Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:
Life Without a Dog Is No Life for Me. Kristine reflects on the various sacrifices she’s made, welcoming Shiva into her life, and concludes that they were all more than worth it. An encouraging and insightful post for the currently dog-less, like myself. (Rescued Insanity)
April Is Adopt-a-Greyhound Month. Bunny the greyhound gives a very convincing case as to why adopted greyhounds make wonderful companions. I’m finding myself increasingly convinced! (Maybe greyhoundafterthis first dog?) (Tales and Tails)
The Trouble with Puddles. Veterinarian Shea Cox gives some helpful advice about how to prevent your dog from contracting diarrhea. One easy way? Don’t let them drink out of stagnant pools of water, especially at the dog park. (The Bark blog)
The big news of the day is that we have now officially submitted our applications to the Virginia German Shepherd Rescue and Southeast German Shepherd Rescue! Even though we won’t move until May, I wanted to go ahead and send our applications so the vetting and approval process could get underway. It goes without saying that I am so excited.
Here are some dog-related links from around the web this past week:
Sidetracked by Grammar. As a copy editor and a dog lover, I definitely appreciated this vet’s list of grammatical pet peeves. The one that really gets under my skin? People who write about “German shepards.” Nope. Not a thing. Learn how to spell. (Pawcurious)
Pocket Petunia’s Big Adventure. A sweet post about therapy dogs visiting a local school and teaching kids about kindness and mercy toward others. (Love and a Six-Foot Leash)
Color-Coded Dogs. Fun photos of dogs playing in groups arranged by fur color. (Ours for a Year)
I was also tagged by Volunteer 4 Paws (formerly Inu Baka). I’m kind of new to the realm of blog tagging, so bear with me; here are my answers. Since I don’t have my long-awaited dog yet, these answers are about me.
What keeps you up at night? What if my future dog is evil? What if he/she cannot be trained? What if I fail my future dog? What if my future dog doesn’t love me? And so forth.
Who would you like to be? A fraction of the fullness of the glory of God.
What are you wearing right now? Skinny black jeans, black high-heeled oxfords, terra cotta blazer from the Gap, cashmere blend sweater from Banana Republic.
What scares you? Losing my family.
The best and worst of blogging? The best of dog blogging, specifically, is the wonderfully warm and helpful community I’ve found here. I started from ground zero in my dog knowledge and everyone has been so encouraging to me along the way. Keep that advice coming! I lap it up. The worst of blogging is the nagging feeling that it’s just an exercise in perpetual vanity. I actually feel less that way about this blog, since Doggerel is an educational venture; my personal blog is another matter…
What was the last website you visited?Miss Moss, one of my favorite non-dog blogs.
What is the one thing you would change about yourself? Just one? Well, that I would worry and fear less.
Tell us something about the person who tagged you. Thanks for the tag! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog since I started my journey in canine education and look forward to continuing to glean from your wisdom in dog caring, raising, and loving. Your giving heart and insightful nature is inspiring to me!
Breed-based euthanasia proposed in NC county. This is so horrible that it barely seems real. Cumberland County in North Carolina has a proposal on the docket that will euthanize all incoming GSDs, bully breeds, dobermans, rottweilers, akitas, chows, and Great Danes within 72 hours and not give them a chance to be adopted. There is a petition collecting signatures here; I signed it last night and encourage you to do the same, if you feel so led. It’s hard for me to believe that this kind of egregious breed-based discrimination still exists. But, clearly and sadly, it does. (Examiner)
Puppy at 500 f/s. On a lighter note: This is a beautiful video and an excellent study in canine movement. Directors of an independent film studio, Kamerawerk, made this short film, titled “Afternoon Pleasures,” of their chocolate lab puppy chasing a ball (and other various objects) and it’s lovely and riveting. Sent to me by my friend Maggie. (Kamerawerk on Vimeo)
Judgment Is Easy, Understanding Takes Work. An inspiring and thoughtful post about reserving judgment of our fellow dog owners. It’s something that I have to work on too, even though I don’t have a dog of my own! (Rescuing Insanity)
De-bunking the “Alpha Dog” Theory. Pat Miller, a positive trainer I respect, reflects on why this theory of the “alpha dog” needs to fall by the wayside. This is something I definitely wish all dog owners knew today. It always surprises me how widespread this theory is–even at the shelter. Seasoned volunteers and sometimes staff members use “alpha dog” language to talk about “problem” dogs and I often wish I had enough credibility to speak up about it. (The Hydrant)
Preparing for Your New Pooch. A practical list of guidelines to help one prepare to bring a dog into the home. Even though I’ve read dozens of lists like this one, I always like finding them and comparing notes. (The Inquisitive Canine)
Mismark Case: Australian Shepherd. The canine-loving biologist writes a post on one of my all-time favorite breeds, the Aussie, and examines the different markings and genetic repercussions that occur in the breed. (Musings of a Biologist and Dog Lover)
Peter Clark Dog Collages. This artist makes collages of popular breeds from found maps and old stamps. The results are eye-catching! (Dog Milk)
Just a series of photos of some of my favorite dogs from the herding group. Not to pick favorites or anything, but I think I’d have to say that all of my best-loved breeds come from this group of high-maintenance, noisy, difficult dogs. I know. I just can’t get over them. Why this post? Well, I like to look at dog pictures. No apologies. A girl can dream, right?
As you probably know by now, I’m very fond of the herding breeds. My top three choices for a dog right now would be a German shepherd, an Australian shepherd, or a rough collie. These are all very intelligent breeds with a well-deserved reputation for being high-maintenance dogs. Not high maintenance like a pampered Maltese, though. These dogs are high maintenance because they were bred for their considerable intelligence and their overpowering drive to work.
If left to their own devices, GSDs, Aussies, and collies become difficult, destructive, and occasionally dangerous dogs. In all of my reading and my interaction with these breeds, I’ve come to learn this full well. I know that most herding dogs come with a caveat emptor.
The standard advice for someone planning to get a high energy dog is to be sure to have “a job” for the dog to perform. I’ve heard this a lot and I often repeat it to other people, but if I’m honest, I don’t always know what that means. Since I don’t have a flock of sheep handy, what qualifies as a “job” for my future herding dog?
Here are some of the little “jobs” that I’ve been contemplating teaching our future dog, in the absence of actual herding:
Agility, if the dog is so inclined. There are a number of agility classes around here. I know that Aussies often excel at agility, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a GSD or a collie in an agility trial.
Retrieving games. So long as the dog enjoys retrieving, we will have him retrieve everything: Tennis balls, toys by name, his leash, our slippers, etc.
Obedience trials. This might not qualify as a job, but regular and ritualized obedience training would at least give his mind something to do.
Therapy work. I would love to be able to train a dog to visit schools or nursing homes.
Does your household (non-working) dog perform any jobs? If so, what are they? Any you would recommend? I’m all ears!
This was not supposed to be my heritage. I was supposed to love dogs. But, in a strange turn of events, the whole reason I developed a dog phobia was because of my father’s deep love of dogs.
The story goes like this: When I was about six years old, my family was living in an apartment complex while we waited for our new house to be built. There wasn’t much to do around there and so my father would often take us girls out for walks. He was thrilled one afternoon to discover that one of our neighbors had a young, handsome doberman pinscher. Dad grew up with dobermans and was enamored with this dog. From then on, whenever he saw that the dog was outside, he’d take us girls out to watch and admire.
On one particular evening, we were watching this boisterous doberman chase a collie in frenzied circles around a patch of grass. I was clinging to my father’s leg, trying to avoid being run over by these whirlwinds of energy, but apparently I wasn’t paying much attention. The dogs, too caught up in chase to notice me, bowled me over and trampled me to the ground. They weren’t malicious in any way, but I screamed and cried like someone had deliberately tried to kill me. I was whisked inside–while I’m sure my father was shaking his head in regret over his totally wimpy girl child.
For years after that, I would cower in fear whenever I saw a dog. I was petrified around them and never dreamed of wanting one. For all my six-year-old mind new, dogs were bloodthirsty monsters.
Part II. What Changed
By the time I was 10 or 11, however, something changed. I wish I could remember what positive event changed my mind about dogs, but I made a complete 180 in my opinions about canines. I became obsessed with them.
Like today, back then I read everything I could get my hands on as a child. My all-time favorite Christmas present was a beautiful, glossy, hardback book of all the dog breeds. (Aside: I found this book on a recent trip home and brought it back to Charlottesville with me. I am not ashamed to say that I enjoyed reading it again the whole way back.) For my birthday, I asked for a subscription to Dog Fancy, which I read religiously. I watched the dog shows whenever they came on TV. I begged my mom to always let me go in pet stores so I could compare prices on the dog supplies list that I was already making (so, not much has changed). My sisters and I started a successful pet-sitting business in our neighborhood and I became a small-time expert on calming old Yorkies, walking rambunctious lab mixes, and chasing and capturing escaped West Highland white terriers. (My decision to never get a terrier was solidified during this time.)
And. Like today, I waited a very long time until I could get a dog of my own. When I turned 14 or 15, I finally got to pick out Emma from an adorable Aussie litter on my birthday. It was the happiest day of my young life.
Part III. A Family Who Loves Dogs
I often wonder what it was that triggered my switch from phobia to obsession. As I’ve grown older, the only hypothesis I’ve been able to create is that this shift was caused by the emergence of my family heritage. My paternal family is known for their love of animals, especially dogs. The Farsons would rather die than be accused of being cat people, although I’ve learned that they show kindness and sympathy to all animals. Even cats. Animals are a critical part of living. And to live without a dog in one’s life, well, what’s the point of that?
Although I never got to see my dad’s family that often, the Farson clan lived vividly in my mind from all of dad’s stories about growing up on farms in Indiana. His childhood always sounded so charmed and idyllic to me: Wandering corn fields with a pack of faithful dogs at his side, swimming in ponds, building forts. Dogs were always a central part of his childhood and I longed for them to be a part of mine.
Since I was little, I felt a deep connection with my dad’s mother, whom we call Gran. I rarely saw her, but I felt like she understood me. Gran is spunky, energetic, and hilarious. She is a woman who can fend for herself and always has. She raised five highly intelligent children, mostly on her own, and despite all of the obstacles that life threw her way, she is the most optimistic and joyful person I’ve ever met.
Gran is also devoted to dogs. She was likely responsible for the many dogs that my father grew up with. After her children had grown up and left, she worked full-time for the local animal shelter. She eventually adopted a lovely and devoted doberman named Chance, who was the true love of her life.
This Easter, Gran came to visit my family in North Carolina and I was thrilled to get to spend some time with her. Our time alone was spent taking Dublin for a walk around town and I loved every minute of it. I felt so much joy getting to share the company of this woman, my grandmother, whom I rarely saw and yet felt intensely connected to. We talked like had spent years together. And this was mainly because we saw eye-to-eye about dogs. She could read Dublin’s body language like I could. She suspected, as I did, that the Siberian husky we had just passed had likely tried to run away several times. She knew all of the breed stereotypes, all of the problems that keep dogs in shelters, all of the ways people could love dogs better.
My dad’s sister and her family recently went on vacation to the Outer Banks and left their precious, foxy mix breed Sadie with my parents for a few days. Gran apparently called the house four or five times to check on how Sadie was doing (probably nervous that my dad was roughhousing with her or teaching her bad habits, as he is wont to do). Mom joked that Gran would never have called if my cousins, her grandchildren, were staying with us. But the dog! The dog must be looked after.
My dad shares his mother’s devotion to dogs. He acts like Dublin is his dog. He taught her most of her Frisbee tricks, walks her around town, and takes her canoeing with him on Lake Norman.
I think the main reason that my parents don’t have a dog now is because my mother isn’t wildly fond of them. Her family had dogs, like most good suburban 1960s families, but they were not necessarily dog people. They were good and kind to their dogs, but their attention to dogs did not extend much beyond tolerated family pets. (My maternal grandfather may be the one exception to this family rule, for he is a universal animal whisperer. He can mystically charm animals that hate all other people, including squirrels, feral cats, and peacocks.)
But this overarching devotion, this need to share one’s life with a dog, that is something I inherited from my paternal family. That is my deep and lasting connection to the family that I rarely see and yet feel that I will always understand.
Did you grow up among “dog people”? Or did you acquire the trait later in life? Do you think it can be inherited?
Anthrozoologist John Bradshaw, author of the new book Dog Sense, recently posted a thought-provoking “Bill of Rights for Dogs” on The Bark blog. I quite enjoyed reading it this afternoon.
Bradshaw joins the likes of Patricia McConnell, Temple Grandin, and Alexandra Horowitz, who are actively promoting their important research on the relatively new science of canine behavior and psychology.
Much of what we are learning about dogs is that they are far more intelligent and attuned to the human world than we previously thought. Many widely perpetuated myths about dogs are also being broken down, like the repeated assertion by people like Elizabeth Marshall Thomas that we should think of and treat our dogs as wolves.
Bradshaw has this to say on the topic:
Wolves, which have generally been portrayed as vicious animals, constantly striving for dominance over every other member of their own kind, have been held up as the only credible model for understanding the behavior of dogs. This supposition leads inevitably to the misconception that every dog is constantly trying to control its owner—unless its owner is relentless in keeping it in check. The conflation of dog and wolf behavior is still widely promoted in books and on television programs, but recent research on both dogs and wolves has shown not only that it is simply unfounded but also that dogs who do come into conflict with their owners are usually motivated by anxiety, not a surfeit of ambition. Since this fundamental misunderstanding has crept into almost every theory of dog behavior, it will be the first to be addressed in this book.
Like this debunking of the wolf construct, I presume that these canine Bill of Rights emphasize some of these key points from Bradshaw’s book. I found them interesting and encouraging. Here are a few of the points that I particularly liked:
2. We assert the right to have our perceptions of the world taken into account, especially where our senses are superior to yours.
I think this is a fascinating assertion, especially for its wording. I often forget how much keener a dog’s sense of smell and sound are than mine. As an example of this, I was once walking Bo and we were working on heeling on the downtown mall. I had left a small liver treat in my closed left hand and had forgotten it was there. Bo, however, clearly had not. A few minutes later, he startled me by biting at my fingers. I recoiled and was about to reprimand him when I remembered that he was simply wondering what I was doing, constantly waving that camouflaged treat in front of his highly sensitive nose. “Is this for me?” I can only imagine him thinking. “You keep waving it in front of me while you walk. I assume it’s for me. That’s usually where the food comes from.”
This assertion helps me remember one of the primary things I’ve learned about dogs this year: If a dog does something “wrong,” it’s MY fault for not properly training or guiding him. Which leads me into the next point…
6. Our language is rich and sophisticated. We assert the right to be comprehended, in the same way that we attempt to comprehend you.
The best books I’ve read about dogs have been ones that emphasize new research on canine communication and behavior. I enjoyed every minute of the books by McConnell, Grandin, and Horowitz, and I look forward to reading more from these three eloquent and respected scientists. I learned so much about the basic ways that dogs communicate with each other and with humans and I feel like this new knowledge has dramatically improved the way that I interact with dogs.
Having acquired this knowledge only makes me wish more dog owners had read these books. I cringe when I see people shouting at dogs for something the dog did an hour ago. I heard a shaken shelter volunteer complain about a shepherd mix named Shakespeare who had attacked another dog that she was walking past him. Half an hour later, she walked by the run where Shakespeare was kept and stood there and yelled at him for what he did. “Bad dog! You’re a very BAD dog, Shakespeare!” The poor dog cowered, totally confused as to why this human was verbally attacking him out of the blue. I feel sorry for the dogs whose people get frustrated because the dog can’t understand their babbling, confusing commands (“Here boy, hey, Max, come here, Max, no, over here, Max, sit. Max! Stay. Why aren’t you paying attention to me? Max, bad dog…”) My heart sinks when I hear people talking about jerking their dogs around or wrestling them to the floor to “show them who’s boss” and establish “pack leader dominance.” It makes me want to carry around copies of The Other End of the Leashand Inside of a Dog to give to every dog owner I meet on the street.
9. We are individuals, each dog with its own personality. We therefore assert the right to be judged on our own merits, and not according to the reputation of breed or type.
The distinct personalities of dogs are one of the features that make them so deeply appealing to me. Like people, no two dogs are exactly alike. Yet we forget this from time to time. I even admit that I’m prone to stereotyping dogs based on their breeds. Volunteering at the SPCA has taught me a lot about this particular point. For example, I’ve worked with some extremely gentle pit bulls and some fearful, snappish hounds. I’ve met beagles who are unusually attentive to people (instead of SMELLS, smells, OMG, smells!). Every dog is different. They all have their quirks.
Understanding this helps wean me off my specific breed biases. I loved our Aussie Emma, but that doesn’t mean that I will love all Australian shepherds. I’ve met some Aussies that are nightmarish. The reason my husband wants a German shepherd is because he fell in love with a wonderful one in Ireland named Reuben. Reuben was an exceptional dog, but that doesn’t mean that all GSDs are going to be exactly like him. They may share some fundamental GSD traits, but their personalities will be very different.
I like to think that there’s a dog out there for me, whether a puppy who hasn’t been born yet or a young dog who is being regrettably shuffled from place to place. I hope I will do him or her justice, respecting these rights of dogkind. Clearly, I can’t wait.
OK, so I really don’t need to make a choice right now. Because I still have 10 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days until I can get a dog. But who’s counting?!
But today I’m caught in a tri-lemma between three beautiful breeds: the Australian shepherd, the German shepherd, and the rough collie. I want all of these dogs, of course, but I can’t determine which one is best for our lifestyle and our household. Should we try to get a purebred puppy? Should we go through a breed rescue agency? Should we just get a mutt and be done with it? I’m trying to keep feelings out of this, but that’s a silly thing to try to do when faced with puppies.
These are the unproductive thoughts that are running through my head:
PUREBRED AUSSIE PROS:
Raising a beautiful puppy from the ground up.
There are many reputable Aussie breeders in Virginia that I’ve already been in touch with and am still planning on visiting this summer and fall.
More solid health guarantees, if we go with one of these reputable breeders.
Even some temperament guarantees, if we can meet the parents.
PUREBRED AUSSIE CONS:
The world does not need more purebreds.
Expensive. We can afford one, but still: It’s a lot to pay for a companion/pet-quality dog.
RESCUE AUSSIE PROS:
You’re rescuing a dog who really needs a home!
RESCUE AUSSIE CONS:
There are rarely any purebred Aussies who need rescuing in this area. (Unless you count that handsome, small blue merle who came into CASPCA a week or so ago.)
You have less knowledge about the dog’s background and previous behavioral issues when adopting an adult.
This might be incorrect, but I feel like abandoned Aussies require a lot more rehab than other abandoned breeds. They’re usually surrendered for hyperactivity, sensitivity, or other behavioral problems, more so than other breeds (who are surrendered when owners die, move away, etc.).
General thoughts and concerns about getting an Aussie: Am I crazy to think that I could handle an Aussie? I know I grew up with one, but she didn’t have a very happy ending. My biggest fear right now is that our Aussie will be excessively barky and get us evicted from our new house. But I’ve always wanted an Aussie. This is my breed. These are my dogs. I would feel some betrayal to my life’s purpose if I didn’t get one. I know that’s totally ridiculous. Am I being too idealistic and not really thinking practically about whether I could handle this kind of dog? I need someone to tell me what to do.
PUREBRED GSD PROS:
Raising a beautiful puppy from the ground up.
If you can find a reputable GSD breeder, you may be able to carefully avoid a lot of the genetic health issues that plague the breed.
Perhaps some additional temperament guarantees.
PUREBRED GSD CONS:
The world does not need more purebreds.
A lot of the Virginian GSD breeders strike me as kind of scary and really serious.
Most of the reputable Virginia GSD breeders I’ve seen are breeding dogs from European lines for schutzhund competitions.
For the reasons above, GSDs I’ve seen in Virginia are extremely expensive (much more than reputably-bred companion-type Aussies).
RESCUE GSD PROS:
You’re rescuing a dog who really needs a home!
There are two active GSD rescue groups in Virginia that seem to have a steady supply of beautiful, healthy-looking dogs (and if they’re not healthy, they tell you so).
RESCUE GSD CONS:
You don’t know about the hidden health problems this dog may have. This is an especially big risk with a purebred GSD who came from who-knows-where.
Latent temperament or behavior problems are also more uncertain.
I’m inexperienced with this breed and I’m anxious about the task of rehabilitating an adult GSD.
General thoughts and concerns about getting a GSD: These dogs intimidate me, but I really want one. It’s probably not smart to go into a relationship with a dog when you’re predisposed to be intimidated by it. My life plan is to get a purebred Aussie puppy first, learn how to raise a dog in general, and then rescue an adult GSD. But is that a bad life plan? I don’t know. Should I just jump headfirst into it and adopt an adult GSD? I feel like a purebred GSD is out of our range right now. These dogs are the consummate canine athletes and brainiacs. They can do anything and I feel like they need to be taken very seriously to ensure a happy, well-adjusted life.
PUREBRED COLLIE PROS:
Raising a beautiful puppy from the ground up.
Similar advantages of having a reputable breeder who has avoided passing on Collie Eye Anomaly and other serious genetic defects.
Better guarantees of a pup’s temperament if the parents are available.
PUREBRED COLLIE CONS:
The world does not need more purebreds.
There is only one collie breeder that I can find in Virginia and one in Maryland. They do not breed often and puppies are often very hard to come by.
Due to the increasing rarity of the breed, puppies will be quite expensive.
RESCUE COLLIE PROS:
You’re rescuing a dog who really needs a home!
I was thrilled to find a great collie rescue agency in Virginia. They have a lovely selection of young and adult dogs who need homes.
Less expensive and more readily available than a purebred puppy.
RESCUE COLLIE CONS:
Fear of hereditary disorders or serious health defects showing up later in life.
As with the other rescues, less certainty about the dog’s background and temperament.
General thoughts and concerns about getting a collie: Is it cruel to own a rough collie in the southeast? Will the dog die of heat stroke with all that hair? I think this is why I’d be inclined to get a female, if only for the lesser mane. (I did see a rough collie in Charlottesville once, though, and he looked happy.) I know even less about rough collies than I do about GSDs, having never interacted with one in person, but I’m taken with them in general appearance and temperament. They’re like the bubbly, more low-key herding dogs. The retrievers of the shepherds, if you will (and I will). I’m so generally naive about this breed that I’m not sure if it would be wise to have my first dog be a collie. But they sound very user-friendly and adaptable, much more than even an Aussie, perhaps.
OK! Help me make a decision. Go! I only have 10 months to make up my mind!