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Pets, Perception, and Personal Preference

Brenda Bonnett

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I recently participated in the educational and thought-provoking conference on brachycephalic breeds presented by the Swedish Kennel Club, 27 February 2016.  More on that later …


Something that arises in all discussions of problems in dogs – especially those with exaggerated physical characteristics – is the fascinating issue of personal preference and people’s attraction, devotion, and attachment to certain breeds.  For example, although there have been concerted efforts at educating consumers about brachycephalic breeds and their higher risk for health and welfare issues, especially in the UK, we heard that the numbers of Pugs and French Bulldogs being bought as pets continues to increase – by as much as 30% in recent years.




The Washington Post has recently published an interesting article that is very timely for our consideration of these complex issues – including thoughts and information from two friends of DogWellNet.com Hal Herzog and James Serpell, These experts help keep us thinking about tough issues (and we profile some of their work elsewhere on DogWellNetl.com).


Why We Love Dogs and Cats but not Bats and Rats


I suppose I could have included another P-word in my title – psychology (but of course it wouldn’t have supported the alliteration). 


These animals at the other end of the leash from our beloved doggies – they are really fascinating! 

Understanding their complexities is needed to help us to move forward on enhancing dog health, well-being and welfare.



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This post lead me to 2013 Sep 11;8(9):e74770. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0074770. eCollection 2013.

Fashion vs. function in cultural evolution: the case of dog breed popularity.

Ghirlanda S1, Acerbi A, Herzog H, Serpell JA.


Considering factors which may influence breed selection and/or breed popularity swings, these days I am struck by just how many people are turning to rescue groups and shelters to obtain a pet. See the AVMA's article  "Unmasking the shelter dog".


Purebred dog or mixed breed dog - where 'pets' come from and how owners make choices about the kind of dog they want and what owner's expectations are is interesting to me. Could I explain my devotion and attachment to my breed - or anyone else's to theirs?


As a dog breeder it was critical for me to understand each adopter's situation, lifestyle, focus and goals. The welfare of the puppy or dog being placed depended on me - educating, screening and supporting new owners - all an integral part of producing and selling 'pets'. Dissuading buyers with their minds set on getting their companion from among members of  my breed, which is known to have a shorter than average lifespan, numerous and often costly health issues, and a few problematic character/temperament issues, wasn't happening in many cases. A once relatively rare breed moves towards popularity - I never quite understood why. Media coverage drove interest.


Shelters too are striving to make good assessments that lead to sound choices in terms of placements - making matches. In What We Want  "Dr. Emily Weiss digs into some stats on why people choose the pets they do—and asks you to share your experience with adopters who don’t find what they want." It's a good read.


There is a new national database for shelters in the US -- Shelter Animals Count - http://www.shelteranimalscount.org/ which  exists to create an effective infrastructure for complete and accurate shelter reporting to truly understand the risk factors, use this data to implement effective strategies and positively impact all lifesaving efforts.






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