Christmas is coming

This is a Shiba blog, but I thought I would share one of the emails I sent to someone posting on Craigslist about buying a Pomeranian for her mother for Christmas:

Hey, noticed you were looking for a Pom.  Hold your breath, because you’ve attracted the notice of one of those Dog Obsessed People who is happy to tell you everything she knows about finding a purebred puppy!  (Aren’t you happy?  Be happy!)  😀

Here’s a link to the Pomeranian Club of Canada:

There is a breeder’s list in there and a host of other interesting articles – mostly geared towards the serious show breeder, but some that could be useful to you and your mother – training tips and grooming tips.

Here’s a link to a site about what questions to ask a dog breeder.  A responsible dog breeder isn’t going to let you buy a puppy for a Christmas present as a surprise, but they will understand you paying for a puppy as a Christmas present if they get to meet you and your mother to reassure themselves that the puppy is going to go to a good home.  There are many people, sadly, that buy puppies as Christmas presents, only to dump them when it’s clear that this Christmas present needs to be walked, fed, housebroken, trained… so don’t feel that it’s something about YOU that makes the breeder go “Well, uh…”  It’s just the desire for the best home possible for their puppies.

You want a breeder who’s intense like this – a breeder who is determined to get the best home is a breeder who has spent a lot of time making sure that these are the Best Damn Puppies on the Planet and as close to what a Pomeranian should look and act like.   They may seem a little crazed and INTENSE but try to look past that and focus on the quality of the dogs.  (Yeah, I’ve been in the dog world a while – could you tell?  haha)

They may not have puppies for Christmas – responsible breeders don’t produce puppies for money or for a specific timeframe.  The money you pay is going to go towards the stud fees, care and testing of the mother during the pregnancy and the care and feeding and shots/worming of the puppies during their time with the breeder.  $500 is a little low for a well-bred Pomeranian; rates go from $600-$1000 for a well-bred anything; I paid $1000 for my Shiba inu dog and that’s considered pretty much the going rate.  However, there are cheaper Poms out there that you can consider… skip down to the bottom of this message if you’re more interested in them!  But it’s worth it to keep on reading… 🙂

This list seems a little intimidating, but it’s not that bad, really.  Since the breeding of dogs isn’t something governed by law, like the production of other merchandise (which the law does categorize dogs under, unfortunately), it’s up to you to ensure that the quality of the puppies that you’re getting is high.  Buying a puppy from a pet shop or breeder who “doesn’t bother with all that fancy stuff” is like buying a house without doing a building inspection; you can’t get your money back and it could take thousands of dollars to fix any problems that crop up in the years ahead

You might not want a “show dog” but you do want a happy, healthy companion for your mother – the Pomeranian breed is afflicted with several problems, including knee problems, eye problems and skin problems.  You definitely want a breeder who can tell you that they’ve taken steps (genetic testing, such as knee X-rays, eye exams, thyroid testing, etc) to prevent these conditions from showing up in their puppies.  A puppy who doesn’t have this strong genetic heritage behind it is at high risk (toy breeds are especially susceptible to knee problems) for developing a painful condition that is expensive to fix or to manage.

Another option for you is rescue.  These dogs do not have the genetic heritage of a well-bred Pom, but by the time they hit rescue, their physical problems are largely apparent; some rescues raise funds to help pay for operations and medical care.  A good rescue will inform you of any problems with the dog before you rescue it.  The contact info here is for the Pomeranian Club of Canada Rescue Co-ordinator, who can help you find dogs in need closer to home: is a great place to check for Pomeranians in need near you.  Hey, what’s better than a puppy for Christmas?  Giving a rescue a good home for Christmas!

Good luck with your search!

Yours, etc.

A happy, friendly letter may just get you a happy, friendly response… and educate people about buying a puppy through responsible channels.  I don’t know what response this letter will get, but it’s a great antidote to the “Oh, shit another Christmas puppy buyer” feeling AND encourages the ordinary layperson to do their own research and get knowledgeable about what they’re buying.

A comparison of Shassi and Tierce


I liberated the photo at left of Shassi from Mom’s place so I could scan it for her birthday.  In doing so, I found a picture of Tierce that had similar properties and was struck by the difference.

Shassi, at 3 months is already graceful and compact.  She could run extremely fast (as we found to our chagrin) and in this picture, taken in 1993, she appears to have the structure that would later grow and solidify into a healthy framework for a female Shiba.  She grew proportionately – while she did go through a gangly adolescent phase, it was relatively short.  She “came together” at about a year and a half, although it would be another few months before she filled out.

Now look at Tierce’s photo.  At 8 1/2 weeks in 2007, he’s already All Boy, with a big head and muzzle compared with Shassi’s more delicate accoutrements.  With that maleness comes a chunky gangliness that is apparent even this early.  His ears didn’t stand up completely for another 2 months or so, leaving me to wonder at the age of 3 1/2 months whether my Shiba was going to have Sheltie ears for the rest of his life.  He took a long while to grow into his body, being around 2 years old when everything finally came together.

I found Shassi’s temperament to be more reminiscent of the Japanese ideal for their Shibas: very much her own dog and not given to really looking to us, the humans, for direction.  She was playful in her youth, but matured early and she was never given to retrieving balls or sticks (although she did deign to chase them for a few minutes if she was really peppy).

Tierce at 2 and 1/2 years, is still playful, loves his toys – especially his Kong and his stuffed Dracula that intones I’m going to suck your blood! when squeezed – and actually will come when called (not super-reliably, but definitely regularly enough to qualify for some kind of Shiba World Record).  He is the product, though, of almost 15 years of Sunojo breeding for temperament and health – the latest generations of Sunojo Shibas are happy, friendly dogs who will actually acknowledge your presence!

It may not be the Japanese ideal, but I think I like Tierce’s temperament better than Shassi’s.  He’s still a Shiba, but he’s also a lot more fun to play with.  🙂  However, while I think it’s the product of careful breeding, there is a lot to be said for the differences between male Shibas and female Shibas.  I have heard many times that the males tend to be friendlier with people (although not with other male dogs!) and more playful.  It is somewhat unusual, as people accustomed to other breeds of dog usually used to the opposite – female dogs who are friendlier and more responsive to people and male dogs who are more aloof and aggressive towards them.

Why buy from a responsible breeder when I could have a puppy NOW?

Right now, I’m LiveJournalling like a fiend, trying to convince a friend of mine why choosing a breeder who tests is so important. She wants a Japanese Chin, a breed prone to patellar luxation, eye problems and heart problems. She can’t find a breeder who does testing on their dogs. She’s getting frustrated and wondering if she should go to a breeder who doesn’t test, on the assumption that “all dogs can have health problems; it’s just the luck of the draw”. I sent her a few links detailing why that isn’t the case, but despair of actually explaining effectively enough so that she sees the risk factors.

It’s hard to show a non-dog-educated person how the dog world works. I don’t mean to sound supercilious; Dog knows that I’m not the first person to ask about the merits of buying a SUV vs. a hatchback. However, it seems to me that a lot of people are approaching buying a dog like they would a stack of plates at Wal*Mart. They don’t really care where it comes from as long as it does the job. If a plate breaks, well, back to Wally World to buy some more.

However, it’s been proven that dogs are not like plates. It does matter where they came from. If someone buys a dog from an irresponsible breeder who doesn’t test and doesn’t carefully consider each breeding, they are going to be at high risk for getting a dog that will cost nearly $2000 to address its health issues. If you break a plate, you generally don’t care very much, but when Pookie is unable to go for the walks she loves because her knees are too painful, you generally are unhappy that Pookie is hurting and because she can’t function as the companion you bought her to be.

To NDE people, you generally have to speak in terms of money, not ethics. Again, not a lot of people care where their stuff comes from, if it’s the right price. A lot of people are wondering, “But why do I have to pay all that money for just a DOG?! Why should I wait for the right puppy instead of seeking out someone who has what I want in stock? Why should I be anal about whether the puppy’s parents have the right testing and that the breeder isn’t just tossing a male and female in the same pen because they both have pricked ears and curly tails?

The answer that everyone can relate to is money. After spending around $1000 for a dog, finding out that you have to shell out $2000 for a preventable genetic condition, the charm of buying cheap is somewhat tarnished. Spending two grand because the dog escaped from the house and lost an argument with a Honda Civic is a lot different then money that you find out that you might have avoided spending if you hadn’t bought that puppy at Puppies R Us.

The biggest hurdle to get over is the fact that you can test your dogs clear of everything under the sun and still end up with a puppy with problems. I usually use some analogy involving kids… like if you were going to buy a car seat for little Eggbert Throckmorten III, apple of your eye. You see two identical-looking seats. The only significant difference is that one of them has been tested to make sure that the model’s straps are solid and that the seat won’t break and send little Eggy through the windshield at an inopportune moment. Which one do you buy? The one coming from a plant that regularly tests its products may still fail, but at least you know that measures were taken to prevent failure instead of the sunny assumption that, “well all our seats are safe!”

It’s late, I’m tired, I’m depressed and I’m quickly losing patience with the wilful assumption that dogs are somehow the same as inanimate products on the market.