Watching The Westminster Dog Show had me thinking about various breeds and the many reasons people get a dog in the first place. I’m paraphrasing something that Jon Katz the author of Katz on Dogs wrote, “people will shop around, test drive and read all the stats and figures before they buy a large screen TV or new car, but they tend to buy or adopt a puppy on a whim. ”
Yep, I’ve done it too. Just before my senior year of high school I was driving through a nicely manicured neighborhood on a cool summer evening and stopped in front of a house with a sign that said “Free Puppies. ” I was enthralled with all the little balls of energy that were scattered around the backyard and I did what so many humans are prone to do – took the one that “picked me by running straight to me and pushing the others out of the way.
While I made a number of mistakes in that relationship with Sparky, it taught me a number of lessons about finding and living with a dog. Bringing a dog home is not something to be entered into lightly. Most of us know that on an intellectual level, but somehow, we can lose our guard when the ‘cutest puppy in the world’ is pawing at our leg; jumping up to kiss us; or putting their head in our laps.
Here’s a short and sweet guide to finding the right dog for you and your family:
1. Why do you want a dog? No really. It’s not just for the kids, it’s not because you want something to guard the house, is it? You may really want a dog because you want a companion, someone or something to love, a way to fix a relationship from your past, or some combination of all of the above. Your emotions are going to be tied to the dog you bring home (just like any other family member).
However, your dog is not really going to be a little kid in fur. They are definitely not human. While they really seem to intuit what you’re saying when you’re feeling down, angry or sentimental, they really can’t ‘fix things. ’ Nor should they be expected to. They are hard-wired to tune-in to you for food, fun and discipline, but they can’t bring your ex back, nor can they fix a bad relationship.
2. What type of personality do you have? If you have tons of patience (like a saint) you may find it rewarding to share your home with a beagle or a terrier. These dogs are very smart, but also very easily distracted and may be less likely to tune into you during training than a retriever.
3. What’s your idea of exercise? Do you run every morning at 5am and wind down after work with a brisk walk or activity? Do your research, some breeds need lots of exercise every day (Labs come to mind) but others are pretty happy with a few short forays out to the sunshine and prefer to spend time lounging. (Bulldogs can be like this).
4. How much do you prize cleanliness? No matter how you try to avoid it, dogs are going to add more work to your cleaning routine. Even short-haired breeds shed, and all dogs have paws that track in mud, dirt, and snow. And, I’ve yet to meet a dog that doesn’t enjoy a good roll in whatever is most stinky along his walk!
5. When and how will you train your dog? Remember, even if you’re okay with your dog jumping up in greeting, or refusing to come when called, your neighbors probably aren’t okay with it. Dogs get banned from public spaces because humans who own them don’t teach them basic manners. Be sure to do your research now on training techniques and methodologies. Investigate different classes and interview trainers prior to bringing your dog home. While you’re Uncle Bill is willing to share the unique methods he used when training his spaniel Cokey, his methods may not be the best for you and your new companion. By doing your homework before you bring your dog home you’ll have your eyes wide open to what the process is likely to entail.
These are just a handful of points to ponder before bringing a dog into your home. There are a number of organizations that will walk you through the process of finding the right dog for you (www.gooddogz.org as well as Peggie’s Pets Services).
Be sure to do your homework before you fall in love with this year’s Westminster winner (Rufus, the Bull Terrier) and decide you have to have one.
Whether you decide to find a breeder or adopt from a local rescue group or shelter, there are many more questions to go over. You’ll also want to be prepared with questions for the breeder or shelter. My goal is that any dog you bring home has an easy transition to your household and together you enjoy a dozen or more years of companionship, love and mutual admiration.
(c) 2006 Peggie Arvidson-Dailey
Peggie Arvidson-Dailey is the owner of Peggie's Pet Services (one of the Region’s BEST pet-care companies, as rated by The Washingtonian Magazine. ) She's also an engaging and lively speaker on topics related to the love affair between dogs and their humans. She's an advocate for happy and healthy homes for all species and is eager to assist in creating them. If you want a monthly dose of tips and golden nuggets of information on living with and caring for your pet throughout his life, be sure to subscribe to “The Care of Pets" at http://www.peggiespets.com . Peggie is also a pet-care business advocate and the founder of the Pet Care Business Success University, which can be found at http://www.petcareuniversity.com .