Let’s Play!

One thing I have been struck by in the time that we’ve had Willow is the number of other dog owners who, whilst watching their dog playing with Willow, have said, “Oh, he/she doesn’t usually play with other dogs,” she definitely seems to bring out the playful side in her canine compatriots. This may be down to the fact that Willow is obviously on the small side but she’s also very non-threatening; I’ve also watched the way she initially ‘reads’ other dogs that we meet in the park and she seems quite tuned in to their body language. She will initiate play with a ‘play bow’ with some but just avoid the more aggressive, stand-offish ones.

I was interested then to chat to pet behaviourist, Jo Cottrell, when I picked Willow up from her first experience of doggy daycare in March. Apart from the fact that the first thing she said to me was, ‘What a cracking little dog,’ (proud owner moment), I mentioned that Willow had come from a puppy farm via a rescue charity. According to Jo, dogs from puppy farms often interact very well with other dogs but poorly with humans due to the fact that they spend their formative months with other dogs in poor conditions and have limited human contact. This may well be the case for Willow although she is a lot more relaxed around people these days.

I was also interested a little while later to read this blog about the interaction between cats and dogs. Cat is surprisingly tolerant of Willow and puts up with her ‘air nipping’ very close to her face. She obviously realises that Willow’s intent is not to hurt her but to play, even if Cat really doesn’t want to. This scenario usually ends with Cat having had enough and smacking Willow and running away. I wouldn’t say that I have ever really see them play together.

Until Monday, when I saw this:

Cat and dog playing through fence

To explain, Cat was lying in a very relaxed position in the flower bed poking her paw through the fence to Willow. Willow kept trying to put her nose through the fence to Cat and the to-ing and fro-ing of nose and paw continued for several minutes accompanied by lots of tail wagging on Willow’s part and very little on Cat’s part. Now, given that Willow can easily get over the fence and has done on numerous occasions to hassle Cat, this was definitely a bit of fun for both of them.

I have to say, I was very surprised but also very pleased at this latest turn of events. Later the same day they were back to normal with Willow hassling and Cat putting up with it, but I do think their relationship may be thawing!

Cat and dog on either side of a picket fence.

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Why a rescue dog?

For us it went without saying that when we got a dog, it would have to be a rescue dog. There are lots of reasons, some big, some small but Husband summed it up when he said, ‘I would rather be part of the solution than part of the problem.’

Now, this is only my personal opinion but I just don’t understand the concept of breeding dogs (or cats) for financial gain. OK, I do understand the concept of doing it for financial gain but it just feels wrong to me – if you have a pet, it’s a pet, it’s a member of the family, not a business opportunity. A responsible pet owner has their pet neutered as early as possible to make sure accidents don’t happen and they don’t add to the number of dogs needing to find a good home.

StaffieYou only have to look at animal rescue sites to see how many dogs there are looking for new homes. Battersea currently have 145 dogs listed on their website and there are many more in their kennels who are not shown on the site; Blue Cross currently list eighty dogs; the Dogs Trust has 19 centres across the UK, the RSPCA have numerous centres and there are also many smaller charities such as Many Tears, Friends of the Animals RCT and even our local independent rescue centre, DBARC, where Lizzie came from, has 17 dogs shown.  A lot of these dogs come to rescue from puppy farms when they remain unsold.

Puppy farms – if you really want to see what they’re about just run a Google image search. This is pure profiteering at the cost of the health of the breeding animals. Brood bitches are bred repeatedly with little care for their welfare, often in squalid conditions. The puppies are separated from the mothers very early in order to make space for the next litter and sold on to pet shops. Many farmed puppies develop health problems and in some cases may die or have to be put down.

Obviously there are some very responsible breeders out there who try and make sure that the animals they breed go to a good home. There are also sensible guidelines laid out for anyone thinking of buying a puppy from a breeder to make sure that you are getting a well-cared for animal. I realise that often people will want a particular breed as a pet and/or will want a puppy and the easiest solution is to go to a breeder. Personally, I don’t really do baby animals – they’re cute but way too much work. Cat was seven months old when she arrived in the household and she’s been the youngest adoptee so far. However, without the demand for pedigree dogs there wouldn’t be a market for puppy farms to cash in on.

There are also plenty of breed-specific rescue centres out there, so if you are interested in a particular breed then find the rescue charity that deals with that breed and have a look. It’s always worth making contact, even if you particularly want a puppy.

The other current sad trend in terms of dogs looking for a new home is that of Staffordshire Bull Terriers. If you look at Battersea’s site in particular about 75% of their dogs are Staffies, or Staffie cross-breeds. These have a reputation for being tough and looking ‘hard’, or at least making their owners look hard. Unfortunately the type of person who thinks owing a Staffie will add to their street cred are not the sort to be responsible dog owners and so many of the dogs end up in rescue. As RSPCA chief vet Mark Evans said: “If people think that Staffies have problems, they’re looking at the wrong end of the dog lead!”. Staffies are, in fact, gentle intelligent dogs who love to please and who make excellent family pets if properly treated and trained. Battersea are currently running a campaign called Staffies. They’re softer than you think. Go and have a look, it might change your mind.

POSTSCRIPT:

I forgot whilst I was actually writing this blog post that there was a wonderful advertising campaign run in Costa Rica to find homes for mixed breed dogs. And when I say mixed breed, I mean REALLY mixed! It was hugely successful probably because it plays on people’s desire to own something unique:

Unique Breeds Video

 

Photo credit: Fleshpiston via photopin cc