FINDING THE RIGHT DOG PART 1

          Having a dog in your life can be one of the most fulfilling lifelong relationships you have the pleasure of experiencing. Just think of all the fun stuff—the little companion, the love, the play, the tails wags, etc. Dog ownership comes with an abundance of life-enriching fun. If you’re considering a dog, always think about finding the RIGHT dog. For your training to be effective, you need a dog that fits into your lifestyle.

Some people enjoy the idea of having a Great Dane standing staunchly at their door when someone calls. Others love the idea of having a German Shepherd standing watch for them. These are both great dogs, but the reality is that they aren’t right for all people. If you’re looking for a puppy, sit down and critically assess your lifestyle. Ask yourself the following questions:

·        “How much time do I have to train my dog?” It is very important, when you consider bringing home a dog, to be realistic and not idealistic. Think about your lifestyle now. Do you set your own schedule? Or do you work long hours that are relatively nonnegotiable? Any time you embark on a training plan, consistency and time are needed. Remember that your puppy has a short attention span, so you must repeat training over and over—often. You can’t train your puppy for 30 minutes on Monday, then do it again two Mondays later and expect fantastic results. You must have time for a consistent and frequent training schedule. A good rule of thumb is to train daily for a short amount of time depending on your puppy’s age and your schedule. Young puppies can’t train for more than 20 minutes. For a busier lifestyle, these short training sessions are ideal. They give you the chance to bond with your dog and train, but still keep to your rushed schedule. If you don’t have enough time to train, you can always incorporate a second party into your dog’s training. However, be sure that you are both consistent and are training your dog the same way.

·        “How patient am I?” Training children and dogs takes patience. In fact, kids and dogs are similar in their needs. They think the world of you and want to please you. The bottom line is that you must let your dog guide you in terms of what he can grasp and how quickly. Some puppies take to certain training models more quickly than do others. It isn’t the puppy’s fault; rather, it is just that he needs a little more time to understand what you want and how to do it. Your dog may also have a temperament that plays to more hyperactivity. Here is where you may want to incorporate more active training sessions, or even explore agility training. Think of puppies just like you do children—each is unique and has his own proclivities. Your job as a great trainer is to enhance those proclivities and give the dog the tools he needs to overcome slower tendencies. Being intuitive and consistent will take patience, so be sure you’re prepared to give as much as is needed. The key is to pay attention to your dog and get to know his personality. Once you understand your dog’s habits and temperament, you can better customize the training time you engage in with your pet.

·        “How much time do I have to spend with my dog?” For busy people, this is a key question. You can still have a pet with a busy lifestyle, but pet ownership will add something important to your plate. Ask yourself how much time you have to really focus on your pet. We have all been to the home where chaos is everywhere—the kids are screaming and running through the house, the television is blaring, the dogs are barking and jumping…there just isn’t any structure. This is the sign of a person who doesn’t really have the time to focus on his pet. If this is you, consider getting a fish. The bottom line is that a dog requires a lot of one-on-one time. You want to bond with your dog and also give it a great start at being the dog you want. This requires intentionally focused time to hone your pet. Be sure that you’re ready and able to meet the challenge. Again, you can share responsibility with another person, but you want to look at both of your individual schedules to ensure that you’re ready for the commitment. Even if the pet is primarily “yours,” you want to allocate enough time to build trust between the two of you.

·        “What is my day like?” It’s a good idea to look at what your day is currently like. If you work from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily, that gives you only from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. for leisure time. Is this enough to spend time with a pet? If you are a loner, possibly. Remember, though, that your pet will need care throughout the day—especially when he is a puppy. That means that either doggie daycare or a neighbor will have to mind your pet when you’re not available. On the other hand, if you can move your schedule around, you may be able to crate your puppy when you’re not readily available, then care for it when you are. Here is where you must be brutally honest with yourself. Sure, you like the idea of a puppy and all the cuteness that comes with it, but do you honestly have the time and energy in your day to dedicate to your dog? You will likely have to wake up earlier to schedule time to feed and walk your dog. For some people this is a major inconvenience. With a dog, though, it is necessary and nonnegotiable.

·        “How much time do I spend at home?” The reality of people’s lives today is that they are busy. There is a reason why this question is being posed here for the third time in a slightly different way. Puppies require a lot of time. Think of your puppy as a child. You would never have a child and then leave him to go off and carry on with your life. The fact is, both puppies and children are life-changing additions to your world. You must see them both that way. Some people see the crate as a grand differentiator between the two, but in reality it is only a tool. It is never a substitute for good training and time spent with your dog. Having a dog is a lifelong commitment that will last anywhere from five to 16 years, or even beyond. There will be appointments, training sessions, feedings, etc. You must have a general plan of how you will manage your dog’s needs, especially when the dog is young or new to your home. This is a critical time when you must have the dedication and time to give him the right foundation of learning.

·        “How much time do I spend on the road?” This is another one of those questions that requires some honest reflection. If you’re a salesperson or are required to be behind the wheel for a long period of time, how much time do you spend active when you’re done? What do you do with those hours? Likely you feel like doing some activity, so does that include a pet? Here is another place where you must honestly ask yourself if you want to spend the time training a young pet. Some people work hard and are away from home for long hours. When they come home they want to just sit on the couch. If this is you, you may want to rethink getting a dog. On the other hand, some long-distance drivers keep a dog with them in their cabs when they travel. They stop frequently for the dog to get exercise, and this works just fine. The bottom line is, if you’re ready for the commitment, you can likely find a way to make it work. Be sure you have a plan, though, so you know what to expect when your dog first comes home.

·        “What will my life look like in five years? Ten years?” It is also important to remember that having a pet is a lifelong commitment. That means your pet will be in your life during big changes—moving, having children, getting married, etc. All these things will come with an additional pet to manage. Of course, this is possible to do, but it will take some effort. Having a child is a big commitment that will take up a lot of your time, especially during the first few years. If you have a pet, you want to be sure you’re prepared to take care of it appropriately. The good news is that if you get a puppy now, by the time you have a child, your dog will be trained and an adult. Your dog will still need your care, though, and that means time, but the pet will be used to the schedule you have put him on. Always ask yourself about the future when you’re considering a new dog. How will your pet fit into your projected life? How will your dog be prepared for the big life changes of which he will be a part? You will likely love having your dog as a companion as you move through life, but be sure you’re ready for the commitment.