When an adorable dog like Banana Joe wins the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, fanciers of the breed are both thrilled and a little frightened. The worry is that consumers will clamor for a "dog just like the one that won Westminster." The race to produce puppies will be on, with mass produced pups appearing in pet shops, whelped in the nation's notorious puppy mills.
Protect dogs from puppy mills
The best way for all of us to protect the pooches we love is to never buy them from anyone other than a responsible breeder, rescue group or animal shelter. Everyone must find a way to resist the temptation of buying "the puppy in the window" or from "that cute website."
Tips for recognizing a responsible breeder
A responsible breeder will:
- Be extremely choosy when selecting puppy buyers.
- Be more concerned with a pup's physical and mental health than his or her good looks.
- Have a socialization program in place and started before your pup goes home with you.
- Start housetraining your puppy for you using reward based methods.
- Be eager to introduce your pup's relatives so you can see that they are well socialized and well trained.
- Be eager to discuss health information about your pup's parents, grandparents and great grandparents so you can know that they lived to a ripe, old age.
Adopting a purebred dog
Sadly, many dogs, purebred dogs included, lose their homes because of preventable behavior problems or because families simply do not have enough time to care for them.
Breed rescue groups are dedicated to fostering dogs in need of new homes, often providing expensive veterinary care and training to prepare the dogs for their new, forever homes. Dogs cared for by rescue groups are relatively fortunate, as most spend their time in private homes rather than kennels while they wait to be adopted.
Purebred dogs can also be found in animal shelters. While this may seem surprising, it happens more often that one might think.
It can take a long time to find a dog in your local shelter who fits a narrow description of breed, age, gender and other characteristics. If your circumstance allows, consider opening your heart to a mixed breed dog who shares some of the characteristics of your favorite breed, such as small size or a similar coat type. I count my mixed breed dog friends among my personal favorites, particularly Sparky, who I miss dearly. So please do not overlook these very special dogs if you are able to be flexible about breed.
Remember, no matter which breed you choose, whether it is an adorable Affenpinscher like Banana Joe or a majestic Great Dane, all dogs require many years of love, care and, most of all, your time. So think carefully before inviting a dog to share your home with you and do your homework!