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I have never been in "contact" with so many american dog- and catowners and seing that I was somewhat wrong about the american handler system, I would like to ask three questions. Just so that i dont carry on making sweeping judgements. :-)

1. Debarking.
I have met a few people in New York with de-barked dogs. = dogs that have had their vocal-cords cut so that noone is disturbed by their barking. These people were not what I would call "proper" dog people, but none the less... How often is this actually done? I have never heard of a swedish vet that would perform an operation like that.

2. Castration.
Only recently are we allowed to castrate dogs in Sweden for other than medical reasons. I have heard that this is done quite frequantly on both dogs and bitches in the US that are considered "pets". And, at an early age as well. If this is so, how do you deal with the setters coats? The few castrated (all for medical reasons) irish setters I have seen, all have that fluffy and weird coat that is almost impossible to deal with.

3. Declawing.
Surgically removing the claws on cats that are living indoors. As I understand it, this operation is done so that they dont scratch the furniture. To me this sounds cruel and is nothing a vet in Sweden would perform either. But I have met a few of those declawed cats in America, so this makes me think it is after all done quite often. Is this correct?

Please dont misunderstand me, I am not attacking or accusing anyone american, I would just like to know!
And preferably understand the practice.

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Yes, Ginger we have a big problem with puppies being sold out of cars on the streets, especially the Pit Bulls. The town is working on a ordiance to make it unlawful to do this, but its slow in coming.

But they are also working on a spay/neutur ordianance. Yikes!

Loma
Hi Ursula, unfortunately, here in the U.S., if you have a dog that barks excessively, or in some instances (neighbor doesn't like dogs at all), if someone files a complaint to the Animal Control office, the local Police or Animal Control officers can confiscate your dogs. To prevent this from happening, there are some owners who are forced to have their dogs either surgically de-barked (electronic and battery operated bark collars are cruel and inhumane IMHO) or we have to get rid of the offensive dog. Many of us live in crowded cities with fenced yards, neighbors on both sides with a 5 ft. margin between the outside wall of the house and the fence separating our yard from our neighbor's yard. The other alternative is to keep the dogs inside the house most of the time, limit their outdoor exercise time and if the entire family works outside the home, the dogs must be crated for long hours during the day if they have a tendency to get into things or are destructive. I personally have had to make the choice of battery operated bark collars, surgical de-barking or getting rid of my dogs. I chose the surgical de-barking, it doesn't harm the dogs, it just softens their "voice" so that they don't disturb the neighbors and only takes about 20 min. total under anesthesia. There are some setters who bark just to hear themselves bark, training, punishment, nothing stops the barking except the surgery.

As for neutering (castrating), many breeders prefer to have the pet quality dogs and bitches they sell be neutered to prevent breeding. There was an overabundance of Irish Setters in the 1970's with a major percentage of those poorly bred with bad temperaments, PRA, epilepsy, and other major health problems. Many people not involved in breeding for show or field, only see dollar signs in selling purebred AKC registered puppies, regardless of their pedigree or inherited health problems. Castration is the only way of preventing unwanted and unplanned litters from being bred by irresponsible owners. It was not as common 30 years ago as it is today tho. We have a huge pet overpopulation in the U.S. where dog and cat owners consider their pets to be throwaway. Puppy grows up to be too big, or unruly (no training), they dump the dog at the local animal shelter. Taxpayer dollars support the animal shelters and not all pets can be found new forever homes. To reduce the sheer numbers of unwanted pets, responsible breeders insist on spay and neuter contracts on pet quality puppies to protect the breeds.

Setters here only have front dewclaws and these are generally removed because when we run our dogs in the field, their dewclaws can become seriously injured or ripped off while the dog is running in rough terrain. This has also become more prevalent in the last 30 years or so.
Sorry, forgot your quesiton on de-clawing cats. Today, many people prefer to keep their cats as indoor pets only, providing them with a litter box. However, many cats tend to shred furnigure, drapes and carpets. It can be rather annoying and expensive to repair or replace furnishings all the time. Claws only assist a cat in climbing trees and defending itself if it's an outdoor cat, indoor cats have no need to climb trees or defend themselves from outside predators. Fleas and ticks are a major issue as pests for our dogs and cats. Indoor cats don't bring home fleas to infest the house and yard! You cannot fence a cat in like you can a dog so they roam the streets and neighborhoods, getting hit and killed by moving vehicles. My last cat was an indoor/outdoor cat, who shredded drapes and cloth furniture. We had her front claws removed, she could still climb trees and managed to keep the population of jackrabbits at a minimum in the fields around our house at the same time. She was also "top dog" at our house, all of our dogs respected her and treated her very gently.
I've just read through this whole topic and have a few points to add in the way of reality checks:

1. The declawing of cats is not just the removal of the claws. It is the amputation of each digit to the first knuckle. It works to reduce indoor damage from cats "sharpening their claws," but I think it is barbaric. It is possible to set up scratching centers for a cat inside the home, and you can also purchase protective coverings to save specific furniture or walls. I have cat breeder friends who have completely fenced in and topped a good sized yard, with a cat door from the house opening into it so their cats can have the best of both worlds. It just depends how much of an adjustment to one's lifestyle one is willing to make for their animals.

2. The argument about removing dewclaws on setters to keep them from being torn when the dog is running in the field is pretty specious - I've never known that to happen, even when the dew claw is very loosely attached. The chief reason that I remove dewclaws from all my pups is to protect people from being ripped open by them when a dog jumps up on them, which all of my dogs do from time to time. It is particularly painful if you are wearing shorts!

The other important thing to understand about removing dewclaws is that this is done prior to the pup's nerves becoming myelinized, which occurs at about 5-7 days of age. Prior to the nerve being myelinized, nerve impulses move along at quite a slow rate, resulting in much less pain being felt. After the nerve becomes myelinized, impulses move along it 60 times faster, so pain, and all sensation, is felt much more strongly.

There are many ways to remove dewclaws, by cutting with scissors, twisting off with a hemostat, etc. It is important to remove the actual joint along with the nail and digit; otherwise they are known to grow back. Sometimes the resulting wounds are stitched, sometimes cauterized with silver nitrate, sometimes closed with surgical glue. I always inspect the dew-claw removal sites at least once a day until they scab over and the scabs fall off. If there is any oozing, I treat it with a spot of the same tincture of iodine that I use on the umbilical cords at birth.

Because of the myelinization factor, it is critical to do the dew claws very early. I know folks who do them within the first 24 hours after birth, and some who even do them as the pup is first whelped, as long as it is strong and vital. I have never cut or twisted off dewclaws myself, but I have held many pups of a number of breeds as someone else does the procedure. The pre-myelinized pups are very quiet, some barely making a peep as the dewclaws come off. And any pain is almost immediately forgotten. But once we did a litter of big strong Gordon puppies at a week of age, and that was quite traumatic. The pups did not like being held firmly and started complaining about that. They almost twisted themselves out of my hands, and they moaned all through the entire first night afterwards. I felt terrible for them and have never done pups that old ever again.
Point 3: De-barking. I think this too is a barbarous practice. And believe me, it definitely has an effect on a dog's field performance. I've known dogs whose debarking was not sufficiently quieting, who have had second and third surgeries. So many of the English Setters, show and field-bred, that I have known, have been debarked - some breeders do it almost automatically as a matter of course with all their dogs. There are some other breeds notorious for being debarked, in my experience, chief among them being rough Collies. I have known debarked Gordons, but I can't recall ever meeting a debarked Irish. I had one bitch who got so excited at field events, waiting for her turn, that she literally shrieked constantly and wound up tearing a hole in her vocal cords. When she ran, you could hear the air whistling through the hole! Our solution to that was to keep her crated or inside our camper until she ran.

A number of years ago there was a well-known line of field English Setters that breathed extremely loudly. If you were braced with one, you always knew where your bracemate was because you could hear him breathing all over the course. If he ran up from behind you, it sounded like a locomotive approaching! I have no idea if any of these dogs were debarked or not, but I mention this because I would suggest that breeders who have excessive barkers commonly in their line take a closer look at their pedigrees. I think mindless barking may well have a genetic component. And I would wager that if this were carefully bred away from, the number of dogs needing to be debarked might drop dramatically.
It is interesting to note that although we have cats and dogs in all countries (and the same problems with keeping pets) our solutions differ dramatically.
Cats scratch furniture in Europe too!
They hang in curtains, they do all those things and yet the european cats seem to get away with it with their claws intact! There are plenty of scratching devices sold and then you just hope that is where the cat will go! Cats are very popular here and it seems that without the solution awailable to have your cats declawed, people are still loving them and taking any destruction in their stride. (Mind you, many cats are dumped each year...perhaps scratching furniture has a lot to do with it?)
But then, you do seem to be in two minds about the declawing of cats in the US as well.

As for barking, first of all I have to say that I think that Wendy is 100% correct on the barking being in certain lines! I once used a stud and his puppies were barking a lot! And with a sort of high pitched bark as well. I had never heard the studdog bark and as he lived miles away, I never saw him other than at the odd show and for the mating.
Well he came to one of my puppy-meetings and there he was...loud and clear, exactly the same bark as his children! And as much as well!

And yes we have dogs barking and people complaining as well. But there are VERY few that actually end up having to get rid of their dogs (I am now ONLY talking about Sweden...not the whole of Europe...for the rest of the countries...I dont know). One complaining neighbor is not enough!
You will first have to have the health-inspector actually comfirm that the dog is barking TOO much and TOO often. I am now talking about living in your own house. We do generally NOT have dogflaps on our doors, neither do we leave dogs in the garden while we are away. So the barking would be more muted as the dog is indoors.
Of course if you are living in a flat, the owner of the flat has more power over you and you may be told you must get rid of the dog or move.

I think any training when it comes to barking must start very early. Unfortunatly some owners are pretty stupid as well, they will say things like: Whos a lovley boy? And reward the dog as soon as it barks. They think its great that the dog talks to them...and sings with them...and reward the dog every time...then they ask what to do about the barking.

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