From one tragedy, perhaps others can be avoided. That's the hope of Larry Shook in writing "The Puppy Report" (Lyons Burford, $16.95), a book that looks at the mess that is the purebred-dog world today and then offers tips on finding a perfect pet purebred.
If you're interested in finding such a puppy, Mr. Shook wants you to know: It isn't easy to get what you're looking for.
He found out the hard way, after the well-bred terrier he adored had to be euthanized after jumping a toddler over a slice of pizza. After the dog's death, Mr. Shook did the research few puppy buyers ever attempt -- and came up with some facts even fewer seem to know.
Like the fact that American Kennel Club registration is no guarantee of quality. The AKC itself admits this on its own information sheets to puppy buyers; in California, puppy sellers are required by law to inform buyers of this fact and one other -- that a registered puppy may not even be truly purebred.
According to Mr. Shook, poor-quality pets can come from top show breeders as well as from puppy mills and backyard breeders, especially when show breeders are going for looks over temperament and health.
"The Puppy Report" is well-written and full of strong opinions that are not shared by many in the breeding and showing industries. That alone makes it a vital read for anyone interested in investing several hundred dollars and more than 10 years in a purebred dog.
There are good breeders out there, to be sure, and Mr. Shook's book will help you find them. It always amazes me that people will do more research on a microwave oven than they will on a purebred dog. "The Puppy Report" is a great place to start.
Q: Our vet has suggested that we have the dewclaws removed from our dog's legs after one caught on the couch upholstery and tore. Is this necessary?
A: Dewclaw removal is a judgment call -- and that call is yours -- but since your pet has already suffered a tear, it might be a good idea to follow your vet's advice.
Dewclaws are toes that appear partway up a dog's legs. They are the canine equivalent of the human thumb -- although nowhere near as useful. (The back dewclaws correspond to the big toe of a human.)
The dewclaws are an evolutionary leftover: They are not needed for walking and serve no function whatsoever. Not all dogs are born with them, and some dogs that are have them removed within a couple days of birth by breeders, so a pet owner may not realize they were ever there.
It's best to have dewclaws removed before a puppy is 3 days old, but if that opportunity is missed, it's a procedure that can be performed at the same time as a spay or neuter when the puppy is older. The surgery to remove non-articulated dewclaws -- those with no skeletal connection to the leg -- is an easy one, but even articulated dewclaws -- that are connected to the bone -- can be removed without much difficulty if they become TC problem; they might if the nails are neglected.
Ms. Spadafori is a licensed pet trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o At Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.