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Myths and Misconceptions by Loretta Baughan


1. Girl spaniels make better housedogs than boys.


It's a combination of the dog’s temperament and the new owner’s commitment to providing daily exercise as well as attention to the housebreaking process that determines how well a pup will adapt to becoming a good housedog. It doesn't matter whether it is a boy or a girl. All pups can be excitable, but as they age, most do settle down.

Daily exercise is important for all dogs, of any breed - young or old. You can’t keep a young dog cooped up all day and expect it to be well behaved without giving him or her adequate exercise. They need an outlet for their energy; a chance to run around and play. Remember, a tired puppy is a good puppy. Having a securely fenced back yard or land where the pup or dog can get his daily exercise is ideal. An outdoor kennel run with a dry dog house and some shade works, too - especially if you are unable to fence in the back yard.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of invisible fences because they don’t always work. The collar has to be snug in order for it to deliver the correction, should the dog try to cross the line. An invisible fence won’t keep other dogs or animals out of your yard that may entice yours past the boundary line. Some dogs, even if they’re wearing the invisible fence collar, will learn they can run through it. And once they do, the jeannie is out of the bottle.

"The internet is a great resource for conducting a lot of this research and in locating good breeders."

My in-laws had a springer who was stolen from their yard. He knew the boundaries of his invisible fence and never crossed them. My father-in-law let him out into the yard, put his shoes on and in that brief couple of minutes a van pulled into the drive and someone grabbed their dog. This was at a time when dog-napping was a problem in their area, with many stolen dogs being sold to a research lab.

Whenever your dog is let out into the yard - fence or not, they need direct supervision for their safety.

2. Girl spaniels are better hunters than boys.


The dog’s genetics, natural hunting desire, scenting ability, stamina and training are what determines how well they will perform in the woods... not their sex.

Doing your homework before purchasing that cute little puppy is an absolute must. Familiarize yourself with the various breeds that interest you, study pedigrees and bloodlines, learn the difference between show and field lines, if applicable. Educate yourselves about health issues common to the breed, then talk to people who own that type of dog. The internet is a great resource for conducting a lot of this research and in locating good breeders. Ask the breeder about the sire and dam - their strengths and weaknesses. Are they housedogs or do they spend time in the house? Are they hunted? If so, on what type(s) of game? Were they trained by their owner(s) or a professional trainer? Were the parents’ genetic health screenings completed? If so, what are their certification ratings and numbers? You should be able to find hip and eye ratings online in the searchable online OFA database.

3. The best time to get a new pup is when it is exactly 49 days old.


Unfortunately, this notion was published in a book with the claim that if you don‘t get your pup at exactly 49 days old, it will not bond properly with your family. Seven weeks old is, in my opinion, too young for a puppy to leave its littermates. At that age, they have recently been weaned and separated from their mother. A young pup needs the social interaction with its littermates in order to fully develop, mentally. Through puppy play, they learn that biting hurts. This bite inhibition helps to minimize their nippiness when they do go to their new homes.

Puppies should receive an eye exam from an ACVO canine ophthalmologist before going to their new home. It is recommended that they be older than seven weeks old when this exam is conducted.

4. When bringing home a new pup, take a towel or t-shirt with the scent of its littermates or breeder to comfort him and aid in the transition to his new home.


Why would anyone want to needlessly prolong a puppy’s memory of it’s former home or littermates and hamper the bonding process to his new home and family? That’s exactly what is likely to happen if a new owner brings scent from pup’s former home to theirs. Again, just because something is written in a book doesn’t necessarily mean it is sound advice.

5. House train a puppy by rubbing its nose in its accidents.

False. Absolutely not!

Puppies do not understand the concept of punishment as a means to establish correct behavior. To the contrary, rubbing a pup’s nose in their accident and yelling at him is likely to accomplish the opposite and prolong the housetraining process - especially if any time has elapsed since the deed occurred. The pup won’t comprehend why he’s being punished. He will instead, associate his owner’s displeasure with the act of relieving himself and may try to find a spot to hide the next time nature calls, compounding the problem. Gruff treatment on the part of the owner can also cause the pup to fear his master and will ultimately hamper the bonding process and harm the relationship.

"Part of the responsibility one accepts when the decision is made to breed a litter is a commitment to care for each and every pup until you find them suitable homes. It is irresponsible to dump any puppies that don't sell on the local animal shelter."

Positive motivation is a far more effective means to employ in training your pup. If you actually catch him in the act, tell him "no". Doing this can actually cause him to stop and may prevent the accident. Immediately, pick him up and carry him outdoors. Be sure to praise him when he does complete the task outdoors.

The housetraining process is just as much about training yourself as it is the pup. Using a plastic crate can aid in the housebreaking process. Controlling his intake of water, taking him outdoors upon awakening, after eating, whenever releasing him from his crate, and whenever he appears nervous or otherwise indicates he needs to be let out is your responsibility. Dilligence on your part will speed the process.

6. A female dog should have at least one litter in order to be fulfilled.


Female dogs do not need to have a litter of puppies in order to feel fulfilled - or prior to being spayed. The decision to breed a dog should be based on careful consideration and not based on false notions or the desire to show the kids the miracle of life.

Bringing a litter of puppies into the world involves a lot of time, expense and work. It amounts to a round-the-clock commitment for at least two months, but often much longer, if all of the puppies do not sell or homes are not found for them quickly. Before even considering breeding a litter, be sure that you have homes and people who want them. Part of the responsibility one accepts when the decision is made to breed a litter is a commitment to care for each and every pup until you find them suitable homes. It is irresponsible to dump any puppies that don't sell on the local animal shelter.

7. If you're a "responsible" pet owner, you will spay or neuter them as early as possible.... and... Pediatric sterilization of puppies and kittens as young as two months old is safe and without adverse health risks.

False... and false.

Proponents of pet sterilization - and pediatric spay/neuter operations - often cite health benefits for these surgeries. Among their claims is that neutering reduces the risk for prostrate cancer, however a scientific study suggests no such benefit (8). In fact, two studies actually point at a greater likelihood for a neutered dog to get prostrate cancer than one who is intact (14, 15). They also neglect to provide an accurate picture of the health problems that can result from spaying or neutering. When compared side by side, the health risks far outweigh any possible benefit - not to mention the increased risks involved in the surgery itself.

For male dogs that are neutered, they become subject to an increased risk of developing: osteosarcoma (bone cancer) (1, 2), cardiac hemangiosarcoma (3), hypothyroidism (12, 13), obesity (17), urethral sphincter incontinence (11), prostate cancer (14, 15), urinary tract cancers (18), orthopedic disorders - including canine hip dysplasia (CHD) (4) - aggression (9) and adverse reactions to vaccinations (9, 20).

Spayed female dogs are at a higher risk for: osteosarcoma (bone cancer) (1, 2), splenic hemangiosarcoma (19), hypothyroidism (12, 13), obesity (16), urinary incontinence (10), urinary tract infections (4), recessed vulva, vaginal dermatitis, vaginitis, urinary tract tumors (18), orthopedic disorders - including canine hip dysplasia (CHD) (4, 21) - fearful behaviors (9) and adverse reactions to vaccinations (9, 20).

The sex hormones are needed for achieving peak bone density (5), healthy growth and development. Puppies that are sterilized before they are physically mature and their growth plates have closed can be identified by their longer limbs, a lighter bone structure, narrow chests and narrow skulls (6). Some may also be more prone to suffer CCL rupture (7), in addition to the risks listed above.

Some long-term health risks can be avoided by waiting until the puppy is physically mature and their growth plates have closed before spaying or neutering. Generally, that would be around fourteen months old, but may vary among breeds.

So then, where did the idea that it is safe or even desirable to spay or neuter a young puppy originate? It came from the animal shelter industry and the desire of the animal rights movement to end - or abolish - all pet breeding.

    "...the role of government is represented by those animal rights advocates who look to the government - laws, enforcement mechanisms, and the courts - as essential elements in realizing the abolitionist goal for which they labor."
    --Tom Regan, Defending Animal Rights, pg 145 (2001)

    "Much of the work of animal advocates is aimed not at research but at hunting, trapping, animal farming, and the slaughter of animals for food... However, a great deal of the currently much-expanded activity of animal activists seeks not the humane treatment of animals but their total "liberation" from all uses by human beings, including the wearing of fur and leather, eating of meat and poultry, and keeping of pets."
    --Morton M. Hunt, The New Know-nothings: The Political Foes of the Scientific Study of Human Nature, pg 307 (1999)

"The decision of whether or not to spay or neuter a pet should lie with it's owner - and not be dictated by the government or any special interest groups."

It is not difficult for a responsible dog or cat owner to prevent their intact pet from breeding. It involves simple common sense. The mind set of the animal rightists is to believe that all pet owners are irresponsible - and to be honest, they simply do not want anyone to breed their pet. In spite of 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey estimates that over 75% of dogs and more than 87% of cats have been surgically sterilized (23), it isn't enough to satisfy these animal rights liberationists. Since their campaigns to convince pet owners to sterillize their dogs have not achieved their ultimate goal, these fanatic groups - led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) - are working to impose their desires on citizens through the enactment of laws that will force pet owners to spay or neuter their pets (22) or face criminal charges. The decision of whether or not to spay or neuter a pet should lie with it's owner - and not be dictated by the government or any special interest groups.

Unless it is medically warranted, perhaps we need to take a step back from the spay-neuter mentality that has permeated society and ask ourselves, "What is in the best interest of my puppy (or kitten)?"

(1) - Cooley DM, Beranek BC, Schlittler DL, Glickman NW, Glickman LT, Waters D, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2002 Nov;11(11):1434-40
(2) - Ru G, Terracini B, Glickman LT. Host related risk factors for canine osteosarcoma. Vet J. 1998 Jul;156(1):31-9.
(3) - Ware WA, Hopper DL. Cardiac tumors in dogs: 1982-1995. J Vet Intern Med 1999 Mar-Apr;13(2):95-103
(4) - Spain CV, Scarlett JM, Houpt KA. Long-term risks and benefits of early-age gonadectomy in dogs. JAVMA 2004;224:380-387.
(5) - Gilsanz V, Roe TF, Gibbens DT, Schulz EE, Carlson ME, Gonzalez O, Boechat MI. Effect of sex steroids on peak bone density of growing rabbits. Am J Physiol. 1988 Oct;255(4 Pt 1):E416-21.
(6) - Grumbach MM. Estrogen, bone, growth and sex: a sea change in conventional wisdom. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2000;13 Suppl 6:1439-55.
(7) - Slauterbeck JR, Pankratz K, Xu KT, Bozeman SC, Hardy DM. Canine ovariohysterectomy and orchiectomy increases the prevalence of ACL injury. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2004 Dec;(429):301-5.
(8) - Obradovich J, Walshaw R, Goullaud E. The influence of castration on the development of prostatic carcinoma in the dog. 43 cases (1978-1985). J Vet Intern Med 1987 Oct-Dec;1(4):183-7.
(9) - AKC Biennial National Parent Club Health Conference
(10) - Stocklin-Gautschi NM, Hassig M, Reichler IM, Hubler M, Arnold S. The relationship of urinary incontinence to early spaying in bitches. J. Reprod. Fertil. Suppl. 57:233-6, 2001
(11) - Aaron A, Eggleton K, Power C, Holt PE. Urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence in male dogs: a retrospective analysis of 54 cases. Vet Rec. 139:542-6, 1996
(12) - GRCA health survey
(13) - Panciera DL. Hypothyroidism in dogs: 66 cases (1987-1992). J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc., 204:761-7 1994
(14) - Teske E, Naan EC, van Dijk EM, van Garderen E, Schalken JA. Canine prostate carcinoma: epidemiological evidence of an increased risk in castrated dogs. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2002 Nov 29;197(1-2):251-5.
(15) - Sorenmo KU, Goldschmidt M, Shofer F, Ferrocone J. Immunohistochemical characterization of canine prostatic carcinoma and correlation with castration status and castration time. Vet Comparative Oncology. 2003 Mar; 1 (1): 48
(16) - Edney AT, Smith PM. Study of obesity in dogs visiting veterinary practices in the United Kingdom. .Vet Rec. 1986 Apr 5;118(14):391-6.
(17) - McGreevy PD, Thomson PC, Pride C, Fawcett A, Grassi T, Jones B. Prevalence of obesity in dogs examined by Australian veterinary practices and the risk factors involved. Vet Rec. 2005 May 28;156(22):695-702.
(18) - Norris AM, Laing EJ, Valli VE, Withrow SJ. J Vet Intern Med 1992 May; 6(3):145-53.
(19) - Prymak C, McKee LJ, Goldschmidt MH, Glickman LT. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1988 Sep; 193(6):706-12
(20) - Moore GE, Guptill LF, Ward MP, Glickman NW, Faunt KF, Lewis HB, Glickman LT. Adverse events.
(21) - Dannuccia GA, Martin RB., Patterson-Buckendahl P Ovariectomy and trabecular bone remodeling in the dog. Calcif Tissue Int 1986; 40: 194-199.
(22) - Wolves in Sheep's Clothing, Loretta Baughan, Spaniel Journal, forced pet spay/neuter bill in California, (2007)
(23) - 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey, American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Inc. (APPMA)

Loretta Baughan

Loretta Baughan is the founder, editor and publisher of Spaniel Journal. She is an award winning professional photographer, webdesigner, owner of Autumnskye, LLC. Loretta is a member of the Dog Federation of Wisconsin, the National Rifle Association and is the Wisconsin contact for the Sportsmen and Animal Owners Voting Alliance. She resides in northern Wisconsin, with her husband, Steve, and their three children.

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