Why I hope the Obamas get a purebred dog

by Susan Getgood on November 25, 2008 · 7 comments

in Animals, Election 08

The day after the election, before the real political transition was really underway, among the top news was the  Obama family’s future pet. Speculation, opinions and advice from all corners — the American Kennel Club, the Humane Society of the US, pet owners, dog breeders and fanciers, newspaper columnists and bloggers.

Everyone wanted to know: what sort of dog would the Obama family bring to the White House? A purebred puppy? A shelter dog? Or perhaps a rescue? One of the daughters has an allergy, so that needed to be taken under consideration.

I hope they get a purebred, and here’s why.

Purebred dogs are the most predictable choice. This is very important for families with children. The more we know about the dog’s general behavior, the easier it is to pick one that fits our lifestyle.

Each dog breed was developed to do specific work. Herding dogs like shepherds and collies herd. Anything they can. Hounds and sporting breeds are hunting dogs. Some track, some retrieve. Terriers are largely earth dogs. Their job is to get the vermin out of the hole for the farmer. And so on.

As a result, we know with some certainty what their behavior and exercise requirements will be. We know how big they’ll get. We know about diseases that affect the breed because responsible breeders contribute to the growing body of knowledge about canine health through dog clubs, health trusts and central bodies like OFA and CHIC. If you are interested, here’s the OFA record of Ch. Blueberry’s Attitude Dancing HOF ROMX  (Carly), featured here earlier this fall.

The allergy issue. No dog is completely hypoallergenic. That said, some breeds are far less likely to cause reactions. What type of coat does the dog have? Does the dog shed? Poodles, many terriers, Samoyeds. These are all breeds that allergic people can live with. I know. I am allergic to dogs and live with four Scottish Terriers. The best test? Visit the breeder of your chosen breed and spend an afternoon or more with the dogs. And don’t let the dog sleep in your bed. Please. Not good for you, not good for the dog.

I do not think so-called designer breeds like goldendoodles and labradoodles are a good choice. For one thing, genetically, you don’t know what you are getting. Each puppy gets half of its genetic material from one parent, and half from the other.  Umm. Which half? Some of these mixed breed dogs look like one parent, others like the other. In a single litter. Hypoallergenic? No more so than the pure breeds with the right coat qualities. Even if you get the most lovely puppy, there is no way you can reproduce it with genetic predictability.

A popular myth is that mixed breeds, whether deliberate or accidental, are less susceptible to diseases. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, they are just as likely to inherit the susceptibility to genetic diseases from all breeds in the mix. If you decide to adopt a mixed breed, it is important to educate yourself on the issues of both, or all, breeds represented in your dog because you just don’t know what might manifest.

A mixed breed or shelter dog may be a good choice for some people, but please, please, educate yourself on the breeds that make up your dog. Know how big she’ll get. Understand the behavior implications. So many animals end up in shelters and rescue because people didn’t understand that the cute puppy from the shelter or pet store would become a dog.

A responsible breeder will make sure that you know what you are getting, and quite frankly, if she has any doubts about YOU, you won’t be getting one of her puppies. We’ve spent years building our lines, creating the best possible dogs we can. We want to be sure you will take as good care of your dog as we do of ours.

DO NOT BUY A PUPPY AT A PET STORE.  Commercial breeders who sell to pet stores do not have the same standards as responsible hobby breeders. Full stop. Do not confuse the two. Breeders, like me, who show their dogs to their championships, have one or two litters per year. At most. Our goal is to continually improve our breed.  And we vet YOU just as carefully as you select US.

Dog overpopulation is an issue in some parts of the US but not everywhere. In many states, like Massachusetts, shelters have to import dogs from the south and Puerto Rico to meet demand. I find this so bizarre. Why not buy a locally-bred purebred, where you can visit the home, see the dam, and have a bit more predictability about your pet and its behavior?

For the Obamas, with young children with allergies, the best family solution is a purebred.

But that may not be the political choice. And here’s my plea to president-elect Obama. Choose what’s best for the family and the dog. Screw politics. Please.

Dog. Family. Important.

Politics. In this? Not so much.

HSUS wants you to adopt a shelter dog. They are PUSHING for you to adopt a shelter dog. If you could find the right shelter dog, great. But the chances for success for a family with young children are much better with a purebred puppy that can bond with your family from an early age AND has predictable behavior characteristics.

I know you are enamored with the doodles. Understand that it is a genetic crap shoot. Not necessarily hypoallergenic. Definitely not a pure breed.

Please add the right dog to your family. One that fits. So many of your decisions as President will be political. Give your kids, your family, and the dog the best chance for success. Do NOT let politics make this important decision for you.

How about the rest of us? What should we do? The same principles apply, and I would also ask you to think carefully about the animal charities you support. Make sure that the charity actually cares about animal welfare, and is more than just a lobbying group. Does it contribute to the actual WELFARE of animals? Is it trying to improve the health of our dogs and cats? Does it really care about you as a pet owner or are you just the financial means to an end?

Just ask.

Finally, the other post-election dog news was from a dog already living in the White House. In defense of Barney, and not just because the Scottish Terrier is my breed, I just want to go on record that I would have bit the reporter too. What a dope, waving papers near the dog’s face and coming down on his head like that.

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