Category Archives: Puppy Mills

Cavalier hearts: the difference between what breeders say and what they do

Although this research is about UK breeders, the same problem exists in the US. Between poor breeding practices by “good” breeders and puppy mills, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are going to be, if they aren’t already, a dying breed.

Losing our Cavaliers would be devastating, but it would also be stupid when there are ways to mitigate the potential health issues. This research makes me so sad.

Cavaliers Are Special

Crufts, the dog world’s annual extravaganza, took place in March. On the Friday of the show health campaigners Margaret Carter and Charlotte Mackaness, along with television vet and author Emma Milne, presented the comments from the then 30,000 signature-strong Cavalier health petition to the Kennel Club asking for compulsory testing for Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) and Syringomyelia (SM). The KC repeated its refusal to make testing mandatory.

petition hand over The Cavaliers Are Special team handing the petition to the KC’s Bill Lambert at Crufts

Under the bright lights a few hours later the Cavalier best of breed was crowned. For the dog’s owners it was a time of great celebration. For health campaigners, it was a sober reminder of just how badly enforcement of breeding guidelines and is needed.

The winning dog turned 2.5 years old just before Crufts. To help reduce the incidence and age of onset of heart disease, cardiologists…

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Callie, Cavitude, and Obedience Class

Oh, Callie. There were a couple of stressful events in her life last week.

Last Monday an excellent traveling groomer came to our house to give Callie her first groom since the one she got when she left the puppy mill – aside from a few terrible hack jobs by me on her feet and ears.

I chose to have a groomer come here rather than take her to one because I could only imagine the stress she would experience. The groomer, Dirk, was fantastic. He spent about 15 minutes on the floor with her first, just talking to her and letting her sniff him, his equipment, etc.

When I put her on the table, she didn’t freak out or try to get away, that’s not Callie’s m.o. anyway. She sat, stoically, or stood, depending on what he needed, for a long time. I never left the room, he and I chatted the whole time – either to each other or to her – and she took it in stride for a while. Then she decided she was done.

When Callie is done, she is DONE. She sits and won’t move. You can pick her up, but she won’t move her body out of the sitting position. You can offer her all the treats in the world, she’ll eat them, but she sure won’t change her mind.

Dirk, having worked with animals for years in different settings, recognized this immediately. He tried a couple of his own tricks and when they didn’t work either, “we” decided the grooming was over.

He did a fantastic first job on Callie. I was impressed with his ability to recognize what was too hard for her and stay away from it. Did she end up with the full cut she needed? Not quite, but he listened to her instead which was far more important to me. And she looks great!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The attitude she gives when she is done with something – that’s Cavitude. Cavaliers are sweet, loving, easy-going dogs who are relatively well-behaved and usually easy to train, except every now and then a little ‘tude sneaks in, and you get Cavitude.

Previously, Callie has decided that she is DONE when I am in the middle of a store, like the pet store, and will sit down and refuse to move. Public Displays of Cavitude. The easiest solution for me is to pick her up and move her to wherever I need her to be, but now that has gotten me into a lot of trouble.

Tuesday, Callie and I had our first obedience class. Given that I am relatively dog experienced and that she is a rescue, I wanted to give her time to let down and bond before we moved into classes. We’ve done home training up until this point.

Callie knows to sit and wait to be released for her food. She’s working on stay, come, down, and still, her biggest fear – going down flights of stairs.

I tried to remind myself of how good she is, how she follows me, etc., as I went into class, and I started to feel pretty confident. Shoulda just smeared dog poop on my face right then. #Cavitude.

After being given some time to investigate, we started with heeling around the room. Apparently, Callie thought the floor was so much more exciting than walking with me that she continued to stop every few feet.

I got in trouble for letting my dog teach me to stop whenever she wanted. So the trainer made me keep walking when Callie stopped, as in drag her. Nobody could believe just how stubborn Callie was being about walking, refusing to get up. My treats weren’t tasty enough, though thankfully we located some cheese which helped the situation immensely.

The whole time I was there I felt embarrassed about my skills as a dog trainer but, afterward, I wondered whether she was really right. Whether it was just stubbornness. While she’s correct to an extent and I can’t just let Callie stop me whenever she wants, I also think it’s detrimental to continue to drag her if she continues to refuse. And it goes against all my positive training methods.

I don’t think this woman understands the mindset of puppy mill rescues – if it gets scary, most dogs will run away or bite or do something whereas for many puppy mill rescues, specifically, if something gets scary, their first instinct is to hunker down and not move. I forgot that too, knowing Callie as I do.

How much of Callie’s refusal to walk part of the time – we did get her walking – was caused by her stubborn personality I have come to know, and how much was caused by her natural fear reaction? I don’t know. But I think the instructor and I are going to have a talk about how I am going to get Callie prepared for the “heeling” part of the obedience class. Without being stopped every 3 feet or dragging her.

By the way, Vermont played an April Fool’s joke this year. It was super funny:

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Nothing Like Normal

I came across a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel listed for adoption the other day. He’s not in a Cavalier specific rescue, but a good one nonetheless. I don’t want to point out too many details.

I could have this all wrong. I don’t know this dog at all, I haven’t spoken with his foster mother or the rescue, all I know is what I read, and it broke my heart. Not only for the dog but also because the lengthy description kept describing this adult puppy mill rescue as nothing like a “normal” Cavalier.

I guess I don’t know “normal” then because my puppy mill rescue has a lot of the same behaviors.

She’s not a big cuddler. She likes to be near you but, for instance, right now she is at the far end of the couch, away from me.

She hates to be picked up, carried, or held in a restraining way. The best thing we ever did for her was getting dog stairs for the couch and the bed. She loves the stairs so much that when my wife tripped over them and broke a piece, Callie had to wait a day for us to fix them and she was depressed all day long. She wasn’t even that excited about treats. That’s right, a Cavalier so depressed she didn’t care about food. Freedom is better.

She shakes and runs if touched from behind, even just brushed accidently. Nobody can reach for her head to pet her at first, always her sides so she can see your hands at all times.

She grumbles all the time, licks her lips, wiggles her nose, and makes this sound that I will do my best to spell phonetically – bhuumph – when she is annoyed or wants something or unknown reasons. She makes the sound so frequently that my daughter started calling her “Bhuuphy” which, of course, turned into “Bhuuphy” the Vampire Slayer.

I am being somewhat facetious here.

These points are all equivalent to ones in the adoption ad. Callie was terrified of everything (working on it), she is still “nothing like a normal Cavalier” apparently, but it’s hard to see that because she’s my Cavalier.

I know she’s not ever going to be the type of dog who runs to the door to greet me, who climbs into my lap or feels totally safe all the time, but she’s here, and I am doing the best I can with my normal.

My point is that most puppy mill rescues exhibit a lot of these same behaviors. A lot of puppy mill rescues are “not normal” for their breed. When I went to meet Callie, there were a couple of Bichon/Poodle mixes from a puppy mill, and they were wholly different than dogs of that breed mix I have met before.

The puppy mill is what makes the dog “not normal,” but to repeatedly point that out is detrimental to the adoption of puppy mill dogs everywhere. I didn’t rescue a Cavalier to get “normal,” I rescued a Cavalier because it mattered to me.

I don’t want individuals adopting puppy mill rescues without understanding the specific issues that come with the dogs, but I also don’t want people walking away just because that rescue dog came from a puppy mill.

I don’t accept the distinction of “normal” and “not normal.” I don’t accept the idea that just because a puppy mill rescue might act differently than dogs of their breed raised from puppies in a home, they are NOT like their breed at all. And, you know what, half the description of the dog sounded just like a Cavalier to me.