ADVICE: The Commonsense Dog

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Many people contact me every week asking what kind of dog they should adopt or purchase, and many people who already have dogs contact me wishing they had made a better choice for their family or lifestyle.

It’s important to shed light on the pros and cons of certain dogs in certain lifestyles, and it’s important to be aware of what role training can and cannot play.

While we should consider things like breed, age and size, we should always evaluate dogs as individuals. I’ve seen incredibly mellow, sweet and young pit bulls and incredibly wild, aggressive and old golden retrievers. While there is a fair amount of documented traits for each specific breed, individual dogs can range all over the spectrum.

One of the first things I encourage people to consider, regardless of breed or age, is energy level. Many problem behaviors arise from too little mental and physical stimulation. If you are a very busy individual or a quiet homebody, a high energy dog might not be the best for you. You will have more success with a low energy dog that enjoys time around the house with the occasional adventure.

If you are a total go-getter, have a very active lifestyle, are a dog enthusiast interested in dog competitions, hunter, fisherman, or traveler, and you want a dog to join in all of it with you, a medium to high energy dog is probably a good fit.

Another important thing to consider is size. Will the dog do better in a house or an apartment? Does it need 10 acres? Will it fit in your car if you need to take it to the vet? Can you physically control it if the situation calls for it? It’s easy to forget that young dogs can become big very quickly. Always make considerations on the size the dog will be when it is fully grown.

Another important factor is temperament. Some dogs are happy-go-lucky, some are couch potatoes, some are fearful, some are aggressive, some are intense. Do your best to get to know these traits prior to adopting or purchasing. Research the training required for each particular temperament, weigh the pros and cons, and decide if the dog is one you are comfortable bringing home.

Last but not least, we should consider the breed. Different breeds were designed to do different things. Some have high prey drive (they like to chase other animals), some have herding drives, some have little to no drives at all. Some are independent and some are very social. Research potential breeds thoroughly.

With all of this being said, I want to emphasize that puppies of ANY breed are a lot of work. Owning, training and caring for a puppy is time consuming and requires a great deal of dedication. Puppies, regardless of size, are going to chew, dig, bite, cry and have potty accidents. There is no way around it. Training can help soften the blow, but the puppy still has to go through its puppy phase. Study their needs and have patience. If we do things right, puppies grow up to be awesome lifelong companions.

I hope this helps with decision making in the future! If you’d like to ask questions or chat, feel free to email me at askdogtrainersteph@gmail.com.

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