Petals, many of you know I adore dogs and they are a big part of my life, so I am constantly getting calls for canine-related advice (and sadly, beauty tips for fuller-figured gals … but I digress).
Most of these questions revolve around the pros and cons of specific breeds of dogs and their traits, which can vary enormously in purebred dogs, let alone those adorable mixed breed characters that show up in shelters for adoption (which I whole-heartedly recommend). So here, in a nutshell, are a few things to take into consideration that will help narrow down your search.
Before adopting any dog or cat you need to ask yourself some realistic questions about your lifestyle, family structure, housing arrangement and your work schedule before you impulsively take home some random puppy with a cute face and a happy tail. That type of impetuous “ten minutes before the bar closes” behavior is not a good way to pair up with the perfect pet. A pet that you need to feed, vaccinate, exercise, house, groom, provide medical care for, and pooper-scoop after, for possibly the next 15 years.
Ask yourself: can you dedicate enough exercise and socialization time for a dog? If the answer is yes, then sure, go for that springer spaniel, retriever, or border collie. Many active and intelligent dog breeds need plenty of room and stimulation, otherwise your entire house (and garden) becomes a three bedroom, two bath chew toy. You have been warned! Keep in mind that many dogs were specifically bred for herding or hunting and can be very task-oriented. These dogs are super-smart and require something to do, so don’t be surprised if they herd your kids, your other pets or hoard toys. You can burn some of their extra energy off at a dog park (where they love to interact with other dogs), or vary their exercise by walking on new trails and different neighborhoods. They really respond when you break up their routine and give them fresh stimulus.
If you are more of a couch potato or have limited space to exercise your dog, then a small breed like a dachshund, cavalier spaniel, pug, or Pekinese might do the trick (for a dachshund, a trip to the mailbox is a marathon!). Many apartment complexes allow small dogs with a cleaning deposit built into your rental contract. You might also want to consider adopting an older less-hyper dog from a shelter (there are hundreds of fabulous mixed-breed dogs out there that would love a stable home.
I must admit, I have a soft spot for terriers (Cairn Terriers, Jack Russells, Westies, Scottish Terriers, Welsh Terriers and so on). Well, actually, I love other people’s terriers. I love their scrappy dispositions and boundless energy, but my living situation and schedule effectively rules them out. The terrier breeds are just personality plus, but they require a very understanding owner who can put up with their hyper kinetic behavior.
Is the dog of your dreams a high-maintenance bitch? Then consider this. Foo Foo dogs like Shih Tzu’s, Maltese, Yorkies, Bichon’s, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, and Lhasa Apso’s look gorgeous on TV, but in real life, they require constant grooming and attention. They are not a Paris Hilton fashion accessory! Unless you are fiercely obsessive compulsive about maintaining your dogs bouffant at home, then you will need to budget for and schedule regular trips to the groomer. Find a consistent groomer you can relate to and let your dog get to know them. Take them to the grooming salon just for quick, fun, social visits, and definitely get your pet used to traveling in the car (I cannot tell you how important this is for cats!). This eliminates a lot of anxiety for your pet and makes the grooming process much easier and safer.
Familiarize your dog with being handled especially around its head. If you are adopting a puppy or young dog that will require years of grooming, get as many different people as you can to play with their face as this is where the really intricate grooming occurs. After a grooming visit reward your dog with some quality time and positive reinforcement. It will make future appointments a breeze for you, your dog, and your groomer.
Once you have decided on a specific breed or desirable characteristic traits for your new dog, look into the city and non-profit shelters that dot the valley. Some have searchable data bases and some will direct you to breed specific rescue like Golden Retriever Rescue, Basset Hound rescue, and so on. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not buy a puppy from a pet shop or a backyard breeder who is simply pumping out litter after litter of puppies for profit. There are reputable breeders out there, but as always Muffins, do your research!
My column is way too short to do justice to this topic, but when in doubt, darlings, call or e-mail me, and I am always available to consult on your dog or kitty adoption. In fact when Michael Aaron was finding a replacement for Xena, he actually walked through the shelter asking 20 questions on his cell phone, so it’s noisy, but I know it can be done. Ciao, babies!
You can see Ruby Ridge and the Matrons of Mayhem live and in person, every third Friday of the month at Third Friday Bingo (First Baptist Church, 777 South 1300 East). Bingo in September benefits the Multi-Cultural Legal Center.