As you contemplate adding a dog to your household, some preliminary research on the typical behaviors and grooming requirements of various breeds will be a wise investment of your time. Begin with an on-line questionnaire or survey that will match up your activity level and personality with that of a specific breed of dog (www.pedigree.com). If you like to hike and explore parks, your best canine companion won’t be a Chihuahua or a Yorkie. Conversely, if you want the majority of the time you spend with your dog to be hanging out and watching TV, a retriever or a poodle is not the dog for you. Owning a dog is a long-term commitment of 12-18 years, yet many people select a dog based solely on its looks and size. These are matches that can be fraught with problems if the owner doesn’t accept responsibility for providing the exercise and grooming necessary to keep the dog in good health. Owners who relinquish their pets to shelters often do so because they didn’t provide the dog with the attention and activity level required to keep the dog mentally stimulated, and behavior problems ensued. Once the dog grew from a cuddly puppy to a boisterous adolescent (18 months-3 years), they lost patience with dog. Another mistake is to select a dog breed that is currently featured on movie screens and hit TV shows. Unscrupulous backyard breeders will sell many of these dogs with health problems to make a quick profit.
When you choose between a purebred dog and a mixed breed, you may be able to get more background on the purebred than the mixed breed. Talk with breeders and rescue groups of that breed to discover which health issues are common (cataracts, hip dysplasia, epilepsy) and get an assurance from the seller that a vet has screened their dogs for these potential problems. Discuss your home situation and expectations of the dog with breeders, so you can be sure that the dog is right for your family situation. Shelters should be able to provide behavioral evaluations of the mixed breed you are interested in even if the dog’s lineage is up for speculation. Mixed breed dogs are a smaller investment up front, and their hybrid vigor helps them stay healthier longer. They are just as loving and trainable as purebred dogs.
Our local shelters and foster groups are great resources of information on various breeds’ behavior characteristics (including which dogs are tolerant of cats and children). That’s the first place to search for your next companion dog. Rescued dogs are the most grateful dogs and are an unexpected source of joy. Their checkered past reminds us to be grateful for our everyday comforts.
Written by Jean Cary, Service Dog Tutor.
For more information on her in-home training program, call (650) 593-9622.