So, I got a text from a friend describing three dogs
·         A Beagle mix
·         A Dalmatian mix
·         A Boxer mix
·         A Shepherd Mix
And a simple question which one would I pick as a trainer… Man you just gotta love those specific questions with lots of detail J
Trust me I understand what and why she is texting me… She wants to make sure she is getting the right dog for her family… This by the way is a combined family of 6 kids and two adults with one dog already a little male Shih Tzu… As she and I texted back and forth I decided to start taking notes thinking this information would be great for an article and well here it is….
 In most cases shelters give the best educated guess as to the breed of the dog but in the end it is just that a guess and many times they are not that accurate in guessing the breed.  Let’s face it in some cases mutts are so much a mutt that breed characteristics don’t really even show up… However, all that being said:
·         Beagles can barkers and love to sniff so they get a wrap for not paying attention
·         Dalmatians can be quirky dogs (lots of white dogs are) genetic recessive to get white coloration, but others can be sweet as can be
·         Boxers can have insane energy and be a little over the top
·         And yes shepherds are bred to be guard dogs (she asked if GSD’s can be aggressive) but like I told her this breed gets miss categorized a lot and again some GSD’s are wonderfully loving…
This doesn’t even begin to discuss the characteristics of the other breeds you cannot see outwardly… This is the problem with guessing at the breed (the shelters have to do it) but in many cases it just muddles people s thoughts with pre concieved notions of the dog that may or may not be true….
Specific suggestions I gave her:
·         I also recommended that she see each dog eat out of a bowl and watch someone interact with the dog… This is really important especially if there are 6 kids in the family!
·         I suggested taking their dog with them and see the dogs got along, one suggestion I gave since their dog is a boy… I told her a girl dog might be a good choice…. But since plenty of boy dogs get along not 100% necessary (another pre conceived notion)
·         Play with the dog’s feet, face, teeth and tail; these are typical hot spots that some dogs do not like being touched. Again we want to know this up front with 6 kids at home.
·         Take some or ask for toys and play with the dog, see how the dog plays, how the dog does reacts to toys and games. Watch how the game starts and ends.
·         Take the kids and allow them to play and run around. Are there any issues with chasing or getting out of control…? I also suggested that the visit with the kids occur after the all of the other suggested ideas had been tested… I suggested the following day. I really believe that allowing yourself several days to pick your new dog is important and eliminates the snap decisions….
Last thing I suggested is somewhat controversial… Ask for and insist on a weekend test drive with the dog….Most shelters are not going to like the idea but they should understand that it is in both of your best interests to get a great fit so that there are no returns… With kids and dogs at home there is no way to know via a 1-2 hour visit in the shelter how the dog is going to settle in at your home. I tell my clients to offer to pay the fee but to let the shelter know up front that you will call them on Monday and make your final decision. Good and reputable shelters should actually respect you for being and advocate not only for your family but for the dog as well.
I also offered to go and observe the dog with the kids and dog and give my opinion…Many trainers offer this service and it is rarely taken advantage of. Which is really frustrating to me and other trainers because we can be impartial in helping pick a dog that fits your family and lifestyle…..
The last tip I gave was to keep in mind the reason that most dogs are in a shelter is problem behaviors and you might have to look hard to these issues but better to do your homework up front and not later… Also there is no coincidence that most dogs in shelters fall in the age range of 6months to 2 years old… It is the juvenile developmental period and that itself is tough to handle. So expect it to some challenges, be ready to set rules and routines and warn everyone there is hard work on the horizon! But if done right the opportunity is there to have a new wonderful family member for years to come…
I also told her that I was including all of my books in e-version format… and that if she wanted to do this right she would read them (as well as the others in the family) before making their choice… The fact that we make better decisions when we get all the facts up front works well with all decisions in life including picking a new dog….! Of course the last thing I told her via text was Thank You, for giving me a great idea for my next article J

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