Everyone that is looking to bring a dog into their family is looking for that perfect "great dog."  The problem is, one person's great dog is another person's potential nightmare. Many of you are familiar with my dog, Nakita.  She is the perfect dog for me, but she was absolutely not the right dog for the home she came from. 
As you can imagine, I get a lot of calls from people who are struggling with their dog for one reason or another. Most of the time it's simply a case of the owners needing guidance and the dog needing some training.  Jumping, barking, pulling on the leash…these are typical dog behavior problems I can usually help clients improve or eliminate fairly easily. However, in situations where the family has chosen a dog that is too much dog, or, the wrong fit, things can get tricky. Not only do these typical behavior problems become harder to eliminate but much more serious behaviors, such as aggression, can arise. Solutions become much more difficult when the dog is a poor match for a variety of reasons. 
  • Dog needs a two hour run everyday to keep from exhibiting unwanted behavior (tearing up the house and yard comes to mind), but the humans can only afford a 15 minute walk 3 times a week due to their busy schedules.
  • Dog is too big and strong and the humans can't handle their dog when he's behaving well, let alone when he decides to act up.
  • Human has physical limitations (arthritis, bad knees, serious trouble with wrists, etc.) that make it a challenge to handle a powerful breed.
I always say I have the best clients in the world. They range in age, size and temperament (I'm talking dogs and humans here), and they are willing to put in the work for the sake of their human-dog relationship. For humans that find themselves in this situation where they have "too much dog," there are options that can help the dog get what he needs so the humans don't stretch themselves into an unrealistic situation.  These options might include hiring a dog runner to help expel some of Fido's energy on a regular basis, enrolling Rover into doggie daycare, or soliciting a family member or a friend (who can handle the dog) to accompany the humans and the dog to some dog training classes.
If you haven't found your new companion, think about these considerations before adopting:
  • Be sure to do your homework. Spend some time researching breeds and if you're not adopting from a shelter, be sure to research your breeders. All dogs, even from the same litter, will have unique traits but there are certain things that you can expect from various breeds – energy levels, desire to work, train-ability, ability to relax, etc.  Breeders will also vary even amongst the same breed as far as what traits they are breeding for. Some breeders will breed for high-working drive, others for a more mellow family dog temperament. Other breeders are simply breeding for looks without much thought to behavioral traits. Know this ahead of time and don't be afraid to ask questions.  A good breeder will appreciate thoughtful questions.   
  • Consider the dog's energy level. How much exercise will this dog need and can you provide that to him?  Be honest with yourself. Are you very active and looking for a dog to be your jogging partner or are you laid back and looking for a lap dog to cuddle with? Remember, a "great dog" is a relative term. 
  • If adopting a puppy, consider how big the dog will get. Puppies are small (duh) so be sure to consider the adult dog this puppy will grow into. Then ask yourself if you will be able to handle him when he is full grown given your strength, stamina and any physical limitations you might have.  It might not be a bad idea to visit a shelter or adoption agency to see how you are able to handle this breed as an adult before committing.
A "Great Dog" is a Relative Term
Sometimes people will go to a very popular breeder who breeds "champion" dogs thinking they're going to get a great dog. Little do they realize a "great dog" in the world that breeder lives in could be a horrible fit for Average Joe. A great dog for protection training or search and rescue work will be a horrible match for a person in their Golden Years looking for a calm companion. A great herding dog or agility champion would  be an awful fit for guiding the blind. 
Finding a dog whose energy level and temperament is right for you is very important. Making sure your ability to handle this dog when he's fully grown is hugely important as well. When the dog is a good fit for you and your family, you are more apt to keep the dog as opposed to potentially having to re-home him.  Additionally, you are more apt to enjoy your dog because everything isn't such a struggle. If you are enjoying your dog, chances are, he's also enjoying you. That's a win-win situation worth working towards.
-Chad Culp, Certified Dog Trainer and Canine Behavior Consultant
© Thriving Canine 2013
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