Don’t buy a dog because it looks cute…


Or you want to save its life.  I have to admit:  I am guilty on both counts.  Let me tell you about Chuck….

I had just euthanized my old Afghan bitch. She has been a wonderful dog, and I  had put a novice obedience title on her, as well as a field championship, and she was like a sister to me, but  she  suddenly aged so badly, becoming blind, deaf, and incontinent in a matter of months, and I knew her quality of life was very poor.

A few days after that, a client brought a toy Poodle into the grooming shop where I worked, and actually said to us that she didn’t know whether to have him groomed or put him to sleep.  He seemed like a sweet dog, and was older than my Afghan, at 15 years, so it just fell out of my mouth:  “I’ll  take him.”

Why did  the owner no longer want the dog?  He had grown up with the kids, the kids were all moved out, she wanted to travel, and nobody was bonded to the dog enough to want the poor old guy.  He seemed  sweet enough, but had very bad teeth.  I took him to  a veterinarian & told him to  do what he had to do.  He left Chuck with the 4  incisors. That was it. He also told me to not let him eat solid food for a couple of days, but Chuck felt so much better that he practically climbed into my Whippet’s food bowl & started eating.

My roommate adored him,and they bonded in minutes, and Chuck became very spoiled and remained spoiled until he died at age 18.  Fact of the matter was that he adored my roommate, but was not good with anyone else.  He was a biter.

I understand the attraction to  cute.  In fact, evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould has written about  the human attraction to cute.  I was initially attracted to sighthounds because of the  physical aesthetic, their grace.  But that is the wrong reason to choose a pet.  I just happened to have lucked out

Most people do not.  I know this, because, about 10 years ago, I has  over 40 clients with Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers.  These dog buyers were all attracted to the breed because the are not too small, not too large, don’t shed, & they had either met one or seen a photo…& on the basis of that—they  got Wheatens.  Problem was, the breed was too hyper for most of them. They all (I have ranted on this before) thought they were getting  Lassie and didn’t train their dogs. As those dogs died of old age (some were euthanized for biting), they were not replaced with another Wheaten.

My clients who enjoyed all aspects of their dogs have  bought or rescued a new one that was the same breed as the old one, are Shih Tzu owners, Miniature Schnauzer owners, Cairn terrier owners,  Briard owners, and Whippet owners. Some of the Afghan Hound owners have gone to Salukis:  same temperament, less hair.

My clients with Labradoodles, Tibetan Terriers, Bearded Collies, and Scottish Terriers have not replaced those dogs with like. I have a few clients who keep getting Pit Bulls, but only because they believe in rescue, and  those are the dogs in rescue.

I have a few clients with Frenchies & English Bulldogs, and I know they will not replace those dogs with  similar breeds: the health car costs are shocking…something  none of them realized.

OK, so..if you are not choosing a dog on how it looks—how DO YOU CHOOSE A DOG? First of all, you have to do an honest personal assessment:  if you work all day…how are you going to housebreak a puppy?  Why not choose an older dog? Do you want to be active with a dog?  Or are you really more of a couch potato that just wants to live with a dog?  Do you mind a dog being yappy? What about hair all over everything?

There is a reason Golden Retrieves, Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, Poodles and Shih Tzus  remain popular breeds:  even bad breeders rarely screw up their  personalities/temperaments.  Oh, it happens, & mostly, dogs have physical/genetic issues, but these dogs are the go along/get along types of dogs.

I always suggest attending a dog show and talking to exhibitors, but many dog groomers have experience with lots of breeds.  It pays to meet owners of the breeds that appeal to you—but owners who  are not selling puppies.  We Saluki owners joke about  how we try to dissuade people from getting a Saluki (Afghan Hound owners tend to be the same way).

I must admit…the most wonderful dogs I’ve gotten were via the pounds, shelters, & rescue.  I believe in planned breeding—but I also believe we have a responsibility to the breeds we favor when those dogs fall on hard times.  The rescued dogs were always the most eager to please & the most trainable.

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