sleeping

Alternative Sources for Getting a Westie


Although reputable breeders are the best source for getting a Westie of sound temperament and good health, there are other sources you may want to consider. Some are, for example: the breed club rescue, SPCA, Humane Society, or other shelters; a public notice such as in a vet’s office; receiving Westie as a gift from family or friends, or your neighbour’s Westie is having pups. Westies obtained from the above situations have a greater chance of having health or temperament problems as they may well have originated from puppy mills or back yard breeders which make little or no effort to know the genetic background of the animals they breed, or to maintain them in a healthy condition.



Shelters


Shelters like the SPCA and Humane Society do a heroic and necessary service to society. Adopting a dog from them helps save the lives of good and deserving animals. When a dog is taken into a shelter, it is carefully assessed and all health issues needing veterinarian services are attended to . The dogs are vaccinated, bathed and de-flead etc. as required. They are temperament tested and then held in quarantine for ten to fourteen days. Careful observation by the staff adds more information about the dog, all of which can be passed on to the new owner. However, as breeding is discouraged all animals are spayed/neutered before going to their new homes. This process does not mean that the genetic background is known, nor are all the triggers for possible bad habits or unpredictable temperament issues known.

Public Notice


There are notices from time to time in newspapers, grocery stores, or vet offices asking to find a new home for a Westie. These should be seen as a desperate attempt to re-home a dog that can have serious health and or behavioural problems. The excuse that a family member is allergic to the dog can be true, but most often is a logical sounding excuse for not being willing or able to cope. An ad in the vet office is more reliable as the vet likely knows the dog and its situation and so can help you should you decide to adopt. If you get a Westie from an ad, you have three days to change your mind, so the first step is an immediate trip to your vet for a through exam and temperament test. As with shelter animals, dogs bought through public ads have unknown genetic backgrounds as well as unknown social histories. 


The Gift


Now and then someone receives a puppy given as a gift, and it is usually a surprise gift where the recipient has had no input such as being able to select a reputable breeder. Well meaning but largely unknowing folks have gone to the pet store and picked a cute puppy. The hard part is to be sure in yourself that you really want this dog and that your lifestyle and finances are capable of handling this responsibility. This puppy is not a toy, and will be your house mate for the next twelve to fourteen years. Additional considerations are the training, vet bills and equipment. If there is any question in your mind, send the puppy back. This may not be the best time for getting a dog. If you decide to keep it, go to the vet immediately for temperament testing and a thorough check-up. Also, learn all you can about the characteristics of the breed, its care and training. Puppies should be taken to ‘manners classes’ about four to six months of age. These classes will give you a wealth of dog care information as well as showing you how to have a well mannered companion. For a Westie, always choose a class which uses only positive re-enforcement methods. Should you ever think to give a dog as a gift to someone, give a card saying that it is coming, then consult with the recipient as to exactly what they want. Reputable breeders can be located through though the Canadian Kennel Club. 


Neighbour has Pups


Your neighbour’s Westie went to visit the Westie down the street, and now there are puppies. The neighbour wants to know if you would like one. First of all, do you want a dog , and a Westie in particular? If the answer is not an informed and enthusiastic YES, then don’t be afraid to decline the offer. Should you really want a Westie to fit into your life at this time, then be sure this is the right one. Get to know the mother dog - do you like her temperament? does she get on well with everybody? does she have an even disposition? is she a healthy, happy dog? If possible, arrange to visit with the father of the pups. Also, understand what is involved in grooming, feeding, maintaining health, and the training necessary for a well mannered dog. Always have your new pup vet checked as soon as you get him/her, and follow the vaccinating and neutering schedule the vet offers. The vet can put you in touch with training classes offering positive re-enforcement methods. Westies train more easily if reward is used instead of punishment. 



Rescue


The dogs taken into rescue come from a variety of sources, including puppy mills. On arrival, these dogs see a vet for assessment and any medical problems are addressed. They are cleaned up, de-flead, de-loused, and bathed and groomed as necessary. The next step is a three-month stay in a foster home where the dog is assessed as to any possible temperament and/or behavioural problems. Some are adopted by those doing the fostering, and some go on to their ‘forever’ homes after the three month period. The information gathered in the three months allows the rescue folks and the adopting family to make solid decisions on which home is best for the dog, and to decide if there are bad habits or temperament problems, and how best to address them.

The adopting family gets full ownership papers, an adoption agreement, health report, and a report from the foster home. If the dog has purebred registration papers, these papers remain the property of the rescue organization. Arrangements are made for the dog to be spay/neutered to prevent more population explosion. The dog is micro-chipped, and vaccinations are brought up to date. Should there arise any problem at any time during the dog’s life, when the adoptive family can no longer keep the dog, rescue organizations will take the dog back and re-home it.

Rescue has the advantage over animal shelters in that the three month fostering period allows a longer time for temperament assessment. Any triggers for aggression or just plain bad habits will show themselves and training can be started to alleviate the problem. As with shelter dogs, rescue dogs deserve a second chance to live a happy life, and these dogs know it - responding well to good food, fair treatment, and lots of love. 



In Summary


In summary, if you decide to get your Westie from other than a reputable breeder, you can maximize you chance of getting a nice dog by:

Be really sure a Westie, especially one that may have health or temperament issues is right for your family and life style. Are you willing to spend the time required, and is your budget flexible enough for the added financial cost.

Take the puppy/dog to the vet for a thorough exam and temperament test. Do this even if the animal has seen another vet. It will give your vet a base line for comparison in the future. Vets have a lot of information on all aspects of dog rearing and training. 


Enroll in a training class for puppy manners and general obedience. An instructor who uses only positive re-enforcement methods is best for the Westie temperament. Commit to attending all the classes.

If you get into trouble, and feel you can't handle the situation, don't be embarrassed - seek professional help. Don't put it off. Things will only get worse. Problems are always easier to fix when they first start. Your vet can advise you. 


Spend time with your dog every day, and enjoy her or him.

Author: Anne Matheson