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Pets Large & Small

Choosing the right four-legged friend

Roseann Deluca
Cold Creek Dog Training

(11/2013) As a veteran dog trainer, seeing the wrong dog with the wrong person is one of the saddest situations I work through with clients. This week, I thought we could discuss different things to consider when looking for a new or another four-legged friend. Just a few easy steps to follow can make a world of difference in getting the right dog in your life.

If you have the opportunity to see a litter of puppies, you will get to see many different personalities within the litter. Just like the difference between human siblings of the same parents, puppies can offer the same diversity. Within one batch of puppies, you can get a wide range of characteristics. The best thing about looking at a young puppy is that you will be able to see the raw genetics of what the puppy’s personality is like. This is the inner core of the puppy before any training or conditioning begins.

If you are looking at shelter puppies, shelter helpers can show you and point out the characteristics of the individual puppies since they are with them all the time on a day-to-day basis. If you are looking for a pure bred dog, your breeder will be able to direct you toward the proper puppy that will fit what you are looking for. Myself and any other professionals will always encourage you to NEVER purchase a puppy from a pet store, regardless of your sympathy for this puppy behind the polished glass presented too prettily to the public. Most puppy mill buyers do it out of pity for the poor puppy and the conditions of its birth. But that purchase enables the puppy mill to continue– if you don’t buy, there is no market. Rescue workers spend hearts and tears and lots of money to save these puppies. If you want a puppy mill puppy, get one from a rescue relief organization please!

And back to our topic... One of the favorite expressions of many dog-lovers is that they didn’t pick their puppy, their puppy picked them! But, it's important to realize that the pushiest, most boisterous puppy will push to any person that is there first. So, in reality, it's not that you are as special as you might like to think– your new possible "pick" puppy will do this to everyone! Also, the pushiest, most confident, rowdiest puppy that screams "take me home with you," really should be going home with an experienced dog family who is ready to give lots of time to training and management to good canine leadership.

Also, another popular pick puppy is the shy guy, the sweet little one who is behind everyone else. pushed aside, or hiding in a corner. The one who makes you go "Awww.... look at that poor little guy!" This little fellow also should be in experienced hands, since he will need extra care and guidance (not babying, as we discussed in previous articles, of course). He will need extra understanding to help him be comfortable in his shyer, more reserved personality.

With the wrong person or family, these two puppy types can be a bad choice. The ideal puppy for the average person or family is the one that is middle of the road. "Middle child" is the best way to go. You need to consider the energy level (and potential energy level) of the puppy and choose what fits your lifestyle. High-energy, active people can look to a high-energy personality type and breed. The more relaxed type of people need a lower energy dog. If you are not an active person, don’t get a breed that requires tons of exercise.

When you are considering a shelter dog, take a look at what the parents might be. Sometimes it’s a good guess, and other times all bets are off. There is DNA testing available now for about $50 that will accurately tell you want your potential mixed breed dog is made up of. Just because its a black dog with floppy ears doesn’t mean its a black lab at all! There are certain general characteristics that reign through any breed. Dogs, amazingly enough, have been altered and bred by man in a very, very short period of time for a variety of jobs. Each of those jobs, whether to be a lap dog and bark in alarm or have the courage to fight off a predator to save the sheep, is significant to how the dog will be in life. And within each of these breeds/types of dogs, you will find different energy levels– pushy guy and shy guy!

Also keep in mind that dogs behind kennel fences give different reactions than they do away from the fence or cage. Many dogs seem fierce and extremely energetic when confined. A fence can actually be used as a tool in training to bring out aggression and confidence in sport and protection dogs. So, be sure you observe your new potential dog in his kennel as well as away from it on a walk. When you walk your dog or puppy, does he pay attention to you and follow you, or drag you to other things he wants you to see?

When looking at an older dog, consider the same type of parameters: how pushy is he, how shy is he? Does he seem super playful and energetic, or does he seem to just mosey along? Also, elderly dogs make wonderful adoptive pets because they are already through the rockiest part of adolescence and well-established in who they are.

Spend some time online doing breed research, no matter if you are rescuing an unknown breed type from a shelter, or a pure bred from a rescue organization, or going to a reputable breeder. People these days are much more informed about everything, so taking these extra steps while looking for your new four-legged friend is essential. There are lots of fun and helpful breed matching quizzes online that take you through questions about your lifestyle and goals and abilities and match you up with an appropriate breed choice. Take the quizzes, have some fun, and be informed!

Consider the needs and nature of your current dog if you have one. Get one of similar energy level and opposite sex. Rather then get two puppies from the same litter, let at least 6 months to a year pass before bringing in another four-legged family member. Say thank you then run from a breeder who offers you two puppies at a discounted price or the last two in the litter that "shouldn’t be separated." This can be a real issue since littermates are so bonded to each other and same sex littermates of the same energy level can be a problem as they mature. I have seen this many times!

Most importantly, don’t make a decision with just your "heart." Have a plan and some facts behind it. Visit different places several times, look at multiple dogs and puppies, and visit several places– be informed. Stay away from those busy times of life when it's not good to bring in a new family member, like holidays and vacations. Let it be when there's lots of time to focus on the new arrival. Think of your new family member as a permanent, forever part of your life. If you follow these easy tips and some basic training and canine leadership understanding, you really can have the right dog just for you!

Read other articles by Roseann Deluca