Crousti Chronicles: Your choice of the litter, finding and choosing a dog

I’ve always been a dog person. It’s not that I have an aversion to cats like I do for andouillette, but growing up we had dogs in our home and so that was what I knew. The only cat I ever took to was Hobbes, my brother’s cat. But he was declawed and neutered and so at his liveliest you would have described him as subdued.

My husband is a Dog Lover. He too grew up with family dogs (and seven brothers and sisters) and as an adult has had two of his own before we met. Since being together, every time we have passed a pooch, he has asked with the excitement of a 5-year-old: “When are we going to get a dog?”

I relented under the following conditions:
  1. Small apartment equals small dog. This despite the fact my husband is 6 feet and 200 pounds.
  2. Quiet dog. Most of our neighbours are elderly; and I don’t want complaints about a yappy dog.
  3. Dog that doesn’t shed (I have severe allergies).
  4. Female dog: don’t want a humper.
  5. We have to agree on the breed.
It was in fact my mom in Canada who found the perfect breed for us. While watching CMT’s Pick a Puppy, a reality show that presents three types of dogs to would-be dog owners, she discovered the Coton de Tulear. Originally from Madagascar, these small and predominately white dogs are quiet but have lots of character, especially because they love people and other animals. They don’t shed but they do require high grooming maintenance. As pups, they are often mistaken for a Bichon. I Googled Coton images and this is what I found. Pretty cute.

Coton Dog

See Coton 101 video (warning: you will want one):


We agreed on the breed so the next question became: where do we get one of these adorable dogs in France? I approached Dr Nigel Gittins, an Antibes-based vet who used to write a pet column for the Reporter, about the best way to find a dog. He first pointed me towards a very helpful French site http://www.chiens-online.com/recherche-chiots.html where you can search for registered breeders across France, plus there’s tons of useful info about each race you are considering. Dr Gittins also provided the following:

Getting a Dog 101

Where is the best place to get the dog? Kennel? Refuge? Pet shop?

A reputable breeder is the best place, as they’ll also take care of micro-chipping and registering your puppy.

Does a dog have to be registered anywhere? Does it have to be chipped?

It is obligatory in France that your dog be registered through a microchip with the Societe d’identification electronique veterinarie (SIEV). Once again, a reputable breeder will do this for you when the pup is born. There is a machine that can read the chip, so if you are buying a dog not directly from a breeder, but from a private sale, say, you should ask to verify the chip number with a vet. The chip is under the neck, and basically the size of a grain of rice.

Mutt vs pure breed?

Tricky to answer. It depends on what the individual is looking for and also you’re purchasing power, as pedigree certainly affects the price. If there is a certain breed you’re interested in or you think you would enjoy then get that breed. If your funds are limited then a mutt at the SPA is a great choice. Keep in mind that the larger the dog, the shorter the life span. As well, dogs that are bred for northern climates such as Huskies are going to be miserable in the warmer weather found in the South of France.

Male or female?

There is no difference. Plus the dog usually chooses you. Bigger dogs don’t live as long as smaller ones.

If we can find one that is already house trained is that a good idea? Or should we get a puppy and train it ourselves?

Doesn’t matter. Depends on whether or not you want to put in the time and work to house train. It’s important to remember that when training a dog regular routine and structure are essential, and that you should be the boss.

Is medical insurance necessary?

Medical insurance is not mandatory but preventative and reportedly only 4% of the French take out heath insurance for their dogs (compared to 80% of Swedes and35% of Brits). Like any service offered there are good and bad pet insurance companies. Ask your vet for help choosing one. Bulle Bleue (see http://www.bullebleue.fr) is the only insurance group in France managed and run by veterinarians and it’s non-profit. While prices may seem slightly above the going rate, it’s important to know the contract starts seven days after signing (other pet insurance companies can take up to six months), it reimburses €30 for the vet exam required to register, and it has a shorter reimbursement period than other insurers.

Tip: Bulle Bleue operates in French language but all the paper work can by done online and by post.

Is civil responsibility insurance necessary if the dog damages others' property or bites someone?

Yes. This type of insurance normally includes most dogs. However, for larger dogs contact your insurance company to make sure your breed is covered.

Vaccinations?

All dogs need to be vaccinated for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza, leptospirosis and rabies. Other vaccinations may be particular to your geographic area. For example, it is advisable that dogs here are vaccinated against leishmaniasis, a potentially deadly mosquito borne virus that can be found in the South of France. There are products available and now a vaccination as well for preventative treatment. When you get your dog, you’ll be given a Carte de santé listing which vaccinations have already been administered (as well as worming treatments); a pet passport is issued with the first rabies shot (not before six months).

Biggest mistake people make when getting a dog?

Many people don’t think it through when they get a dog. They see a cute puppy in the store and then they buy it without thinking about the financial or time commitment. Do not buy a dog on a whim. Think about what type of dog is good for your lifestyle and budget. For example, a simple thing like purchasing dog food can be a very costly if you have a big dog. If you are not a physically active person with a small apartment then a dog that needs a lot of exercise is not the breed for you.

I couldn’t believe my luck when looking atone local anglophone website and I saw a classified for a Coton de Tulear for sale. It listed a chip number, Pet Passport number, and a brief description. Bingo! I called the person from the ad and she seemed VERY eager for me to see the dog as soon as possible. I went back to Dr Gittins and mentioned that I was going to see my first potential dog, and asked for advice on what to look for when choosing a dog that is in front of you.

Choosing a Dog:

Consider this a little bit like buying a second-hand car, remembering it’s a 15-year adventure.

Firstly, use your own common sense. Is the dog:
  • apparently in good health?
  • lively, fun, but good natured and not aggressive
  • clean (shows responsible owner)
Check:
  • teeth: bite (make sure the lower teeth are not overlapping)
  • eyes, ears, genital area (yes, I'm afraid!)
  • ask about breathing, digestion
Finally but equally important, would the breeder/owner object to a vet checking the pup out? He could also check the chip and papers. If the breeder/owner hesitates on any of this: think carefully.

Remember, pedigree certainly affects the price, and concerning expenses, ask breeder/owner to see bills.

Taking all this into consideration, we were ready to meet the Coton from the ad. The owner drove from le Cannet with a friend that same night and was ready to leave the dog with us, even though we didn’t even have food for him. Also, she had lied about the dog being a purebred. His papers indicated the mother was a Jack Russell (= yappy). Regardless, the dog looked unhealthy, scared and overall something seemed not quite right. (I didn’t know it at the time but a 4-month-old dog would not have a Pet Passport as dogs cannot have a rabies shot before 6 months, a vaccine that makes them eligible to travel with this document). With checklist in hand, it was clear to me this dog was not what we wanted. Or so I thought.

My husband held the shaky, stringy dog with the sad eyes: “I love him. Let’s take him home.”

We did not take the dog home. And as a footnote, we saw the same dog (identical chip and passport number) for “sale” on that same website by a different owner weeks later. As I said, there was something not right with that dog.

As we continued our search, we decided to stock up from Animalis in Antibes (http://www.animalis.fr) on the essentials for the day we brought our new baby home: house (crate), water and food dish,leash, absorbent mats for toilet training.

What we forgot were things like a brush and comb, a liner for his house, and most important: chew toys (you should have at least six), as I learned from this extremely helpful booklet that my brother-in-law sent me a few days after we got our dog, but it’s best to read BEFOREHAND: http://openpaw.org/PDFs/BEFORE_YouGetYourPuppy.pdf

We finally find a Coton breeder near Orange http://www.lescotonsdetuleardivandry.fr/ who had a litter of 10-week-old pups. (Most breeders do not sell pups before this age; and some wait until 12 weeks.) The breeder had offered to meet us in St Raphael with one puppy but as Dr Gittins pointed out, it’s best to have a choice, or in his words “let the dog chose you”. So we were off to Orange.

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