I’m a huge fan of dog shows and am waiting, somewhat patiently, for the Valentine’s Weekend so I can watch the annual Westminster show in NYC. It’s a dream of mine to get there for the show in person someday soon.
Whenever I watch I think about all the many breeds, and the variations on breeds, and the good ‘ol mutts out there. I wonder about the reasons that people pick the dog they have. I’m paraphrasing Jon Katz, from his book Katz on Dogs: A Commonsense Guide to Training and Living with Dogs, “people will shop around, test drive, check all the stats and reviews before buying a large screen TV or a car, but they’ll more or less adopt or buy a puppy or a dog on a whim.”
Just before my senior year of high school my boyfriend and I were driving around, enjoying the warm evening and pulled up beside a house with a sign stating “Free Puppies” in their front yard. Within an hour I had a puppy in my lap and had to explain to my parents how I’d made such an impetuous decision. Aside from puppy love, I’d simply picked the one that had come running up to me and started licking my face.
I made a number of mistakes in my relationship with Sparky and it was definitely not cool to foist him on my parents and the rest of my family the way I did. Since then I’ve learned a bunch about finding and raising a dog. First and foremost, bringing home a new dog isn’t something to enter into lightly.
Sure, we know that on an intellectual level, but what does intellect know when faced with the big round eyes of a cuddly, fuzzy pup?
To help, here’s a short and sweet guide to finding the right dog for you and your family. Making wise decisions now will help you have a companion for as long as he or she shall live.
- Why do you want a dog? Seriously, it’s not just for the kids or because you want something to guard the house is it? (get yourself a good home security system if that’s the case). Maybe you want a dog because you want a companion or someone to love, or a way to heal something from your past. It could be all of the above. Since the dog is going to stay with you for life, let’s make sure you combine the emotions with common sense so you both can have a great life together. If you’re looking for your dog to “fix” something in you, recognize that he or she isn’t actually human. They aren’t little kids in fur and even though they are great at intuiting what you’re feeling, they aren’t going to fix what isn’t working right now. (by the way, neither are kids without fur.) So get whole about your reasons for wanting a dog and continue reading.
- What type of personality do you have? It’s a little like on-line dating when you’re looking for a dog-match. You want to be honest about who you are, how you are and what you want to do together. You know how annoying it is when you write your profile to say you’re into working out and 100 mile bike rides and then you find someone who says they are too — only to find out after a few dates that their idea of working out is taking the trash cans out and back up their driveway on Tuesdays. Don’t do that to your dog. If you want to work out with your dog, I don’t recommend a bulldog. Sure, all dogs like some exercises but there are breeds (Or breed mixes) that are more likely to fit your lifestyle and personality than others.
- How much do you prize cleanliness? All dogs are prone to muddy feet, shedding and the occasional accident. Some dogs are more likely to shed non-stop, drool, and drag unspeakable things through the living room while you’re entertaining. All dogs can be trained (by good and patient humans) but not all dogs can be trained to be neat. Do your research on the time it’s going to take to keep your house clean with your chosen breed. (Trust me, even short hair breeds shed.)
- When and how will you train your dog? Nothing makes me sadder than seeing someone send their dog off to “training school” and then get mad when the dog doesn’t listen to them when they arrive home. It’s not a secret that it’s humans that need training. The dogs needs guidance and clarity from you. It’s important that you know how to be the benevolent leader and that you are consistent in what you do when training your dog. You’ll also want all the members of your household in the training with you. Consistency is key. Some dogs are just more eager to listen to you than others. Yet all dogs want you to be clear and succinct in your messaging. Even if you’re laid back and don’t really mind if your soon-to-be-80 pound lab puppy jumps up to kiss you when you get home, you’ll be sorry when she does that to your elderly neighbor in a few short months.
Knowing the answers to these four questions now can save you (and your dog) pain and heartache later.
What are some of the things you wish you knew before you got your dog? Share your tips in the comments!Follow me here: