By Stephanie Jackson
The following article is based on a seminar presented at the National Specialty by Lori Bovee and Tracy Burdick. It was provided to Pap Talk by a seminar attendee, with the blessing of the presenters.
A special feature of the seminar was the presence of two Papillons, who illustrated the possible consequences of misplacement, both to the welfare of the breed as a whole and to the welfare of individual dogs.
Shane is a male Pap, age 11. He is a wonderful, loving dog who is now in a caring, committed home. He came to rescue unneutered, with AKC papers. He deviates enough from the Pap standard in appearance so that he may possibly be a mix, and he has luxating patellas. Had he fallen into different hands, he could have sired several generations of structurally unsound Papillons by now.
Sally is a female Pap, about 12 years old. She is structurally sound, and appears very well bred. She was found in a box on the steps of a church, thin and ill and neglected, with a note asking the finder to please take care of her. She is now healthy and happy in a new home. Had she fallen into different hands, she could have been euthanized by now – or continuing to suffer.
While there may have been a time, when the Papillon world was smaller, that people could trust their intuition to place dogs, that time is gone, if it ever truly existed. Papillons are finding their way into rescue and into puppy mills and pet stores in alarming numbers. If all of us – breeders, pet owners, and rescue workers – do our best to follow the guidelines below and encourage others to do so, we can perhaps begin to reverse that trend and better educate pet owners and the general public.
The questions below will (1) help make the right match by learning as much as possible about both the Pap and the prospective home, and (2) help keep the Pap in that home by educating the owner. They are designed to apply to dogs of any age, although some questions will be less applicable to young puppies. While they may not be new to experienced readers, we hope that relatively new people will find them useful – and that even ‘old hands’ may get a new idea or two, or find the list helpful.
KNOWING THE DOG
This includes getting medical/physical information, as well as observing the dog in your home and in other environments (in the car, at the vet, on walks, etc.). Answers to the kinds of questions below will help both to prepare a new owner for what to expect, and to determine the kind of home that will be best for the dog.
o Age/sex: What are the age and sex of the dog?
o Appearance: What does it look like? What kind of coat, markings? Size and structure?
o Health: What, if any, health issues does the dog have? Has the dog had a complete veterinary check, including blood work, heart/lungs, skin/coat, teeth, patellas, etc.?
* Interactions/people: How does the dog interact with people close to it? With strangers? With children of various ages?
* Interactions/other animals: How does the dog interact with other animals? With other Paps, with small dogs, big dogs, cats?
* Temperament: Is the dog a lap-sitter or independent? Feisty or gentle? Reserved or outgoing? How playful?
* Activity: What is the general noise/activity level? What level of barking, running, playing could a new home expect?
* Needs: What does the dog really love doing? What makes it happy? What, if anything, makes it uncomfortable, unhappy, fearful?
* Trainability: How trainable does the dog appear to be? Is it comfortable with being crated?
* Dominance/submission: Does the dog tend to take a dominant or submissive role with other dogs? With people?
* Adaptability: How readily does the dog adapt to new situations?
* Quirks: Are there behavior quirks that an owner might have to deal with? Or might find annoying? Or perhaps charming?
Background and History
* Previous owners: If the dog has had one or more previous owners, what do you know of its past experiences? What effects do they appear to have had on the dog’s behavior?
* Training: What training has the dog had? What cues or commands will it respond to? Is it housebroken?
* Positive experiences: Are there positive things that the dog is accustomed to that, if continued, would help it make the transition to a new home?
* Negative experiences: Are there negative experiences that a new owner should know about to avoid inadvertently making the dog fearful?
KNOWING THE PROSPECTIVE NEW HOME
There are lots of ways to gather information about a prospective home – and the more sources of information you have the better. Ways to get information include interviews (telephone, email, in-person); references (from vets, neighbors, and others); questionnaires; home inspections (personally, by another breeder/rescue person, via videotape). And though intuition may not be enough by itself, don’t discount it. If you have a ‘gut feeling’ that someone sees a dog as a disposable possession rather than a family member, pay attention to it.
Answers to the questions below will help determine if you’ve found the right home for the dog, and the right dog for the home.
The Home Environment
* Children: If the home has children, are they old enough and responsible enough to treat the dog properly? Are you confident that young children will be carefully supervised with a dog?
* Other pets: Are there other pets? Could they be a danger to the dog? Will there be adequate supervision of interactions?
* Safety: Is there a secure yard? Are there health hazards for the dog in the house or neighborhood?
* Legal issues: If the owners rent, does their lease allow pets? If they have other pets, is there legislation that limits the number/kind of animals they can have?
* Expectations: Why do they want a Papillon? What do they expect or want from a canine companion? Are those expectations realistic or appropriate for the dog? Do they really want this dog, and are they ready to do their best to meet its needs? Should they perhaps consider another dog or another breed – or not get a dog at all?
* Time commitment: How long will the dog be alone? Are there family members with the time and commitment to make sure the dog has adequate attention, exercise, grooming, training, etc?
* Financial commitment: Does the owner have the resources and commitment to provide adequate care and medical attention as needed?
o Experience/knowledge: Have people had previous dogs? What happened to them? Have they had experience with toy dogs (or puppies or rescue, if relevant)? Are they knowledgeable about dogs? If not, are they willing/eager to learn?
MAKING THE TRANSITION
Once the right match has been made, the final step is to try to make sure it’s a match for the dog’s lifetime. There are no guarantees in life, but the more we can do to educate and prepare people, the less likely it becomes that Paps will suffer the fate of Shane or Sally. A list of transition issues:
* Feeding instructions, nutritional concerns
* Grooming and dental care information
* Training and housebreaking
* Crating and safety
* Contracts, spay/neuter agreement, return clause
* Commitment to keep in touch, agreement to re-home if needed
* Transition guidelines
* Ways for the owner to learn and gain support: books, videos, clubs, Internet, training facilities
For those new to the breed, or to placing dogs, this may seem like a lot of work. And it is. But it becomes easier each time you do it, and the potential benefits of continuing to get better at it are enormous:
* The satisfaction of knowing we’ve done our best by the breed and by the individual dog
* Prevention of misery for individual dogs, and prevention of breeding that produces dogs that are unsound or poor representatives of the breed
* Better educated, more responsible dog owners who will often help to educate others
* Building/maintaining the reputation of PCA members as ethical, caring, and responsible
* Increased ability to influence the direction of legislation and public opinion that affects the world of purebred