Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Designer Dogs" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

Designer Dogs

by Charlotte Peltz

"Look at that cute black patch over his eye! They say he won't get 'too' big, and that he is really very quiet and sweet. His coloring matches the cat and that is wonderful! Oh, let's take him home!"

But, what if Patch doesn't work out that well? What if he and the cat don't seem compatible beyond having coordinated colors? What if he gets "too big?" How about the barking and the jumping on you that seemed to start almost immediately? What now?

Do you take him back to the shelter or the breeder? Do you have any responsibility to this dog since you chose him, and YOU did not do your homework beforehand? Would it matter to you and your decision if you had to give the lethal injection that will end his life because there simply isn't room for him anymore at the shelter or breeder's? How can you avoid these problems and assure a much greater level of success when you bring a dog into your home?

To begin with, your homework includes learning what it means to have a canine in your life. What are the needs of the dog in the way of social interaction, nutrition, exercise, education, toys, etc.? Do you have the time and space that a dog requires? Do you understand how to decide on the "right" dog for your time and space?

Here are some of the answers. Talk with an experienced trainer who has an understanding of dogs' needs and behaviors, and can help you evaluate your personal situation. Get references from that trainer on books you can read to prepare you for the addition of a dog in your home. These books should include training ideas as well as what is normal and abnormal canine behavior. All too often people simply do not understand that dogs bark, jump, dig, clean their genitals at "inappropriate" times, slobber, sniff people where people do not like being sniffed and more.

Another very important issue is that it is very, very difficult to evaluate a dog that is living in a kennel environment, whether that is a shelter or breeder kennel situation. Some dogs appear aggressive in the kennel, but that aggression may be caused by the constant over-stimulation resulting from the nearly constant barking and agitation of the other dogs. That is particularly going to be the case any time an unknown person enters the area! Other dogs appear to be shrinking violets and won't even approach someone trying to get their attention because of the fears caused by the kennel situation. Neither of these extremes may be a proper reflection of the dog and its "normal" behavior. Kennel life is totally unnatural and unhealthy for dogs. All dogs!

So, let's presume you have done this and more and have decided on a dog that appears to fit the picture for you. You have dog-proofed an area, you have the best food available, you have toys, training equipment, plans for training classes and all seems well. Then you discover that this dog has recovered from the trauma of the shelter/kennel environment and presents really frightening behavior such as snapping at you as you walk past his food dish. What now? Well, with proper care and attention, many behavior problems can indeed be modified and your dog deserves to have the chance to learn proper behavior. This attention to the behavior issues and the accompanying costs should have been programmed into your plans when you decided to take on a dog!

There is a limit, however, to what anyone should accept in his or her canine companion. If the temperament issues clearly are beyond the range of modification that will give high levels of assurance to you and those who must come in contact with the dog, the dog should not be sent to a "home in the country." The dog should be euthanized. If the dog has come from a breeder, that breeder should be advised and should take the dog back and do whatever it was that you agreed upon in advance when you took the dog, including a full refund or a replacement dog.

Don't be impulsive when you acquire a dog! Don't just "give it a try." Every time a dog gets rejected from one home, his or her chances of finding another home diminish considerably. Dogs can be wonderful additions to our lives but not every dog is the right one for you.

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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