Dogs For Dummiesby Gina Spadafori
These days, people's dogs have become bona fide members of the family. Moving from the kennel to the couch, they share our beds, family rooms, and holidays; and they are recipients of our kindest and utmost concern. A pet partnership is a lifetime commitment. Do it right, and your dog will become an important and valuable part of the family for many years. Do it
These days, people's dogs have become bona fide members of the family. Moving from the kennel to the couch, they share our beds, family rooms, and holidays; and they are recipients of our kindest and utmost concern. A pet partnership is a lifetime commitment. Do it right, and your dog will become an important and valuable part of the family for many years. Do it wrong, and you've broken a sacred covenant between humankind and another living being.
Dogs For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is for you if you are looking to adopt a dog, trying to improve the relationship with the one you have, or attempting to come up with fun things to do with your canine companion. This book is also for people who want to
- Choose the right veterinarian
- Explore the dog-breeding business
- Find breed-rescue groups
- Identify canine health problems
- Look for a purebred
It's a "doggy-dog" world, and this easy-to-use guide will help you navigate it. Improve your chances at pet success by knowing how to raise and live with your dog properly. Discover which breed best suits your lifestyle, and if a puppy or adult dog is best for you. Dogs For Dummies, 2nd Edition, also covers the following topics and more:
- Caring for an aging dog
- Choosing collars, harnesses, halters, and leashes
- Considering euthanasia
- Feeding Fido the right way
- House training puppies and adult dogs
- Keeping up appearances with good grooming
- Participating in canine competitions
- Preparing your dog for a disaster
- Traveling with your dog
Award-winning author Gina Spadafori says the lack of accurate information — not the lack of effort or concern — is often the reason for doomed people-pet pairings. With her help, you can avoid the agony. Dogs For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is full of useful tips, how-to advice, illustrations, and photographs (both color and black-and-white). You deserve a healthy, happy, and well-mannered canine companion; and you'll be the owner every pet wants and deserves —informed, responsible, and loving.
Read an Excerpt
Narrowing the Field
In This Chapter
- Choosing a mixed breed
- Evaluating purebreds
- Choosing a puppy or grown dog? Male or female?
- Considering cost
If I ask you to choose a subject you feel certain everyone has an opinion on, what would you pick? Politics? Religion? Sports?
I've never met a person who couldn't answer this question: What's your favorite (or least favorite) breed of dog?
Even people who'd never own a dog, wouldn't think of petting one, and cross the street when one approaches are interested enough in dogs to know -- or be misinformed about -- the breed they'd least like to be confronted by. As for dog lovers, the topic of breed favorites can keep conversation going -- civilly, one hopes -- for hours. Even people who prefer all-Americans -- the politically correct term for "mutt" -- show a definite affinity for breed type: curly-headed little poodle mixes, strapping Lab crosses, or scrappy terrier crosses.
What exactly is a breed? Do papers make the dog? Does popularity? Some crosses such as the cockapoo -- one parent a cocker, the other a poodle -- are so common that people start to think of them as a breed in their own right. And while purebred registries aren't in the business of recognizing such dogs, groups are springing up all the time to acknowledge their popularity.
Simply put, a purebred dog is one that, when bred with another of its kind, produces more of the same. Breed a poodle to a poodle and you get a litter of smart, curly-coated wonders. Breed a cocker to a cocker and you get long-eared, sweet natured pups with eyes you can get lost in.
Breed a cockapoo to a cockapoo, though, and you won't necessarily get more of the same. Some pups may look like the parents, some like poodles, and some like cockers.
The ability to produce predictable traits when bred is what defines a purebred. Which makes the cocker spaniel a breed, and so, too, the poodle, but not cockapoos -- or terra-poos, peke-a-poos, or Labradoodles.
I became convinced of breed craziness years ago when I realized that the dog show is the only sporting event where 90 percent of the spectators couldn't care less about the winner. People come for a variety of reasons, the following being only a few:
- For the pure and simple pleasure of looking at the dogs
- To talk about the dogs
- To look at breed-related merchandise -- key chains, books, and "I love my Doberman!" bumper stickers
- To celebrate their last dog acquisition -- "that Akita looks just like Kiro!" -- or their next
- To debate the relative merits of the three kinds of setters -- English, Irish, and Gordon
- To argue if taller, like an Irish Wolfhound, or heavier, like the Newfoundland, is the criterion for "biggest," and which one eats more
- To marvel at the contrasts between long-legged and short-legged, between slender and stocky, between big and little
- To celebrate the dog, in all its many incredible variations
But mark my words: No matter how many breeds they study, how many they talk about, how many they touch, the people leaving a dog show take with them the sure knowledge that their favorite breed -- or favorite breed type -- is best. Everyone believes that everyone else is slightly daft, or sorely misguided, not to share this point of view.
Reputable breeders strive to produce dogs that closely conform to a document called the breed standard, a blueprint that lays out the rules for things as major as size and as relatively minor as the distribution of dots on a Dalmatian. The breed clubs decide the rules, and organizations such as the American Kennel Club serve as the keeper of the standard. Dog show judges follow these standards to make their choices. American breed standards -- along with official breed histories -- are collected in The Complete Dog Book (Howell Book House/Macmillan General Reference), the AKC bible now in its 18th edition. (Other registries will share their breed standards if you write to them -- see this book's "Additional Resources" appendix for more information.) Reading the standard is worth a trip to the library, if for no other reason than to keep from paying extra for a "rare" dog, such as a white boxer, only to find out later that the reason the animal is so uncommon is because it's disqualified under the breed standard. That doesn't mean the dog won't be a fine pet, though!
To find out more about what those judges are actually looking for and how a dog becomes a champion, see Chapter 16.
Mixed breeds, mongrels, or mutts. Call them anything you want, but millions of them are out there, each and every one of them a true original.
Some people tell you that getting a mixed breed is a huge gamble. You don't know how big your puppy will get or what she will look like when she's grown. You don't know if her father is a purebred dog with bad hips and a roving eye. You don't know if the circumstances of her birth and lack of early socialization by owners who wanted neither her nor her littermates and could not dump them fast enough will have long-term consequences that will make her unsuitable as a family pet.
All of these statements are true. But let me clue you in: It's all a crapshoot at the end, even with purebred dogs. You do the most you can to better the odds in your favor, close your eyes, say a prayer, and throw the dice.
And you can do things to improve your odds with mixed-breed dogs. Work with shelters and rescue groups that test the temperament and check out the health of the animals they put up for adoption. The best ones take the concept of "adoptability" a step further, putting dogs with problems through training and working with new owners after placement to smooth over the rough spots. You can find more on dealing with shelters and rescue groups in Chapter 3.
What you should not do is encourage irresponsibility by taking a mixed-breed puppy from the kids outside the supermarket or from the woman selling them for $5 at the flea market. Nor should you buy a mixed-breed dog from a pet store or from someone who breeds them intentionally.
Why? Do you really think people who just want to "dump" puppies have taken care of the mother during pregnancy? Do you think they've given the puppies proper food and medical care, shots, and worming on schedule? Do you think someone who produces mixed-breed puppies intentionally -- cockapoos, peke-a-poos, or super-sized pit-bull mixes -- is concerned with how many unwanted dogs die every year? When you realize that almost every breed club in the country has in its code of ethics a pledge not to sell to pet shops, what does that leave you with?
I'll tell you. People who shouldn't be breeding dogs. People who are contributing to the millions of dogs put to sleep as surplus or unwanted every year. People who haven't educated themselves enough to care or have chosen to ignore the consequences of their actions.
Don't encourage this behavior. Do consider a mixed-breed dog, and look for one in a shelter or from a rescue group.
You can do more things with mixed-breed dogs than ever before. You can get them certified as a Canine Good Citizen (see Chapter 15 for more on this program). You can train them and take them to the highest levels of national obedience competitions. You can train for the sport of agility. (More on these in Chapter 16.)
And you can love the heck out of them and be loved in return, which is, after all, the highest calling any dog can follow.
The rest of this chapter is a broad overview of the more than 150 breeds available in the United States and Canada today. I've divided them into eight groups, the first seven of which are American Kennel Club classifications. For information on purebred dogs in other countries, see the list of canine registries in this book's "Additional Resources" appendix.
- Non-AKC breeds
Why go with the American Kennel Club groupings? Because the venerable AKC is the Microsoft of the dog world, omnipresent and dominant, with an impact on all things dog. Only the Kennel Club, in Great Britain, can touch the AKC's clout. Other registries exist, including the Canadian Kennel Club, and, in the United States, the United Kennel Club and the American Rare Breed Association. But no canine organization, and there are thousands all over the world, is better known than the American Kennel Club, for better or for worse. I've used AKC rankings and groupings for examples in this chapter, but the popularity and availability of a breed in any particular country varies. For more information, contact one of the registries listed in the "Additional Resources" appendix of this book.
Most purebred dogs in the United States are registered with the AKC, which also awards titles for show championships and other dog sports. Although the organization has assumed investigative and educational responsibilities over the years, the AKC is primarily in the business of processing paperwork. "AKC" is not a brand name, like Sony or Chevrolet. The organization, which is actually a federation of breed and kennel clubs, neither breeds dogs nor certifies breeders.
Your chances of getting a Labrador or chow chow or French bulldog with the qualities associated with the breed rely on your ability to find a reputable breeder. So bear in mind as you study breeds that the wonderful qualities associated with, say, the golden retriever, are much more likely to be found in a dog purchased from a knowledgeable and reputable breeder. Chapter 3 offers information on choosing a breeder.
Remember -- no dog is perfect
Every breed is perfect for someone, but no breed is suitable for everyone. Some breeds or breed types -- because of reasonable size and activity levels, low-maintenance coats, high trainability, and low dominance -- fit in a majority of dog-loving homes. Many of these breeds are not as well-known as others, and I've singled these and some others out for special consideration if you're looking to add a furry bundle to your home.
Still, no matter what any expert says, you're the one who has to live with your choice. So do your homework, be realistic, and proceed with caution.
I provide the background of the dogs in each of these groupings so that you can get a sense of what the breed was developed to do, which is an important step in determining how it will fit into your life. Note: When I mention breeds that are good or bad, the terms are not used to denigrate the breed itself, but rather to evaluate its suitability as a pet in an "average" family with neither the background nor the time to work with a less-suitable breed.
Genetic defects are common in purebred dogs, thanks to unscrupulous or ignorant breeders. In addition to being a poor choice for a family pet, a sick dog can cost you lots of money. Among the most common inherited defects is hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joint. While hip dysplasia is widespread in medium- and large-sized dogs, other common congenital defects are more breed-specific, such as deafness in Dalmatians. You must become aware of which defects are common in whatever breed you choose so that you know to find a puppy whose parents are have been checked out by a registry such as the Orthopedic Foundation of America or the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.
CD-ROMs are another great resource for choosing and living with a dog. Two that I like are Microsoft Dogs (Microsoft Home, for PCs; $34.95) and Multimedia Dogs: The Complete Interactive Guide to Dogs (Inroads Interactive, for PCs and Macintosh; $29.95.). Both offer good basic information on dozens of breeds, as well as tips on care and quizzes to test your "Dog IQ."
The sporting group
Some of the best dogs for families are in this group, so you shouldn't be surprised that some of the most popular breeds, including the No. 1 breed, the Labrador retriever, also call the sporting group home. Two other sporting dogs -- the golden retriever and the cocker spaniel -- routinely claim spots in the AKC's top 10.
Like the hounds, these are hunting dogs. Unlike the hounds, sporting dogs cannot trace an ancestry to the earliest stages of human/dog companionship. Their development is more recent and is tied to the invention of the device that changed the world in so many other respects: the gun.
Sporting dogs -- setters, pointers, retrievers, and spaniels -- were developed not to chase and to kill game, but to help firearms-equipped hunters locate game birds, to flush the birds from hiding places so that they could be shot and, finally, to bring back the dead and injured to the hunter's hand without further damage. While the traditional work of many breeds -- such as the bulldog, bred to fight a bull for the bloody amusement of the masses -- is thankfully no longer available, many sporting dogs still practice their craft. Thousands are dual-purpose animals: Family pets who roll around with children by day and sleep on the beds by night, they are also working dogs who spend fall weekends joyously slogging through half-frozen fields with the hunter of the family.
Nor is their work confined to hunting. Within this group are two breeds -- golden and Labrador retrievers -- most commonly trained to serve as helpers for people who are blind or use wheelchairs. In addition, the keen noses of sporting dogs have been put to good use detecting drugs or explosives.
Most of these dogs are large, but not overly so, for a massive breed would possess neither the agility nor the stamina to survive a day in the field. Some smaller breeds are in this group, too -- most notably the cocker spaniel, a happy little dog that doesn't do much hunting but has taken a couple of turns at the top of the popularity charts.
Coats are pretty reasonable in this group, as befits any class of dogs bred to spend time amongst the brambles -- short, medium, and wiry coats are the rule. The exception is the cocker spaniel and, to some extent, the golden retriever, breeds that rarely hunt anymore and have more coat than would make sense for a field dog to bear.
Sporting breeds in brief
History: The first dog registered with the American Kennel Club in 1886 was from the sporting group, the English setter Adonis. The sporting group, which once included hounds, was one of two original groups -- the other was non-sporting -- and sporting dogs have been important in every imaginable canine endeavor ever since.
Most popular: Labrador retriever, No. 1 in AKC ranking.
Least popular: Sussex spaniel, No. 138 in AKC ranking.
Small- to medium-sized breeds (24 to 50 pounds): American water spaniel, Brittany, cocker spaniel, English cocker spaniel, English springer spaniel, field spaniel, Sussex spaniel, Welsh springer spaniel.
Large breeds (50 to 80 pounds): Chesapeake Bay retriever, Clumber spaniel, curly-coated retriever, English setter, flat-coated retriever, German shorthaired pointer, German wirehaired pointer, golden retriever, Gordon setter, Irish setter, Irish water spaniel, Labrador retriever, pointer, Vizsla, Weimaraner, wirehaired pointing griffon.
Activity level: Most sporting breeds have energy to burn, but the heavy, low-slung Clumber and Sussex spaniels are relatively calm.
Some lesser-known breeds worth a good look:
Popularity often breeds disaster, and that's certainly true of some breeds in this group. The cocker spaniel, in fact, could be the poster dog for the problems of popularity. What could be a near-perfect family dog should be sold with a warning label today because of health and temperament problems caused by bad breeders. Some cockers are so unstable they cannot be trusted around children; others are made miserable by no fewer than a half-dozen common congenital problems. You have to be very careful when dealing with this breed and find a reputable breeder. The same is true of others in this group, most notably the Labrador and golden retrievers. For more on finding a dog that typifies what these breeds should be, see Chapter 3.
In many sporting breeds, some dogs differ enough in body structure and temperament that they could almost be separate breeds. In most of these breeds, the split is between show and field; that is, dogs bred with lots of coat and a more laid-back attitude for the show ring versus dogs bred for hunting instinct, a more practical amount of coat, and an intensity for work that is a must in field competitions. Unless you intend to hunt with your pet, a dog from a reputable show breeder is probably a better bet, because the energy and intensity of a field-trial dog is a poor fit with all but the most active households.
The hound group
The hound group consists of scent hounds (dogs who hunt by scent), sight hounds (dogs who hunt by sight), and one breed, the dachshund that, based on its development to "go to ground" after vermin, arguably belongs with the terriers. Some of the oldest known of the world's breeds, such as the saluki and greyhound, are in this group, as well as breeds that have been in the United States since before the Revolutionary War. (George Washington kept foxhounds at Mount Vernon; he kept records on his dogs back to 1758.)
The size range is dramatic in this group, from miniature dachshunds, about five inches tall at the shoulder with a weight of less than 10 pounds, to the tallest dog of all, the Irish wolfhound, more than 30 inches tall and weighing more than 100 pounds.
For many of these breeds, you need look no further than their names to find the key to their origin: Otterhounds were developed in England to hunt otters; rabbits were the prey of harriers. For other breeds, this naming trend doesn't hold true; the Pharaoh in Pharaoh hound is a reference not to the dog's preferred game, but to his antiquity. The petit basset griffon Vendeen was bred to hunt rabbits in France, but you wouldn't know that from the name, which means "small, low-slung, wire-coated dog of Vendee," (Vendee being a French province).
Two of the most recognizable breeds in the world are in this group -- the basset hound and the dachshund. So, too, is one of the world's most unusual breeds, the Basenji, which is incapable of barking and communicates pleasure by chortling or yodeling.
Some wonderful potential pets are in this group, most notably the beagle, a happy, sturdy dog considered to be an outstanding companion for children. Highly recommended, too, is the basset hound. With the growth of rescue organizations, greyhounds are becoming an increasingly popular pet as word has gotten out on the sweet nature of former racers.
Do not expect hound breeds to watch your every step out of doors, however: They've got better things to do, following their nose and their eyes as their heritage demands. "Come" can be a difficult concept for many hounds.
Coats are generally low-maintenance: Most, but not all, of these are short- or wire-haired. The most notable exception is the Afghan hound, whose long silky coat tangles and mats quickly without constant attention.
As with the sporting breeds, some hounds are divided into show and field types. The energy and intensity of field hounds makes them less suited for the job of pet, so stick with reputable show breeders for a temperament that's easier to get along with.
Hound breeds in brief
History: The most ancient of all known breeds can be found in this group; the first hounds -- a basset hound, beagle, bloodhound, dachshund, greyhound, and harrier were registered with the AKC in 1885. The hound breeds were originally classified with the sporting breeds but got their own group in the late 1920s.
Most popular: Beagle, No. 5 in AKC ranking.
Least popular: Otterhound, No. 137 in AKC ranking.
Tiny breeds (less than 20 pounds): Dachshunds, standard and miniature.
Small- to medium-sized breeds (20 to 50 pounds): Basenji, basset hound, beagle, harrier, Norwegian elkhound, petit basset griffon Vendeen, whippet.
Large breeds (50 to 80 pounds): Afghan hound, American foxhound, black and tan Coonhound, English foxhound, greyhound, Ibizan hound, Pharaoh hound, Rhodesian ridgeback, saluki.
Giant breeds (more than 80 pounds): bloodhound, borzoi, Irish wolfhound, otterhound, Scottish deerhound.
Activity level: Most hounds have energy to burn, but many breeds are fairly calm in the house.
Some lesser-known breeds worth a good look:
(This chapter has been abridged.)
Meet the Author
Gina Spadafori is affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network and is an essayist for Pets.com. She's also the award-winning coauthor of Cats For Dummies® and Birds For Dummies®.
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Be aware that this is a miniature edition! (I assume the book also comes in a full size.) I was surprised to see the book is about 3 inches by 3 inches--so there obviously isn't much information in the 128 pages. (I just read it in about 10 minutes)