Wrong choices?— part two

2014-01-23 00:00

TOWARDS the end of the pups’ stay, I asked the owner for a second meeting. I told him that abnormal sibling rivalry had occurred in my assistant’s presence, but not with me. The chance of success in a future relationship with the family was highly improbable and ideally the pups should be homed separately, to owners who could meet their mental needs, especially with regards to temperaments and adequate space.

The owner indicated his willingness to consider this. A few days later, he arrived with two vehicles and took them. He had decided to keep one and his niece the other, with the assurance they would be exercised daily. I offered my services with regards to successful pack-hierarchy maintenance with his resident older dogs, but nothing further has developed.

Border collies have mostly been utilised as working dogs on farms, but over time have been acquired as pets in suburban households. Due to high energy levels, the breed’s specific mental needs are often not met adequately and they subsequently end up manifesting inappropriate behaviour. Examples are excessive barking, howling, digging up plants or irrigation systems, escaping from properties, chasing cars or herding children and any other pets. In the process of herding, they may also nip.

The other extremely disturbing aspect of the Border collie owner’s experience was the acquisition of the two puppies from a person who acts as an agent for puppy-breeding facilities known as puppy mills or back-yard breeders. These are places where focus is on profit, with minimal concern about humane conditions. Veterinary care, climate control or inappropriate exposure to the elements are not a big deal. A female dog will be bred every time she goes into oestrus, thereby precluding her from a substantial recuperation period.

In puppy mills, breeding dogs can spend most of their lives in cramped cages, with little or no room to interact or exercise. Food and water sources may be contaminated, resulting in disease and malnourishment. Puppies are quite often found with bleeding or swollen paws, severe tooth decay, ear infections, dehydration and lesions on their eyes, which can lead to partial or total blindness. Living in their own urine and faeces for lengthy periods is also quite common. Agents acting for these businesses will quite often give prospective pet owners wrong information as to the breeder, breed source, pup’s ages, or will conceal health-related issues. When animal-welfare laws are flouted, these locations are frequently hidden from the public eye so as not to be reported.

Professional breeders, firstly, will allow a female dog to breed only every second season. Secondly, they will almost never offer two female puppies, due to the likelihood of abnormal sibling rivalry occurring, especially at 18 months of age.

It is imperative that pups are sourced from reputable shelters or breeders to make it difficult for these mills to do business. If there is the slightest suspicion of questionable activities, relevant law-enforcement authorities should be alerted. A standard question that people should ask any puppy supplier is the name of the relevant vet. If this information is given, ask the vet for an opinion of the breeder. Should the name be withheld, that in itself is a red flag.

• Steve van Staden is a canine behaviour specialist and can be contacted via his website www.dogtor

steve.co.za Advice is dispensed only in face-to-face meetings with owners and their pets.

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