Last month, in fact just a few weeks ago, Miss P, a 3-year-old, 15-inch beagle, won best in show at the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. This is the second time a beagle has been so crowned, the first being Uno in 2008, who is great-uncle to the newly-crowned Miss P.
I enjoy watching the Westminster Dog Show; there is a lot to be learned about the various dog breeds throughout the world. For example, beagles are scent hounds that have been used for hundreds of years to hunt rabbits and hares. They are considered friendly, curious, and happy dogs that make excellent pets for active families. The American Kennel Club (AKC) ranks beagles as the 5th most popular dog in America. After Miss P's win as Best in Show last month, if trend follows previous year's winner, beagles will jump in popularity. Therein, lies one of the primary concerns held by shelter and rescue workers. The Westminster Dog Show has a tendency to greatly influence the public. According to a blog post from Best Friends Animal Society, one of the most well-known and busy animal sanctuaries in America, “The breed of dog that wins Best in Show at Westminster quickly becomes the new popular dog of the minute. Many people looking for a pet will seek out a dog of the same breed as the show’s top winner.” Sales of puppy of that breed increase dramatically, and, according to the blog, “unfortunately, the sales all too often take place online or in pet stores, the main sales outlets where cruel, inhumane puppy mills deliver their 'product' to naïve customers who have no idea that their expensive new puppy came from a terrible place.”
There are reputable breeders. So, if you want to purchase from a breeder, ensure as best you can that it's a reputable one. Pets sold through pet stores and Craigslist or other such outlets should be be considered very warily; often these come from shady and shabby puppy mills.
Also, keep in mind that for each puppy brought through any breeder, one less is adopted from a shelter or rescue. Nearly 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebred, and there are many rescue organizations that specialize in specific breeds. From Airedales to Yorkshire Terriers, breed rescues can be found throughout the country. For example, Basset Rescue of Montana is based in western Montana, and Montana German Shepherd and Belgium Malinois Rescue is also based in western Montana. Several websites can help you find a purebred dog (or cat). Montana Pets on the Net offers listings of adoptable animals, including purebred dogs and cats: http://www.montanapets.org/statewide/index.html. You can also search for a specific breed through the Petfinder pet adoption website: https://www.petfinder.com/breeds/, and for a listing of various breed rescues, visit http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rescue-network/.
Learning about a dog or cat breed prior to bringing one home is critical for both you and the pet. Make sure the animal's temperament and activity level meets your desires. For example, many dog breeds of the sporting, hound, and working groups require large amounts of activity, therefore, you will need to provide more than just a walk around the block for such dog breeds as Labradors, spaniels, beagles, greyhounds, German shepherds, and cattle dogs. Learn more about breeds of dogs at http://www.akc.org/find-a-match/compare-breeds/ and learn more about the various breeds of cats at http://www.animalplanet.com/breedselector/catselectorindex.do.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.