by Michelle Crean, Wisconsin Puppy
As have many
other people now actively involved in fighting puppy mills and pet stores, I
learned the hard way about "those cute little puppies in the window."
Our lesson wasn't as hard as some -- our pet store puppy was physically healthy
-- but it could have been disastrous for all concerned if we hadn't had a lot
of committment and the support of our vet and a behaviorist.
It was love
at first sight when my husband and I saw the coonhound puppy in the pet store.
She was just so darned...cute! But when she was taken out of her cage to meet
us, she wanted nothing whatsoever to do with us. The pet store employee told
us, "Oh, she's been cooped up in that cage for so long, she just wants to
stretch her legs and explore!"
We left to
think it over -- we had an old hound dog at home and thought having a pup in
the house would be good for him, since he loved other dogs. A new puppy that
nobody had 'ruined' by abuse or teaching bad habits, a nice puppy with a health
guarantee, would be wonderful. (Boy, were we WRONG
thinking a pet store puppy would be any of those things!) And let's
face it, this particular puppy was so cute!
When we went
back for her, we were told, "She can't come home with you yet. She has
kennel cough and we were just going to quarantine her." The employee then
mumbled something about taking "the little bitch" home and
socializing her. (Big Red Flag that we were too
blinded by "cute" to see!)
Well. We went
back for the pup after the quarantine period was up, and Henrietta, as we'd
already named her, was delighted to get out of the cage. However, she didn't
want to be held or petted. "She'll get over that as soon as you get her
home," we were told.
ask us if we knew anything about the breed, nor did they tell us that
coonhounds make wonderful pets BUT are single-minded, stubborn, target-fixated,
escape artists who will follow their noses to the ends of the earth. They
didn't mention that the breed requires patient, imaginative training and lots
of exercise and attention. All the pet store was interested in was our money.
The truth of
the matter was, Henrietta was a puppy mill/pet store dog, bred specifically for
pack hunting, and she had never, ever had any contact with humans, other
than those who tossed food at her, shoved her and her siblings into a cage on a
truck, and visited her at the pet store. Not only that, but she didn't WANT any
contact with humans!
Though she loved and
respected our old hound, she just didn't seem to like people. In fact, she
would trot right up to someone and, when that person reached out to pet her,
would bite them--HARD. Not a little puppy play nip or a teething chew a
hard, punishing bite. But she was just so cute!
obvious that this cute little puppy needed some education in the canine social
graces. We were committed to keeping an animal companion for a lifetime and had
fallen in love with this pup despite the fact that she was so darned obnoxious
so, with a little guidance from our vet, a 'doggie shrink' from the Ohio State
School of Veterinary Medicine, and a good dog behavior book, we went to work
teaching Henrietta that (1) biting was never acceptable under any circumstances
and (2) petting was a good thing.
part entailed letting her know in no uncertain terms that, in pack heirarchy,
she ranked under any human whom she met. It took a lot of
reinforcement (both positive and negative) and some time, but the biting
behavior finally stopped entirely.
old afghan-bloodhound mix, loved nothing more than a snoogle with his People,
and helped show "his" pup that an ear scratch or belly rub was a Good
Thing. Within a couple of very long weeks, she transformed from having to be
held down to be petted, to actively seeking affection.
all involved, Henrietta's root problem had been lack of education (through lack
of positive human contact) and not an inherently bad temperament, so behavior
modification techniques were successful. In fact, she morphed into such a
friendly, sociable pet that, even just a couple months later, nobody would
believe she had ever been otherwise!
We joked that
'cute' had saved her life, never realizing at the time just how true that
statement was. Our vet speculated that chances were
about 90% that anyone else would have beaten her senseless, dumped her along a
back country road, foisted her off on some other unsuspecting family who would
have done the same, or taken her to a shelter, where she would have been
euthanized as a 'vicious' dog, even though she was only three months
Every day of
the week, shelters kill puppy mill dogs like Henrietta just because they were
never socialized properly and the new owners can't or won't cope. There were a
dozen pups in her litter, in various pet stores around Dayton, Ohio. I often
wonder what happened to her brothers and sisters -- but I really don't want to