My hot-button topics in the dog world

The more I learn about dogs, the more opinionated I seem to get. Anyone else feel that way? 😉

It’s hard to keep my mouth shut sometimes. I don’t like writing combative or purposefully aggressive posts here, but I do have strong opinions.

Secret garden shepherd. #gsd #backyardliving
Secret garden shepherd.

Over the years, here is what I have come to feel most strongly about with regard to dogs. So, without starting any kind of ranting and raving session, here — simply put — are the topics that I have a hard time keeping quiet about:

  1. Inhumane breeding practices, merely to fit the sacred “breed standard.” (See: bulldogs, pugs, most brachycephalic breeds, many toy breeds, most any breed without any current working line.) The more I read, the more I am convinced that we all just need to get mixed breeds. (Says the woman with a purebred German shepherd, one of the most physically effed purebreds there is. I know, I know…)
  2. The deeply damaging use of shock collars (euphemistically termed “e-collars”) in dog training. Many of the most respected trainers, behaviorists, and dog bloggers have written about the detrimental effects of shock collars (see Patricia McConnell and Jean Donaldson, to name a few). Eileen and Dogs also has compiled helpful articles and videos on this topic. What particularly interests me about this divide in training is that the people with the most expertise, academic background, and scientific credentials are always against the use of shock collars. The people without scientific credentials always seem to be the most vociferous proponents of shock collars.
  3. Cesar Millan being respected as a “trainer.” I always cringe as soon as someone starts throwing around the words “pack leader,” “dominance,” or starts making that silly “tsk, tsk” sound and then poking their dog in the side. God forbid they follow his other tactics at home (flooding, alpha rolling, wrestling fearful dogs to the ground, etc.).
  4. People who use retractable leashes for everyday walks. As the owner of a reactive dog, I think that is all I have to say about that.
  5. Toy or tiny breeds that are not trained, simply because they are small and “cute.” My Mega-E Dog recently wrote a post on this that resonated with me. I often see toy breeds get away with behavior that is simply appalling, merely because they are tiny and can be scooped up in one’s arms. They are still dogs. They still need to be trained.
  6. Breed-specific legislation. And as the owner of a frequently maligned breed, I am well aware of how silly and damaging these regulations are.

What are YOUR hot-button topics, related to dogs? And feel free to share if you disagree with some of mine! This could be a healthy way to release steam without starting an Internet war…

And, on a happier note: Trina already has a slew of approved adopters interested in her (no surprise there). Now we just have to choose the best family for her! Wish us (and the little pup) luck!

Pup links!

Chihuahua mix on the bed. Source: SF Girl by Bay

Two little Pyrrha stories from today:

Story One: On our  morning walk, we met a man and his super-handsome, studly 18-month-old German shepherd (big ol’ head, definitely from European lines), Zuma. Pyrrha might not be a breed-ist after all, because she was terrified of him. He was very friendly and gregarious, but her tail was tucked and her lips were curled back in a snarl… and YET. She kept rushing up to him to sniff him. What is that about?? She was very interested in him and didn’t want to walk away from him… but her posture and facial expression was one of utter terror/fear aggression. What does this mean? How do I combat it?

Story Two: After I walked out the door to go to work, I had to come back in a few seconds later, to give my husband his keys. Normally, when I leave for work in the morning, Pyrrha watches from the window with a tight (I read it as sad) expression. However, when I unexpectedly walked back in the door this morning, she was OVERJOYED to see me. Actually jumped in the air toward me! (Never seen that before.) Wiggling and wagging all over the place, totally ecstatic that I was “back” from work after 10 seconds… Made it really, really hard to get back in that car. I do love our special-needs shy dog; she keeps the emphasis on the special.

Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

The Power of a Walk. My thoughts exactly, Kristine! I was feeling this way so much this morning, about how calming and centering it was to begin my day outdoors with my dog at my side. (Rescued Insanity)

Exposing a Shy Dog to New Experiences. Now there’s an inventive socialization endeavor: Kayaking! I really have no idea how Pyrrha would react to that… Looks like it went well for Pager, though! (Peaceful Dog)

Dogs in Need of Space. A helpful poster for “DINOS.” I feel like we’ve all kind of been there with shy dogs before… If only more people could see this! (Will My Dog Hate Me?)

A Poppy Weekend. A recap of a weekend exposing Sage to a toddler. This sounds like a good idea. Pyrrha is OK with older children, but toddlers make her very nervous. How did you expose your shy dog to very young kids in a safe, controlled way? (The Misadventures of Sage)

Learning to “Speak Dog”: Why You Should Care about Understanding Your Dog. I loved this post, because it felt like a recap of everything I learned and read in this past year. A helpful, easy-to-read synopsis of why it matters that we understand our canine companions. (Tails from the Lab)

Dog Camping Heaven in Upstate New York. Um, can we go NOW? This looks incredible. Have you ever taken your dog to a place like this? (Go Pet Friendly)

Able Mabel, Revisited. These photos of this fit, healthy bulldog are so encouraging to me. Now this is what bulldogs should be able to do! Run around and play and breathe naturally. (Pedigree Dogs Exposed)

Fresh Dog. This sounds like an interesting product: Dry shampoo for dogs. Especially intriguing since Pyrrha detests baths… Do you think it would work? I’m intrigued. (Pretty Fluffy)

Wacky for Watermelon. These photos crack me up. And I tried it today with Pyrrha, too! She may not have Pixel’s level of obsession with watermelon, but she was definitely very fond of it–especially since our temperatures soared to 97 F today. (Many Muddy Paws)

Pup links!

A young Brooke Shields cuddles with a dachshund. Source: LIFE Magazine.

Can the Bulldog Be Saved? As with many of you, I was very pleased to see this comprehensive article published last week in the New York Times Magazine. I’ve already shared some of my thoughts on why I feel that breeding bulldogs is unethical and inhumane, but this article really takes it to the next level. An illuminating quote from the article:

“The bulldog is unique for the sheer breadth of its health problems,” says Brian Adams, formerly the head of media-relations at M.S.P.C.A.-Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. “A typical breed will have one or two common problem areas. The bulldog has so many. When I first started working at Angell, the joke was that these dogs are a $5,000 check just waiting to happen. But the joke gets old fast, because many of these dogs are suffering.”

Or this:

[Dr. Sandra] Sawchuk is the rare veterinarian who owns a bulldog. “I should know better, but I’m a sucker for this breed,” she told me. “I’m also a vet, so I feel I can handle any problems that come up. But if anyone else tells me they want a bulldog, my immediate response is, ‘No, you don’t.’ ”

This piece also highlights the considerable villainy of the AKC, which refuses to ask the Bulldog Club of America to revise its standard for the breed. Why? Because bulldogs are popular these days, having skyrocketed to the no. 6 most popular purebreed in the United States. It’s all about the money and the registrations for them. Who cares if we’re killing these dogs by insane breeding practices? I’m just hopeful that many people–aside from those of us who already believe that breeding the modern bulldog is inhumane–will read this article and reconsider bringing a bulldog puppy home. (NYT Magazine)

The Art and Science of Naming a Dog. I love meeting well-named dogs and I think names are very important. Stanley Coren reflects on the psychological aspects of naming our canines. (Psychology Today)

Pretty Fluffy Gift Guide for Dogs. It’s that time of the year! Let the shopping madness begin. (Pretty Fluffy)

The Scoop: Gemma Correll and Mr. Norman Pickles. A fun interview with one of my favorite illustrators Gemma Correll, and her pug, Mr. Norman Pickles. (Dog Milk)

Five Training Tips for First-Time Dog Trainers. A basic but sincerely helpful list of reminders for people like me! (The Three Dog Blog)

A Different Kind of Dog Rescue. This place looks magical. This is definitely what I would do with my life if my husband weren’t around to keep me from being a borderline animal hoarder. (Although this woman sounds amazing and is not a hoarder.) (Love and a Leash)

Three Levels of Pet Safety. Engraved tag, BlanketID, and microchip! I didn’t know how BlanketID worked, but it sounds like a pretty cool device. Does anyone have one for their dogs? (Go Pet Friendly)

Corgi Owners. A funny note with regard to the blessedness of being a corgi person. (Dogblog)