Placing my retired mums and dads is heartfelt. Or maybe it’s just plain hard. We love them and know they have enjoyed their lives so far with us, but to do the right thing by them we must find them loving homes where life will be slower paced and more one-on-one. It’s a case of loving them enough to let them go. And it’s simply a fact of life for a dog breeder, lest we become animal hoarders. And I do miss them at times; Ebony Rose, Suzie Cute, Rupert, GT, Nelly, Elvis, Banjo, Marcus …too many to name here, but all in my heart. I don’t have this wrench with the pups; in fact I love handover as the puppy goes on to his rightful owner and his little life begins in earnest. Paws are spread and puppy’s world opens.
The good news here is that I have welcomed enough adult dogs into my life to know that they adapt very well to their new world when they sense love and acceptance. This makes rehoming easier, plus the people we rehome to are lovely and we sometimes receive updates years after a placement and many times have had visits too.
Dachshund Australia is a caring and loving place where every dog is a person – well, you know I mean – but it’s also a busy place at times. Mornings are the busiest, leaving afternoons as a quiet place where dogs chillax in the sun aloft a hay bale or find a sun-catch on the terracotta concrete of the verandahs.
Dogs thrive on routine, such as the excitement of the daily changing menu of chicken necks, marrow bones, chicken mince and vegetables and even the one boring day of dried food mixed with some cooked mince & veg – just to shake it up a bit.
Routine is good fun, but especially the variety of that routine – if that makes sense. Food is one example, but the ceremony of the quarter marrowbone that is a point of focus and contention in its various states of decay through the week is another. Then there’s the tunnels…nothing like getting exercise by your run-mate racing through the tunnels while you race along the top. Add to that excitement of your adjacent pen mates doing the same while watching you and the fun is on!
Other fun parts of day to day life include what I call ‘the promenade’. This is when a dog is carried down the central aisle perhaps for a nail clip, hair trim, re rooming, and … woo hoo…it’s bark time for those who happen to be inside at the time. I used to get distressed by this commotion because – well – it’s loud! Until, that is, I realised the dogs love it: that unexpected moment of great excitement!
They all have their turns outside at least once a week in the bigger run of 4 acres complete with a big dam and tonnes of country sniff spots like decaying hay bales and rabbit warrens and long grass. This is the sole job of one person to ensure it happens. We have another staff member (vet nurse) whose sole role is the welfare of each and every dog, medical and mental. That’s over and above the daily stuff of feeding, cleaning, washing bedding and dishes, poo collecting, lawn mowing, weeds, pests, maintenance, food prep, purchasing supplies, legislation, customers and so it goes on. Mums expecting, puppies due, neonates and new mums, matings and so forth. It’s a big project and there is tonnes of mental stimulation and love in every step. Anyone here – and there are seven of us – knows the dogs’ health and happiness comes first. Simple.
When I started breeding I was amazed that the Victorian code of conduct required only two dogs to room & run together. Crazy, I thought, considering the boarding kennel code allows up to four strangers’ dogs to room together. Others thought this odd too, as the new Victorian code now allows this. But not us. We have stuck to two. For what I have learned is that dogs are dogs and their safety if best guaranteed by two dogs only being together. Dogs are pack animals. They have many characteristics superior to humans – oh let me count the ways! – but they are different to us too. An insignificant ‘something’ can potentially result in a scrap; two sort out a scrap … but three or more and you have a safety threat. A breeding establishment is an hormonal environment, further amping up the intensity and experience of day to day life and mostly in a good way, but safety measures are essential too.
People who follow us will know we rehome our dogs quite young. anything from 3 to 5 years is typical, but some are only 1. A few of our girls have had no litters or just one; Ziggy, Pixie, Tigger, Red Bell, Pikelet, Bee Bee and many more too. And so it is that the dog dictates the time to leave us. The fact is that some do not thrive in this environment, as seen by such things as difficult birthings, not enjoying motherhood, unsettledness such as barking and so on. On the point of barking, it can simply be that a dog finds this environment too intense. In a family setting the behaviour is not transferred. But from the perspectives of temperament, dog’s peace of mind and kennel calmness, we choose to find them a new home.
As pet breeders we are able to focus on these things. We don’t hesitate to say a mum or boy is better to be with a family.
One of the biggest challenges I have faced in recent times is doing the right thing by our adults and their prospective new owners. I say this following three failed placements: Wilma (now placed), Scuppa and Ziggy.
Three lovely well adjusted and happy young adults. But I failed in my role as I failed to appreciate these darlings have their own special needs, not unlike a new puppy does. I failed to relay this to the new owners too. For in adopting an adult much is involved; even the best adjusted one. I now realise that if anything they are in fact more vulnerable than a new puppy. A new pup is in a period of change, acceptance, learning and growth. An adult on the other hand is being taken from the world they know and without any understanding of why. I now know- and feel – the adult is much more vulnerable than a puppy. They need more cuddles and reassurance as they try and settle into their new world.
Add to this a resident dog and the plot thickens. It can take one month for an established dog to readjust and accept a new adult. That month can be a harrowing time for the owners – after all, they often have adopted the new adult to enrich their existing dog’s world, not detract from it! It can be distressing after the honeymoon period of a day or two to see their beloved formerly only-child showing aggression in ways they could not have imagined possible. And here is my role as the relinquishing breeder: to talk about the adjustment phase so families can survive to see their first aim to fruition, for the fact is the guys will be soul mates once they have sorted their politics.
Inseparable, in fact. The key is to knowing what to expect as the process of readjustment and acceptance unfurls.
To help this I have just ordered many copies of a book about adopting an adult dog from Dr Patricia McConnell in the USA. She has many to her name on dog behaviour and her website is worth a sticky nose if you get time.
From now on I will be much clearer with my adults for adoption. They will all be priced at $770 (we aim for 5 or under for all our mums) and these prices include desexing, vet health checked, microchipped, current vaccination etc.
My final thought is this: one of the most rewarding experiences for me as a dog person has been the adults who I have welcomed into my life. They seem to know; they know you have taken them because you care and they never forget that kindness. In fact the most significant dogs in my life all entered as adults: Patches, Gina ( my first ever dachshund – where the love began), Lilymae (whose passing inspired me to become a breeder) and dear Jacqui who passed away recently at 17 years.
To anyone who loves dogs, I whole heartedly recommend adopting an adult dog. But proceed in the knowledge that this beautiful animal – through no fault of its own – is vulnerable and needs your love and understanding and that settling in can take one month or more of that patience, love and understanding.
Gentle darling Wilma, four years old today, arrived at her new home in Brisbane yesterday. Her owner Ashlee is well aware she is a vulnerable little girl for the next few weeks. She was rehomed with a puppy – great combo!