Which Dog?

Posted by  //  August 18, 2017  //  Local Business

Margie Hillenbrand, Dog Owner Coach, LLC

The internet is full of breed specific information to help people choose dogs. But you also need to consider what matters to you, in your specific situation: size, energy, time, expense… What do you want the dog to do? Not do? What are your limitations? Where do you live?

Jackie is a single adult with a full-time job. She jogs. She travels. She wants a small, fluffy, short-nosed dog to jog, travel, and sit on her lap. Her parents will keep the dog when she’s at work or out of town. They aren’t getting any younger.

She might consider a small to medium (not short-nosed) dog – sporting breed, herding breed, terrier, and spitz? What does she want the dog to do or not do when she’s not jogging and not home? She can probably afford grooming. Does she have time to train? Can her parents move fast enough to get a puppy outside to house train or should she consider a house trained dog that’s had some training? And dogs live 10-15 years? Is there a relationship or children in her future?

Pete wants a big dog (not a “yappy” dog). He just retired. He’s always been active and healthy. He’s thrifty with his money. The kids are in college. He likes to watch TV and putter in the garden. He’s got a medium-sized house and a big fenced yard. He’s not going to walk much or haul a dog to training classes.

He might consider an adult dog; a dog content to just hang out, not a lot of genetic health issues. He doesn’t want a dog that digs or barks at his neighbors and their dogs; maybe a dog to chase squirrels and rabbits out of his yard. He wants a dog who will welcome his grown kids and their friends and maybe grandkids down the line.

Ed is pushing 80. He just lost his old field-bred Lab. He’s always owned field-bred Labs but he doesn’t hunt anymore. In fact, he’s moved to a one bedroom apartment that his son built for him on their house. Ed’s in good health but he doesn’t have the strength to do a lot of leash work or training anymore. His son’s family has land to walk, a pond, and a fenced yard – perfect for a middle-aged Lab. His son loves Labs, too. In fact, he’s got a dog who’s also retired from hunting; off-leash trained. The dog follows Ed everywhere when the family’s at work. When no one’s looking, dog naps with him in his apartment.

Sounds like a match made in heaven.

Gladys is 70. She’s always lived in a ground-floor apartment in the city but crime is rising in her neighborhood. She rarely walks anymore, not because she’s afraid, but because of pain and she doesn’t hear well. She has a very small back yard where she likes to sit. She has a lady come to clean, and cook for her. Her kids and grandkids visit often. They’ve talked her out of big guard dog. Smaller is cheaper.

She might consider a small medium-sized dog that barks to alert but welcomes friends and family; house-trained; content to play in the house or yard; big enough not to get under foot, small enough that a vet’s not afraid to come to her house. Even a small dog might be too much for her if she didn’t have help.

Kyle is seventeen. He’s begging for that “hero dog” he just saw on TV – the one that rescued a trained S.E.A.L. team from cannibals in the jungle. (He doesn’t live in the jungle and his friends don’t usually need to be rescued.) He wants a dog that enjoys adventures. Hike? Camp? Ball games? Sit by the computer? Watch TV?  Hang out?  What kind of adventure are we talking here? Kyle’s family lives in a neighborhood: people in and out, dogs everywhere. His parents DON’T want a dog who will attack, bark, chew … They’re happy for Kyle to train the dog but nobody has extra money. They’re constantly on his case to pick up his room, take out the trash. Will a dog just be one more thing to argue about?  Kyle will be a foreign exchange student in the fall and then on to college. His folks want to travel. Who will keep the dog?

If they get a dog, they need a dog that enjoys people coming and going, dogs in the neighborhood, games in the yard, easy to train. Probably not a puppy. TV and movie dogs are highly trained working dogs. Many of the breeds they choose are not good choices for the average family. Maybe Kyle should consider volunteering at a shelter, fostering, or dog-sitting.

Ed and Julie have three kids, ages 8-3 years old, and they’re expecting a baby. They have a big house and a big yard. They both grew up with dogs. They learned a lot about puppies and training from their first Golden. Their second Golden just passed away. He was 12. He grew up with the kids. He was perfect. Ed and Julie took their dogs (and their kids) everywhere. They had time to train the dog before the kids came and more financial resources, more energy, more time. Ed and Julie walked twice a day but the break has been nice. They played with the dog after work, but Julie’s been sick so Ed helps more with the kids and meals and housework.

Maybe it’s better to wait until things settle down. Maybe dog sitting for family or friends would bridge the gap for now. Maybe an adult dog that lost his family through no fault of his own?

As dog owners, we can spend a dog’s life working with his instincts or fighting with those same instincts. What do you want your dog to do or not do?  Be honest about any limitations. Be thoughtful about the environment you live in. Dogs that don’t like other dogs may not be a good choice if you live in a neighborhood.

Are there exceptions? Sure. Always. There are wonderful people who will do whatever it takes to “make it work” no matter what dog they bring home. There are others who want to, but can’t for legitimate reasons. Then there are owners who just wish they’d asked more questions.

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