Stranger Danger! Why a puppy in a window should have you running away

I remember growing up, walking past a pet store window, and going “Awww look at the puppy! I want one!” Much like stores placing candy at the checkout aisles in a grocery store, pet stores who sell puppies rely on the impulse factor to get you to buy one. You see one you just HAVE to have, you go in, you play with them, and you are hooked. I have even fallen under the pet store impulse spell. Back in 1997, my ex husband and I went in “just to look” but we were NOT going to purchase one.  $800+ later, we walked out with Jake, my first dog as an adult.

Jake

Jake

Jake was an adorable rat terrier. The sales associate explained he was UKC registered but not AKC registered and had us convinced how unimportant that was.  Looking back, I have to appreciate how great he was at his job! This was 1997, I didn’t know then what I know now.  I don’t regret buying Jake, he was an amazing dog, but I will never purchase another dog from a pet store.

I may be an advocate for adopting but that doesn’t mean I am 100% against buying a purebred dog also.  I just want everyone to understand the pros and cons as well as clear up some myths or, in reality, some ignorance, about purebred dogs, shelters, rescues, and pet stores.

First, I understand wanting a purebred dog.  It is OK if you want a specific breed. You want a particular look.  There is nothing wrong with it. The first question I would ask is “why?” Why do you want a purebred? Is it the look? Ok. Is it the love of the breed? Ok Is it because they are better dogs? NOT TRUE!

Fact: You can find purebred dogs in shelters and rescues. You can even find AKC registered dogs in shelters and rescues.

Neapolitan Mastiff, Dog, big dog, Blue

@BellaTheMastiff

My Neapolitan Mastiff, Bella, is one. Have I ever sent for her papers? Of course not. (For the record, I never sent in for Jake’s either) I wasn’t going to breed either one of them so why spend the money? Yes, getting a piece of paper that says who their mom and dad is costs money. What are you going to do with it? Tuck it in a drawer just to say you have it.  Just because someone spent a lot of money on a purebred dog doesn’t mean the dog was given a forever home.  They get abandoned, turned in, re-homed, etc., all the time.  Talk to your local shelter about what breed you are looking for and they can give you the names of the ones they work with.  Sometimes if a purebred dog is in the shelter, the shelter will call a local (or sometimes a not so local) rescue group for that breed. The group will take the dog out of the shelter and into a foster home and then they work to find a new family for the dog.  This frees up another cage in the shelter, gets the dog out of a cage and into a home where the foster parent(s) most likely loves and understands the breed, and the rescue group works to find a new family.  Another way to find a breed specific rescue group is to just search the Internet.  Type in the breed you want followed by the word “rescue” and your search will begin.  Like everything, never wire money, make sure the group has their 501(C)3 status, and they are legitimate organization.  Another way is to search “Dog Friendly Events” in your area, especially in the spring and fall, to see what events are taking place where there are a lot of dog friendly vendors and rescue groups.

“I want a puppy”

Fact: shelters and rescues have puppies!!! I am always surprised how many times I hear someone say shelters only have adult dogs.  Puppies are abandoned, dropped off, found, all the time.  Sometimes a dog gets pregnant and the owner doesn’t want to deal with it, so they drop it off at the shelter.  Friends of mine found seven puppies outside of our dog park, with their feral mom and dad running around.  All seven puppies lived, were cared for until old enough to be adopted, and found great homes. The mom and dad were also caught. The dad is super sweet, was adopted and doing great.  The mom is still feral but in a foster home where they are working with her.  Puppies might not be available every day in a shelter, but tell them you want a puppy and they will let you know what they have and when they will be up for adoption.  You might not always SEE puppies in the actual shelter because they might be out in foster homes where they can play, learn, and grow in a better environment than a shelter.

“I want a small dog”

FACT: Small dogs are available at shelters & rescues.  There might not be as many of them, but they are there. Sometimes they are picked up by breed specific rescues like I mentioned earlier.  Talk to the shelter, if they don’t have the size you are looking for, I’m sure they can get you in touch with a local rescue.

“I don’t want a dog with problems”

FACT: A puppy from a pet store is a PUPPY MILL DOG!!! Talk about potential problems.  Let’s start with the fact that mom, you know, the AKC dog the sales person talked about, is kept in a cage and just gets to produce puppies. That’s all she does.  The papers may have a sweet sounding name like “Beautiful Acres Farms” (I made this name up, so if the business exists, it is in no way affiliated with the puppy mill business as far as I know). You want to picture dogs running free, having puppies in the lap of luxury but that is not the case.  These dogs are only good to the owners as long as they produce puppies.  Then, often, they are destroyed when they age out.  The puppy mill owners do not care about these dogs.  They don’t get love, attention.  They don’t get human interaction outside of food and water and shots.  Can you imagine the only time you feel a human hand on you is followed by a needle prick? Until they go to a pet store for sale, where they are handled from one person to another, often by people who don’t even know how to handle a puppy, supervised by people who collect a paycheck & a commission when they sell the puppy….all of this followed by being ripped from the only security they know, their mom, without an appropriate weaning time and transition.  Do you really think this doesn’t cause behavioral problems???

puppy mills, ozarks, dogs in cages

Photo Courtesy Ozark Humane Society

FACT: Like every “business” you have some bad associates, but for the most part, associates and VOLUNTEERS at rescues and shelters are there because they love animals and want to help them.  They aren’t there to get rich, trust me.  They want the animals placed in good, loving, forever homes so they will work with potential adopters to find the right dog for you.  There are dogs out in foster homes where the foster parent will discuss openly and honestly the good and, sometimes, the bad of the dog.  They will tell you if they are good with kids, with other dogs, cats, etc. Their sole purpose is to find a good home for the dog so it does not end up back in a shelter.  Can they get over zealous about ONLY adoption, etc? Yes, they can. But please understand what they see everyday and what they deal with. Appreciate their passion and understand it comes from the right place.

On the flip side, Pet Store clerks have little knowledge of animals and animal care outside what they are trained to say. Let’s be honest, if they REALLY knew and REALLY cared, they wouldn’t be working at a store that sells puppy mill puppies. They WANT you to buy the puppy so they get the commission. What happens after that, they don’t care. The money is in their pocket.  They are off to sell the next one.

Another unknown fact to many is many local animal shelters do not just have dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, but sometimes other animals as well, such as bunnies, chickens, and even a rooster from time to time.  While it may not be as common, any time an animal is picked up or confiscated from an owner, they have to have someplace to go until a new home can be found.

At the end of the day, there are too many GREAT dogs in shelters looking for their “furever” homes.  If you are looking to add a pet to your family and have no plans on entering that pet into the show world where registration papers may be required, please consider visiting your local animal shelter, look on social media for local rescue groups, or, if you’re looking for a new dog, go visit a local dog park.  Many owners there are friendly and usually willing to point you in the right direction.  There might even be someone there who works or volunteers with a shelter or animal rescue.

Do your homework.  If you want a purebred pet, please find a reputable, qualified breeder.  If you just want a loving pet to welcome into your home, please consider adoption over purchase.  You will truly be saving their life and the life of the pet who may be coming in to take their empty cage.

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz 

 

 

Pet theme continues; dog food, breeders, and breeds – HaliPawz

Picking the right food for your new fur baby can be daunting.  There are so many things to consider.  Over the last few years of having multiple dogs, multiple breeds in my home, I have learned a lot and wanted to share.  Some of the information I discovered, I wish would have all been in one spot. Since it wasn’t, I’m doing it.  Another thing I discovered is, for every thing I found positive about something, I could also often find something negative.  My best advice, consider the source.

I say consider the source often.  Even as you read this, consider the source (me) as not being an expert.  I do not have a degree in animal nutrition. I’m just someone who likes to investigate things until I am able to draw my best conclusion.

As I mentioned, there are factors that go into picking the best food for your fur babies.  These are in no particular order.

Price. For some, price is a HUGE factor, for others, they want the best no matter what the cost.  I, personally, am more on the latter, I would rather spend more on healthy food for my pets but I also recognized the most expensive does not mean the best for every breed! Do the research before dropping a lot of money.

If price is a factor, then determine how much you can budget before you pick the food.  You may also want to consider the pet you are purchasing.  For example, a Great Dane can go through a 30lb bag of food in two weeks, a Jack Russell may take two months on a 15lb bag.  You may want to scale down and get a medium size dog over a large dog if you are not going to be able to feed them properly.  Remember, dogs are a 7-14+ year commitment and the food bill grows as they grow.  It’s easy to feed a puppy, think about adult size, senior, special diet, etc.

Ingredients.  Look at the ingredients! If the dog food has a lot of dye in it, stay away from it! Yes, I know it makes it look pretty and you feel bad about giving your baby bland dog food, but if you go back and research, almost every recalled dog food has some sort of dye (usually red) listed in the ingredients.  When I saw the most recent recall, Beneful Recall, I was saddened.  First, because I know a lot of people feed it. Second, because it is a Purina brand and, even though I don’t feed their dog food, I do use their horse feed and I believe they are a good company overall for pet food products.  They are a large company manufacturing a variety of pet food products the consumers want.  The last reason I was bothered by it is the red dye in it.  It just solidified my belief about red dye being a problem.

Full disclaimer…I don’t stay away from red dye completely….my dogs do, on occasion, get treats which have red dye in them, such a Beggin Strips, but I am very aware of it and minimize how much; unless Zipper, my JRT, gets into the bag while I’m gone and eats half of it at once! Not saying that happened or anything! (My tweet about it). Of course, I actually try to stay away from red dye in foods myself.  I don’t know why but I remember reading something years ago about it and just stay away. Except red velvet cake. Hey, my dogs get their Beggin Strips, I get my Red Velvet cupcakes.  Moderation!

Continuing with ingredients, as most people know, the first three ingredients are the most prominent items in the dog food.  The more natural the ingredients, the healthier for your pet.  The first three should be a real meat source, not a by-product.  Do not be fooled by the name! There are tricks to confuse you.  If the name clearly states a meat, such as beef, make sure there is no descriptive words with it, such as dinner or meal.  Those are code words for different percentages.  For example, if it says “Beef” and nothing else, then beef has to make up 95% of the main ingredients, if it says “beef dinner or beef meal” then beef only has to make up 25%.  Huge difference! Always look at the ingredients.  It is also important to look at the ingredients because they sometimes use different meats to make up the protein and your pet may be allergic to one and not the other.  I have learned my JRT will eat anything but seems to appreciate red meat more than lamb.  My mastiff has a pickier stomach and was on lamb and did ok, but seems to prefer poultry or red meat as well.

Crude analysis is another important factor.  I used to think the higher protein is always better.  Over time & extensive research, I have learned this is not true.  KNOW YOUR BREED! Understand their needs.  Understand their activity and growth.  I’m going to start with Zipper.  His name says it all.  He flies everywhere.  I’m not sure there is a slow speed on him.  Even walking across the room he does a little prance instead of a slow walk. He is high energy and, at 18lbs, considered a medium size dog.  He goes between Orijen and Acana Ranchland.  Orijen owns Acana, it is just slightly cheaper. His primary food is Acana Ranchlands.  It is 31% protein and 17% crude fat.  The ingredients are a long list of protein rich foods.  He does great on it.

I felt bad not feeding Bella, my mastiff, Acana, but I just couldn’t afford it.  After doing research, I learned Zipper’s food is a little too high in protein for her.  I was feeding her Earthborn Holistic Great Plains Feast and she did well on it, but I would notice she would be stiff at night after playing at the dog park.  I almost switched her to a different food based on a friend’s suggestion of breeder recommended, which I will discuss in a minute.   I did not switch her brand, just her type.  I switched her to Earthborn Holistic Large Breed and I am happy I did!  It is 26% protein, which is 1% higher than recommended for her breed but she is extremely athletic, so the 1% will not affect her at all and 13% crude fat. Well within the recommended percentage.  In addition, it has Glucosomine & Chondroitin in it!  Within two weeks of the switch, I saw a huge difference in her stiffness! The friend I mentioned earlier? He has switched to it as well. I still give her a supplement of Glucosomine & Chondroitin as well, but she gets the majority from her food.

If you have a giant breed or large breed, there is a lot of information floating around the Internet.  People get passionate about their way being the best way.  This is where I say to use some common sense as well.  In my opinion, when I read WHY Great Dane puppies should not have as much protein because of how fast they grow, it MADE SENSE to me.  At the same time, you have to be aware of when to switch them from puppy food to adult food.  Some Great Danes grow until 3 years, that doesn’t mean they should be on puppy food for 3 years.  Do your research.  Read a few REPUTABLE articles.  Consider the source.  Are they getting a kickback? Do they have a vested interest in a particular product.  Also consider their activity level.  As I mentioned, my mastiff is more active than a typical mastiff.  She will play for hours at the dog park with male dogs half her age.  She will go to the barn and run around.  She is ACTIVE so more protein is good for her.  She even gets a half cup of Zipper’s food mixed in with hers from time to time.  She loves it.

Now I want to talk about breeder recommendations.  Breeders are in a business, especially large breeders.  When their reputation goes up, they become a target.  They will be approached by companies to promote their product, in return, they usually get the product for free or at cost.  Think about it; you’re feeding a lot of dogs for FREE and you are selling the puppies for profit? Of COURSE you’ll consider it.  Most of the time, the product is good, it would be considered upper middle of the road.  Affordable for most people.  It happens in every industry.   I’m not saying the product is bad, but just keep in mind, there is usually some sort of kickback.

***I do want to put my plug-in here for ADOPT over breeders.  You can get purebred dogs / puppies from shelters and rescues.  Unless you need a breed for a specific reason, job, or you plan to show them, please consider adoption from a local rescue or shelter. ***

There are great tools available to help you sort through the details.  One great resource is DogFoodAdvisor.com where it rates the different brands. Please note, they can only rate one or two types per brand, so I would also suggest looking at the company website if your flavor is not reviewed.  It is important to also read the review, not just the visible rating.  You will see key areas of concern or items they were not able to evaluate because the company didn’t make it available.  That could be important.  If the company won’t disclose key nutrient information then you may not want to feed it! There is the flip side as well, sometimes the product may be better than 5 stars, but they only rate on a 5 star tier so all 5 stars are not equal.

So, now for some money-saving tips.

If you decide to feed a premium dog food, most of them participate in a rewards program.  Both Acana and Earthborn do.  For every 12 bags I purchase, I get the 13th free.  All I have to do is save the UPC. Ask your local pet store if they participate.  Three locations in Kansas City sell Bella’s food, K9 Closet, Brookside Barkery & Bath, and Blue Parkway Bait & Pet Supplies.  Blue Parkway does not sell Zipper’s food.  All three locations participate in the 12 bags / 1 free program.  Usually big box pet stores, like PetSmart and Petco do not sell the brands that participate.

Get on an email list for both the food and the  store you end up purchasing from or join their social media page(s).  I receive a $3 coupon off Earthborn every 4-6 weeks.  I know it’s not a lot, but it helps.  If you are at a dog friendly event in town and they have a booth, ask the rep for coupons.  Let them know you currently feed and how much you love it.  You’ll be surprised.  I know this post is about dog food, but I can say I have received coupons for a whole bag of horse feed just by asking! I have also received free small bags of Orijen and Acana just because I asked.  The food is expensive! They know it!  I won’t say it works all the time, but it does sometimes.

If you’re staying in the mid range, visit your wholesale clubs like Sam’s Club or Costco.  Find out which brands they carry, then look them up on Dog Food Advisor.  I know at one time, Sam’s Club had a four star rated food for a great price! Not sure if they still do. Another location to look at for dog food is Tractor Supply.  They have started carrying grain free dog food at a reasonable price and many people do not think about them.

I hope this helps you in determine the right dog food for your baby.  Remember to consider each dog is different, each breed is different, and each need is different.  What’s right for YOU is what is important!

This article was written purely for information.  I received no kickback or request to write it. It all started because I posted something about red dye on the Beneful recall I saw on Facebook.

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