By Lisa Ellman
I often see the unfortunate result of people getting a dog based on emotion instead of reason. Why is it that we can spend weeks researching appliances or cars, but often pick a dog (that may spend 15 years with us) spontaneously? Remember the box of puppies outside the supermarket?
Deciding what type of dog to bring into the family should require prudent consideration. Research and education are important ingredients to ensure successful integration. To help you, consult a vet or reputable dog trainer, peruse various dog books, talk to people you know that have, or have had, a certain breed you’re considering, look into, and join, discussions on social media about having a dog.
If you have kids that are old enough to communicate thoughts and ideas, have a family meeting (or 3) to discuss what kind of responsibilities are involved (feeding, training, walking, poop patrol, etc.) and who will be able and willing to take them on.
If your kids are toddlers, or you have a full time job, consider time constraints and how much attention you’ll be able to give the dog. If you’re thinking about getting a puppy, consider this: taking care of another baby 24/7, with needle sharp teeth to boot! The energy requirements are immense! Puppies require a lot of attention, and can sometimes injure young children by jumping and biting while playing.
Families with young children should be aware that many breeds, or mixes, are “prewired” for certain activities. Example: border collies and heelers are herding dogs. This behavior can manifest with kids out in the yard running around; the dog attempts to nip at the feet and legs of the “herd,” your kids. Their shrieking and squealing initiates an instinctual reaction from the dog: biting or jumping on the child. The child’s reaction to this, unfortunately, is usually more shrieking and squealing, resulting in a terrified child and an isolated dog.
If someone is an apartment dweller, it might seem logical to have a small dog. But there are some larger dogs that are couch potatoes and a long daily walk or two will satisfy their activity requirements. Conversely, there are small dogs, some terriers, that are like energizer bunnies! These dogs thrive in large yards, where they can chase balls and dig for gophers all day long.
If a person has limited movement or serious health issues, selecting a dog that already has some training is a wise choice. I’ve seen the regrettable consequences that result when people are not physically able to handle their dog, small or large. Example: the frail cancer survivor whose adorable Boston terrier puppy ripped her thin skin to shreds and walked all over her – literally and figuratively. She (and I) tried for several exhausting months to make it work. Sadly, she ended up rehoming him.
Adult children sometimes decide, with the best intentions, to get their lonely parent(s) a dog. An excellent idea! But be conscious of any limitations the parents may have, for instance bending over or down. A small dog may not be a good match. Additionally, older people who have not had a puppy in many years forget how much work they are.
Canine companionship can be an extraordinarily fulfilling relationship when one makes prudent, sensible choices. Please, avoid “surprising” someone with a puppy or adult dog, especially if you have no way of knowing how prepared the recipient(s) might be. If you are considering getting a companion for your family, your parents or your kids, do some research. Investigate which dog will match the lifestyle and activity level of the household. In doing so, your odds of ensuring happy, healthy, respectful relationships increase immeasurably.
Good Dogma has been training humans and their dogs since 1996. Readers are invited to submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact information for all offered services can be found on our website www.GoodDogma.net