Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Know Yourself/life Before Choosing a Dog


I was recently reading some articles about why people say they are giving their dog up to a shelter as well as a study of owner satisfaction a year after adopting a dog from a shelter.

Those who gave up their dogs were most likely to say they were giving up a dog for behavior reasons.

Those who adopted a dog from a shelter and lived with it a year were happiest with dogs who met their expectations.

To me, both of these points have something to do with the overlapping areas of 1) training a dog; 2) matching one's self up with a dog who can give what one expects.

For example, let's suppose that a person has a young family, with toddlers, and wants a dog that will fit in with the kids, and quickly pick up the family routine, but not require a lot of extra work. And then this person observers that there is a very young, energetic English Bull Terrier for adoption and this person runs out and adopts the dog (I know of a situation where only a vigilant shelter manager stopped this from happening.)

This is a recipe for a dissatisfied person and a dog that would probably end up being rehomed with one of those annoying ads I am constantly seeing, which says something like, "Need to find loving home that will love our dog as much as we do, we no longer have time for her...."

Young Bull Terriers (like many young animals) are very energetic; running dogs are prone to knocking toddlers over in joyful enthusiasm. They don't 'just pick up' the rules and expectations of a family, and they require extra work in the form of exercise and attention, which a young family may not have to spare given the demands of the toddlers themselves. This isn't to say that a mature member of the breed, who has settled and been trained couldn't be added to the family; breed characteristics, level of training a dog already has, and a family's current situation should all play a role in choosing a canine companion that will fit into a family.

I maintain that if people put as much time and thought into choosing a canine companion as they do into selecting a computer they will buy, or commit to a dog and training for at least as long as they would have to commit to a phone company contract, fewer dogs would be disappointments or would require rehoming due to the 'time commitments' of people.

For those of us who have anything to do with dog adoption this is also a reminder of the importance of thorough screening of potential owners. It really is better for a dog to stay in foster care/shelter a little longer, then to send them out the door with a family that is a poor fit.


  • Great post - so right on. I wish we could get the people who are considering getting their first dog to read it. People meet my Labs, and they tell me that they want Labs just like mine. I launch into all the work it takes to get a decently behaved Lab - lots and lots of exercise, and lots of training! If you don't have a lot of time for a dog, I say, don't get a Lab!

    I don't know other breeds so well - but I've read their descriptions, and I always come back to thinking that Labs are perfect for me. We're now on our 7th and 8th Labs (don't worry - every single one has spent his/her entire life with us).

    1. I grew up with Labs and they so suited our family, that I used to think they'd be great for almost anyone (plus my dad was always saying, 'the best breed in the world!') Having a Lab as an adult though I realized, Oh My Goodness - very much not a breed for so many people! I'm glad you help educate people about the work it takes to be a good Lab owner!

  • It's so true. All young dogs need time and training, but that training brings rewards over and over again. It strengthens the bond between dog and person and helps the dog fit into family life.
    Some breeds need a lot more entertaining as adults than others do.

    1. You raise some extremely important points:Training really does a great deal to increase the bond between person and dog; not all breeds mellow an equal amount with age; some breeds actually require an increased amount of exercise as they become adults.

      One of the lovely things about blogs were people provide information about their own dog/breed(s) is that anyone who cares to can spend some time reading and learn about what it takes to live with a range of dogs :-)

  • Super post! I'm banging my head against the keyboard... dogs need training and it's up to the humans to provide it! Years ago we re-homed a puppy from the same litter as our Lucy. The owners expected a puppy to already be housebroken and trained. Yep.

    1. It never ceases to amaze me what people will overlook when getting a dog.
      I once met a young woman who lived in an apartment in a large city; on a whim she and her roommate adopted a 'cute' dog. They'd had the dog home over 1/2 a day when they suddenly realized, one of them was going to have to take the dog out for walks...really?!

  • this is so true! so many people pick a dog simply based on looks or someone's dog they liked, without realizing that that breed may not be right for them


    1. Its true - we can see a great dog without realizing all the hard work the person put into helping the dog realize its potential. Thanks for stopping in!

  • This is a great post and all so true.I wish more people would think before they take another living creature in their home (or have kids for that matter). But a lot of people see something cute, and they just have to have it.

    That's why when people tell me how well behaved my Lab is - I ALWAYS tell him that it took years for him to mellow, and that he still isn't always good - he's just a good actor.

    I'm sure his behavior is what landed him in the shelter to begin with. He was my youngest rescue though (11 months) - all my other dogs have been 3 years and up. There's something to be said for adopting an adult dog. What you see is what you get (for the most part), which makes it MUCH easier to match a dog to your home and lifestyle.

  • Great post! This is only too true. I am constantly trying to educate those around me about picking the right dog for their family. We searched long and hard for both our pups, Dante was easier than Ziva in a sense. We had an older border collie, and two cats. We wanted an energetic young dog 1yr+ for taking hiking, camping, jogging, roller blading, etc. We like bully breeds and are devoted to dog training, no kids. We found him through a rescue and he's been perfect for us! When we got Ziva we no longer had our border collie, just Dante and 2 cats. We wanted a lower energy dog who could keep up, and was cat friendly, preferable a female because Dante although fixed is a rather dominant personality and we didn't want him to feel challenged by another male. It took a few months and lots of dog meetings but we found her and she's been perfect! Hear our story at: http://dzdogadventures.blogspot.com/