Still, Kuma was a challenge.
Alexander took him several times to a canine psychologist to get his aggression under control – he never bit anyone, but “strongly asserts his dominance”. She had to find him a specialist vet after being rejected by the first one she tried.
Kuma eats about half a kilo of dog biscuits a day (kangaroo and fish only, being allergic to other meats), which amounts to about $200 a month.
He needs a $50 groom once a fortnight. He’s only walked around with a muzzle or in an area on a leash, or at antisocial hours (Alexander is a shift worker, so that works out well; plus, she’s not afraid of getting mugged). She bought a property in a rural suburb outside Perth where Kuma and her daughter’s huskies can run off-leash.
Alexander says Kuma is now beautiful and sweet.
“It took about two years for him to really settle down and for us to trust each other, and know we would protect each other, but he’s my baby,” she said.
After my research for this series showed that WA was experiencing an increase in abandoned and euthanized dogs, in part due to the rental crisis and a boom in high-priced puppy breeding, I started wondering.
What if people took those thousands of dollars they paid, adopted a bigger and/or older rescue dog, and used the money saved to pay for help with walking, grooming, training, or even therapy, if needed?
When I exposed these budding ideas to the cold light of day, Alexander’s story came to light.
But so are a bunch of conflicting opinions.
Correspondence on a dizzying number of platforms has revealed a bitter division between different schools of thought on sourcing, training, breeding and even feeding dogs, with several people refusing to speak publicly for fear of being trolled or even threatened.
One person told me that perfectly eligible and suitable potential owners who are willing to take a chance on a shelter dog cannot convince a shelter to take a chance.
A shelter rep told me he just wanted to match the right dog to the right person, for life, and was happy to advise and work with potential owners from all walks of life.
An industry insider observed that there were very few purebred dogs in shelters and said backyard breeding needed to be stopped; they believed that dog abandonment would actually decrease if people chose ethical breeders producing dogs with reliable backgrounds, health checks, and more predictable breed characteristics.
A breeder told me that anti-puppy breeding legislation recently passed by the government lacked enforceability and would not prevent backyard breeding; that people should make sure a breeder is a member of the national association for their relevant breed, give a full lifetime health guarantee regarding genetic conditions, and have their own process for vetting potential owners.
Fiona Cowie, the Perth dog trainer I spoke to who is a representative of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers Australia, said it was difficult for the general public to know who was doing the right thing and who was doing it for profit.
A good breeder, along with health testing, would proactively socialize puppies, exposing them to other animals, people, noises and textures, she said.
Some have gone through food training, crate training, potty training, and puppies acclimated to being left alone for a while.
“The breeders who do this kind of preparation do a lot of work. So if people are going to spend that much on a puppy, they need to ask what the breeder is doing about it, and if the breeder is staring blankly at you, maybe move on,” he said. she declared.
She said puppies weren’t easy and there was definitely value in “seniors for seniors”; people had to consider their own situation first.
“What kind of time and training and commitment do you have…what the breed was bred for and if you can meet those needs,” she said.
“But don’t forget the old seniors, they are the ones who really deserve that ‘own bed’. Be honest with the shelter and ask lots of questions and tell them honestly what you can provide for the dog…it may actually be a goldfish you need.
She said modern dog training is all about developing a relationship or partnership, based on rewards and positive experiences, with lots of give and take.
It certainly seems like it would pay to be wary of backyard breeders “playing God” and producing “a single litter” that turns out to be so lucrative that they make a lot more of it, with little idea of science or ethics behind it all, and only ticking some of the ideal boxes. It seems that looking for the most professional breeder possible, even if it costs more, is a more ethical choice.
I can’t help but wonder, however, if there is a problem causing the suffering and death of defenseless sentient beings, even if the problem is not directly our fault, but is the result of a culture we belong to and shape, what is our responsibility to help fix it or reduce the damage?
Is it ethical to buy a new dog when we know we could instead save the life of a sentient being, created and abandoned without voice or choice?
Is another positive course of action to contact your MP and ask them to campaign for better control of dog breeding, to continue spending on prevention as well as grants to help shelters operate?
It is worth asking yourself these questions, even if your answers may be different from mine. I’m not even sure of my answers.
But I think people who think a fur baby is less of a problem than a real one might be wrong.
At least I know exactly where my toddler is from.
If you’re going to get a dog, do some research. When you’re done, do more. Ask tough questions. Consider all options. Take your time. And (try) to resist your urges.
Resources for Researchers and Dog Owners
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