Buyer beware!

Last week I visited with a family that had adopted a Wheaten terrier in April of this year. Seven months later and their sad little dog will not interact at all with the family members! Her days consist of sleeping or hiding in her crate, or lying on one of the corners of the small kitchen all day – every day. This poor dog is so emotionally “damaged” that she only learned to eliminated outside after heroic efforts from the family to understand ways that they could coax her outside without scaring her every time.

She will not make eye contact, unable to learn the simplest task like walking on leash, eliminate or eat if they are watching her. The list goes on. When I received the call about this case and once I went to visit with them, I could not hide my outrage as to how their dog came into their lives. Long story short, I asked for the information where they got the dog and to my disbelief the dog “came with papers” and a certificate from the AKC!

After I left their home I went to the AKC website and spoke to someone who mentioned I could report the situation via email. She did mention that the AKC does not have a way to take any legal action about cases like this – I had briefly explained to her the severity of this dog’s emotional state.

However their website ( does state the following: “The AKC is the only purebred registry in the United States with an ongoing routine kennel inspection program. The AKC has a dedicated team of field inspectors who visit kennels to help breeders while ensuring the proper care and conditions of AKC-registered dogs…” they go on stating what these inspections are like. In addition, their website states:

  • While the AKC does not have penal or regulatory authority, breeders who have major kennel deficiencies may lose AKC privileges (ability to register dogs or compete in events). In some cases, fines will be imposed, AKC privileges may be suspended and appropriate law enforcement authorities contacted.
  • The standard penalty for anyone convicted of animal cruelty involving dogs is a 10-year suspension and a $2,000 fine.

My diagnosis of the Wheaten terrier is a typical and very sad – (they are all sad cases) of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness takes place when a dog (I guess all animals can be subjected to this) has learned that no matter what they do, they have absolutely no possibility of exercising any (positive) change in their lives or environment. In other words, the dog learns that nothing she has done in the past has changed the situation for the better, so in essence, they stop “behaving”.

Here we have a dog that is just surviving. Doing the best she can to pass the days as fearfulness as possible – almost not-existing. Most likely this dog was never properly socialized to people in general and to all sorts of novel stimuli. Her breeder had no concern for her emotional needs whatsoever. Her life consisted of being in a crate almost all day, every day with (some) access to a run on some days. Her job was to make puppies. Her life a misery! Finally she was surrendered after having had a hysterectomy because of a prolapsed uterus.

Is there hope for these cases? It really depends on a bunch of factors and every case, of course, is unique. In the case of my client’s dog I was able to get an encouraging response to my approach and offered her the highest value food I could think of. Her owner remained stunted and mentioned that she had NEVER eaten out of anyone’s hand. Furthermore, I had planned on doing some TTouch on her. I began working very gently on her. I then proceeded to help her stand almost in balance and with relaxed limbs that just like her hind area was absolutely stiff as a result of being so overwhelmed with our interaction.

Shortly thereafter I was able to lay her on my lap and continue working with her with the gentle touches. At the end of the short session, this little girl went back to her usual corner, but now, she was making eye contact with us at the other end of the kitchen. Her back was now relaxed to the point that we could not see the severe “hump” on her back. Her response gave us all hope.

Now back to the AKC. As I promised my clients and with their permission, I contacted via email the AKC. In my email I stated the facts and gave them the information of the AKC certificate of this dog. Previously, the person I spoke to over the phone did confirm that the name of the breeder was in their “roster”.

Just after the holidays, I received a response to my email/formal complaint from the AKC. With an answer and information that was not in line from what I read on their website as posted above. They stated the following, and here I am copying directly from their email in an effort to not misinterpret their position: “As you may be aware, the AKC does not license or endorse anyone engaged in the commerce of selling purebred dogs and, therefore, has no control over the business practices of those involved in such transactions. Membership in the AKC is comprised of independent dog clubs located throughout the United States. No individual persons are members of the AKC.” 

Wow! I thought, so here is a breeder that per what I learned from my clients and my own interaction with the dog, is literally running a deplorable breeding program a la puppy-mill and using their “affiliation” with the AKC as a “trusted” bona-fide breeder to sell her dogs to uninformed, or in the case of my clients, first time pet owners. Disgraceful! Yes, this poor dog has papers! Her line is registered with the AKC!

I responded once again to the folks at the AKC and thanked them for their quick reply. Here is what I said: I understand the AKC cannot take any sort of legal action against cases of abuse or even neglect. However, when any breeder claims to be a member of your organization, it is de facto representing that they comply with your code of ethics. When the AKC does not look into matters of this sort, you are de facto being linked to breeders of dubious enterprises without a true concern for their keeps.

In this case, clearly the breeder has been able to obtain certificates for her dogs which she sells thus misrepresenting what the AKC stands for in the public/consumer eyes. 

My client’s have been victims to this. It is a shame that the AKC does not do more to ensure the breeders (or clubs as you state) who claim to be part of AKC are not regulated for good husbandry and at the very least minimal standard of care for the animals your organization cares about. I will file a complaint with local authorities and other relevant institutions. 

So here you have it folks! Beware from ANY breeder that claims the puppy or dog you wish to take in as your own has been registered or has “papers” from the AKC, clearly this means NOTHING when it comes to how the pup was raised – if humanely and in a properly socialized.

Of course it goes without saying that purchasing any animal via the web, or any other non- legitimate source (yes, this includes pet shops!) could truly turn into a nightmare of pain.

If you are looking to purchase a puppy or dog from a breeder and there are ANY red flags, please do not proceed. Not only that, unless you are 100 % sure of the organization selling the dog, you must, must, must check things out for yourself in person.

Also know that even though it is common practice of any good breeder to have a contract that will stipulate that they will take the dog back from you (for any reason!) and only they should place the dog in the event of surrendering there is much more that excellent breeders must do. They are out there folks, but unfortunately they are the exception and not the rule.