By Dr. Judith Herman
Q. I am in the process of getting a dog. The dogs I am drawn to are so cute, but I am not sure they will fit my lifestyle. Any tips?
A. Awesome question! With the pandemic, veterinarians are seeing many adopted dogs from the South and shelters. Some of these adorable pups are growing into dogs that are not matching their guardian’s lifestyle and the romance is dwindling.
We are all suckers for the cuteness of the photos and then the back story, which breaks our hearts. Once past the introduction, the next question is what kind of mix is he? The answer here is a guess because most of these pups are strays. Few, if any shelters or rescues, are doing genetic testing. The next step is do your research.
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, then a high energy border collie is not for you. If you are an avid hiker, a bulldog is not a smart choice.
First, look at the breeds you are attracted to and read their descriptions. A quick start is to look at dog groups. Hunting and herding dogs need a lot of exercise and training. Often you will hear, “Fido needs a job”. Dogs with heavy coats and long coats need a lot of grooming. Can you afford it, either with time or paying someone else to groom your dog? Dogs bred to be guard dogs are not necessarily the right family dog for you.
Once you find the size, energy level, grooming needs, how much time do you have for training? Some breeds, such as shepherds, are known for trainability. Others are harder to train as in Nordic breeds.
By seriously going through your needs, lifestyle, and daily schedule, look for a breed or group that may fit the bill. After that, go talk to more than one breeder, read several articles because articles have different viewpoints. See if the breed’s temperament fits with yours. If there is more than one person involved, everyone needs to participate. This research will give you an idea what mix out there may fit your family.
What about shelters and rescues? Local shelters can give you some feedback on where the pup came from. They can tell you what they have seen since the dog has been at the shelter. Hopefully, the shelter will have some kind of behavior assessment to better match the dog with a potential guardian.
Online adoptions are the most risky. You only have a picture and a story to sell the pup. They can only guess what the breed is. Puppies are a bigger wild card than full grown dogs. All pups are cute, but not all pups grow up to meet your expectations. One client bought a puppy from a Southern rescue, which was to be a German Shepherd type dog. He was adorable with the markings of a shepherd. He grew to be 20 pounds and is more of a terrier than a shepherd.
Before investing in a puppy or a dog, do your research. Honestly assess what you can handle. If possible, see the dog in person at a trusted shelter or rescue. Have everyone involved be onboard with the adoption. If you have a strict criteria, then go buy a pup from a reputable breeder who guarantees its health, has known breed expectations, and who would take it back if it didn’t work out. If you have more flexibility, you can go to your local shelter or online for a puppy.
Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH
Animal Wellness Center
Augusta, ME 04330