I recently attended a seminar hosted by a popular dog breeder and published author. I was excited to attend, as I am always interested in acquiring more knowledge and learning from anyone I can. As the seminar went on, I found myself questioning quite a bit of what this person was saying. I kept an open mind and continued to pay attention realizing that not everyone always has the same viewpoints on everything. After sitting through a full day, there were a few things that convinced me that this person was not providing me with any value. Needless to say, I spent the second day of the seminar at home working with my dogs rather than wasting my time at the event.
The first major no-no occurred during the puppy evaluations. The breeder proceeded to tell a girl who owned a Pit Bull puppy that her puppy was too skinny. She went on to tell this girl that the puppy was at risk for developmental issues due to a lack of fat. This immediately caught my attention, because unlike many of my peers, I prefer puppies to be on the leaner side. Not skinny, but not roly-poly fat. It is my personal experience, that leaner puppies have LESS developmental and structural issues than overweight, sloppy puppies. Leaner puppies are more in tune with their bodies and are not at risk of growing too fast. Please understand, I am not advocating underfeeding your puppies but I am advocating finding the proper, healthy weight for your puppy. Many feel the fatter the better when the dogs are under 1 year of age. I do not hold this same belief. Puppies need plenty of food. Until six months of age, I feed my puppies at least 3 times a day. They need plenty of food, but they also need plenty of fun, playful, exercise to stimulate their minds, muscle growth and coordination. This is how you correctly keep your puppies at their proper weight. Anyway, as I moved in for a closer look, I was dumbfounded to find that the Pit Bull puppy was at a fine weight. Not too fat, not too skinny, but very healthy and happy. After the evaluation, I even felt the puppy myself and played with it. The puppy was very playful and energetic, had a fine layer of fat over it’s ribs, and wasn’t boney at all. I told the girl that I felt the puppy was just right and to keep doing what she’s doing.
The second major blunder was when the lady proceeded to tell us that she does not recommend walking your dogs in public. It is her opinion that it subjects your dog to too much risk. She went on to tell a story of how a dog she knew was attacked by a loose dog while out on a walk. Apparently, this incident had a major impact on how the dog behaved for the rest of its life. She then advised us to only walk our dogs in remote areas where we are sure there will be no loose dogs. While I was sympathetic to this dog’s plight, as a breeder I could not help but feel that there was a deeper issue with the dog than just the run in with the loose dog. As a breeder, mental toughness is a characteristic that I particularly breed for. If you are overlooking mental toughness when breeding dogs, you are doing your dogs a huge disservice. Life happens, and much of it is out of our control. Dogs, like people, need to be able to roll with the punches and keep on keeping on. I recall a pup of mine getting attacked by his grandmother once and being severely injured.
As soon as it was over this pup was limping around but had totally moved on with his life. As dog owners, yes, we should do everything we can to protect our dogs from danger, but sometimes it is just unavoidable. The dogs we breed need to be mentally and physically strong enough to deal with it. There is a fine line between nature and nurture. Sometimes doing too much for your dogs can program them to rely on you too much. It encourages them to be mentally weak. When they find themselves in challenging situations they look to you for help rather than dealing with it themselves. It is like the helicopter mom approach to parenting, nothing good comes of it. To suggest that it is too dangerous to walk your dogs in public for the fear that something bad might happen is just beyond ridiculous and unrealistic.
The take away here is to always use your own judgment when listening to so-called professionals. If it doesn’t make sense to you, then there probably is a reason for it. Fancy marketing, gimmicks and quoting case studies done on mice does not make you a professional or an expert on dogs. It might help you steal people’s money, but it certainly doesn’t make you a dog expert. That title is earned and the only way to get it is through hard-work, dedication, consistency, discipline and constantly evaluating your dogs and making improvements to every aspect of their being.