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Dogs you shouldn’t own. October 2, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in pets.
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When you think of dogs you shouldn’t own, some breeds naturally spring to mind. Breeds like pit bulls, whose powerful jaws can deliver a bite that can break bone. Or Border collies, who were bred to herd sheep over long distances all day, every day, and are great for an active family or as working dogs but become destructive if left alone and bored.

Maybe a breed like the chow springs to mind, fiercely protective of his family but often just plain fierce towards others, or the Akita, bred to hunt bears and strong-willed, a great dog for a seasoned dog owner who is willing to put the time into training, a disaster-in-waiting for an inexperienced or timid owner. Then there are the breeds that have been overbred, typically the mini-minis whose bones are so fragile they break spontaneously or who’ve become known for anxiety disorders.

So when I saw an article on Yahoo’s home page called “5 Worrisome Dog Breeds,” I clicked on it at once. Which five would turn up on the list?

The answer proved to be heartbreaking. The article, which appeared on the VetStreet website and was written by renowned veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, was about three dog breeds that have become most notorious in the veterinary profession for terrible diseases and disorders, plus two whose popularity landed many of them in animal shelters, where their days were numbered.

Of the latter two, one was the pit bull—not exactly a surprise. I’ve been seeing pit bulls dominating shelter populations for years. The poor dogs apparently are discarded because someone wants to look tough, then finds that his dog is “too much dog” for him, or because the person really is tough, and the “scary” pit bull he ended up with turns out to be a mild-mannered sweetheart. As Dr. Becker notes, people are afraid to adopt pit bulls, so once they reach the shelter it’s usually their last stop, despite the ongoing efforts of animal rescue organizations and no-kill shelters to save them.

The other dog on the shelter list was a complete surprise: the chihuahua. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a chihuahua at a shelter, but then, I live in a rural area where I haven’t seen that many chihuahuas out and about, period. Apparently, in more urban areas, the Taco Bell/Paris Hilton phenomenon resulted in a wave of chihuahua breeding and buying, which then resulted in a wave of dumped chihuahuas clogging shelters.

This is confusing to me. I’m not a small-dog person, so I’ve never understood why anyone would want a chihuahua in the first place, but if you did want one, I can’t imagine why you’d want to give it up. Dr. Becker says they’re a generally healthy breed with larger-than-life personalities. Certainly, they don’t take up a lot of space and they’re not terrifying. I just don’t get it.

These situations are unfortunate in the extreme, but it’s the final three that I find most heartbreaking. The first dog on Dr. Becker’s list is the bulldog, to which he adds pugs and French bulldogs—you know, those poor animals that have been bred to have hideous smashed-in faces. How anyone could do that to a dog is beyond my wildest imagining (or to a cat, for that matter—think Persians). How horrifically cruel to the poor animal who can no longer even breathe and is prone to collapse if given exercise in hot weather.

Dr. Becker says many of them must have their nostrils surgically enlarged and/or their soft palates shortened to permit them to draw in the breath of life. How could anyone justify breeding an animal that can’t even breathe?!

The last two on the list really broke my heart, since they’re our favorite breeds: German shepherds and golden retrievers. The beautiful, lovable goldens made the list because they’re so terribly prone to cancer; in fact, Dr. Becker says that among vets, they’re known as “the cancer retriever.”

No one knows why goldens are so prone to cancer, but our own dreadful experience certainly bears it out: We lost our beloved Annie to cancer at just 1 1/2, and our adored Molly at age 10. When our neighbor’s golden recently got the Big-C diagnosis, his vet congratulated him, saying that any golden who made it past ten without succumbing to cancer was a rare sight indeed.

As for German shepherds, Dr. Becker presented a regular laundry list of potential health problems: “epilepsy, vision problems, bleeding disorders and digestive problems, as well as bad hips and degenerative myelopathy, an incurable condition that causes progressive paralysis.” Oh, joy! That’s something to look forward to with our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh.

So be warned. After enduring the agony and heartbreak of Annie’s and Molly’s decline, suffering and death from cancer and cancer treatments, we’ve decided that, much as we would love another golden, we won’t get one unless fate literally drops one of these incredible creatures in our laps. Our neighbor, also a big-time golden guy, says he thinks he’ll risk it after his beloved Jackson is gone.

Think carefully before adopting a dog who’s notoriously disease-prone, a dog deliberately bred to be miserable, or a dog that’s not suited to your personality and your lifestyle. Nobody wants their dog to suffer. And if I never saw another sad, bewildered, abandoned dog in a shelter, it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.

Dogs (and cats and all pets) are not disposables, they’re living, loving beings like us. So do your research, talk to owners, breeders, rescue organizations and vets about the personalities, traits, and needs of various breeds before you buy or adopt. Spend some time at shelters getting to know the individual dogs (or cats) there. This is one time to truly look before you leap.

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