I hadn’t intended writing a post on buying a dog today, but here we are!
So, I did a thing this morning, before sitting down to my desk and trying to figure out which roller coaster I was going to ride today; the productive, lifestyle supporting one, or the merry chase-down-the-rabbit-hole one.
The jury is still out and I’ve been at it for about 5 hours now.
Occasionally, I write posts about some of the silly things people tell me. I don’t know if these things just hit me the wrong way, or if I’m in a mood when I hear them. Every once in a while some honest to goodness thoughts are sparked because of them.
I had written something a while ago, and whether or not I had intended to polish it, publish it or purge it, I sat on it for a few months (since September of this year) and released it into the Facebook wilderness this morning. You can read the original here.
I deal with dog owners every day, and have for over 42 years now. I train dogs for a living. The dogs aren’t the ones coming to me needing help. The people are.
It never ceases to amaze me how frequently an individual will seek my expertise, then argue with me over it. Some of the things people tell me are… incredible… incredulous, whatever. I’m not here to insult people. I do understand that I am the professional, and I need to accord myself professionally.
But dayam. The internet. It’s a thing. There’s information there. And not just the apocryphal trash being spun by rescues, shelters, the H$U$, those morons over at PETA, breed clubs, the AKC, breeders themselves, who, let’s face it, all want to line their birdcages with your paper.
We lowly service providers know a LOT more than you think we do.
When you are contemplating buying a dog that suits your specific lifestyle, grooming requirements, size and behavioral needs? DON’T ASK A BREEDER. Ask a Trainer, a Groomer or a Boarding kennel operator.
Notice how I excluded daycares? I also excluded vets, but I’ll get into that in another post.
I’ll be honest. A boarding kennel would much rather house a mannerly dog than the screaming, shitting, hysterical messes they usually end up with. Why do I say that? Because I have ran a few high volume kennels. A groomer is going to help you decide what the different coat types mean as a matter of cost and maintenance requirements, how that affects your commitment to your new pet, and your bottom dollar as it relates to the cost of care.
That cute doodle puppy? The little ones are groomed on average, every 6 to 8 weeks, about 400 bucks give or take a year, unless you learn how to groom and brush yourself. The big ones? Bath, blow-dry and trim? Same frequency, usually at least 50% more than a smaller dog per groom. How do I know? because I groomed dogs for decades (still do, in fact) and I know what it takes.
And then there’s us trainers. You know; the emotional dumping ground for every bad decision every owner ever makes after they erroneously assume Fluffy or Fido will “grow out of [behavior].”
We’re the ones that owners call when their dogs’ problems are no longer managed by hiding the dog from the guests like a deformed appendage. We’re the ones they call after the dog has managed to destroy the priceless heirloom that cannot be replaced, with the caveat that the dog “never liked his crate!” We’re the ones the owners call after the neighbors have picked up the pitchforks and axes because they are tired of the dog menacing them or their children as they walk up the driveways of their own homes.
We’re the ones they call in the last desperate act, when the over-priced and ridiculously useless Certified Veterinary Behaviorist leaves them with monumental credit card debt and a dog addicted to psychotropics is still threatening to take the face off the mail lady.
We’re the ones they call when every thing they think they tried has failed, when we should have been the call they made before any of these things ever began.
But, here we are…
I used to have a list of dogs that I aggressively steer prospective owners away from, or snicker under my breath when I get that predictable call and am able to discern the breed of dog before the inquiry discloses that information. Any more, I am inclined to encourage folks to be prepared to do a lot of work to make that dog fit their home, and if they cannot see themselves making that kind of commitment now, maybe they should wait until their lives are more predictable.
A full time college student living in a dorm is not a great candidate for pet ownership. A computer screen of beautiful fish is more appropriate. A single mother with 3 kids under 10 years old in a small apartment doesn’t really need that high-energy sporting breed because some schoolyard pick-up lane mommy blogger told her the dog would be a great distraction for the kids. Ask me how that one always works out!
We trainers, the honest ones anyway, are not only prepared to tell someone what dog to get or not to get, but what to do about the unsuccessful relationship they are already enduring with the dog they currently own. And no, the advice isn’t “get another dog!”
There is a certain predictability to the phone calls most trainers receive. If they have been training for longer than the Zombie Apocalypse, there is a distinct pattern to which herding breeds, terriers (for whatever that means these days), toy breeds and certain sporting breeds play the same recurring roles. Guardian breeds too. No real breed or combination of breeds is exempt. Every dog has a series of genetic influences that will drive behavior in the puppy as well as the adult.
What happens in puppyhood determines the behavior in the adult, actually. Genetic predisposition aside, the domestic dog is bound by an epoch of evolution that determines the most basic behavioral outcomes. Lock him in a closet, cloister him to the confines of a ridiculously microscopic world of house interior and postage stamp yard all the while exclaiming that “he gets plenty of exercise!” and watch what happens!
Enhance those things by selectively breeding for a specific trait, sell it to a non-performance oriented couch sitting, Netflix watching owner, and expect a few things to happen.
Those companion dogs are out there! Acknowledge that you may need help in trying to locate them, and accept that “the dog I had as a kid” or the “last dog I had” is dead and buried in your memories. Dogs don’t come out of cookie cutters. They are as individual as fingerprints!
When people tell me they “did research”, it demonstrates their willful ignorance, because clearly, they didn’t.
When they choose to argue with someone that has not only done research, produced a lot of research over the course of her career and understands the assignment, what they seek, I cannot provide. I am not in the business of absolution.