In my last blog, I talked about owner attitude, saying that owners need to have a good attitude. They need reasonable expectations. They need to understand ownership is a two-way street. It is not just about you and what you want. You can try to fit a round life dog into your square peg life; however, if you do, you are going to have problems. How does this happen? That’s an easy question. The vast majority of people get a dog because of the way it looks.

Why you don’t want to get a dog based on its appearance. There are numerous breeds for a reason, not just so you have a choice of sizes, colors, shapes, hair lengths, etc., from which to choose. One day, when genetics catches up with our doggie desires, we will be able to order a dog tailor-made to our specifications. Won’t that be fun? We want a dog that looks like a Husky that wants to be a couch potato. Or, say, an English Bulldog with endless stamina that wants to run five miles with us every other day. A Beagle that doesn’t care to sniff anything, much less follow a trail. Any of the “guard” breeds without the inclination to guard. We probably will be able to do that one day; but, that is a pretty screwed up reason to play with genetics.

I digress. The closest we can get to choosing qualities in a perspective canine companion is by choosing a breed suitable to our lifestyle. Forget how the dog looks. While you may think that is of paramount importance, it is not. What is important is that your future dog wants to do what you want to do, especially with it. Do you want to take long, leisurely walks? Don’t choose a dog that wants to snuggle up on your pillows like a princess. Choose a dog bred for that purpose. Do you want to look like a queen as you stroll along with an Afghan? Afghans are bred to run, not walk. How do you plan to meet their exercise needs? Weims are another breed that people get thinking they are getting a completely different dog than they are. Did you fall in love with a William Wegman photograph of a Weim? The dog or dogs are sitting, standing, laying perfectly still (it is a photograph), elegantly, regally gazing at you with their beautiful eyes. Yeah, right. I am much more likely to see the whites of a wigged-out Weim’s eyes after its owner has driven it blubbering crazy because of its stubborn but extremely soft nature.

All but one or two small dog breeds tend to be quite chatty. By chatty, I mean that they bark, a lot, almost non-stop. I could go on for hours. More than one breeder is probably calling for my lynching now, but I am not faulting any breed or even breeder here.

I am talking about owners who foolishly choose a dog because they like the way it looks, setting themselves up for failure. If they get a Shepherd that has one ear that never stands, they get rid of it. When they figure out that keeping most long-haired dogs means grooming, they get rid of it or let it mat so badly that the mats have infections under them or host undesirable creatures, like maggots, living them. I have seen dogs so matted that they could barely walk from mats.

If you are in the market for a dog, take some time to think about the personality traits you would like to have in a dog. Do you want to spend endless hours cleaning up dog hair? Surprise, some long-haired dogs shed less than short haired dogs. Are you a couch potato? Don’t get a dog that needs plenty of exercise.

The dog you finally choose should be and will be a reflection of you. Do not set you and the dog up for failure. You will be okay if the relationship does not work out. Sadly, if you do not make a lifetime commitment to your new friend and end up rehoming the dog or surrendering it to an animal shelter, it is likely a death sentence. This applies even if you try hard to find it a good home and think that you have.

Donna Malone
Behavior Consultant and Trainer
(901) 488-9238