February is Responsible Pet Owners Month, and though this is the last day of February 2018, I want to acknowledge this special pet holiday. Every month, every week, every day, we who love pets should recognize our responsibility toward our beloved animals. So, in honor of my four-footed companions, I want you to meet mine – and we’ll start with the canines who share my home.
Jeremiah, the Shih Tzu
Adopted in September 2017, Jeremiah is between 4 and 5 years old; when my husband and I adopted him from Hearts United for Animals, Jeremiah was a few weeks’ shy of 4 years of age. The first three years of his life was spent as a stud in a midwestern puppy mill. When he was brought to the HUA sanctuary in southeastern Nebraska, he was basically unsocialized and had experienced minimal medical care. He lost 28 teeth due to his poor nutrition and lack of health care, and he was not neutered. HUA staff and volunteers spent a great deal of time helping him become accustomed to people and hugs. Just prior to us leaving with him, one of those volunteers told me, “He’s such a sweetie! I know you’re going to love him!” And, she was right! Six months after arriving in our home, Jeremiah now enjoys sitting on laps, receiving hugs, taking walks, and eating treats. He has become a very special member of our little family.
Shih Tzus are small dogs, weighing between 9 and 15 pounds and standing 9 to 10.5 inches tall. This is considered an ancient dog breed, developed either in Tibet or China as far back as 8,000 years B.C. The name means “little lion” in Mandarin Chinese. These dogs came to the United States during the 1940s, traveling with World War II veterans who brought them home. This breed remains one of the most popular dogs in America, usually ranking in the top 10 in popularity. These dogs are known to be affectionate, friendly, and charming, oftentimes “dancing” on their hind legs for treats and attention. They also don’t need a lot of exercise and therefore, make great apartment-dwelling dogs and companions for elderly people. They can be difficult to housebreak, need attentive grooming, and can suffer health issues with their eyes, ears, and knees. Learn more about this special small dog breed here: http://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/shih-tzu#/slide/1
Mary, the Springer/Cocker mix
Mary has been part of our family for five years; we adopted her from English Springer Spaniel Rescue in January 2013. At age 12, Mary is still active as her hunting heritage dictates. Both springer and cocker spaniels were used in England to hunt upland game birds, and in the United States, the springer is still used for this purpose by many people – although, both springers and cockers are popular simply as companion pets. Known as smart, happy dogs, the cocker spaniel is also an active breed. These dogs range from 13.5 to 15.5 inches tall, and weigh 20 to 30 pounds at optimal weight, according to the American Kennel Club. Springer spaniels are the cockers’ larger cousins, standing 19 to 20 inches tall and weighing 40 to 50 pounds. This is an energetic, active breed, needing lots of exercise and playtime, considered intelligent, friendly, and eager to please. Springers are known as “Velcro dogs,” for they love being with their people.
That personality trait describes our Mary to a “T.” Her place in particular is stretched out next to my husband, whether on the couch, in his recliner, and lying in bed. Mary is extremely friendly; her previous owner certified her as a therapy dog (sadly, her owner passed away, and that’s why she was available for adoption), and I have taken her to libraries and book signings, where she greets people with a toothy smile and a wagging stub of a tail! Like many spaniels, Mary suffers from allergies and ear infections. Our previous springer spaniel, Sage, became blind due to Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), another health issue common in this breed.
Learn more about springer spaniels here: http://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/english-springer-spaniel#/slide/1
Learn more about cocker spaniels here: http://www.vetstreet.com/dogs/cocker-spaniel
Great dogs for families!
These breeds make wonderful family pets, and I am so glad I have the honor to have them in my home.
I love my dogs! Jeremiah and Mary get along very well; in fact, Jeremiah relies on Mary – he is quite bonded to her. Both dogs are good with our cats, although Jeremiah is more startled by their sudden movements and has growled at the kitties at different times (probably still getting used to being around them). I enjoy both dog breeds, the Shih Tzu, and the Springer/cocker (guess I should say “three breeds!”) – and I would adopt one of these types of dogs again.
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.
The Westminster Dog Show takes place next month, and in anticipation of the big event, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has recognized three new dog breeds for competition: the Chinook, the Rat Terrier, and the Portuguese Podengo Poqueno.
The Chinook is an American dog breed. Originally bred as a sled dog by musher Arthur Treadwell Walden of New Hampshire, this rare breed makes an excellent family pet. Walden bred a farm dog of unknown heritage with a “northern” husky, possibly from Greenland, producing a litter of puppies with tawny coats. One of those pups, named Chinook, grew up to father a dog breed that not only had his physical characteristics but also his gentle disposition. A team of Chinooks transported supplies for Admiral Richard Byrd’s trek to Antarctica in 1927. The calm and dignified Chinook generously dishes out affection on family members and is known for its love of children. This breed is also known for its thick, tawny-colored double coat and amazing athletic ability. The Chinook needs lots of daily exercise – when bored it can be quite destructive and won't be entertained by lounging on the couch. These dogs thrive at dog sports, including sledding and agility, herding, and obedience and make great companions for active families. Chinooks stand 22 to 26 inches tall, weigh 50 to 90 pounds, and live 12 to 15 years. In 1965, the breed was considered the most rare type of dog in the world. Still uncommon, this state dog of New Hampshire seems to be making a comeback.
The Rat Terrier is also an American dog breed. His ancestry includes the Smooth Fox Terrier, the Italian Greyhound, Miniature Pinscher and Beagle. An all-purpose farm dog, this breed was used to kill rats and hunt small game. Like many of its terrier cousins, the Rat Terrier is smart and active, which means it needs plenty of exercise and mentally-stimulating activities – if not provided these things, the Rat Terrier can be quite destructive. Engaging in dog sports like agility and flyball will keep this energetic little dog stimulated mentally and physically. This breed is calmer than other terrier breeds and enjoys lap time with its people. Smart and fun-loving, the Rat Terrier likes to be involved and can be prone to separation anxiety. Therefore, early training and plenty of socialization is required for this breed (and its owner) to be happy. Rat terriers come in two sizes: miniature (10 to 13 inches at the shoulder) and standard (13 to 18 inches tall). They weigh between 8 to 25 pounds and can live 12 to 18 years. These small dogs can be big chewers. They are also known to be barkers and diggers. Plan to use a dog crate, tall baby gates and exercise pens for this breed. Because of their friendly disposition, rat terriers can make great therapy dogs.
The Portuguese Podengo is a sighthound originally bred to hunt rabbits in packs. This breed comes in three sizes and two varieties: the smooth, with a short, dense coat, and the wirecoat, with a medium-length, rough coat. Originating from Portugal, this breed resembles the Pharaoh Hound, Ibizan Hound, and Cirneco dell Etna, and is probable that all of these breeds share the same ancestry. The AKC registered the Podengo as part of the Hound Group. An alert dog, the Podengo makes an excellent watchdog. But, be aware: it likes to chase other furry creatures, and that would include the family cat! This breed can jump very high as well as straight up, therefore, insure you have a very tall fence if you get one of these dogs. Height sizes for these dogs are 8 to 12 inches, 16 to 22 inches, and 22 to 28 inches at the shoulder; weights are 8 to 14 pounds, 35 to 45 pounds, and 44 to 66 pounds. These dogs generally live 10 to 14 years. Well-muscled and extremely athletic, they need of regular exercise and excel at agility and lure coursing. Podengos can also do well in obedience and tracking.
As another season of Westminster rolls around, it will be interesting to watch these new breeds in the ring and see how they fare during the upcoming competition, February 10 and 11, 2014.
Photo credit: American Kennel Club
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.