Why it sucks to be a breeder

Missing Caleb is making me blue

Missing Caleb is making me blue

This morning, Caleb went to his new home. I know he’ll be happy there – Kathryn and her husband currently have Maximus, Tula’s litter brother, and they’re dedicated and loving dog owners. None of this is any consolation when you’re sitting and thinking to yourself that you just broke your own heart, and all in the name of the breed standard.

Caleb, who we brought home from Paula’s a few weeks ago, just wasn’t coming together the way he should be as a show prospect. I delayed admitting that for as long as could, because looks aside, Caleb is just about the most freakin’ awesome puppy I’ve had in ages.

Anyone who does obedience will feel their hearts race when I tell you that, no matter where I was, if I turned around I’d find Caleb sitting next to me, in an attentive, performance perfect sit, usually in heel position.

“What are we doing now, mom?” you could almost hear him thinking.

For fun, I spent fifteen minutes practicing sits with him, and within the first five he had it down flawless. Curious, I tried ‘down’ – something that, for some reason, can be an issue with a lot of Frenchies. Caleb got it in two training sessions. Did I mention here he’s only thirteen weeks old? Thirteen weeks old, flawless sits and downs, walking beautifully on  lead (and sitting in heel position, all on his own), house broken and car ride trained. As Sean put it, “I think we have our first genius Frenchie”.

His structural flaws, however negligible, were still apparent. A slightly too long nose, set a bit low on his face. Ears at ten til two, instead of eleven and one. A tail set that was overly high, and, much worse, carried gay. All of it added up to a still handsome puppy, but one who was verging on pet, instead of show.

Jacob has outstripped his brother in just a few weeks

Jacob has outstripped his brother in just a few weeks

In the meantime, his weedy looking brother, Hammy (now christened Jacob), had blossomed into a solid boned, big headed dog with none of his brother’s faults, and all of the virtues he was lacking. He also had a pesky hernia that was worrisome to his new potential owners, so I took a deep breath, and I did the right thing – I offered them Caleb, in lieu of Jacob.

Yesterday, I swapped Caleb for Jacob, and this morning, Caleb headed off in his new mom and dad’s car, bound for a life in Rhode Island that will include a big brother, tons of love and loads of spoiling. Jacob is settling in just fine, and he’s great – a fun little puppy who loves naps and snuggles, and has spent most of his time since getting here chasing Pickle around the yard and harassing Delilah.

And yet, he still doesn’t feel like my dog – not yet, at least. Caleb does, though, and I feel like a bad mother for having let him leave. I’m sure he won’t miss me, or at least not for long, but  I’m going to miss the hell out of him.

I’m left thinking, for the millionth time, that sometimes it really does suck to be a dog breeder.

Breeding is Altering Canine Brain Shape

French Bulldogs have been bred for flatter faces

French Bulldogs have been bred for progressively flatter faces since the 1890s.

We’ve always known that one of the goals of breeding dogs is to alter their personality types, to give us the right dog for the right job. Bird dogs who are ‘birdy’, Border Collies who are ‘herdy’, police dogs who are scent oriented. We’ve known we can breed for certain characteristics, such as high drive prey drives or the desire to go to ground after rodents.

In Frenchies, we’ve bred our dogs to perform the ‘job’ of companionship – placid temperament, lower energy levels, a certain need and desire for human companionship, as opposed to the aloof temperament of dogs bred to work alone. We’ve assumed that we’ve accomplished this through intentional selection, but what we haven’t realized is that breeding for flatter faces has actually been altering the actual structural shape of our dogs’ brains.

From Science Daily

The brains of many short-snouted dog breeds have rotated forward as much as 15 degrees, while the brain region controlling smell has fundamentally relocated, researchers from the University of New South Wales and University of Sydney have found.

The large variations in dog skull size and shape follow more than 12,000 years of breeding for functional and aesthetic traits.

The discovery of such dramatic reorganisation of the canine brain raises important questions about impacts on dog behavior.

The research is published this month in the Public Library of Sciences journal PLoS ONE.

Scientists aren’t yet sure what overall differences in canine personality type and brain function these structural changes may have caused, although they speculate that, at the least, this had led to radical differences in the ability of flatter faced dogs to be able to determine scent.

Co-author Associate Professor Paul McGreevy from the University of Sydney noted: “We think of dogs living in a world of smell — but this finding strongly suggests that one dog’s world of smell may be very different from another’s.”

“The next obvious step is to try to find out if these changes in brain organisation are also linked to systematic differences in dogs’ brain function,” Dr Valenzuela said.

It is interesting to ponder whether the change in brain structure can be linked to any definitive changes in behaviour or personality. One thing is for sure, this makes the occasional tracking titled French Bulldog even more of an accomplishment of merit!

Puppy Photos, Day Four

Striker, tiny pied French Bulldog boy

Striker, tiny pied French Bulldog boy

All the boys are doing well – Striker, the tiny pied boy, is gaining as much weight per day as the two beefy boys, and the fawn boy (nicknamed Sidney) is also doing well. Turns out his ‘gaping umbilical’ was really more of a ‘nicely healing umbilical’. Mea culpa when it comes to being overly protective.

Tula just wants us to stop fussing with her kids, and leave her to get on with motherhood. Happy to oblige, Tula.

When does the ‘fun’ part begin?

Tula's Black masked fawn French Bulldog puppy

Tula's Black masked fawn French Bulldog puppy needs some veterinary care.

I have to take Tula’s little fawn boy to the vet after work today – seems that his umbilical isn’t healing. More accurately, instead of being a little pin point on his belly, it’s big gaping hole. I have seen this once before in a puppy, and it was easily treated – the vet put in a couple of dissolving stitches, and it was fine. Let’s hope that’s all it needs to fix him, as well.

Paula’s little guy is still not doing well. He has foamy diarrhea, and I just can’t seem to get weight on him. He was up 19 grams this morning, and now he’s back down to yesterday’s weight. We’ve got him nursing every two hours, so I’m not sure what else to try. I’m rarely stumped by a puppy, but he’s stumping me. He nurses til his tummy is full, he isn’t dehydrated, and other than the diarrhea, I don’t know why he’s not gaining.

I tried to give him some probiotic powder (fortiflora) for the diarrhea, putting a few granules on his tongue, but he vomited up all his milk, so I won’t be trying THAT again. Paula is going to bring him some flagyl, and if that doesn’t help by tomorrow, he’s off to the vet as well.

I’ve been running on two to three hours sleep a night, up every two to three to make sure the puppies are on nursing, and to give the tiny guy some extra attention.

While I’m at work today, Sean is home running in and out checking pups, putting the pen back together (Tula is a digger, and has been burying the pups under the blankets), checking for full tummies and clean bottoms, and doing piles of laundry. This afternoon I’ll drive home, meet Sean at the door, take the Fawn boy in to the vet and get back home again just in time to start my night shift on puppy watch. Thank God Sean has four days off of work between shifts, or I’d have to take the entire week off of work.

I keep getting emails from people telling me that they’re going to breed their French Bulldog once, “just for fun” – but could someone tell me when the ‘fun’ part of dog breeding is supposed to kick in?

Photos from yesterday below, or on Flickr.

Stolen Dogs and Scared Breeders

Another Ontario breeder has had dogs stolen by vistors who pretended to be potential puppy buyers. This isn’t the first time this has happened – years back, a Bulldog breeder in California lost almost every dog in their house to people who had come to ‘meet the dogs’ a few days before, and the infamous home invading Yorkie thieves gained access to the house by posing as potential purchasers. An American Eskimo breeder in Northern Ontario had a litter of puppies stolen from right out of her kitchen, and we ourselves had a puppy stolen from inside of our house – while I was at home alone with my children.

This rise in dogs stolen from right inside our homes has left a lot of breeders feeling paranoid – and a lot of puppy buyers feeling confused.

For years, we’ve told potential buyers that visiting the home of the breeder they are considering purchasing a puppy from is a great way to choose a quality breeder – and it is.  Unfortunately,  it’s also less and less common to find breeders willing to let possible buyers drop over for just a ‘meet the dogs’ visit.

Can you blame us? After all, we don’t know you – and we don’t know if your intent is to sincerely meet us and our dogs, or if you have something more nefarious in mind. Are you ‘casing’ us, trying to find out where the dogs live and what access points there might be? Are you checking to see if our doors are secure, and if there’s a gun safe sitting in our family room? As breeders, we just don’t know – and we’re all of us more and more paranoid about the possibility that your innocuous visit can turn into a house emptied of its pets.

As puppy buyers, however, it’s not unusual to want to meet the possible parents of your future puppy, in advance of picking that puppy up. As breeders, it’s also common for us to want to meet you, as well. An initial impression can go a long way to convincing us that you are the right family for one of our precious kids.

What kind of compromise can we all make, to create an atmosphere where both sets of parties get what they need?

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