Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Unwanted Advice - Dogs

As a part of my continuing "unwanted advice" series, here's my opinions on getting a dog. (Disclosure - I do not currently have a dog, my husband does not like them. However, I have trained several dogs and had one growing up.) In a nutshell - make sure the dog you are getting is what you really want.
  • Don't get a dog from a pound / humane society unless you really know what you are doing and are willing to put the time into it. I know this may offend some people. There are many people doing great work rescuing unwanted animals from shelters. I hate to say it, but the dog is there for a reason. Sometimes the dog got lost and picked up and is a wonderful animal, or was scared of thunder and ran away, or the family was moving and couldn't find it a home. But just as likely, the dog barked, dug up the yard, wouldn't be house broken or started threatening other dogs / children. These problems are almost all trainable, but you have to be committed.
  • Beware of dogs 6 months - 1 year Like people, dogs go through a teenage stage. They rebel, run away, and try to assert themselves. If you have a puppy, be ready to ride this one out. After they reach about a year, they will settle down as a doggie adult. Until then, you get to lay down the law. A lot of dogs, especially ones who haven't been trained as puppies, end up in the shelter or in the classifieds at this point.
  • Make sure the dog you are getting will fit your lifestyle. Many purebred dogs were bred for a specific reason. Thus, beagles are loud and stubborn, what you want in a hunting dog. It might not be what you want in your back yard. Terriers like to dig because they were bred to kill vermin. Some dog breeds are very active, a border collie in a small apartment is a recipe for disaster. (Yes, you can make any dog work, but YOU have to be willing to put in the time and effort. Why not make it easier on both of you and pick a dog that is what you want in the first place.)
  • If you get a stubborn dog, you had better be more stubborn. Dogs like to have someone in charge. If you won't do it, they will. Some dogs are more likely to want to be boss. One quick way to check puppies is to hold the puppy on its back. This is a position of submission. A dominate puppy will struggle and fight to get free. A more laid back dog will struggle for a little while, then relax. Be especially careful if you have younger children. A dominate dog will think it is higher up than them. This can lead to confrontations.
  • Train your dog. Nothing causes the neighbors to hate you like a barking dog. You need to teach your dog how to behave around other dogs, people, and your house. You won't enjoy having your dog around if it doesn't behave like you expect, so teach it how. Basic obedience training is a good idea, come, sit, and stay are infinitely useful.

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