“Off the Chain”

Today I found an interesting documentary on dog fighting, called “Off the Chain” (you can watch the first part here on YouTube, and follow the links through to the other 5 parts.  Please be aware that some footage is quite graphic).

For me, I always like to get alternative viewpoints on issues.  This documentary achieved this.  There are plenty of segments that educate us on the evils and tragedy of dog fighting, but this documentary actually allowed us to hear people from the other side – people who fight dogs themselves.  I have never heard this viewpoint before, so I was very happy to get this perspective.

The major issue this documentary brings up to me is that dog fighters cannot seek medical treatment or humane euthanasia of their animals because of the fear of prosecution.  I wonder if there was more protection of dog fighters and their privacy if less animals would suffer.  (It is like drug users – when a person overdoses, we don’t then charge them for the use of an illicit substance.)

This documentary also covers the inefficiency of breed specific legislation, and brought up many points I agree with.

Another area of interest was that the rules for dog fighting was also covered.  They explained the procedures for a dog fight, and how winners are determined, etc.  This was very educational to me – I never knew of these rules and, actually, they seemed reasonably fair despite the questionable context.

Overall, I recommend anyone who can withstand some gore to view this documentary and see if it challenges your current thoughts about the dog fighting scene.


Trio of Dogs Study

ResearchBlogging.orgI have just read a very interesting article by Michael Fox, Alan Beck and E. Beckman entitled “Behaviour and ecology of a small group of urban dogs” (see full details at end of this post). This article certainly stirred some thoughts in me.

Basically, this is a study of a trio of feral dogs (two males and a female) living in vacant, derelict buildings in St Louis City, Missouri, in 1973. These dogs were studied from March 1973 until February 1974, for 90 hours over this period of time.

Obviously somewhat dated, but nonetheless an interesting investigation of how unowned dogs fend for themselves in an urban setting. (The authors do make the distinction between free ranging dogs, who have owners who allow them to range, and feral dogs, who are on their own.)

It’s an interesting enough piece of work all around, but the areas I found of particular interest is: the marking behaviour of the dogs, the interactions of the dogs with others of their species, and the psuedo-hunting behaviour the dogs engaged in. I will detail each of these below. Continue reading


The Fallacy of Mandatory Desexing

There seems to be an illusion that desexing dogs is the best way to stop the dog overpopulation problem. I object to this suggestion. Surely the problem is dogs being bred, not dogs being entire.

That is: There are numerous dogs that are not desexed but never contribute to the dog population.  Just because a dog has testicles or ovaries doesn’t mean they are necessarily going to be used to produce puppies.

As such, I think any suggestions that ‘responsible ownership’ is desexing is misguided.

Furthermore, I have become alarmed with proposals of mandatory desexing.  I am also disturbed with the amount of support these proposals bring from the dog community.

Mandatory desexing poses some pretty serious questions… Firstly, if we assume that only breeders can keep their dogs entire…

  1. What determines a breeder?
  2. What determines a non-breeder?
  3. What about the people who might like to be a breeder but are in the process of deciding?
  4. If you decide to define a breeder as someone working towards a breed standard, then who decides which breed standards are okay and which are not? Who decides if it’s okay to create a new breed or not?
  5. If you decide to define a breeder on welfare standards, then these are already in place and already, arguable, unenforced.

Then you get into the logistics…

  1. Who makes someone desex a pet? (i.e. which body?)
  2. What are the penalties for not desexing?
  3. Are non surgical means (e.g. implants etc) permissible?
  4. What about animals that are deemed unfit for anaesthetic?
  5. How would any body keep track of all dogs that are desexed/undesexed? (Considering that registration is currently compulsory but many dogs exist unregistered…)
  6. How do we prevent people bypassing the system, especially with undesexed bitches?

And this doesn’t even go into rights…

  1. What right does anyone have to tell me what is right for my animal? I should have the right to do with my property as ever I please, as long as it does not harm anyone or thing (including harm the animal).

Any restrictions on breeding, I think, are quite misdirected.  There are too many big questions that are too difficult to answer, and even more difficult to police. It also ignores the fact that it is breeding animals that are the problem, and not just animals that are undesexed.

If we are serious about trying to reduce the dog population, I think puppy sales are a more conceivable area to work with (see my last post “What is the answer? (to puppy farms”), and I think most trading legislation could be tweaked a lot easier than creating legislation that impedes upon individuals’ rights to own an animal in a manner they see fit.


What is the answer? (to puppy farms)

My suggestion is that breeders become responsible for their puppies for the entirety of their lives.

As in many states microchipping is currently compulsory, and it is likely to make its way into other states as time progresses, I think this is a great way to monitoring dogs throughout the entirety of their lives. All we would need is, in the microchipping database, for an additional field, ‘breeder’, to be added for every puppy. In this way, dogs are permanently linked to their breeder.

This means that, if that dog ends up into a facility (i.e. a pound), then the breeder can be responsible. If a facility fails to find the owner of an animal, the breeder would be contacted. The breeder would have the opportunity to receive the animal back (administration costs only), or else pay the facility a fee and allow the facility to receive ownership for the animal, and consequently rehome it (or otherwise).
I argue that this is a suitable solution as it would mean that:

  1. Responsible breeders have the opportunity to get back any animal that, unawares to them, ends up in unsatisfactory care.
  2. Breeders may be less likely to have litters if they are concerned that their puppies may cost them a fee if they end up in inappropriate care.
  3. Breeders will seriously consider the homes in which the puppies end up in, as securing a ‘forever home’ first up would ensure no fees later down the track.
  4. Pound-like facilities would also have monetary benefits as a result of this proposal.


I don’t believe tougher animal welfare standards are necessary. These standards are already adequate (though poorly enforced), and any changes to these standards only make things more demanding for breeders who recognise legislation.

I don’t believe additional licensing (of owners or of breeders) is feasible. There would be lots of administrative costs associated, and obviously there would be people who would ‘slip under the radar’.

The beauty of this suggestion is that, as far as I’m concerned, it is only unscrupulous breeders unconcerned with their animals welfare which would object to this proposal. As a future breeder, I would LOVE to have the opportunity to get any animal I bred back out of a pound-like facility and rehome them myself.

There would be no additional restrictions or legislation to be enforced, just an extra field to create on the microchipping database. Pound facilities would not have a hugely additional workload – instead of calling two phone numbers when a microchipped animal enters the facility, they would call three numbers.

The main kink in this proposal is that individuals would be able to sell animals which are not microchipped, as I am sure they currently do. There needs to be more policing of microchipping. This is a difficulty. One potential solution is to educate puppy buyers the importance of microchipping, and emphasising ideas such as “you wouldn’t buy a vehicle without a warranty, so why would you buy a puppy without a micrcohip?”.


Puppy Socialisation Checklist

Socialisation is one of the most important roles of a new puppy owner. Puppies’ brains develop considerably from 6 weeks-16 weeks of age.  During this time, the puppy learns a lot about their world.  It is a unique window of time that will impact the puppy for life. Socialisation is the process by which your puppy is exposed to as many facets of life as possible.

Puppies that are well socialised are more secure adults, and more adaptable adults.  If nothing else is done, the most important thing a puppy owner can do is expose the puppy to as many things as possible.  To be beneficial, these exposures must be positive.

Puppies should be exposed, in a positive or neutral way, to as many things as possible.  Negative experiences that occur during the socialisation window can affect a puppy for life. Some recent research suggests that puppies need to be exposed to things several times over the socialisation period.

The below list is also available as a PDF: Puppy Socialisation Checklist Continue reading