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Choosing a Breed
"Money can buy a pretty good dog, but it can't buy the wag of its tail."

Many "problem" dogs are just dogs who find themselves in homes that aren't suitable for their temperament.
My dog Indiana came to me after 2 other homes, where he raised pure hell. He was from working lines, and was not suited to the quiet life of a pet. When he was introduced to search and rescue work, he finally had an outlet for his boundless enthusiasm and busy mind.

That little black dog on the left is a Basenji named Anubis. One of my students was told Basenjis are "moderate energy" dogs who are "well suited to apartment life" because they're small and can't bark. Well, Anubis never heard the term "moderate", and though Basenjis are barkless, they are far from silent--their repertoire of yelps, screeches and strangled screams is staggering! He wreaked pure havok in her life--screaming bloody murder when he was crated (I'm sure the other apartment dwellers were sure she was torturing him!) and when he was let out it was even worse-- tearing at her clothes, biting at her, never giving her a moment's peace, making her life miserable.
This behavior culminated in one fateful episode: escaping from his crate at her parents' house (he had learned to bite the latch to squeeze it together) he somehow managed to turn on the kitchen faucet full blast, greeting Mom and Dad with $1,000 worth of damage upon their arrival home. Leslie knew she had to place this dog--her life was being made miserable. She had done all she could and was at the end of her rope. Her lifestyle and his needs didn't come close to agreeing.

Anubis came to my house on a Monday night, to await pickup by Basenji Rescue and Transport (aptly abreviated as B.R.A.T.) on Friday. Here he ran and wrestled with our dogs and our canine campers for hours on end, and by evening was ready to come in the house, where he ran laps with our own Basenji, Zelle, till she gave out. Then he would "attack" our tough little blue heeler, Rodeo. Finally even Rodeo would call it quits. Only then was Anubis satisfied to jump up on the couch with us and relax.
By Wednesday, I had decided to tell Leslie to contact B.R.A.T. and let them know Anubis had found a home. In this setting, he is a nearly perfect little dog. Same dog, different lifestyle.

Leslie and Anubis were obviously mismatched. Leslie was misled by a backyard breeder who was only interested in making some money. If Leslie had been encouraged to talk to other Basenji owners or experienced trainers, she would have had a more accurate picture of the breed.

I can't tell you how often I see this! The lucky dogs find new homes that suit them better, the unlucky ones are passed from hand to hand, never fitting in, and then there are the ones that are simply given up on and put to sleep.

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If you have AOL, click here for their Dog Match site.
This is a neat place to help narrow down your list of breeds. Through your answers to the questionaire, it selects breeds in order of suitablity to your preferences and lifestyle. I filled it out, and it was right on the mark as far as my breeds go. Try it, and see if it surprises you. I'm sure there are other sites like this out there if you don't have AOL.
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Choose a dog with the same care you would take adopting a child.

Don't be offended by the comparison-yes, a dog is way more fun.
But you are making a similar long term

What breed best fits your family's lifestyle?

First consider energy levels--yours as well as the breed's! Some small dogs you may think would fit nicely into apartment life need a huge amount of exercise (think Jack Russell) while some larger breeds have less need to run madly around for hours on end (think Mastiff). Don't pick a breed solely on size.

Talk to people who have the breed you're interested in, or talk to a trainer who has seen many of the breed. When choosing a mixed breed, consider what breeds make up this dog, as closely as can be determined.

Don't choose a dog on impulse, or because you just like its looks. Think about coat care (does it require professional grooming?), sociability (unless you are a hermit), and anything else that may be a consideration for you in the future.
The pound is full of adolescent dogs that have outgrown their baby cuteness and suddenly have ideas of their own.

Owning a dog is a long-term commitment. Like Indiana Jones, you must choose wisely.

I wish I could hold classes in choosing a breed, and testing the particular puppy, before people bring it home and fall in love with a little tasmanian devil. It's all about matching breed and temperment to the family's lifestyle. But too often people either choose a dog on a whim, or by certain physical characteristics, or are misled by "breeders" who want to get that puppy into a home--ANY home.

I get these puppies for training after considerable damage has already been done to both property and psyches. Sometimes a compromise can be reached that leaves all parties more satisfied, but sometimes there is no alternative other than placing the dog in another home. This is heartbreaking to the family. Fortunately dogs are supremely adaptable and usually find this arrangement agreeable--if care is taken to find a family whose lifestyle is compatible--and sometimes it is literally a life saver.


What can I say?