If these things aren't important to you, there are HUNDREDS of dogs in the system waiting to be rescued. If you don't care about history, health testing, etc. that's OK! You don't have to, we are all different! But, if that's the case, rescue! Give a homeless dog a warm, safe place to sleep and be loved. There is just NO justifying supporting a crummy breeder. It is a disservice to the breed as a whole.

But Linsey! What do you know about ethics?! You breed against the GDCA color standard. How dare you!
You're right. I do. I bred a fawn merle to a brindle. I bred a classic merle to a chocolate. I have every intention of pairing my fawn merle with a chocolate next year. I have twice now produced litters with brindle merles, fawn merles, and some drop-dead-gorgeous fawns and brindles. I can not give my support to a group that discourages healthy dogs being paired on the premise of color, while applauding pairs that are known to produce defective puppies. Never in my breeding program will a harl be paired with a fellow harl (something the GDCA is all kinds of hunky-dory with) I do not believe the color makes the dog. In fact, color has nothing to do with the things that matter- health, temperament, conformation, type- or any of the things that made me fall in love with the breed. I stand by what we do here. I have made mistakes in the past. I have seen where I went wrong, and we strive to always be improving. At the end of the day, I can say I TRUTHFULLY did my best with the tools I have available, we have some healthy Danes out there, and I'm proud of them. Color be damned. Until someone can give me a reason other than "The GDCA says so" I'm going to continue doing what I do. 

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