The Westminster Dog Show is underway this week, so it’s a good time to remember that you don’t have to go to a breeder to find great dogs; you can find purebred dogs, as well as mixed breeds, available for adoption through shelters and rescues.
Not all breeders are bad; in fact, those registered through the American Kennel Club (AKC) must meet high quality standards. However, the facts remain that millions of dogs are turned into rescues and shelters every year, and of the four million that go into shelters, more than one million don’t come out – meaning, they die. And breeding dogs add to the pet overpopulation problem, which adds to the number of dogs euthanized every year.
It’s estimated that between 5 and 25 percent of dogs placed in shelters are purebred. Recently at my community’s humane society a long-haired, tri-colored collie came in because its aging owner could no longer take care of it. And, last fall two shih tzus were brought into the kill-shelter in my town, which is operated by the city; both had been used as breeders – one was 12 years old and not spayed. So, although good breeders do exist, so do bad breeders. That doesn’t mean the dogs are bad, they are just not as well-cared for, and many of them end up in shelters and rescues. In fact, the mission of National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR) is to bring into rescue those dogs which are used in what’s known as puppy mills – backyard breeders whose priority is profit and who often shove these creatures into tiny cages. Through NMDR, these adorable animals, from small Maltese to large German Shepherds, are socialized, loved on, given medical care, and made available for adoption.
Other rescue groups, such as Big Dogs Huge Paws that specialize in rescue and re-homing the larger dog breeds, such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, and Newfoundlands, and English Springer Rescue America, with chapters around the nation, take in specific breeds that need new homes. Even the AKC endorses breed-specific rescues – learn more at http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rescue-network/contacts/.
If you’re thinking of adopting a dog and aren’t sure what breed is right for you, watching this week’s Westminster Dog Show is a great way to learn about the various breeds. You can also review breed traits, personalities, and behavior patterns by reading up on the different types of dogs at this website: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/. One of the most responsible things a person can do before obtaining a dog, whether through adoption or purchasing from a breeder, is to learn what type of dog best fits your lifestyle and desires. Do your homework before bringing a dog home!
The most popular type of dog in America is the Labrador Retriever; it is also among the top five most common breeds found in animal shelters (or lab mixes); black labs are also among the least likely to be adopted because the coat color tends to blend in with the dark surroundings of many animal shelters. And though Labs are popular, not one has ever taken Best in Show at Westminster. Neither has the Golden Retriever, Dachshund, or Chihuahua, all of which are also very popular breeds. Perhaps one of those will win this year. Stay tuned!
Wondering where to catch the dog show of dog shows? Visit http://www.sportingnews.com/other-sports/news/westminster-dog-show-2017-tv-channel-schedule-online-stream-coverage/n9nwcw6efxf16ki6f5eeqk5g to learn which TV stations are carrying this special event.
And remember two important things the next time you’re looking for a specific dog breed as a companion: (1) do your research on dog breeds and (2) adopt, don’t shop! One of the best ways to find a certain breed of dog, in addition to the earlier-mentioned resources, is to go to Petfinder.com – you can search for a specific dog breed, even sex and age, that is available through a local, regional, or national rescue or shelter.
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.
September has arrived and with it come reminders of the change of seasons, from summer to autumn. Schools are back in session, the last holiday of the summer season has concluded, and Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas products are on full display at the stores. But, before all those other holidays is one less thought about or known: September is also a great time to celebrate dogs!
The last week September is considered National Dog Week, when dog owners and various organizations honor dogs. William Judy, who started Dog World Magazine in the 1920s, first set aside this special week as a way to celebrate those special creatures deemed “man’s best friend”.
The American Kennel Club (www.akw.org) honors both dogs and owners during Responsible Dog Ownership Days. Various AKC clubs host activities highlighting the joy (and responsibility) of owning a dog. This offers an excellent reminder to kids and to dog owners everywhere about the responsibility of having a dog. Join with others to be the catalyst of that reminder!
Dogs have served humankind for thousands of years, from protector to bearer of burdens. Native Americans, for example, used dogs to transport loads prior to the horse. Still today, dogs serve people in a variety of ways: herding and protecting flocks; finding fowl in the field; guiding the blind; assisting deaf and wheel-chair bound individuals; rescuing lost children; and bringing smiles to those in hospital beds. Here’s a quick look at some of the ways dogs help people:
Assistance dogs are specially trained to help people manage physical or emotional disabilities. Guide dogs assist the blind, deaf assistance dogs alert people to the telephone or doorbell, and assistance dogs help those in wheelchairs open refrigerators and building doors.
Search and rescue dogs look for the lost. From hikers and skiers to victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, these hero dogs put their health and life in the balance in the line of their duty.
Military and police dogs also put their lives on the line. From sniffing for drugs or bombs to patrol duties, these dogs serve our country in the United States and abroad.
Visiting hospitals and nursing homes, therapy dogs bring smiles to the faces of ill children and lonely senior citizens.
Read-to-the-dog programs are popular in many libraries across the country; these programs help children become better readers for they aren’t as nervous reading to dogs as they are reading with adults. The Butte Public Library, for example, has a program called Paws for Reading, at which time children interact with special visiting dogs.
Sporting dogs, including spaniels, retrievers and pointers, help bring home dinner in the form of ducks, pheasants, and partridge,
Herding dogs, like the Australian Shepherd and the Old English sheep dog, have the genetic instinct to drive and gather livestock. Historically, they have been used to assist shepherds and farmers; many of these dogs, such as the collie and the Canaan dog, have been used for centuries.
A variety of dogs are working breeds, including the Siberian husky and the Bernese mountain dog. Others, including German Shepherds, Akitas, and Doberman pinschers, help protect people and property.
Dogs help people in many ways, including the simple acts of helping us exercise, lowering our blood pressure, and getting us to laugh and smile more often. So, honor your special pooch this month with an extra ounce of kibble, a special hug, or a day outdoors in the field. And, remember those wonderful canines you don’t know, like those that search for lost hikers, those who dig skiers from avalanches, those which have given their lives sniffing for bombs, dogs that bring a smile to a grandfather’s face when visiting the nursing home, or the dogs visiting libraries who listen to children hesitantly read aloud… dogs in service to others for the sake of all.
If you live in or near Casper, Wyoming join me and my therapy dog Mary at the Natrona County Library on Sat., Sept. 27 at 2 pm. We will be joined by local educator and fellow dog-lover Christina Lenihan and her therapy dog Chewy and will be conducting a program called "Dogs with Jobs," highlighting the various roles dogs play in our society. Learn more at http://www.natronacountylibrary.org/events/cat_ids~6,7,11/.
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.