Friday, October 20, 2006

Zeroing in on A Chow Chow -- What to Consider

You’ve asked a few friends and Chow Chow owners about the temperament and ease of looking after a pet of this breed, and you’ve received many encouraging replies. Now, you feel encouraged to look out only for a Chow Chow. So, where do you go looking for one and how do you go about it? Let’s find out.

First, do not contemplate buying a pet from a pet store or wherever else you cannot easily see the parents of the pup before buying it. It would be in your interests to visit a good kennel where you can request to see the breeds available and then decide.

On this basis, you can make an informed choice of a good pup by just spending a little more on finding out the dog’s background, if he is in conformity with the breed standard and if he is predisposed to any diseases. This information can save you not just a lot of future grief but paying out huge vet bills too.

Characteristics of this breed: Your pet Chow Chow could be either highly energetic or just plain placid. Chow Chows are also known to be hardheaded, obstinate, serious and introverted as also loving, good-natured and loyal.

In your pet, you could also find these traits:

He resembles a teddy bear and therefore comes across as cuddly and cute
Stands proudly with a confident stature
Is a reliable and fearsome watchdog
Is inherently clean and easily housebroken
Is well mannered and quiet
Needs moderate exercise but must be groomed regularly

Though these are the general qualities of a Chow Chow, it is equally true that you can never be sure what your pup will grow up to be like. This is because many purebred pups do not grow up conforming to the standard.

Why not to buy a Chow Chow: On the flip side, there are certain reasons why you might not want to take in a Chow Chow, such as:

He is overly suspicious or openly aggressive when unsocialized
He has an aggressive streak that extends to other pets too
He is very strong-willed and determined and resists being nagged. For this reason, he must be handled by an experienced and confident owner who can be the dominant partner without having to use force
He needs regular grooming that includes brushing and combing, particularly if he is the rough coat variety
He sheds a lot
He will suffer from health-related problems
He has such an independent streak in him that it can result stubbornness and disobedience to his master
He could also be very jealous of either your new baby or other pets, whether older than him or younger
They are also known to kill small animals such as cats and rodents, often leaving a dead mouse at your door more for sport than your safety
They are sometimes difficult to train. They are therefore not recommended if you are a first time pet owner or are not in a position or do not want to show your dog who is the boss

v Where you can safely buy your Chow Chow: Though there are three avenues of buying purebred pups—the pet shop, the casual or backyard breeder and the hobby breeder, perhaps the worst of them all is the pet shop.

Here, dogs are bred unselectively, often sold in wholesale lots to pet stores. They are kept caged until sold, often unsocialized, unloved and unhappy. So, it’s not surprising that they are just not right for homes, since they lack in temperament, socialization and health.

It stands to reason that if a pup has a bad beginning with a commercial breeder of this caliber, he stands a very slim chance of growing into a healthy, well-adjusted and beautiful pet. So, when you go out to select a pup, think with your head rather than your heart.

If you choose to think with the latter, you will end up buying that sad little pup who’s caged up. But for reasons mentioned above, it will be the wrong choice for you. And in any case, a greedy breeder will continue to breed more and more pups to replace him.

The backyard breeder: Typically, your backyard breeder buys a female of a particular breed from a pet shop on the proprietor's assurance that a year down the line, he can safely breed her, sell the resulting pups and make back his investment on her.

A match is then made between her and the male down the street, whose owner has the same attitude to his male as the breeder has to his female—to make back his purchase price. Soon, the female gives birth to a litter of pups and though can be registered by the AKC, are of no greater quality than their parents.

This is because neither party cared to go into the physical and genetic history and makeup of each partner. When the litter was born, no care was given to the new mother and her pups and later the breeder was unmindful of giving any care and attention to socializing, training or conditioning the new pups.

Instead, further damage to these pups was done when the breeder weaned them earlier than usual, thereby depriving them of the necessary bonding with their mother, only to be sold as fast as possible so he could make back his investment in the mother.

The serious breeder: Instead of buying from an ignorant and heartless buyer, you should really seek out a committed, and serious breeder or exhibitor. Such breeders invest many, many hours studying pedigrees and lineage, evaluating and observing their dogs for faults and virtues, and all the time giving them their love, care and attention. When you see these breeders with their dogs at dog shows, you can see the fruits of their labor.

Breeders work very hard grooming and training their pups before they can be sold to good homes. It would therefore be well worth asking him about practical realities of buying a particular breed that you have in mind. So, ask him if the breed you’re considering is high on vet’s bills, how long it takes to look after newborns, how much time he spends with potential buyers, whether it costs much to groom, train and socialize them before they are quality dogs.

The hobby breeder: This breeder breeds dogs as a hobby and not for commercial gain. He is a very responsible breeder whose only interests are to produce the ideal dog of their breed and to show dogs—in fact, his dogs are his pets and show dogs. Often his kennels include the couch or bed. He works hard to breed only the best without any worry about time, research, money and effort spent.

You can depend on him to do the genetic screening for any medical problems in their breed, spay or neuter the dog. Such a breeder is committed to every dog he produces. He sells only by referral.

Where to avoid buying a pup from: If pups are being sold at flea markets, roadside stands, motel rooms and pet shops, these are the worst places to buy from as unscrupulous breeders who produce pups in large numbers sell their litters here for a quick buck.

To them, the only breeding prerequisite is that the sire and dam have AKC papers. They don’t care about the quality, health or temperament of the pup. Commercial breeders produce in large numbers and sell the weakest of the lot to these roadside sellers at a cheap price.

Locating a good breeder: An experienced and reputable breeder is the best person to give you a good quality puppy. He should be able to show you his stock from which you can choose and can also suggest a dog to suit your needs and lifestyle.

Breeding quality dogs is a tough job, not possible by just anyone at all. It needs hands-on knowledge gleaned by constant exposure to breeders at dog shows. You can contact these breeders from a catalog brought out by the AKC. The Chow Chow Club Inc., the national Chow breed club, also brings out a magazine titled "Chow Life" which is an excellent source of reputable breeders.

A good breeder doesn’t produce in large numbers, so you will have to wait for a puppy. He will ask you a lot of questions to make sure you are the right person to take a pup from him. In turn, you too must ask him a lot of questions.

What to ask the breeder: When you go to look at puppies, ask him the following questions:
Does he have a pedigree for the puppy?
Have the parents of the pup been X-rayed for Hip Dysplasia?
Does the pup suffer from entropion?
What guarantees does he offer? What happens if your pup doesn’t turn out according to the guarantee? Can he be replaced or will your money be returned?
Are the sire and dam available for you to see?
Does he have the AKC registration papers to show you?
Do his pups come with AKC registration?
Does he own the parents of this pup or at least one of them?
Where were the parents or mother bought?
Which vaccinations has he been given? Is he checked for worms?
What does he eat? What is he allergic to?
Since when has he been breeding Chow Chows?
How many litters does he produce every year?
Does he offer a health guarantee?
Is he affiliated to any regional or national dog clubs?
How much does he charge for this one?
What health tests have been done on BOTH parents of the litter?
What temperament testing and socialization have been done?
What goals do the breeder have with the breeding program and how does the breeder go about to achieve this?
What does the breeder feel are the strengths and weaknesses in the breed and the breeder's program?
What type of contract does the breeder have for pet or show puppies?
How many champions has he finished?
How many champions has he bred?
Is either parent of the puppy a champion? Or his grandparents? If so, are there AKC championship certificates or photographs to prove this?



How to choose your pup: Ensure that you see at least one show quality litter before you buy. Once you have seen a good litter, you will make a better choice, because you will know the difference between these puppies and an ill-bred one.

When you ring to ask about a litter, ask as many questions as you can over the phone. If you find the answers not forthcoming, you know he isn’t knowledgeable and you can reconsider going over to him. Arrange to see about five to 10 litters before buying. First, look at the adults, as well as the puppies.

Reputable breeders do not sell puppies under eight weeks old. They must be free of parasites and should be kept clean and in hygienic surroundings. They should have their first series of shots. Do not pick up a pup from filthy surroundings or it will develop parasite problems.

See if your pup is alert and active but not vicious. He should not have a runny nose nor should his tongue be bluish. Does he have a short wide muzzle, heavy bone and broad chest and big body. Now, set him down and make him walk. If he moves about freely, he’s on.

If you select a quality Chow Chow, it means that he conforms to the standard recognized by the AKC. Ask the breeder to tell you the differences between show puppies and good pet quality puppies.

Understanding the breeder’s lingo: If you can’t understand typical jargon, communicating with your breeder will be very difficult. So, get the lowdown on what he means when he says the following:

Show potential: To be of show quality, your pup must pass a basic orthopedic examination at age 10-12 weeks. He should also have excellent breed type and that something extra that sets him off as different from all the other entrants.

Breeding quality: These pups, though essentially the same as the show type, rarely ever have that something extra that judges are looking for.

Pet quality: Healthy and beautiful, these pups may have a small flaw in them which renders them unfit for breeding or showing, for instance, a bad bite, etc.

Finding a new home for your pet: You were starry-eyed about bringing your Chow Chow home and you never thought you’d have to give him up so easily. But even if you can’t keep him, you’d still like to do your best by him. So, how about making the right future choices for him?

Bear in mind that your dog is still your responsibility. Even now he depends on you to look after him. So, even if it takes all your time, effort and patience to find him a good home, you deserve to do your best for him.

How to find him a new home: Consider sending your pup to any one of the following:

Animal shelters: Shelters and humane societies are meant to care for unloved and abused animals. They certainly aren’t a place where you can offload your unwanted pets. Though they admit about 100 pets each day, few of them ever leave the shelter to go to a good home. So, where does that leave your pet?

Even if your pet is a purebred, that doesn’t mean he will be the preferred choice of a prospective buyer. Besides, the reputation your Chow Chow enjoys is a deterrent since many people are frightened of Chow Chows. So, some shelters won’t put them up for adoption. Then, if he’s old, he has slimmer chances of being adopted.

“No-kill” shelters and breed rescue services: No one ever wants to see their pet being killed, so they don’t admit many pets. But breed rescue services are small, private groups run by volunteers who are dedicated to a particular breed. Their services are expensive and they are so much in demand that they too cannot accept every dog that comes their way.

But it can help by placing your pet by giving you referrals of people interested in your pet’s breed. Follow this advice if you want success. You can contact the nearest Chow Rescue service if you call the Chow Welfare Hotline at 608-756-2008 or write to the Chow Chow Club, Inc.'s Welfare Committee.

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