Good Dogs! Good People! Bad Choices!

Catherine J. Crawmer on 5/30/2008

What do we remember most about the dog we grew up with? He was perfect! There were no bad habits, no clean up problems and no expense to speak of. We may recall the dog of our childhood so affectionately that we often seek to replace him in our adulthood.

Unfortunately, disappointment often results when we find that the perfect pet that we remember is nothing like the dog that we acquire as adults, no matter how similar in appearance the animals may actually be. There is a good reason for that. We were never responsible for the animal’s care or training and neither were we financially responsible for its upkeep. That was our parent’s job.

All this being said, most adults will acquire the same breed they remember growing up with. Many will continue to hold that breed in high regard, so much so, that they will own several of the same breed over their lifetime. This may not be a problem. On the other hand, it could be a major issue. While our breed of choice may not change, we do change as we get older. If the breed of our youth was an active, high-powered Labrador Retriever or a strong willed German Shepherd, from working lineage, we may be faced with an animal that we simply cannot handle at that point in time.

The number of calls our professional trainers get from people who have simply chosen the wrong dog is staggering. The breed of dog is often the same that they have always had but suddenly this particular animal is being described as the worst example of the breed they have ever seen. How can this be? What is wrong with the animal? Nothing! What is wrong with the owner? Nothing! It’s a good dog, owned by a good person, who has made a very bad choice for this stage of his life.

The very same dog that is right for a 20 year old is not necessarily right for a 40 year old and maybe nothing short of a disaster for a 70 year old. Change! Above all things, change is the most difficult concept for the human being to accept. We want to do all the things that we have always done and have all the things that we have always had. Like it or not, our activity level changes, our priorities change and our physical capabilities change as we age. As we age things that were easy at one time in our lives can be a burden. Some of the activities that we engaged in at a younger age can be dangerous.

What? I should get a Miniature Pinscher instead of a Doberman? A Tibetan Terrier instead of an Old English Sheepdog? A Pug rather than a Mastiff? Maybe so! When size and strength are issues you may want to consider a smaller size breed than what you have traditionally chosen. Many people have grown accustomed to a particular “look”. By getting some information on various breeds you may be able to find that the basic look you are after is available in a more diminutive size.

Size, however, is not the only concern. Some breeds of dog, although small, are possessing of an activity level that is not acceptable for some people who have the desire to lead a quieter, less physically active lifestyle. A small border collie, from working lineage, may be fun for a young and physically active person but may prove a serious challenge for a person who finds himself at a less vibrant stage of life.

The dog you choose now is a choice you may live with for 10-14 years. Where are you now in your life? How do you expect your life to change over the next 10 years? The best place to start may be with a look in the mirror and an honest self-evaluation. Consider your changing lifestyle, your activity level as well as your physical capabilities. You can certainly have a dog at any stage of your life as long as you consider two important factors. Your dog of choice should be an animal you can physically handle with no risk to your safety. It should be an animal with a temperament and activity level that fits your lifestyle.

This article has been reprinted with the expressed written consent of the author, Catherine J. Crawmer, and may not be reprinted or forwarded without the author's permission.