Picking Out A New Dog Or Puppy
Bringing a new dog or puppy into your home is like committing to a 10-15 year relationship with someone. You wouldn't agree to live with a person for 10-15 years if you didn't know anything about them, yet people do this everyday when they bring a dog into their life and home. This becomes a problem pretty quickly when the honeymoon phase of owning a dog or puppy wears off and we're left with seeing who the puppy or dog really is.
This begs the question: How can you increase the likelihood of taking in a dog that will mesh well with you?
I'll walk you through three questions you need to ask yourself.
What is a dog and how will a dog express its doggy-ness while living with me?
To understand dogs and how dogs in general will behave while living with you, I would recommend thinking about how dogs behave in their natural environment, the village. Yes. A dog's natural environment is a primitive village, so just use your imagination about how you would want a dog to act if you lived with a dog in a primitive village, and then think about how those behaviors may express themselves in the modern world.
If you want a more in-depth answer, I write way more about this in Foundations of Puppy Training: Understanding, Respect, and Freedom (don't let the title throw you off, it's relevant for older dogs, as well).
What was this breed (or mix of breeds) of dog bred to do, and how might these breed-specific behaviors be expressed in the modern world?
This answer is similar to question one's answer. Many people decide on a few breeds of dog that they want before they get a dog, without thinking about what those specific breeds are bred for. If you want a low-key lap dog, you might not want to bank on a Jack Russell Terrier (or any terrier, for that matter), and would be far more likely to get what you wanted with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (dogs that were bred to lay around). Think about what the breed you're interested in was bred for, and then think about how breed-specific behaviors may express themselves in the modern world.
If you're unsure of what breeds are bred for, click here and find the dog you're interested in bringing into your home. You'll get a brief overview of what kind of dog they are.
What is the individual dog in front of me telling me about its future behavior?
This is a crucial question. While questions one and two give us great background, but they don't give us the whole story.
The great thing about dogs is that they don't lie. In order to understand how the individual dog you're looking at may behave in the future, you'll want to set up situations that may occur in the future so you can see the dog's response. Another way is to become knowledgeable of red flag behaviors (or behaviors that in and of themselves aren't problems, but tend to predict other, more serious problem behaviors).
Why Bother With This?!
It's important to remember that if you do a good job picking out a dog, you most likely won't need dog training because you will have picked out a dog that fits as perfectly as possible with you and your lifestyle. What I'm trying to get at is if everybody did this, many dog trainers would go out of business, rescues wouldn't be as necessary, and puppy mills would go out of business. In other words, as a dog trainer, I get nothing from you picking out a perfect dog (yet I'm still trying to get you to do it) except the satisfaction of dogs being in a forever home with owners who really understand them.
Good with me! I love being able to help answer any questions people might have about breeds of dogs, individual dogs, and what dog is the best fit for their home. Feel free to contact me via our contact page or call me with any questions: 314-655-8208.