Monday, August 2, 2010

Choosing the right dog...

Visit any library or bookstore, and you will find dozens of books on choosing the right dog for you. Usually these books are based on breed, and they will range from generic descriptions of dog breeds based on show standards to detailed checklists of each breed's tendencies towards things like required exercise and energy level, protection desire or capability (two very different things), and grooming/coat care requirements.

The problem is, though, the emotional aspect is often lacking. There is a lot of talk in some of these books about how you will feel about the dog. Let's face it - most of us know how we feel about dogs before we look for one.

There is a piece missing though...

How will the dog feel about you?

Make no mistake about it - dogs look for certain qualities in humans the same way we look for qualities in them. They are as much about finding "the perfect match" as we are!

Who hasn't known a dog that follows his owner everywhere, leash or not, traffic or not, like a shadow? Who also hasn't known a dog that will bolt at the sight of an open door and race three counties away if given the chance? Maybe you know a person or family who has had the pleasure and misfortune of both types of dogs - my family would prove to be an excellent example of this.

It is not always dependent on the breed either. I have seen wonderful rotties and German shepherd dogs, and awful matches of these same breeds, all within the same loving families.

The ironic thing is, we often blame the owners. We complain that they must not be giving the dog what it needs - and its probably true - but its probably less within their control than you might think.

Our shih tzu loves my husband, yet she is terrified of him walking towards her. Should he not walk through his own house? Should he assume that after the last six years of this unprovoked fear something different would happen if he took a different path through the three foot hallway? Should he shrink to appease her, taper off some of his 52" chest and slouch down to a more reasonable 5'11" height?

Absolutely not. People would call him nuts!

Yet she isn't the first dog and probably won't be the last to have this reaction with him. So he should keep that in mind before picking a dog that's known to be fearful or a submissive wetter.

We need to know ourselves, and be open and honest about ourselves, and then go out and chose a dog who chooses us. Not a dog that falls within our checklist score in some book that has been reprinted by six different publishers under thirty different authors.

But a choice of love, tolerance, and reciprocity!