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Sometimes Puppy Love is Not Enough

Taking the time to research breeders before you buy a puppy can save you heartache down the road.

A family put their dog down this weekend. The dog was not old. The dog did not have cancer. The dog was not hit by a car and severely injured. We may never know why, but the dog attacked three family members. This dog inflicted deep puncture wounds and came back at one family member three times before they were able to get him outside. What provoked the attack? The owner asked the dog to move out of the way.

This dog was bought at 8 weeks old and raised as a family member in their home.  He was taken through training classes.  He was loved.  Yet he attacked the people who loved him.  He was not a safe dog to live with and they made the difficult and heart wrenching decision to put him down.  The whole family stayed with him when he was euthanized.   They feel sad and guilty.  His death will haunt them and me.  They did not have any options other than to put him down.  He was not safe to live with and not safe to rehome.

When you decide to get a puppy, please talk to a trainer/ethical breeder/veterinarian and/or breed rescue club BEFORE you buy a puppy. Ask them where you can find a healthy and stable puppy.  Ask them what breeders and places to stay away from. 

Look for red flags that the breeder may not have the best interests of their pups or your family in mind. Red flags include:

  • Pet stores.  Pet store dogs come from large breeding facilities that concentrate on turning out a product (puppies) for profit with little regard for the physical and behavioral health of the animals.  NO reputable breeder ever sells their dogs to pet stores.
  • The breeder does not interview you or ask for references to see if your family is a good match for one of their dogs. They sell their dogs to anyone.
  • Dogs are living in conditions where they are getting minimal human interaction.
  • Kennels/living spaces are unclean.
  • Dogs never allowed in the home.
  • Breeder will not let you see the parents of the litter.  The breeder explains that the parents are “protective”.
  • You see the parents and they appear fearful or aggressive.
  • Breeder wants to meet you somewhere such as a parking lot and hand the puppy over to you.
  • Pups have not been seen by a veterinarian. No health records given.
  • Breeder will let you take a pup under 8 weeks home.  This is illegal in Connecticut.
  • Selling what they say are 'quality dogs' for a low price. (Though high price is not a guarantee of quality either).
  • Telling you the dogs are quality because they are AKC registered.  AKC registration does NOT mean quality - it is no more a guarantee of quality than registering your car with the DMV.

Why does all of this matter?  It matters because puppies born of parents with aggression/fear and health problems are not going to be good family members. Puppies born via inbreeding are at risk for health and behavioral issues.  Love, a good and caring family, training, and wonderful intentions cannot override bad genetics.

My heart breaks when I see another family and dog go through this nightmare of aggression. It is a long dark path to walk.  Do your research before you get a puppy.  Once you do choose your new family member, seek out the guidance of a trainer who uses positive methods to help you and your pup get started on the road to a great relationship. 

Please don’t learn the hard way that sometimes love is not enough.

Have you adopted a dog? What should other people looking to adopt a pet know before they go through the process?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Karen's Dog Training Blog March 23, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I am sorry for your loss. Too many people go through this heartbreak because they didn't know how to choose a dog/puppy or who to turn to when problems do arise. As a professional dog trainer, I know enough about dog behavior to see the red flags. The average person is NOT a dog trainer and so often doesn't see the red flags. Too many people follow the advice of "professionals' who use outdated punishment-based methods that only make the problems worse. Just a couple myths about dog training: You can't start training your dog until he is 6 months old. You can only train him with a prong, choke, electric shock collar. You have to alpha roll your dog to show her who is boss. You must punish bad behavior. ALL MYTHS that are damaging to our dogs. Such stuff may make for great TV, but if you read about the myth of the alpha dog, you will find that the very people who began the alpha dog training movement, realized their research was flawed. Biologists such as David Mech have been trying reach people and tell them the research was dead wrong and the methods are dangerous, damaging and should not be used. I have seen dogs trained with punishment based behaviors who have been ruined. Trainers such as myself are trying to reach people and educate the public about getting a dog, owning a dog, preventing dog bites, training a dog and having a great family member. Pass the word -
Jill Simmons March 24, 2012 at 12:12 PM
It's really important to make sure a breed/particular puppy is a realistic fit for an individual family, and most good breeders select a puppy to match their client's experience and energy level. Puppies have a range of experience before 8 weeks, including learning good bite inhibition from littermates and bonding with people, then go one to be positively trained and socialized to 100 people, 12 surfaces, 20 friendly dogs etc have good prospects. Breeders need to do all health clearances for several generations, and those should be verified on www.offa.org, no excuses. Any training ala the Dog Whisperer damages the pup's trust in humans, so reward-based training should be the rule for babies. Take a good STAR Puppy class.
Karen's Dog Training Blog March 24, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Excellent points Jill!
Karen's Dog Training Blog March 26, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Just heard that another former shelter dog I knew was euthanized for attacking a family member. Very sad news once again.

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