I’ve been thinking recently about responsibility. Specifically, about if and how people take responsibility for their dogs, their actions, and their choices. I’ve heard several anecdotes in recent months about potential adopters choosing to buy a pup from a pet store or Kijiji when their application for a rescue dog was declined or if the rescue simply took too long to process them.
To be clear, responsible breeders do not sell their pups in pet stores and the large majority of Kijiji pups are from mills, brokers, and backyard breeders (BYBs). I once asked a pet store clerk if the pups, living on grates behind glass at the back of the store, were from a mill. Of course, she assured me that they were from only responsible breeders. What ‘responsible breeder’ would pull the pups from the bitch early to prolong the period of ‘cuteness’ in the store window, deprive the pup of critical socialization by placing them in a glass box – sometimes in isolation – and allow the store to sell to impulsive consumers who have had no screening or background checks? If the sale doesn’t work out, who is the pup returned to? (Often to rescue, in fact) By definition, that breeder cannot be responsible. If there are any doubts about the conditions of dogs in puppy mills, watch one of the many undercover videos of puppy mills and reports on mill raids (such as this recent seizure of over 600 dogs from Canadian mill, Paws R Us).
I’ve been volunteering with Speaking of Dogs rescue for the last ~2 years, and I couldn’t have hoped to fall in with a better organization! I started out as a foster home, and one of the biggest considerations in looking for a rescue was how my foster dog would be placed and what my input would be into that decision. Explicitly in this point is how the rescue places value on ethical training. What I found in Speaking of Dogs is a rescue organization that has ethical and practical considerations that are very much comparable to my own. I use the term ‘ethics’ very deliberately here – using forceful methods to teach a dog something that can better be taught using force-free methods is not simply a matter of choice, it is a matter of ethical choice. Not only that, it may come down to being a matter of public and personal safety (see this study on confrontational training techniques and links to aggression).