Posts Tagged ‘English Retrievers’

When Dog Breeding Goes Bad

April 7, 2011 24 comments

Two things happened yesterday that left me sad and wondering the following… Why do breeders breed dogs that have known personality issues or temperament defects? And, why do they sell their offspring to people knowing that these defects could be passed on to their puppies?

The first thing that happened was a meeting with a friend at our local dog park.

It is an absolutely heartbreaking story.

While Daisy, Jasper and I were out on our walk yesterday, we ran into a friend and her dog. We often see them in the mornings, and since our dogs get along so well with each other, we often walk together. Her dog is a white Golden Retriever puppy (some breeders call them English or Creme colored retrievers) and her name is Sally (name changed).

Sally is 11 months old and she is funny and goofy (as puppies often are) and she loves to play. Her mother is a lovely woman. I have always enjoyed walking with her and sharing our stories and love of dogs. But yesterday when we ran into her and Sally, she was crying. My heart sank. I don’t know how I knew what was coming, but I did , and I started to cry too.

You see a couple of months prior, Sally’s mom had confided in me that she had become a little frightened of Sally after she had attacked her when she tried to retrieve a bone from her. The aggression that Sally had shown had left her frightened and unsure, and this was not the first time it had happened. I admit that I was concerned. It is not normal for a dog as young as Sally to be showing the type of aggression her mother described at such a young age, but I had hoped it was simply a case of resource guarding. I recommended she call a trainer friend of mine to see if she could help.

After speaking with her, my trainer friend recommend that Sally’s mom set up an appointment with a veterinarian animal behaviorist at the University of Minnesota. Sally’s mom made the appointment as soon as she could get in – in late March.

Meeting with a veterinary animal behaviorist is not cheap nor is it just a simple appointment. It requires a lot of work up front. Owners must complete a large amount of paperwork identifying the concerning behavior(s) and describing in detail the incidents or behaviors they have witnessed in their pet. Usually, the whole family attends the appointment, including the other family pets. This was the case with my friend. She attended the appointment with her two small children and their other family dog. It was a four-hour appointment.

Sally’s mom expected to receive advice on how to work with Sally, a behavioral action plan of sorts, but instead what she received was something she had not expected – advice that Sally should be euthanized. Shocked? She was too. It’s not something veterinary animal behaviorists recommend very often, but in Sally’s case there were two of things that deeply concerned them: 1) Sally showing such serious aggression at such a young age (she was only 11 months old), and 2) that Sally’s aggression was unpredictable (it didn’t always have a known trigger) and could occur at any time with no precursors to indicate it was coming (I am sure that having two small children in the home also played a role).

The animal behaviorist explained to Sally’s mom that her aggression was not the result of something she and her husband had done or not done. In fact, both had been good pet parents. The diagnosis was that Sally’s aggression was genetic in origin and not something that could be addressed via behavior modification. In essence, she was dangerous and could, and likely would, hurt someone seriously at some time in the future. It was devastating news.

It was made even more devastating when the breeder refused to take Sally back and then blamed Sally’s mom and dad for her aggression (and this was after she spoke with the animal behaviorist herself!). Despite trying to find someone or some place that would take Sally, there just were no other options available. So, yesterday was Sally’s last visit to the dog park. It broke my heart to see her having such a good time knowing all along that it would be her last. I cannot imagine how awful it must have been for her mom and the rest of her family to say goodbye to her. She was way too young. She was just a puppy.

The second incident actually happened to a friend of mine. She works at an animal care facility that cares for people’s dogs while they are away. I happened to speak with her yesterday, just after she had returned from Urgent Care, where she had received several stitches for a dog bite that had occurred while she was working. I won’t go into the specific details of how it happened, but I will say that the dog bit her hard enough to cause blood to start gushing out of her hand. The kicker is that she learned that the dog who had bitten her had bitten a family member in the past AND that he also came from a lineage where the father and grandfather had been known to have issues with aggression as well. Geez! Seriously?

I cannot say for certain that the first breeder knew there was an issue with her dogs. Maybe Sally was an aberration. A one in a million. All I know is that her family is devastated. They are left to grieve for a puppy they had fallen in love with and adored.

In the other situation, the breeder clearly knew there was an issue. She told the owner for God’s sake! Why the owner chose to buy a dog with a history like that I cannot even venture to guess, but my friend is left to suffer through the pain, discomfort and the limited use of her hand, all because a breeder chose to breed dogs known to have temperament/aggression issues.

I admit that the breeding industry is completely foreign to me. I have never chosen my dogs based on a particular breed, but rather on their temperament and demeanor. To me, temperament matters so much more than looks. If a dog looks good but is flawed beyond belief, what is the point? If a dog looks good, but has aggression issues, what is the benefit?

So I ask you… Why do breeders breed dogs that have known personality issues or temperament defects? And, why do they sell their offspring to people knowing that these defects could be passed on to their puppies?

I’d like to know what you think.

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