Friday, August 12, 2011

Don't try this at home.

(Or why you shouldn't get snookered by the first cute dog you see at the shelter.)

In light of my first post, I would like to go on record that bringing home the first sweet dog who bats her eyelashes at you in the shelter is not usually a good idea. When you bring a dog into your life, you are taking responsibility for the life of that dog and you should do your research beforehand so you are prepared to honor that commitment come what may. Here are a few tips before you fall in love with that doggie in the window:

Sam - the first dog in my life.
I'm pretty sure she existed before I did.

Assess your lifestyle. Are you a couch potato? If so, do yourself a favor and don't bring home a Border Collie - rescue a Greyhound instead. Are you always on the go, running, hiking or biking? An English Bulldog is not going to be able to keep up but there are a dozen breeds in the AKC Sporting Group that will think you are their dream come true!

Does size matter? In some cases, like the Greyhound mentioned above, large dogs can live quite comfortably in relatively small spaces. Compatible activity vs. energy levels are important but the reality is a Newfoundland is going to take up a lot of space in a studio apartment. Additionally, vocal dogs (Beagles) and guard dogs (Mastiffs) can make living in an apartment complex, um, well, complex.

Talk to the shelter staff. Most have experience in placing the right dog with the right family. They also know the personality and temperament of the dogs they have. They'll know if a particular dog is good with cats or kids and will guide you toward an animal that will fit in with your individual family needs.

Consider a senior dog. Have a busy work schedule that keeps you away from home for several hours a day? Don't have time for housebreaking or obedience training? A senior dog may be the answer for you. Labs have a reputation for not "growing up" for at least 2 - 3 years. But considered a senior at just 7 years old, they are finally ready to appreciate both snuggling on the couch and taking long walks on the beach with you for many years to come.

Before Bella charmed us at the shelter, Jan and I had already discussed at some length what we would be looking for in our next dog - a small to medium sized, mixed breed rescue with short hair. Preferably black. Most people will have a more particular list of requirements, but these were ours and the first dog that batted her eyelashes at me just happened to meet them. We weren't specifically looking for a crazy dog with abandonment issues but we were informed and committed, if not necessarily prepared, so home she came.


  1. You're right about the mastiffs! Although they can exist quite comfortably in a small environment, they definitely let you know when a stranger or even a family member is outside. So definitely not a great candidate for close neighbors as in apartment complexes. Thor, our Bullmastiff, has scared many people off our front porch! By the time we get to the door they are usually half way up the walk trying to get away!

  2. I was pretty much thinking of Thor when I wrote that part. Good, goofy sweetheart of a dog but I wouldn't want to bump into him in an elevator if I didn't know him. ;)

    I actually think vocal dogs could be an even worse scenario in an apartment complex. I have a friend who didn't know his Basset Hound was howling all day long when he went to work until his neighbors finally told him. Oops.

  3. HA! Yes, we know all about that, too! After living next door to "George" all these years. Hate to say it, but it has never been quieter here since they moved.