Absolutely. Together with the shelters that I work with, we try very hard to educate.
You’ll see another post where I mentioned that all pure breeds as we know them have a purpose. There is no much information available on the Internet these days that it is almost impossible to not research a breed before buying a pup. Any Labrador owner will tell you that they display puppy behaviour until they are middle-aged and this info is available on just about every Lab site on the Internet. Yet people still express shock and dismay when, at 18 months, the (normally only dog in the home) dog is still chewing things, knocking children over and the like. The bulk of dogs surrendered to shelters are either just out of cute puppy stage, or in their teenage years.
Currently there is a big furore about our SPCAs not allowing breed-specific rescues to foster certain breeds and take them out of the SPCA system. To give context to my article, that was the subject that I was trying to tackle. If people were more informed about their breed before choosing it based on whatever movie they have seen, or perhaps a friend has a nice dog who suddenly becomes an ambassador for an entire breed, perhaps we wouldn’t see so many in shelters.
A new mum with a tiny baby (as I was), or even a mum with a toddler (as I am) will struggle to balance the development of human baby and dog baby. When our baby came home at 7.5 months, we had a puppy, and it was extremely hard finding the balance despite me having a career in dogs and their behaviour.
As a behaviourist I often see dogs (Labs more so than any other breed) relegated to being outside sleepers and kept pretty much entirely away from the family because they are so clumsy and boisterous, snatch food out of the children’s hands, destroy the kids toys, etc.
Of course it just makes the situation worse as when the dog does get to interact with the family, it is now even more excited, more clumsy, more boisterous, and the cycle perpetuates itself.
In that instance I feel it is better to approach the BSRO and see what dogs are looking for homes that have been exposed to children, have some low level obedience training, are house-trained, etc. There are plenty of dogs in the system who match up with those requirements and are far better suited to the young family environment than a baby puppy is.
Conversely I also get phone calls from people who have had puppies and babies together, and “suddenly” the now grown-up pup is snapping at the kids. As a breeder you will know that biting doesn’t just happen overnight, but puppies are less equipped to defend themselves and tend to get dragged around or carried around, and they try to show their discomfort, ultimately ending in a bite as they mature because it is the only means they know to Make It Stop. For me it is the worst possible thing when a pup that started as a blank canvas has now been labelled as unsafe with kids.
Part of that, of course, is selecting the right pup from the litter — one whose temperament is most suited to the new family environment. And then it is on the shoulders of the new owners to develop that pup. An ethical breeder will help you with that; a backyard breeder will not.
I think we could discuss this for days but I feel we are on the same page and share a common goal: to educate folks into making the right decision, respecting their dog and having a long and happy life with them.
Dogs remain one of the easiest desires to fulfil; anyone can buy a dog from anywhere, but it should be that people put real thought into the decision and understand that dogs are sentient, thinking beings. A whole lot of factors come into play when choosing one to share your life with you and it’s not simply a case of buying a puppy because it’s cute, and because you’ve met one or two nice dogs of the breed.
It should not be a process handled so callously, and sadly it is. That’s why we have the quantities of dogs in shelters that we do. The absolute minority of those dogs will have come from ethical breeders, but rather from people making a buck, with absolutely no interest in either breeding for the betterment of the breed, nor in providing any sort of support for the new owners.