Monday, April 12, 2010

Placing Pups

We have only two more puppies to place. Last night Pocahontas found a home with a nice family in Worcester. This Friday, Scar, aka Nauset, leaves for his new home in CT, and Pokey will follow a week after that. Two boys are left.

Placing our pups has turned out to be harder and more labor intensive than we anticipated. Perhaps we were na├»ve about this part of the job, although our breeders had warned us about some of their interactions with the human species. I hadn’t planned on getting so attached to the puppies and caring as much as I do about their future homes. Playing with the puppies, watching them grow and develop their personalities has been more than fun. We’ve learned a lot – about animals and how they behave with each other, humans and how much joy puppies bring them.

But, we’ve also learned how tricky it is placing a puppy with the right family. We’ve learned a lot about human nature and how humans treat humans.

A PWD isn’t an easy dog to own and most people who call or visit know this. They’ve done their research, have a good case to plead, pick the pups up, get down on their hands and knees to play with them and encourage their kids to do so as well.

But not every match is perfect, even if the prospective buyers think it is, just like high school seniors who are convinced they know which colleges should take them, even if the colleges don’t always agree.

Prospective buyers call who tell me they’re interested in the breed because the dogs are cute. Once I ask what they know about the breed and fill in the blanks for them, I often don’t hear from them again. They must realize the dog is more dog than they want. Sometimes a high school senior will realize upon visiting a school or hearing more about the place, that no matter how great the school’s reputation, the fit just isn’t right.

We’ve had a couple of families and individuals visit multiple times to prove they can handle this dog, that they’re ready and committed to the breed, that they understand the puppyhood lasts for three years, that the dogs are mouthy and highly energetic, that they need to work and be exercised multiple times a day. If not, they’ll tear your house apart. If we see the family’s commitment, we are more apt to think about placing a puppy with them.

PWDs cannot be left alone in a crate or in the house for extended time. They need to be with an owner, a dog walker, in doggie daycare, or with another dog to keep them company.

I learned this the hard way – with our first dog who needed more than I could give him. I had a 4-year-old at the time who needed my attention and the dog turned out to be more tightly wound than anticipated. I try to tell people this. Some listen; some don’t.

For those who don’t, we have to do the hardest thing possible and ask them to reconsider the breed. It’s not that we don’t like the families or think they don’t mean well, it’s just the kids are too young or the families haven’t interacted with the puppies or look afraid or don’t really understand what they’re walking into.

No one is happy when they hear this news.

We try to let them down gently – we know we’re disappointing them, just like the high school seniors who got denials from colleges in the last two weeks. It’s not fair. Sometimes there doesn’t appear to be a justified reason and the denial is a burn. Decisions are made on a first impression basis. But when admission committee members sit down to discuss candidates, they, for reasons only they understand, decide some students will be a better fit at their college than others.

So too with our puppies – we, as a family, discuss and agree, that some potential buyers aren’t ready for the breed and others should be encouraged to take a specific dog we think will fit their lifestyle.

Of course, we’re not always right and neither are the colleges, but given the small amount of information we, or the colleges have, we all make the best decision possible.

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