"The Peeing Post"

Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature

Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen

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Dear Dog Friend,

Happy New Year! I hope you had a nice Holiday! I was pleased to see that so many took me up on the freebies and specials we offered in last issue.

It is still "season" - so we are not all done with the gifts.... I have another one to announce later in this issue... J


The pet market

As a subscriber to the magazine "The Pet Food Industry", I learn many things that I am not really sure the industry wants me to learn... but so be it!

In the December issue (which was quite "neutral"), there were some interesting numbers I would like to share with you, as I think they could have some general interest. Americans spend about 34 billion dollars on their 61.4 million dogs. That is $554/year/dog in average. Kibble counts 40% of this, or $222/year/dog - averaging all sizes of dogs. The remaining 60% do not include veterinary services, but encompass all kinds of pet products, like beds, toys, leashes, crates, and whatever else can be bought in a pet store.

That is surprising: less than 20 bucks per month for food - and almost 30 bucks per month for all "other stuff". The average American dog owner buys much more "other stuff" for his/her dog than food! Of course, these stats only count kibble as food - nothing else. The raw feeding community is rising very fast in numbers - but they are not included here....

It was funny to see where people buy their kibble. Here is what the stats say about that (M$ = million dollars):

Outlet Value Fraction
Grocery store M$4,425 32.9%
Mass markets M$3,468 25.8%
Pet specialty store M$2,764 20.6%
Farm/feed store M$1,013 7.5%
Vet/kennel M$838 6.2%
Other M$921 6.9%
Total M$13,429 100%

More than half of all those purchases are made in groceries and mass markets (like WalMart, Costco etc.) where people also buy their own food - and where they just as well could buy some real food for their dogs...

I was surprised to see that vets are this low on the list, but their market is growing 7% per year! Somebody is doing some serious marketing here...

And who are the "big guys"? Here they are (market share in brackets):

In 2004, 388 new kibble products were introduced in the USA! The main part of those are "specialty diets" that are meant to help dogs overcome all those ailments they get from eating kibble.... Smart! Create a problem, and then sell a proposed cure for it...

So, how much money does Purina make on dog owners? Well, 30.8% of the $13,429,000,000 is about $4,136,000,000 - or: more than 4 Billion Dollars! Now, about half of that will be mark-ups for distributors and resellers. But still - it is a good chunk of money... No wonder that they can afford to hire some smart marketers, considering that the value of the input ingredients of pet food generally is less than 10% of the cost of producing it... By sitting on about a third of the market and being almost three times as big as their nearest competitor, they have a lot of "financial muscle" - and a serious motivation for using it!

What does a scientist cost per year in salary? OK, let's say $100,000 for a really good one. Let's say also that 10% of the revenue in a business is reasonable to use for innovation and research (you cannot be a leader in any industry if you spend anything less than that...). This gives Purina a budget of around 200 million dollars per year for this. For that money, they can hire a staff of more than 2,000 researches for salaries of $100,000/year for each... That' a pretty nice-sized faculty, folks! And all of them are loyal to the boss that pays their salaries! Why not? Why should they lose their job over having some of their results deleted from the final reports? And why should they want to publish research that could harm their employer's profits and put their own job at risk for being "downsized"? Why would they even try to think about conducting studies that possibly could prove their current concepts wrong? Didn't we all laugh at Donald Duck when he cut off the branch he was sitting on and fell down from the tree?

Waging war against such a giant's deliberate misinformation of the public is not easy. We need some slingshots here!

But, as I have said many times and will be saying many times also in the future: you are not right because you are many. If Columbus had given in to the majority's opinions, the Earth would still have been flat...


Selecting a puppy - choosing a breeder

I left the issue about choosing a puppy some time ago on the note of choosing the kind of dog that is right for you. In the May 19, 2003 issue, we discussed how you test that the breeder has produced some healthy and well-imprinted puppies.

There is more to this. Inspired by the research I did when I wrote "The Wolf's Natural Diet - a Feeding Guide for Your Dog?" and some discussions in the on-line forums I participate in about breeding, I feel the need for passing on some additional advice in regard to whom you select as a breeder for your puppy. I warn you - it is not pleasant news! And, if you are a breeder yourself, you might not like it.... Please acknowledge that my intent is not to offend, but to make you think so you can make your own diligent decisions in the future. This is particularly true if you are a breeder who just never happened to think about things in this context...

Mutations occur all the time. They cause change in the inherited properties - and in the genes that are passed on if this individual is successful and survives to breed. Many modern genetic researchers actually believe that there is some sort of a "clock" associated with the genes and that this clock will cause changes to happen at predictable intervals! In other words: genetic changes are not a question - they happen. Constantly.

Mutations are Nature's way of experimenting with the ways a species is adapting and can adapt to its constantly changing environment. The vast majority of the mutations are not very successful, though. But that's OK for Nature: those individuals just die before they can breed, and the genes are gone again.... Maybe they will be carried on for a few generations when the environment is particularly favorable, but, as soon as tough times arrive, they will be the first to go - and Nature preserves only good genes for the species.

Once in a while, those mutations represent an increased ability for those individuals to survive and breed successfully. It is obvious that they will be the ones that survive tough times - and they will also generally produce more healthy offspring than any other individuals, so, over some generations, like 50 or 100 or so, they will very likely be just about the only ones surviving - and Nature has now created a new version of the species, a more successful one, adapted to the new environment.

The thing is that when we change the criteria for "survival of the fittest" by applying breeding selection criteria that fit our human purposes, then we also change the genetic composition of the species we breed. We have seen this more than adequately illustrated with the animals we have domesticated. Domestication is simply breeding in accordance with man's unnatural selection criteria - and the impact on the animals is profound....

As discussed in "The Wolf's Natural Diet - a Feeding Guide for Your Dog?", man has a tendency to prioritize important values in a way that is very egocentric. We have discussed earlier how this has created a lot of breeds with inherited problems - for no other justification than man's vanity. Examples are the bulldogs - with their ultra-short muzzles that create serious breathing problems for them. Or the German Shepherds with their low hips, the Dachshunds and Bassets with their long backs that cause the serious problems with arthritis, the teddy-bear-like Chow-chows with their folding forehead skin that causes eye problems, the Chihuahuas that are bred so small that their internal organs no longer function as they should, the French Bulldogs that have heads so big and hips so small that they die if attempting to give natural birth - how long a list do you want?

These inherited health problems are, unfortunately, desired by breeding standards! The individual breeders who love their breed will, of course, defend themselves by saying that they are doing everything they can to breed these problems out again. The bad news for them is that they have no chance of success when the problems are directly genetically linked to the desired "characteristics of the breed", and they will not get any titles on such breeding stock at the shows, so their chances of selling such puppies are very slim... Could you imagine a Dachshund breeder opting for shorter backs, so those Dachshunds would look more like Beagles?

To me, there is something terribly wrong in this. I cannot condone that anyone would breed puppies they know will have genetically caused health problems, no matter what the reason is. I see it as cruelty to animals.

Here are just some recent examples I picked up from some on-line newsgroups; they are all well-renowned breeders with highly valued show dogs and puppies that easily sell at very good prices - and they had no clue that there was "something wrong" with what they were doing:

Would you buy a puppy from any of those? I wouldn't. Even if I did not plan on breeding the puppy I would get, I wouldn't want to support such irresponsible breeding. Buying a puppy from such a breeder means supporting this breeder financially.

But these breeders are not doing anything wrong - they just love their dogs and do what it takes to breed them, using whatever technologies that are available and required...!

That's exactly the problem: they hide problems Mother Nature would have erased - and pass those problems on to future generations.... Out of a good heart and misunderstood love.

Now, if such a breeder had an accident - and this kind of problem happened just once, then what? Accidents can happen - all kinds of problems can pop up that have nothing to do with genes, so it would be unfair to exclude a good breeding stock because of that, wouldn't it?

Well, Mother Nature's answer is "no". She does not care about the reasons. She only judges the result. And if the result is "unfit for survival", it dies. That's her way of eliminating the risk of bad genes in the species. She takes no chances - the species' future is far more important than any individual.

Fortunately, we do not need to kill in order to achieve the same effect of protecting future generations. Excluding "possible risks" from future breeding would, in principle, be enough - provided we are dealing exclusively with responsible dog owners... So, if the breeder who bottle-fed a litter of puppies would be honest about this and make sure that the puppy buyers would not breed those puppies until it has been confirmed that this incident of the dam not producing milk was indeed caused by reasons that can be shown to be not genetic, then, sure, those puppies will be great companion dogs, as they are certain to be very well imprinted on people! If you know you will not breed this dog later, it is a great plus. But if you did consider breeding, your are gambling.

Similar for the breeder whose dam got killed or got severely ill while nursing. In such a case, we have good reason to believe that the puppies are OK, genetically. But, in fact, we do not know, because they were not put through Nature's test...

It's a difficult call. And I do not want to tell you what your decision should be. Except that I hope you will also make it with due respect for future generations of dogs.

The brunt of the blame for this whole problem, of course, is to be put on the kennel clubs that are responsible for promoting and supporting unhealthy breed standards, or breed standards that will result in unhealthy dogs. The breeding standards are nothing but fashion - and I find it hard to accept deliberately creating suffering for animals for the purpose of pursuing human fashion. The kennel clubs will, of course, refer to the general demand for those breeds - but that is, in my opinion, nothing more than abdicating responsibility, letting uneducated masses make their decisions. The fundamental assumption that every single existing breed standard has a legitimate right to exist "as is" is simply not responsible, and using shows alone for selection of breeding stock is outright ludicrous.

Here is a thought that might upset many people, but it is important in order to comprehend the true perspective of this: Let's consider this kind of "professional" breeding standard, based on care for both parents and puppies, and using all kinds of good intentions to ensure that those puppies do grow up to become nice dogs as "philosophy 1". This is what most breeders who call themselves responsible believe is "the right things to do", demonstrating their care by sparing no effort, being willing to pay the vet (if needed) whatever the costs are of raising those puppies, every single one of them.

Let's now consider another breeding practice, "philosophy 2". This one is based on mass-producing puppies, at the lowest possible cost, so the profit margins are maximized. This calls for little or no vet support. If a puppy dies because of any problem, so be it - just one less to feed and sell. If sickness or disease comes around, it sure tolls hard on the surviving puppies, as no care is provided. This is the standards applied by "puppy mills".

Which philosophy would you think has the greatest chance of producing genetically healthy puppies for future generations? Don't get upset - just use your left brain and not your right brain to answer the question...! I know - there is conflict in this - we do not like that answer...

Now, this doesn't mean that I in any way condone "puppy mills". I find them disgusting. But you can then also conclude from this what I don't want to say about "caring breeders that spend a lot of money and energy on raising puppies, following kennel club standards and using all available veterinary services as required"...

Dealing with this is tough, though, particularly for the individual breeder who, of course, loves his/her dogs to pieces! But loving your dogs does not necessarily mean breeding them... But breeding them should only be an option if they are loveable!

There is more to this - but I will leave that till next issue.


Training the dog to pull on the leash?!

Why would anyone train their dog to pull on the leash? Isn't every single dog owner annoyed with the dog pulling? Wouldn't we be much better off and enjoy our dog walks much more if those darn dogs would just quit pulling?

The last question has an easy answer: "yes". The first question is more tricky - because I don't think very many dog owners think about the fact that this leash-pulling business is something they have been teaching their dog - and most likely still teach! On every single walk!

I know - you are puzzled. Let me explain...

The bad news is that whenever a dog does something after a "clue" of some sort, and this action leads to a reward, then training is taking place.

You might object and say that you do not reward the dog from pulling on the leash. By saying so, you probably forgot this: everything and anything the dog enjoys can function as "reward" for training. And everything and anything that constitutes a recognizable sense impression can become the "clue" that triggers the action.

Here is how you train this:

Command

[the dog senses tension on the leash]

-->

Incitement

[the dog discovers something interesting ahead]

-->

Reaction

[the dog pulls on the leash]

-->

Reward

[the dog gets to enjoy checking out what caught its attention]

As you know, all training works by the incitement making itself redundant. So, the result of this sequence of events repeatedly being experienced by the dog will result in the dog pulling harder, every single time it feels tension on the leash! No "ifs" and "yeah-buts" about it. It happens all the time - and people are not aware of it.

The big question is what do you do about it? Odds are seriously stacked against you. Making a learned reaction go away by simply discontinuing the training that led to it will take forever - and chances are extremely slim, if not totally non-existent, that you can actually manage such an approach consistently and over the long period of time that it takes.

The solution is to teach another reaction on that very same "clue". A reaction you can accept - and use to overpower the one you don't like.

This is simple, in principle. Yet, without fully understanding the scope of the training, it is virtually impossible. As you can see on the streets, dog owners in general have just about zero success with this...

I finished a little e-book about this: "Don't Pull on the Leash". It is about 25 pages - with all the specific instructions for how exactly you do this training, without using pain, "discipline", "corrections", or punishment in any way, shape, or form. Solely built on positive reinforcement of the reactions you want... The price is set at $6.85.

As usual, subscribers to The Peeing Post are being pampered. I will offer that e-book to you for free! All I ask in return is that you actually do the training - and that you give me feedback when requested in about 3 weeks. I will not guarantee how long this offer will stand (it is a pure experiment from my side) - so you better check it out right away. The special link for you to use is here, and when this link leads to the normal introduction page, it is because this offer has expired.

But there is more. I am seriously interested in getting some stories about what kind of change this training does for a dog owner. I know from my past experience in my training classes that the impact can be huge. Really something that can make a dog owner excited. I would like to have some of those stories. Fresh - and based on this e-book alone. From my preliminary test panel, I believe the instructions are clear enough to reasonably substitute for my live coaching, but I need that confirmed from a greater audience. So, I will offer another free download of any of K9joy's e-books (your choice) to the three best stories about the "before" and "after" using this training method! (If you are one of those who already got "everything", I will accept rain checks on the next future title).

Summing up, you can get this e-book for free - and you can use it to earn another e-book of your choice, for free! Depending on the number of responses, I will select a "board of judges" among those who take me up on this offer, so the result does not get tainted by my personal prejudices...J


Have fun! Till next time.

 

Cheers and woof,

Mogens Eliasen

 

If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of The Peeing Post, or some comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in to dogs in general, I will be happy to know about them. If I can find an answer for you, I will!

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P.S. I just want to clarify something that might not have been clear enough for everybody: When I am giving special offers here in The Peeing post and provide a special link for one of them, then it is because that special offer is available from that specific web page and not from anywhere else.

I am generally not interested in having more work or extra costs out of offering products at discounted prices to subscribers. If the page you are led to gives you no other options than a download, then it is because the discount is not available for other versions of that product, but for downloads only. Similarly: discounts are generally not available if you want to phone or mail your order in! Receiving orders over the phone or by mail costs K9joy extra banking fees for processing payment - plus takes extra time for K9joy's staff.

Besides, the extra charges for CDs and printed copy of the e-books that are available this way are exclusively charged to cover K9joy's out-of-pocket extra costs of making the product in this version and mailing it. There is no profit whatsoever hidden in those extra charges, and K9joy is not getting any discounts on the printing or from the post office...

As you will notice for the "Don't Pull on the Leash" offer, I gave you a general link (the first one) which you can use if you want a printed version, a CD, or if you want to order by mail or phone. You are welcome to use those options any time - but don't ask for a discounted price then! If you want this offer at no charge, you must order through the link I gave you (the second one), and please do so without trying to twist the rules to get your discount anyway on terms that are not included in the offer.

Mogens