Choosing a Family Dog
But first, this is the story of my family dog odyssey:
When I told my mom friend at gymnastics a year ago that I needed to get a dog because we promised our kids that when the youngest turned 5, we’d get a dog (and he was now 5 1/2), she was shocked, “You’re getting a dog?! Really! You’ve never owned a dog before, right?” So she nicely and helpfully spent a lot of time counseling me on dog breeds and recommended that I research them at the library. I brought two armfuls of books home and selected Portuguese Water Dog, Visla, and a few other dog breeds and presented the glossy photos to my husband. “No, no, and no. ” It was just like the Berenstain Bears Old Hat, New Hat: too big, too small, too flat, too tall.
We then started visiting animal shelters (Angel Memorial and Buddy Dog) hoping that the right dog would find us — maybe, we thought, a nice family had to give up their beloved dog because they lost their home and their new apartment doesn’t allow pets. Alas, no. The shelters had either scary Rottweiler type dogs behind glass doors, or puppies that were too hyper for kids (Jack Russell mixes). There was that cute Chihuahua my middle child fell in love with but it had a bad habit of peeing on the furniture. The sign said that that the dog could be retrained but that was not for me.
Next, I applied to online dog shelters. I filled out form after form at the Framingham shelter that required more information than a Government Security clearance. The result: no calls and no puppy.
My next strategy was to “practice” by dog sitting for friends when they went away on vacation. We dog-sat a Kishan and a Golden Retriever. The Kishan was a total sweetheart but my husband said that she was so smart and looked at him with such intelligent, human eyes that it kind of freaked him out. The Kishan also did NOT like the flute and ran for the hills whenever my oldest practiced. Now both girls play flute. Herding dogs also seem to me to be happiest when they have a big job to do, like, say … herding.
The Golden Retriever was a different story. We thought we needed a smaller dog because we have a small house and this particular dog was a a big dog for his breed. But then we fell deeply and hopelessly in love with him and so we did the next best thing from stealing him; we got a relative from the same breeder. Love is irrational. Our puppy has many of the same qualities of his distant cousin and now we are deeply and hopelessly in love with our dog. For our next life, my husband and I want to come back as our dog.
This excerpt is by breeder Andrea Arden from Daily Candy.
1. Start slow. Offer to care for a friend or neighbor’s dog, and encourage your child to participate in Animal Haven’s Caring Kids Program (ages 4 and up; Tuesdays, 4-6 p.m.).
2. Play it safe. All interactions between kids and dogs (whether their own or someone else’s) should be carefully supervised by an adult. Always.
3. Find the right fit. A good temperament vs. a specific breed is key when picking a pooch. Some lovable doggies (border collies, German shepherds, miniature pinschers) aren’t good with the quick movements and erratic behaviors of little people.
4. Consider your surroundings. Spare your neighbors of a dog that’s vocal (dachshund, beagle). Herding breeds are more sensitive to sounds and stimuli (honk, honk, beep, beep NYC). Smaller isn’t always better — Jack Russell terriers, Boston terriers, and beagles are high energy and need a lot of exercise.
5. Run their hearts out. Central Park and Riverside Park are perfect for play, as is a stroll down the West Side Highway through Soho to the Animal Haven shelter for doggie play dates and fun events. Dog Park USA is an excellent app for finding local runs and off-leash parks.
Here’s to smiles and tail wags all around.
For more information on dog training, go to andreaarden.com. Classes start at $350.