Why We Don’t Celebrate Dog Birthdays

Do you celebrate dog birthdays?

We don’t. Generally speaking, we don’t even remember them. It’s only when they pop up on our phone calendars that we even know they’ve arrived. And the only reason they come up on our calendars is because we have contacts set up in our phones with all our dogs’ pertinent information. Because we need their stats when we’re filling out entries for the events that show off our dog training; Obedience, Rally, and Agility trials.

Dog birthdays scare us

Why don’t we celebrate? Our dogs are pretty central to our lives every day. What they need, they have, regardless of the date. But, to be honest, dog birthdays are frightening.

It’s an unfortunate fact that through our lives we’ve loved and lost many dogs. And our current crew are almost all at ages that were the last ages for gone dogs.

Tango, Fran’s 13-year-old Brussels Griffon is the same age we lost other Griffs – both Golly and Roc. Tango’s birthday is in April, so we’re about half way through his scary year. 

Fingers crossed

Picture of a fawn French Bulldog to illustrate dog birthdays
Teddy

We’re actually looking forward to Boston Terrier Booker’s next birthday. He’ll be 10 next week. Getting past nine, when we lost our Boston Ceilidh, will let us breathe a sigh of relief. The Boston before Ceilidh was Daemon – he was the oldest dog we’ve ever had. He lived to 16, and we were blessed to have him.

On the other hand, Torque just turned eight this week. Logically, we know he’s in good shape and eight isn’t old for a French Bulldog. But our very beloved Teddy died suddenly and prematurely at eight. Even almost four years later, we’re still grieving. Especially when the social media memories crop up, which they do almost daily. He was extremely photogenic and we took and posted tons of pictures of him.

Bittersweet dog birthdays

And that’s why dog birthdays are noted and semi-dreaded around here. Torque got a special, long sniffy-walk for his day. It was beautiful out and he had a great time. 

Dogs don’t know what birthdays are. They’ll celebrate any time we do. Any excuse to party and the dogs are on board. So we’ll celebrate something else with a puppy party. Maybe we’ll celebrate Thursdays. And let our dogs know we love them every day.

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Dogs love their people. Others? Maybe not.

Dogs love their people. That’s a special and precious relationship. But it may not extend to the world at large. And it doesn’t have to. Dogs’ feelings matter.

Some dogs do love everybody. They love meeting new people and seeing new places. Anyone can say “Hi!” to them and they’re okay with that. But your dog isn’t wrong, or mean, or broken if they don’t. 

Dogs in society

The growth of things like dog parks and doggy daycare foster the notion that socialized dogs have “doggy friends.” And if your dog doesn’t like other dogs, or strange people, there’s something wrong with your dog. That’s not true. Among dog trainers, a well-socialized dog is one who is able to ignore distractions, be calm in unfamiliar circumstances, and pay attention to their person. It has nothing to do with playing nice with other dogs.

Another bizarre idea, probably spurred by internet video, is that dogs should let anyone take anything away from them. If the dog dares to object, either by keeping hold of the thing, or even growling, it’s a bad dog. What happened to the old saying “Let sleeping dogs lie?” Pestering dogs by taking stuff away from them, just to prove you can, may be one reason that dog trainers are seeing more dogs with issues of resource guarding.

Obviously, you have to be able to take things away from your dog. Especially if they’ve gotten hold of something dangerous or toxic. Knowing this, most dog owners teach their dogs some form of “Drop it!” and trade the dog for something they really like, like Chicken Heart Treats. We don’t just randomly reach for their food bowls when they’re eating.

Petting and greetings

We take our dogs many places, especially when we’re training. Our goal is to have that dog be able to focus on us, pay attention to us, and become accustomed to different sights and smells. Many times people charge up, hands outstretched, exclaiming “Look at the doggy!” They get offended when we step between them and our dog and say something like “I’m sorry, we’re training. I’d rather you didn’t try to pet him.”

A small white dog being held by a woman in an orange parka to illustrate Dogs Love their people.

It’s as if, just because we’re out in public, our dogs are public property. They’re not. And they don’t have to be. Even if your dog is a menace to other people, you’re allowed to be out and about together. Our 13-year-old Brussels Griffon Tango was just such a menace when Fran got him. Hope couldn’t even touch him without risking being bitten. But through training and patient persistence, he can now go anywhere and loves everyone. 

Fran was able to turn him around by carefully managing every single encounter with every single person and dog Tango met. No one was allowed to get near him without coaching and a handful of yummy treats. If you have a reactive dog, and you want to change that around, check out Fran’s book: Tango: Transforming My Hellhound

Small dogs more vulnerable

It’s more common for people to ask “May I pet your dog?” when you have a big dog. Little dogs seem to be magnets for hands. They’re little, cute, and hard to resist. And some small dogs enjoy the attention. But if yours doesn’t, it’s okay. It’s okay for you to block those reaching hands. Some may think you’re rude, but that’s okay. You and your dog get along just fine. Dogs love their people. Others are optional.

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Dog sounds

If you’ve had more than one dog in your life, you know that every dog is unique. Non-dog people may not be able to tell two dogs of the same breed apart, but if it’s your breed, a single glance tells you who’s who. And if they’re your dogs, you can probably tell even without looking. Dog sounds, as well as looks, are singular.

It’s not just the dog’s bark that lets you know who’s talking, although that’s a dead giveaway. All of our Boston Terriers had barks that started with a “w” sound. Spunky (our first dog!) said “Wubba! Wubba!” Daemon was “Watt! Watt!” Ceilidh, the only girl, rarely barked, but when she did, it was a little “Wuff!” Booker is a big boy with a big “Woo! Woo!” bark. And Simon has the gruffest “Wah! Wah!” you’ve ever heard.

Little sounds mean a lot

Those dog bark sounds are unique to that dog. But their little, everyday-life sounds are special, too. Some are incredibly annoying – Torque has a habit of licking his paws and it drives Hope crazy. Simon is a weirdo and licks walls he’s sitting next to. Also crazy-making. But those aren’t the sounds we’re talking about.

Every dog has sleeping sounds, dreaming sounds, settling sounds. Non-dog people don’t know that subtle “hmmph” with a little open/close mouth sound that dogs make when snuggling down. They haven’t experienced the little yips dogs make when chasing bunnies in their dreams. And those people don’t understand why a dog’s snoring is cute, not annoying. Just like their crunching of enjoyment when they actually bother to chew a treat.

Walking sounds are different, too

Picture of a Boston Terrier play-bowing and making dog sounds
Booker almost always bounces through life

Each dog’s movement sounds are different, too. Tango’s paws rarely make any sounds. He’s really good with getting his nails trimmed, and he also has fuzzy feet. Combined with his tendency of coming up behind us, it results in Tango getting stepped on more than any other dog we’ve ever had.

Booker tends to walk on his tip-toes, and he’s horrible about nail trims. Not even mentioning that he dashes through life, usually bouncing. We always know when Booker’s on the move. And while he’s the loudest of our dogs in every day life, in training he’s the quietest. Thinking takes all his concentration.

What we miss the most

And it’s those little, audible things that are huge reminders of loss when they’re gone. Sadly, a dear friend of ours lost two of her dogs in the past couple of weeks. One was almost a teenager and her loss, while sad, was peaceful and expected. The other dog was only six, and her death was truly tragic. Their house must be so damn quiet now.

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Why “doodles” will never be an official dog breed

Last week we talked about the “Miniature Goldens” we met. Our entire obedience class met them – the two four-month-old puppies got away from their foster dad and were running loose in the facility. This week we were talking about those puppies in class and one person asked “Well, if there are enough of them, won’t they become an official dog breed?”

Which made us realize that the mechanics of the dog fancy are pretty obscure to most people – even dog people. So we thought we’d explain why “doodles” and “mini-whatevers” will never become official breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.

A bit more about AKC. It’s the largest registry of purebred dogs in the world. It’s also an advocate for all dogs, watching dog-related legislation. Additionally, the AKC is the parent of the Canine Health Foundation, which funds research and grants to understand and improve dogs’ health.

When a dog breed is not a breed

The AKC is not an overseer of dog breeding, nor does it decide what breeds exist. The AKC is a conglomeration of breed “Parent” clubs. Every single breed recognized by the AKC has its own parent club. Those breed parent clubs decide everything for their own breeds. For a breed club to become an AKC member club, it has to decide on the breed standard, show single-breed lineage for years, have a minimum number of dogs in the U.S., have representation in more than 20 states, etc. And even then, the breed club has to be part of the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service, and then compete in the Miscellaneous Class in conformation. 

You can see that there are quite a few hoops to jump through to have a breed become part of the AKC. Even so, there are 200 AKC-recognized breeds. But we’re pretty sure there will never be any “doodle” official breed.

Why no doodles?

There won’t be any AKC recognition for any “doodle” because the people producing them aren’t doing it for the love of the breed. They’ll never get together to form a parent club or set a breed standard. They talk about the Alpha-Numeric “generations,” but there’s no standard. What kind of coat? Curly like a Poodle, or fluffy like a Golden? What do the ears look like? How long should the muzzle be? How about the tail? How tall? What is the weight range? All these are defined by a breed’s standard.

White Miniature Poodle in a puppy cut to illustrate official dog breed.
A purebred Poodle trimmed in a puppy cut.

A “standard” for a breed, written by the people who know and care about their breed, gives a guideline for the “ideal” specimen of that breed, both in looks (height, weight, build, etc.) and in personality/temperament. This standard is used by the judges in conformation dog shows. The judge’s job is to recognize the dogs that are closest to the breed standard. 

The clubs even hold seminars for judges at dog shows to show live examples of good and not-so-good dogs of their breed. 

For the love of the breed

Responsible breeders are never in it for the money. There isn’t any. In addition to the cost of keeping and showing dogs, there’s also extensive health testing, and veterinary care. Good breeders always chuckle ruefully at the dog-world joke: “Want to be a millionaire dog breeder? Start as a billionaire!”

There may be some cross-breed producers who care more about dogs than money. But so far, we’ve never found any. We’ve never heard of any who do health testing. Some may guarantee a puppy’s health for a year. Unfortunately, their solution when a problem is discovered is usually to offer another dog, not reimbursement or treatment. Which few would accept after falling in love with the puppy they have.

Official dog breeds

Most people have an idea of the kind of dog they like and what sort of dog would fit into their lives. A particular size, or type of coat, or even a color preference. With 200 recognized breeds to choose among, there’s one that will appeal to almost anyone. There’s no reason to enrich the puppy millers, scammers, and fall for their slick marketing.

There’s a step-by-step guide to finding the right dog for your family. We know – we wrote it. It covers both finding a responsible breeder or a trustworthy shelter/rescue. Share it with anyone looking for a dog. Just like every dog deserves a good and loving home, every family deserves the right dog for them.

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