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Dogs Eye View: Eyes wide open, heart in check

Laura Tyler/For Steamboat Today
Dog's Eye View Laura Tyler
DogsEye_Tyler

Adopting a rescue dog is often controlled by our heart rather than our brain. We see this poor dog behind bars on a cement floor with a bed, food and water and surrounded by barking dogs. The frustration emitted by these animals is palpable.

It’s a wonder anyone can walk away saying, “not the right fit for my family.” Likewise, visiting a litter of puppies when there are only two left. How can you leave a brother or sister behind?

Yet, most of us have read or heard that litter mates are very difficult to raise in a behaviorally healthy way.

And finally, there is the “gift dog.” Oh no. This is not something you want to do to a friend or family member. Yes, sometimes it works out beautifully, and that is usually due to the sacrifice the family makes to do right by the dog in that circumstance.

With Christmas coming up, gift puppies are being born already, and the dollar signs are mounting up for breeders.

The most practical and successful way to bring a new dog into your home is to sit down and think long and hard about the time commitment. It’s generally at least twice as much as you think. Then what breed of a dog will fit your family and your lifestyle? This takes some scrutiny too.

A high-energy sporting dog or herding dog might not be the best fit for a sedentary older couple. A smaller, older rescue dog needing a home would be a good choice here. Lots of love, easy walks and couch time might fill the bill.

For active athletic families who spend a great deal of time exploring the outdoors, the brachycephalic-shaped skull of the pugs and some bulldogs prohibits long hikes in hot weather due to respiratory restrictions. And you wouldn’t even consider having your Chihuahua or Yorkie bound through the snow behind your sled or skis.

Why do you want a dog?

If it’s to teach the children responsibility, then good luck with that. Dogs are for families. That’s why we call them family dogs right?

Everyone in the family must play a role in raising this young dog. Putting your dog in the middle of a family conflict is not healthy, and the dog almost always pays the price.

Impulse purchases and credit cards make it easy to justify a split-second decision. Just say no. Go home make a list and discuss how each family member can contribute to raising a healthy well-mannered dog.

Another thing to consider is cost. Some breeds of dogs are prone to some extensive health issues. Giant breed dogs generally have a much shorter lifespan than the smaller varieties. The new and improved mixed breed/pure bred dogs are trendy and some are downright expensive.

If you are going to invest in a “pure” bred dog do your homework. How many litters a year does this breeder produce? If they can’t answer that question, then run like crazy.

Where are the mother and puppies housed? In a shed behind the barn is not adequate. What kind of early enrichment activities does the breeder provide? What kind of socialization program does the breeder use for the puppies? What does the health background of both parents look like? What kind of genetic traits are being passed down to the pups?

And how about the temperament of the parents? Can you meet both parents? The temperament of the mother dog is the first influence on the new puppies’ neurological development. If the female dog is reactive, fearful or stressed this is a direct influence on early puppy development.

So, now that I completely sound like “Scrooge” I should tell you that both of my dogs came from rehoming and rescue and we did adapt our lifestyle to coexist with our dogs. I wouldn’t change a thing. We did indeed change our life plan to help our dogs be comfortable and safe in our home.

“Yeah, right, it’s easy for you because you’re a dog trainer?” Yep, it’s easier when you have some knowledge of dog behavior and training. So, when you sit down with the family and plan how to bring the new puppy or rescue dog home, add education to your list.

There are many great books on raising kids and dogs, how to get the most out of your herding dog, training toy breeds and introductions to various dog sports among others. Give Santa a list of books and DVDs and research educated dog trainers who use humane dog friendly training methods. Get ready for a new adventure in 2017.

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25-plus years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants as well as certified nose work instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.


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