Pup links!

A patient mix tolerates the aspiring dentist. Source: LIFE Magazine.

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

Veterinary Myth-busting Part 2: Feeding Dry Food Prevents Dental Disease. There you have it. I’ve read that kibble doesn’t prevent dental disease in several places, but it was nice to hear it from a blogger’s perspective, too. (Borderblog)

Doca Pet High Tea Feeder. If we do get a big dog (like a GSD), I’m in the market for an elevated feeder. This one is so sleek–and expensive! Sigh. (Dog Milk)

Worth Waiting For: See Scout Sleep Collars and Leashes. This new line of collars and leashes is really beautiful and functional at the same time. I love the simple, bold, geometric designs. (Under the Blanket)

Everyone’s a Critic: Ai WeiWei’s “Sunflower Seeds.” Fern and Theodore are totally bored by Ai WeiWei’s installation. I love it. [Side note: You may recognize Theodore from the cover of Love Has No Age Limit!] (City Dog/Country Dog)

Robert Clark. Photographer Robert Clark’s glamorous studio shots of show-worthy pooches. (Afghan hounds are always the most fun to photograph.) (Pawsh Magazine)

Pomeranian Puppy Refuses to Eat His Broccoli. Oh, the adorable-ness. It’s killing me. Pom pups barely look real. (Best Week Ever)

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.

  1. Describe yourself in seven words: Opinionated, detailed, organized, cautious, motivated, content, eager.
  2. 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.
  3. Who would you like to be? A fraction of the fullness of the glory of God.
  4. 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.
  5. What scares you? Losing my family.
  6. 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…
  7. What was the last website you visited? Miss Moss, one of my favorite non-dog blogs.
  8. What is the one thing you would change about yourself? Just one? Well, that I would worry and fear less.
  9. Slankets, yes or no? Yes, if they come with night cheese.
  10. 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!
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Review: Dog Sense

Dog Sense, by John Bradshaw

John Bradshaw’s new book, Dog Sense, is one of the most heavily academic and scientific dog books I’ve read so far–and I loved it.

The book came highly recommended by my dog training hero, Patricia McConnell, and so I knew I had to read it at some point. (She also provides a much more thorough and interesting review of the book on her blog.) I was excited when I saw that it was coming in at our local library and quickly put it on hold.

Dog Sense is a sizable tome, but it’s well worth wading through all of the research to get to Bradshaw’s arguments. I think a lot of the strength of this book is his strong and profound statements debunking many widely believed myths about dog psychology and behavior.

I’ve already quoted his important statement on the popular misapplication of “guilt” onto our dogs. His other significant contribution is his thorough debunking of the old “dominance” model of approaching dog behavior and training. Many other respected dog trainers, like McConnell herself, have written about how this model needs to be rejected, but I don’t think I’ve read a case as strong as Bradshaw’s for why we need to stop talking about and treating our dogs as if they behaved like captive wolves.

In a nutshell, here’s Bradshaw’s case for why the old “dominance” model of behavior is based on three false concepts:

  1. It’s derived from the way that wolves behave when they are living unnaturally in captivity.
  2. Feral dogs, when allowed to establish family groups, don’t behave like wolves at all. Feral dogs “are much more tolerant of one another than any other modern canid would be if it lived at such high density.”
  3. Dogs kept in similar captive circumstances do not develop hierarchies of dominance, based around competition and aggression.

It was helpful reading such a heavily researched opinion on why the dominance model is outdated and, frankly, wrong. What’s daunting is how many people still believe it. The majority of dog owners, at least in America, talk about their dogs as if the dogs were sneaky tyrants, just waiting for a moment to usurp their human’s power. It’s a sad and limiting way to think about our dogs and I’m grateful for Bradshaw’s fresh perspective on this issue.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who lives with or around dogs. If you’re not already familiar with the new movements in dog psychology and research, this book will undoubtedly revolutionize the way you consider and communicate with your dog.

Why “designer dog breeds” make me uncomfortable

Labradoodle. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

“Designer dogs” are increasingly in vogue. It’s not uncommon to see a labradoodle or a goldendoodle–big dogs who look like animated Muppets–galloping down the street. Cockapoos, maltipoos, anything with a “-poo” suffix are a dime a dozen these days. Puggles have entered into mainstream consciousness. The dogs are always cute. They seem happy. But I admit that I always get a little uncomfortable when I meet someone who owns and intentionally sought out a “designer dog” breed.

Here’s why.

What bothers me is NOT that people are making “new breeds.” People have been doing that for centuries. The majority of breeds recognized by the AKC today were the “designer dogs” from Victorian England. I get that and I’m not distressed by it. What really bugs me about designer dogs is that they are bred solely for cuteness and convenience. This also means that the majority of “designer dogs” are bred by puppy mills. The goal of these breeding facilities is to churn out these fluffy puppies as fast as possible to get them into the hands of the insatiable and regrettably unscrupulous public.

Maltipoo. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Just a few months ago, I ran into a young woman about my age who was walking what appeared to be an animated stuffed animal. The cream-colored fluff ball on a pink line weighed all of two pounds. I asked her if I could pet him, and she said yes. She told me that he was a five-month-old maltipoo, which she chose because “it’d fit well in my little apartment.” Yes, the little creature made my heart nearly burst with how adorable and tiny he was, but as I walked away, I couldn’t help but feeling sad that this animal had been micro-sized just for human convenience.

In 2007, the New York Times ran an article on the explosion of designer dog breeds and examined the prime profit-maker for these franken-puppies: The giant puppy mill, paradoxically named Puppy Haven Kennel, in Wisconsin. (Mercifully, about a year after this article was published, the Wisconsin Humane Society bought the puppy mill and sought to re-home the 1,100 dogs it rescued.)

The article makes the link between the existence of these terrible mills and the public demand for cute, convenient dogs. The writer cites Katherine C. Grier, a cultural historian and author of Pets in America, who says:

 “The dogness of dogs has become problematic. We want an animal that is, in some respects, not really an animal. You’d never have to take it out. It doesn’t shed. It doesn’t bark. It doesn’t do stuff.”

In the busy 21st century, people want dogs who act more like cats: They should be small, fastidious, independent, and require little attention or training. It’s a nice idea, but that’s not really a dog. But people promote and market “designer dogs” as if they were all of these things, as if they were nothing more than a new lamp to go with your living room, like this appalling article suggests. They’re “hypoallergenic”! (A myth that has been debunked.) They don’t make any noise! They don’t shed! They’ll never need any training! These are not dogs. These are glorified stuffed animals.

Any time we mass produce an animal to fit our own flights of fancy, we’re doing a grave injustice and we should be ashamed of ourselves. In a country that demands instant gratification and convenience, it’s no wonder that we have designer dogs and puppy mills around every corner. I only wonder if this is something that will ever change.