Responsible Dog Ownership, Support Responsible Breeders

What Are You Paying For?

Recently, I’ve written a few posts discussing some of the reasons a puppy from a responsible breeder can be worth a considerable amount of money. Considerations are health, temperament, breeder support and so forth. But like many things in life, more expensive does not always  mean better.

If you were to see a fancy, new sports car for sale your local craigslist for $6,000, the first words out of your mouth would likely be, “What’s wrong with it?” The likelihood of a brand new, fancypants (yes, that’s the technical term) sports car in good condition being sold for that extremely affordable price is very low. It would likely have a salvage title, or some sort of mechanical issue.

Fancypants sports car

Conversely, if you found a 1999 Geo Metro with 200,000 miles for sale for the same price of $6,000 you may raise your eyebrows a bit.  The car is really nothing to write home about and the seller must be delusional to think they would ever get that amount.

Geo Metro

We use this type of critical thinking all the time in our daily lives. Any time we are buying something, we ask ourselves, “What am I paying for? Is this worth it?”

We need to start taking that same mentality and applying it to dog shopping. Just like used car dealerships sometimes try to bamboozle buyers with technical terms and flashy sales techniques, there are puppy producers who have found buzz words to increase the perceived value of a sub par product.

“Exotic!” “Champion Bloodlines” “Original Bloodlines” “Old World” “Rare Colors” “Wooly Coat” These are all terms that can seem appealing to unsuspecting puppy buyers. As humans, we all want something rare and unique. We want to be able to say, “Oh, he’s a double dapple” like it’s something special. Or say, “Oh no, he’s not a malamute, he’s a Woolly Husky!

If it’s not the fancy color or coat that’s appealing, maybe it’s the fact that you can say, “His grandpa was a champion!” or “His bloodlines go straight back to Italy, where the breed is from”

To go back to the car analogy, it’s much like going to a car lot, seeing a car that’s a cool color, having the sales person talk up the car, but never looking at the statistics on the car, not checking the miles, and never considering the MPG. You might drive off the lot having spent a considerable amount of money on a car that is not worth it, merely because you like the way it looked. $6000 is a lot of money, but it’s nothing compared to the nightmare of a money pit you might end up with if you buy the wrong car.


I’m going to pick on huskies in this post, but the concepts hold true for every breed. The photo above is a screenshot of a puppy producer who regularly sells puppies for upwards of $1,300. For some breeds, that’s a steal. But for a husky in my area, it’s very steep. Why are these dogs worth so much? I have no idea! Based on their facebook posts, it’s clear that they’re breeding their dogs young (under two years old), don’t health test, and breed for traits that are not correct in the breed such as a woolly coat and being oversized.

An AKC registered, health tested Siberian Husky from a responsible breeder in the US generally sells for $600 – $800 for a companion dog and closer to $1,200 for a show prospect. Their health tests are from nationally recognized organizations and they dedicate their time, money and love to ensuring they’re doing what’s best for each individual puppy. They have strict standards for potential puppy buyers and take their dogs back at any time for any reason if the buyer can’t keep them. They strive to educate puppy buyers on the challenges of owning a husky. The breed is known for being vocal, digging and roaming.  While the breed is a good fit for many, these traits can be a deal breaker for some.

Correct Husky
A husky bred by a responsible breeder in keeping with the breed standard. Photo used with permission.

A well bred, correct Siberian Husky is valuable for many reasons, and none of the important ones have anything to do with a show ring. First of all, a responsible breeder is specifically breeding for correct temperament. There’s going to a certain predictability to the dog’s behavior, so if you’re buying a husky because you  did your research and are looking for certain traits, buying from a responsible breeder is going to increase your chances of getting the dog you’re looking for.

Everyone wants their pet to be happy and healthy, so health testing is another very important part of the breeding process. You want to know if the dog is genetically predisposed to certain issues, and you want a breeder who not only has health tested, but also has records of your puppy’s parents’, grandparents’ and siblings’ health. Keep in mind that your dog’s health is dependent on a variety of factors and genetics is only part of the puzzle. But getting your dog from a responsible breeder will give you as good a start as you can hope for.

Correct structure is something that is vastly underrated when people are looking for a pet. A dog that has correct structure is going to be built in such a way that they’re not putting unnecessary stress on certain joints. If their chest doesn’t have the right angulation, every time the step forward they will have to overcompensate to gain enough reach. That overcompensation puts strain on the shoulder joint and ligaments increasing chances of injury.  That’s not to say a well bred dog can’t get injured, but a balanced dog moves with ease.

Along with important physical aspects, a dog from a responsible breeder comes with breeder support. Whether the dog is ten months or ten  years old, a good breeder will want to be kept up to date on how they’re doing. Have a serious life change and can’t keep the dog? The breeder will either take the dog back or help you re-home him. You have questions because your 6 month old Bernese Mountain Dog won’t stop eating….EVERYTHING? Call the breeder! They’ve raised a significant number of not only the same breed, but your dog’s relatives! They will be able to tell you if the behavior is normal and give suggestions.  You don’t know how valuable this type of support is until you have it.


Part of breeder support is also having a breeder who is involved with the local dog community. They will have personal knowledge of the trainers and groomers in your area and if you don’t live near your area, they will have contacts in the national dog community and often be able to recommend someone. They’re main goal is your puppy living a long, happy, healthy life.

So if a person can buy a well bred husky for $600-$1,200, why are people paying well over that for poorly bred ones? There are a number of reasons for this, but the two main reasons are 1) people are often too impatient to wait for the right breeder and 2) pure salesmanship. This goes for any breed.  When a puppy producer’s main goal is to make money, they will spend the time and energy to get flashy websites with high quality photos. They often have a very big presence on social media with many followers and use certain phrases to increase the “perceived value” of their product. There are  responsible breeders who can have flashy websites and the like, but many of them are spending their money on health testing, dog sports, and training. They’re “out with the dogs” so to speak and don’t always prioritize sales.

This is where telling people that the dog is somehow special because he’s a “Woolly Husky” comes into play. People will pay extra because they think they’re getting something rare or special, when really what they’re getting is hours and hours of grooming and vacuuming up hair.


And if they’re not willing to put in the time and work that it takes to take care of that “woolly” coat, it can seriously affect the dog’s health and happiness. I saw this all the time when I was grooming, and not just with huskies. “Doodle” owners would come in all the time with with a deep misunderstanding of their dogs’ coat. I have had more than one person tell me “He’s a doodle so he doesn’t shed, so he doesn’t need groomed as much as a poodle.” What? No! In some cases, I would end up having to shave their severely matted dog down to the skin.

Wolley husky grooming.jpg
If you do not groom your “woolly husky” regularly it can be detrimental for their health and you may end up having to shave them down – sometimes the fur never grows back the same. Note the red, irritated patches of skin on the dog’s side.

There are plenty of breeds out there that need extensive grooming and regular coat maintenance, but what makes puppy producers breeding specifically for incorrect coat texture stand out is the lack of education they give their puppy buyers. Like I’ve said before, there’s a gradient of puppy producers, so sure there are some that explain the challenges that come with this type of coat, but the majority of buyers walk into this with no concept of the amount of time, training and energy it takes just to care for the dog’s hair.

The same thing happens with puppy producers who breed specifically for things like a “double dapple” coat, extreme brachycephaly (squishy face dogs), and other “exotic” traits. Many animals bred for double dapple coats are born deaf or blind and extremely flat faced dogs often need expensive surgery to help them breathe. In some cases, the average puppy buyer is paying thousands of dollars more for these “unique” features.

Just because a puppy producer is selling a dog for an astronomical price, does not mean they are a responsible breeder. If the breeder isn’t checking the boxes that you prioritize as responsible, you need to keep looking and researching. You’re going to have that dog for the next 10 – 15 years….I guarantee it is worth it to wait and find the right dog from the right breeder.

*Featured photo used with permission.


Previous Post: Why I’m Done Using The Term “Backyard Breeder” 

Responsible Dog Ownership, Support Responsible Breeders

Why I’m Done Using the Term “Backyard Breeder”

Whether your involvement in the dog world is through the purebred fancy, shelter/rescue, or simply owning a pet, you’ve likely heard of  “backyard breeders”.
The term generally brings to mind various images of uneducated people breeding their dogs willy-nilly for money. Perhaps they have dirty, unkept kennels and algae infested water bowls, or maybe they’re pumping out puppies at an unhealthy rate. Closely related to this term is the label “puppy mill”with even worse connotations. Both of these phrases go hand in hand.

backyard breeder
The image that generally springs to mind when we hear “backyard breeder”

I’ve used this term many times, including in this very blog. But I’m starting to feel an aversion to it. At first I couldn’t place why, it was just a dislike for the term in general. Then today as I was scrolling through my facebook news feed I saw a well respected breeder’s status “We do not support backyard breeders!” and I opened the little comment box and my fingers started flying at lightspeed! I wasn’t ranting or angry at the breeder,  I was just finally able to articulate why I dislike these terms – what a break through!  Instead of commenting on the breeder’s well meaning post, I decided share my thoughts on the subject here.


The first definitions that popped up on google

My first reason for disliking the terms “backyard breeder” and “puppy mill” is a lack of precision. If you took a poll, the average person would have range of definitions. The Wikipedia  definition of backyard breeder includes words like “amateur” “substandard” and “ethical, selective breeding” which are all arbitrary.  If you’re a professional breeder as opposed to an amateur, does that mean you’re no longer a “backyard breeder”? What’s the difference?  In my experience interacting with various calibers of dog breeders, almost none of them consider themselves backyard breeders, and most feel that they are the standard for responsible breeding practices.

My other issue is closely related to this lack of  precision. These terms create a deeply emotional response that encourages people to dismiss the accused. These words are not meant to engage people in a healthy discussion of responsible animal husbandry. They’re not communicating specific facts  about a specific person. They’re meant to evoke emotion and create a visceral response – and that response shuts down critical thinking and causes people to be dismissive.

It’s the equivalent of a coworker telling a you, “That guy’s a jerk!”. They didn’t present any facts or allow you to come to your own conclusions, they just told you essentially “I don’t like that person for various reasons and you shouldn’t either.” If instead someone said, “On multiple occasions that guy has taken credit for other people’s work.” You now have something specific to go on. You can use critical thinking in your interactions with that person to asses whether the accusation was founded or not. But if you’re dismissive of the person, you never have a chance to get to know them or their actions, for better or for worse.

Gradient 2prv
There is no black and white distinction between being a responsible breeder and an irresponsible one. It’s a gradient.

That’s why I like the term “puppy producer”. It’s a fact. This person produces puppies. Now, let’s use some other facts to describe what kind of a puppy producer they are.

This hypothetical puppy producer is breeding their dogs at 10 months old with no health testing. Their puppies were whelped on the back porch in a dog house and are left outside in the yard unsupervised. There is considerable waste in the back yard. They have stated that the only reason they breed is to supplement their income and will sell a puppy to anyone who pays. They have been seen kicking their dogs for barking.

These are all facts that can be proven or disproven. The picture I painted was terrible, and I would hope that the facts would elicit some sort of emotional response. But you decided your opinion based the on facts I presented. I didn’t tell you what emotion to have by saying “This guy is a backyard breeder!” or “That woman runs a puppy mill!”

The correct words to describe the above puppy producer would be “neglectful” and “abusive”. These words have precise definitions and still evoke an emotional response. We need to stop dismissing breeders for being a “puppy mill” and call it what it really is – animal abuse. And if their behavior is not technically animal abuse, you just don’t agree with their choices, tell us why. Respect your audience enough to let them make their own decision, and respect the other person enough to be clear with why you disagree with them.

The emotion attached to a catchphrase is markedly different than the emotion you arrive at on your own in response to facts. Which leads me to my next point.

When you have a word that provokes a knee-jerk emotional response, with a lack of precise definition it is inevitably going to be used to further someone’s agenda. Media headlines are full of the phrase “puppy mill” and legislation commonly goes after “backyard breeders”!  Die hard adopt don’t shop believers use the term whip up a frenzy of pitchfork wielding followers to go after breeders.

rs=w 400,cg true,m

And while I’m all for making animal neglect and abuse illegal, when we’re talking about making things illegal, we need to be precise. If we make it illegal to breed dogs in back yards, many hobby breeders who are the last bastion between certain rare breeds and extinction would be illegal. If we require certain standards of care that include facilities and kennels and prohibit whelping pups in the home, puppies would miss out on a much needed aspect of early socialization. Many breeders only have one or two litters a year. They can’t possibly afford the facilities required of them if certain legislation passed.

The more we legitimize phrases like “backyard breeder” and “puppy mill”, the more they will be used in a way that can hurt the people and practices we are trying to protect. I understand the temptation for responsible breeders to use these terms to distance themselves from certain elements of the puppy producing world. But being derogatory and dismissive of a vague “they” will only get us so far.

Rather than using vague terms to be dismissive of invisible “other” puppy producers, let’s instead start talking about what we do support. Instead of saying “We don’t support backyard breeders.” Let’s say, “We believe strongly in responsible breeding practices such as…. ” and give real life examples. This does two things. One, it still creates distance between responsible and irresponsible and two, it educates the reader on what to look for in a breeder.

Responsible Breeder Definition
Instead of saying, “You’re not a puppy mill, are you?” potential puppy buyers will learn to ask, “At what age do you start breeding your dogs?” “Where does the mother whelp her pups?” “Did your dogs pass nationally recognized health tests?” The puppy buyer can make their decision based on how the puppy producer answers.

Puppy buyers will sense the difference between respectful education and dismissive name calling. Let’s use our words to create responsible pet owners who are educated and want to buy from responsible breeders.


Responsible Dog Ownership

Dog Crates – Jail Cell or Safe Space?

A while ago I had a friend come to me for some advice. They had recently purchased an Australian Cattle Dog puppy, who while adorable, was starting to chew up important items in the house while they were gone.

Of course the first thing I did was ask why they didn’t crate train their puppy.  You can imagine my surprise when my normally easy going friend leaned towards me and hissed, “I am NOT locking my dog in a…. CAGE!!”

My friend is not alone in thinking that crating a dog is on par with locking his loved one in a cage. Technically, a dog crate fits the definition of a cage, and as an adult human, the concept of being locked in a cage is completely abhorrent. The emotion behind this feeling is shared by many new dog owners.

There are many amazing articles out there already discussing the advantages to crate training, but I think the general concept needs to be addressed again. We live in a society that we have anthropomorphized our animals so much that we won’t even do things with them that we do with our own children.

According to behavioral measures, average adult dogs have intelligence on par with a two year old. While dogs and humans are very different, it still begs the question, would you leave your two year old at home by themselves for a few hours? What do you imagine a two year old would get up to if they were given the run of the house?  It’s ridiculous to imagine letting your toddler run rampant while you’re at work, but we’re going to let a puppy have the run of the house, then be shocked that they chewed up your slippers?

Though a crate could technically be defined as a “cage”, it’s really not conceptually much different than a crib or playpen.

A safe area filled with appropriate toys for your little one to play with….this bears a lot of similarity to a crate

Now, if you have a child who has never seen the inside of a crib or playpen and you stick them in one and leave the room for thirty minutes, that poor kid is going to have a heck of a time. There will absolutely be screaming, crying, attempts to escape, and potential long term mental issues from the negative experience.

The same could be said for a puppy. If that poor little guy has never been crated, and the first day home from the breeder or shelter they get stuffed into a crate for six hours, that is incredibly harmful.

That’s why a puppy needs to be crate trained incrementally. 90% of the advantages to crating come from the fact that once they’re appropriately trained, dogs have a positive, safe place to call their own.

Just because some people misuse a crate doesn’t mean that the crate is inherently bad. We need to stop blaming animal abuse on tools and start holding people accountable. Cribs and playpens can be used to neglect children, but most parents would be beside themselves trying to raise toddlers without those valuable tools.

Our human world is a big, often overwhelming place for dogs. Having a safe place to call their own can give an immense sense of security, often heading off behaviors like separation anxiety. You could make this safe space any place in your home like a closet, or under a table, but the main advantages to a crate are that it can be secured and moved.

Imagine being able to bring your bedroom with you any time you traveled. That’s what travel is like for a crate trained dog. Have children visiting that you don’t trust to treat your dog well? Crate your dog in a different room. It’s not a punitive for your dog, it’s the same as being able to go in your room and shut the door when you have an unwanted guest.

Master suite with attached bath?


I love my bedroom. It’s my happy place. I’m an introvert, and often get overwhelmed by crowds, loud noises and too much action. And having a bathroom attached to my room is an added bonus! But if you were to throw me in jail, I can guarantee the idea of staying in my room all day would not be as appealing, and having a bathroom “attached” to my room would not seem quite as luxurious. It’s all in perception. How you go about training your dog can mean the difference between the crate being a place of refuge or a jail cell.

I can tell you that it is industry standard for groomers and vets offices to use crates. Imagine your dog going to the vet for an injury and needing to be held overnight for observation. Do you think that the vet techs have every single dog out and about for this? No, each animal is in a their own crate to keep them safe and secure during observation. If your dog is already stressed from their injury or illness, and then start panicking because they’ve never seen the inside of a crate before, are you doing them a favor? My older dog hasn’t been crated in the house for years. But if he goes to the vet or the groomer, and they open the crate door and tell him to go in, he will get right in and lay down. Why? Because it’s not a cage to him. It’s a familiar, safe place for him to go.

As dog owners, we need to stop latching onto each emotion that jumps off the page at us as we navigate the canine world. I’ve seen methods used that at first glance seemed so wholesome and positive I was ready to throw away everything I thought I knew about training. But as I got to know the trainer and her dogs, I realized that everyone involved was stressed and they way she was going about “positive” training was actually muddling the waters and confusing the dogs. There have also been trainers who have used methods I thought I would never condone, but when applied judiciously in the right context, worked wonders on building the relationship between dog and handler.

It’s not the tool, it’s how it’s used. The responsibility falls wholly on our shoulders as dog owners. It is up to us to put in the time and work to ensure that our dogs have an appropriate perception of the dog crate.

My friend would never lock their dog in a cage, and you know what? Neither would I. But I will give them a safe, familiar place to call their own.



Part 1 – Where Are Shelter Dogs Coming From?

Part 2 – Rescues and Shelters’ Role in the Shelter Dog Problem

Part 3- Puppy Producers

Part 4 – Responsible Breeders











Responsible Dog Ownership, Support Responsible Breeders, Vents

Designer Dogs – What’s the Big Deal?

I’ve briefly touched on my thoughts on the “designer breed” fad that has blown through the dog world, but I think it’s worth revisiting. When it comes to these mixes, people often assume that if you have an issue with them, it’s because you’re a purist and hate them for the mere fact that they’re mix breeds and not purebreds.

I can tell you, I do have an issue with these “designer dogs” and it’s not because they’re not “pure”.  I actually believe that a breed is more than their registry, and that educated, intentional, judicial inclusion of completely unrelated dogs can increase genetic diversity and improve a breed’s overall well being. More on that later.

My issues with these high priced mixed breeds is ultimately not their heritage. My issue is with the people producing them. I’ve talked before about how responsible vs irresponsible dog breeding is more of a gradient than strict black and white lines.

Producer vs breeder

I will be the first to acknowledge that there are some “designer dog” producers whose dogs are healthy and cared for humanely. The producers are even doing everything in their power to ensure the pups don’t end up in a shelter.

Breeding mixed dogs is not the worst thing you can do.  You could be abusing or neglecting your dogs, you could be pushing out so many litters you’re flooding your local shelters with dogs, you could be shooting your dogs when you’re done using them…. the list goes on and on.  But, there is a definite difference between responsible breeding and just producing puppies.

There are some Goldendoodle breeders who are actively trying to create a  legitimate breed. They’re working towards a breed standard, they require health testing and they have a Breeder Code of Ethics. To be honest, I really don’t have a problem with that. This isn’t aimed at them. They’re goal oriented and working hard to be educated and intentional with their breeding program. That’s how a lot of today’s breeds started out.

One big issue I have with these dogs is the “producer” mentality that so inherent in this type of business. This in my mind is what sets the “doodle’ breeders who are actively participating in the GANA apart from many other designer mix producers. Taking a Havanese and breeding it to a Poodle over and over again until they’re too old, buying new ones and doing it again, doesn’t improve the breed at all. You’re just producing more mix breed dogs. There’s no forward motion in either breed. The goal is to produce puppies and make money. They’re not a responsible breeder. They’re a puppy producer.

Responsible Breeder Definition

Then there’s the the misinformation and sly marketing that is spread by so many of these producers. If you take a look at any “peekapoo” or “beabull” website, most of them advertise their dogs as the holy grail of “the best traits from both breeds!”. Every single puppy isn’t going to to be the ideal balance between a Havanese and a Poodle. Every Bernadoodle isn’t naturally going to be born without any of the health issues from either breed. Mixing these breeds isn’t the magic spell that fixes the worlds genetic, health and behavioral issues. If that was the case, I’d be the first to sign up for a “Newfahuskycorgapom”!

Mix Breed - sucess kid

Rarely do I see any realism in these advertisements. It is practically unheard of to see a “Pomsky” breeder warning people that Huskies have a tendency to be diggers and escape artists so they might not be a good fit for them, or that the Pomeranian undercoat needs regular grooming that can be costly and time consuming.

This type of marketing gives designer mix producers the ability to charge exorbitant prices for their dogs.  Just look at this Beabull website. On the front page of this site, there are over 100 puppies selling for between $300 and $1,500. While I have no problem paying $2,500 for a well bred, dog from titled, health tested parents from a legitimate breeding program, let’s take a realistic look at these designer prices.

A well bred Husky in my area sells for about $1,200.That’s a dog who at least has a few generations of health testing behind them, correct temperament,  and a breeder who will gladly take the dog back at any point if you can’t keep them. You have a lifetime of breeder support built into that price. On the other hand, local “pomsky” producers are selling their puppies for $3,000. Yes you read that right…. THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Neither parent is health tested, often the dogs are bred very young, the dogs’ temperament isn’t even taken into consideration before breeding, and while the producer claims to take dogs back, there are multiple buyers who state she has refused.

This is the definition of a scam. All because the dog has a cutesy name and a brilliant marketing strategy.

The other thing to note about that website is the sheer number of puppies. Many of these producers pay puppy brokers to sell their pups for them. The pups turn 8 weeks old (or sometimes younger) and they go off to the broker. The producer never has to find them homes, never has to look over applications, talk on the phone with prospective buyers or anything. Some brokers take the puppies to pet shops, some just sell them online, and there are even some that sell to unethical retail rescue. There is a complete disconnect between the producer and the buyer. If in four months the buyer decides the puppy barks too much and takes it to the shelter or hands it off to someone else, no one cares.



Again, my problem isn’t with the “purity” of the designer dogs, but with the negative impact the production and marketing of these dogs has on dogs as a whole.Which leads me to my last point. Marketing these dogs as “perfect”, really hurts actual breeds that desperately need more attention. There are currently fewer Dandie Dinmont Terriers in the world than tigers. I just found out that there are only about six hundred Otterhounds alive today. Humans are naturally drawn to rare and unique things, which partly accounts for the success of designer dog marketing. So if people want rare, why don’t they go with a responsibly bred rare breed?

Because it’s much easier to be told that the dog is going to be a “perfect family dog” pay your $1,200 and leave it at that.

A laberdoodle ain’t got nothin’ on an Otterhound! Photo is of Ch. Belle River Dixieland Jazz from the Dog Breed Info Center webiste.

When a potential buyer calls about a Dinmont puppy, a responsible breeder will require a high standard of responsibility from them. The Otterhound breeder will be very honest about whether or not the breed is a good fit for their family. A Lowchen breeder won’t sell to someone they don’t believe will be able to provide the necessary level of care to meet the breed’s grooming needs.

Unsuspecting puppy buyers end up buying into dishonest marketing from puppy producers and then dogs as a whole suffer. That’s my issue with designer dogs.






Responsible Dog Ownership, Vents

Is Your Dog Friendly?

“Is your dog friendly?!”

I hate this question.

You get the sense that you have two options. One, say “yes” and agree to whatever situation the asker is trying to put your dog in, or two, say “no” and look like an irresponsible dog owner with an out of control, mean dog.

Let’s think about this question from another perspective. If someone were to ask me if I am friendly, my first response would probably be, “Yes, of course!”.

But to be 100% honest, no, I’m really not. I’m generally polite, I don’t go out of my way to harm others or to be rude. I comport myself in ways that are socially acceptable (generally).

But I’m not a hugger. I don’t like crowds. If I don’t know you, I really don’t want to touch you or let you in my personal space. That’s just my personality. I have a friend who LOVES people. She likes to meet new people, she hugs strangers, she is welcoming and social….pretty much my complete opposite.

So should I never go in public because I’m not “friendly”? Is my friend a better person because she is “friendly”? If a stranger comes up to me in Costco and touches my face, hair or clothes, am I rude for stepping away and asking them not to touch me?

There’s a lot of conversation these days that is focused on the idea of consent. And rightly so! A successful society is built on respect and consent. Don’t touch people if they don’t want to be touched. Don’t force people into situations that they’re uncomfortable with. One person’s comfort zone will be wildly different than another’s and we need to accept that.

This concept is equally applicable to situations with our dogs.

So why is it that when it comes to situations with our dogs, we tend to throw out the last 30 years of social progress? I can tell you that I’m not comfortable with a situation and that’s ok, but if I’m not comfortable with my dog being in a certain situation, now he’s not friendly?

I feel that in today’s pet climate, particularly in the US, people have this notion that all dogs must be this homogeneous “friendly” ideal. If your dog doesn’t have a “happy-go-lucky, wag while they’re kicking you, submissive” attitude, they’re “aggressive”.

And if they’re “aggressive” then it must be your fault because, as you know, “It’s all in how you raise them!” This is completely unrealistic. Behavior is a complex mixture of genetics, environment and training.  Some dogs are working through past experiences, some dogs haven’t been trained to react appropriately, and some dogs are naturally aloof. And we need to accept that.

I can tell you right now, that if you’re a stranger and you come into my house unannounced, you will have two righteously indignant Cane Corsi barking in your face. It’s not in their nature to sit back and accept strangers. There are some people they’re just never going to trust, and that’s ok.They need to be polite and well trained, but I can’t force them to like a situation or a person.

Tallulah face
This girl is all bark and no bite.

If you haven’t put in the training with my dogs, they’re not going to listen to you, and they’re not going to just accept you. If I’m home and I say you’re ok, they’ll sit on your feet and beg you to pet their rears, but don’t be fooled – if you come into the house uninvited while they’re home alone, it’s unlikely they’ll let you in.  So when I’m choosing a pet sitter, I’m going to make sure they’re qualified and have experience with the breed. I’m going to have to turn down people who offer, and that’s ok. Again, it’s about consent.

If I decide I want dogs that are generally friendly with strangers and love people, I can’t just buy another Cane Corso and figure I’ll train it differently than my other two. I won’t buy a Black Russian Terrier or a Boerboel either. I’m much better off with a Golden Retriever or a Labrador. And even then, there is variation in the breed. I would need to talk to breeders and specifically tell them what I’m looking for in the puppy.

And this is why breeds are so important. The breed of dog that’s a good fit for me, isn’t necessarily the breed that is the best fit for you. And if you’re looking to buy from a rescue or shelter, you need to try to choose a dog that will be a good fit. Do your research and remember, just because you love hugging people and your dog loves to play with other dogs, doesn’t mean I want a hug and it doesn’t mean my dogs need to play with your dogs.

Please be courteous respectful of other people’s comfort zones – even when it comes to their dogs. If you’re in an off leash area and you see someone call their dog and leash him, please do the same. Then ask, “Do you mind if our dogs interact?” and if they say “No.”‘ please remember: No means no, and that’s ok.

In my experience, if someone asks me if my dog is friendly and I respond with, “I would rather he didn’t interact with your dog.” I’m often met with, “Well, if your dog isn’t friendly, he shouldn’t be in public”  But if I replied with, “He’s a rescue and was abused for years, and he’s scared of other dogs so I’d rather not.” I’m suddenly a saint blessed with glorious purpose.

We live in a culture where to some, it is more acceptable for a dog to have been abused and be terrified of other dogs and people, than for someone to have a  purpose bred dog who is reacting to a situation in a manner consistent with their breed’s correct temperament.

Wouldn’t you prefer it if every dog was purpose bred and chosen by educated, responsible owners who did their research and selected a dog who was the right fit for them?