"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."
That quote by Dr. Ian Malcolm from the movie Jurassic Park applies to so many situations. Deciding if you are ready to join the league of animal caretakers is absolutely one.
It's not enough to think you are ready; this is a life-changing decision, one must know it. Picking the right dog for you should take almost much thought as finding the right life partner.
How old are you? Add 12 to 16 years onto your age and think about all the life milestones you plan on achieving during that time. Does a dog fit into the picture at every point in the journey? I hope so because Fido will be right there with you along the way. It is an amazing joy but also an awesome responsibility.
Not one to take lightly.
Twelve to 16 years is a huge chunk of our lives. Yet so many adopt or buy a new dog on a whim, with little thought and without doing the research. We want a dog for our children. The puppy at the pet store looked so cute and was begging us to take it home. We were just looking and she immediately jumped in our lap and chose us.
While the intentions may be good and the emotional "logic" undeniable, this is the wrong way to pick your new companion.
Start with the most basic question: which size and breed is right for you?
Consider where you are in your life. Some people choose a particular breed because that is the type of dog they've always had. If you had German Shepherds growing up, are you still that same person? Are you getting too old to go out for long walks and hikes everyday? Are you still strong and agile enough to control a larger high-energy dog? Do you have the right property and set up (as you may have had in the past)? Do you have the time to do the training? Are you home enough to take a new puppy out every two to three hours for potty breaks?
Perhaps changing breeds is the best option for a successful new relationship.
Recently I had a client that called me because she was at her wits end with her new Boxer puppy. Sarah was a mother with two toddlers. Her husband went out and bought an eight-week-old Boxer puppy because he wanted the kids to grow up with a dog like he had.
Unfortunately he worked at least 10 hours each day.
Sarah was left alone each day to care for her two children and a new rambunctious puppy. To make the situation harder, Sarah was not a dog person and did not have experience with dogs. She resented the fact that she was stuck in the position of having to raise the new addition.
To make matters worse, the children were actually scared of the puppy. The Boxer was constantly mouthing and jumping on them. So Sarah was leaving the puppy locked in the crate most of the day. Or she would leave it outside alone where it would whine and bark at the door all day.
While the right training and some exercise would greatly help, Sarah didn’t have the time or even the desire to fix the issues.
This was a clear example of the wrong dog in the wrong home.
Unfortunately there are many cases like this. Every year many of these dogs are rehomed or end up in shelters. Or worse.
A simple, honest conversation beforehand goes a long way to avoiding these sad stories.
Is a shelter dog right for us?
Adopting a dog from the shelter can also be a bit tricky and you need to make sure you have assessed the dog correctly.
Getting an independent professional evaluation of the dog - other than the people at the shelter - can be very helpful in making the right choice.
Remember that many dogs end up at shelters because they were neglected and not wanted. Many have had little, if any, training. Some could have behavioral issues that may not be recognized until they are in your home and it is too late.
Getting as much information beforehand about the dog's past is very important. Always try to interview the dog’s past owners. This way you may save yourself and the dog a lot of heartache.
So next time you decide to get a new dog, consider your existing lifestyle. Make sure you are picking the right breed for your existing way of life. Is everyone in your family ready for a new dog? Do they understand the commitment it takes to train and raise a puppy?
Finally, when you have decided on a breed or you want to adopt, make sure you take the time to evaluate the prospect correctly. Consider taking a dog professional with you to help you make the right decision.
This is a life-altering decision. It should be weighed and measured with care. But don't forget to enjoy the experience because when done for the right reasons, it can be one of life's true pleasures.