Friday, April 24, 2009

A Great Marketing Idea!

Like everyone else, I have a few "pet peeves" and one of them happens to be the current craze for "designer dogs." What a marketing scheme! Call a mixed breed a "designer dog," slap a clever name on it to define its parentage, and charge people a whole lot of money. Whoever came up with that one deserves a marketing genius of the year award.

I have absolutely NOTHING against mixed breed dogs. Every dog my family had when I grew up was a mixed breed, and each one was a wonderful, loving pet. What I have a problem with is the marketing hype. For example, potential buyers might hear that the designer dogs are "healthier" than their purebred parents. Hmmm…does anyone have a clue about genetics? They might hear that they are "easier to train" or are "hypoallergenic" or "do not shed" or "do not mat." Many of these poor mixed breeds are flooding animal shelters because what buyers got did not live up to the hype. Some purebred dog clubs are assisting with rescue of the mixed breeds related to their purebreds but others are not. Rescue is expensive and many clubs' human and financial resources are limited.

If you want a mixed breed, labeled as a "designer dog," by all means spend a lot of money and go buy one. But, as any breeder of purebreds will tell you, research, research, research before you buy. Research the breeds that created the mix, research the breeder, think about how the toss of the genetic dice might turn up for the particular puppy you are attracted to. Don't fall victim to a marketing scheme or a cute "breed name."

So, today I open myself to criticism as I share with you a poem I wrote one day when I was in a stew about "designer dogs." Actually, it was originally written as a song, but you'll have to settle for reading it as a poem!

Designer Dog Lament
by Joyce Johanson

Oh, there are Labradoodles and Skye-oodles a playin' on the floor.
There are Lhasa-poos and Cocka-poos and Dachsie-poos galore.
Where e'er you look nowadays "designer dogs" abound,
But if I wanted to buy a mixed breed, I'd just go to the pound!

There's a Puggle and a Poogle that live just down the street.
And my neighbor has a Yorkienese he thinks is really neat.
There's a "great designer" cross with a Westie and a hound,
But if I wanted to buy a mixed breed, I'd just go to the pound!

Oh, there are Puli-oodles and Dal-oodles a playin' on the floor
There are Pug-a-poos and Shihtza-poos and KeeShiTzus galore
Where e'er you look nowadays "designer dogs" abound,
But if I wanted to buy a mixed breed, I'd just go to the pound!

The guy who mows my lawn paid three thousand bucks – it's true!
To buy a Shih Tzu-ranian –-- or was it a Pomer-Tzu?
"Designer dog's" a label, as fancy as it may sound
For quite a lot of mixed breeds you can pick up at the pound.

Oh, there are Maltes-oodles and Haven-ooddles a playin' on the floor.
There are Griff'N'poos and Shiba Tzus and Peke-a-poos galore.
Where e'er you look nowadays "designer dogs" abound,
But if I wanted to buy a mixed breed, I'd just go to the pound!

The unsuspecting public has fallen for a scheme!
They pay big bucks to buy a dog that's not what it may seem.
Yep, it seems to me there's lots 'n' lotsa silly folks around,
Cuz if they want to buy a mixed breed, they should just go to the pound!

Oh, there are Dobie-doodles and Chow-oodles a playin' on the floor.
There are Yorkie-poos and Beagle-poos and Boston-Tzus galore.
Where e'er you look nowadays "designer dogs" abound,
But if you wanna buy a mixed breed, why don't ya go to the pound?

Bye for now…and remember: Life is good when you have a Lhasa to love you!


Friday, April 17, 2009

The Beginnings of Joyslyn's Lhasa Apsos

One thing writing this blog has done to me is cause me to sit back and think about my life and the dogs and how I got where I am today. We've had Lhasas for 36 years! I cannot possibly be that old!

So, how do two people who had mixed-breed dogs while they were growing up end up breeding, showing, and loving Lhasa Apsos for 36 years? I'd say it all started with an encyclopedia salesman! Shortly after our marriage, Lynn and I were besieged by door-to-door salesmen who tried to sell us all kinds of things we couldn't afford. (We were in our last year of college.) One of those salesman succeeded in selling us a set of encyclopedias. We both had grown up with dogs as part of our families and knew we wanted to have a dog. The "Dogs" section of that encyclopedia happened to have a very nice picture of a Lhasa Apso in it. Now, if you have ever looked at some of the older Lhasa Apso resources, you would know that some of the pictures of the dogs were not very attractive. So, I suppose if I'd seen one of those photos first I wouldn't be where I am today in the Lhasa world.

After we graduated from college, I landed my first teaching job at a high school in Iowa. With my first paycheck, we bought a refrigerator (Harvest Gold, all the rage in 1970's appliance colors!). When the second paycheck arrived, we bought a dog, our first Lhasa Apso, whom we named Joyslyn's Pheebe. We'd seen an ad for Lhasa Apsos at a nearby kennel. Of course, other than the picture in the encyclopedia, we knew nothing about the breed. We did, howeve,r know how to pronounce its name correctly from the start!

So Pheebe came home with us. An adorable grizzle Lhasa puppy, she soon won our hearts. We had to have another! So…with my third paycheck, Pheebe was soon joined by Joyslyn's Miss Buffy Jo. What a pair they were!

Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure our that Joyslyn, our kennel prefix, is a combination of our first names. Looking back, I find it interesting that we even thought to come up with a kennel prefix because we had no mentor, no experience with pure-bred dogs, and no pedigree to look at for either of the girls we bought! But somehow, that day in March 1973 when we filled out Pheebe's AKC registration form, the prefix "Joyslyn" was created and it's been used ever since. People try to pronounce our kennel prefix as if it were spelled Joslyn, like the art gallery in Omaha, NE. That would be wrong. The first syllable "joys" rhymes with "boys," "toys," "noise," etc. The second "lyn" rhymes with "tin," "win," "grin," etc.

So, that's what buying a set of encyclopedias will get ya!

Life is good when you have a Lhasa to love you!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lhasa Apsos and Children

In a previous post, I referred to the Lhasa Apso's declining popularity and the idea that we breeders may be contributing to that decline by the information we provide about the breed in our ads and on our websites. In an attempt to protect our dogs, we often end up giving the breed a bad image, especially when it comes to Lhasas and kids.

It is true that many Lhasa breeders refuse to sell puppies to people who have young children. I find that interesting because most of us are parents, and now grandparents. Our own children were raised with our Lhasas, and now our grandchildren get to visit and play with the dogs. In our case, we owned, showed and bred Lhasas for 5.5 years before our first child was born. The dogs and children were raised together and expected to get along! They did.

In spite of my good experiences with Lhasas and children, I am often leery about letting people with young children buy a puppy – and it is not because I distrust the Lhasas as a breed or my own puppies as individuals not to "be good with children." It's more that I don't trust other people's children to "be good to the puppy!"

For example, we once adopted a Lhasa female whose breeder had taken her back from the people she sold her to because the breeder heard reports that the puppy was being abused. As it turned out, the rumors were true. Chrissy was being poked at and teased when she was in her crate. The children would also put her on a lead and drag her on her belly down the sidewalk when she refused to walk. Now, what is true about Lhasas is that they have long memories, they bear grudges, and like any other dog or person that has been bullied, they reach a saturation point where they will retaliate. So, yes, Chrissy growled at the children, and even when she came to our home where she was safe, she was always touchy and protective about her crate. Some memories are just hard to erase. I'm sure other breeders have had similar experiences that have resulted in the "not available to homes with young children" statement in their ads.

A Lhasa Apso is fine in a home with children whose parents teach them respect for animals and other people. When people tell me they have children, I generally ask the ages. I ask them to be honest with me and themselves about how the children behave and if they, as parents, can honestly attest to how the children would interact with the puppy. Sometimes we come to an agreement that the situation is a good one for a puppy. At other times, the potential buyers opt to wait a few more years until the child is ready to interact appropriately with a puppy.

So, as I say on my website, some Lhasas — like some people — simply don't like children. Children's unexpected movements, screeching, general exuberance, and unconscious disregard for others are annoying.

Other Lhasas — like most people — love children so much! I once sold a young adult female to a single person who lives in a large city. The dog was born after our children were grown and before the grandchildren were born, so she had never even seen a child. Yet, her owner tells me the dog loves children and when she goes for walks and sees a child, she cries until her owner allows her to greet the child. Liking or disliking children is a personal preference, not a breed characteristic.

Life is good when you have a Lhasa to love you.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Those "Nasty" Lhasas

Is the Lhasa Apso a "nasty" breed? Definitely not in my experience. So where did the reputation come from? I have some theories...

When the breed became popular back in the 70's and 80's, the puppy mill breeders jumped quickly on the bandwagon, purchasing and breeding Lhasas with no other goal than to produce puppies, sell them quickly, and make money. There were no thoughtful considerations regarding structure, health, or temperament. The flood of cute fluffy puppies into pet shops, purchased by people attracted to their appearance with little knowledge (because, to be honest, very little knowledge had been published "back then") about the breed itself, did indeed result in Lhasas with quite nasty dispositions. The breed's reputation has been suffering ever since.

People who purchase a Lhasa puppy need to know that Lhasas are smart, independent, (some might say "stubborn") dignified, and easily offended. Their sense of right and fair play requires an approach to training that avoids yelling and physical punishment (and by that I don't just mean "don't hit" -- obviously you should not hit any dog -- but I also mean things like jerking on a lead). Lhasas think highly of themselves and most are eager to please people. They respond well to treats and praise and training games that are fun and upbeat.

Grooming is part of a Lhasa's life, so a large part of early training involves training the dog to be groomed. Although many people prefer to keep their Lhasas shaved or in a puppy clip of some sort, early training is still needed because those Lhasas will be visiting the groomer and need to know how to behave so they will be welcomed at the grooming shop.

And, yes, there are nasty Lhasas -- just like there are nasty individuals of any other breed -- just like there are nasty people of all ages from all walks of life and all ethnic groups. In my opinion, we should not label an entire group as bad because some of its members are rotten. That goes for dogs as well as people!

Life is good when you have a Lhasa to love you.


Friday, April 3, 2009

A Tribute to A Mentor

Everyone needs at least one mentor in her life, and I have been fortunate to have many wonderful women who have helped me grow professionally and personally. The woman to whom I can attribute my successes in the show ring was a great mentor to me. Her name was Marge Lewis. I met Marge when I was such a green novice, having no idea what I was doing in the show ring but trying hard.

Marge was a professional handler who showed a lot of long-coated breeds -- Yorkies and Maltese (which were the breeds that she bred). She showed Shih Tzu, Poms, and Pekes -- and some other toy breeds like Min Pins and Brussels Griffons. Of course, she also showed Lhasa Apsos and that was how I met her. I watched her show her dogs but was always afraid to approach her. I recall the one time I went to her grooming set up, her assistant was so rude and nasty that I thought Marge probably was also. Not true!!

It was actually Marge's friendliness at ringside that gave me the nerve to speak to her and ask her to show my Lhasa, Rocky, at a specialty show in Texas. Rocky was 13 months old when she took him. He had 1 point. She and Rocky were a great pair. She put three majors (2 fives and a four) on him in 2 weekends and he was finished in no time! She later specialed him.

When Marge started specialing Rocky he was only 16 months old. I began traveling with her to help her with her other dogs and to defray some of my handling fees. I learned so much. With Marge, the dogs always came first. She was insistent each morning before they were shown that they be washed. (Please note that they had been fully bathed before even going to the show!) We washed feet, butts, and faces and blew the long-coated dogs dry prior to every show. Marge's dogs were always immaculate. They looked super and won often. From Marge I learned how to travel with dogs, how to groom, and how to show. I learned the jargon and protocol of the dog show world. Although I was a client, I was also her assistant so I ran with dogs from ring to ring often showing them for her when she was stuck in a ring and unable to make it to another; I was on potty duty and cleaned my share of dirty butts; and I did my share of grooming and bathing.

Marge taught me to be a good sport. She was in the ring to win, but she was friends with so many other handlers and recognized that some days the wins went to others. She taught me that there is always another show, that you learn from your mistakes, and that always, the dogs come first.

It was because of working with Marge that I became adept at long-distance driving! We lived about 5 hours apart. I lived in David City, Nebraska. Marge lived in Independence, Missouri. On dog show weekends, I left home after school (I was a high school English teacher) as soon as I was allowed to leave, traveled to MO to ride to the show with Marge or traveled to the show site to meet her there. On Sundays, we often did not get back to Independence until very late at night. I drove home to NE, fighting sleep, often arriving just a couple hours before it was time to go teach on Monday mornings. My husband became a "dog-show widower" early in our marriage!

I am thankful to all my mentors, but especially to Marge Lewis. The impact she made on my life was powerful. I'll always be grateful for her friendship and inspiration.

Life is good when you have a Lhasa to love you.