We welcome spring, the flowers are blooming, the trees are going green and of course mother nature is everywhere. The puppies are here and the neighborhoods are buzzing, or barking to be more precise. There are cute little puppies, young shelter dogs and every once in a while an adopted senior. So, if you’re getting a new canine, please do your home work. Don’t know what your homework is? I’LL HELP!
Educate, educate, educate yourself. I used to put out a flyer every Spring that said, ”people spend more time researching buying a new car then they do getting a new dog in their house. The average life of a car in your home, I don’t know. The life of a dog, with any luck, can be ten to fifteen years. Getting a dog is a huge commitment. Isn’t it worth a little time? There are so many ways to access information these days, you almost can’t go anywhere without hearing the opinion of every expert, relative, neighbor or latest and greatest Facebook friend. Use the technology of our times.
Many people tell me, “oh I had a dog growing up, I know what to do” or “I had a dog, for 14 years and she was a perfect angel.” You won’t get the same dog again. That said, sometimes it becomes harder with people who have had dogs. Have you ever talked to someone who knows a little about a topic? They may not listen as closely as the people who know nothing. Either way, having a dog these days is very different from “having a dog when we grew up”, mostly because our parents took care of the dogs and we didn’t.
Dogs and puppies fall into our lives for every different reason you can think of. From “he ended up on my front door-step” (that dog knew exactly what he was doing) to “I got the dog from a lady who was going to put him in a box and leave him on the side of the road”. Those dogs are lucky to have their new home and there’s not really a whole lot of planning and researching along with that. It just is. Hopefully you have a bowl and a leash. But if you would like a dog this spring and care to put some care into it, ASK.
Aside from all the “special” circumstances that come with getting a new dog, there are basically two ways to get a dog these days. It’s very different than it was if you are over forty and you”had a dog growing up”. If you want a puppy, and if you want a pure breed, do it with great care and forethought. First thing to know, and it’s very important, NEVER buy a dog from a store. I will not go into painful detail here, but again, NEVER buy a dog from a pet shop, a large box store, or a person on the street with a litter of puppies. Most reputable breeders WILL NOT ever sell their dogs to stores, so what you usually end up with is a puppy mill dog, who can come with many genetic and behavioral problems. You can learn more about puppy mills, Click here for information. I have a feeling about these dogs and that’s this. If you see a dog in the window and it’s meant to be, you will most likely get that same dog six months from now at a shelter, as a stray, or as a lump on your back door step. Either way if it was meant to be, you will get that dog anyway. So don’t buy it and support an ever growing tragedy in the U.S.
If you are set on getting a pure breed, which is one of two available choices, do your homework. There are great, reputable and responsible breeders out there, if you know what you are looking for. There is a very detailed list to accompany this blog Click here for how to find a good breeder. The first thing to know is, many puppy mills and disreputable breeders have beautiful web-sites and wonderful, friendly “little old ladies” with the sweetest voices on the telephone. Do not believe it. A good breeder will not sell you a puppy until they have found out every detail about you, your family and what you will provide for their dog. If a breeder doesn’t give you the third degree, don’t buy that dog. If a breeder won’t let them give you the third degree, don’t buy that dog. If a breeder wants to make your journey shorter for the pick-up and offers to “meet you half-way” (usually at a gas station or travel stop), don’t buy that dog. A great breeder will want to show you their set-up, how the dogs are kept and how they were raised. They will want to meet you and your family. If you don’t see the place where your dog comes from, it’s likely you won’t know if it’s a puppy mill. There are many clues to whether or not a breeder is a good one or not. Great breeders are out there. Find them.
If you want to rescue a dog or puppy there are also many great options. There are also things to be aware of. Shelters are plentiful, so are the hounds, mutts, pure-breeds, puppies, and the elderly. If you haven’t been keeping track , there are a few surprises about shelters and rescues in this era. First of all, if you want a “puppy”, even a six week old puppy, they’re at shelters and rescues. Want a pure breed, yep, shelters and rescues have those also. It depends on your needs.
Shelters run the gamut from small store fronts with two volunteers smoking cigarettes all day and six crates in the back with four dogs (that’s where I got my first shelter dog), to state of the art facilities that have separate air systems so that illness and air born diseases won’t travel to the different rooms, (that’s where I got my second shelter dog). Saving a dog is wonderful , but it’s still important that you know what you are doing. Some shelters have dogs temperament tested and really have a good idea of the dogs at the shelter. Some shelters send home dogs that are completely inappropriate for the family. Again, do your homework. If you’re an experienced dog handler with no small children, you may be able to bring home a dog that has not been evaluated, or one who may be a little “cranky”. Personally if I were in a shelter, I would be a little cranky too, but if you have small children or have not been studying “dog” all your life, you will want to be fussy.
BE A HERO
One way to avoid bringing home a shelter dog that already has “issues”, is to get a young dog or even a puppy. Note that shelters have different regulations regarding adoption and small children. Shelters and especially rescues have puppies all the time. If you can get one early enough, you can avoid two out of three main problems that occurs with “problematic dogs” these days, early socialization, and training. The other is genetics and that’s something that unless you get a dog from a breeder, a good breeder, you won’t be sure. The good news is, if the pups are born in rescues then you have the mother and will know her temperament. That’s half of the equation and will give you some information about your new pup. Even if you don’t have the mother, if the puppies are brought in early enough, the pup can possibly get his needs met for a successful life.
On the other hand, adopting an older dog or a dog that has been at a shelter for a long time can also have great benefits. Some adolescent or older dogs end up in shelters for no other reason than their family is moving, or they just can’t take care of them. Some are there because their person has died. They are well adjusted good family pets that just need a home. They are house trained, so no messes in your house and no running out in the middle of the night. Some are even well trained, but the recession is creating a whole new market at the shelters. For some the only real stress they have known is being in this shelter and not knowing what’s going on. Take one home and you get to be a hero at the same time.
ALL DOGS NEED A GOOD HOME
Be aware of “no-kill” shelters. While the idea is awesome and very well meant, the dogs can be everything from “Biscuit to Cujo”. Although it is a magnanimous virtue to save every dog out there, it is often not monitored well. Under socialized and reactive, even aggressive dogs, are adopted every day to families with young children or to owners who will ”take care of behavior with a heavy hand”. Ultimately this usually makes it worse. Try to find a shelter that temperament tests it dogs. There are many shelters that don’t, but some do, don’t just go to the one that is closest. If you find a shelter that doesn’t have a trainer test the dogs, bring your own trainer. Find a positive dog trainer or behaviorist and take him or her with you. Its’ worth the fee to know you are getting the right dog for your family. This is a huge decision. Make some phone calls. It’s up to you to protect your two year old.
Rescues also run the gamut out there, from one person making phone calls trying desperately to place dogs, to national organizations with actual budgets. Most rescues concentrate on one particular breed. Some are more strict than others. Sometimes rescues have more control over what dogs they take than shelters. It’s hard to place a dog who has a bite history in a rescue, but a shelter will usually take them, especially a “no kill” shelter. Rescues usually don’t have a building to call home so the dogs are “fostered” in volunteer homes.
KNOW YOUR OPTIONS
There are many, many wonderful dogs in shelters and rescues. I know, I have three of them sleeping within six feet of me. Actually it’s twelve feet, well fourteen if you count mine. They are great dogs, they each have their quirks, but don’t we all. They are wonderful with kids, with all people in fact. Two out of three are wonderful with other dogs and we work on the third. They are all trained, they have impulse control, and they are a bright white light in their human parents life. They were also at risk of losing their life if I didn’t adopt them.
THE REWARDS ARE IMMEASURABLE
There are many different ways to get a dog this spring, and many different places to find one. You can find the right dog if you take the time and plan. Whether it’s a breeder, or shelter or rescue, try to take your time. Don’t make an impulsive decision that will haunt you for the next fifteen years or cause you to surrender another dog to a shelter, where he may not get out. If a dog unexpectedly falls into your lap and in no way are you getting rid of him, call a trainer. But if you can plan, do it. While that can take time, the rewards for a job well done are plentiful. Remember this is not car. It’s a life you will be responsible for hopefully, for many years. If you don’t like your car, or it doesn’t work well, you can turn it off, park it, you can even dump it, and no one will get hurt. If your dog doesn’t work out……..
THINK OF EVERYTHING
One more thing about getting any dog. No matter what kind of dog you get, it is now up to you. You can bring home the most titled, “champion breed line”, best temperament puppy out there and if you don’t socialize, and positivity train him, you can have “Cujo” in no time at all. Call a trainer, take him to class. Read up on positive training and all the peaceful options that are in the dog training world. Educate yourself about the training issues in the world today. Do not fall for catchy TV shows that feature celebrities instead of qualified dog trainers. There is no more reason to hurt or scare our dogs in the name of training.
TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN. POSITIVE, PEACEFUL, DOG TRAINING.
Both before and after your dog gets home it’s up to you. Life with dogs is fun, exciting, challenging, and a huge responsibility every day. This is the decision that shows your children about the importance of life, all life, and the importance of making a commitment, and most importantly compassion. Every living animal deserves at least a little thought.